Huawei talked it up big time at the launch event for the Ascend P7, suggesting its newest phone is a premium model that's lighter, thinner, faster, better and more exciting than the thin/light/fast/good high-end smartphones offered by the more established competition.
It's certainly an expensive one from the budget maker, coming with an EU RRP of €449 (around £370, $625, AU$690).
Actual contract costs and a UK, US and Australia street prices are yet to be set for the P7, but that relatively high official unlocked price tag sets up Huawei for a fight with the likes of Apple, HTC, Samsung and Sony for the flagship smartphone connoisseur cash.
Huawei's offering a 5-inch display running at the full HD resolution of 1080 x 1920, with the in-house (not-Qualcomm) 1.8GHz quad-core processor running things down in the boiler room beside the same 2GB of RAM we see in most of today's top-drawer smartphones - and 4G LTE support for use with speedy SIMs.
Huawei's been pretty bold with its Android customisations once again, sticking its Emotion UI on top of the Ascend P7's Android 4.4.2 KitKat software, a system that removes the standard Android app drawer and replaces it with an iOS-style emphasis on the Home screen.
Huawei's also trying to appropriate the word "selfie" as its own, stuffing an 8MP front-facing camera into the Ascend P7 for the ultimate in self wrinkle capture, combining this with a 13MP main sensor supplied by Sony around the back.
Many Android users will be happy to see a microSD card slot on the side of the P7 to boost its theoretical maximum 16GB of built-in memory. Plus with a weight of just 124g and a thickness of 6.5mm, it's a slimmer contender than the chunkier HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5.
It all looks pretty good on paper, but the Ascend P6 also promised a lot last year, with the lack of any standout features dooming it to consumer obscurity. Is the Huawei Ascend P7 more exciting?
The Ascend P7 is a relatively middle-of-the-road smartphone with little in the way of initial wow factor when you first remove it from its high-end cardboard box.
Yes, it's thin, with a metallic banded edge that's extremely reminiscent of the sort of design feature Apple introduced to the world with the iPhone 4.
Huawei's tried to make a thing out of the fact that it has a rounded bottom just there beneath the screen, but it's hardly the sort of feature that stands out as a design statement in the hand.
What's nice to see is that the hardware layout has been jiggled around since the launch of last year's anti-climactic Ascend P6. The P7 now has its USB connector at the bottom of the device, making it much easier to hold the thing in front of your face when it's plugged in and charging.
The headphone socket has also been shifted, now sitting right at the top of the phone instead of the ridiculous side placement Huawei employed with the previous P6.
These tweaks alone make it a much more usable phone on a physical level, plus the lightness of the Ascend P7 and the slim bezel makes it feel substantially smaller in the hand than the likes of the Nexus 5 or chunky Xperia Z2.
There's a bespoke little pin in the box, for users to poke-eject the microSIM and SD card trays from their docks. Huawei suggested there was dual-SIM capability in the Ascend P7 at its launch, with a second SIM supposedly able to sit in the SD card slot if you value connectivity over storage space.
But this feature wasn't available for us, as there was no way to get a second SIM - micro or nano - securely in place. We suspect there's a low-profile dual-SIM hardware version out there in other countries, as this variant of the P7 only allows one SIM to be used.
Power and volume button placement is a bit fiddly. They're very close together, making it hard to automatically make your thumb gravitate to one or the other without thinking.
It'd be nice if the power button poked out a little further, as that'd give your fingertips more of a clue that they're about to poke the right thing.
The back is definitely quite pretty. One piece of glass covers a spangly mesh effect back, where a Huawei logo proudly sits. But like the original version of the Nexus 4, this glass back is very slippery.
Put it down on anything other than a 100 percent flat surface and the P7 will slide off it, as there's no protruding plastic or rubber surround to give the glassy rear any grip.
As slim and pretty as it is, a chunky cheap leather-effect case may well be needed if you have ideas of nursing the P7 through a two-year contract.
Still, I dropped it twice, once a good 18 inches onto concrete, and it didn't break, so there must be some good being done by the metallic band and the 1mm or so of plastic that sits between it and the glass front and rear.
The big thing as far as Huawei's concerned here is the Ascend P7's front-facing camera. The tiny circle beside the speaker somehow hides an unprecedented 8MP secondary camera, one that's managed by its own separate camera app designed to get your grimacing face captured as best as possible.
It's a huge selling point for people who routinely take photos of their outfits in toilets, or just those after a more impressive Skype video chat experience.
Once you're done recording your face, there are plenty of editing tools on the P7 for further gentrifying your image. Huawei's own image editor includes such delights as a face-thinning tool that does a surprisingly clever job of subtly reducing wobbly chins.
The Ultra Snapshot feature is also a nice little touch. Enable this and you're able to wake the Ascend P7 from standby and instantly snap a photo, which it does so in around one second.
The downside to this is it doesn't have time to focus so you only get a fixed-focus image, plus the resolution is busted down too. Still, one second is damn impressive.
Huawei made a big deal about the P7's dual antennae at the phone's launch event, but I've found the mobile reception to be a bit disappointing.
I get a pretty weak mobile signal at home, so have a few spots around the house where I can put a phone and know it'll usually connect. However, the Ascend P7 struggled to connect to the mobile network quite often in my secret special places.
Once connected voice calling quality is good, but it does seem to struggle to get connected. That said, Wi-Fi range was better than most smartphones I've used, with the Ascend P7 able to stay connected to the router in some distant garden spots where other phones would've lost the link.
The 1080p screen is another good feature. At maximum brightness it's enough to have passers-by wondering if a car's flashing its headlights at them, with more than enough contrast and brightness to make text readable outdoors, even in bright sunlight, and videos appear great.
Leave the brightness setting on auto and it adjusts sensibly, quickly deciding if you're outside or hiding under the duvet, and changing its levels accordingly.
Technically the display generates a pixel density of 445ppi, more than enough to have Huawei's model compete with the HTC One M8 and Galaxy S5 in terms of raw numbers, and also smashing the 326ppi Retina output of the iPhone 5S. Score that round to Huawei.
Interface and performance
Huawei's made three main contributions to customising Android here, the first of which is rather controversial. It's still sticking with the idea of binning the traditional app drawer that all other Google OS phones use, instead taking an iOS-like approach to apps by shoving everything on to the Home screen.
The plus side to this is there's only one place to look for apps, which simplifies the Android experience somewhat. The downside is it means we should compare Huawei's icon design decisions to those of Apple, where there's only going to be one winner.
The Huawei icons are a bit odd. The Ascend P7's music player icon is a pink circle on a red background.
It's presumably meant to represent one of those CDs people used to listen to music on back in the 1930s, but this, and many of Huawei's other icons like the vague green hill that represents the Gallery, don't stand out.
You have to learn what each icon means, such is the lack of obvious visual clues.
The second big feature is an oddity. This is Huawei's Simple Home screen option, an entirely separate replacement UI its chucked in here for a laugh. It's a simplified Windows Phone-like option, which adds massive icons to apps and features.
It's not particularly customisable in that all you can do is add and remove the chunky icons, but we could see it being a good way to introduce a child or elderly relative to a smartphone without leaving them utterly confused.
The third strange little Huawei feature is the floating launch that Huawei calls the Suspend Button.
That's a weird name for it, as it's more like a shortcut to a few housekeeping tools: a memory cleaner, screen lock manager and odd duplicated Back and Home buttons, along with a second menu that spins in some other mini apps.
These little apps are similar to the floating mini apps that feature in Sony's Android skin, popping up the messaging window, music player, calculator and a notes app in a stylish little window that floats atop the Home screens.
Multitasking is accessed in the usual Android manner, with the right-hand on-screen button pulling up a list of recently used apps.
From here you can swipe some away to free up memory (or hide your tracks), plus there's a brush icon that dismisses everything. The Huawei Ascend P7 informs you how much RAM the process has just cleared up, something enthusiasts will enjoy knowing.
The pull-down notifications tab is the other core pillar of the Android universe, and here Huawei's fiddled just a little.
A customisable collection of five toggles sits at the top when you first pull down the notifications blind, with another pull on the button area revealing more controls - and useful quick access to a screen brightness slider. A separate menu lets you rearrange the order in which this appears.
Huawei's given this a clean white look that's rather swish, although it often struggled to scroll into view smoothly, especially when pulled down from the lock screen.
The Geekbench 3 scores are underwhelming too. The Huawei Ascend P7 scored just 1,792 in the multi-core test, quite a bit lower than the 2,579 pumped out by the Nexus 5.
In reality, the only performance issues I noticed was a glitchy notifications menu, which tends to pull itself down less than smoothly.
There was also the occasional Home screen scroll jerk when the phone was stressed with updating apps and some choppiness on the viewfinder when recording video clips, although the clips themselves came out fine. For the most part, it's a quick and reliable phone.
The Huawei Ascend P7's 5-inch, 1080p display is lovely and bright, with good viewing angles and enough contrast to let users see the details in the gloomiest of Hollywood blockbusters.
The speakers are nicely placed for film and TV watching, with sound emerging centrally rather than off to one side as we've seen on phones that place their speakers below the screen.
When holding the phone in landscape mode to watch a video or play a game your fingers and hands don't block the phone's audio output either, which is, again, a flaw suffered by its bottom-speaker rivals.
And it's loud, though not as heavy on the bass, but enough to inflict whatever you're doing on a room full of suffering people.
The video player is very simple, but at least Huawei's paired this with an onboard file manager, making it easy to find any rips you've shuffled onto its internal memory.
Huawei's gallery app helps manage content too, automatically generating a front page that breaks your media down into separate folders for photos, videos, screenshots, usefully pulling out clips that are in folders or on the separate SD card.
Huawei's music player is also a bit of the straightforward side. You get a workman-like front page that populates four automatic playlists - Happy, Serene, Energetic and Sad - which you're supposed to fill yourself by tagging tracks as they play.
It also expands album art to fill the entire lock screen when you're playing music, which isn't the best idea when playing back rips from 1996 that have very low-res album covers in their folders.
Things from 1996 invariably look very poor cropped and blown up to 1080p resolution in 2014. The people from 1996 just didn't think far enough ahead.
One handy thing to see in here, especially with the Huawei Ascend P7 coming with an SD card slot, is a tab for opening up a folder view of files, making it easy to slip in an SD card full of meticulously catalogued and sorted tunes, then have the folder structure appear within the player.
But of course Google would rather you used Google Music, Play Movies and TV, YouTube and the rest of its official tools for managing your media, apps which Huawei has rather unceremoniously dumped into a Home screen folder called "Google".
The Huawei Ascend P7 has two cameras and both are winners. The main rear camera's a 13MP option provided by Sony, which itself produces some of the better cameraphones on the market, such as the Xperia Z2.
As well as that the Ascend P7 also has a staggering 8MP front-facing camera, perfectly positioning the phone as the top option for those for whom the "selfie" is a serious hobby.
The main camera app is clearly also influenced by Sony, with the Ascend P7 using a similar overlay system for its menus as found in the Xperia Z2. It's a simpler app, though, with fewer comedy options and modes to wade through.
The main options are a selection of shooting modes, with Huawei's "Smart" shooting feature the default. There's a huge range of interesting filters to apply to shots live, a HDR option for enhancing dull scenes, smile detection and object tracking.
Huawei's added some ideas of its own, too. You can capture an Audio Note after taking an image, perhaps recording the name and phone number of the person you've just rudely accosted.
The app also has a really useful audio control shutter option, so you can balance your phone, get into shot then clap, cough or tap on something to take your shot. Plus a Best Photo option, like the one found on Sony and HTC's recent phones, offers to capture a burst of 10 shots, then lets you save the best and bin the rest.
What's nice to see here is a lack of processing of the results. Images taken at the full 13MP resolution come off the Ascend P7 at between 4MB and a massive 7MB in size, and are refreshingly free from JPEG-style artefacts.
The images are bright and clean to begin with, and the fact they're not overly processed means they look great a full resolution.
If you want to take advantage of the 13MP sensor the images have to be taken at 4:3 aspect ratio, with the 16:9 option taking the maximum resolution down to 10MP and reducing the image size from the maximum 4160 x 3120 to a top and tailed 4160 x 2336.
The seemingly innocent dog photo on the next page is an enormous 7.2MB in its original form. Good job the P7 has an SD card slot on it, as the 16GB of supplied memory will be full within days if you're a prolific pet-snapper.
And the "selfie" front-facing camera is a surprisingly good performer. If you have a face you don't mind seeing at high resolution and from a fairly unflattering and close angle, the results are superb. It even includes a front-facing panorama option, for stitching together wider shots and squeezing more faces in.
It works, but surely part of the fun of the selfie is spontaneously trying to fit faces into the frame? Extending the amount of time people have to remain in close proximity to each other and adding extra layers of fuss to the process makes it all feel a bit silly, especially if your cheek is touching the cheek of someone you're not usually physically intimate with.
Overall, I found the Ascend P7 to be a great camera. The double-tap volume down quick-snap option means you can take a photo in literally one second from standby (albeit without focusing and at a lower resolution).
Plus all results are saved at a high quality and are therefore free from many of the problems you can see with sensors from other companies.
Even the front-facing camera, with its superb 8megapixel clarity, could convince me it's a good idea to start sticking pictures of my face all over the internet.
The Huawei Ascend P7 comes with a 2500mAh battery. That's not quite as large as the unit that comes with the Galaxy S5 (2800mAh) and slightly larger than the 2300mAh battery inside the Nexus 5, so it ought to be about average.
But… it's not. The P7's battery was always fully drained by bedtime, and I've got a three-year-old boy, so I go to bed really quite early.
The slightly poor mobile network connectivity I have where I live no doubt contributes some extra battery drain in my case, so those of you who luxuriate in full-bar mobile areas may find battery performance is a little better.
If anything, Huawei's software is a little too keen to shut things down all by itself to save power. I had a problem with the Dropbox app refusing to automatically upload photos and screengrabs, something I always rely on when reviewing phones.
For some reason I found I had to open the Dropbox app each day to get it to initiate its transfers, otherwise it wouldn't auto-upload a thing. I assume that's an issue with the Ascend P7 shutting the app or Wi-Fi connection to save power, as it's not a problem I've had on any other Android devices.
Huawei's approach to power-saving is also a little odd in other places too. The phone's OS prompts users via a notification that an app is using what it deems to be too much power, meaning that you end up being warned about most apps you've got open or that happen to have themselves running in the background at some point.
A clever idea, but the Ascend P7 warned me that the Google Search app was using too much power, and asked if I'd like to shut it down.
Given that that's the core of the Android experience and the reason Google bothered building a mobile OS in the first place, that's quite a baffling question to be asked, especially when your battery's at full power. It even warns you that Huawei's own apps are using too much power. It's bizarre.
The P7 also refuses to activate the camera flash when battery is quite low in addition to the overbearing warnings. It's trying to help, but is really quite a pain.
Our standard battery life test involves playing a 90-minute media file with the screen at full brightness. The P7's battery went from a 100 percent charge down to 74% remaining - a loss of 26%.
That's quite high but not awful, although combined with generally poor daily life even outside of media use, I'd be worried about being left phone-less and bored on the journey home after a day of moderate use.
To create the illusion of control, Huawei's stuck a phone and power management app on here it calls the Phone Manager.
It lets you monitor the power demands of apps, clean up the memory, and do other things that have little more than a placebo effect on Android's power needs.
The two handy things in here are the Harassment Filter, from where you can block nuisance callers and spam message senders, populating a Blacklist of number that'll be automatically rejected, plus a notifications control hub, from where you're able to stop annoying apps sending you messages.
Huawei's bravely gone against the Google Hangouts enforcement police and has stuck its own standalone SMS messaging app on the Ascend P7, which comes with a few useful features.
A nice looking home screen widget populates itself with your texts, letting you quickly browse through your history of telling people where you're at and how late you're going to be.
New incoming messages display in a tidy pop-up window that sits atop the display, too. But you can turn it off if this invades your privacy a little too much.
Swype is pre loaded as the keyboard here, bringing the original line-drawing gesture input system to Huawei's flagship phone.
After using the Sony and stock Google gesture input methods for the last few months on various rival models, it's nice to use Swype. It feels more precise with its recognition, plus the next-word prediction is really quite on the ball, too - and learns from messages you type.
Text editing has been customised slightly by Huawei, with a Select All option added to the copy & paste menu that appears when you double-tap on a text field. That said, this system doesn't pervade the OS - apps like Google Keep use the stock Android text management pop-up, while the email and SMS apps use Huawei's own tool.
It always feels a bit silly when there are differing, duplicated methods of doing the same thing on a phone. Such is the Android way.
Given that everything's stuffed onto the Home screen in Huawei's UI, you need to make the most of the folder system to hide some things away and keep the screens tidy.
Long-pressing an icon and dragging it on top of another tells Android to automatically create a folder and dump both apps in it for you, while opening your new storage box lets you change its name by tapping the top bar and add new app shortcuts to it by hitting the plus sign to the top-right.
For some reason my poor brain, stuck in a rut from decades of using Windows, always thinks the top-right plus sign is the close folder icon, but it's not. Maybe I'll learn that one day.
To see everything you've got going on, a pinch of the screen (or long-press and use the menu option) opens the overview mode. From here you can shuffle the order of your Home screens, also pressing the house icon beneath one to set it as the one the Ascend P7 flips to by default when you press the Home button. You can have as many as nine Home screens heaving with your icons and widgets.
The lock screen has one original Huawei feature, a pop-up shortcut menu to launch a few features and show you the weather. This sits in the pull-up slot usually taken by Google Now on most modern Android models, so there's no quick way to access Google's cards system from the lock screen on the Ascend P7.
There's a prompt to "slide to unlock" the phone but no actual indication of direction or how much finger work is needed. On a few occasions I ended up drawing pretty lens flare circles without actually unlocking the phone, as it's a bit vague.
The dialler's been skinned slightly by Huawei, with a top tab letting you switch between the dialler, your contacts and any you've pulled out as favourites.
A long-press on one of the numbers on the dialler lets you allocate it a person, so in future you can ring someone with one long-press of their new single-digit phone number. There's also a Home screen quick contact widget available, which sticks a 1x1 icon on your screen that pops up a person's available contact details when tapped - and lets you call, text or email them from right there.
The so-called "premium" section of the smartphone market is as competitive as Formula 1. Fractions of a millimetre separate the teams at the expensive end of the market, with Samsung, HTC, LG, Sony and every tech company you can think of chucking out a high-end model at a whopping great price.
Google and friend LG produced a winner in the Nexus 5, managing to offer the best tech specs late 2013 had to offer at an official RRP of £300. And there's a red one, too. Given that it's cheaper than the P7, it makes the Nexus 5 a much better bet.
The P7 beats the Nexus 5 in terms of camera app performance and the front-facing monster "selfie" cam, but for performance and a guarantee of regular software updates from Google, the Nexus remains a better bet than Huawei's latest effort.
The LG G2 is a little old now in smartphone terms, first launching way back in… 2013. This means it's now been discounted, and can usually be picked up for a snip - undercutting the Ascend P7 by quite a margin.
It's well worth plumping for LG's flagship model over the P7, as for less money you get more phone -- a larger 5.2-inch display, the known power of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and a larger 3,000mAh battery.
It's a chunkier phone than the P7 and the front-facing camera is a mere 2.1MP, but the G2 beats the P7 on most other counts.
Clearly the one everyone wants to beat is the Samsung Galaxy S5. Huawei competes well on a few areas, given that the P7 is cheaper than the Samsung, plus it's lighter and has a UI that's substantially less cluttered than Samsung's take on Android.
The problem for Huawei is that the S5 has a larger and longer lasting battery, a very impressive camera plus a logo that says "Samsung" on it. Huawei has made many big steps in recent years, but convincing people to dump their Galaxys for an Ascend P7 is perhaps a bit much to ask just yet.
The Huawei Ascend P7 is thin, it's smooth and reliable for the most part, it has a camera that's about as good as you can reasonably expect from a phone.
It's also light and Huawei's interface customisations offer an original take on Android without being as wild as those stuffed into every screen by the likes of Samsung and LG.
But it's hard to get excited about the Ascend P7. I'm always hoping Huawei will one day explode the smartphone market by producing a budget marvel like the astonishing (for its price tag) Moto G.
Instead, it's chosen to battle the upmarket players with a phone that doesn't quite match the polished output of its competitors.
The lack of an app drawer will SHOCK established Android users to the CORE, but take a few days to get used to it and it works well. A couple of folders can be used to hide unwanted and unremovable apps, plus it's quite nice to know there's only one place to look for all your stuff. It's a bit like a budget iOS 7.
The secondary front-facing camera is shockingly good. The 8MP images come off the phone at 1836 x 3264 resolution, and shame the image quality produced by the main cameras of plenty of other mobiles.
Even the selfie software, with its blur slider and panorama option, is well thought out and quite fun to poke around and explore.
It's so light. It feels like an empty dummy iPhone 4 display unit, plus the tiny side bezel results in a 5-inch phone that's not clumsy to use in one-hand or a burden in the pocket. It's vastly smaller and lighter than most of the competition, so if travelling light is your thing, it's a winner.
The constant power consumption warnings are quite odd. The P7 warned us about the battery use of most of the apps on the phone at one point or another, offering the option to close the app or ignore it via the Android notifications tab. All it means it that, eventually, everything will find itself on the ignore list, making it a pretty pointless exercise.
Battery life's not good at all. With only a 2500mAh battery the P7 lags the likes of similar 5 inchers like the Xperia Z2 and Galaxy S5, with the phone really struggling to make it through a whole day of fairly active use. It also seems to chuck apps from memory all by itself, either to save RAM or battery power.
The user interface isn't as smooth as it could be. The notifications pull-down is often glitchy and slow to respond, which is odd as the P7 clearly has enough power inside it to run things properly.
It's perhaps something Huawei could fix with a patch, but it doesn't have the most glorious past when it comes to supporting phones with OS updates.
The Huawei Ascend P7 is a solid phone across the board, but doesn't excel beyond the competition in any particular area.
The camera's not quite as punchy as the units in the high-end Nokias and the iPhone 5S or even Samsung's top Galaxys, the chassis isn't as impressive as the HTC One M8, the price not as low as the Nexus 5, the overall experience not quite as smooth as... loads of other phones.
The only real unique feature here is the class-leading 8MP front-facing "selfie" camera and its tidy custom software, which is indeed quite a bonus for people who like the look of their own faces or use their phones for serious amounts of video chatting.
As for the Ascend P7 as a whole, it's a classic jack-of-all-trades. Nice enough, thin and light and with a bravely different take on Android that veers into iOS clone territory, but without any headline reasons to make it your next phone.
If it was £100 cheaper, had a larger battery or some other amazing key feature not found elsewhere, it'd be brilliant. As such, the Huawei Ascend P7 is simply… quite good.