Huawei Ascend P2 review

Alex Walls
October 19, 2013

Billed to be the ‘world’s fastest smartphone’ by Huawei, the Ascend P2 skips along when browsing but leaves a bit to be desired in the processor department.

The Ascend P2 was debuted at Mobile World Congress as the world’s fastest 4G LTE smartphone; that’s speedy browsing rather than a speedy processor.

Huawei claims the device can download data at 150mbps ‘ considering Everything Everywhere, currently the country’s only 4G operator, has said its customers saw an average of above 16mbps and is aiming to produce throughput speeds of 130mpbs with its ‘turbo charged’ 4G roll out this year, the P2 isn’t really going to be used to its full advantage, but there was a noticeable kick in speed when using the phone for browsing.

[alert type=alert-blue ]Slim ‘n’ sleek[/alert]

The Ascend is a fairly good looking phone, all up: the device measures 136.2 by 66.7mm and comes in at 8.4mm which is pretty slim as smart phones go (although not as slim as Huawei’s recent effort, the Ascend P6, another ‘world’s most’ contender as the world’s slimmest smartphone at 6.18mm). The device has a 4.7 inch screen, which is fairly large and this can make phone calls look a bit odd and feel a unwieldy. It also becomes an issue to use, since stretching your thumbs across the screen can be wearisome; and those corners will poke into your palm slightly.

Aside from this, the Ascend P2 is a slim and sleek looking device with a plastic back and Corning Gorilla glass 2 covering the screen; it doesn’t try anything very new in the looks department, aside from ends which slope away at an angle which looks good but does just seem to make it even harder for your thumbs to reach the screen. However, it’s a light phone at 122g which is comfortable to hold when it comes to weight.

A week in a bag and touring around Scotland saw the Ascend P2 survive without any scratches or scuffs but it is worth noting that there’s a very slight gap around the edge of the screen and the body of the phone, which can pick up dust and dirt.

Inserting the SIM card is a hassle, however. There is a SIM slot along the phone’s edge and this requires you to slide your SIM into a spring loaded crevice. Huawei provides you with a tool to do this, which consists of a small square of plastic and doesn’t actually work all that well. Since it’s likely you’ll lose this pretty quickly, you’ll need to invest in long nails.

The screen resolution is 720 by 1280 pixels with a pixel density of roughly 312 ppi. That’s a respectable pixel density and screen resolution but it’s not the best; the current flagships are up around the 400 ppi mark with screen resolutions of 1080 by 1920 pixels. However, the phone looks good, with clear detail and bright colours, but it does lack the superfine detail of, say, the Xperia Z or the richness of the Galaxy S4. However, this phone comes in considerably cheaper than either of the flagships.

Screen responsiveness can be an issue when using the keyboard; often, tapping the space bar ever so slightly too low will be interpreted by the phone as tapping on the home button. This means half way through composing a message or email, you’ll suddenly be taken back to the home screen, and occasionally the phone will decide to launch a different application instead. This moved on from frustrating to a real annoyance when it happened not just once or twice but quite regularly. I haven’t had this issue before, so it seems like Huawei’s control buttons are just a tad sensitive.

[alert type=alert-blue ]Shhhhmokin'[/alert]

The Ascend P2 has been billed as the fastest 4G phone in the world; not having more than one network to choose from doesn’t really lend itself to testing this claim out, but we did find that the Ascend P2 was fast when loading web pages on 4G; loading data heavy pages was a breeze and streaming YouTube videos was blisteringly fast, compared with other handsets. A few speedtests delivered differing results when it came to the network, but the phone did register peak download speeds in London of 37mbps, which is pretty dang impressive, given the average is meant to be 16mpbs and the maximum is 40mbps. (What Mobile’s speed tests have registered in excess of 40mbps). Whatever the network speeds offered, the Ascend P2 delivered speedy loading and streaming.

However, the processor is not so speedy. The Ascend P2 runs with a Huawei chip, a quad core 1.5 GHz with 1GB RAM. This is respectable heft for a high end phone (although not the fastest out there) but the Ascend P2 doesn’t really reflect it. Running games (an intensive processor task) caused the phone to freeze on a load screen for several minutes and there was some lag when trying to load or switch between apps. The phone also occasionally crashed when trying to load data-heavy apps such as Facebook. Streaming movies didn’t seem to provide the P2 with any issues, although skipping through movies does cause brief pixellation and warping before the video settles down again. The device also heats up quite a bit when playing games, most particularly around the top of the phone. For a quad core processor with 1GB RAM and clock speeds of 1.5GHz, problems with loading apps is a bit puzzling.

[alert type=alert-blue ]Camera-iffic[/alert]

The Ascend P2 features a 13MP camera with autofocus and LED flash. This camera looks good and takes clear, detailed pictures. However colours do appear slightly overblown, with greens in particular coming out overly bright. Like most smartphones these days, the Ascend P2 camera comes with a range of editing options such as choosing filters and taking panoramic or low light shots.

The 1080p HDR video at 30 frames per second also performs admirably, taking clear video with good sound and crisp detail.

Speaking of low light situations, the Ascend P2’s camera does okay, but not fabulously. Photos are generally fairly grainy, and in very low light, the screen appears black. However the flash is bright and does a good job of illuminating the scene, albeit with that flash effect of washing out colours some what.

The Ascend also features a 1.3MP front facing camera which does its job well for selfies and the like; photos have good colour and detail, without graininess.

[alert type=alert-blue ]Battery and Memory[/alert]

Calls on the Ascend P2 are fine and clear.

The device is billed to last more than 12 hours on 3G (767 minutes, if you want to be exact) with its 2420 mAh battery and with light to medium use, including texting, browsing the Internet, using Maps, watching movies, streaming YouTube clips, checking emails and then leaving the phone on stand by, the device lived up to this billed life, which is respectable for a smartphone.

More specifically, playing games ‘ a battery intensive exercise ‘ saw the phone drop five per cent in 10 minutes of game play, 10 per cent after 20 minutes and by 14 per cent after 30 minutes; basically, a rough guide for (short term battery drop, at least) is halve the minutes you’re playing for, and you’ll get your battery drop percentage.

The device comes with 16GB of internal storage, but doesn’t have a memory expansion option; 16GB is enough memory to get what you need done, but if you’re big on apps, particularly games, or taking loads of photos, the lack of expansion options is disappointing.

[alert type=alert-blue ]All In[/alert]

The Ascend P2 is certainly quick when it comes to web browsing (although whether it’s the fastest in the world is still up for debate; we’d need several 4G networks and and a 4G phone group test to compare it with).

But when it comes to general loading of applications or content, the P2 could struggle. Games taxed its processor and saw the device heating up.

However, for £300 on Pay As You Go, this is one of the cheaper 4G smartphones out there; the flagships are all in the £500 range, and the Ascend P2 doesn’t let itself down when it comes to specs. Compared with its predecessor, the Ascend P1, the P2 is cheaper with much better specs ‘ the times, how they do march on.

So if you’re a 4G convert and don’t mind the occasional shuddering, the P2 is a good offer in terms of price. If you don’t care too much about fast mobile data connections, then the P2 is still a decent offering, although its niggles may have you looking at cheaper, better performing, non-4G options.

A relatively cheap 4G phone which offers some scorching speeds, the Ascend P2 is not so speedy in the processor department. If you’re a 4G fan, this could be your baby. Otherwise, it’s a solid mid to high end smartphone offering, at a good price, but with some performance niggles.

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