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Windows Phone 8 Group Test – June 2013 (Part 2) : Huawei Ascend W1, Nokia Lumia 620

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Huawei Ascend W1

Huawei is a new name on British shores, but the Chinese manufacturer wants to be a big player in smartphones. The Ascend W1 is its new Windows Phone 8 handset, and it's the cheapest phone here by some distance: its SIM-free price of $198 undercuts the $275 HTC Windows Phone 8S by some distance and, on contract, it costs just f 13-per-month.

Huawei hasn't skimped on the specification in order to hit its budget. The 1.2GHz Snapdragon S4 processor is quicker than the budget phones from HTC and Nokia: its SunSpider result of 1,138ms beats the 1,41 Oms and 1,449ms scored by the Windows Phone 8S and Lumia 620. In Peacekeeper, the Huawei also punched above its weight - its score of 275 sits between low-end and high-end devices.

That leaves this budget handset in the middle of this month's performance table, and it didn't have any issues with Windows Phone 8: the OS was slick to use and navigate, and 3D games like Asphalt 7 didn't pose any problems.

Huawei Ascend W1

The Huawei returned a surprisingly good battery score from its 1,950mAh battery, with 70% of its capacity left after our 24hr run-down test. That's the biggest battery in this test, and it's the highest score of any phone here.

The rest of the specification is less impressive, though. There's only 4GB of on-board storage, the 802.11n Wi-Fi is only single-band, and there's no compass on the inside.

The 5MP camera isn't great either; while it's fine for snapping quick pictures, it doesn't have the detail or vibrant colors on offer from more expensive phones.

The screen, too, is mediocre. Its 312cd/m2 brightness level is poor for an IPS screen, and it means it's the dimmest panel here. While the Lumia has a lower brightness figure, its AMOLED technology ensures deeper black levels and a more vivid image. The contrast ratio of 1,040:1 at least means that there's a decent range of colors on show.

It's all wrapped up into a middling exterior too. We like the removable panel that gives access to the battery and micro-SD card slot, but the Huawei's 10.5mm girth and 130g weight make it a bit of a lump considering its low height and width.

The 5MP camera isn't great either

The 5MP camera isn't great either

Build quality isn't particularly good either, with a creaking back panel, and it won't win any awards for style thanks to a plain black chassis and an awkward lip at the front of the device.

Still, there's a lot going for the Huawei: lots of power, a superb battery and this month's cheapest price. The Nokia Lumia 620 is a better budget package, but this is a good alternative if longevity is key.

Details

·         SIM-free supplier: www.amazon.com

·         Manufacturer site: www.huawei.com

Nokia Lumia 620

Android handsets dominate the budget end of the smartphone market, but phones like the Nokia Lumia 620 should drastically alter this situation. It's a high-quality piece of kit and, surprisingly, it's available on contracts that cost just $23-per-month and its SIM-free price of $282 isn't bad either.

The two more expensive Lumias in this test impress thanks to high-quality designs, and the Lumia 620 doesn't let the side down. It's as sturdy as anything else here, and we like the flat back, curved edges and row of black buttons on the right-hand side.

Nokia Lumia 620

The rear cover is removable, which gives access to the micro-SIM and micro-SD slots as well as the battery, and the matte cover that comes with the phone can be replaced with a host of more colorful alternatives. Nokia sells white, blue, pink and glossy neon green covers, and anyone buying the 620 can choose one of these bright alternatives when they make the purchase.

The high-end feel is tempered by the 3.8" 480x800 screen, which shares its resolution with the HTC Windows Phone 8S but is a little smaller. Visible pixels mean the Lumia's panel isn't quite as crisp as the screens we've seen on high-resolution rivals, but the measured brightness of 543cd/m2 is more impressive. It's enough to ensure this screen remains legible outdoors, and it helps colours look vibrant. The 798:1 contrast ratio impresses too.

The Lumia shares its 1GHz Snapdragon S4 with the HTC 8S, and it's this test's weakest specification. The Nokia's 1,449ms SunSpider result is the worst here, and in the Peacekeeper benchmark the Lumia scored 219 - only a little ahead of the 199 scored by the HTC Windows Phone 8S. While it might struggle with future high-end games, we didn't experience any performance issues with gaming or Windows Phone 8 while using the Lumia.

Nokia allows other manufacturers to use its mapping, satnav and public transport tools, but its City Lens and Music apps are exclusive to Lumia handsets. The former is a gimmicky way to explore the world around you, but the latter is a useful, free Spotify alternative.

The good screen and attractive, versatile design mean this is the phone to buy if you're after some Windows Phone 8 action without breaking the bank

Elsewhere, there's 8GB of storage - double the amount included in the HTC and dual band 802.11 n wireless. The 5MP camera is fine for standard snaps, but it's not able to match the HTC for quality: colors aren't as vibrant, close-up shots are grainy, and detail in standard pictures was often blurred.

Battery life is average too. The Lumia had 50% of its power pack left after our 24-hour run-down test, which is 10% behind the HTC's result.

That said, there's plenty to like about this handset. The good screen and attractive, versatile design mean this is the phone to buy if you're after some Windows Phone 8 action without breaking the bank.

Details

·         SIM-free supplier: www.amazon.com

·         Manufacturer site: www.nokia.com

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