Huawei Ascend G510 £130
21st May 2013 | 16:05
Can the G510 become an affordable mid-range miracle?
The Huawei Ascend G510 sits somewhere in the middle of the Chinese company's Android range, squaring off against the likes of the Sony Xperia U, LG Optimus L5 II and the Windows-toting Nokia Lumia 620.
Huawei, the name everyone knows but no one can pronounce, has established itself as a company no longer tied to the white label, network-branded handsets. Previous offerings in the form of the Huawei Ascend G300, Ascend G330 and Ascend P1 are starting to give way to the Ascend P2 and Huawei's phablet, the Ascend Mate.
The Huawei Ascend G510 has a full price of £130 (around AU$200 / US$200), meaning it is likely to land in the hands of teenagers, students and first time smartphone buyers alike.
The phone itself is a very smart affair, the all-glass front and black bezel taking design cues from, well, just about every smartphone ever designed. This is by no means a bad thing, with the Huawei Ascend G510 looking like a premium phone, rather than aiming at the lower end of the spectrum.
Under the hood, Huawei has chosen to power the Ascend G510 with a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, sat alongside a 5MP rear-facing camera sensor, and a 0.3MP front-facing sensor, and also comes fitted with NFC and DLNA streaming capabilities, and DTS sound.
To make use of this hardware, Huawei has retrofitted the Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean software with its own custom UI, called Emotion.
With the Huawei Ascend G510 measuring in at 134 x 67 x 9.9mm (5.3 x 2.6 x 0.4 inches), it sits nicely in the hand, and the 4.5 inch screen is the right size for one handed use. At 154g (5.4oz), the Huawei Ascend G510 is by no means the lightest of handsets, with it sitting noticeably in the pocket.
The glass face of the Huawei Ascend G510 holds no physical buttons, but there are three soft keys hidden in the bottom of the bezel. The only physical buttons are the volume rocker and power/lock, situated on the top left-hand side of the Huawei Ascend G510, with the uncovered micro USB port in the bottom-left.
We initially found the positioning of the power/lock button awkward, given its usual position on the right-hand side, or top of smartphones. This faded after prolonged use though - it's just a case of getting used to it.
The three soft keys that we mentioned earlier are situated within the lower portion of the black bezel. From left to right are the Back, Home and Menu buttons, with there being no LED light behind them making it a little awkward to find the right button, especially while in the dark.
The top of the Huawei Ascend G510 houses the 3.5mm headphone port.
Huawei has generously made the back cover removable, enabling you to carry extra batteries around, as well as giving you access to the microSD and SIM slots. The back of the phone holds the 5MP rear sensor, as well as the LED flash, speaker, microphone and obligatory branding.
The box holds no surprises, with the Huawei Ascend G510 bringing the separate USB plug and charger/data cable that we have become accustomed to, as well as a set of cheap headphones that doubles up as a hands-free headset.
In all, the Huawei Ascend G510 makes a decent first impression, with the all-glass front alluding to a premium device. After extended use the phone can feel a little heavy, but it's a sturdy device, one that we imagine won't fall to pieces if you drop it (not that we're saying you will).
Every manufacturer worth its salt is providing even the most basic level of customisation to its Android devices, from HTC's Sense to Samsung's TouchWiz overlays.
For the Ascend G510, Huawei has ditched its HAP (Huawei Android Platform) 5.1 software that graced the likes of the Huawei Ascend G300.
In its place, Huawei has released its Emotion UI overlay.
Unlike some of the minimal changes that HAP5.1 brought, Emotion's customisation is far more aggressive, with the complete removal of Android's app drawer.
While we can see the appeal (iOS is a fantastic operating system) we were disappointed, with Emotion giving the Huawei Ascend G510 more of a 'My First Smartphone' feel that doesn't befit a device of this build quality.
Couple this with the numerous system apps that appear on the Huawei Ascend G510, the home screens (you can have up to nine) soon begin to look a little cluttered.
Thankfully Android, much like iOS, enables you to create folders on the home screens.
This means that you can bundle all the apps that you are never going to use into one small folder, since you're unable to remove them.
Another niggle we found with Emotion UI is the inability to access the Settings menu by using the Menu soft key.
This is a minor inconvenience, given the Settings icon sat on the main home screen, and the Quick Settings found in the notification bar, but it gave Emotion a slightly less intuitive feel.
The Quick Settings, though, are a godsend. Becoming increasingly popular on Android devices, this is a feature we have long been fans of, enabling you to switch different aspects of the phone (such as Mobile Data or GPS) easily, and helping to prolong the battery life.
Like HTC Sense, the Emotion UI is customisable, with there being different themes on offer.
While there's not a whole lot to choose between for each theme, we liked the ability to change. Changing the icons as well as the wallpaper almost gave the phone a new feel.
Widgets-wise, there wasn't a whole lot on offer. Huawei does offer a master widget, that can hold smaller widgets inside.
While this means that you can fit your favourite widgets into one screen, we don't see a major advantage over having them separate.
The transition effect between the home screens is also customisable, showing that Huawei has given Emotion some real thought.
The lock screen comes with the ability to load up one of three different apps quickly; the camera, contacts and dialler apps.
This proved useful when we needed to access the camera quickly, but we were left disheartened because the app choice isn't customisable.
One app that we found particularly useful is the Profiles app.
With an app icon on the home screen, and quick access via the notifications bar, you can set up different profiles for different scenarios. The defaults for these are Normal, Sleep, Meeting and Outdoor, with you being able to add your own.
Within the app, you can control volume and brightness levels, the length of time inactive before the Huawei Ascend G510 goes into sleep mode, and you're able to turn off different modes such as GPS and mobile data. We generally had Normal mode enabled, but it was great to be able to turn off multiple services before bed, or when going into meetings.
This meant we saved data, stopped ourselves from being woken up by 3am phone calls and prevented our boss from screaming at us for receiving a call (ironically during a meeting about not receiving his calls at 3am).
The 1.2GHz processor coped well with what we had to throw at it, the dual-core innards keeping everything running fairly smoothly, although the slightly low 512MB of RAM didn't help. Speeds of transitions are by no means anything to write home about, but equally we weren't left disappointed by long waiting times.
Contacts, calling and messaging
Interestingly, after all the levels of customisation that Huawei has put into its Emotion UI, the contacts and calling apps on the Huawei Ascend G510 seem almost devoid of any real attention.
With no pre-bundled social media apps, other than Google+, Huawei appears to have missed a trick by not putting Facebook or Twitter apps on the phone in order to make use of Android's account aggregation. Thankfully, these apps are downloadable from the Google Play store.
We also feel that Huawei was wrong to not have a way of finding the same contacts from across your different accounts, but linking multiple contacts together is a breeze, if a little time consuming, done manually.
The contacts app is an attractive affair, the bright colour scheme being pleasing to the eye, especially when placed against Samsung's much darker contact system. In reality, it's the stock Android offering, so we were a tiny bit disappointed that Huawei hasn't added any level of customisation here.
The brand has kept the groups and favourites tabs for the Huawei Ascend G510, making it easier to message only select contacts. This is a feature that we have commented on in the past, and it is something that we are glad has managed to be included, since it is really useful if you have your contacts managed well.
The Dialler app is much simpler, continuing in Emotion's design ethos. Presented with only the T9 dial pad, there are no links to the contacts app. Thankfully the buttons are large on the 4.5-inch screen, making them easy to hit.
Smart dialling is also supported. This intuitive feature doesn't appear on nearly enough handsets for our liking, and is very useful to quickly search out a contact if you know the name or part of their number. Dialling 323 calls up both Dad as well as any contacts with 323 in them.
All standard call features are supported, from the contact's photo to accessing the dial pad from within the call. The Huawei Ascend G510's speaker was also loud and clear, with none of our contacts complaining that they couldn't hear us at any point. We also found that signal was maintained very well.
Being an Android-based phone, the Huawei Ascend G510 comes with every form of messaging that you would imagine, SMS, IM in the form of Google Talk, and email in the form of Gmail and an email app.
The SMS app is very functional. The conversation screen comes with the now almost standard text bubbles, but the pale green and white, with contact photos, is very pleasing.
The Huawei Ascend G510's Gmail and email apps are also the Android standard. The Gmail app is clean and covers about everything that you get on the desktop version, including multiple accounts.
For non-Google accounts, the standard email app covers POP3/IMAP email standards, also combining multiple accounts, mail checking frequency and mail size limits.
As expected, the Huawei Ascend G510 includes the native Android keyboard, which we have always found to be perfectly functional, if lacking some of the higher end features found on other dedicated keyboard apps.
Fortunately, as part of Huawei's customisation, there is the creatively-named Huawei Input Method. In practice, we found it to be fairly accurate (although when you make a mistake it takes a few button pushes to correct) and able to suggest the next word, much like the superb SwiftKey app. Swype-style input is, unfortunately, not supported.
The keyboard is intuitive, with a swipe down or long-press on the key to select the alternate input (6 instead of Y, for example) working well. The option of also having a T9 keyboard instead of the now traditional Qwerty offering is well received.
Word prediction and autocorrect can be disabled (though we struggle to see why), and the internal dictionaries can be updated.
Overall the messaging capabilities of the Huawei Ascend G510 are not anything special. The keyboard app is better than the stock Android one, and the SMS app is functional and attractive. Alternate messaging capabilities such as Facebook Messenger are available from the Google Play Store.
Huawei also includes both of the native Android input methods, in the form of the Jelly Bean keyboard, and Google's voice typing. We highly doubt that you will need to use either of these, like we did in our Huawei Ascend G300 review, as Huawei's Input Method keyboard is very easy to use.
With the 4.5-inch screen, we did find that we were a little stretched when trying to use the keyboard in portrait mode. The keyboard works a lot better when you use two hands in portrait mode, since the keys are well spaced. The spacing does, however, make it more difficult if you type one-handed.
Internet, maps and apps
Now a mainstay of any mobile device, decent mobile browsing is a must.
The browsing experience on the Huawei Ascend G510 is thankfully one of its biggest selling points.
The big screen makes viewing web pages easy at all zoom levels, with everything looking clear and crisp.
Unfortunately Huawei didn't spend any time customising the stock browser. That said, Google has spent a long time creating a functional web browser.
Curiously, as with many modern Android handsets, the Huawei Ascend G510 ships with both the stock browser and Google's more famous Chrome browser.
In reality, there isn't a whole lot to choose between on the two browsers. We'd recommend using Chrome, because it loaded pages quicker and it ties in more efficiently with the desktop and other mobile versions.
Neither browser supports automatic text reflow, but both support certain levels of zoom. The native browser requires you to pinch to zoom, and then double-tap the screen, with text reflowing then.
Chrome requires a double-tap, but only zooms to make the text fit the page, without customising the zoom level.
Both browsers plugged along nicely, dual-core processor not seeming to struggle with loading pages, and they loaded fast over both Wi-Fi and 3G connections.
Loading the full desktop TechRadar page over Wi-Fi took around six to seven seconds, so while not blistering pace, we didn't find ourselves wishing it along.
Offline viewing is also available, saving the pages as images. While functional, this means that there is no ability to open links within the page, even when your data connection returns.
Tabbed browsing is also supported on the Huawei Ascend G510 through both browsers.
At the top-right of the screen, by the URL bar, is a little icon/number that can be selected, showing up all the tabs that you have open.
Incognito browsing is also available through both browsers.
In all, we can't fault the browsing experience on the Huawei Ascend G510. As we mentioned before, the screen lets the phone down overall, because it's hard to make out in bright sunlight.
Browsing speeds are fast enough that you're not left wishing that the phone would hurry up, especially when loading dedicated mobile sites.
Google's Android operating system first launched with the Android market, which it has since rebranded Google Play, and now heavily populated.
Google Play is well organised, divided into categories with general apps and games being split up, and then both being split further still.
Games and Apps are also viewable by Top Free, Top Paid, Top Grossing, Top New Free and Top New Paid. This is useful to help filter out the poorer apps that aren't filtered otherwise.
One of the major bonus points that Android has over other operating systems is its customisability.
For instance, should you not like the messaging app or the keyboard, it is simple to download a new one, such as Handcent SMS or Swype. It is also possible to install custom apps from other sources, including other app stores.
In the way of pre-installed apps, the Huawei Ascend G510 does come with some useful, and some not so useful, apps.
Google apps such as Google+, Talk, Gmail, Google Play, Play Music and YouTube are all present, alongside the Mapping apps such as Maps, Local and Navigation.
We were a little baffled by the lack of a Play Movies or Play Books app, although these are both available from the Google Play store.
Huawei's own apps such as the Profiles app that we mentioned before, and the Flashlight app, are very useful additions, whereas the inclusion of an EA Games app is less so.
We can't work out why it has been included, since it doesn't appear to download new games. If it does, it isn't helped by the fact that (on our review model at least) there are no games in any of the games categories.
Google Maps is possibly the most well known Google product, after its search function. Thankfully, Google has made its mapping application available on Android since its inception.
It has been said time and time again, the Google Maps application is absolutely superb. We won't go into too much detail, since you've heard it all before, but Google Maps is one of the most comprehensive mapping applications we've used, more than eclipsing Apple's offering.
Google Maps also includes Navigation software. We've always been impressed by Google's effort here, not least because it's free. There are other sat nav apps available from the Google Play store, but when you're in a spot of bother, Google will easily sort you out.
GPS lock-on is fast, finding us in our car and being able to provide us a route around town in next to no time.
Camera and Video
There are no real surprises in the camera department, with Huawei blessing the Ascend G510 with an average-sized 5MP rear sensor, and a mere 0.3MP VGA front-facing sensor. The camera app has also been well thought out, being clean and free of clutter.
Taking around a second to load is by no means the quickest, but having a link on the lock screen does mean it is slightly easier to take a photo, should the unexpected happen.
By unexpected, we obviously mean a cat that has done a thing the internet would enjoy.
Within the app, Huawei offers just about every feature that you can expect from a modern smartphone camera; Single or Panorama shooting modes, different visual effects, white balance control, varying scene modes, ISO levels, exposure levels, a timer, picture size and geo-location.
In all, we don't see a massive need for these settings, since the 5MP sensor is never going to be used for more than a few candid shots, or for taking some holiday photos, so won't replace a decent digital compact camera. Then again, the best camera is often the one that you have to hand, so maybe there is a place for them.
We could point out our disappointment at the lack of a dedicated shutter button, but the exclusion is now a common feature on the modern smartphone. The major bonus that the Huawei Ascend G510 has is that it includes selective focusing, enabling you to touch the screen in the area that you want the camera to focus on.
It seems like a small point, but it really makes a difference. Shutter speeds are also fairly impressive, with photos being taken quickly. There is some noticeable slow down in low light conditions, but the inclusion of a flash is very handy.
Photos taken indoors and in low light conditions appear grainy, with the flash increasing the images contrast. Photos taken outdoors were a different story. While it was difficult to see the screen in direct sunlight, the photos taken were very bright, with decent levels of contrast. Check out the images for yourself below.
The video recording runs in the same vein as still photography. The app is just as clean, but offers far fewer options. There are no video effects, but there is the ability to change the white balance and add GPS location info to the video.
The major downside to the video recording is the video resolution. VGA 640 x 480 is the maximum resolution for both the front and rear sensor, which is, quite frankly, appalling. There is also the chance to record in 320 x 240 for MMS messages.
In all, we wouldn't recommend using the Huawei Ascend G510 to record baby's first steps or your first dance at a wedding, but it'll suffice to cover your dad dancing later on in the evening, as the drink starts to flow.
While not proving that it has the capabilities to produce high quality media, the Huawei Ascend G510, complete with its 4.5-inch screen and DTS sound, was seemingly designed with media consumption considered very seriously.
Huawei has bolstered the 4GB internal storage (closer to 2GB after the operating system has taken its share of the space) with microSD card support. We're often left wondering why this isn't something that is present in a lot more devices, since it enables you to store a lot more data.
We've mentioned the screen throughout this review, and when talking about media consumption, the screen brightness issue raises its head again. The screen is bright when indoors, and is very clear, but if you plan to watch a lot of videos while sat in the park, we will have to suggest looking elsewhere.
The media experience on the Huawei Ascend G510 is, on the whole, very pleasant. The music app is well thought through, and very attractive. A large angled album cover takes up most of the screen space, with the media controls at the bottom.
Tapping the album artwork brings up a list of songs from that album, and swiping the cover to the side gives you quick access to albums. Other media controls cover the basic play/pause, track skipping, repeat and shuffle buttons.
One advantage that Huawei likes to point out (with the logo adorning the back of the Huawei Ascend G510) is the DTS sound. Much like HTC has Beats Audio, Huawei has added extra software in order to enrich your audio experience.
That's the theory anyway - in practice we found that there was very little effect. Sound was richer, and seemed a little louder, but it was negligible. We doubt we would have noticed if we hadn't been listening for it.
We were a little disappointed that with all the customisation in place throughout Huawei's Emotion UI, there was no way of manipulating media through the notifications pane. It can't be too much to ask to put a play/pause button and a track skipping button alongside the track name. Other manufacturers manage it, after all.
Video-wise, the Huawei Ascend G510 supports MPEG4, H.263 and H.264 playback. Surprisingly, Huawei doesn't have a dedicated video app to access from the home screen like it does with music. In order to watch a video, you must locate it in the pre-loaded File Manager app, then open it there.
Unsurprisingly, the video player is just the stock Android player, offering no functionality other than playing and pausing the video, or skipping to a select point in the video using the slide bar. With a screen of this size, this is something that we were very disheartened about, despite our concerns over the brightness.
Until now we would have said that FM radio is becoming an almost standard feature on modern smartphones.
That said, the latest flagship Samsung device, the Samsung Galaxy S4, ships without this capability. We are always thankful for the inclusion of an FM radio, though.
As always, you need some headphones plugged in for this to work, though that doesn't mean to say that you can't play music through the rear speaker.
In terms of functionality, the Huawei Ascend G510 found every radio station we expected it to. The app interface is also well designed, with the ability to auto-tune, or easily manually select using a small scroll wheel.
DLNA streaming is handled through a dedicated DLNA app. We are fans of the way that it keeps everything together and tidy, and the ability to stream media from our phone to our TV, or from our PC to our phone.
In practice, we don't see that there will be a massive need for DLNA on a phone of this price, but it is something we could have forgone in pursuit of saving a few pennies.
Photos are accessed via the Gallery app. The app itself is fairly attractive, with large tiles showing the most recent image from each folder. We were left a little disappointed though, as the Ascend G510 didn't pull in our Picasa or Facebook albums.
The Huawei Ascend G510 does also provide some basic photo editing, accessed by the menu button. These include image rotation, cropping, light levels editing, basic image effects (such as posterise or fish-eye), and colour levels including tinting, black and white and doodles.
These effects are fun to play with, and can make images brighter and more interesting, yet we don't see them being used often.
Battery life and connectivity
Battery life is something that is hotly contested from device to device. When buying a smartphone, you will at least expect a whole day's moderate usage from it, which is something that seems very fair.
That said, everybody uses their phones for different things, so it can be a bit more difficult.
If you plan to make the jump up from a feature phone - where batteries can easily last a week on a charge - over to the Huawei Ascend G510, there will be a bit of a shock. There's also a more minor shock for the more experienced smartphone users.
The 1700mAh battery that Huawei has equipped the Ascend G510 with is pretty poor.
Let's put that into some perspective. For all our phone reviews, we use a standardised test in order to ensure we draw fair comparisons.
After running the test on the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini - a phone with a much brighter 4-inch screen and a smaller 1500mAh battery - we were left with an impressive 80% battery life left. However, the same test yielded 68% battery on the Huawei Ascend G510.
After taking the phone off its charge in the morning, we did manage to squeeze a day's use out of the Huawei Ascend G510.
Unfortunately, when we say a day's use, that involved a constant Wi-Fi connection, checking emails every so often, sending a couple of texts, as well as some Angry Birds and Temple Run action. Heavier usage than that will mean you might want to keep a phone charger in your desk drawer at work, or in your bag.
You would struggle to call the Huawei Ascend G510 lacking in the connectivity department, since the only notable omissions are 4G and an infra-red sensor. These remain the preserve of flagship devices such as the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Sony Xperia Z.
Huawei has provided the Ascend G510 with HSDPA to 7.2Mbps and HSUPA to 5.76Mbps, as well as Wi-Fi 802.11 to b/g/n standard. It also has portable hotspot capabilities, should you need to provide your tablet or laptop with Wi-Fi when out and about.
Bluetooth is supported at 2.1 standard, so it's by no means the latest, but it is perfectly functional. Unsurprisingly, the Huawei Ascend G510 also comes with GPS and A-GPS support, as well as the far more surprising inclusion of NFC.
NFC is becoming increasingly popular among mobile manufacturers, mobile accessories and in retail outlets.
With NFC looking to become very popular over the next few years, seeing it appear on lower end devices such as the Huawei Ascend G510 is very promising, and great if you're tying yourself into a 24-month contract.
Also on offer are the previously mentioned micro USB connectivity, since it doubles up as a charging point, as well as the ability to stream wirelessly over DLNA.
Connection to a PC is done via the supplied micro USB cable. On the Huawei Ascend G510, you are prompted to select what mode you would like to connect with, from a choice of Media Device (MTP), Camera (PTP) or USB mass storage.
On many devices you won't see a real difference between Media Device and USB mass storage modes, since both enable you to drag and drop media freely between your PC and the phone. Huawei provides a decent filing system on the G510, meaning that anything you transfer can be easily accessed via the File Manager.
Hands on gallery
Well, now you've read our Huawei Ascend G510 review (or skipped straight to this page), you'll have a pretty good idea of what we are going to say here.
We've had our chance to play with the Huawei Ascend G510, and while we encountered some problems along the way, on the whole the Chinese device held its own. And at its £130 (around AU$200/US$200) price point, Huawei could be on to a winner.
The design and build quality of the Huawei Ascend G510 is really impressive. The all-glass front and black bezel may look a lot like most smartphones that have ever been designed, but then if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Including a microSD port is also a major bonus, one that we are surprised isn't available on every smartphone going. It's also particularly necessary if you plan to store music and videos on the Huawei Ascend G510, since the internal storage is a bit small.
Shipping with Android Jelly Bean is also a major bonus, since it has the buttery smoothness and the added security that comes with the latest software.
The Huawei Ascend G510 is also a well connected device. NFC and DLNA streaming are still relatively new technologies, and until recently they've remained solely on higher end devices. Making its way onto cheaper devices will help NFC's adoption, and helps to future-proof the Huawei Ascend G510.
When coming to Android customisation, just about every manufacturer has implemented some sort of overlay to the stock operating system, but Huawei's Emotion UI is one of the poorer ones we've seen. We commend its effort, since in many ways it provides a nice level of customisation, with different themes giving the Huawei Ascend G510 a new feel, should you choose.
On the flip-side, we feel that the omission of the app drawer is just one step too far, making it overly simple, and can make home screens seem cluttered if you don't spend time organising them.
With the inclusion of microSD support, it seems a little odd that we would mention the poor internal storage. That said, not every app can be moved across to the SD card, meaning that over time, the 2GB remaining space from the 4GB storage will become full.
We also have to mention the screen. While playing with the Huawei Ascend G510 inside, we found that it was more than usable. That all changes when you step outside. If you're lucky enough to get some sunshine, the screen becomes very difficult to see, which makes watching movies or taking photos very difficult.
We liked the Huawei Ascend G510. It provides some very nifty features at an attractive price point. The G510 shows that Huawei really does have the ability to compete against the well established smartphone manufacturers.
The Huawei Ascend G510 is definitely a phone that you won't be embarrassed to pull out of your pocket. Looks-wise, it is up there with some of the higher end phones. Not as high as the HTC One or the Sony Xperia Z, but then as their company's flagship phones, we can forgive that.
In everyday use, Huawei's offering managed to hold up under general use, but it started to struggle under heavier use. Watching a movie or playing games for any length of time manages to drain the battery a bit faster than we would like from a modern smartphone.
On the flip side, it packs in NFC and DLNA capabilities, which we expect to become more prevalent in daily life as the technology becomes cheaper and more widespread.
As with every phone, we can't tell you what to buy, since everyone has different needs. Overall, though, we would definitely suggest taking a look at the Huawei Ascend G510. With Android onboard, plus some nifty tech, it provides some stiff competition to the established competitors - the likes of the Sony Xperia U, LG Optimus L5 II and the Windows-toting Nokia Lumia 620.