Huawei's Ascend G 300 is a budget Android smartphone that offers unbeatable value. Currently running Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread, with an update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich promised this summer, the G 300 is available on the Vodafone network for £100 PAYG, or £15.50 a month. See also Group test: What's the best smartphone?
You wouldn't expect to get a handset in line with the market-leading iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S3 for this kind of money, yet benchmark results have found it to be faster than an iPhone 4 and in line with the best of last year's single-core Android smartphones. When compared to current models, the Huawei's spec is closely matched to HTC's budget One V, yet it's available at less than half the price of that circa-£230 smartphone. Visit Group test: What's the best Android phone?
The Ascend's two-tone silver-and-white plastic case looks cheap but, crucially, it feels sturdy. At 130g and 63x10.5x122.5mm, the Huawei G 300 also feels comfortable in the hand. There's a volume rocker on the left side, a power button and headphone jack on top, and a microUSB charging slot at the bottom. Three touch-sensitive buttons below the screen accommodate Android's standard Menu, Home and Back functions.
The Huawei Ascend has a 4in capacitive touchscreen with a 480x800-pixel resolution and a pixel density of 233ppi. The G 300's display is adequate for browsing web pages and reading text, but this isn't the brightest screen we've seen and it can feel a little unresponsive at times. The 'budget' HTC One V offers the same resolution, but a slightly smaller 3.7in screen means it has a tighter pixel density of 252ppi. In comparison, the best phone screens offer in the region of 306- (Samsung Galaxy S III) to 326ppi (Apple iPhone 4S).
The G 300 also boasts a 1GHz Qualcomm single-core processor and 512MB of RAM, but just 2.5GB of internal storage. HTC offers a little more at 4GB, but users of either phone are likely to quickly run out of storage space. Thankfully, a microSD slot lets you supplement the Huawei's storage capacity with up to 32GB of removable memory.
There's a 5Mp camera with a 4x digital zoom, an autofocus and an LED flash on the rear, but the Huawei is capable of only VGA-quality video recording. This is fairly standard for a budget smartphone, and we can't complain at this price. Note that there's no front-facing camera for video chat.
Connectivity stretches to wireless 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1, while the Ascend operates on both 2G and 3G networks.
The Ascend runs Google Android Gingerbread 2.3.6, with an update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich promised this summer. If and when that happens, the G 300 will be the cheapest Android 4.0 smartphone you can buy. In the meantime, the Huawei features a slightly tweaked Android Gingerbread interface, with an application launcher bar running along the bottom of each of its five home screens. The ability to continuously scroll through these home screens, without having to scroll back to the left once you've reached the final screen, is a nice touch.
The circular lock screen is also interesting - you slide to the right to unlock the phone, to the bottom to go directly to the camera, left for messages and up for the call log. We couldn't find a way to customise these options, and several times accidentally launched the camera when we tried to unlock the phone without paying due attention.
We also like the Ascend's fast boot option, which reduces startup to a matter of seconds, and a power saving mode that lets you prolong battery life by automatically switching off wireless, Bluetooth, animations, haptic feedback and background data, and reducing the screen timeout and brightness. Runtime has previously been a major sticking point for Android, but the G 300 turns that on its head. We were amazed to find the phone still switched on in standby mode a week after we'd thrown it into the box and forgotten about it, and this phone easily surpasses the less-than-one-day battery performance of top-end Android handsets.
We used Geekbench 2, a cross-platform benchmarking tool, to measure the Huawei's processing and memory performance. Its 525-point score puts it almost on a par with our own 2011 single-core Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc (536 points) and, although it's slower than an iPhone 4S (622 points), it beat the iPhone 4 (371 points, as reported at tinyurl.com/6sapog9). Given its ultra-low price tag, that final comparison is particularly interesting.
We also measured the Huawei's web-browsing speeds using Speedtest.net. Over our home Wi-Fi connection, we recorded a 62ms ping time and download and upload speeds of 5.81- and 0.41Mbps respectively. At the exact same time, using the same server, the same browser and the same Wi-Fi connection, our Xperia Arc recorded a faster 47ms ping, 8.89Mbps download and 0.63Mbps upload. However, we didn't feel that the G 300 was noticeably slower in real-world use.