Phablets. Love them or hate them, they are currently the biggest fashion accessory for the average businessman.
What says you are a serious businessman better than a seriously big phone? To make sure you really get the point, Huawei’s latest phablet, the Ascend Mate 7 has landed locally with enough billboards around Joburg that you might even be dreaming about it.
Phablets aren’t for everyone, though. They are large and unwieldy which means you may have to stop wearing skinny jeans, and ladies might need to upgrade to a larger handbag. But their large dimensions mean that the screen is massive and so is the battery; and crucially it’s that latter point that makes phablets an ideal business tool.
Huawei has put some serious thought into the Ascend Mate 7. While the screen is a 6-inch eye-magnet, the phone itself could be described as subtle. The bezel strip at the top houses the earpiece, the front-facing camera, what seems to be a light sensor and the notification LED while the bottom bezel strip just bears the Huawei logo. That bottom bezel might seem like a waste but without it you would not have anywhere to rest your thumb while using the phone.
For its size the Mate 7 is not that heavy, and it’s quite easy to forget that you are actually carrying around a 6-inch phablet. The weight of the device can also be attributed to its metal body and frame, which reminds us of the HTC One M8, and feels very good in the hand.
In terms of buttons there are only three: the power button and the volume rocker which are both located on the right hand side of the phone. The left hand side of the phone plays host to the micro-SIM and microSD card trays.
First things first: the Mate 7 is not going to compete with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. However, that’s a good thing because it means the price tag is considerably lower. But more on that later.
Inside the metal body is a HiSilicon Kirin 925 chipset with a quad-core 1.8GHz Coretex-A15 processor and a quad-core 1.3GHz Cortex-A7 processor (for when you don’t need the full power of the A15). A Mali T628 GPU takes care of the graphical responsibilities for when you feel like having a little fun during the business day.
The Mate 7 comes in two flavours, the 16GB model with 2GB of RAM and the 32GB model with 3GB of RAM. Our review sample was the 16GB model and even though it has less RAM there wasn’t a moment where that was obvious. Apps opened and resumed promptly, there was no lag when typing fast and the overall responsiveness was on a par with the current crop of flagship smartphones.
The AnTuTu benchmark score of 43561 proved that this mid-range phablet can play ball with the best of them and even gives the more expensive Note 4 a run for its money. Not bad for a phablet that costs around R6 000.
The cherry on the top is the fingerprint reader found on the back of the device, just below the camera lens. This might seem like an odd place to put it but when holding the phone the index finger can easily reach the fingerprint reader and with one touch the phone comes out of standby and unlocks. It’s the epitome of modern convenience.
The Ascend Mate 7 comes out of the box with Android 4.4.2 Kitkat with Huawei’s own brand of UI slapped on top. This UI removes the app drawer and instead places all the apps on the home screens, much like Apple’s iOS. This does make Android a little easier for the layman, and even the seasoned Android vet will get used to it, however it might drive those who like a more minimalistic approach to madness.
Huawei has designed elements of the OS to make life easier for one-handed operation. The Android menu buttons can be shifted to the left or the right and the Huawei keyboard can also be adjusted to make one-handed typing possible.
The only real concern is the delay in Android 5.0 Lollipop arriving on the Mate 7. Huawei has said that Lollipop will arrive on the Mate 7 in April, but this could be delayed or even cancelled in favour of Android 5.1.
The Mate 7 has a 6-inch screen which has a resolution of 1 920×1 080. Compared to the Note 4’s 5.7- inch screen with its 2 560×1 440 resolution the Mate 7 seems a bit wimpy, however Samsung’s fancy screen will consume more power with minimal loss of image sharpness.
The Mate 7’s screen does a great job and proved a delight when watching YouTube videos while stuck at OR Tambo and was enough of an eye catcher to attract the interest of a few fellow travellers. The only real issue is that when the screen brightness is left on auto it was a little too dark; not too dark to use but rather too dark for it to be eye-catching, because when properly lit up this screen is that pleasing to look at.
The rear-facing camera is a 13-megapixel snapper which might not be that impressive on paper, but it’s hardly disappointing. In low-light conditions the photos do have some noise but unless you are Cedric Nunn this shouldn’t be an issue.
When taking photos with the flash, the Mate 7 leaves the LED flash in the same way it provides a video light when filming. This means your subject is illuminated before you even tap the shutter button, and the bright light will cause your subjects’ pupils to contract, which should help reduce instances of red-eye.
The front-facing camera is a 5-megapixel affair so it doesn’t take amazing pictures, but you’re free to use the included software in the camera app to enhance your beauty. The beauty mode uses a slider to “enhance” your face, which is a kind way of saying that it blurs out blemishes. Think of it as digital foundation.
There is no doubt that Huawei’s choice in screen has played a significant role in the lengthy battery life of the Mate 7. But of course, as with all battery life tests how long it lasts for you comes down to usage.
On days with lots of phone calls, messages and browsing the battery lasted between 12 and 14 hours, but when dealing with an average day the Mate 7 was able to handle two full days before begging for a charger. 4 100mAh is very big by smartphone/phablet standards, and this makes the Mate 7 a competent tool for a businessman who needs an all-day phone.
For some, the Mate 7 and its phablet contemporaries are far too large to use, especially those with small hands since single-handed operation remains a bit fiddly, even with all the software tweaks.
The build quality is on a par with Samsung, LG and HTC yet the price is not, and that’s where Huawei is going to find favour with buyers: you get a phone that can compete on a hardware level with the Note 4 yet is half the price and has a bigger battery, which is a huge factor these days.
As such, we’re more than happy to recommend the Mate 7 to anyone looking for a big, fast phone that lasts all day and beyond.
- Price: R5,700
- Display: 6-inch, 1920×1080 resolution IPS LCD display (368ppi)
- Operating System: Android 4.4.2 Kitkat
- Processors: 1.8GHz quad core Coretex-A15 & 1.3GHz quad core Cortex-A7
- Memory: 2GB of RAM
- Storage: 16GB expandable with a microSD card
- Battery: 4 100mAh
- Camera: 13 megapixel rear camera, 5 megapixel front-facing camera
- Networking: 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth, LTE