Huawei Ascend P7 review

£370
Price when reviewed

Huawei has unveiled its latest flagship smartphone – the Huawei Ascend P7. Following hot on the heels of Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8, Huawei’s 5in handset has come out swinging with a lithe 6.5mm-thick body, a pixel-packed 445ppi display and a whole swathe of premium features. See also: what’s the best smartphone of 2014?

Huawei Ascend P7 review: Design

Visually, the Ascend P7 looks every bit the high-end smartphone. Just like its predecessor, the Ascend P6, the P7 features bevelled brushed metal edges running across the top and sides, and a rounded profile curving around on the bottom edge. Flip the phone around, and the glass back looks eerily similar to that of Sony’s Xperia Z2. Look more closely and you’ll spot a tastefully textured weave underneath the glass layer, something Huawei has achieved by sandwiching seven layers of materials together.

Huawei Ascend P7 review

The Ascend P7 is available in pink, white or black, according to your taste – and whichever you choose, the aluminium alloy skeleton is sandwiched between two sheets of Gorilla Glass 3. Its unusually slender body and dainty dimensions make for a phone which feels great in the hand, too. The narrow bezels mean that, despite the 5in screen, the Ascend P7 is more pocketable than its rivals, and dramatically less bulky than the king-sized Sony Xperia Z2 or the chunky, rounded Nokia Lumia 1020.

That doesn’t mean it’s fragile, however. The Ascend P7 is solidly built, and while you can’t dunk it in a bucket of water like the Samsung Galaxy S5 or Sony Xperia Z2, the P7’s nano-coated chassis and internals mean that it can happily shrug off the occasional downpour.

Huawei Ascend P7 review: Display

Up front, Huawei has equipped the P7 with a 5in, Full HD display. The IPS panel serves up an eye-prickling 445ppi pixel density, and LED backlighting delivers soaring brightness. We measured the P7’s maximum brightness at 448cd/m2, and while the 745:1 contrast ratio is some way behind the best handsets we’ve seen, the P7’s slightly greyish blacks are noticeable only when the lights go down.

Huawei Ascend P7 review: first look

The only disappointment is that Huawei has evidently tried to compensate for the P7’s mediocre contrast by crushing the darkest greys into black – this makes pictures and movies look more punchy, but shadow detail is lost. Happily, the colour balance is spot on, and the Ascend P7 serves up realistic, natural-looking skintones and bold primary colours with equal aplomb. Overall, it’s a pleasure to behold.

Huawei Ascend P7 review: Hardware and performance

Most current high-end Android smartphones use a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip, but the P7 is powered instead by a 1.8GHz quad-core HiSilicon Kirin 910T CPU, an ARM Mali 450 GPU and 2GB of RAM. This isn’t a combination we’ve seen before, but it makes Huawei’s heavily-skinned edition of Android 4.4 feel perfectly snappy. Applications load quickly, and homescreens and menus slide fluidly in and out of view.

Delve more deeply however and the limitations of the hardware begin to tell. Fire up the camera app, and the settings menus scroll jerkily. As you begin to spend more time with the Huawei Ascend P7, the tell-tale judder of an overtaxed CPU becomes a regular sight.

Benchmark tests expose just how far the Ascend P7 lags behind other manufacturers’ flagships. We ran the SunSpider 1.0.2 browser benchmark several times, both in the stock browser and Chrome, and the Ascend P7’s fastest result was 1,046ms. That’s miles behind the premium-priced opposition: the HTC One M8 completed the benchmark in 590ms and the Samsung Galaxy S5 took only 391ms.

Huawei Ascend P7 review

Similarly, in the single- and multi-core elements of the GeekBench 3 benchmark the P7 achieved scores of 600 and 1,806 – around 33% slower than the smartphones we’ve tested with Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 801 CPU. Interestingly, the Huawei did claim one scalp in Geekbench 3, and that’s the Nexus 5 – the Ascend P7 proved around 2% faster in both tests.

The Ascend P7’s biggest headache proved to be our standard graphics benchmark, GFXBench. Here, in the demanding T-Rex gaming test, the Huawei stuttered its way to an average of 12.4fps. With its flagship rivals all approaching the 30fps mark in the same test, and the Nexus 5 nearly doubling its result with an average of 24fps, it’s clear that Huawei’s hardware trails well behind the pack.

Physical

Dimensions 69 x 140 x 6.5mm (WDH)
Weight 124g
Touchscreen yes

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 2.00GB
Camera megapixel rating 13.0mp
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 5.0in
Resolution 1080 x 1920
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family Android

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