The Ascend P2 first showed its face in February, and it's finally made its way to our shelves. It boasts a 4.7-inch, 720p display, a quad-core processor, an impressive 13-megapixel camera and 4G for speedy data downloads.
Should I buy the Huawei Ascend P2?
With its slim design, bold screen and quad-core processor, the Ascend P2, should be an excellent all-round mid-range phone. It's not though. While its specs are comparable to the Google Nexus 4, its price is considerably higher and for the money, the Ascend P2 just doesn't put in the performance.
Its processor didn't impress in my benchmark tests and the Emotion interface Huawei has slapped over Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean is awkward and has a couple of bugs. The camera is good though -- if you're a keen shutterbug and want a slim phone to carry around, it's worth considering, but otherwise, your money can be better spent elsewhere.
Take a look instead at the Nexus 4. It too has a 720p screen, a 1.5GHz quad-core processor and its stock Jelly Bean software is much more pleasant. Better yet, you can pick up the same capacity model for £279 -- nearly £100 less. If you want to stick with Huawei, its ludicrously thin Ascend P6 has similar specs and costs roughly the same as the P2.
Design and build quality
Huawei certainly has a penchant for making super-skinny phones and nowhere is this more obvious than in its flagship 6.18mm thick Ascend P6. At 8.4mm, The P2 doesn't quite measure up to its metal-clad sibling but it's still far from chubby. It's 136mm long and 67mm wide -- you'll find it a little cumbersome if you're switching from an iPhone 4, but it's not particularly difficult to hold once you get used to it.
The back is made from a piece of black plastic that curves at the edges. Although it doesn't offer any flex when you press it, it does feel quite scratchy and cheap. There's no question that it lacks the more luxurious feel of metal-bodied mobiles like the HTC One or, to a lesser extent, the Ascend P6.
Aesthetically, the P2 doesn't have a huge amount going on. It has the standard all-black glass front that curves sharply at the top and bottom. The black back is broken by a tiny speaker grille at the bottom of the camera, with a silver surround. It's a very plain design, but at least it's fairly smart.
Around the sides you'll find a volume rocker, a power button and a dedicated camera shutter button. There's also a 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro-USB port, both of which sit on top of the phone. It comes with 16GB of storage as standard which should be plenty of room for apps and videos. You can expand it with a microSD card, but you can only use it for media, not for apps. If you make sure to save all your movies and music to the card, you can save all the internal space for tools and games.
The 4.7-inch screen packs a 1,280x720-pixel resolution, giving a density of 312 pixels per inch. That's almost exactly the same as last year's Google Nexus 7. The truly hardened tech addicts among you might be moaning that it isn't Full HD like the Galaxy S4 or HTC One, but in reality, you probably won't be able to tell much difference.
If you get your nose up close then you might notice slightly softer edges to text on the P2, but for most tasks you'll never notice. Fine text is well defined and tiny details on some of my high resolution test images looked sharp and clear.
The screen's also bright and has excellent colours. The deep blue of the skies on my favourite test video, Art of Flight, looked great, as did the flurries of fine snow that are thrown out as snowboard legend Travis Rice cuts through the powder. The screen is a little on the reflective side, but the brightness goes some way to counter it. Office lights are handled well enough, but glaring outdoor sunlight might be more of a challenge.
The P2 runs on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, which is now a few steps behind the most recent version. Android 4.3 Jelly Bean will soon be making its appearance more widely on new phones so it's a shame that Huawei hasn't loaded on a more recent version. Still, you'd be unlikely to tell much difference as Huawei's Emotion interface changes so much of Android that any visual difference between versions are impossible to spot.
The main difference -- and it's not one I'm keen on -- is that Huawei has removed the standard app list, instead forcing you to keep all your apps and folders scattered across your homescreens among your widgets. With up to nine homescreens available, it quickly becomes extremely difficult to find exactly what you're looking for.
You'll need to be very strict in exactly how you arrange your apps if you don't want it to become a confusing mess. You can set any of the nine homescreens as the default screen to return to, so put your most used apps there.
On the upside, Emotion does let you heavily customise the interface. There's a whole host of different themes available that change not only the background image but the app icons and lock screen too. If you like putting your own stamp on your technology, the P2's themes will be right up your street.
Processor and performance
Powering the P2 is a 1.5GHz quad-core processor, which gave acceptable results in my tests. On the Quadrant benchmark test it racked up a score of 4,549. That's nowhere near the mighty 11,777 achieved by the HTC One, but it suggests the phone is at least capable of handling the basics. It compares more favourably with older phones such as the HTC One X (4,600), but given its fast quad-core chip, I'd expect better.
Part of the reason for this mediocre performance, I believe, is the demanding Emotion interface. Although most standard tasks were handled well, I found it took several seconds for apps and widgets to appear on screen when I returned to the homescreen from a game. That might not seem like a big deal, but it quickly became annoying.
More annoying is the phone's insistence on reducing screen brightness to half. Even with auto-brightness off and any battery-saving tools disabled, the screen would often dim itself while in use, requiring me to leave the app or game and change it back. It's very disappointing to see software glitches like this.
It did at least handle jetski racer Riptide GP 2 fairly well, although the more demanding N.O.V.A 3 was stuttery at times. It was playable -- just -- but it won't satisfy hardcore gamers.
The Ascend P2 is packing a 13-megapixel camera, which is an impressive resolution for a mid-range mobile. Both the Galaxy S4 and Sony Xperia Z phones boast 13-megapixel snappers, but they both come with much higher price tags. Megapixels don't mean better photos though, so I took it for a spin to see how it compared.
On my first shot indoors, I was pleased with the P2's ability to accurately expose for the scene. It kept the bright light in the background under control and didn't lose any details to dark shadows. There's some image noise, but I've certainly seen worse.
The benefit of having 13 megapixels is noticeable in my second test shot. Fine details on the textures on the rocks are well defined, although colours are a little muted. The P2's camera isn't going to replace your dSLR or indeed a normal compact digital camera, but it's certainly among the better phone cameras, particularly at this price.
The P2 packs a 2,420mAh battery, which is pretty capacious for a phone of its size. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, it put in a good performance, comfortably lasting a day with fairly light use.
As with all phones though, how much battery life you get will depend entirely on how much you use it. Keep the screen brightness low and avoid playing demanding games or streaming video and you shouldn't need to worry too much when you stray far from a plug. As a general rule with the P2 and all smart phones, you will generally need to charge it every night.
The Huawei Ascend P2 is slim, has a bold screen and a decent camera. It would be a good mid-range phone if it was a tad cheaper -- and of course if the software issues could be sorted out. If you can pick it up on a good deal, it's certainly worth a look, but there are other options to consider, principally the Nexus 4.