Huawei Ascend P1 review: Huawei Ascend P1

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars 10 user reviews

The Good Slim design; Good screen; Decent processor.

The Bad Pitiful internal storage; quite cheap build quality.

The Bottom Line The Huawei Ascend P1 is super-slim, has a good screen and a decent helping of power. It won't cost you the Earth either. Just make sure you buy a capacious microSD card with it.

8.3 Overall

The Huawei Ascend P1 was originally shown off at CES in Las Vegas back in January, but it's taken its sweet time to make it to our shelves. We were originally impressed by this super-slim chap as it was among the first wave of smart phones offering the then top-of-the-range Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) software.

With ICS becoming commonplace in most new handsets and a more recent version of Android having been released, can the P1 still engender the same excitement?

It's available to pre-order SIM-free for around £370 or it can be yours for nothing on Vodafone contracts from August, starting at £26 per month.

Design and build quality

If you've ever held an iPhone and thought to yourself, "Wow, this is just a shade too fat for me," then you might feel a little more comfortable with the P1. At 7.6mm thick, it's slimmer than most mobiles on the market -- the iPhone's girth measures 9mm and the Samsung Galaxy S3 is 8.6mm.

Huawei Ascend P1 side
Slimmer than the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S3, the P1 is perfectly pocketable at 7.1mm thick.

Of course, whether you'd ever actually notice that millimetre difference -- and whether you'd even care -- is up for debate. It is strikingly skinny, but for me, it's probably at the limit of how slim I'd want a phone to be. Anything smaller and it runs the risk of feeling weak and vulnerable. The Motorola Razr is even thinner at 7.1mm and I do sometimes worry that I could break it if I sat on it.

Like the Razr, it has a slight bump in the back, although it's towards the bottom on the P1 rather than at the top. It appears to chiefly house the speaker and other gubbins that are too chunky to fit into the rest of the case. It doesn't really add anything to the design but I found it was a natural place to rest my finger when holding it.

Style-wise, the P1 is really nothing special. The chassis is made from a shiny black plastic that's been given a carbon fibre effect on the back. It's just a printed pattern though -- there's no carbon fibre in use here. This saves the phone from being a sinfully dull, plain black slab. Huawei claims the phone will be given a matte effect when it launches in August, so head into a shop to see what you think of it before buying.

Sadly, the plastic used for the casing feels a little cheap and certainly doesn't offer the premium look of the glass-backed iPhone or the sleek curves of the Galaxy S3. But with a cheaper price than both of those phones, it's something I can forgive. What's less acceptable is the poor construction in the buttons, which actually rattle when you shake the phone. They're quite easy to press but I get the impression they're not built to last.

Huawei Ascend P1 scale
The 4.3-inch screen does a decent job of displaying videos and photos.

The front of the phone is dominated by a single sheet of glass. There's no physical home button here so you'll be using touch-sensitive buttons along the bottom to navigate. Around the edge you'll find a power button, a volume rocker, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro-USB port.

There's also a microSD card slot, which is absolutely crucial for the P1 as it only comes with 4GB of built-in storage, of which only a small portion is user-accessible. Even when I'd wiped the phone completely, it was unable even to install and run the game Blood & Glory. You'll really need to factor a high-capacity microSD card into the price and ensure you install apps and save images to the card, rather than the built-in memory.

Huawei Ascend P1 buttons
Touch-sensitive buttons will take you everywhere you need to go.

Screen

The 4.3-inch screen comes with a resolution of 540x960 pixels, which isn't quite as high a resolution as the 720p displays offered on Android devices like the Galaxy S3, or indeed Huawei's own D-Quad. But it's pleasantly sharp when viewing small icons and text, so it's at least adequate for most tasks.

It uses Super AMOLED technology, which is both bright and vivid. Watching cinematic YouTube clips is a great experience, as is viewing photos and web pages. If you want a pocket-friendly phone for looking at films and pics, the P1 certainly fits the bill.

The only problem is it's pretty glossy, so trying to see what you're doing while under direct sunlight or harsh office lighting can be a little awkward -- but the same is true for most phones with high-gloss displays

Huawei Ascend P1 in portrait
Super AMOLED tech results in a punchy, bright screen.

Android Ice Cream Sandwich

The P1 is running on Google's Android 4.0 software, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich . Until very recently, I'd have been pleased that a phone was launching with the latest Android software on board as many handsets at the beginning of the year were still packing the much older 2.3 Gingerbread software and simply promising updates "at some point" to ICS.

With the launch of the Nexus 7 tablet , however, Google brought out the latest, shiniest version of Android known as Jelly Bean, meaning I can't give the P1 points for having the latest software on board.

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