Huawei Ascend P2 review: first look

24 Feb 2013

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei is looking to make a big splash at MWC this year, and by the looks of things, its new P2 smartphone has all the makings of a real contender.

It's the successor to the Huawei Ascend P1, launched last year, a phone we liked a lot for its combination of light weight, ultra-slim dimensions and low price. The P2, adheres to a similar blueprint.

This phone has a broad, 4.7in, 1,280 x 720p resolution display,  a 1.5GHz, quad-core CPU and 1GB of RAM. It measures 8.4mm at its thinnest point and is extremely light at 122g. Given that the phone has a huge 2,420mAh battery inside, that's a notable achievement.

As far as the design is concerned, it doesn't quite exude the same level of quality as a Samsung Galaxy S III or iPhone 5, but it feels comfortable to hold despite the broad chassis. That may be partially thanks to its tapered profile: the phone is ever-so-slightly thicker at the top than the bottom.

The P2 runs a heavily customised version of Android 4.1, and in our brief hands-on time with the device at the launch event, it felt nippy. The home screens and app drawers slip by without any discernible hesitation or pause, and panning, zooming and scrolling around web pages was equally smooth.

The display, rated at 500 nits, was bright enough to overcome the reflections in the courtyard of the hotel where the press conference was being held. Another nice touch is that you can operate its touchscreen with gloves on, a technology Huawei is calling Magic Touch. Alas, without a pair of gloves to hand in the Barcelona sun, we weren't able to test this.


It isn't all good news, however. We attempted to run the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark on the phone's stock browser and found it ran surprisingly sluggishly – we had to hand the phone over to a fellow journalist before the test had a  chance to finish. The camera, too, wasn't all that quick, with a noticeable delay on first launch and when switching between video and stills mode.

The specifications look good, though: the P2 has a 13-megapixel camera with a backside illuminated sensor, an LED flash, and is capable of shooting Full HD, 1080p video. In one interesting development, the camera not only allows the capture of quick HDR stills, but also live HDR video.

That performance would seem to put paid to Huawei's claims for its new flagship as "the world's fastest smartphone". However, this claim stems from the P2's "CAT4" LTE capability, allowing the phone to support download speeds of up to 150Mbits/sec.

So what about a release date? Well, Huawei didn't confirm any specifics, but said the Ascend P2 will ship sometime in Q2 and will be available across Europe, in partnership with Orange, at a street price of €399 (around £345). That should mean, like its predecessor, it will available on some tasty tariffs right from the start. We can't wait to get our hands on one for a more in-depth review later in the year.

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