Huawei’s online-only Honor range of smartphones has been developed and positioned as complementary to the parent company’s more premium products. Naturally, it’s targeted at developing markets such as India, and the phones have managed to generate enough buzz and attention to make Honor a significant player in the budget and mid-range smartphone segments in India. The newest product from the Honor stable is the Honor 5X. This mid-range smartphone has a little bit of everything that you might be looking for in a smartphone. With a fingerprint sensor, 4G dual-SIM connectivity and the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 SoC, the Honor 5X has a lot to offer for Rs. 12,999. There’s also Huawei’s reputation, which got a significant boost after the Chinese company was chosen to manufacture the Google Nexus 6P. Does the Honor 5X live up to or even exceed typical mid-range expectations?
Look And Feel
One of the Honor 5X’s key features is the fact that it has a metal body. The debate as to whether metal or plastic is better for a smartphone will continue to rage on for as long as the Earth revolves around the sun, but for those of us who prefer having a more durable material, this is obviously a good thing.
Having said that, the device’s finish looks and feels more like plastic than metal. Honor seems to have tried too hard to make the device look metal, and gone slightly backwards in the process. Part of the reason may also be the fact that the phone doesn’t feel very heavy – oddly enough, it weighs even less than some similarly sized plastic phones do. The typical benefits that metal provides are, as a result, lost in translation.
The back is extremely busy, with the camera and single-tone LED flash at the top, fingerprint sensor right below them, and the Honor logo and regulatory text right at the bottom. The fingerprint sensor is the same color as the body and blends in rather well, but the regulatory text stands out and diminishes the look of the back. While Honor is obviously obligated to put that text there, it could have been placed less prominently.
The sides of the Honor 5X are part of the same aluminium alloy piece as the back, but the top and bottom are plastic, and look visibly different from the metal bits. This is a rather bothersome aspect of the aesthetic, and in my opinion, makes a complete mess of what would have been an otherwise acceptable phone to look at. The difference in the color of the top/bottom pieces and the sides/back are like night and day and clearly stand out like a sore thumb.
That aside, the edges are decent in terms of grip and feel. The power and volume keys are located on the right, the SIM and microSD trays are on the left, the 3.5mm socket is on the top, and the Micro-USB port and speaker are at the bottom. There are two grilles, but only the one on the right actually houses a speaker. Something that I still don’t understand companies doing is having two speaker grills but not spending a couple of extra dollars to include a second speaker to make the sound quality that much louder/better.
There are fortunately separate trays for both SIMs as well as expandable storage. One SIM tray can hold a Nano-SIM while the other is designed for a Micro-SIM. Both slots are 4G-enabled, so this offers a bit of flexibility to the user. Something that I really like seeing in a phone is the ability to use various sized SIM cards because most phones only support one size and it always seems to be the size you don’t have in your current phone.
The front of the device has a 5.5-inch IPS-LCD screen, and there’s a 72.2 percent screen-to-body ratio. The device does not have capacitive off-screen navigation buttons, relying instead on on-screen ones. At the top are the proximity sensor, front camera, earpiece, and notification light. The phone also comes with a factory-fitted screen protector film which fortunately had been applied properly on my unit. Running all around the front and extending partly onto the sides is a smooth plastic strip. On my silver review unit, the strip was a reflective shade of silver and offered some interesting visual relief to the dull shade of the rest of the body.
The screen itself is a 1080 x 1920-pixel affair, with a pixel density of 401ppi. I’ve often said that full-HD should be the bare minimum acceptable resolution for 5.5-inch screens on mid-range devices, so the Honor 5X deserves credit for not skimping on that front. Apart from that, it’s a decent screen in terms of brightness, colors, and detail. Watching YouTube and Netflix videos on the Honor 5X is enjoyable.
Front And Back Cameras
The Honor 5X has a 13MP primary rear camera with single-tone LED flash and variable focus, and a 5MP front camera with fixed focus. The rear camera can record video at up to 1080p resolution, while the front camera is capable of video recording at 720p. Both cameras have plenty of video modes and options, along with a bunch of manual controls, filters and settings that keep the camera lively.
The camera app is the same as the one that was included on the Honor 7, with the same set of controls and features in place. Modes for panorama, all-focus, HDR, slow motion video, watermark and audio note are all useful options, and additional modes for beauty, food and time-lapse might have takers as well. There is quick access to the filters, flash toggle, and camera switcher, while the timer can be accessed through the Settings menu. GPS tagging, touch-to-capture, object tracking and resolution can also be controlled through the Settings menu. It’s a decent camera app that may seem a bit confusing because of the number of controls and settings, but is something I warmed up to quickly.
The primary camera is decent for a mid-range shooter, and is capable of delivering excellent color and detail in good light. Outdoor shots are among the better ones I’ve seen from phones in this same price range. Detailing is excellent, with sharp pictures that don’t have too much noise and grain. Low-light shots, while naturally not as good as well-lit outdoor pictures, are decent enough too. Although color and detail tend to suffer a bit, the pictures are surprisingly clear of the typical grain that you’d see in low-light shots.
Focusing is a bit of an issue though, as the Honor 5X is often a bit too slow to lock focus. Additionally, it isn’t good at tracking moving objects and quickly adjusting the focus. The front camera is decent for selfies and video calls, but nothing more. On the whole, occasional camera users won’t be disappointed with the performance of the Honor 5X, and more active photographers will find enough to be happy.
Software And Specs
The Honor 5X is a mid-range smartphone with typically mid-range specifications similar to what is offered by most of the competition today. However, there are a couple of interesting things to note. The 5X is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 SoC, which is essentially a slightly updated version of last year’s Snapdragon 615. Some apps do identify the SoC on the 5X as the Snapdragon 615, since the 616 is essentially a 615 ‘v2’. However, we have been assured by the folks at Huawei that the phone does in fact sport the newer one.
Other specifications include 2GB of RAM, a relatively modest 16GB of internal storage(expandable by up to 128GB using a microSD card), a 3000mAh non-removable battery and Android 5.1.1 out of the box with EMUI 3.1 on top. I’m a bit disappointed that the Honor 5X didn’t launch with Android Marshmallow. Also, although 2GB of RAM is adequate for most purposes, potential buyers may be tempted by similarly priced competitors which offer 3GB.
I’m still not particularly fond of the way the interface looks either. The icons lack finesse and look rather poor, and the overall design is missing the sense of sophistication that I’m used to seeing on manufacturer UIs such as Sense UI and even stock Android. Certain apps constantly push you notifications to activate them. The SOS Emergency app refused to leave me alone until I had it set up, whether I wanted to use it or not.
Every time you install a new app, the phone prompts you to grant or deny it permission to send you notifications, and the system by default prevents non-system applications from running in the background. There is also a power-saving prompt which constantly shows you which apps are using too much power, but this can fortunately be switched off.
One useful feature in the Honor 5X is the fingerprint sensor, which is of the 360-degree variety and will detect a fingerprint at any angle. It’s quick and accurate, and rarely ever required a second touch. The phone is capable of detecting a fingerprint when in standby, which means that you don’t need to first wake the device before unlocking it. In fact, I have gotten very used to waking the phone with the fingerprint scanner and find it as a missing feature on my Motorola Moto X 2015 Pure Edition device.
The sensor can of course be used to unlock the phone, but an interesting feature allows you to unlock it and jump directly to a particular app on detecting a specific fingerprint. For example, you can set your right index finger to unlock the phone, while the left index finger can be set to unlock and immediately load up Whatsapp, the camera, or anything else. Up to five fingerprints can be stored, each set to trigger its own function, which I found incredibly useful.
Although Honor’s parent company Huawei manufactures its own SoCs under the HiSilicon brand name, some Honor devices don’t use them. The Honor 5X is an example of this, and uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 SoC. As you would expect, the SoC gave us performance comparable to its predecessor, with smooth functioning through the user interface, decent performance with games and heavily encoded videos, and minimal heating issues.
Moving on to basic functionality, the Honor 5X proved more than capable of holding on to both data and Wi-Fi networks, and was good when it came to call quality as well. The device usually managed to pick up 3G even in poorly covered areas that usually force other phones to drop to 2G, which is commendable. The battery life was a bit weak though, despite the fairly large 3000mAh battery under the hood. The weakness came when actually using the device as Huawei has created a device with awesome stand-by time because it basically shuts everything down on the phone which in turns causes it to use little to no battery life at all while not in use.
The fingerprint scanner doesn’t take long to configure and it unlocks the device quickly and accurately. It is also possible to configure it for other functions in the settings. Seven actions can be activated, ranging from answering calls or taking a photo to opening the notifications panel or recent apps. Just about everything is doable making the fingerprint scanner a pretty nifty additional to the Huawei Honor 5x.
The Honor 5X is an attractive smartphone with sturdy performance for its price range, a hearty battery life and agreeable camera performance. Specs-wise, there’s little to set it apart from its competitors, but when you consider it’s price, it has a clear advantage.
Is it something I’d buy? Not for a daily driver I wouldn’t because I really love my Motorola Moto X 2015 Pure Edition but for a second phone to play around with and to test other apps and stuff like that then yes, I’d grab one. The price is exceptional and very hard to beat especially for what you get with the device as far as specs are concerned.
Huawei Honor 5X$199.99
Design And Form Factor10/10
Graphics And Display9/10
Network And Connectivity10/10
- Fingerprint Scanner
- Low Price
- Dual SIM Tray
- Dual SIM Card Size Capabilities
- No Android Marshmallow
- Doesn't Feel Like Metal
- UI Is Extremely Weird