Even if you haven’t been following much of the tech news, you should have noticed that Huawei have had much more of a market presence these days. This presence in South Africa has extended to other, non-tech avenues such as partnering in hosting events, and even sponsoring major local sports teams across the country. While there are still many markets fighting against embracing the inevitable, such as the US, there no doubting that Huawei smartphones, and their stock, are on the rise globally.
At the end of Q3 of 2014, Huawei launched the Ascend G7, which became available in most regions, outside of China, during the month of March; South Africa included. The Ascend G7 is the Chinese manufacturer’s take on a larger-than-life mid-range smartphone, blurring the lines between standard smartphone and phablet-sized handsets. Looking back just less than a year, you’ll find a much smaller Ascend G6. In fact, the devices are so contrasting, in nearly every aspect that the G7 emerges as a stand-alone device, rather than an iteration of the G6.
Build and Design
Although distinct from its predecessor, Huawei have continued with their choice of an aluminium build, this time moving from just the framed edges all the way across to entire chassis. The rear has an ever-so-slight curve to it making it a fraction easier to hold, since the width is quite large. The measurements for the G7 are 157x81x7.9mm. So while the unit is sizable in terms of the width and height, is remains relatively thin at 7.9mm. There are a few Apple-esque features, to my frustration, including inserts on the rear on the top and bottom that, while still aluminium, are slightly darker (or lighter) in shade. Other similarities to the iPhone is the colours the units come available in, Horizon Gold, Moonlight Silver, and Space Grey. The full face of the unit is covered in glass, with only a small opening at the top for the earpiece. There are no physical or capacitive buttons on the device either, Huawei opting instead for the Nexus-type onscreen buttons as part of the software.
With the removal of any front-facing buttons, the overall build is quite clean and uninterrupted. On the right side you’ll find the volume rocker at the top, power button below it, the micro-SIM slot towards the middle, and the microSD slot at the bottom. While the buttons are physical, the slots are flush against the surface, requiring a pin to open. The clean design is appreciated for the most part, but does take a little getting used to having both the volume rocker and power button in such close proximity.
While there aren’t many negatives with the design, one of the more noticeable drawback is the 165g worth of heft. Mind you, that is still 11g lighter than the Note 4, but we shouldn’t be comparing apples and oranges; what you get from the Note 4 is quite a lot more for that 11g.
Display and Screen
The Ascend G7 is fitted with an impressively-sized, 5.5” display. Having such a large screen, however, does place exert extra pressure on the CPU, which could affect performance somewhat. We’ll touch on that a bit later. In any event, the display has a 720p resolution. Good enough when considering the mid-range status of the unit, but below par considering the size. In the end, though, even with its lower pixel count, at just 267ppi, the display doesn’t give away much in terms of overall quality, this across both still and moving images. It often happens that lower density displays stretched across larger screens means there is evidence of the underlying grid structure of each pixel. The lack of such evidence on the G7 is testament to the use of a decent IPS LCD display lying under the hood. Viewing angles are adequate, with strain observed toward the extreme end, but given the fact that you wouldn’t always be viewing the display from obscure angles, or at all, this isn’t a negative point. The unit has a 70.3% screen-to-body ratio, which is quite good.
When it comes to colours and contrast, they appear very natural. It is easy for OEMs to go the way of a slightly more affordable display to reduce overall costs, and while costs are down on the G7, display quality stands up to almost every test. There is no indication under-saturation, which often results in washed out colours. If for some reason, you’re not totally happy with the colour output, Huawei have included additional controls in the settings menu allowing users to adjust the colour temperature by means of a slider.
There is a point worth mentioning when discussing the screen. While a few of the more flagship devices may be fitted with screen protection in the form of Gorilla Glass, most of Huawei handsets don’t use Corning’s tech for their displays. It has also been noted on a few separate incidents that the Ascend G7 is prone to minor scratches, which one would assume is as a result of having your phone and keys in one pocket (not a smart idea, but quite common). To compensate, Huawei have added a free shell-style, thin case within the contents of the box, so be sure to use it.
Unlike many previously released Huawei smartphones, the G7 uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipset, fitted with a Quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A53 CPU. This doesn’t seem that significant given the fact that many leading devices are pushing out Quad-cores in excess of 2GHz per core, but when considering that this is a 64-bit processor, it makes quite a big difference. The unit was launched using the Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS (not ideal for a device released in 2015, but expected given the initial launch in 2014), with many hoping that Huawei will push out the Lollipop builds for their units given the OS’s support for 64-bit processing. Given the current setup, there are a few glitches and laggy areas of the OS build, but nothing out of the ordinary, and nothing that should be experienced on a daily basis. In previous handsets I recalled quite a few glitches while at the same time wanting to be too much like competitors and what they were doing. This time around with Huawei’s EMUI 3.0 interface atop of the vanilla Android, things are lot more interesting. There are a few different ways of getting things done, while most are quite successful and streamlined, I didn’t care much for the single drawer menu structure, with no desktop as is standard across most Android devices. Things will only get better on Lollipop one can imagine. The additional performance from an OS upgrade will definitely assist in these areas, and make the G7 that much more powerful in the hands of its owners. Gaming performance, on the hand, isn’t great, and while being able to run most games smoothly, some settings have to be lowered for the more powerful mobile games.
Touching on other specifications, the G7 comes standard with 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage, and non-removable Li-Po 3000mAh battery. There are a few phablets with much more mAh to work with, but the G7 does well with what it has under the hood. I regularly use my devices for calling, mailing, gaming, and even long periods of Wi-Fi tethering. As it turns out, on more than one occasion I’ve forgotten the tethering feature enabled overnight, only to find that only a small dent had been made in battery drainage. It is worth pointing out that no real data was consumed during this time, having at least 5 other devices connected to it at any stage could add some strain to the performance.
To be honest, I haven’t been much of a snap-happy mobile user, often with periods of a more than a month between using the camera app to take a photo of any sort. Over the past 6 months, however, things have started to change in this regard, especially with the increased performance and quality you find on modern smartphones. Thankfully, Huawei don’t want to be left behind in this area, even on the mid-range devices, the G7 fitted with a 13MP, rear-facing camera with an LED flash and f/2.0 lens, while the front has a 5MP sensor. What lies behind the lens of the rear camera is a Sony IMX214 sensor. Without getting into a lengthy discussion on pixels and actual quality, what we’re left with on the G7 is very respectable. What’s notable on each photo is that many of the images have a much sharper feel, with less noise reduction software used for images. Although most users would prefer a softer image detail with less noise and smoother finishing, it’s much easier to fix this post snap, as opposed to trying to sharpen an already reduced image. For that, I can’t fault the camera. The front-facing camera, however, has a lot more processing happening in the background before you get to see the final image. To sum things up in one sentence, users who are happy to do more editing on their PC will appreciate the extra detail on the rear-facing camera, while those who prefer the ready-to-Instagram snaps will be better suited to using the front-facing camera.
Almost across the board, the Huawei Ascend G7 performs above average. Given its mid-range market status, it’s even more impressive as a complete package. The RRP of the unit is R4,700, which can’t be highlighted sufficiently. With the cost of smartphones continually on the rise, especially amongst leading OEMs and their flagships, Huawei’s price of the G7 is good news for those in the middle. In fact, the price may be mid-tier, but the performance far exceeds its class. All of this, and the above, and I haven’t even mentioned yet that the unit comes with 4G LTE connectivity as well.
The problem that lies before it, as it always has for those outside the big three OEMs (Samsung, Apple and Nokia – now Microsoft), is the public perception and image of owning this handset. Be that as it may, the G7 can easily compete against its mid-range peers, and last a sufficient number of rounds against the big boys, and no one can fault that. If ever you were concerned about the quality of their devices, Huawei have put a lot of that to bed with the G7, a device that is highly recommended across the globe.