REVIEW / Huawei Ascend Mate, a Phablet for the Masses

6.1'' and performance similar to the Galaxy Note 2

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Sofian Nouira Published on December 5, 2013
Updated on March 3, 2014
Translated by Hugh Ehreth
Tristan François
Morgane Alzieu
Axel Mendy

Lab work
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When Samsung released the first plus-sized Galaxy Note, the feeling was that it was this sort of freakish sideshow in the greater smartphone circus. But the colossus quickly won the public's affection, so much so that in 2011 a whole new segment was forged, one that introduced the clunky term phablet to the world and raised deep, philosophical questions about where the smartphone ends and where the tablet begins. Competing brands were sceptical at first, then dove in head-first in 2013. Who can even count all the mammoth handsets that have sprouted from world-renowned tech giants and low-cost Asian manufacturers alike?

The Ascend Mate is the Chinese brand Huawei's first stab at this lucrative slice of the pie. Only, it can't quite spar in the same ring as recent phablets like the Galaxy Note 3 or Sony Xperia Z Ultra. Its specs and performance line it up more closely to compete with the Galaxy Note 2 or Galaxy Mega 6.3.

Test Huawei Ascend Mate

The hardware is what drives this point home, with a 6.1-inch IPS display with "just" 1280 x 720 HD resolution, a 1.5 GHz Huawei K3V2 quad-core processor based on ARM Cortex A9 architecture and 2 GB of RAM. The operating system is Android 4.2 Jelly Bean along with Huawei's user interface, Emotion UI. The 8 Mpx camera on the back films in Full HD 1080p and the 1 Mpx front camera films in HD 720p. There are just 8 GB of internal storage, but that can be expanded using a microSD card.

The Mate's wireless connectivity includes Dual Carrier 3G+, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS with support for A-GPS. Unlike Samsung and Sony's latest phablets, it doesn't support 4G or NFC.

The Huawei Ascend Mate was released in the UK in July for £300 SIM-free.


Let's state the obvious: the Ascend Mate is gigantic. Gargantuan. Utterly brobdingnagian. But that's what you get with a 6.1-inch screen, right? Not necessarily. Huawei doesn't seem to have made much effort to trim down the rest of the phone, such as the borders surrounding the screen. There aren't even any physical buttons below the display, so why have that big black strip down there at all?

At this size and weight (198 grams!), the Ascend Mate is not for the small of hand. Even those endowed with oversized digits will find themselves needing both mitts to yield this phone. With it resting in the palm of one hand, it's quite a stretch to get that thumb to reach the top of the screen.

Test Huawei Ascend Mate
That said, as mammoth smartphones go, at 163.5 x 85.7 x 9.9mm the Ascend Mate isn't even the bulkiest one. The 6.4-inch Xperia Z Ultra and 6.3-inch Galaxy Mega both outdo it.

Test Huawei Ascend Mate
Left to right: HTC One Max, Ascend Mate, Galaxy Note 3

Whatever your preferences in size may be, one thing is true: it's hard to find fault with the manufacturing. The shell may be all plastic (there's no glass back, no brushed aluminium), but it's high-quality plastic and there's no play to be felt in the body. It's all well finished and we don't see any problems arising due to the phone's build.


1280 x 720 pixels over a 6.1-inch display makes for a relatively low pixel density of 241 dots per inch, resulting in a picture that's less detailed than the current competing phablets; a shame for such a big screen. But everything else about the display is surprisingly impressive: it has wide viewing angles, only losing a tiny bit of contrast when seen from the side, and the colours, brightness and overall contrast are in the upper average for a smartphone.

Test Huawei Ascend Mate
The screen is nearly the same size as the HTC One Max's, but it has lower resolution, therefore less pixel density


Just like its better-known (in the West) counterparts, Huawei adds its own user interface on top of the stock Android OS. But whereas the other brands follow Google's axiom with the home screens and an app menu, Huawei has fused these into one. On the Ascend Mate everything happens on the home screens. When you install an app, instead of going into an app menu, it lands right on the next free space on the home screens, where you can create folders and add widgets at will. It's basically like if iOS and Android got together and had a baby—a snuggly, easy-going one that's easy to manage.

Test Huawei Ascend Mate

To keep the whole system running smoothly, Huawei opted for what in theory should be a fairly effective configuration with one of its own K3V2 quad-core processors clocked at 1.5 GHz and 2 GB of RAM. We ran our usual litany of tests and benchmarks on it... and the results weren't pretty. But Huawei somehow managed to do a lot more with the hardware than you would expect from looking at these results.

In terms of actual user experience, the phone is really quite responsive and the interface rarely ever stutters. Given the benchmark scores, you'd also expect gaming to take a hit. But, again, the Ascend Mate somehow surpasses them and ran all the games we threw at it with perfect fluidity; and that's with titles ranging all the way from casual games like Candy Crush Saga to the more processor-intensive Dead Trigger 2, Real Racing 3 and Asphalt 7, with its rich 3D environments rushing by at high speed.

Test Huawei Ascend Mate


The Ascend Mate's multimedia functions aren't particularly ground breaking. It's all pretty standard fare, but it does what it's there to do. The photo viewer and video player are the default Android apps. Videos and images are stored in the same place, and we were surprised to find that the player read every file we tried, including Full HD MKV. The only real shortcoming we saw was with the subtitles, which came out rather erratic.

Test Huawei Ascend Mate

The sound quality was much less impressive. The headphone output is relatively clean without much distortion or background noise, but the maximum volume is simply too low to make much use of it.


Eight Megapixels is plenty for the vast majority of users, and luckily the lens unit holds its own. No one would mistake the Ascend Mate for the best camera phone in the world, but it provides a usable amount of detail in photos. The colours are somewhat saturated, which most buyers should appreciate, but it isn't so much that it will disgust any purists. Of course, the lower the ambient light gets, the more the picture quality deteriorates, and the flash has a bad tendency to overexpose any subjects too close.

Test Huawei Ascend Mate
                  Artificial daytime lighting (250 lux)                                           Artificial nighttime light (3 lux)

Test Huawei Ascend Mate
                            250 lux without flash                                                               250 lux with flash
The camera shoots Full HD (1080p) video with generally fluid images and a good amount of detail, but the colours are much more saturated than in the still photos. Fans of natural colours beware!


The huge 4,050 mAh battery is one of the best things about the Ascend Mate! The phone lasted more than 16 hours in Battery Benchmark. In real-life situations you can easily expect it to hold out for two full days of ordinary use, as long as you take it easy on the games, GPS and movies. But even with intensive usage it would be hard to make the Ascend Mate expire at the end of one day.

The Ascend Mate as a phone
Like the Ascend P6, the Ascend Mate does not support 4G network. It does, however, support DC-HSDPA, or 3G+ 42.2 Mbps. And the sound quality is acceptable with no hissing or other unwanted noises getting in the way of conversations. Both ends hear each other loud and clear.


  • Quality manufacturing
  • Good screen
  • Satisfactory camera
  • Large display for viewing photos and videos


  • Low volume on headphone output
  • Camera takes videos with unnatural colours
  • No 4G support or NFC


Both fluid and responsive, the Huawei Ascend Mate has an effective, user-friendly interface that makes it fun to use. It shortcomings, such as the lack of 4G compatibility and low headphone volume, may turn off some users, but otherwise this phone is a worthwhile buy for anyone looking for a phablet that doesn't cost a fortune.
4 Huawei Ascend Mate DigitalVersus 2013-12-05 15:29:00
Compare: Huawei Ascend Mate to its competitors


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