When I received the Ascend Mate 7 on my doorstep a few weeks ago, I didn’t really know what to expect from the Chinese OEM that has been long associated with budget handsets. A few weeks later, using the Mate 7 as my daily driver, I've actually come to quite like it.
It’s certainly not a perfect flagship device. The camera, for example, is a serious letdown. Photos don’t look that great, and the limited focus range of the lens completely restricts you from taking macro shots. For a 13-megapixel Exmor RS sensor, I was expecting a bit more quality in this class of device.
But most other aspects of the Mate 7 are fine. The performance isn’t up there with the Snapdragon 805s, especially on the GPU side, however, general OS performance is good, and I didn’t really notice any issues even while playing 3D games on the 1080p display.
Speaking of the display, the six-inch monster is one of my favorite aspects of this device. Though the sheer size of the display makes the handset huge and occasionally awkward to operate, all that screen real estate is perfect for gaming, watch videos and reading books. The quality of the display exceeded my expectations – though it’s not as perfect as other high-end LCDs – and I had no complaints on the resolution side.
Unfortunately the first-party software doesn’t always make the best use of the display. However most other aspects of the Emotion UI atop Android 4.4 I was pleasantly surprised by, including the relatively nice visual design (while different to the latest Android style) and a whole bunch of added settings. Perhaps the best part of the software is the ability to dial down which apps can access mobile networks and which can send notifications, adding extra security and battery saver features to the handset.
Oh, and that fingerprint sensor on the back of the device? It actually works, and works quite well.
The design was the final aspect of the Mate 7 that surprised me. Its aluminium build is excellent from both an ergonomic and visual perspective, giving this high-end smartphone the premium feel it deserves. The fingerprint sensor is in a great location, as is the power button, which helps make the large body less tricky to use. Not to mention the front panel is mostly display, with very little bezel.
Price-wise, the Ascend Mate 7 will set you back around $525 unlocked and off-contract, which seems like the perfect amount of money to pay. It doesn’t pack the same ultra-high-end quality as the $700 Galaxy Note 4 or the $800+ iPhone 6 Plus, but it’s a reasonable high end contender with a massive screen that presents decent value to anyone who buys it.
Pros: Massive, great-quality display sits inside a premium aluminium shell with small bezels. Generally good performance with fantastic battery life. Decent value for money.
Cons: Camera is mediocre, even in good conditions. Doesn’t match the top end devices in performance.