What is the Huawei Ascend G6?The Huawei Ascend G6 is a 4.5-inch 4G Android smartphone that’s like the cheaper, more affordable spawn of the more premium Ascend P7 and near identical clone of the EE Kestrel.
It’s another Huawei _phone_ that’s going to find it tough to stand out of the crowd and at £200, it’s competing with the likes of the 4G-supporting Moto G (£150) and the Xperia M2 (£149). The specs lists are not too different so it's down to the camera to justify making the extra spend.
Huawei Ascend G6: DesignUnlike the P7, it’s mostly a plastic affair here and is essentially the same _phone_ as the Huawei-built EE Kestrel. Whether you go for the white on black or the iPhone 4S-esque black with silver band model, both measure in at 7.85mm thick and weigh 115g.
The bottom edge is curved where the 3.5mm headphone jack lies just like it does on the Kestrel, which means the headphone jack will annoyingly point into your pocket and is a nuisance when you are holding it in one hand. There’s a matte black removable back that pulls away to reveal the microSIM card slot and microSD card slot. Disappointingly, the battery is not removable so you are going to be out of luck if you want to carry around a spare.
Up front, the black screen bezel is slim around the sides and thickest above and below the display making room for the physical soft keys, front camera and earpiece. Button-wise the slim volume rocker, on/off button sit on the right edge with the micro USB charging port oddly up top and the total opposite from what every other phone manufacturer does. Around the back is the camera sensor and the sole speaker down the bottom.
Huawei phones on the whole have been largely dull and uninspiring handsets to look at in the past, but this slim number actually feels really nice in the hand and slips easily into the pocket. Some of the design decisions, particularly the headphone port placement, are baffling. When you look at the competition, the Xperia M2 mimics the Xperia Z2's sleekeness while the Moto G, though largely very ordinary does have those removable phone fascias to mix things up.
On the whole this is a good-looking midrange phone, it just doesn't have that one unique quality to really make it stand out.
Huawei Ascend G6: ScreenThe G6 has a 4.5-inch, 960x540 resolution IPS display with a 245 ppi pixel density. So it’s not the impressive 720p HD resolution found on the cheaper Moto G, but it does match the screen resolution found on the Xperia M2.
The Moto G has pretty much raised the bar for what we can expect from a sub- £200 smartphone in the screen department and the G6 falls short of the same impressive performance. It's not terrible and on a 4.5-inch screen the sharpness and clarity is perfectly acceptable for watching video and reading web pages. It's a nice bright screen, too, but colours can look a little saturated and there’s some minor issues of pixellation here as well even looking at images.
One of the more impressive aspects is that it does at least use IPS display technology, which helps generate decent viewing angles and offers good visibility outdoors.
Huawei Ascend G6: SoftwareThe G6 runs on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean with Huawei’s Emotion 2.0 Lite running on top. This means that there’s no app drawer, like the one you find on an Android phone running custom-free version of Google mobile operating system. Instead, Emotion 2.0 Lite re-creates the iOS experience in keeping all apps on the main homescreens.
There are four homescreens in total to start with, one of which is plastered with some not very useful widgets and another where you'll find folders named Tools, Google Apps and Top Apps. The latter includes Facebook, Twitter and Kingsoft Office. Fortunately, there’s very little in the way of bloatware. Huawei does include native applications for music, time, email and calendars, but you are going to replace these with Google’s own app or third-party ones from the Google Play Store.
One native app that does stand out is the phone Manager, which scans the phone and will tell you if there’s trash you can delete or quickly view how many apps are running. It's a handy way to monitor and quickly view what's soaking up the battery life and will hopefully help keep the phone more secure.
There's 8GB of built-in storage, but after the apps and the OS only 4GB if free so the microSD card slot hidden behind the removable cover is going to be valuable if you like downloading big games or storing music locally.
Moving everything to the homescreens means it's very iPhone-like as an interface. The more colourful, playful approach won't be to everyone's taste, but Huawei tries to address with themes to change the appearance.
There’s four already pre-installed on the phone and there’s more online, though just like the Ascend P7 it’s not particularly clear how to locate them. The ones you do have to pick from are not that much different from eachother and still make the interface look a little childish.
Huawei's simplified user interface
Pressing down anywhere on the homescreen launches a window where you can make further adjustments, including screen transitions and a simplified user interface that swaps the icons for Windows-style tiles. This is actually a more attractive interface and we'd happily swap this for any of the themed interfaces.
Navigating and generally getting around is at least a clean and swift experience, although apart from when you get typing on the keyboard. Despite hosting sizeable keys the frustration of hitting the wrong keys was a constant issue whether predictive text or standard typing mode is activated.
Huawei Ascend G6: PerformanceThe G6 is powered by an Snapdragon 400 1.2GHZ quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM to help take care of multitasking giving it undeniably mid-range phone credentials, the same processor as in the Moto G. Like the Motorola phone this is more than capable of keeping things running smooth.
Switching homescreens is nice and quick and appllications don't take an age to launch. Graphically, games like Real Racing 3 run without any hitches, so gaming should be no problem here either.
Even the 1GB of RAM doesn’t appear to have an adverse effect on running multiple apps and scoring a 1155 multi core score in Geekbench 3 it matches the Moto G (1155) and beats the the Xperia M2 (1061), which runs on the same Snapdragon 400 CPU. Huawei has managed to get the right amount of power under the hood for this £200 smartphone.
Huawei Ascend G6: CameraThis camera is the main way to separate the G6 from the EE Kestrel. The extra £100 gets you an 8-megapixel camera with flash and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, a big step up from the 5-megapixel and 1-megapixel cameras ont he Kestrel. On megapixels alone that also puts it ahead of the Moto G and matches the Xperia M2, though the front-facing camera on the M2 is disappointing in comparison.
The Camera App
Starting with the camera app, it's a simple and easy to use setup with two bars running down the side of the shooting area. There’s a handful of modes to play around with including Normal, Smart, Beauty, HDR, Panorama, Sound & Shot and the ability to add filters. The more advanced settings lets you add object tracking to focus in one individual element in the frame, use voice activated shooting and adjust ISO sensitivity and generally responsiveness to light.
In the way of manual controls it’s pretty limited, but if you are spending less than £200 on a smartphone, having amazing manual controls is probably not high on your list of priorities.
The 8-megapixel camera delivers good but not fantastic results and the autofocus is a little slow into action. Images are going to better suited to Facebook or Twitter than become photo frame-worthy candidates. This becomes more apparent when you transfer the images over to a computer to see them up close and can spot the apparent image noise and the not so punchy colours even in decent lighting.
8-megapixel image taken in Normal mode delivers Facebook and Twitter-friendly image quality
It's more rewarding results when you move from Normal mode to HDR mode as the two photos below illustrate. Images are brighter, colourful and natural without feeling too overprocessed. Detail is still very good and with the flash on board will help out greatly when shooting in low-lit conditions.
HDR mode off
HDR mode on
Close-up shots can be hit and miss at times as the autofocus can be slow into action, making it difficult to nail great images on your first go. Colours lack punch and there's still some issues with noise, as the below image really illlustrates. The image below shows some minor improvements, but it's largely lacklustre results.
As for the front-facing camera, there’s more megapixels to play with than most mid-range smartphones offer, but camera modes have been reduced with HDR notably missing. You still get Beauty mode to make yourself look pretty for that selfie, Sound & shot plus the ability to add filters and effects.
Once you've got yourself inside the small pop-up frame to ensure you are looking at the camera, results are good in decent light but otherwise it struggles for sharpness and the Beauty mode turned up to 10 appears to make things a little too blurry.
When you need to capture video, you can shoot at a maximum 1080p Full HD, which beats the Moto G's maxium 720p HD shooting. There's also the ability to tag content via GPS and add object tracking mode to focus on individual elements in the frame. It’s slightly better quality than you are going to find on similar smartphones providing sharp, colourful footage that’s nice and easy to quickly share.
Huawei Ascend G6: Battery LifeLike the Kestrel, the G6 packs a 2,000 mAh capacity battery into its slim body, which as we’ve mentioned before is unremovable so you can’t swap it out for another one. In general use you can similarly push it to get around two days, which is largely on par with the Moto G and the Xperia M2.
In our video playback test running a downloaded video on loop through the Google Play Movies and Video app it manages just over 8 hours, so it’s equipped to get through a day in more intense use.
Charging it back from flat from the power adapter for thirty minutes adds a respectable 25%. To get back up to full charge, you are going to have to leave it plugged for over three hours to get topped up. When you consider that there's no real notable power management tools on board or power saving modes like the Xperia M2, this is a solid showing for a midrange smartphone.
Huawei Ascend G6: Call Quality and Sound QualityAs much you spend your time WhatsApping and texting, smartphones are there to be able to make voice calls and the G6 does an adequate job without really excelling. Call volume is nice and loud, though like the Ascend P7, things can sound a little boxy and not particularly crisp. We didn't suffer any signal dropouts and it copes well in busy environments.
When you are watching video minus the headphones, the G6 serves surprisingly decent audio that excels in loudness above anything else. Annoyingly, the sole speaker is on the back and they are never going to compete with the power and richness of HTC's front-facing smartphone speakers. If you have to listen out loud, they do a decent job.
Should I buy the Huawei Ascend G6?There’s nothing inherently wrong with the Huawei Ascend G6, but at the same time not one feature really stands out. Battery life is good as is the overall performance and Huawei is finally learning that design and build quality does matter even on a midrange phone. The problem however is that in the Moto G and the Xperia M2 you have two smartphones that offer the same features for around £50 less.
Even when you compare it to the £99 EE Kestrel, which is basically the same phone, you are essentially paying an extra £100 for some better looking selfies and photos to share to Facebook and Twitter. That's it.
The Moto G is still the standout phone at this price point. While it struggles in the camera department in comparison, it matches the G6 everywhere else. It also features a more impressive 720p HD screen and runs on a less fussy, more attractive version of Android.