Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G buddies up to LTE at last (hands-on)

January 6, 2014 10:15 AM PST / Updated: February 3, 2014 1:24 PM PST

LAS VEGAS -- While some smartphone-makers start with small phones that grow progressively larger each year, Huawei's 6.1-inch Ascend Mate line started big and stayed that way. Announced Monday at CES 2014, the Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G tops last year's original Mate with a potent mix of LTE and this year's high-end specs.

The phone's design is similar to last year's model, but with a slightly rounder body shape. This year's mammoth handset also comes in black and white, the latter rimmed by a metallic silver racing stripe.

Weighing in at about 7 ounces, it felt solid and yes, heavy, in the hand.

Android 4.3 is topped with Huawei's custom Emotion UI, with its characteristic, customizable themes and a layout that sprinkles apps horizontally across the home pages. You'll find a few gestures within, a shortcut for turning on one-handed operation, and another option to use the phone with a gloved hand.

The phone's cameras also gain a lot of emphasis. Huawei matches Samsung and LG with a 2.0 aperture, 13-megapixel lens that captures 1080p HD video, is backside illuminated.

When it comes to the front-facing camera, Huawei ups the ante with a 5-megapixel specimen. This secondary shooter adds a wider angle to get more of the scene you're in, plus an interesting vertical panorama feature that'll capture your environs, skyline and all.

A 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor resides within, along with a monster 4,050 embedded battery (or thereabouts, this could differ in some regions.) Here's an interesting factoid. Huawei claims that the Mate2's battery is capacious enough to use as a portable charger in a pinch without losing too much juice on its own. Say your friend needs a top-up and connects to the phone through a microUSB cable.

Sure, that's a very rare scenario, since you or your friend would also have to have a two-way microUSB cable, but you get the point: Huawei is proud of it enormous battery, currently the largest on the smartphone market.

When you peel back the battery cover, you'll be able to augment the 16GB ROM with up to 32GB in extra storage. The Mate2 has 2GB RAM.

So far, the Mate2's pleasant looks and top-shelf specs have caught up to its impressive mass. Now that supersize smartphones are firmly on the rise, Huawei should start seeing more interest in this extra-large phone -- provided that the pricing is competitive and the phone arrives in other markets sooner rather than later. To that end, Huawei plans to release it, starting in China, by the end of the first quarter.

Check out all the happenings from CES 2014.

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About The Author

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.