Review: Huawei Ascend P6, an all-metal, quad-core phone

Alora Uy Guerrero
Review: Huawei Ascend P6, an all-metal, quad-core phone

Specs of the Huawei Ascend P6 (Price: P18,990)

1.5GHz quad-core processor
2GB RAM
8GB internal storage
microSD card slot (up to 32GB)
4.7-inch IPS+ in-cell touch display with Corning Gorilla Glass (720 x 1,280 resolution; 312ppi pixel density)
8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
5-megapixel front camera
2,000mAh battery
Android Jelly Bean 4.2     

  

The smartphone spec war has become irrelevant, with big players like Apple and Nokia showing that dual-core chips are capable of a fluid user experience on their respective mobile platforms.

Android is now more responsive, as evidenced by Project Butter and the introduction of TRIM support on Jelly Bean 4.3.

The Moto X reportedly ditched a 1080p display in favor of better frame rates. 

It seems that hardware is the new proving ground for smartphones, especially in the Android landscape where so few can hold a candle to the iPhone 5.

Chinese manufacturer Huawei must have seen the writing on the wall and has since taken the challenge head-on. The result is the Huawei Ascend P6, an all-metal, quad-core phone that straddles the line between mid-tier and flagship but rivals Apple's gold standard for modern phone design and craftsmanship. 

>>READ: 6 reasons Apple is not favored in this country

It helps that the Ascend P6 draws plenty of inspiration from the iPhone 4/4S and the iPhone 5 while still managing to distance itself from Apple's vaulted design language with a nicely rounded base which earns major brownie points in our books.

At only 6.18mm thick, the Huawei Ascend P6 is also one of the world's slimmest phones. 

However, is the newest addition to the Ascend range more than just a world-beater? Does it deliver good-enough value across the board to go along with its ridiculously lithe, aluminum body?

We'll tackle these pressing questions, and more, in our review of the Huawei Ascend P6.   

Hardware

The moment you take it out of its slim, well-made box, the first impression that the Huawei Ascend P6 makes is that it's a perfect example of minimalist beauty. With the exception of its finely crafted, rounded base, there's not a lot of curves here; there's not a lot of flash either. 

But it is something to gawk at, as people around you can—and will—attest to. Depending on how you're holding the handset, some of them will dismiss it as just another iPhone clone or dead ringer; others will mistake it for the real thing. 

We say it's easily one of the most gorgeous phones to arrive on our shores. The more we stare at our loaner unit, the more we're attracted to it. The iPhone resemblance, whether by intention or accident, is something we can overlook.

From a physical perspective, Huawei obviously took pains to make the Ascend P6 as desirable as possible, as evidenced by the premium-looking metal band around the top and right- and left-hand edges of the phone. The said band also serves as the device's antenna. 

>>SEE ALSO: Layman’s review: Is the HTC One as good as advertised?

The non-user-removable aluminum rear has a smooth finish. Sadly, it also offers minimum resistance to heat.

Which leads us to this observation: The Huawei Ascend P6 heats up rather quickly, making it uncomfortable to hold for extended periods of time without the included silicone case. It seems that Huawei's in-house processor is largely the culprit here, though we can't really say for sure until we test other Huaweis with the same silicon.

There are micro-drilled holes for the speaker and two mics located on top and at the bottom of the Ascend P6. There's also a tiny metal plug that hides a 3.5mm headphone jack on the left-hand side of the device.

The plug conveniently acts as a pin for ejecting both the SIM and microSD card trays as well. Just be mindful of where you put it when detached from the left-side cavity because it can be easy to lose. Trust us on this. 

Display

The Huawei Ascend P6’s 4.7-inch touchscreen is IPS+, meaning it delivers brighter, more vivid colors and better outdoor visibility than your usual IPS-LCD affair.

Viewing angles are superb as well; text can be read with ease from most angles, even when the handset is an arm's length away. 

Even better, the Ascend P6 boasts something called "in-cell" touchscreen technology, which integrates touch sensors directly into the panel rather than using a separate layer, thereby improving contrast and responsiveness as the result of reducing the panel's thickness. It's the same technology used on Apple's iPhone 5, mind you.

>>READ: Why high-end smartphones do not lead the Southeast Asian market

Screen resolution is 720 x 1,280, giving the phone a decent pixel density of 312ppi. And while it won't wow you with eye-popping, super-sharp visuals, it's certainly good enough for day-to-day tasks, such as Web browsing, reading emails, and watching videos. 

The display also features Gorilla Glass, but this comes as no surprise given that some budget smartphones already make use of Corning's toughened glass.

Camera

The Huawei Ascend P6 has two cameras: an 8-megapixel rear shooter supported by LED flash and a 5-megapixel front facer.

Having used both extensively, we found that the main sensor captures a good amount of light, resulting in great images and footage in both indoor and outdoor settings. However, the results aren't significantly better than those taken from 8-megapixel sensors of premium, non-iPhone models.

The 5-megapixel secondary sensor, on the other hand, is simply one of the best we've tested on any smartphone. It works really well for self-portraits, and when used with the default camera app's Beauty Shot mode, which intelligently removes facial imperfections, produces more flattering snaps. 

We've compiled samples taken with both cameras to illustrate our point. 

 

Performance

As you'd expect from a mid- to high-end offering, performance is fast, but it's not exactly a speed king. The Ascend P6 certainly won't give the Samsung Galaxy S4s of the world a run for their money, and that's slightly disappointing.

Then again, we're talking about an P18,990 phone, so it's hardly fair to compare it to Snapdragon 600-based models that cost significantly more. 

Thankfully, the Huawei Ascend P6 behaves like a quad-core and is capable of navigating home screens and switching between apps at a quick-enough pace.

High-def games and movies run smoothly and with minimal delay, if any. In some cases, such as when playing Despicable Me: Minion Rush and Sector Strike, we experienced no discernible lag or stutter.

The performance comes from Huawei's own quad-core K3V2 processor, which clocks in at 1.5GHz. There's also 2GB of RAM—double the amount of memory of most sub-P20,000 devices—as well as 8GB of built-in storage (expandable up to 32GB more via a microSD card slot). 

The Ascend P6 ships with Android Jelly Bean 4.2 baked in, and while that's always good to hear, there's one hitch on the software front: Huawei's Emotion UI.

As it stands, the latest iteration of Emotion UI looks even prettier and more tempting, with several skins to boot, but it remains frustrating to use. That's because Huawei deemed Android's app drawer unnecessary and decided against including it in the company's custom interface.

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The absence of an app drawer means that software and every app you subsequently install on the Huawei Ascend P6 will show up on home screens, eating up space that could be used for widgets.

Of course, you're free to do some housekeeping, clustering and hiding apps inside folders to keep home screens clutter-free. However, if you want to get the app drawer back, the easiest way to do so is to install a third-party launcher that supports it. 

Another thing we don't like about the Ascend P6: Its 2,000mAh battery is a letdown.

On our standard battery-endurance test, in which we loop an HD video at half brightness, with WiFi enabled, our review unit falls a couple of hours short of our expectations, clocking in at only four hours before shutting down. In terms of average use, the device eked out 8 hours of runtime.

In defense of the battery life, the Huawei Ascend P6 has a built-in battery-saver function, which is useful for, you know, prolonging its battery life. But even so, we highly recommend that you pair this Huawei with a hefty external battery pack.

 

Verdict

With the Huawei Ascend P6, the China-based firm seeks to up the ante further, even going after history by crafting an all-metal casing.

To some extent, it succeeds in doing so. Not only is it ahead in the slimness race, it also bests most phones, including flagship efforts from the likes of Samsung, LG, and Nokia, in a beauty contest. 

Frankly, between Huawei's Ascend P6 and HTC's One, we can't decide which hardware we prefer. Both are equally captivating. 

Hardware isn't the only metric that matters, of course, and three things keep the device from being a perfect 10.

For starters, the Ascend P6, owing to its aluminum body—and perhaps, even its thinness—heats up fast. 

The absence of LTE support is also a cause of worry; today, there's simply no excuse for a smartphone like this to pass up high-speed wireless Internet connectivity, especially as LTE continues to gain momentum in the Philippines. So despite the inclusion of four CPU cores, a hearty serving of RAM, and Android Jelly Bean 4.2, the Ascend P6 isn't as future-proof as you'd imagine.  

>>READ: First impressions: MyPhone Iceberg, a 5.7-inch quad-core phone 

Then there's the battery issue. Even with a 2,000mAh cell, our review unit doesn't last as long as we'd hoped, barely getting us through one day with normal use. 

For us, though, none of the Ascend P6's flaws can actually be considered a deal-breaker. Sure, the handset says no to LTE—and that's a pity. But unless you're willing to spend extra for the service and there's LTE in your area and the places you frequent, then it shouldn't matter a whole lot. 

Which brings us to our last point: Caveats aside, the Huawei Ascend P6 for P18,990 off contract—or P999 with a two-year contract on a Globe postpaid plan—is a great buy for those who are upgrading from an early smartphone model. Even more so for those who value aesthetics above all.