Huawei Ascend W1 - An Excellent Windows Phone

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After more leaks than a wicker canoe, the Huawei Ascend W1 was finally unveiled at CES 2013 as the Chinese firm’s first Windows Phone 8 smartphone. Aimed at the bottom end of the market, the Ascend W1 doesn’t sport the premium polycarbonate shell of the Nokia Lumia 920 or the design of the HTC 8X, as it looks instead to rub shoulders with the Lumia 520 and various Android handsets such as the Ascend G330, Orange San Diego and ZTE Blade 3.

Huawei Ascend W1

You can pick the W1 up in a fetching shade of Electric Blue or Electric Pink. With its rivals in mind you won’t be surprised when we tell you the Ascend W1 will set you back $300 on PAYG. 02 currently has an exclusive deal to stock the handset, although we’re told Huawei is in talks with other carriers about selling the W1. With a large battery and decent mid-range specs it looks as though the W1 could well be trying to punch above its weight. Add to that the full Windows 8 experience and it’s clear that Huawei are looking to provide something that feels as good as a top-end smartphone, without breaking the bank.

The first thing you’ll notice is that instead of the glass fitting snugly into the body of the phone, on the Ascend W1 there’s a definitive ridge running all the way around the handset, giving the impression that it’s just been slapped on top reminiscent of the HTC One V. From the outset you’ll either love or hate it. There’s a noticeable lip below the screen as well where the colored plastic rear protrudes slightly, and it’s not a look we’re particularly keen on.

In the hand

The Ascend W1 does feel a bit bezel-heavy especially below the display, with the three navigation keys housed in a sea of black coupled with the chassis peeking out below. This adds extra length to the W1, but it’s not too much hassle in terms of the size as the W1 measures a manageable 124.5 x 63.7mm. At 120g the Ascend W1 is a good weight for a 4-inch smartphone, and while the handset measures 10.1mm in depth, the slightly curved polycarbonate back rests nicely in the hand and provides some grip.

The Ascend W1 does feel a bit bezel-heavy especially below the display, with the three navigation keys housed in a sea of black coupled with the chassis peeking out below

On the screen

Huawei has equipped the Ascend W1 with a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 512MB of RAM to run the Windows Phone show, which isn’t too shabby for a handset costing a touch over $160. The 4-inch display may only boast a 480 x 800 resolution, but Windows Phone 8 still looks pretty good with the blocky live tiles and formulaic design far better suited to lower quality screens than Android or iOS.

General navigation is pretty slick with the dual core processor inside the W1 making light work of WP8, allowing us to glide through our live tiles and the app list.

We were able to jump in and out of most apps quickly and the user experience is enhanced by the intuitive design of Windows Phone.

When things become a little more demanding the Ascend W1 does struggle at times, with graphically intensive apps seeing load times increase by several seconds. If you jump in and out of apps at a high frequency, the W1 can become a little confused as it tries to keep pace.

Through the lens

There’s not too much to shout about on the camera front on the Huawei Ascend W1. There’s a 5MP rear with single-LED flash - which for a budget handset isn’t bad - plus a front facing VGA snapper. First the good news - as per the Windows Phone mantra the Ascend W1 comes with the customary dedicated shutter key on its right side, providing you with a quick and easy way to launch the camera app and snap a photo.

Once you land in the app though you’ll find it to be pretty sparsely populated, and any budding phone-based photographer will be better off with a high-end Nokia if Windows Phone 8 and picture taking is your bag, baby. It’s much the same when it comes to capturing video using the Ascend W1, with limited options and middle-of-the-road quality available.

You access the video recorder through the camera app, and there’s an icon at the bottom of the screen to switch between camera and video modes. The same scene and white balance controls are present here, plus you get the choice of shooting in either VGA or 720p via the rear 5MP camera.

The same scene and white balance controls are present here, plus you get the choice of shooting in either VGA or 720p via the rear 5MP camera

In the long run

The Huawei Ascend W1 packs a decently sized 1,950mAh battery under its thin plastic rear and you can remove it from the handset by peeling off the back cover. It’s a considerably bigger battery than a lot of its rivals, with the Nokia Lumia 620 offering up a 1,300mAh pack. This will be music to some people’s ears as you’re able to hard reset the handset by removing its life source, as well as swap out a dead battery for a fully charged one. We were seriously impressed with the battery life on this handset, and we managed to get not one but two full days out of the W1 between charges -putting this handset almost in a league of its own when compared to many smartphones, which struggle to see out a full day.

Huawei Ascend W1


·         Dimensions: 124.5 x 63.7 x 10.5 mm (4.90 x 2.51 x 0.41 in)

·         Weight: 130 g (4.59 oz)


·         Type: IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors

·         Size: 480 x 800 pixels, 4.0 inches (~233 ppi pixel density)

·         Multitouch: Yes, up to 4 fingers


·         Alert types: Vibration, MP3, WAV ringtones

·         Loudspeaker: Yes

·         3.5mm jack: Yes


·         Card slot: microSD, up to 32 GB

·         Internal: 4 GB, 512 MB RAM

·         DATA: GPRS: Yes; EDGE: Yes

·         Speed: HSDPA, 21 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps

·         WLAN: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n

·         Bluetooth: Yes, v2.1 with A2DP, EDR

·         USB: Yes, microUSB v2.0


·         Primary: 5 MP, 2592х1944 pixels, autofocus, LED flash

·         Features: Geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection

·         Video: Yes, 720p@30fps

·         Secondary: Yes, VGA


·         OS: Microsoft Windows Phone 8

·         Chipset: Qualcomm MSM8230 Snapdragon

·         CPU: Dual-core 1.2 GHz Krait

·         GPU: Adreno 305

·         Sensors: Accelerometer, proximity

·         Messaging: SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email

·         Browser: HTML5

·         Radio: No

·         GPS: Yes, with A-GPS support and GLONASS

·         Java: No

·         Colors: Blue, red, black, white


·         Li-Ion 1950 mAh battery

·         Stand-by: Up to 460 h (2G) / Up to 470 h (3G)

·         Talk time: Up to 8 h (2G) / Up to 10 h 30 min (3G)


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