What is the Huawei Ascend Y300?

The Huawei Ascend Y300 is typical of what Huawei used to be all about before it started making higher-end phones like the Ascend P6. It’s an affordable Android _phone_ that costs a shade over £100. But to get the same grade of _phone_ from Samsung, you’d have to spend around £180. And if you give live with a few of its quirks, it's one of the better budget Android phones around.

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Huawei Ascend Y300 – Design

Most of Huawei’s budget phones aren’t designed to inspire gadget lust – they’re here to offer cracking specs and a good Android experience for little cash. That’s why we find it fairly easy to forgive the Huawei Ascend Y300 for its pretty bland looks.

It’s a black plastic phone that embraces its seams rather than trying to look flash like a Lumia 620. At 11.2mm thick, it’s slightly portly too, highlighted by the Y300’s blocky, brick-like frame. This is not a phone obsessed with design.
Huawei Ascend Y300

There are some nice little tweaks, though. The rear battery cover is rubberised and has a texture of raised lines, making it much grippier than most.

The Huawei Ascend Y300’s rear camera also has more visual flair than most budget phones, which often have a plain lens housing in a sea of faceless plastic. It may not have bags of personality, but it’s a visually inoffensive phone.
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Huawei Ascend Y300 – Screen

It has a healthy-sized screen, too. The Ascend Y300 has a 4-inch display, which is fast becoming a staple size for low-end phones like this.

Such a screen makes the Huawei Ascend Y300 a direct rival for phones like the Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 and Sony Xperia U. The beauty of the Huawei is that it’s usually on sale a good £50-70 cheaper.

The Ascend Y300’s display has the basics down pretty well. Its 800 x 480 pixel IPS screen isn’t incredibly sharp and doesn’t have the immediate pop of a high-end phone screen, but it’s bright, bold and has decent viewing angles. We’re at the point of phone maturity that even entry-level phones can have fairly good screens.
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There are just a couple of obvious limitations. The display part appears a little recessed from the top layer (which is partly why the images don’t pop spectacularly) and the screen doesn’t use a particularly good anti-reflective coating. Pretty much all phones are quite reflective these days, but with a less effective coating, the reflections become pretty intrusive once you go outdoors.

For a phone of this class, though, the screen is decent enough – it doesn’t suffer from the depressingly muted colours we sometimes see in budget phones.

Huawei Ascend Y300 – Software and UI

Like almost all of Huawei’s phones, the Ascend Y300 runs Android. It uses Android 4.1 at present, and there’s no word of when – or if – it’ll get a boost up to Android 4.2 or 4.3.

However, this is mostly moot because the Ascend Y300 runs a pretty invasive custom interface. It’s a cut-down version of the Emotion UI that’s common in higher-end Huawei phones, but is only occasionally used in lower-end ones, historically at least.

It’s a pretty odd and unusual interface because it cuts out the apps menu side of Android completely. All the Ascend Y300’s apps, all its games and all its utilities (including the Settings menu) are laid out across the six home screens, which can be increased to nine if you need more room.
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It’s initially a very disconcerting layout, and one that demands more organisation than almost any other interface – because it doesn’t auto-arrange apps by itself, as a dedicated apps menu does. You do have the tools, as the Ascend Y300 does allow apps folders and fairly easy re-arranging of apps. But it’s anything but a labour-saving custom UI. New apps get whizzed to the very furthest home screen too, which seem nonsensical to us.

Why has Huawei done this? Our best bet is that it’s to give the company’s phones more of an iOS flavour. iOS is the software used by the iPhone and – like the Emotion UI – all the phone’s features and apps are laid out across home screens. However, as you might imagine, it works far better in an iPhone.
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A slightly more positive side to the Emotion UI is that it lets you choose between a bunch of themes that alter the Ascend Y300’s wallpaper, app icons and even the lock screen in one go. They can even alter system fonts.

Five usable, but hardly dynamic, themes come pre-installed. You can download a few more from the Emotion UI website, but they’re labelled as being for the Ascend P1, so few will realise this. It should be a fun, defining feature of the Emotion UI, but Huawei hasn’t executed it properly.

Huawei Ascend Y300 – Apps, Performance and Games

Given that the Ascend Y300 doesn’t have a separate apps menu, we’re glad to see that the phone doesn’t have too many pre-installed apps. It just comes with a few basic utilities to help you backup your phone and access its file system. Oh, and an FM radio that uses a plugged-in headphone cable as an antenna.

There are no fancy social networking shenanigans here, so you’ll need to download the clients from the Google Play app store if you’re a Twitter or Facebook fan.

Get downloading and you’ll start realising one of the Ascend Y300’s shortcomings – it doesn’t have a great deal of internal memory. It has 4GB of internal storage, with only around 800MB of that available to install apps directly to.
Huawei Ascend Y300

This becomes highly problematic if you’re dealing with a game that requires a big old chunk of extra data to be downloaded. We couldn’t get Real Racing 3 to install, for example.

It’s a pity because, despite being quite low-powered, it can handle some snazzy 3D games at playable speeds. Zombie blaster Dead Trigger chugs in parts, but is certainly playable.

Performance is OK, but there are signs of lag. For example, when heading back to the home screen from elsewhere in the UI, there’ll sometimes be a delay before the app icons display. There’s also occasional minor jittery lag when flicking through home screens.

This will be partly down to the custom interface the Ascend Y300, as the phone does have enough power to avoid these sorts of stumbles. It uses a Qualcomm MSM8225 processor, also referred to as the Snapdragon S4 Play chip. It’s a slower, cheaper alternative to the S4 Pro, seen in phones like the Sony Xperia Z.

The Snapdragon S4 Play is a dual-core 1.2GHz chipset that has the Adreno 203 GPU. The CPU uses Cortex-A5 45nm cores, which are a way behind the advanced cores you’ll find in higher-end phones.

It’s no powerhouse, and comes out with around 6,000 points in the AnTuTu benchmark. This performance is comparable to the top phones of two years ago, such as the Samsung Galaxy S2. Old as that phone may be, matching its performance is not bad for £100, and is a solid upgrade from last year's budget phones such as the Galaxy Ace 2.

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Huawei Ascend Y300 – Video, Music and Internal Speaker

If you want to use the Ascend Y300 as either a video or music player, you’ll definitely need to invest in a memory card. The gigabyte of internal memory that you have access to (of the 4GB total memory) is nowhere near enough to hold even a small media collection.

Video support without the help of a third-party app is very poor. It will hardly play any file types – DivX, Xvid and MKVs all failed to play.

With MX Player installed (it’s one of the most popular media players, and is free), the Ascend Y300 makes a decent little movie machine for SD files. However, it stumbled with some HD-quality content as it doesn’t have quite enough power on tap. There’s little point using HD videos, though, as the screen isn’t high-res enough to make the most of them.

Still, the screen is large enough and high-quality enough to make watching a TV episode or two on the train a pleasurable experience. We doubt whether you’d want to stretch to a movie-length session, though.

The Huawei makes no special moves on the music front. It relies on Google’s music player apps and there’s no fancy DSP to make either the headphone or speaker output sound better.
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The internal speaker isn’t too bad, though. It goes fairly loud and while it sounds a little strained at top volume, it isn’t the harsh and reedy sound we expected to hear. The speaker output sits up near the camera lens.

Huawei Ascend Y300 – Camera

The Ascend Y300 has two cameras. The rear camera uses a 5-megapixel sensor and the front one is an extremely basic VGA camera.

5-megapixel cameras can often produce pretty good shots, but the Y300’s one certainly can’t. It’s poor. Images are extremely soft, and frequently out of focus even without any significant movement on the shooter’s part. There is some shutter lag, with around 1.5-2 seconds between when you hit the virtual shutter button and the shot actually being taken.
Huawei Ascend Y300

Fine details are scrubbed out by the softness of the photos

It can’t cope well with strong light sources, frequently overexposing bright areas in images and suffering from inconsistent white balance management. And even in decent lighting, photos are fairly noisy. In short, the camera is rubbish. But at least it has a flash and autofocus.
Ascend Y300

The dodgy white balance in action - three shots, same position, same setting. Different results

You don’t get a great wealth of modes, either. There’s Panorama and a few basic filters like sepia and solarise, but no HDR mode (which could have helped to fix the exposure issues), no burst mode and none of the more frivolous modes top phones like the Galaxy S4 are starting to make popular.

Video capture is poor, too. The Ascend Y300 maxes out at VGA resolution video in both the front and rear cameras. Compared to the HD video you can capture with most mid-range phones, VGA looks terrible.

Huawei Ascend Y300 - Connectivity

The Huawei Ascend Y300 has all the basic connections you’ll need in an Android phone. You get Wi-Fi, GPS and fairly speedy 3G mobile internet – and like virtually all phones these days, the charging connection is a microUSB port.
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What the Ascend Y300 doesn’t have is the more advanced stuff – there’s no 4G, no NFC and (the most annoying in our book) no compass. The latter means that while you can see where you are in Google Maps, you can’t see which direction you’re facing.

File transfer rates are also a bit slow too (the CPU doesn’t support the full 480mbit transfer rate possible with USB 2.0), but this will only crop up with those who want to use the phone as a little media player. And you can always transfer the files to a microSD card beforehand anyway.

Huawei Ascend Y300 – Call Quality and Battery life

With a pretty dodgy camera, not enough memory or power to justice to Android’s top games, it’s clear that the Huawei Ascend Y300 is a phone aimed at those who aren’t going to challenge their phone too much. We’re glad to report, then, that both battery life and call quality are perfectly fine.

The earpiece speaker is reasonably good and the Ascend Y300 has two microphones to let it actively cancel-out some ambient noise during calls.

Its battery is a 1,750mAh unit, which is a good capacity for a 4-inch, relatively low-resolution phone. There’s also a battery-saving mode, which can boost stamina for light users to several days. It turns of things such as background data use and haptic feedback (vibration when using the soft keys). As with almost any Android phone, though, intensive users will have to charge every day.


Should I buy the Huawei Ascend Y300?

We’ve been pretty down on several features of the Ascend Y300. Its camera isn’t great, its power reserves are limited and its interface takes some getting used to.

However, it remains a solid phone for the money, as its basic build quality, screen quality and the overall Android experience it provides are all sound. It won’t turn heads, and the lag requires a little patience, but for those who don’t want to fork out the extra for a better-known brands, this is a good solution.

We'd recommend taking a look a our list of the best cheap mobile phones before buying, however.

Verdict

The Huawei Ascend Y300 is a solid budget phone that is good value for money. There is some lag, and the user interface is a little odd, but if you have a little patience it’s a decent buy.