Review: Huawei Ascend P6

An impressive design but too many niggling issues elsewhere to recommend

The Huawei Ascend P6 has an impressive design but there are too many niggling issues elsewhere to recommend it.

Design & display

The Ascend P6 is one of the most striking Android phones we've reviewed this year. It's also very light at 120g so the size and weight compares very favourably against alternatives from more established brands.

The Ascend P6 feels pretty well constructed. There's some slight creaking when force is applied towards the bottom of the back panel, but otherwise, Huawei's attention to detail is notable.

We particularly like the way the speaker grill blends into the glossy bezel above the screen, while the split in the sides and the position of the rear camera are very iPhone-like.

The brushed aluminium finish on the back is both attractive and easy to grip, and it's also easy to keep clean.

The strange layout of ports is an annoyance, particularly the side mounted headphone jack on the left and the top-mounted micro-USB port.

The headphone jack in this position is very awkward, particularly when using headphones and trying to slip the phone into your pocket.

The battery is not removable, though the microSD card slot on the right side means you can expand the rather low 8GB of internal memory.

Also odd is the SIM and microSD-eject tool that doubles as a headphone jack cover. It's a nice idea, but it's so small you'll end up losing it and it's a little difficult to remove.

The power/lock screen button and the volume rocker on the right side of the phone also require a rather firm press to operate. The edges of the handset are also a little sharp.

The Ascend P6 has a 4.7in display with a 720p resolution of 1280x720, so it can't display the same crisp text as full HD screens. However, the difference is pretty small and doesn't really detract from the overall user experience.

Viewing angles are excellent, colours are vibrant and the screen is bright, clear and responsive.

Software & performance

The Huawei Ascend P6 runs the Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) operating system but is skinned with Huawei's Emotion UI.

The biggest change is the lack of Android's traditional app drawer, so all apps sit either on the home screens or in the dock.

We particularly dislike the skinned app icons, which place third-party app icons into a grey box.

Huawei has at least included a few useful features, headed by a range of notification panel shortcut toggles which can be customised.

You can also adjust the colour temperature of the screen, and select from three preset power settings in an attempt to save battery life.

There's also a permission manager that monitors any installed apps and can be set to display a notification when an app is attempting to access data.

The ability to change themes, customise specific sound profiles and choose from nine different home screen transitions when swiping between pages are other available features.

Annoyingly, the default Huawei keyboard is poor and is missing the ability to swipe through letters to draw a word.

The phone gets extremely warm on the right side, on the back. This is immediately evident when playing games, or using the camera for a long period.

The phone also has questionable performance, despite running Huawei's own-developed 1.5GHz quad-core processor and boasting a healthy looking 2GB of RAM.

While it's not a slow smartphone, the Ascend P6 lacks the speed and zip we are used to in a modern day Android phone. A number of apps crashing frequently without warning during our test period and we experienced lag in even the most basic places.

The lack of 4G is a big downside. We can't recommend anyone spending close to $500 on a smartphone without 4G, particularly if you live in one of Australia's capital cities where the coverage continues to improve and expand.

Camera & battery life

The Huawei Ascend P6 has an 8-megapixel rear facing camera with single LED flash. The position of the lens right in the corner isn't the best for cropping photos but the inclusion of an f2.0 aperture and a 4cm macro view are nice features.

The front-facing camera is also worth a look as it uses a 5-megapixel sensor. Most competing smartphones use a 2-megapixel front camera.

The Huawei Ascend P6's 2000mAh battery should get you through a full day of use, though heavy users may need to recharge before the end of the day. Given the handset lacks 4G capabilities, it's a little underwhelming.

The Huawei Ascend P6 is available now in Australia in black and white variants through retailers JB Hi-Fi and Dick Smith. It sells for $499 outright.

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