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Hands-on with the Huawei Ascend D2 and Ascend Mate (video)


We were eager to check out Huawei’s newest flagship device, the Ascend D2, after the company announced the 5-inch monster at a press conference on Monday. We had a chance to play with the phone and came away quite impressed with its vivid IPS display, its excellent metal build quality, quick camera shutter and thoughtful UI touches. Mainly, however, we were taken with the speed at which Huawei seems to be innovating in the Android space, and how quickly it has gone from a simple white-label OEM to a brand users know and want to learn more about.

There is no word on whether the device is coming to Canada, since it lacks LTE compatibility in this version and only support UMTS 850/900/2100 MHz for Asian markets. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the phone eventually come to WIND or Mobilicity to take on Samsung’s top-range products at an affordable price point, but Huawei wouldn’t hint as to whether that will happen.

We were also a bit disappointed to see no CPU upgrade over the previous Ascend D1 Quad XL, though the same quad-core K3V2 chip has seen a slight speed bump to 1.5Ghz. The 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage also work in its favour, but we’re worried the 3000mAh cell would be better served by a 28nm chip; the K3V2 is a 40nm Cortex-A9, very similar to the Tegra 3.

We were really impressed by the build quality and heft of the D2. It feels more substantial than any device the company has previously made, and the aluminum frame will help protect the phone against damage was falls and scrapes. The device is also water resistant, something that cannot be said for the majority of Android smartphones on the market today.

More than anything, though, it looks like Huawei really cares about the Ascend D2, and has fashioned a thoughtful, austere device that can and will compete against others hundreds of dollars more expensive.

Next up is the Ascend Mate, a giant 6.1-inch device that intends to take on the Galaxy Note in some ways, but lacks the specs, the build quality or the vision to do so. Not to say the Mate is a bad device, but its specs are a little disappointing after playing with the sublime Ascend D2.

The phone comes with a 6.1-inch 1280×720 display, for a mediocre 240ppi pixel density. The screen, while well saturated, has disappointing viewing angles and mediocre maximum brightness. It shares the same quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM as the Ascend D2, but its 8MP camera produced muddy indoor shots.

Both devices incorporate some thoughtful UI changes to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, such as a bottom navigation bar that can be hidden with a swipe. The company has incorporated some interesting technology into the Ascend Mate, including an excellent one-handed “tablet” keyboard and screen tech that responds while wearing gloves. Smart Reading, a feature exclusive to the Mate, allows you to define, search for keywords and access Wikipedia inside an app. There are also pop-up apps that allow you to use utilities such as a calculator, notes, messages and videos from within an app.

Despite being 6.1-inches, you can still make calls on the Ascend D1, though you will look ridiculous doing so. As you can see from the examples above, it towers over the Nexus 4 and almost dwarfs the Galaxy Note II.

We’ll bring you all the details of any upcoming releases of these devices when we have them.

  • John z

    To be honest, as much as i like the phone specs & such, The phone looks exacly as a Samsung & a LG. Can they NOT make a new design?

    Other then that i like it. The problem is i would not buy a phone like that unless i get support from the carriers & Huawei

    • JUST SAYING

      RIM AND APPLE KILLER

    • Rawrr

      What are you looking for? Triangle phone? hahahah Oval? Square? Octagon? Take your pick, but rectangle is probably the best shape to make a phone.

    • GlassBackBadIdea

      “Can they NOT make a new design?”
      Would you like them to make phones in the shape of a burger or a butterfly to satisfy you? A recangular display needs a rectangular case. What did you expect???

    • John z

      @GlassBackBadIdea

      Still tho. They had flip phones & look now, they invented brick phones. I am sure companies can invent or design a phone a different way. It does not need to be the same old design over & over. Look at the front of this one, same look as the LG & Samsung phone which i can even show you.

      Tech savvy people do not see this tho, they only care about the specs which is great & all but not everyone cares aboout specs.

    • 2see

      RIP Android :)

  • Graff

    When you think about it, what other new phone shapes can they create?? The shape of new phones will probably be the same for years to come. I think only the material and size will change.

    • John z

      Still tho. You can tell it looks like a Samsung & part of LG. They need to start making phones look different. Blackberry & Sony seem to be the only ones doing it now. Samsung has done it with the S3.

      I wonder if Huawei & the rest will concider changing the looks from now on instead of the specs.. Specs are not everything that everyone wants. People want change in designs & such.

  • Rhett

    If that guy says um one more time….

  • Jorge

    Is anyone here concerned about Huawei products and the Chinese government? The US and Canadian governments have serious concerns regarding Huawei. Just sayin’.

  • EvanK

    LOVE that 6.1″ display, would’ve been nice to see 1080p though. Also, anyone notice how iOS like Huawei’s skin is? If I bought one of those, first thing I’d do would be flash CM onto it.

  • nexus lover for life

    the only thing chinese are good for is copying. they lack style and originality. the d2 is very ugly like an iphone and the user interface is very ugly like ios. for shame upon you china men

  • new_tradition

    That D2 really is a sexy device *_*

    If I hadn’t ordered a Nexus 4, I could see myself waiting for the D2 to come to Wind.

  • Dave

    Does this model comes with a spy app build in ?

  • Christmas Daniels

    Don’t forget the Chinese Nortel collaboration in which Nortel did not know it was a partner in. Also the built in spy app works amazingly with the GPS, google wallet, and password reader.

  • skullan

    Yep, I’m done with Android.

  • GlassBackBadIdea

    So you all don’t trust the chinese but do trust the koreans and the japanese? just want to clarify. might as well through away all your electronics cause everything is built in china.

  • AWSguy

    Gosh this phone looks ugly. HTC needs to train everyone else on how to make phones which are appealing to the eye (yes including samsung). HTC design + samsung hardware. Thats what would be a killer combo!

  • Jorge

    @glassbackbadidea, you got it, I just don’t trust Chinese based companies who’s CEO was a former high ranking official in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. If the USA and Canadian governments have concerns, there is likely a reason.

  • Michael McGuinness

    Waaa waaa waaa…. typical whinefest on here. But in all honesty, I have no intention on buying anything from Huawei.

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