Look and feel
The Huawei Ascend P1 might not be a beauty, with a jutting camera lens and glossy plastic body that’s a magnet for fingerprints, but it’s surprisingly hefty, solidly built, and impressively slender
Ease of use
Android Ice Cream Sandwich runs like a dream and the responsive 4.3-inch touch-screen is a great way to browse the web. The lack of decent auto-correct when typing is a pain though
An eight-megapixel camera takes crisp, colourful snaps, while the front-facing 1.3-megapixel lens is great for Skype calls
The 1.5GHz dual-core processor didn’t stumble once, making short work of apps, games, and streaming media. The Ascend P1 shouldn’t be out of date any time soon
Limit yourself to emails and texts and the occasional browse of the web and the Ascend P1 will survive for days. Even with music, movies and games, you’ll still get a full days use
Huawei may not be a household brand over here, but the Chinese manufacturer is slowly making waves. Its well-priced Ascend G300 is nominated in our Mobile Choice Awards 2012 for ‘Best Value Phone’, while the forthcoming Huawei Honour has plenty of buzz around it. The Ascend P1 is pushing towards premium prices at a shade over £350 (or £26 per month on contract), but offers a strong set of features and great performance for that price.
The Ascend P1 is a slender smartphone at just 7.69mm, but feels great in the hand thanks to its surprising heft. At first glance you might expect it to be flimsy, from the thin construction to the plastic glossy finish, but the phone didn’t show any signs of weakness even when poked and prodded. The rear doesn’t open up, and instead you’ll find SIM card and microSD slots on the sides of the device. Surprisingly, this doesn’t add too much clutter, even with the Micro USB and earphone ports plus power and volume controls all jostling for space. The Ascend P1 comes in black as standard, and while it certainly doesn’t look as good as the HTC One S or similar smartphones, it isn’t a beast either.
A notifications light above the Ascend P1's screen flashes when you get a text or email, something omitted from many phones these days. For the price we were also hoping for jazzy light-up buttons beneath the screen, performing the usual Menu, Home and Back functions. Sadly the buttons are simply markings, making them harder to find in the dark. They’re perfectly sensitive, but also a little close to the screen – we initially found ourselves accidentally hitting the Home button when texting or emailing, until we slowed down and took more care.
Huawei’s virtual keyboard is a decent effort, but a little complex compared to the Android keyboard. Smiley fans will love the range of fast-access faces, although the language button seems superfluous and only serves to crush up the space bar. You can swipe across the board to bring up a numeric keypad, another neat touch, but again unnecessary when the numeric keys are just a button press away.
It’s easy to swap to the Android keyboard if you don’t get on with Huawei’s board, but both had poor auto-correct facilities, which will hamper fast typists. The keyboard can predict which word you’re typing just fine – for instance, enter ‘bea’ and a bar of possible words will display ‘beautiful’, which you can tap to select. However, type ‘beautifuk’ and you won’t get ‘beautiful’ as a suggestion, so you’ll have to delete and try again. Even after fiddling with the Ascend P1's settings for ages and downloading fresh dictionary settings, mistyping a word wouldn’t produce standard dictionary alternatives.
Challenge to a dual
Android Ice Cream Sandwich runs like a dream thanks to the dual-core 1.5GHz ARM processor, backed up by 1GB of RAM. You can set up all the usual widgets, app folders and shortcuts, and the settings give you full control over Android’s appearance. We also found the dual-core processor breezed through our apps and games with ease. Anyone torn between the Ascend P1 and a quad-core phone like the Samsung Galaxy S III or HTC One X can relax knowing that this smartphone will run everything thrown at it for the foreseeable future.
Don’t worry if games aren’t your thing, because the Ascend P1 is just as good for catching up with your favourite TV shows or movies on the go. The supremely bright 4.3-inch qHD screen can be clearly seen even in bright sunshine (rarely an issue in England, but you never know), and visuals are reasonably crisp and colourful. The touch-screen itself is perfectly responsive and a joy to use when skimming through websites or playing with apps.
You’ll get a full day of battery life even if you’re watching shows, playing with apps and taking photos, but limit your use to the occasional text, email and website check and you’ll get as much as three to four days before the battery dies.
The Ascend P1 would be even more slender if it wasn’t for that rectangular camera lens poking out of the back. It feels a little rough compared to other jutting cameras (such as the HTC One X’s snapper), but there’s no denying the quality of our test photos. Auto-focus quickly locks on to subjects, as does the built-in face detection, and photos are taken around half a second after tapping the virtual shutter button. The majority of our shots came out crisp and pleasingly colourful.
This simple close-up perfectly captured the leaves' colour and detail
This is a zoomed-in image of a postbox, again with realistic colours...
...and digitally zooming in further shows an excellent level of detail
On full automatic, the white balance was off on many of our interior shots, giving everything a yellow tinge. Thankfully a quick play with the manual settings soon corrected this issue. You can make plenty of other tweaks or add a filter to your snaps – e.g. turn the world into a black and white sketch. The flash helps to light up dim interiors, perfect for those drunken pub shots. You can also shoot HD video (good quality, although our voice was a little faint), while the front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera is excellent for Skype chats.
Packing in an eight-megapixel camera, bright qHD screen and powerful dual-core processor, Huawei’s Ascend P1 boasts some excellent features. Sure, this phone might lack the sheer desirability of top-end mobiles like the Galaxy S III and HTC’s One X, but if you’re looking for something just as capable without the premium price, the Ascend P1 is a great option.