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Huawei Ascend P6: Skinny smartphone that's not just bare bones

Android landfill? No, not this time...

Slim, but not weak

The P6 uses a Huawei/HiSilicon SoC so it packs the quad-core K3V2 Cortex-A9 processor, 2GB of RAM and the Vivante GC4000 GPU. It’s not a chipset to give the designers at Qualcomm the heebeegeebees but it’s powerful enough to keep the P6 running at a decent clip even if the Nexus 4 has it beaten when it comes to the AnTuTu and SunSpider benchmark scores.

Huawei Ascend P6 benchmarks

Benchmarks: OK in AnTuTu, poor in SunSpider

A negative side-effect of the super-slim profile is that the P6 can get rather hot rather quickly - 15 minutes of Modern Combat 4 made the backplate quite toasty. To be fair, that had no impact on performance: after a full hour the P6 didn’t get any hotter. Apparently some early review units got so hot they would shut down but that’s a problem that seems to have been fixed.

The P6 uses Huawei’s new Emotion launcher. This dispenses with the traditional Android app drawer and replaces it with an all-apps-on-show layout not unlike iOS. If you don’t like Emotion, replacing it with a launcher like Apex or Nova is the work of a moment. Of course, a third-party launcher negates the selection of themes that Huawei provides and which make for very rapid changes in look and feel.

Underneath the Huawei overlay sits Android 4.2.2. It’s always nice to see more or less up-to-date version of Android on any non-Nexus device. Yet the P6’s gallery app won’t talk to your Picasa account so you have to make do with Google+. And the latest update of the Google+ app renders it inoperative, forcing you to roll it back to factory status. Huawei needs to fix this inexcusable bug pronto.

Huawei Ascend P6

Both the SIM slot and the Micro SD bay need a special tool to open them up

Around the back of the P6 you’ll find an 8MP camera with an LED flash. Both parts are entirely average. The camera takes a decent picture in good light and can shoot 1080p video at 30f/s, though it can’t grab a still image will doing so. Typically for the breed, the LED lamp works well as a torch, less well as a camera flash. That front-facing camera though is a whopping 5MP affair and makes for a cracking webcam.

I know several people who use the webcam on their smartphones far more often than they do the main camera so Huawei may have been a wee bit clever in equipping the P6 with a merely adequate main camera but a stonkingly good webcam. Or maybe they just found a warehouse full of 5MP sensors near Shenzhen. Stranger things have happened.

Battery life is good but not great. Huawei’s press blurb makes much of the P6’s power saving systems but, to be honest, you are still only looking at around 36 hours of use from a full charge. Looping a 720p video file exhausted the battery at the five-hour mark which is reasonable rather than makes-your-trousers-fall-down spectacular though at least it’s more than a Nexus 4 can manage.

Huawei Ascend P6 UI and themes

The Emotion launcher and P6’s themes

The Reg Verdict

The Ascend P6 can’t compete with the likes of the iPhone 5, HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4, but it’s considerably cheaper than any of them both SIM-free and on contract. It does give the Nexus 4 a run for its money, however.

There’s no doubting the quality of the P6’s 720p IPS screen or its slender profile, and it feels well-made despite being very light for a 4.7-incher. The layout of the ports is a bit wonky and it does get a wee bit hot under stress. Also the processor doesn’t perform quite as well as the on-paper spec would suggest.

What all this proves is that you can’t get a £550 phone for £350. But the P6 is still a very good £350 phone. Would I recommend one to a friend? Yes I would. ®

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Huawei Ascend P6

Huawei Ascend P6: Skinny smartphone that's not just bare bones

It’s skinny, socially savvy and fashionably inexpensive - but it’s not quite powerful enough to be a Real Man’s handset
Price: £340 (SIM free) RRP