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Huawei Ascend P1 Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Thin and light

The Bad

  • Lack of internal storage
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Thin and fast is the name of the game when it comes to the Huawei Ascend P1. As soon as we saw it at CES in Janurary, we knew the Huawei phones of tomorrow would be very different from the Huawei phones of yesterday. Now it’s today and the Ascend P1 has been in our pockets and hands for a week. We’re impressed, here’s why.

Huawei Ascend P1: Design

How thin? 7.7mm thin. That’s less than two and a half one pound coins stacked on top of one another. It’s also glossy. On first impression, it feels cheaper than we’d hope being so light (110g) and having with such a shiny plastic finish. Turn it over though and the patterned backing steps things up a notch, with the elevated bottom portion and camera mount adding a nice ergonomic touch when the phone’s in the hand. 

Huawei Ascend P1 screen, Huawei Ascend P1 back, Huawei Ascend P1 cameraHuawei Ascend P1 camera mount, Huawei Ascend P1 profile, Huawei Ascend P1 bottom

There’s a micro SD card slot on the right hand side underneath a flap. Just like the Samsung Galaxy line your power button sits just above this on right with the volume rocker on the left. Up top is the full sized SIM card slot, micro USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack. The 4.3-inch display and three capacitive buttons directly below it make up the front, with curved top and bottom edges topping and tailing the phone.

In spite of our first impression, the Huawei Ascend P1 grew on us. It’s very plasticy, but it’s also barely noticeable in the pocket, sits well in the hand and isn’t ugly.

Huawei Ascend P1: Screen

Super AMOLED technology coupled with 4.3-inches of qHD resolution comes together to give the Huawei Ascend P1 a popping screen. It’s bright, vibrant and deep all at the same time. Huawei fine tune the user interface to make the most of the display with great colour calibration and font management, ensuring that despite being the slightly less sharp PenTile variety of AMOLED, everything still looks good.

It isn’t as sharp as equivalent qHD LCDs therefore, so might not be as well suited to small text, but it’s perfect for games, movies and pictures. For more about the different types of AMOLED screen technology, check out our guide to AMOLED.

Huawei Ascend P1 screen, Huawei Ascend P1 screen zoomed in, Huawei Ascend P1 zoomed in more

Huawei Ascend P1: User Interface

Thankfully, Huawei have seen sense, and not the HTC variety. They’ve realised that there’s very little wrong with stock Ice Cream Sandwich that can be fixed with a UI skin, so they haven’t skinned it. Instead, they’ve delivered the most stock Android experience we’ve seen on a mobile other than the Asus Padfone and naturally, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Aside from three capacitive buttons below the screen, a few apps and widgets therefore, purists out there will have nothing to complain about.

Huawei Ascend P1 home screen, Huawei Ascend P1 apps menu, Huawei Ascend P1 notification bar, Huawei Ascend P1 settings menu

Being so stock, the Huawei Ascend P1 therefore has an almost ethereal quality. Its smooth, powered by the ample 1.5GHz dual-core processor and it looks great with its 5 home screens and an apps menu that shows off its AMOLED’s vibrant colours and deep blacks perfectly.

Huawei do customise the keyboard of their Ascend P1, though this isn’t anything to shout home about with the ‘m’ button being perilously close to backspace. Luckily, Huawei haven’t done anything silly like disable the stock keyboard. This means a simple switch will give you a stock ICS keyboard for fantastic typing, and if you’re after something altogether more predictive, mosey on down to your Google Play Store and buy a copy of Swiftkey 3, it’s worth every penny.

Huawei Ascend P1: Camera and Multimedia

An 8-megapixel back-side illuminated sensor and f/2.4 lens make the Huawei Ascend P1 camera one of the better performers on the market. The user interface is Huawei’s own, which is considerably more refined than the stock ICS UI and picture quality meets this great interface with sharp detail and quick focusing.

In good light, it’s easily one of the best camera phones on the market with pictures taking quickly and looking crisp. Depth of field is achieved easily in macro and simple touch to focus gets your shots looking mighty fine.

Huawei Ascend P1 macro photos, Huawei Ascend P1 landscape photos, Huawei Ascend P1 indoor photos

Dim the lights, and things hold up pretty well. The wide open lens and BSI sensor mean you won’t need a flash unless things get really dark, and so long as your shooting still objects, when you do pop the flash, pictures look great. If people are moving and things aren’t steady though, blur however is the name of the game.

Video is shot at full HD and looks great. It offers a smooth 30fps playback and decent colours and detail. What’s more, as with photos, it doesn’t totally crumble when the lights dim down.

In terms of music, you’re well served by Google Play Music. This makes for a great Holo themed user interface, cloud storage and a web-based player for your desktop. Content also syncs across devices making your music life potentially wire free.

Huawei Ascend P1: Connectivity and Storage

Also like the HTC One S, this 1.5GHz dual-core phone doesn’t pack NFC, but does offer every other wireless connectivity option you’d expect. That means you get 3G, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth, not to mention a DLNA app out of the box.

Web browsing through the standard Android browser is smooth. Flash video plays back well and pages load accurately and quickly. Thanks to the P1 packing Ice Cream Sandwich, you can also install Chrome browser if you’re looking to keep everything synced with your desktop.

Huawei Ascend P1 storage options

Wired connections include a micro USB port which doubles up as an MHL port, allowing you to easily get content off your phone and onto your TV. There’s also a standard 3.5mm headphone jack for your earphones.

Unfortunately, the P1 only packs 4GB of storage on board which is far less than we want to see on any mid to high end smartphone. The fact that it’s expandable does lend to make up for this, meaning anyone who wants more memory can get it very easily via the micro SD card slot. This opens you up to a potential total of 36GB in total.

Huawei Ascend P1: Performance and Battery Life

1.5Ghz dual-core and very zippy, the Huawei ascend P1 performs like a dream. Thanks to light skinning and a modest screen resolution, everything we threw at it, the P1 chewed right through. What’s more, the 1800mAh battery lasted a comfortable day which can’t be said for too many phones these days.

Huawei Ascend P1 profile

Huawei Ascend P1: Conclusion

So while we could take or leave the design of the Huawei Ascend P1 and there’s limited storage on board, the phone is thin, light and memory is expandable. We also really love how stock the Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich Experience is, which when coupled with a great camera, makes the £26 a month contract price very reasonable. If getting the P1 offline, you probably don’t want to be spending more than £350 with the HTC One S being our recommended handset in the £350+ price bracket, though if you can scoop it up for less, you won’t regret it.
 

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