Honor 5C Review: Struggling to hold its own

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If you have been looking in the market for a smartphone under 15k, you will soon realise that you are inundated with choices that make it really difficult to actually pick one. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, the Lenovo Vibe K4 Note, the Lenovo Z1, the Moto G4 Plus, and the LeEco Le 2 are a few phones that immediately come to my mind. Now, there’s another that has been added to the mix by Honor – the Honor 5C.

The Honor 5C is an upgrade to last year’s Honor 4C. The phone now has a metal body, a faster HiSilicon Kirin 650 SoC, and a better set of cameras to keep in time with the competition. On paper, at least, the Honor 5C looks like a force to reckon with. I used it for quite some time now as my primary smartphone. Let’s find out how it fares.

Honor 5C: Design

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Gone is the plastic body of the Honor 4C and in its place the Honor 5C’s external is made of aircraft grade aluminium that has a brushed-metal finish. For its price, the 5C does look and feel premium, but since the design is pretty tried-and-tested, it doesn’t look fresh. According to me, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 is the best-looking phone in this price range. That said, the Honor 5C does feel pretty comfortable to hold in the hand.

The volume rocker and the power button – both placed on the right edge – offer pretty decent tactile  feedback and the sound of the ‘click’ is pretty reassuring too. However, the volume rocker is placed very close to the power button and as a result I found myself hitting the volume down function more often, instead of the power button. On the rear, the camera is slightly raised from the body and has a metal ring around it. The fingerprint scanner sits right below it, just as on the Honor 7 and the Google Nexus 6P (made by Huawei). The fingerprint scanner is easy to access when the phone is held in the hand, but its accessibility is affected when the phone is placed on a flat surface.

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While the display dominates the front portion of the phone, there are huge bezels around it. Now, this doesn’t look good when compared to phones with near bezel-less displays in the same price category as the Honor 5C. The bottom of  the phone has the Micro-USB port and flanking it on either sides are two sets of machine-drilled holes, of which only one set of holes is for the speaker. The other set is merely to maintain design balance – a tactic used by many smartphone manufacturers these days.

Honor 5C: Display

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The Honor 5C comes with a 5.2-inch Full-HD (1080p) IPS LCD panel which translates to a pixel density of 424p. Honestly, the display is the weakest aspect of the Honor 5C. One of my major concerns with it is that the brightness levels are too low which thereby affect the sunlight legibility as well. In fact, the display is also pretty reflective, making it difficult to view anything on the screen even at maximum brightness. The viewing angles are average at best. Watching videos on the Honor 5C is  a boring experience, as the display also smudges very easily.

Thankfully, the colour temperature is neutral by default. You can also adjust it from the settings according to your preference. Since it is an IPS panel, the blacks are not very deep and therefore the display doesn’t look as impressive as a Super AMOLED panel. Displays on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, the Lenovo Z1, and the Moto G4 Plus are definitely much better. Do note that the Honor 5C doesn’t use Corning’s Gorilla Glass or Asahi’s Dragontrail solution for protecting the screen from scratches; it has a proprietary protective layer of glass on top of the screen instead.

Honor 5C: Software and UI

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The Honor 5C is the first smartphone from Huawei to run Android Marshmallow. Honor’s EMUI 4.1 skin is wrapped around Marshmallow and visually, it is a far cry from vanilla Android. You’d be hard-pressed to find any similarities between EMUI 4.1 and stock Android Marshmallow running on a Nexus device.

There is no app drawer in the Honor 5C and all the apps are placed on the home screens. The apps can be moved around different home screens at will by long-pressing on the corresponding icons. Long-pressing on a vacant area on any home screen brings up the option to change wallpapers, widgets, and transitions between screens. The navigation menu is present on the screen and the combination of buttons that you want to have in the menu can be arranged according to your preference from the Settings menu. There is also a single motion control option — flip to mute phone calls — to be precise. It works fine. Thankfully, there aren’t many bloatware apps, which is good.

You can also configure the fingerprint scanner to do tasks such as capture photos or videos, answer calls, shut off an alarm, pull down the notification slider, browse photos in the Gallery app, and securely lock specific apps.

Honor 5C: Performance and call quality

I expected a lot from the Honor 5C in terms of performance considering all the hype surrounding the 16nm Kirin 650 SoC with FinFet+ process for manufacturing it. It is definitely more powerful than the Honor 4C as was expected. But frankly, phones like the Lenovo Z1 and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 are much more powerful in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, in day-to-day tasks, the Honor 5C just flies. No complaints there at all but in raw performance such as, heavy gaming and intense multi-tasking, the Honor 5C lags behind slightly.

While the benchmark scores in AnTuTu and GFXBench are not too bad, they again prove that the Honor 5C doesn’t hold a candle to its competition. Coming to the multimedia performance, the Honor 5C played all the music and video files, including the high resolution ones that I tried, which is great. However, I was neither impressed by the sound quality from the speakers nor from the reference earphones that I’d connected to the phone. This is not to say that the audio quality is bad, but it is no great shakes. The fingerprint scanner is not as fast as the implementation on the Moto G4 Plus, but it gets the work done.

Also read: Moto G Plus (4th Gen) Review: Hello, Lenovo

The one thing that Huawei has always excelled at is call quality. The tiny earpiece is a powerhouse and the sound quality is exemplary. I didn’t face even a single call drop even in areas with high network congestion. Do note that the phone comes with dual-SIM option and support for 4G networks. Also, one of the SIM card tray doubles up as a microSD card slot. The phone has 16GB of internal storage, which can be further expanded by up to 128GB using the memory card, and it also has 2GB of RAM.

Honor 5C: Camera

honor_5c_product_shots_6The Honor 5C has a 13-megapixel rear camera with an F2.0 aperture. This camera can capture some really good details in both wide and macro shots. In fact, the close up shots had a decent amount of depth as well for a smartphone camera. Take a look at the image below to judge for yourself.

The camera can also lock focus on the subject pretty fast – a major niggle with phones in this price range; which is to say that the shooting speed is slow. However, there are some issues with the camera of the Honor 5C. The colour reproduction in a few of our sample shots was off, with a pinkish hue cast across the image. Also, when we used the camera in areas with an intense melange of light and shadow, the Honor 5C struggled to capture the right exposure. Highlights were blown out and the shadows were underexposed. Stick to shooting close up images with the Honor 5C until Huawei fixes it with a software update.

Also read: Lenovo Z1 Review: Powerful yet affordable

The 8-megapixel front camera, on the other hand, captures some detailed selfies. Apart from using the shots from the front-facing camera for social media, you can even print it out – the captured details are actually that impressive. Both, the front and the rear cameras, can  capture 1080p videos and the quality of the captured video using both is barely serviceable. Surprisingly though, the microphone captures some clean audio.

Honor 5C: Battery Life

The Honor 5C comes with a 3,000mAh battery under the hood. This might not seem like much,  when compared to the 4,000mAh and 4,050mAh batteries inside the Redmi Note 3 and the Zuk Z1. I was, however, pleasantly surprised with the Honor 5Cs battery.

Also read: Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 Review: A good smartphone, but MIUI is riddled with quirks

In standby mode, the battery doesn’t lose much juice at all. On one occasion by the time I went to bed, I was left with 57 percent battery charge on the phone; Wi-Fi was on and the phone was pulling notifications all through the night. When I woke up six hours later (which as you all know now is how much I sleep every day), the battery had lost only two percent charge.

Frankly, this is good performance. Even with heavy usage like mine, the battery seemed to last at least a day and a half on full charge. The lack of fast charging technology is a bit of a downer, though. All in all, I really liked the performance of the Honor 5C’s 3,000mAh battery.

Honor 5C: Conclusion – Should you buy it?

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The Honor 5C is priced at Rs. 10,999. For its asking price, the 5C is actually a pretty competent device. I quite liked the battery life of the phone and the macro performance of the rear camera. The software and hardware optimisation is pretty decent too. That said, the Redmi Note 3 is a much more powerful device. Also, for just 3-4k more, you can pick up far better phones like the Moto G4 Plus and the Lenovo Z1. The ball is in your court now.

Honor 5C

Rs. 10999
7.4

Design

7.0/10

Display

5.5/10

Software

7.5/10

Camera

7.0/10

Performance

7.0/10

Battery life

8.5/10

Value for money

9.0/10

What Is Good?

  • Inexpensive
  • Decent camera performance
  • Great battery life

What Is Bad?

  • Poor display
  • Average overall performance