Huawei had a bit of a hit on their hands last year when they released the G300. It was a decently specced and super cheap handset which was also durable and turned out to be very hackable. This year, Huawei have released the G510 seemingly hoping to repeat their success. So how does it stack up?
Lets see what £130 gets you in 2013:
- Dimensions: 134 x 67 x 9.9 mm
- Weight: 150 grams
- 4.5" IPS LCD, FWVGA 480 x 854 pixels screen
- 1700 mAh battery
- 5 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash with 480p recording @ 30fps
- VGA front facing camera
- 1.2GHz dual-core Cortex A9 Qualcomm MSM8225 CPU, Adreno 203 GPU
- 512MB of RAM
- 4Gb storage
- MicroSD Card Expansion
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
- GPS receiver with A-GPS
- Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
- microUSB port with MHL support
- Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP, EDR
- FM Radio
- Mini SIM Slot
There is no other way of saying this, the G510 is black. And plastic. It is a fairly big chunk of plastic too, but there are some finer details here that are well worth mentioning.
The edge around the front of the phone does a good job of keeping the screen off whatever surface you put the phone onto even if you put it face down. With the lack of any solid protection for the glass, this is a good job. The rest of the front of the device is fairly dominated by the 4.5" screen. There is a small earpiece up top with the front facing camera to the left and a very discreet but fairly bright notification LED on the right. Below the screen are the 3 capacitive buttons, back, home and menu. Yes, the G510 has a menu button!
The left side of the device is busy, with the power button at the top, the volume rocker immediately beneath it and the microUSB port at the bottom. The right side is devoid of anything at all.
The top houses just the 3.5mm headphone jack while the bottom just has the primary mic pickup for calls.
The back of the device is finished in a textured black plastic which feels slightly nicer than it sounds. It really does help when trying to get a grip on the device. There is of course the primary camera housed in an enclosure reminiscent of the HTC One X, with its LED flash on the right along with the secondary mic pickup. The speaker is to the left of the camera and is actually of decent quality despite not being too loud.
There is a small lip on the bottom left as you look at the back which helps to remove the back cover - a shell design - revealing the battery, microSD card slot and mini SIM slot. This is not a micro SIM, and I had to use an adapter to fit my SIM card in properly, but that works fine.
The G510 does not have a high end, super dense HD screen. What it does have is a surprisingly good 4.5" FWVGA IPS screen that has clarity and a fairly decent colour balance in its favour. Like most IPS screens it also has excellent viewing angles though obviously not quite as good as a fully bonded display where the touch sensing digitizer is bonded to the glass. This also means that images do not appear to float on the top of the screen, but really, what do you expect at this price point?
Overall, this is a decent screen that is comfortable to use, is bright enough for outdoor use and is actually well adjusted for brightness by the usual light sensor. Touch sensitivity is OK but not particularly outstanding. The one area where the screen gives away its budget nature is with blacks which are not especially deep, but its brightness and decent sharpness make up for that.
Huawei have provided Android 4.1.1 - yes, a Jelly Bean device for £130. Of more dubious merit is the deep and extensive skin they call EmotionUI 1.0 which touches almost every part of the operating system. This is also a Vodafone branded device which means that you see the Vodafone logo on startup and of course there are some Vodafone apps among the many Huawei additions pre-installed. Many of these can be disabled, but not all.
When you first power on the device, there is quite a long wait while the G510 readies itself for the fairly standard setup process before finally landing on the EmotionUI home screen. This actually leaves you in fairly unfamiliar territory. There is a large widget called "Me" dominating the second of the six home screens with a Vodafone widget on the first. The Me widget gives you a link to a photo gallery, music player shortcuts, a clock, two contacts shortcutes and a small weather status.
At the bottom of the screen are four shortcuts and a fifth can be added there. I then spent the next few minutes wondering where my app drawer was. There isn't one! There is something of iOS in the way that app shortcuts just populate your home screens automatically. These can be organised and rearranged to your liking and mixed in with normal Android widgets too up to a maximum of nine screens. Once you have nine full screens, installing an app means you do not get a shortcut to that app anywhere. This is a very strange set of design decisions.
Flipping between the home screens uses a nice little animation. At least it is nice at first, unfortunately it can become tiresome. Not to worry though, Huawei allow you to choose between nine different transition effects by long pressing the home screen. That same long press also leads you to an option to add widgets to your home screens a little like HTC Sense and it works just as well here.
The notification pull down has been mildly tweaked with just a series of customisable quick toggles being added. A nice lightweight addition.
Moving to the settings menu, there are more Huawei customisations. You are presented with a tabbed view where the first tab brings some commonly used settings within easier reach. This is a nice little enhancement although it would be even better if Huawei allowed you to customise what appears here. The "All" tab has the normal Android settings with just the icons changed.
The G510 has a power saver built in which switches off wireless networks, bluetooth and auto sync. A notification appears when the battery gets low asking if you want to enable this mode. It does exactly what it suggests and definitely save power. Huawei have also provided their own software update app replacing the normal Android updates screen.
Themes is an app which allows you to switch between 5 provided icon sets and different wallpapers, ringtones, notifications etc. I quite like being able to select my own icon sets, but would still prefer the stock Android icons.
Some of the other pre-installed apps include an app installer which can detect APK files on your SD card, a backup app, a customised email app, customised clock and alarm apps, a DLNA app - that I couldn't get to work, an FM radio app, a flashlight, Huawei's own music app, a sound recorder and a couple of Vodafone apps for checking your account and discovering their websites. Of particular note is the profiles app which adds the ability to change ringtones, screen brightness and various other settings at the touch of a button. Specifically, the profiles button in the notification pull down which launches quite a strange UI with a wheel for selecting which profile you want activated.
Huawei have customised the lock screen quite nicely offering three customisable quick access shortcuts.
Despite the decent specs there are some issues here. The G510 has no problem running most of the apps I use on a regular basis, even Chrome where it renders pages reasonably quickly. But, the launcher is very slow. Even installing Apex launcher did not help. At least with a custom launcher you can get your app drawer back! Most widgets are slow to render when returning to the home screens no matter what launcher you are using, sometimes taking up to ten seconds to appear. Most of these issues seem to be memory related and with so much customised Huawei software running, this is not a surprise. A full 1Gb of RAM would probably fix a lot of these problems, but unfortunately we don't have that here.
Another example of where Huawei need to improve their software optimisations is in their customised lock screen. It is functionally an improvement on the stock lock screen, but it is very slow to operate and to respond to your touch. It can be disabled in the apps menu though giving you back the stock lock screen which is smooth and fast.
As I say though, apps run really quite well, showing that foreground activities - the app you are currently using - are perfectly well optimised and very usable. I was pleasantly surprised at how well games ran too. This is not a 3D powerhouse at all, but lightweight games just work.
The device feels extremely solid in the hand and is a pleasant size to hold and use despite being slightly heavier than you might expect. The buttons are reasonably well located and operate positively though I do wish the position of the power button and the volume rocker were reversed. The capacitive buttons respond well with a subtle vibration, all very good.
I was very impressed with call quality which was clear, loud and really rather excellent.
The G510 has lower than average battery life, but it is still acceptable. I could get a full day of use out of it, just, but the battery was dropping alarmingly quickly at times. Standby times seemed pretty average too. I did not have the phone for very long and so battery life may well improve with a few more cycles.
To give a benchmark, I get about a day and a half out of my HTC One and two days out of my RAZR i.
Overall, still images were really quite acceptable. There can be quite a strange white balance and some lens flare type effects to some images, but details are resolved reasonably well. The camera does have a hard time focussing on closer objects and does not cope well with mixed lighting conditions at all suggesting that an HDR mode would be very helpful. Indoors, shots taken in well lit areas are fine with some noise, but nothing too terrible. You can see some samples below, click for larger versions.
Conversely, videos are fairly poor. There is a maximum resolution of only 640x480 and there is some stuttering in the final result. There does seem to be plenty of light in the videos though which is something at least.
The camera interface is one that Huawei has developed themselves and like most of the Huawei software on the G510, it is a bit slow. There is a fair bit of shutter lag and the image on the screen does not keep up perfectly with where the camera is pointed, but it is quite usable. There are a few options such as ISO and exposure, some white balance settings and some effects which display on the screen in real time. There is a separate interface for video recording with a toggle to move between the two. Overall, quite basic but usable.
I am a massive fan of budget devices. Nothing pleases me more than a cheap bit of kit that surpasses expectations. In the end though, the Huawei G510 has struggled to win me over. As with any budget device there are compromises and I wish that the money spent developing all the custom software on the phone had instead gone on a little more memory to up the performance. Once the modding community get their hands on this device and work their magic, I am sure some stock Android builds will arrive that will really help make the G510 shine because it is a decent bit of hardware, is very solid with an acceptable battery, a reasonable camera experience and enough horsepower especially given its price.
If you must have an Android device for this price, the G510 is a good option and while there are a few alternatives, nothing will get you such a large screen. What I would recommend to people at this price though is one of the cheaper Nokia Lumia Windows Phone devices, specifically the Nokia Lumia 520 which can be found easily for the same price as a SIM unlocked device. This offers a slightly smaller screen but superior build quality and a much smoother overall experience. Of course, the operating system will be an issue for some people.
The G510 did not completely win me over, especially on the software side, but I am impressed with where Huawei are heading and I am reminded of another phone manufacturer who also like to customise their software experience and often made devices that were solid and dependable rather than elegant and beautiful and that is HTC. I wonder if Huawei are on a similar trajectory and if so, this will definitely not be the last Huawei device I will be using.