Previously we were impressed with the Huawei Ascend G 300, a budget Android smartphone (£100 Vodafone PAYG) that outperformed everything in its price range. This smartphone - the Huawei Ascend G330 - is the Chinese company's follow-up to that device. With a faster processor, some new features and a similarly tempting price, the Ascend G330 looks to offer that same unbeatable mix of low price and usable performance. See also Group test: What's the best smartphone?
The Huawei Ascend G330 is available on a two-year TalkTalk contract from £10 per month. This nets you 100 minutes, 250 texts and 200MB of data, plus 100 minutes to other TalkTalk mobiles. Of course, the original G300 appealed to pay-as-you-go users, thanks to its low asking price. If you want to avoid signing up to a TalkTalk contract, the white version was available from Amazon SIM-free for £184 at the time of writing. Given that the complete package will cost you just £240 over two years through TalkTalk, though, the SIM-free route won't offer the best value. Visit Group test: What's the best Android phone?
Huawei Ascend G330: Build
This generic-looking handset is built entirely from plastic, but it feels tough enough. It's still no stunner, yet the Huawei Ascend G330 is better looking than the G300, with that handset's silver-and-black livery swapped out in favour of an all-black chassis. The now glossy black front extends to the Huawei's screen bezel and circumference, with a matt black rear panel aiding grip. At 11.2mm thick and 130g, the Ascend G330 is chunky enough to easily grab and operate in a single hand.
There's no flex in the Huawei Ascend G330's chassis, although the removable rear panel is rather creaky. Whereas so many Android smartphones are now supplied with non-removable batteries, we appreciate being able to snap off this rear panel and access the microSD slot, full-size (mini) SIM and cell hiding inside. This is particularly useful, given the stingy 4GB of internal storage and low-capacity 5.6Wh battery.
In common with its predecessor, there's a volume rocker on the left side, a power button and a headphone jack on top, and a Micro-USB charging port on the bottom. Three non-backlit touch-sensitive buttons offer access to Android's Back, Home and Options buttons although, here, Back and Options have traded places, with the former now falling more naturally to the left.
Also like its predecessor, the Huawei Ascend G330 is fitted with a 4in touchscreen with a 480x800-pixel resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 233ppi. This is some way behind the best of what we see today, but not bad for a budget smartphone. The screen is bright, clear and, importantly, reponsive, if the text seems overly bold.
Huawei Ascend G330: Performance
When we reviewed the Ascend G300, we marvelled at the sheer amount of performance on offer at such a low price. We said the G300 was on a par with previous-season high-end devices; but that was in 2012. Now in 2013, smartphone performance has gone up a notch. Huawei has upped its game, trading the 1GHz Qualcomm single-core processor for a dual-core (still 1GHz Qualcomm) chip. There's still a paltry 512MB of RAM, which isn't the best news for multitaskers, but the G330 is quite capable of frustration-free performance.
With 652 points scored in Geekbench 2, this Huawei Ascend is measurably faster not only than the Ascend G300 (525 points) and plenty of its budget competition, but Apple's premium iPhone 4S (622 points). Since we tested the G300, though, a new record has been set in this test by another wallet-friendly smartphone - the Google Nexus 4. When every pound counts, the Nexus 4 is in a different league to the cheaper Huawei, given that you must still pay for your calls and data on top of its £239 asking price, but it has redefined the way we assess value in the smartphone market and, notably, it blew the Huawei out the water with 2,009 points.
Huawei Ascend G330: Camera
The Huawei Ascend G330 is now fitted with two cameras: joining the LED flash-equipped 5Mp (2592x1944) rear stills camera, which can also shoot 864x480 video, is a 0.3Mp front snapper with support for VGA (640x480) video. This new camera provides a grainy image, but it performs reasonably well in low light, and it's nice to now have the option to conduct Skype conversations and the like.
Whereas most new smartphones are now fitted with 8Mp cameras, and we're expecting 13Mp models in the coming months, the 5Mp snapper on the Huawei Ascend is comparatively old-school. It can take a second or two to focus, and is unlikely to completely replace your digital camera, but the resulting image quality is far from awful, particularly outdoors. We do like the ability to add filters such as Mono, Aqua and Solarise at the composition stage; there's also a panorama mode and an easily accessible list of camera settings.
Huawei Ascend G330: Software
Huawei's Ascend G330 runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, which runs more smoothly than the Android 2.3 Gingerbread we witnessed on its predecessor. In other ways the interface is identical, save for the removal of that neat ability to continuously scroll through home screens (you can at least delete those not in use).
Huawei offers a circular lock screen, which offers quick access to the Call log, Messaging and Camera. The Fast boot option we admired in the G300, which reduces startup to a matter of seconds, is also present.
Other than the usual host of preloaded Google services, Huawei has installed its own backup service with the All Backup app. This lets you run quick or scheduled backups comprising your choice of contacts, call log, system settings, alarms, bookmarks, email accounts, calendar events and more, and restore from that backup. Within All Backup you can also back up, restore and manage your apps.
There's also a useful Flashlight app that takes advantage of the Huawei's LED flash, an FM radio, a Music+ audio player, an AppInstaller, a File Manager app and an EA Games store that lets you try out The Sims, Dead Space, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Plants vs Zombies and others.
In connectivity terms little has changed. Bluetooth support still stretches only to version 2.1, while you also get 802.11n Wi-Fi and DLNA connectivity.
Huawei Ascend G330: Battery life
The 1,500mAh, 5.6Wh cell inside the Huawei Ascend G330 is of a relatively low capacity for a 4in touchscreen smartphone. It lasted a full day away from the mains in our tests, but heavy users may be disappointed.
A power-saving mode can help to extend the runtime, but its blanket settings involve a few compromises that may prove a step too far. For example, background data, animation and haptic feedback are switched off, while the screen is set to its lowest brightness level. There's little point in extending the battery life if doing so results in a phone that isn't enjoyable to use, so we recommend you instead use the power-saving mode as a guide to the sort of settings you could tweak if required.
Usefully, though, you are prompted to invoke the power-saving mode when the battery gets low.