Continuing its effort to crack the worldwide smartphone market, Huawei, under the guise of Honor, is bringing another budget-priced handset to our attention. The ‘no-nonsense’ Honor 5X is another great-looking device that offers much better specifications than you would expect for the price.
The 5X is the successor to last year’s Honor 7 and has a very similar design. The back and sides are constructed from metal, while the strips along the top and bottom are made from plastic, with dimples that are similar to Samsung’s Galaxy S5. We particularly like the brushed finish on the main part of the rear cover, though it’s picked up the odd scratch or two over the few weeks we’ve had it.
The camera sticks out a little, with the fingerprint scanner sitting below it, while the buttons and ports are where you’d normally find them (side and bottom). Like the Honor 7, the 5X looks like a premium handset and feels solid in the hand.
A small difference compared to the Honor 7 is that the 5X lacks the ‘smart button’ on the lefthand side, which can be customised to perform different functions. That’s not a big deal though, and a small reason why the 5X is cheaper. Its weight and dimensions are almost identical to the Honor 7’s, weighing 158g and measuring 8.2mm thick, compared to its sibling’s weight of 157g and 8.5mm thickness.
The phone is available in three colours: grey, silver and gold.
The Honor 5X will suit those looking for a phone with a large screen phone as it comes with a 5.5in display – a fair amount larger than most of Honor’s previous devices. The resolution remains at Full HD, so the pixel density is a little lower, but 401ppi is hardly poor. For us the screen is decent for the price, but the overall quality doesn’t match up to flagship devices from the likes of Samsung, of course.
Instead of using a Kirin processor, Honor has switched over to Qualcomm for the 5X, and although it’s powered by the Snapdragon 615 across the pond, the firm has gone one better for Europe – literally. It has opted to use the Snapdragon 616 instead. That’s still an octa-core chip with Andreno 405 graphics. There is 2GB of RAM, which is what we expect at this price.
During our tests, we found performance to be slick and speedy, with only a small amount of lag when opening apps and the like. As you can see from our benchmark results (opposite), its Geekbench 3 scores are very good (matching the Xiaomi Redmi 3) and it almost keeps up with the Honor 7 in the graphics department. We’ve not had any problems playing titles such as Alto’s Adventure either.
It’s good news for dual-SIM fans as the Honor 5X can take both Micros- and Nano-SIMs. There’s also a microSD slot for cards up to 128GB and 16GB of internal storage.
On the photography front, the 5X has a 13Mp (Sony sensor) rear camera and a dual-tone flash. Don’t expect anything like optical image stabilisation and an aperture of f/2.0 isn’t going to offer the best low light performance around. That said, the camera is capable for the price and the app is decent with a selection of modes and filters. At the front is a pretty average 5Mp camera with a 22mm lens and f/2.4 aperture (see our test image opposite).
Although the 5X comes with a fingerprint scanner, it lacks some of the extras that we expect in today’s handsets, such as 11ac Wi-Fi, NFC and an infrared transmitter. All of these are available on the Honor 7.
The battery is a non-removable 3000mAh cell and Honor claims you’ll be able to get a day from the
phone with heavy use. Moderate use will mean the device will last for 1.4 days, according to the firm. In our battery life test, it lasted five hours 12 minutes with a score of 3125, which is not as good as we hoped.
It’s a shame to see the Honor 5X preloaded with Android 5.1 Lollipop and not the latest version 6.0 Marshmallow. However, that’s not the biggest problem here. Sadly, Emotion UI 3.1 is.
We’ve talked about its failings in almost every Huawei and Honor review we’ve written, but the software remains a sticking point when it comes to these phones. That’s a big shame when the design and hardware is generally strong.
The continuing lack of an app menu or app drawer means you end up with an iOS-style set of homescreen panels, which get littered with app icons. Yes, you can put them folders but that’s not what most Android users want – it’s not how Google made the operating system. You can change the look and feel of the interface with a wide range of themes, but none change this key element.
Honor has also changed other areas such as the drop-down notification bar and recent apps menu, and although we don’t dislike them, it’s different to stock Android and that is another thing that might put some users off.
You can draw a letter on the screen to launch an app –a ‘c’ for camera, for example – if you switch it on in Motion Controls. It only works with four letters, though. A one-handed mode means you can view the interface on a smaller scale if you’re struggling with the size of the screen. There are other handy things such as being able to double-tap the screen to switch it on, but this, along with others, are all off by default so you have to go searching for them.
As well as unlocking the phone, the fingerprint scanner can be used to launch apps. You can assign up to five of your favourite to different fingers, although this can sometimes be awkward, so it’s a bit on the gimmicky side of things. Luckily the world of Android is pretty easy to customise, so some issues, such as the app menu, can be sorted by installing the Google Now launcher. However, we’re still not convinced by the Emotion UI.
The Honor 5X is another great value phone from Huawei’s sub-brand. It offers excellent design and build with some solid specs too. It is missing some elements such as NFC and 11ac Wi-Fi so you might be better off spending a little more on the Honor 7, especially now it’s dropped to £209 (on offer).
JetStream** higher is better