This is hardly the first time that we’re meeting Huawei products for the pages of our website, but these were mostly manufactured by other companies and merely signed by Huawei. After the Ideos 7 Slim tablet, Huawei’s first Ascend P1 phone has arrived to our office for testing. Truth be told, we’ve already had the chance to test it some time ago, but only as an early preproduction sample, so we refrained from testing until we got the proper, final product. That time has finally come, with the phone already available with larger mobile providers. Huawei phones are already present to a large extent in most markets, and a torrent of even stronger ones is expected this year, which goes to show that Huawei has firmly decided to impose itself as a relevant competitor to companies such as Samsung, LG, Motorola, HTC etc.

Hassan chop!

01 sUpon opening the box, we found the phone with the usual bundle: headphones, charger and data/charging cable. The comfortable headphone set has a control button and is of solid quality. Unlike the test sample, which had a smooth finish, our new version of the phone came in black, matted on the back and very resistant to fingerprints. The display has a minimal glossy plastic frame, while the display and sensor buttons are placed to the bottom and protected by the familiar Gorilla glass. The top side contains the headphone and USB connectors, as well as a SIM card slot hidden behind a lid. The same system conceals the micro-SD card slot on the right, just under the power button. Since the phone is elongated in shape, this button has ended up pretty high, which may be a bit bothersome if you have shorter fingers. The left side only contains the volume rocker, and the back is pretty reminiscent of Galaxy S II, with the “bump” on the bottom and a protruding camera. Ascend P1 is fairly thin and light, but also quite firm. Other than the choice of materials, this impression is backed by the lack of a battery cover, which means that the battery is integrated. The phone hasn’t been on the market long enough for anyone to make speculations about battery lifetime, but even the best ones are due for renewal after a while. When that happens, you won’t be able to simply remove the cover and replace it, but bring or send your phone to an official servicing place, which is money- and time-consuming.

The display is definitely the most attractive component of a modern smartphone, so it’s obvious why it was given so much attention by Huawei. Its size is what we’d deem to be the golden middle of today, since the phone is slightly longer than expected, while the display resolution has been appropriately increased. This has resulted in clear, sharp text, and due to production technology, contrast is excellent and colours intensive, making the display better overall than most offered in the same price range. Modern phone displays are no longer concerned with touch responsiveness, as it’s been perfected a while ago, and Ascend P1 is no exception, with everything working smoothly and quickly. Brightness is excellent, making daylight visibility good enough even on a bright, sunny day for all tasks to be completed successfully, so all things considered, the display may very well be the key selling point of this smartphone as a whole.

Full house

It’s impressive what could fit in a casing this thin, since Ascend P1 has a lot more to offer than just a good display. The CPU is a dual-core one, works at a very high clock and gives appropriate results in synthetic benchmarks and real-world tasks alike. We especially appreciate the fact that the cooling system seems to have been designed flawlessly, with the phone remaining relatively cool even under maximum load. The amount of RAM at disposal is at par with top-of-the-line models, while a reduced internal storage capacity is the only point at which we’ve established cost-cutting measures have been implemented. The total amount of internal storage you’ll have after the initial setup amounts at around 2.5 GB, which is potentially insufficient even for less demanding customers. Still, it would be a shame not to use this phone’s potential by extending the memory with the use of a micro-SD card, which is best bought together with the phone itself, when you’re likely to get it at an unbeatable price.
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As for sound reproduction, Ascend P1 is above average. The headphone output is good, with low noise, sufficient volume and high-fidelity playback. For those who find this insufficient, Dolby Mobile has been implemented and works astonishingly well, which is particularly noticeable in noisy urban environments, which won’t hamper your listening pleasure at all, despite all the harsh, loud noises. Some may reproach the lack of fine-tune settings within the Dolby Mobile system, but it seems to function very well at default settings anyway. As already stated, the headphone set is solid and of a sufficiently high quality, although even remote audiophiles will be prompted to use their own preferred set. We were pleasantly surprised by the speaker, however, which is tiny, but produces very loud and clear sound of a wide range, especially with the assistance of Dolby Mobile.

Rotation detection, GPS and wireless modules (Wi-Fi and WCDMA) all work flawlessly. GPS positioning is particularly fast, and we have to commend voice commands as well, as they function better than average. In line with the latest trends imposed by other manufacturers, there’s also the fast boot option, making the phone operational in a record time, as long as the battery hasn’t been significantly drained, of course.

As for the cameras, no surprises are to be noted. The front one is just good enough for Skype or other form of video calls, while the back one is usable for casual photographing. Expectedly, good light conditions create photos of solid quality, while the flash can only that much good in real darkness. Reactions are quick, with occasional noticeable lag occurring in low-light conditions. Video recording is excellent for a phone, with full HD quality without hitches and pauses. Of course, video quality is largely dependent on lighting conditions.

The ice-cream and cherry on top

Expectedly, the phone is based on the latest version of ICS Android, with Huawei making only minor modifications to the vanilla user interface. Therefore, users who already have experience with Android are likely to be greeted by a familiar user interface, and we hope that the lack of modifications will make updates easier and more frequent. The launcher has two modes, 2D and 3D, with the latter being somewhat more attractive, but also slower in response. There are themes available to change the icon set, the way it’s displayed on the Home screen, as well the choice of colours and backgrounds, so that you can easily adapt your entire environment. The 2D mode brings a different selection of widgets, but doesn’t look that different from 3D mode, so the grade is very good overall. For comparison’s sake, we’ve installed Nova Launcher from Play Store, and compared to the default launcher, Nova simply flies around, so if vanilla ICS looks is what you’re looking for, there’s your solution. There are several widgets exclusive to Huawei, such as those for weather forecast, music control, calendar etc. When the phone is locked, you’re also able to choose between 2D and 3D, but this time, without the performance drop. We also appreciated the fact that one can choose between clock, weather and music widgets in the upper section of the lock screen, so that you can manage the most common tasks without unlocking.

Although we’re definitely not fans of preinstalled apps, Huawei has actually made an excellent choice, which will come in handy sooner or later. An excellent file manager with various functions is a must, and for office documents, there’s the Polaris package, with full functionality. The Music+ app is a bit modified ICS player, but with two important additions: support for Dolby profiles and sorting songs according to folders. There’s also the All Backup software, very useful for major software upgrades, as well as standard DLNA for multimedia manipulation in a network environment. The image gallery is visually attractive and fast, with no separate video player – everything is done from gallery itself, or even more conveniently, from the file manager. The already excellent video playback is enhanced with subtitle support, with very smooth playback of all .mkv files up to 720p. 1080p is fully within the range of this phone, but only with the installation of a third-party player, such as BS Player, which makes very good use of hardware acceleration in smoothing out video playback. For gamers, there’s Riptade, which works very smoothly, showing that this phone is well-endowed in GPU as well as CPU segments. Our own installation of Shadowgun has further proven this point, unlike the case with the pre-release hardware build of this same phone.
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All things considered, it’s no surprise that web surfing is of no concern for any browser you may prefer. Scrolling, zooming, tab switching and more are all done very quickly and comfortably. Even Flash content is supported to some extent, although the update to Jelly Bean will eliminate this functionality.

Huawei Ascend P1 (U9200)  
Processor Dual core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A9 TI OMAP 4460
GPU PowerVR SGX540
Memory 1 GB RAM, 1.5 GB ROM, internal 2.5 GB
Battery Li- Ion 1670 mAh
Display 4.3", 960x540 pix, capacitive Super AMOLED
Connections microUSB, Bluetooth 3.0, WiFi n, HSDPA, GPS, USB to HDMI (MHL) v2.0
Camera Back: 8 MP with autofocus and dual-LED flash; Front: 2 MP
OS Android OS 4.0.3
Dimension 127,4 x 64.8 x 7.7 mm
Weight 110 g
Price sample

Huawei Ascend P1, you say?

Every time a new company tries to attack the existing positions of leadership in a particular market, it has to pull off a gigantic amount of work and better the well-placed competitors in key points. With Ascend P1, Huawei is definitely on the right track to do just that, albeit with a few of our own suggestions. Firstly, regardless of the actual device we’ve tested, the name has to become catchier in the future. Furthermore, vibration should be updated into something more convincing. Finally, a better-positioned power button and more internal storage memory would top it all off. However, this list isn’t very long, as you can see, while Ascend P1 manages many other things perfectly well. Its software is of good quality and polish, and the same goes for the preinstalled, highly usable apps that have impressed us. The phone’s weight and thin profile combined with good battery autonomy only add to this impression, even if the battery isn’t personally serviceable. A very high-quality display with excellent resolution, sharpness and visibility under all lighting conditions just can’t leave you indifferent. Exceptional audio and video playback, as well as sufficient power to run even the most demanding mobile games of today will push it through as a multimedia piece of equipment. The very fast CPU provides comfort in any piece of Android software, while the limited internal storage memory can be easily extended with the use of an external micro-SD card. All in all, Huawei has created Ascend P1 to be the best-priced high-end smartphone on the market, so we expect it to have a bright future ahead of itself.