Fans of comically oversized smartphones will be feeling vindicated by Apple's decision to join in the phablet fun. But while the iPhone 6 Plus screen is a mere 5.5 inches, the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 is half an inch bigger and over £200 cheaper. It too is made from metal and glass with an Apple-style fingerprint scanner on the back, while Huawei's EMUI 3.0 interface mimics iOS in its look and feel. An octa-core processor helps it to keep up in terms of processing and the larger Huawei's battery actually outlasts Apple by several hours.
Larger than both the 5.9-inch HTC One Max and cheaper than the 5.7-inch Samsung Note 4, the Huwawei Ascend Mate 7 could be the phablet that finds its way into the pockets of the masses…so long as they are BIG pockets of course.
Huawei Ascend Mate 7: Size and build
In terms of screen size, only the hulking Sony Xperia Z Ultra is larger at 6.4 inches in diameter. The six-inch Mate 7 looks considerably smaller than the Sony because its screen runs almost to the edges of the handset, which keeps the dimensions down to a fairly trim 157 x 81 x 7.9mm.
It is, however, pretty heavy at 185g and that's due to the materials and the battery. Unlike the Samsung Note 4, the Huawei is made of metal and glass and while it can't compete with the sublime engineering of the iPhone 6 Plus, it does feel like a premium product.
Huawei Ascend Mate 7: Screen
Given that a phablet is essentially just one big touchscreen, we're pleased to find Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) here. The race for pixel density has given us sharper screens – the iPhone 6 Plus is 401dpi and the Note 4 is 500dpi – but there's nothing wrong with this 368dpi display. It's the ideal resolution for watching HD video in 16:9 aspect ratio and it looks bright, crisp, and colourful, but just less so than the Apple and Samsung handsets.
Huawei Ascend Mate 7: Camera
Equipped with a 5-megapixel front-facing camera and a 13-megapixel camera at the rear, you can leave your compact at home – unless you need an optical zoom that is. Our test shots looked clear and consistent on the big six-inch screen, even though the colours seemed a tad dull before applying any image-enhancing effects.
Huawei Ascend Mate 7: Features
This is Huawei's top-of-the-line handset and as such, it's packed with features and the highlight is probably the 360-degree fingerprint scanner. It means you just have to touch it once with any of your fingers (that you scanned in previously) at any angle to unlock it. It seemed to work as often as Apple's scanner and locating it on the back makes it possible to sign in with one hand.
Huawei Ascend Mate 7: Interface
The operating system here is Android 4.4 KitKat, but what you're looking at is Huawei's own EMUI 3.0 interface, which claims to make navigation and control of your device even more intuitive. In reality, it feels very much like any other lightly skinned Android handset except that the three buttons you always find below the screen – Back, Home and Menu -- have switched around and moved closer together so you can reach them all across the expanse of screen with your thumb. They're soft on-screen buttons, so the only physical buttons are the power and volume controls on the side of the device.
The phone is so big, you really need two hands to operate it, but the capacitive touchscreen responds quickly and the interface is as logical as your average Android home screen only it looks much more like Apple's iOS with the apps spread over multiple pages, or collected in bubbles instead of being automatically grouped behind one logo like 'Google' for all the various Google apps.
What we enjoyed most was the way you can choose a different Theme and have almost every aspect of the skin redesigned. Several themes are included with more available for free download. Choose Bloom and you're phone will resemble the iPhone interface.
Huawei Ascend Mate 7: Performance
With a Kirin 925 octa-core processor, 3GB RAM and 32GB ROM, this phone is no slouch, opening apps almost immediately and playing games without glitching to a halt. The almost 16:9 ratio screen makes this phone feel like a widescreen TV when it's propped up on your desk.
The rear-mounted speaker is surprisingly loud, unless you lie the phablet on its back of course. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't manage to muster much of a bass response, however, so it tends to sound screechy if you turn it up.
If you don't mind speaking into a device that's big enough to hide behind, the Mate 7 functions well as a phone thanks to the dual antenna that should prevent dropped calls. One slightly odd thing is how the vibration alerts feel very weak.
Huawei Ascend Mate 7: Battery
One advantage of a big phone, is you have room for a big battery and the Mate 7 outlasted our iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 by several hours. Of course the big screen and powerful processor sap energy, but the 4100mAh battery can power them for up to two or three days in standby, or around 17 hours of heavy use.
Huawei Ascend Mate 7: Verdict
If you ask us, a phone that doesn't fit in your pocket is a phone that's too big, but if you prefer a device that you could also use as a raft in the event of a flood, then we have to admit that the Mate 7 offers a lot of phone for your money. The metal body, FHD screen and long battery life are impressive attributes and while it can't keep up with the flagship phablets from Samsung and Apple, Huawei's keen pricing makes this hulking handset a tempting proposition.
Huawei Ascend Mate 7 release date: Out now
Huawei Ascend Mate 7 price: £400