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Review: Huawei Ascend Mate 2

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The Mate 2's screen measures 6.1 inches across the diagonal, which is about the biggest available on a modern smartphone. (For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Mega is 6 inches, the HTC One max is 5.9 inches.) Disappointingly, the Mate 2's display offers only 1280 x 720 pixels instead of full HD. The combined resolution and size make for somewhat lower pixel density than I prefer. That said, it's not horrible. Pixels aren't visible unless you hold the Mate 2 right up close to your eyes. Brightness is decent and viewing angles are actually quite good. (There's no color shift or brightness drop-off when the phone is tilted side-to-side.) As long as you can avoid glare, the Mate 2's screen is bright enough for use outdoors.

The screen is sensitive enough so it can be used with gloves. This extra sensitivity is turned off by default; you have to switch it on come winter.


Huawei sent us an unlocked Mate 2 that's compatible with the networks of both AT&T and T-Mobile. I used it on both and found it worked well on their HSPA/LTE networks. Data speeds over AT&T's LTE network in my area averaged about 15 Mbps, while T-Mobile's averaged 25 Mbps. The Mate 2 was more consistent at connecting calls on AT&T's network than it was T-Mobile's, but it held calls on both networks even under the weakest signal conditions. Data speeds remained quick under weak coverage, but T-Mobile's more limited LTE footprint meant the Mate 2 dropped all the way down to EDGE data a couple of times as I tested it around northern New Jersey. At the end of the day, though, the Mate performed really well on both AT&T and T-Mobile and didn't give me any trouble.


Phone calls are a bit of an issue. The quality is fine. Calls were crystal clear on both AT&T and T-Mobile's networks. The Mate 2 didn't experience any interference or background noise at all. The problem is volume. Both the earpiece and speakerphone are far too quiet. I had real trouble hearing calls in my quiet house, let alone anywhere noisy like a coffee shop or city street. I tested the Mate 2 on the busy sidewalks of New York City and couldn't hear a darned thing, even with the volume set all the way up. The speakerphone is even worse. I had a hard time hearing calls in my quiet office. I dug around the Mate 2's settings and there are no buried controls that raise the volume. The Mate 2 may offer clear calls, but you can hardly hear them. Those with whom I spoke through the Mate 2 said I sounded far away. Alerts and ringtones were barely loud enough to get my attention. The vibrate alert is good, though.


Thanks to its huge footprint, Huawei was able to stuff a massive 3,900 mAh battery into the Mate 2. This translates into killer battery life. The Mate 2 is one of those phones that presents a challenge in draining the battery. I streamed "The Walking Dead" via the Play Movies app for hours and the battery level barely budged. Calling, social networking, music listening, emailing, messaging... none of it had a noticeable impact on the battery. Not only can it go at least a day and a half between charges, I sometimes got two days from a single charge. That's something I haven't seen from an LTE smartphone in some time.

The Mate 2 also includes several power-saving features. It runs in three different modes: Smart, Endurance, and Normal. The phone will tell you how much usage you have left with each of the three modes. Smart mode is activated by default and provides a good mix of performance and efficiency. You can choose to protect select apps from being turned off when the battery reaches critical levels.

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