Hands On: Huawei P6

By Pat Pilcher

The Huawai P6.
The Huawai P6.

Huawei's Ascend P6 has been the subject of much speculation so I naturally jumped at the chance to review one with both hands ahead of its launch at the end of the month.

The question on everyone's lips is this: Does it perform as good as it looks?
Having spent some quality time with a P6, I've come to the conclusion that this great looking phone offers some pretty decent bang per buck, even if it could do with a spec bump. Having long played at the budget handset end of the phone market, Huawei also appears to be aiming higher with the Ascend P6, which has a decidedly premium feel about it. If I were Samsung, HTC and Apple, I'd be more than a little worried.

Look and Feel
Perhaps the most noticeable thing about the P6 is its svelte form factor. Weighing in at a mere 120grams, the P6 may resemble a run of the mill smartphone when viewed front-on, but it isn't until you get your first look at its 6.5mm supermodel thin waist from that you realise the P6 is a little more special than initial impressions would have you believe.

In the hand the P6 also reveals a higher end spec. Tupperware has been replaced with a slick brushed alloy and Gorilla glass combo that hints that it is not a budget handset.

That Huawei have managed to cram smartphone innards into such a petite chassis, also speaks volumes about the cleverness of the P6's design. In short The Ascend P6 feels solid and Small design flourishes such as chamfered edges around the Gorilla Glass really showcase Huawei's design chops.

Under the Hood
High end design doesn't transfer to specs with the P6. This said, the P6 is no slouch on the specifications front, packing a quad core 1.5GHz CPU that was designed in-house by Huawei. There's an 8 megapixel rear camera and a 5 megapixel front shooter. Sadly there is no 4G and the P6 is also lacking on the storage front, with only 2GB of RAM, and a further 8GB of internal storage. This said, Its LCD display definitely impresses, sporting a 1,280 x 720 resolution at 312 PPI. Thankfully the P6 also takes a MicroSD card to give its meagre internal storage (8Gb of which only 4Gb is accessible) a much needed bump.
I was however pretty impressed with the P6's 5-megapixel front-facing camera. where most phones make do with a VGA front facing image sensor, Huawei have thrown caution to the wind and selfies are about to get a whole lot more detailed. On the media front, I was also pleased to see that DLNA and Dolby Digital audio were also baked in.

In Use
Huawei's put quite a bit of work into its Emotion custom android interface which is installed over the top of Android Jelly Bean (4.2.2). The Emotion UI feels like a much refined version of Samsung's TouchWiz, or HTCs Sense, in that it consists of a tweaked home screen with proprietary widgets that provide quick and intuitive access to key Android functions. Another feature that is also likely to appeal is a profile selector which will prove invaluable to anyone who frequently attends lectures or meetings.

The P6's rear image sensor may only be 8 Megapixels but it wasn't without a few clever tricks up the digital equivalent of its sleeve. For a start its macro mode was pretty impressive and something other phone makers could learn a thing or two from.

Photos looked great, if a tad oversaturated. Unfortunately like most other phone cameras, shooting under low light conditions presented bit of a challenge with picture detail deteriorating. In normal daylight outdoor (or well-lit indoor) conditions the P6's rear camera delivered great looking images.

There's also plenty of shooting modes, including HDR, Beauty, a Smart Auto and Panorama as well as GPS tagging, touch-to-capture and object tracking. All told, The P6's rear shooter also capturing usable 1080p video that looked great on my big screen TV.

With a quad-core CPU running at 1.5GHz, the P6 also did a pretty competent job and there was next to no lag with typical use. In terms of battery life, the P6 has a 2,000mAh battery which should in theory deliver at least 24-28 hours of life with typical use. Under real-world conditions, battery life was more like 8-12 hours depending on how many calls I made or games I downloaded and played.

Considering the compute power we now take for granted in our pockets and purses, it's almost too easy to forget that the reason we pay so much for such designer tech is to make phone calls, and it is here that the P6 acquitted itself well - calls were clear and even at my home (where reception tends to get a little ropey) I consistently got solid signal levels. On the media front, I also found that the inclusion of Dolby Digital Plus helped audio to shine when paired with a decent pair of headphones.

You know a phone manufacturer has got it right when you hand the phone to a someone and watch as they have a "Wow moment". This happened repeatedly with the P6, which isn't terribly surprising - it really is a great looking piece of hardware.

This said, the smartphone market is a rapid moving beast and only 6 months ago the P6's spec would have also blown minds, whereas now it is still good but not incredible. Either way, the P6's petite form factor and good looks make it a pretty compelling option, especially when the rumoured sub $700 sticker price (prices will vary depending on mobile plans) is taken into consideration.

Tech Spec
Connectivity 2G GSM 850Mhz, 900Mhz, 1800Mhz, 1900Mhz
3G HSDPA 850Mhz, 900Mhz, 1700Mhz, 1900Mhz, 2100Mhz
Data GPRS 32 - 48 kbps
EDGE 236.8 kbps
WLANWi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetooth Yes, v3.0 with A2DP, EDR, LE
Speed HSDPA, 21.6 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
Size 132.7 x 65.5 x 6.2 mm
Weight 120g
Display IPS 720 x 1280 4.7" (312ppi) LCD capacitive touchscreen, (16M colours)
Memory Internal 8 GB (4.7 GB user available), 2 GB RAM
Expansion microSD, (up to 32 GB)
CAMERA (Rear) 8 MP, 3264x2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash (Geo-tagging, HDR, face and smile detection), 1080p@30fps video (Front) 5 MP, 720p video
OS Android OS 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean)
Chipset/CPUHuawei K3V2 Quad-core (1.5 GHz)
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, temperature
Radio FM radio
GPS with A-GPS support/GLONASS
Colors Black, White, Pink
BATTERY 2000 mAh
Stand-by Up to 416 h (2G) / Up to 315 h (3G)
Talk time Up to 28 h (2G) / Up to 14 h 30 min (3G)

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