We’re slowly progressing to a stage where budget smartphones have few trade-offs when compared against higher end devices. A few names spring to mind when we talk of budget but the one that stands out is Honor, the Huawei sub-brand. Having received great consumer feedback on last year’s 5X, does the new Honor 6X do enough to fill its boots?
1. Design and build
The Honor 6X comes in a chassis similar to the 5X. It sports a premium build for the most part with the exception of the bottom and top panels of the phone. Power and volume controls are robust, though their plastic build is noticeable. But for a smartphone at this price point, retaining an overall cold and metallic feel is quite impressive.
The dual-camera at the back of the device protrudes a bit but that doesn’t hinder usability in any way. Additionally, the placement of the fingerprint sensor seemed well thought-out. To complement the speed and reliability of the same, the natural resting position of my index finger fell right on top of the sensor, unlocking the phone as soon as it was pulled out of my pocket.
For media consumption, the Honor 6X packs a large 5.5-inch Full HD display on the front. It gets delivers plenty of brightness for outdoor use and viewing angles were impressive with minimal to no change in colour. However, the screen does have a slight yellowish tinge, which makes colour reproduction slightly inaccurate. This is by no means a deal-breaker and you will have no trouble watching videos or movies on the display.
To complement the experience, a mono speaker is built into the bottom of the phone. Normally, I do not forgive the single speaker despite the presence of two cut outs but at this price point, an exception is called for. Sound output was loud but not enough for constant use in a noisy environment. Its placement also feels a bit awkward with my palm constantly muffling sound when I used the phone in landscape mode.
3. User experience
The backbone of the handset is its processing power. You’ll find a 2.1GHz octa-core Kirin 655 processor along with either 3GB or 4GB RAM depending on your model. Personally, performance was not an issue. The device handled browsing the web and regular day-to-day tasks well with only the occasional stutter.
With 3GB of RAM in my review unit, multitasking was not as seamless as I expected. Animations were jittery and apps took a while to load but it did not bother me too much. A similar trend was seen when gaming. High-graphic games showed frame drops and lag spikes but most 2D games functioned without issue.
The primary drawback with the experience is the software. The Honor 6X runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow (upgradeable to Android 7.0 Nougat in the future) underneath a heavily skinned EMUI. It is far adrift from the usual Android operating system and tends to mimic iOS on a number of fronts. However, changing it up is not very difficult. In my case, I downloaded the Google Now Launcher via the Play Store to fine tune the experience to my needs.
The phrase “dual-camera on a budget” does not seem to go together but Honor has managed to do just that. The primary sensor is a dual 12MP and 2MP unit capable of some great pictures. Images snapped during the day seem to have a pleasant sharpness to them and the camera reproduces colours well. The shutter speed is slightly on the slower side but is adequate for most shooting scenarios.
The dual sensor at the back of the device is also no gimmick. It makes for some very pleasant shallow depth of field and allows for one of my favourite software tweaks. Once a picture has been taken, the user can change the focus of it later. This is great for when there are multiple subjects in the picture, however it does not work all the time.
As far as night shooting is concerned, the camera takes a significant hit. Noise is visible and lights are overexposed. Video too is not a strong point for the device with footage being slightly on the softer side. Even when holding the phone steady, the stutter in the captured Full HD video was visible.
The front of the device features an 8MP primary camera. This performs well in the day and is on par even in darker environments. Selfies on the move are difficult to capture with the smartphone so you will have to be standing still before hitting the shutter button. Software tweaks such as beauty mode are present by default but I swayed away from those.
5. Battery life
Budget smartphones tend to compromise when it comes to battery performance but the 3,340mAh cell in the 6X is far from that. The hardware on the smartphone coupled with the giant battery provides great usage times. On average, screen-on times will range anywhere between four and five hours at close to 50 per cent brightness.
This included watching a couple of videos, browsing the web, social media interaction and playing a few games. The compromise with battery though is not all that evident. The handset does not support fast charging or wireless charging via the microUSB port but it is hardly noticeable.
To put it simply, the Honor 6X is a budget beast. It may have its fair share of drawbacks in speaker playback and software but the positives it brings to the table far surpass these. With tremendous battery life, an above-par display and the surprising dual-camera lens, it was a true “Honor” using the phone.
Currently, the smartphone is available for Dh919 for the 32GB variant, which includes the option of either a dual sim or microSD hybrid slot. At this price point, the phone’s direct competitor is the year-old Moto G4 Plus. Until Motorola showcases its line-up for 2017, it is safe to say that the Honor 6X is so far the best budget smartphone of 2017.