Huawei P2 Review: The Need For Speed

Huawei has knocked its best phone yet out of the factory and onto Aussie store shelves. We've been living with it, and it's certainly set to be a positive chapter for the Chinese company. Find out what makes it tick.

What Is It

Usually with weird marketing claims, it’s tough to verify the truth behind the spin. With Huawei’s new Ascend P2, however, there’s no doubt that it’s the fastest 4G phone out on the market right now. Hands. Down.

The Huawei Ascend P2 is packing a 1.5GHz quad-core processor built in-house, Android Jelly Bean and a 13-megapixel camera, a 2420mAh battery, and 32GB of internal storage, all sheltered underneath a great-looking 4.7-inch in-cell display (315ppi), but that’s not what makes it special.

The P2 is Australia’s first Category 4 LTE/4G device. That means it’s capable of speeds greater than any 4G smartphone on the market right now. Category 3 devices are only capable of 4G speeds up to 100Mbps, but a Category 4 device charges that right up to 150Mbps down. Compare that to previous wireless generations and you find that DC-HSPA is only capable of 42Mbps, while HSPA+ can only muster 21Mbps.

You’ll be able to get the nation’s first Category 4 device from Telstra for $0 upfront on a $60 Every Day Connect Plan for 24 months. That $60 plan gives you $600 of included calls, text and MMS and 1GB of included data. If you’d rather buy it outright, you can get it for $504.

What's Good?

This phone is, hands-down, the best phone to come out of Huawei yet.

It's beautifully simple. It's a long, black slab of smartphone designed to slip effortlessly into your life and when you're not looking, supercharge the way you communicate with lightning fast Category 4 LTE speeds. It's like a Puma running Android.

It looks great and feels just as good in your hand, especially if yours are a little smaller than the average bear's.

We weren't able to test the Category 4 LTE speeds on Telstra due to our location: right now it's only running in Adelaide and Brisbane as we review out of Sydney, but we're thrilled that this phone has the capability to go faster than ever before, and that we'll be getting Category 4 coverage in other major cities as the months progress.

While we're still on the network, also, it's great to see Huawei finally land a national telco partner for a handset. Previously it's only been relegated to the shelves of a Dick Smith or Harvey Norman retailer, but now it will be front-and-centre, hopefully doing wonders for how Huawei is perceived in Australia.

The screen is the stand-out feature for the Huawei P2. This panel is gorgeous. While it might not be the display with the highest resolution out there on the market, it's definitely one of the brightest. It's brilliantly bright, and thanks to a nifty little software tweak in the handset's settings, you can adjust the colour temperature of the display as much as you like. If you like a warmer display, just tweak it on up and the reds come rushing in. If you prefer cooler, slide it on down and the blue's saunter in and make the display that much brighter. It's an incredible feature and so simple.

There have been other major improvements made to the P2 that just aren't there in Huawei's other models. Even as recently as the ultra-thin P6 we reviewed a few weeks ago, the brand's problems have been on show for everyone to see. It feels like a tighter experience: the camera, the speakers, the sound, the software, the UI and the design are all just that little bit better than all the other Huawei devices on the market.

But that doesn't mean this phone is without serious flaws.

What's Bad?

While it's a great handset from Huawei, it's not a phone you should instantly drop yours for.

We've said it before about Huawei devices, but the Emotion UI still isn't exactly the world's most stable piece of software. While it's better here than it ever has been, bugs still wander around the operating system waiting to be discovered. So far I have found a Wi-Fi bug, a brightness bug, a sound glitch and widget issues.

Two issues stand head and shoulders above the small software problems, however, and those are performance and battery.

The Huawei benchmarks at 1781 on GeekBench 2. To put that in perspective, it's 300 points shy of a Nexus 4 or Galaxy Note II, for example, but it's right on par with a Samsung Galaxy S III. These numbers, however, stand in stark contrast to how the Huawei P2 actually runs. Using this phone is like talking to someone who is concentrating on other things: it's slow, it stutters and whenever you ask it to do something, there's a bit of a delay between the request and the answer.

The battery life is also disappointing. Stand-by time is fine: you'll likely get a couple of days out of the P2, but it's when you pick up the handset to actually do something with it that the problem starts. In 30 minutes, I watched the Huawei P2 chew through 30 per cent of its own battery life just streaming some music from Google Play Music All Access. The most likely culprit for this massive battery drain is the super-powerful 4G antenna. If you get this handset and want to save power, it might be worth switching to 3G when you don't have the need for speed in order to get a full-day out of your device.

It's billed as a premium, high-end handset, but these issues — especially the ones related to hardware speed and performance — drop it down into the realm of a mid-tier device. That's not great, but I stand by the earlier claim that this is the best Huawei smartphone to leave the factory yet.

Should You Buy It?

Despite its issues, this is the first Huawei handset I'd recommend you buy. Yes, there are some issues, but if you have a serious need for speed, you can't look further than the Huawei P2 right now. It's the only Category 4 smartphone out there right now, and you better believe there are worse handsets to live with than the P2.

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