It's been a while since I got the Mate 7 at IFA in Berlin and I have been using it on an off since then. As a new member of the AnandTech crew I still had to get the proper equipment to be able to go through our test bench on my own. After lots of delays for which I apologize, we finally take a thorough look at the Huawei's new flagship.

Huawei's been launching new devices at great speed this year. The Ascend Mate 2, which is the Mate 7's literal predecessor was only released earlier in the year, but came only as a more mid-range specced device with corresponding price-tag. Huawei has been gearing up and is now targeting the high-end to try to gain marketshare from other established manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC and Apple. 

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 Specifications
SoC HiSilicon "Kirin 925" Hi3630
(4x A7 @ 1.3GHz & 4x A15 @ 1.8GHz,
Mali T628MP4 @ 600MHz)
RAM/NAND 2/3 GB LPDDR3-1600, 16/32GB NAND
+ microSD
Display 6” 1920x1080 JDI in-cell LTPS 373PPI
Network HiSilicon Balong LTE Cat. 6 300Mbps CA modem (SoC integrated)

Network frequencies (MT7-L09, MT7-TL10, European models):
FDD B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/20/28, TDD B40
Dimensions (H) 157 x (W) 81 x (D) 7.9mm, 185 grams
Camera 13MP Sony BSI sensor, F2.0 aperture, ISP 5-piece lens
5MP front camera
Battery

4100mAh (15.79 Wh) rated
3.85V battery chemistry

OS Android 4.4.2 "EmotionUI 3.0"
3.10.33 Linux Kernel
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n Wifi + BT 4.0, USB2.0, GPS/GLONASS, 
FM radio
SIM Size MicroSIM + NanoSIM
Price

(MT7-L09) 2GB RAM/16GB ROM : 499€
(MT7-TL10) 3GB RAM/32GB ROM : 599€

The Mate 7's most differentiating factor here is the use of Huawei's subsidiary HiSilicon Kirin 925 in-house SoC. If you've been closely following this SoC you will know that I took an in-depth look into this chip in the review of the Huawei Honor 6. I recommend re-reading the SoC page to freshen up yourself on the more intricate details of the silicon, as the Mate 7 employs the same chip with only a slight speed bump on the CPU. In fact, the HiSilicon Kirin 925 seems to be a re-named Kirin 920, as both chips sport the same Hi3630 model number internally. As such, it offers the same fundamental capabilities as the 920: an ARM big.LITTLE design with a quadcore A7 at 1.3GHz and a quadcore A15 at a slightly raised 1.8GHz. Graphics capabilities is delivered by an ARM Mali T628MP4 GPU running at 600MHz, so no change over the Kirin 920.

Again, connectivity is provided by HiSilicon's own integrated Balong LTE Cat. 6 modem. I've mentioned in my review of the Honor 6 that I couldn't test the modem at all due to receiving a Chinese variant only compatible with TDD LTE and TCDMA frequencies and was limited to 2G only. Luckily, the Mate 7 supports a very wide range of frequencies which should make it compatible with all European networks, supporting bands B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/20/28.

The 16GB model priced at 499€ comes with 2GB of LPDDR3-1600 RAM, while the more expensive 599€ priced model offers 32GB of eMMC storage with 3GB of RAM. Power is provided by a large 4100mAh / 15.79Wh embedded non-replaceable battery. 

In terms of design and build quality, this is Huawei's best attempt to date. The Mate 7 comes in a mostly aluminium frame which covers its sides and most of the back. We find plastic covers at the top and bottom on the device, undoubtedly the RF windows used for the antennas of the various networking components. There is a single large speaker on the lower of the phone, which performs surprisingly well, as it offers a deeper and louder output than the Note 4 which employs a similar design.

The front glass panel is surrounded by a plastic coasted metal rim on the very edges. On my white model, this made for an odd contrast with the metallic look of the sides and back of the device, the black model that I took some photos of back at the announcement which you can see here is definitely a more attractive variant. I'm not too sure why Huawei opted for this plastic coating, as it can be easily damaged during a fall and expose the underlying metal, as a full sturdy plastic rim would have been more sturdy.

With a 6" 1080p display the Mate 7 is well into the phablet category of devices. The dimensions figure at 157 x 81 x 7.9mm, making this one of the biggest phones out there and easily matching the Nexus 6 in terms of footprint. The 185g weight is also something to consider - in my subjective opinion this is an aspect of phablets that gets overlooked easily, and can easily be a negative point for everyday usage.

On the top back of the phone we have a raised camera bulge, encasing the Sony IMX214 module. A strong LED flash accompanies the camera. There is a thin slip of plastic coming from the top of the phone towards the camera module separating the aluminium back, this is done as to enable NFC to work through the metal design.

Finally, under the the camera we find the fingerprint sensor. This is a touch-sensor manufactured by Swedish company FPC, which may be the FPC1020 that was announced late last year. As such, Huawei is the first manufacturer following Apple's TouchID to offer a full touch sensor as opposed to a swipe implementation as found on Samsung's devices. It offers full 360° print rotation readout support, no matter if you have wet fingers or not. Huawei implements a RF sensing ring around the sensor that makes it possible to detect your finger even when the device is sleeping (as it will wake the device up). This allows for turning on of the device and unlocking in a single action. I've found the success-rate of the sensor to be extremely high, but only as long as you center your finger well on the sensor area, as I have the impression the sensor itself is much smaller than what the design makes you believe.

One thing I found very odd and unsatisfying is that the USB 2.0 port on the bottom isn't actually symmetrically in the middle of the device, but slightly to the left. A strange design decision that may have been result of technical limitations in internal layout of the phone.

On the right side of the phone we have the volume and power buttons in a comfortable and reachable height, the buttons are made out metal and offer good tactility. On the left side, we find two ejectable trays which hold, for one, a microSIM, and in the other, both a microSD and a nanoSIM. The design of the second (bottom) tray is quite innovative in that regard. A SIM eject tool comes packaged with the phone.

Overall, the Mate 7 is an attractive device with good build quality. Due to the thinness of the device it's not as uncomfortable as you might expect it given the size. I definitely prefer the black model as it gives it a more sleek look than the white plasticky front of the white one.

Next, let's view Huawei's new take on Emotion UI, introducing version 3.0 of the Chinese manufacturer's Android interface...

User Interface - Emotion UI 3.0
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  • GTRagnarok - Tuesday, December 02, 2014 - link

    The only interesting thing to me is the fingerprint scanner. Samsung should get rid of their heart-rate sensor and put one of these scanners in its place. Reply
  • DestroyThaNet - Tuesday, December 02, 2014 - link

    Andrei, I've been experiencing a significant amount of light bleed whenever I use black backgrounds on my Ascend Mate 7. The problem is located on the left side where the SIM and microSD are located. Have you noticed any similar issues? Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Tuesday, December 02, 2014 - link

    My unit sports virtually no light bleed - the least I've seen on any LCD screen and why I was also impressed with the blacks of this IPS-Neo screen. Reply
  • DestroyThaNet - Tuesday, December 02, 2014 - link

    Hmmm…I received another one in the mail today. Both have pretty bad light bleed problems. I'm thinking it's a manufacturing or design problem that happens often. Here they are next to an iPhone showing the same black wallpaper.
    http://i61.tinypic.com/2jb1729.jpg
    http://i61.tinypic.com/imv51y.jpg
    http://i60.tinypic.com/142603k.jpg
    Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Tuesday, December 02, 2014 - link

    Wow that looks bad. My unit is uniformely dark. This unit was handed out by Huawei at the official release so it might not be a representation of full production models. Reply
  • DestroyThaNet - Tuesday, December 02, 2014 - link

    Dang, how disappointing. Thanks for your input, Andrei. Reply
  • Ethos Evoss - Wednesday, December 24, 2014 - link

    hey man which pone u won ?? i bet iphone :DDD Reply
  • zodiacfml - Tuesday, December 02, 2014 - link

    Terrible especially considering the cosst of this thing. Reply
  • johnny_boy - Tuesday, December 02, 2014 - link

    The Honor 6 is better if you don't need a huge screen and don't mind the plastic housing at significantly cheaper pricing. In my 3 weeks experience with the Honor 6, I too haven't noticed any oerformance issues with flash memory performance. But I still wish they would use some slightly higher quality stuff. Since I don't game, this phone has performed like a beast. 3GB RAM is definitely a new minimum for me, especially as a Firefox with adblock user. Reply
  • sandman74 - Tuesday, December 02, 2014 - link

    I would never trust this brand. Too closely aligned with the Chinese government .. and whilst China may be "the factories of the world", I can't help but think of China as a stealthy enemy of the state hell bent on taking over the world !
    As for the phone .. It's a piece of over priced junk with the odd glimmer of innovative software and I think your review concludes that. But sadly they , along with other low price China brands are going to shift millions of android phones due to low prices which even Samsung can't compete with.
    Hopefully the more people become aware of their phones being junk tech, the less they will sell... in any country.
    Reply

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