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Review: Huawei Ascend Mate 2

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Since Huawei is selling the Mate 2 directly to consumers unlocked and without a contract, there is no carrier bloatware on board. That's most apparent when checking the media options on board. All the Google-made apps are present and accounted for, including the Play Store, Play Music, Games, Movies, Newsstand, and Books. The Mate 2 also has the stock YouTube application and an FM radio (headphones required.)

The one surprise from Huawei is a separate app called Music. It's an MP3 player for sideloaded music that's actually quite good. It has a pleasant user interface, offers lots of ways to sort through your library, and can even create playlists on its own based on the mood of your music.


The Mate 2 doesn't have a separate app for video playback, nor does it have any nifty extras such as a remote control for your TV. Content can be shared via DLNA with other compatible devices.


The Mate 2's camera is fairly basic, but it still manages to include some useful tools. Since there is no dedicated camera button, the lock screen shortcut is the fastest way to open the app. The app opens quickly when prompted.

The viewfinder is enormous and fills about 80% of the screen. The controls are placed in vertical bars on either side. The left bar includes shortcuts to the user-facing camera, flash, and full settings.

The Mate 2 offers several shooting modes, including normal, smart, beauty, HDR, panorama, effect, and sound & shot. The tool for selecting the modes is easy to use, but it would be helpful (at least to beginners) if the phone explained each mode. It doesn't. You're on your own to figure out what each does. Beauty mode is for portraits (though it assumes you want to take a selfie and launches the user-facing camera); effects mode applies filters (B&W, sepia, etc.) before you shoot; and Sound & Shot lets you record several seconds of sound with an image. I like that the shutter button tells you what mode you're using.

The full settings are rather slim in scope. The Mate 2 lets you select several capture modes, including object tracking, smiles, and voice-activated. Resolution maxes out at 13 megapixels, and all options are locked in the 4:3 aspect ratio. The camera offers a timer and a toggle for GPS data, as well.

I can't say the camera treads any new ground, but I'm happy enough with the tools on board.



The Mate 2 takes very good pictures. On average it managed to get focus, exposure, and white balance correct. You can see sharp focus in several of the shots below, though I think the Legos are a bit underexposed. Shooting darker subjects outdoors really required the use of HDR to balance things out. The yellows and reds of the flowers below did manage to blow out the sensor a bit, but I've seen much worse. In sum, I'd say the Mate 2 will do well enough for vacation photos for most people. Serious photographers will want dedicated imaging gear.



The Mate 2 also records good video, though exposure was problematic when shooting outdoors. You can see how the sensor reacts wildly to the position of the sun in the sky as I pan the phone around shooting the below scene. Even so, the video looks sharp and white balance is spot on. With full HD capabilities, the Mate 2 can serve as your daily video creation tool.


Huawei made the photo gallery dead simple to use and I appreciate that. Images are sorted into four groups: albums, times, locations, people. Albums include the camera roll, your Facebook photos, and Google+/Picasa images if you have them. The Times view sorts images into groups based on when they were shot. The Locations view sorts images based on where they were taken. The People view sorts images based on the people you've tagged. It's pretty basic. These four groups are accessible all the time at the top of the screen.

The editing tools are borrowed from the stock Android gallery app. Photos can be treated with effects, including filters; can be straightened, cropped, rotated, or mirrored; can be adjusted for contrast, exposure, saturation, and color; and can be given frames a la Instagram. The sharing tools are a breeze and I had no trouble sending photos hither and thither.



The Mate 2's Bluetooth radio works perfectly. I was able to pair it with mono and stereo headsets, my car, and other phones/PCs. Phone calls sent to a Bluetooth headset were surprisingly good. The quality was good, and the volume was much improved over what the Mate 2's earpiece and speakerphone themselves can deliver. Music sounded decent when sent to my favorite Bluetooth speaker, but not as good as phones that support the aptX profile (which the Mate 2 does not).


The Mate 2 ships with the older Android browser and Chrome. You may know the story here. Both browsers are apt when it comes to rendering web sites. I couldn't discern any speed difference between the two browsers over Wi-Fi or LTE. Chrome has a few more tools available to those who might use Chrome as their desktop browser. Web pages look good on the Mate 2's giant screen.



You don't get much in the way of choice when it comes to the lock screen clock. All six of the themes use the same white digital clock, which is positioned close to the top of the screen. I wish it were bigger and bolder. It can be hard to see outdoors, but it's no problem to see when inside.


Google Maps is the default navigation app on the Mate 2, but it also comes with a free trial of the Route 66 nav app. You're best off sticking with Google Maps. It's a known entity, is free, and works well. The Mate 2's GPS radio was exceptionally quick and often located me within 15 seconds and to within 25 - 50 feet. Navigating from Point A to Point B presented no challenges to the Mate 2.


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