The Ascend P2 is arguably a nice looking smartphone, even if it's shown up in the looks department by Huawei's own Huawei Ascend P6. It's certainly thin and light at 8.4 mm and 122 g. The Google Android handset sits nicely in the hand with its flat back and rounded edges. However, for a UK audience it has nothing to make it really stand out from the crowd – and that includes Huawei’s claims to be the fastest. See also Group test: What's the best smartphone?
Huawei Ascend P2: Design and build
A design element we particularly like is the arrangement of touch-sensitive buttons, sitting below the screen rather than taking up precious estate from the display. Good on Huawei for bucking a popular trend among Android phone makers here. Our review sample was provided by Phones 4U.
The design is minimalist but a little on the plastic side. Build quality is good and despite the plastic (yet unremovable) rear cover, the P2 does feel solid in the hand.
Huawei Ascend P2: Hardware and performance
The main issue to tackle here is the 'fastest 4G smartphone' claim which Huawei attaches to its P2 phone. Huawei has fitted the device with a HiSilicon Balong 710 (V7R1) cellular chipset; it’s probably the first smartphone to use a Category 4 chip for faster speeds.
The nominal difference is an extra 50 percent, from a theoretical 100 Mb/s to 150 Mb/s. Coming back down to reality, it's important to remember that these are notional maximums and never what you will see in real use.
Furthermore, the Ascend P2 needs a 4G network that itself has been upgraded to Cat 4 LTE before we can start thinking about these higher speeds.
There are only a few 150 Mb/s 4G networks around the world and currently none in the UK. Importantly, in the UK we only have 100 Mb/s network making the faster cellular data speeds of the Ascend P2 entirely moot.
Cellular data prowess aside, the Ascend P2 sits at the lower end of the high-end smartphone market. It features a 1.5 GHz quad-core processor, 1 GB of memory and 16 GB of internal storage; but no microSD card slot for expansion.
For what it’s worth, the Geekbench 2 score of 1666 points looked good, even beating the newer Ascend P6; and subjective performance was slick when easing around the home screens. But there were a few niggles.
Firstly, although the Huawei keyboard has the neat option to swipe downwards for punctuation and numbers, it's unresponsive and we quickly switched to Google's keyboard.
The P2 only managed a poor 8.3 fps in GLBenchmark 2.5 – that’s not a pleasing result. And although the pre-loaded Riptide game ran pretty well, the handset is no powerhouse when it comes to graphics and gaming. See also: Group test: what's the best Android phone?
At 4.7in the screen is large for a smartphone, but since 5-inch-plus phablets seem to be the new Android thing this year, it’s small by that trend’s standards. The screen looks decent enough, with a 720 x 1280-pixel resolution. That gives it retina-class 312 ppi pixel density. But for spec-chasers it may look like it’s behind the competition; the HTC One and Sony Xperia Z have full-HD displays.
Huawei Ascend P2: Cameras
The stand-out specification after an LTE chip that’s over-specified for UK networks is a 13 Mp BSI (back-side illuminated) camera.
It took consistently great looking photos at its default of 10 megapixels and video, and includes features such as ‘HDR video’. There's also a range of silly effects to distort your face, and filters if you like creating a different look to reality.
The inclusion of a dedicated camera shutter button is always a plus point. But here it can only be used to launch the camera app if the device is already unlocked.
Huawei Ascend P2: Software
Software is an area Huawei has largely got right, although the P2 runs Google Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) which is out-of-date by over a year now. Notable missing features include Google Now and lockscreen widgets.
If you like your Android experience untroubled by the phone maker’s own additions – or subtractions – then the Ascend P2 probably isn't the smartphone for you. Huawei has made some significant changes to the OS with its Emotion UI. For starters there's no app menu, which we find frankly bizarre.
Instead, UniHome combines homescreen panels with the main menu (essentially copying the iPhone interface, with widgets) while the Me Widget merges different information and functions into one customisable widget which is quite cool; it's like live tiles on Windows Phone 8.
If you don't like the look of the interface, Huawei has provided more than 100 different themes to choose from. And you can customise the interface on a more detailed level, tweaking the icons, lockscreen and even screen transitions. It's great to be able to make the P2 feel unique.
Huawei Ascend P2: Battery life
The Ascend P2 doesn't excel when it comes to battery life despite its large 8.7 Wh battery. The smartphone lasted us a day of typical usage but no longer. It's Android’s usual charge-it-every-night situation which we're all too familiar with.
Clever use of the Profiles feature might allow you get more out of the P2. For example, remembering to put the phone into the 'Sleep' profile at night to save juice and creating your own profiles for different situations.
We did find the phone difficult to charge when it was flat. Only the supplied charging plug was able to recharge this phone, which is a major handicap.