Huawei Ascend P1 review: Up and comer

GSMArena team, 25 June 2012.
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Final words

When we first got the Huawei Ascend P1 at the office we thought it was a great phone - if only had it arrived a year earlier. Now that we're done reviewing it, we think it's an excellent package for this year too.

Clearly, the Ascend P1 won't beat any of the new flagship releases by the major players, but there's a good chance it will do well in the high volume upper midrange market. It has a solid build quality, very good performance and a software experience that Android purists will appreciate.

We're quite happy with the Super AMOLED screen too - its PenTile matrix is something that's annoying only when you know it's there and look from way too close, while everything else about its performance is great. The camera does quite well too, especially the Group shot mode, which mimics the functionality of the HTC One series.

All that's great, but the Ascend P1 still faces an uphill battle - Huawei isn't exactly a household name and the yesteryear flagships are now priced very competitively.

The highly popular Samsung Galaxy S II (at least for now) costs less than the P1. It has a non-PenTile (but lower-res) Super AMOLED screen, an excellent camera and things like optional NFC, USB On The Go, about the same thickness and so on.

The Motorola RAZR XT910 uses the same screen as the Ascend P1, on top of being thinner and finished in Kevlar. Although it cannot match the speed of the Huawei, it's much cheaper. A Motorola RAZR MAXX is pricier and thicker, but offers mind-blowing battery life.

And if you're going to live with a PenTile Super AMOLED, you might as well make it the 720p screen of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The Nexus has some Google-imposed limitations though (no microSD or mass storage mode, etc.), but the promise of timely Android updates and vanilla experience will appeal to the same Android purists who might have been interested in the Ascend P1.

Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II Motorola RAZR XT910 Samsung Galaxy Nexus
Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II • Motorola RAZR XT910 • Samsung Galaxy Nexus

The 12MP Sony Xperia S is also worth a look. A 720p screen, dual-core CPU, NFC, standard microHDMI, USB On The Go and plenty of (non-expandable) built-in storage are nice things to have. Android 2.3 Gingerbread less so, but the update is coming.

An HTC Sensation XE is an interesting option too - those iBeats headset are hard to say 'no' to. If you can stomach the price difference (it's not that big), the HTC One S is one of the best droids on the market right now, with a faster processor, slimmer aluminum unibody and the same qHD Super AMOLED display as the Huawei phone.

Sony Xperia S HTC Sensation XE HTC One S
Sony Xperia S • HTC Sensation XE • HTC One S

In the end, the Huawei Ascend P1 is a great, well-rounded upper mid-range droid that holds its own against the competition. Huawei may have to slash the price for it to really gain traction - people are not willing to pay the same (or more) for a relatively unknown maker when they can go with a big-name brand. And who knows, there may be a point in their long-term strategy, where Huawei become a part of the very establishment they're now challenging.

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