Huawei Honor 5X review: A weak knight in shining armour

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Like many Chinese manufacturers, Huawei is well-known for launching smartphones with impressive specifications at budget-friendly prices. However, with new Android devices being announced every now and then, it is imperative that a company ups its game to manufacture a device that stands out from the crowd. Therefore, in order to stay relevant in the competitive market, Huawei released its Honor lineup of devices in 2012 with the Huawei Honor.

Four years since, and the company has done well in the budget smartphone segment. The Honor 5X, the latest addition to the Honor lineup, builds up on everything good that we’ve seen in its predecessors and presents it in a much more nuanced fashion. More so, the device is a successor to the Honor 4X, a brilliant device in its own right, which was also the one of the first devices to launch with 4G LTE connectivity at the time in India.

We got our hands on the Honor 5X. Read our full review to find out how this latest device from Honor fares.

Design
Huawei follows the same design principle for all the phones in its Honor series, and so the Honor 5X looks a lot like the previous iterations. In fact, it looks like a combination of the company’s high-end device, the Honor 7 and the much more affordable Honor 4X.

Huawei_Honor_5X_Design1The device is constructed using aluminum and has chamfered edges. At the top and bottom, the device has plastic strips for better network reception. The phone doesn’t feel slippery to hold thanks to the aluminum back, and this metal construction only makes the device feel much more durable that its predecessors. Apart from the metal construction, the device boasts of an 83 percent screen-to-body ratio with extremely thin side bezels. The device has a thickness of 8.2mm and weighs 158g.

Huawei_Honor_5X_Design2Moving on to the placement of buttons – the volume rocker is present on the right side whereas the power button rests on the left side. These buttons are very responsive and offer a good amount of tactile feedback. Also, they are slightly textured which makes them easy to locate. On the left side are two SIM card trays; a Nano-SIM and a microSD card to be inserted in one tray whereas a Micro-SIM card can be inserted in the other one.

At the top are the headphone port and the microphone, and at the bottom lies the standard Micro-USB port in between the two speaker grilles. Above the display is a speaker grille with an LED notification, an 8-megapixel front-facing camera, and a proximity sensor. At the back, there is a 13-megapixel camera sensor, a single-tone LED flash, and a fingerprint sensor.

Display

Huawei_Honor_5X_DisplayThe Huawei Honor 5X comes with a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display, with a resolution of 1920x1080p, that results in a pixel density of 401 PPI. Huawei claims that this display features 1500:1 high contrast ratio and an 85% colour saturation rate, that allows for crisp and clear text with vibrant colours. Huawei has implemented a brightness limiting feature on this device which adjusts the backlight strength according to the brightness of the image shown on the display. Viewing angles are good enough and more importantly text is legible even under bright sunlight. The display on the Honor 5X is a lot better when compared to its rivals, the Moto G Turbo Edition, and the Lenovo Vibe P1.

Hardware
Huawei manufactures their own chipsets and integrate them on their smartphones instead of using processors from chipmakers such as Qualcomm and MediaTek. However, this isn’t the case with the Honor 5X in which the company has used an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor with all cores clocked at 1.2GHz. The device has 2GB of RAM which is a bit of a letdown when compared to the 3GB of RAM that is offered by many smartphones in the same price range nowadays.

Huawei_Honor_5X_Hardware1The Honor 5X comes with 16GB of onboard storage space, which can be further expanded by 128GB via a microSD card. The company has ditched the hybrid SIM slot in the Honor 5X and has instead added two SIM trays, one of which supports a Nano-SIM card and a microSD card, and the other which supports a Micro-SIM card. The standard connectivity options include 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1 and an aided GPS chip.

Huawei_Honor_5X_Hardware2As mentioned earlier, the device has a fingerprint scanner which is placed at the back, below the rear camera. The scanner is quite accurate, but still not as accurate as the one on Nexus and Apple devices. The sensor also supports swipe gestures.

Huawei_Honor_5X_Hardware3In terms of the specifications of the hardware, we are a bit disappointed by the mid-range chipset and the 2GB of RAM. Considering the fact that this device belongs to the mid-range segment, the company should’ve manufactured another variant with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage space.

Software and apps
The influence of iOS in Chinese smartphones is quite evident nowadays, and even on this phone’s interface, right from the app drawer to the app icons, one can notice the stark similarities to Apple’s iOS. The Honor 5X runs Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with Huawei’s Emotion UI (EMUI) on top of it, but it is very hard to find material design elements in this UI.

Like other UIs, Emotion UI too lacks an app drawer and makes use of the main screen itself to organise all the apps and widgets. The UI also supports Control Centre which can be launched with a swipe from bottom to top. It gives access to apps such as flashlight and camera, but these can only be used from the lock screen.

Huawei_Honor_5X_Softwareandapps
Emotion UI 3.1 supports a theme engine which also allows you to change themes for app icons. Evidently, the company has increased the support for themes for developers lately. From the theme engine, you can also customise on-screen navigation buttons from the Settings app.

There are some useful shortcuts and gestures available in the UI such as ‘click the fingerprint scanner to go back,’ ‘hold the fingerprint scanner for a few seconds to go to the home screen,’ and ‘hold the fingerprint scanner to answer a call,’ and ‘slide upwards on the fingerprint scanner to show the recently viewed apps.’ It also has the ‘double-tap the screen to wake up’ gesture which didn’t work most of the time.

The notification panel is divided into two sections – notifications and shortcuts. By pulling down the left side of the notification bar, you can access the notifications menu and by pulling down the right side, you can access the quick setting menu. We found the Notification Centre to be quite messy and the device also lagged a lot while we used it. The Recent apps panel is designed well, though. While Android-based devices usually have a stack-based multi-tasking screen, here we have an iOS-based multitasking screen with four apps on each screen.

The UI also offers a Dual-window mode, which we found to be of no use as the SystemUI app crashed each time we tried to use this feature.

Camera:

Huawei_Honor_5X_CameraThe Huawei Honor 5X comes with a 13-megapixel primary camera with a single LED flash and an F2.0 aperture. The front-facing unit on this device is of 8-megapixels. Going straight forward to the image quality, the rear camera is capable of taking some really good images that have a fare amount of details and saturated colours, but only in good light. As the intensity of light decreases, images begin to lose details, and colours start to lack vibrancy too. Videos captured with the rear camera, meanwhile, tend to be overexposed,  that further results in one having to adjust the exposure and focus all the time.

Huawei_Honor_5X_Camerasample1Images captured with the front-facing shooter are pretty decent, with a lot of colours and details. But, as is the case with the rear camera, the same continues with the front camera as well. Images tend to lack details in low light Videos, on the other hand, are pretty decent with the front camera in good light.

Huawei_Honor_5X_Camerasample2The camera application is not the best in the business but gets the job done. It offers features such as Super night mode, Panorama, Slow motion video recording, a unique food mode to enhance the images of food, and much more. The rear camera too has a Beautifying mode, using which users can enhance their images. Double pressing the power button launches the camera app and you could use the power button to take a quick snap as well.

Huawei_Honor_5X_CameraSample3Audio and video
As  with other Huawei devices, the Honor 5X  comes with a basic player for music and videos. Not surprisingly, the icons for both these applications resemble that of the default apps on iOS. The music player has a basic design and it also displays lyrics which can be seen by sliding from left to right on the current song screen. There is also a special toggle for DTS sound. We tested the DTS sound with our reference headphones and found the sound to be quite annoying at maximum volume levels. The device doesn’t come bundled with headphones in the box.

Huawei_Honor_5X_AudioandVideoWhen it comes to videos, the phone easily plays 1080p videos and 4K resolution video files. All types of videos, as well as audio file formats, are supported by the default video and audio players. When it comes to the loudspeaker, the single speaker isn’t loud enough and the sound quality through it is not great either. Moreover, it crackles at high volumes. However, most of the activities such as streaming YouTube and playing games can be easily managed with this speaker. Overall, the device does not offer a better multimedia experience than what we expected from it. If you are a multimedia enthusiast, we recommend either the Moto G Turbo Edition, the LeEco 1S or the Lenovo K4 Note.

Performance
This is the department where the Honor 5X falls behind its competitors. Under the hood, there is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor which is an upgraded model of the Snapdragon 615 processor released last year.

In day-to-day life, the Honor 5X behaves in an erratic manner. By this, we mean that while at times the device has no lag or stutter while we use numerous apps, at other times, it stutters a lot. Clearly, EMUI 3.1 has not been as optimised as what we’ve seen on other Huawei devices like the Honor 7 and the Honor 4X. Games such as Asphalt 8 and Beach Buggy Racing run well without any lags or hiccups. However, graphic-intensive ones like Nova 3 struggle to run smoothly and the dropped frames are visible in each level. That apart, the rear of the device tends to get warm. We also noticed that after running graphic-intensive apps, the UI starts to lag a lot, and at times, we had to restart the device in order to get it to function normally again.

Huawei_Honor_5X_PerformanceWe put the device through graphic benchmark tests such as 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited and GFXBench in which it scored mediocre points of 7,709 and 14fps respectively. In terms of the AntTutu benchmark test, the device scored a good 34,872, which indicates that the device is capable of performing day-to-day tasks well.

The call quality on the Honor 5X is quite good, even in very noisy environments. The vocals are clear and there were no complaints on the other side as well. That said, the device doesn’t come across as a strong contender against its rivals in terms of performance as of now, and we think that an update for EMUI in the future could fix all these bugs and strengthen the device’s case.

Battery life
The Honor 5X carries a 3,000mAh battery which is fairly decent for a mid-range smartphone. The device offers excellent battery life, with up to four and a half hours of screen-on time that involves watching videos,browsing the internet, using  social networking apps, and most importantly taking pictures. The device lacks support for fast charge, and we feel that Huawei should have included fast charging capabilities in this device as other smartphones like Vibe P1 and Moto G Turbo offer fast charge capability. EMUI comes with three power saving modes- Ultra, Smart, and Normal which further increase the juice of the device.

Conclusion
Priced at Rs.12,999, the Honor 5X, is a decent smartphone with a fantastic fingerprint scanner, a great battery life, and a beautiful design. It falls behind its competitors in terms of software and performance. However, these issues can be easily fixed with updates from the company in the future. Also, considering the fact that other devices in its price point offer 3GB of RAM, we feel that the manufacturers should’ve also offered the same on this device. In the same price point, there are some good options available such as the Moto G Turbo Edition, which offers an almost stock Android experience, and the Lenovo Vibe P1, which has a bigger battery and also better performance, that you might want to consider.

Huawei Honor 5X

Rs 12,999
6.8

Design

8.0/10

Display

7.0/10

Hardware

6.0/10

Software and apps

7.0/10

Camera

7.0/10

Audio and video

6.5/10

Performance

5.0/10

Battery life

8.0/10

What Is Good?

  • Premium metal build
  • Gorgeous display
  • Decent battery life
  • Excellent fingerprint scanner

What Is Bad?

  • Software lags on several occasions
  • Sub-par performance
  • Loudspeaker could have been better


The youngest member of our team is an expert at scouring the interweb for smartphone leaks. Onkar has a knack for finding out leaks about smartphones and other devices from the deep dark webs of the internet. He has previously worked as a technical writer for AndroidSpin. Currently pursuing B.tech, Onkar plans on joining us full-time. He is trying hard to turn the entire team into leak mongers, but it is not turning out the way he wants.

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