Have you heard of Huawei yet? Seen phones bearing this brand at your local phone shop lately? Do you know how to pronounce Huawei (Wh-ar-way)? If the answer to these questions is no, then we suggest you read on. Though Huawei is far from a household name, a handset like the Vision is bound to garner some attention, especially when it carries an AU$279 price tag.
If you are familiar with Huawei, you probably know it as the brand that makes the cheap phones. Until now, the Huawei phones we've reviewed at CNET Australia have been all cheaply built plastic handsets, some of which we loved, but only because they are so ridiculously affordable.
The Vision breaks this mould with a much more attractive and sturdy design than previous Huawei handsets. The company opts for a unibody aluminium chassis for most of the phone's body, with a tri-tone battery cover like recent HTCs. Only the bottom third of this cover is removable, giving access to the 1400mAh battery, SIM slot and microSD card slot, pre-loaded with 2GB of memory.
However, Huawei's most improved smartphone element is its display, with the 3.7-inch screen on the Vision far outpacing the screens on any in its budget Ideos range of phones. This screen is more like one you'd expect from HTC or Samsung, with a WVGA resolution, good colour and decent off-axis viewing angles. Most impressive is the curved glass over the LCD panel. This curve bulges slightly from left to right, following the line of your thumb as you swipe between home screens. Huawei says it takes 17 hours to curve each piece of glass, which is an amazing titbit, resulting in a somewhat smoother touchscreen experience.
User experience and performance
The main home screen in the SPB 3D launcher next to its 3D carousel mode, accessible by pressing the button at the bottom of the screen.
(Credit: Screenshots CBSi)
Keeping a smartphone to a price under AU$300 is remarkable when you consider the build quality described above, and even more so when you add a number of software costs into the equation. To give the Vision a first-class user experience, Huawei has licensed a number of third-party apps to enhance the phone's look and feel. Most notable is the SPB 3D launcher; a slick-looking home screen replacement that sits on top of Android. With SPB 3D, you get seven customisable home screens, plus a bunch of great-looking widgets. It's not quite as polished as HTC's Sense UI, but it is very close, and it has a number of similar elements to Sense, including great-looking weather presentation.
The SPB widgets look great, and are the kinds of tools that you'll use daily.
(Credit: Screenshots CBSi)
The onscreen-typing experience is also improved by an app called TouchPal, which features excellent early word prediction and some other really nifty typing features. If TouchPal or SPB 3D don't work for you, both are easy to switch off, leaving you with Google's default Android Gingerbread experience.
Powering the 3D home screens is a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and 512MB of RAM. This chipset also includes an Adreno 205 graphics processor, which is evident when we ran the Neocore 3D benchmark with the Vision and saw a result of 59 frames per second — a score on par with most of this year's biggest releases.
The Snapdragon chipset is the same option taken by manufacturers for last year's favourite phones, including the Desire HD and this year's Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc. Again, you can see how this processor stacks up in a comparison of benchmark results.
- Longer bars equal better performance 34443 37971 34080 36458
The handset's 1400mAh battery is sufficient for everyday use, with a single charge lasting up to a day and a half of regular, business-day use.
If there is one area where the Huawei Vision is not like its more expensive competition, it's in the quality of its 5-megapixel camera. This shooter is passable for spur-of-the-moment photos, but its autofocus is quite slow, and its colour reproduction skews the palette of most images towards being bluer than they naturally are. It is a fair bit better than cameras we've seen from Huawei in the past, but it's a good step short of the competition this year.
The Vision's camera struggling with strong light sources.
This photo turned out OK, but the colours shown are so dissimilar to the original subject. The blue halo on the moose thing is the LED flash, which should have been accounted for by the image sensor when the pic was taken.
Sometimes the camera nails it. This picture shows decent focus and some great, vibrant colours.
Browsing and multimedia
Multimedia is slightly disappointing, with the Vision failing to play a 720p video file that we use to test Android devices because it is in a universally recognised format. That the Vision wouldn't play it is baffling, given the phone's hardware specs, but it will also probably be an unimportant note for many thinking of buying this phone. There is no media sharing on offer here, either, with both DLNA streaming and TV-out connectivity absent, but we don't really expect these sorts of features in a phone costing less than AU$300.
We took a moment during our review period to test a few of the most processing-intensive 3D games on the Android Market, including the new Blood and Glory fighter from Glu Mobile. Happily, the Adreno graphics processor kept up nicely, providing a smooth gaming experience.
Should you buy it?
Although the Huawei brand isn't as familiar as names like Nokia and Samsung, the Vision certainly performs like a phone from any household-name phone maker. Huawei has done an excellent job of recreating last year's best phones at one of this year's best prices. The Vision packs a good screen and decent processing, plus Huawei chooses some excellent third-party interface options to bolster the user experience.
If the Vision has competition in this price range, it comes from last year's phones that are now available on prepaid. Vodafone has the Samsung Nexus S for AU$269 at the time of writing this review, and Telstra has the HTC Wildfire S for AU$199 and the Motorola Defy+ for AU$299. The Vision would be our pick out of a three-way race with those HTC and Motorola phones, but it's a tougher choice between the Vision and the Nexus S. Huawei packs quite a few nice software bonuses into the Vision, but you can't overlook the superior screen on the Nexus S and the image quality of its 5-megapixel camera.
Allphones is the exclusive-release partner for the Huawei Vision in Australia, and if you pop into a store to take a look, make sure you compare it to the Nexus S while you're at it.