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Huawei Activa 4G (MetroPCS) review: Huawei Activa 4G (MetroPCS)

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All cameras take better shots outdoors, and this was no exception. I looked at photos on my computer monitor in their full resolution, and afterward I cropped and resized them to the image you see here. Colors were mostly natural in photos taken in sunshine, and the camera usually did a fine job focusing.

Huawei Activa 4G
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Flowers, taken outdoors. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Outdoor shots didn't usually look grainy, and tones were warm. These flowers looked overly bright and some are blown out, but the greens and grays look accurate. While edges are crisp, the image is missing some detail inside the leaves and petals.

Huawei Activa 4G
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Bright colors and sharp outlines make this one of the Activa 4G's best pics of my test bunch. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

While there is auto-focus, the Activa doesn't have continuous auto-focus, so you'll have to either press halfway on the shutter button or tap the screen to refocus before you take your final shot.

Huawei Activa 4G
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The Activa 4G has a small focal field. The Fruit Sensations carton is in focus, but words on the surrounding boxes are softer. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

The 0.3-megapixel VGA front-facing camera is handy for giving video chatters on the other end something to look at, but the photo quality is so indistinct, you're better off ignoring it the majority of the time.

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The Huawei Activa tints this studio shot with an unappealing gray cast. Josh Miller/CNET

It only performed so-so in our studio shot. You can compare the Activa 4G with other camera phone shots in our smartphone camera gallery.

Video taken in the high-quality mode (a 30-minute cut-off) looks choppy when played back on the phone screen and on the computer monitor, and audio is both muffled and accompanied by an unpleasant whine. The video outputs in a 3GP format, but you can also shoot in high quality for YouTube and lower quality for MMS clips. The Activa 4G has just 151MB onboard storage, with a microSD card slot for up to 32GB of expandable memory and that 4GB card preinstalled.

I tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Huawei Activa 4G in San Francisco on MetroPCS' network. Neither my usual testing partner nor I enjoyed speaking on the phone, and in fact, my caller asked me, unprompted, if I was speaking on a Huawei handset. We both agreed that the audio sounded flat, scratchy, and hollow. Thankfully the line was otherwise clear and there wasn't any discernible background noise. Volume was louder for my caller than for me. It was fine at maximum, but could be a little too quiet in noisy outdoor environments. On my end, my callers voice quality sounded bumpy, like it was constantly changing frequency. The effect smoothed out a little when I spoke with a female caller with a higher vocal register, but I still detected the in-and-out quality I originally heard.

Huawei Activa 4G call quality sample Listen now:

Speakerphone was poor, with low volume on both ends and the same rolling voice tone I continuously heard. On their end, callers pointed out that speakerphone was more echoey than usual. At least there wasn't any background noise.

One of the best parts of the Activa 4G is its LTE capability. MetroPCS isn't known for the fastest LTE there is, but it feels far faster than its 2.5G network, and outperformed the Samsung Galaxy S3 on Sprint's 3G network. I used the diagnostic app for upload and download speeds. Throughout San Francisco, the Activa 4G steadily pulled down a high of 2-2.5Mbps downlink, and a similar (but more variable) peak of 2Mpbs uplink. These aren't fast results compared to Verizon or AT&T's LTE, but it was sufficiently quick when loading mobile Web sites, downloading apps, and opening e-mail. I was able to download and install Angry Birds Seasons in about 35 seconds, an acceptable length of time to wait.

Internal performance was also acceptable, but a bit laggy on the 800MHZ Qualcomm MSM7627T processor. Certain apps, like the camera, took longer to load than they would on handsets with dual-core processors -- but you won't rip out your hair with frustration.

In our lab tests, battery life on the Activa was quite good, with 8.28 hours of talk time on its large 1,880mAh battery. FCC tests measure a digital SAR of 1.3 watts per kilogram.

There are aspects of the Huawei Activa 4G that I like, and many that I find fitting for a midrange handset, but I'm sad to say this is one phone I haven't warmed up to during my testing period. That's not to say I wouldn't recommend the Activa for the right type of person, but I suggest that interested customers check out the LG Optimus M+ for the same price, or the Samsung Galaxy Attain or LG Connect 4G if their budgets allow.

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