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Huawei Ascend Y530 review: A cheap but not very cheerful Android phone

The Huawei Ascend Y530 is certainly cheap, but it still doesn't offer much to make it a worthwhile purchase.

Andrew Lanxon headshot
Andrew Lanxon
Andrew Lanxon headshot

Andrew Lanxon

Lead Editor, CNET Advice, Europe; Lead Photographer, Europe

Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.

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6 min read

Huawei may have recently impressed with its sexy, metal, 7-inch MediaPad X1 tablet , but the Chinese firm is still keeping its hand in the budget end of the mobile market. At only £120 SIM-free from Argos (it's only available in the UK), the Ascend Y530 is undeniably cheap, but you don't get a whole lot for your money. Its 4.5-inch display has an 854x480-pixel resolution, it has a dual-core processor, older Android 4.3 Jelly Bean software and it doesn't have 4G LTE.

huawei-ascend-y530.jpg
4.3

Huawei Ascend Y530

The Good

The Huawei Ascend Y530 is very affordable, its battery is replaceable and it has expandable storage.

The Bad

Its screen is poor, its processor doesn't offer much power, Huawei's software is clunky to use, its battery life is weak and it doesn't have 4G.

The Bottom Line

While the Ascend Y530 is pretty cheap, its all-round unimpressive performance means it's still not worth your cash. For the same money you can buy the Motorola Moto G, which beats the Y530 in every respect.

With a £120 price tag, it's going head to head with Motorola's superb £120 Moto G -- a phone that scored highly thanks to its great screen, capable processor and cutting-edge Android KitKat software. With lesser specs all round, the Ascend Y530 is going to have a serious fight on its hands to convince people to part with their cash over the Moto G.

The budget Huawei Ascend Y530 (photos)

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Design and build quality

Budget phones are typically uninspiring things to look at and the Y530 is no exception. I'd charitably describe its plain black design, textured back panel and rubberised edging as "functional". Suffice to say that if you're looking for a sleek, stylish mobile, this isn't going to cut it for you. Its affordable price means that's somewhat forgivable of course, although the Moto G with its colourful interchangeable back panels has a smidge more flair.

At least it feels pretty well put together. There's no flex in the chassis and the rubberised strips should be able to protect it from at least a few bumps. The volume and power buttons on the side all have a satisfying click to them and there's no unpleasant rattling or loose panelling that suggests it'll fall apart the first time you drop it.

At 132mm long and 66mm wide, it's comfortable to hold in one hand and you won't need to stretch your thumbs out too far to write a text. If you're not keen on 5-inch+ beasts, a 4.5-inch phone like the Y530 may be more up your street. If you're after a compact body that still packs in the power and performance of high-end phones, however, check out Sony's Xperia Z1 Compact .

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It's hardly the most inspiring bit of industrial design. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Around the edges you'll find a micro-USB port with a 3.5mm headphone jack sat on top. The back panel is removable, as is the battery hidden beneath it. Inside is a microSD card slot, allowing you to expand the meagre 4GB of internal space. You'll really need to use a card, as you'll blow through 4GB in no time at all -- particularly as 1GB of it is already taken up by the Android operating system.

Display

The Y530's 4.5-inch display has an 854x480-pixel resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 217 pixels per inch. That's a disappointingly low amount, even for a budget phone. By comparison, the Moto G's 4.5-inch display boasts 326ppi. Side by side, the Moto G's display is considerably sharper, with much crisper edges around icons and small text.

It's not just the resolution that's disappointing either. It has a rather cold colour cast to it that makes whites look rather grey and drab, it's not particularly bright and it doesn't have great viewing angles. The Y530's screen doesn't really get anything right. For your email and making calls, it's fine, but it's not going to do your Flickr gallery justice.

Software and processor

The phone runs on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. That's not the most recent version of Google's software -- that honour goes to 4.4.2 KitKat -- but it's recent enough to be forgivable, considering the low price. You probably won't immediately notice the older software anyway, as Huawei has heavily skinned it with its Emotion user interface.

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It's running on the older Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Emotion UI makes quite a few tweaks to the standard Android look. Crucially, it's ditched the apps tray, forcing you instead to have all of your icons scattered across numerous homescreen panels. Once my favourite live widgets were placed down among the apps, the home panels quickly became a confusing mess.

On the upside, it's highly customisable. You can select from a variety of themes that change the background colours, the app icons and even the transition animation you see when you flick between homescreen panels.

You're also able to show a simplified homescreen. Instead of a scattering of app icons, it displays essential tools like the phone, text messaging and the Web browser as large tiles. It's designed to make it easier for new Android users to get to understand and I think its simple layout certainly will help. It's undeniably easier to navigate than its standard cluttered look.

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The simplified homscreen should help smartphone newbies get to grips with things. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Y530 is running on a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, which put in an unimpressive performance. It achieved a mere 808 on the Geekbench 2 benchmark tool, falling far below the 1,305 the Moto G managed. Swiping around the screens wasn't too bad -- it stuttered on a few occasions, but I've certainly seen worse.

For the absolute essential tasks of pestering your friends on Facebook, finally returning that overdue call to your mother or sending a few email, it'll cope. Riptide GP 2 was very choppy, however -- almost unplayable -- so don't buy the phone expecting to play high-definition games. You really shouldn't buy any bottom-end phone for this though.

Although it let me browse Netflix, it refused to actually load any content and YouTube videos took a miserably long time to render and begin to play. It's not a phone to go for if video streaming is a priority.

Battery life

There's a 1,700mAh battery popped into the back of the Y530. Annoyingly, there isn't enough space on board to allow me to run my normal battery tests, so instead, I looped a YouTube video to see how much juice it sucked away. With the brightness on maximum, the phone had dropped from fully charged to only 36 percent remaining after two and a half hours of video playback, which really isn't at all impressive.

It also doesn't hold its charge well on standby, dropping by almost half from being taken off charge at 5pm and being checked at 7:40am the following day, having not been touched in between.

If you're careful, you should be able to squeeze a day of use from the phone, but if you're sending a lot of texts and listening to music, you'll almost certainly want to give it a boost in the afternoon. Keep the screen brightness down and avoid using Wi-Fi and GPS where possible to get the best battery life you can. The battery is at least replaceable so if you know you're going to be away from a plug for a while, try and get hold of a spare to keep on standby.

Camera

On the back of the phone is a 5-megapixel camera. I took it for a whirl and found its results to be about acceptable for a budget phone. On my first shot (below), the image was bright, but it suffered from image noise, even in well lit areas.

huawei-ascend-y530-camera-1.jpg
The Y530's camera is far from brilliant, but this isn't a bad snap (click image to see full-size version). Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The same was true on my second shot, with a lot of noise and distortion on the rear blue wall. It's still bright though and is at least suitable for slapping on Facebook. If anyone complains about the quality, I recommend just unfriending them.

huawei-ascend-y530-camera-2.jpg
There's a lot of image noise, but I've seen worse from budget phones (click image to see full-size version). Andrew Hoyle/CNET

At such a low price, you can't expect the same photo quality as a flagship phone such as the Galaxy S5 , but the Y530 does the job adequately of capturing quick snaps. There's a lot of image noise in shadows so make sure that you're taking snaps in well-lit areas. Your dog in the park should be fine, but taking a picture of your candlelit meal isn't going to come out so well.

Conclusion

Although the Huawei Ascend Y530 has an affordable price tag, you really don't get much for your money. Its display is poor, its processor doesn't impress at all, its software can be very awkward to use, you only get 4GB of built-in storage and the battery doesn't put up much of a fight. Even at £120, it's far from a bargain.

Instead, the Motorola Moto G is the phone to go for if you're shopping on a budget. It beats the Y530 in every respect and won't cost you any more.

huawei-ascend-y530.jpg
4.3

Huawei Ascend Y530

Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 4Performance 4
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