In the face of flagships flaunting drool-inducing specs and mind-boggling features, it’s easy to overlook devices at the lower end of the smartphone spectrum. Just as gargantuan signboards and full-page newspaper advertisements peddle handsets costing upwards of Rs 35k ($650), it’s the budget and mid-range devices that actually sell in larger numbers and deliver value for money. And thankfully, specs that could hitherto be claimed by premium brands and high-end phones are trickling down into the budget segment as well – from multi-core CPUs to large screens – it’s all there for the taking even if you don’t want to part with a lot of moolah. Huawei’s Ascend G510 seems like one such contender, and we’ll be putting it through its paces to figure out how much of a value it delivers for its relatively light price tag.
Design and Hardware
Encased in black plastic with rounded corners, the Ascend G510 isn’t going to get you brownie points for looks. It’s a plain Jane device which is mostly all screen at the front, with Huawei branding on top and the usual three capacitive keys at its bottom. The rear of the phone is a tad more flamboyant, but only relatively speaking. It’s textured, which means that there’s no chance of smudging it or getting it covered with fingerprints, and is quite grippy too. On top is the camera lens encircled by a chrome ring and a circular protrusion that’s reminiscent of the HTC One X, although the one on the latter juts out more. This is flanked by speaker on the left, and an LED flash on the right. There’s a Huawei logo under it, and a DTS logo at the bottom that flaunts its audio prowess. The right spine is completely barren, and all the action has been reserved for the left, with the power / sleep key, the volume rocker, and the microUSB port all placed on that side. The top is home for a 3.5mm audio socket, while at the bottom there’s nothing save a hole for the microphone. Overall, it’s a simple black slab with a plasticky yet decent build, good grip, and a design that’s going to help if you don’t want to attract attention.
As with any touchscreen smartphone, the display is at the center of proceedings and the one on offer here is a 4.5-inch IPS screen with a resolution of 854 x 480 and a pixel density of 218 ppi. Thanks to its IPS tech, the viewing angles are pretty decent, although the screen is a tad reflective and sunlight legibility isn’t too great. The colors are reasonably sharp and vibrant, while touch response is pretty good. We feel that the 4.5-inch size hits the sweet spot between usability and comfort – it’s large enough for enjoying games and multimedia, and yet, is still comfortable to hold, use and carry without too much discomfort even for those with smaller hands.
At front, the Ascend G510 is equipped with a 0.3-megapixel snapper for self portraits and video chats, while the main snapper at the rear is of the 5-megapixel autofocus variety. There’s an option to switch between the front and rear shooters in the camera app as usual, and also to switch between still and video shooting.
In terms of creative control, it offers a bunch of color effects, and also lets you tweak ISO and exposure. There’s even a panorama mode provided, though you’d be hard pressed to find any other features such as HDR or burst modes. It’s a relatively lean UI, with no frills to speak of. You’ll be further disappointed with its maximum video capture resolution – still stuck at VGA when we expected 720p at least.
The camera quality is not really worth shouting about either – with average images that are good enough for sharing over the social networks, but not if you’re looking to capture some flaunt-worthy vacation or party snaps. In good light, the images are so-so, lack vibrancy, and appear washed out. In low light, they’re riddled with noise. Video quality is pretty much similar, and displays autofocus issues as well. One thing is certain – you won’t be buying this phone for its shooting capabilities.
The Ascend G510’s OS of choice is Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean, heavily layered with a custom skin dubbed the Emotion UI. Possibly one of phone’s most notable highlights, the skin does away with a separate app drawer altogether, instead relying on a customizable combination of apps and widgets placed directly on multiple home screens. Apps can be organized into folders for easy classification. While we aren’t sure if this is the best way to go about this, it’s something that should appeal very well to Android newbies since it does make things simpler for those who aren’t familiar with the operating system’s nuances.
Customization freaks should love it too, since there are tons of ways to play around with the interface and set it up the way one wants. There are a slew of screen transition effects to choose from, and theme support is baked right in, allowing you to choose from a set of built in themes and also letting you download more. Themes include not only different wallpapers and icon styles, but also sound themes for notifications, different lock screen and widget styles. Speaking of widgets, there’s a “Me widget” on offer that is editable and lets you place smaller mini widgets within itself, including different clocks and weather styles, music player, contact shortcuts, and even a picture placeholder linked to the photo gallery. There’s an editable list of connectivity toggles in the notification bar, while the settings menu has been given a makeover too. Apart from new colorful look, the settings menu has been segregated into “General” and “All” tabs, with the former consisting of commonly-used settings such those controlling connectivity and sound. This looks like another attempt to simplify usage for newbies. Apart from Google’s suite of apps, pre-loaded goodies cover a file manager and a backup utility as well. Another inclusion is a profiles control module that lets you specify settings for various conditions such as “Outdoors”, “Meeting” etc, and each profile can be set to control different aspects such as volumes, screen brightness, vibration modes and connectivity states. The profiles shortcut in the notification bar pops up a nicely-designed circular knob that can be rotated to choose a desired profile.
The Emotion UI can be checked out in detail in the following video:
Performance and battery life
Powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core processor mated to 512MB of RAM, the Huawei G510 doesn’t really have the specs you should be shouting about from the top of your roof. That said, it handles Jelly Bean and most Android apps as adequately as you might expect, without any hint of noticeable lag. Screen transition effects are smooth, and there aren’t any performance hiccups to speak of. Connectivity options cover the basics such Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, even DLNA, but you can’t expect to find other options such as NFC at this cost – so no complaints there. However, we do have one complaint with respect to storage – while it can be expanded using microSD, there’s only a little over 1GB available to use from the built-in 4GB, which seems quite stingy. On the positive side, the device’s middling specs don’t tax the 1,750 mAh battery much, keeping it chugging along for a full day comfortably, and even into the next day if your usage is moderate. There’s a power saving mode available as well.
If nothing else, this device is a great example of how high-end specs are made out to be the most crucial aspect to consider while buying, while in fact, real-world performance doesn’t depend solely on that. A smartphone is much more than just specs – and the buyer needs to consider it as a package. This package can be different for different individuals who have specific preferences, but can broadly consist of a mix of the brand, build quality, design, performance, camera quality, special features, software offerings, frequency and speed of expected updates, etc. And weighed on the very same parameters, the Huawei Ascend G510 turns up as a mixed bag.
As a brand, Huawei is one of the better known ones in the budget category, and the Ascend G510 offers a good mix of performance and battery life, a decent screen and reasonable build. The software offerings, especially the Emotion UI, could really be a standout offering here, differentiating it from the rest of the pack in the budget segment – although stock fans may have an entirely different take. The camera is a letdown, and could be a deal-breaker for some. The Ascend G510 is offered at a price of Rs 10,990 (~ $200), and at that price, its closest competitor should be Micromax A110 Canvas 2 that offers a bigger 5-inch screen, dual-SIM support and an 8-megapixel camera, but has a 1GHz dual-core processor and is stuck on Android Ice Cream Sandwich. Despite these niggles, the Canvas 2 does look like it has an edge over the Ascend G510, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Huawei’s offering is a capable handset and good value for your money.
Overall Rating: 7/10