Decent dual-core performance;
Impressive battery life;
Strong budget screen
Very little storage
Huawei is fast becoming one of our favourite vendors of affordable smartphones, after its swift one-two knockout of the Ascend G300 and Ascend G330, both released last year, which offered impressive features and performance at a respectable price. The Ascend G510 is another bargain at just £130, offering a spacious 4.5-inch screen, five megapixel camera and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. But what are the compromises?
Built to last
The Huawei Ascend G510’s stern black appearance actually gives the impression that you’re clutching a business phone, even though it’s squarely aimed at consumers. The front of the phone is completely no-nonsense, with little more than the Huawei logo up top and three physical back, home and menu buttons positioned beneath the 4.5-inch screen. We were surprised by the 150g weight, which makes this one of the heavier smartphones we’ve clutched lately – it even beats the massive Sony Xperia Z. Thankfully, despite this and the chunky frame, the Ascend G510 doesn’t feel cumbersome to wield.
The straight-laced design continues around the rear of the phone. The back panel is smooth black plastic with little in the way of flair, and the only distinctive feature is the curved camera lens that protrudes ever so slightly from the surface. Fair enough, the Huawei Ascend G510 isn’t much of a looker, but it’s solidly constructed and we’re confident it could survive a tumble or two in the line of duty.
Get all Emotional
Boot up the phone and you’ll get stuck into a fairly vanilla version of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Huawei’s Emotion UI sits over the top but doesn’t clutter it with unnecessary features that you’ll never use or need. You can personalise every aspect of your desktops, from the background and themes right down to the persistent shortcuts at the bottom of each screen.
The stand-out feature of the Emotion UI is its central home page widget, which is like a handy info dump and cluster of shortcuts. It gives you a quick glimpse of the time and local weather, as well as a slideshow of your photos and a simple way of accessing your music and favourite contacts. It’s fully customisable, so you can swap bits around and take them out. Our only annoyance was that the photo slideshow had to be reset every time we plugged the phone into a computer, as the memory card is ‘dismounted’.
The other widgets you get are the basic Android efforts, so you don’t for instance get any handy social media plug-ins that stream updated from your Twitter or Facebook account. However, you can download social media apps and pretty much anything else you need from the Google Play store.
Another unique feature of the Ascend G510 is the lack of an apps menu – instead, every single app you download is shunted on to your desktops, a la Apple’s iPhone. As long as you keep things neat and organised it shouldn’t matter, but if you download a lot of apps then prepare to deal with a lot of desktops. You’re also restricted to nine desktops maximum, so you’ll have to delete old apps if you get a bit carried away.
The Huawei Ascend G510 also only comes with 4GB of storage space, and most of this is taken up already with apps and other bits – in fact, the camera refuses to take photos unless you’ve inserted a Micro SD memory card, which we’d highly recommend doing. It’s a minor additional expense that allows you to carry music, movies, apps and games.
Budget phones often suffer from jerky, horrible performance, but the Ascend G510’s dual-core processor keeps things moving at a respectably smooth rate. We did notice the odd bit of stuttering when downloading large files, but apps generally run well. Only once did we suffer a serious issue, when YouTube completely locked up and had to be restarted in the settings menu. We tried some intensive action games, and barring some graphical glitches in first-person shooter Dead Trigger, they were perfectly playable. Popular titles such as Temple Run 2 also run well.
A lot of budget phones also come with compact, sub-four inch screens, but the Ascend G510 packs a worthy 4.5-inch IPS display that is much more friendly for browsing the web and messing around with apps. For a cut-price screen, it’s reasonably sharp and also impressively colourful. We wish it was a little brighter, as sunlight really isn’t its friend, but as long as you aren’t using the phone in direct sunlight it isn’t too much of an issue.
Another highlight is the excellent battery life. If you only use the Ascend G510 to text, check emails and browse the web, you’ll get a couple of days of use before the battery runs dry. Try streaming video and it’ll last a solid six to seven hours, which is well above average for a modern smartphone.
A five megapixel camera complete with LED flash sits on the rear of the phone, and again impresses considering the budget price of the Ascend G510. Photos take with only a slight delay after nudging the on-screen shutter button and the results are good when viewed back on a TV or computer, with outdoor shots in particular coming out bright and colourful. Indoor shots were a little more variable, with the occasional washed-out pic warranting an instant delete. Low light shots were also far too fuzzy, so you’ll need to make full use of the flash.
You can also take panorama shots to capture a landscape, or get stuck into some video recording. Videos aren’t particularly sharp but sound is picked up well and it more than does the job for shooting a simple family video. Finally, you have a front-facing camera for shooting a sexy new Facebook pic or getting some online video chat on the go.
Huawei’s Ascend G510 is a bargain smartphone for those on a tight budget. Packing in decent dual-core performance, a surprisingly crisp and colourful 4.5-inch screen and capable five megapixel camera, it’s far from a budget experience. Only the lacklustre design detracts from a great value package.