Huawei Ascend W1 Review
Author: Craig Jones
Huawei is offering it’s first attempt at a Windows Phone 8 smartphone, something that may have surprised a lot of people considering the Chinese company has a steady relationship with the Android platform. However, even though they seem to be testing the waters with the rather hushed unveiling of the new Ascend W1, what they have put together looks to be a good interpretation of what a Windows Phone 8 smartphone should be.
Joining the Android powerhouse Huawei Ascend D2 and the oversized, 6.1-inch Huawei Ascend Mate as the company’s CES 2013 offerings, the Huawei Ascend W1 boasts a vibrant 4-inch display wrapped around Microsoft’s latest mobile OS and a sleek, aesthetically pleasing form factor that is to be made available in a variety of colours.
Taking a quick look around the device one of the most noticeable design aspects is the way the screen seems to be pasted on top of the chassis, an odd little quirk but it does mean that the screen isn’t impeded by any bezel, just edge to edge glass. With Huawei deciding to opt for capacitive keys instead of either physical keys or the on screen soft keys that we have seen on the other two devices they announced this year (Ascend Mate and Ascend D2), means the screen real estate only becomes smaller.
Also located on the front is the speaker, proximity sensor, notification light and not forgetting 0.3 mp (mega pixel) camera, which is disappointing considering the majority of devices offer at least 2mp in this sector of the smartphone market. So it’s probably best to use this camera for quick video calls, or those odd moments of vanity.
On the right edge we find the popular dedicated camera shutter button that is very familiar in the Windows Phone world. Along the top lives the power/lock button and a 3.5mm headphone jack, leaving the left edge to house the volume rocker and the bottom only housing the microUSB.
Moving around to the back we find the 5mp camera, LED flash, speaker and branding for both Huawei and Windows Phone 8.
Size and Screen
Lining up at 10.15mm thick, the Huawei Ascend is far from the slimmest device on the market but this matters little, with the handset never feeling excessively chunky or uncomfortably thick. What’s more, rather than being a drawback, the handset’s 120g weight, which is again far from groundbreaking, gives the Windows Phone 8 handset a comfortable, well balanced heft, neither wrist achingly, pocket droopingly heavy or unnervingly light.
Coming up trumps once again, the Huawei Ascend W1 screen is an eye-catching affair with the 4-inch WVGA IPS display offering surprisingly strong visuals with little of the unwanted pitfalls that Huawei have stumbled into in the past. And thanks to its 4-inch size screen, the Huawei Ascend W1 measures up with a display identical in size to that of the iPhone 5.
With fast, slick and seamless transitions between the menus and the operating system’s side scrolling interface, the Huawei Ascend W1 screen avoids issues of stuttering and jilted transitions, helping ensure a more user friendly experience.
Partnering the 4-inch WVGA IPS display with a 400MHz Adreno 305 graphics processor, Huawei has maintained the integrity of the Huawei Ascend W1, only helping to boast sharp images with bold colours and a strong contrast ratio.
Injected with the latest OS (operating system) offering from Microsoft, Windows Phone 8, would usually mean customization and personality, however Huawei has loaded the Ascend W1 with a purely vanilla version of Microsoft’s mobile operating system in the sense that, unlike its rivals Nokia and HTC, it hasn’t added any custom apps to its first Windows Phone device. However, given the phone’s budget price tag this phone is likely to appeal to those after a simple, affordable Windows Phone device who won’t be too bothered by the lack of personalisation.
Truth be told, the phone is akin to the Samsung ATIV Odyssey, it’s specs don’t impress the gadget geeks out here but it’s a solid feeling little phone that feels leaps and bound better than some of the lesser offerings from the likes of LG in the Windows Phone 7 days.
Its processing power is nothing to write home about but although Windows Phone 8 devices currently do not sport the same quad-core CPU setups as their Android counterparts, the 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm processor housed inside the Huawei Ascend W1 is far from sluggish. Keeping the device running smoothly rather than the jittery experience of some lower end devices, the Huawei Ascend W1 is a zippy handset with app launches and programme transitions, just a smooth, lag free experience.
With the handset’s 1.2GHz dual-core processor complemented by 512MB of RAM, the Huawei Ascend W1 specs sheet is completed by the inclusion of 4GB of internal storage. And with the added option of expandable memory, allowing up to another 32gb, the Ascend W1 becomes a serious contender for its competitors.
The handset’s 5-megapixel rear-mounted camera is a surprisingly strong inclusion, punching well above its “on-paper” expectations.
Producing images that are sharp, vibrant and with a well-balanced and natural colour reproduction, the Ascend W1s camera produced snaps that were clear, pin sharp and allowed for considerable post production zooming in before quality degrade and pixelation began to rear its head.
With the handset’s video recording capabilities following a similar suit, the Ascend W1 has given itself an edge in becoming a contender to the current Windows Phone 8 market, and a device that, on first impressions at least, could give the likes of both the HTC 8X and Nokia Lumia 920 a good run for their money.
Taking snaps with the Ascend W1 is made easy with the addition of the dedicated shutter button, located on the right edge of the phone. Making it a doddle to launch the camera application, plus with the addition of face detection and geotagging helping to ensure you and your friends never miss those magical moments.
With the Ascend W1 being the energy friendly device that it is, power consumption is a non issue. But it is very nice to know that this little smartphone totes a rather large battery life in comparison. Offering a 1950 mAh battery beating out it’s closest competitor the Nokia Lumia 620. Huawei expects the handset to reach up to 10 h 30 min of talk time, and with the help of their unique power saving technology that saves 30% on power consumption, the Ascend W1 looks fit to keep up with whatever gets thrown at it.
Who is it For?
With both it’s friendly WP8 (Windows Phone 8) interface and its unimposing form factor the Ascend W1 is perfect for those who are looking to their first steps into the rather daunting world of the Smartphone.
Value for Money?
The Huawei Ascend W1 will be available from O2 in Q1 2013, prices to be announced. Although Huawei has indicated its commitment to “to put smartphones within reach of every consumer” meaning this could go on sale for as little as £200 in the UK.
This isn’t a flagship Windows Phone 8 device by any stretch of the imagination and it’s obvious that Huawei is aware of that, as the Chinese phone maker has certainly gone about things the right way. It has announced a decent, affordable Windows Phone handset with all the features its target audience will be looking for. so we’d expect the Ascend W1 to carry a reasonable price tag and if it does, then it should be in a good position to get Huawei some recognition outside of its home nation that it quite clearly deserves.
Power users will look past this handset, but those wanting to explore smartphones for the first time, or who are looking for a simple experience at a low cost, the Huawei Ascend W1 would definitely be worth the consideration.