One of our favourite smartphones of the last year has to have been the Huawei Ascend P7. Every bit the top end performer at well below the cost of its better known brand rivals, it’s still highly recommended for those who value pennies in their pocket over a logo on their phone [At least until Xiaomi gets to South Africa – Budget Ed]. And now it’s gone large with the same formula, launching the Ascend Mate 7 phablet into South Africa tonight.

First impressions of the Mate 7 are good. It’s big, but very slim with a metal back and a rounded profile that’s not all that indistinguishable from Apple’s recent iPhone 6S. The screen is big, at a full six inches with a 1080p resolution, and good-looking too with apparently rich colours and good viewing angles. It also comes protected with a Gorilla Glass 3 front.

Reducing the bezel size means the body isn’t as big as it could be – at 157x81mm it’s an efficient use of phone real estate. But you can’t hide the fact that this is large: even if Huawei has kept the weight down to a wispy 185g and a mere 7.5mm depth.

Inside the Mate 7 is an octa-core Kirin 925 processor which features four 1.8GHz Cortex A15 cores for heavy lifting and four 1.3GHz Cortex A7 ones for lighter duties. This leads to some impressive claims for the 4 100mAh battery, including one of 628 hours of standby time.

Size isn’t, of course, everything. There’s some clever touches in and around the Mate 7, like a CAT6 LTE transceiver (sadly not much use in South Africa) and a more immediately practical fingerprint sensor on the back which can turn the phone on in a single touch – most rivals require tapping the power button first then activating the scanner to unlock.

Ultimately, though, much of your opinion of the Ascend Mate 7 will come down to price. There are two basic models due to go on sale next year, a single SIM handset with 2GB of RAM and a dual SIM one with 3GB, and recommended prices start at R7 000 cash. With the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – its key rival – still well into five figures it’s going to be worth keeping an eye out for our full review when the Mate 7 lands.

Adam is the Editorial Director at htxt media. He has been writing about technology for almost two full decades now. In a previous life, he was the editor of PC Format and Digital Camera Shopper in the UK, before going on to work as a freelance journalist for seven years. His work has appeared in or on Stuff, The Guardian, Linux Format, TechRadar, Wired.co.uk, PC Gamer, Green Futures, The Journalist, The Ecologist and The Review. Adam moved to South Africa in 2012 and loves 3D printers, MakerFairs and tech hubs. He hates seafood. None of his friends remember this when cooking.