In the last couple of years, the budget smartphone segment has grown fast and become increasingly popular in emerging markets with acceptable sacrifices on features.
It has helped several people in developing nations switch to smartphones – a phenomenon pioneered by Asian giants like Huawei. We got our first look at the sleek and beautiful Honor 5X at CES earlier this year and got to use this device for the last 2 weeks. We have a lot to say about this wonderfully cheap and exquisite device. Head to the bottom of this article for our video unboxing the device and the highlights you need to know about.
Honor 5X: Hardware Highlights
The Honor 5X is a mid-range spec phone available for Dh899 – it’s a steal. Unlike most budget smartphones at this price point, Huawei hasn’t compromised on the display: it’s got a 5.5-inch LCD screen running at a 1080×1920 pixel resolution and looks great in all lights.
With a sleek, diamond-polished aluminium alloy normally reserved for aircraft bodies, the phone looks and feels great. The finish on it comes from a special brushing technique that produces a consistent and polished finish. It is available in three striking colours: White, Black and Gold. Our review piece was the gold and definitely feels less flashy than it sounds.
Our review piece was the gold and definitely feels less flashy than it sounds.
The fingerprint sensor is located at the back of the phone, below the camera, and works brilliantly. Huawei boasts a half-second unlock which lives up every time I placed my finger on it. Powering this is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor with 2GB of RAM. You’ve got a 13-MP snapper at the back which does more than a decent job with a 5-MP front camera that doesn’t disappoint an avid selfie taker.
Huawei is kind enough to throw in a case as well as a screen protector for the phone in the box as you can see in our unboxing video above. It has dual-sim functionality (one nano and one micro) along with a microSD card slot that can take up to 128GB. The hefty 3,000mAh battery does a great job at allowing a medium-heavy user last an entire day without requiring a charge.
Honor 5X: Software Insights
Huawei uses Android’s 5.1 (Lollipop) base to create a fairly different OS of their own called the EMUI. If you love vanilla Android and appreciate the experience as much as I do, you’re going to want this phone out of your life at first. Be patient and power through the initial shock and you may start to like it.
Be patient and power through the initial shock and you may start to like it.
EMUI doesn’t have much bloatware, which I appreciate greatly. The user interface is sleek and provides a good overall experience. Huawei has taken many positive design cues to make the overall OS colourful and friendly for avid Android users as well someone who may be using a smartphone for the first time – a big target market for the brand.
Some may find similarities to Apple’s iOS here as Huawei has redesigned and rethought just about every aspect of the system. One gaping example of this is how every app downloaded takes up space on the home screen and subsequent pages due to absence of an app menu. Another call-back to iOS is when you swipe down from the top and see a translucent menu with two tabs: Notifications and Shortcuts. Your notifications are arranged in a timeline manner, similar to iOS and the Shortcuts tabs has your usual shortcuts with a Screenshot button which was a welcome sight. Now if you were to slide up from the bottom of the lock screen you’ll see a small drawer appear with shortcuts for the flashlight, calculator, camera and voice recorder – something else borrowed from Apple’s playbook.
EMUI’s app icons are oddly shaped and larger than necessary. Due to this, all apps downloaded are made to fit into this large square’ish shape rounded at the corner and a lot of the apps just look bloated or are cut off at some point. Design being sacrificed at the hands of consistency is a sad note here for EMUI. Most may not even notice this but once you do, it really sticks out.
Honor 5X: Performance & Battery
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor and 2GB RAM gives the Honor 5X a decent amount of bang for the average user and coupled with the 3,000mAH battery, there’s plenty of decent ways of using this phone without feeling like you’ve compromised too much.
There are 3 power options to choose from that will dictate how the phone will behave and how much battery it’ll use. You can also “Optimise” the battery where the phone does a quick overhaul by closing a bunch of apps, switching off GPS, changing the screen brightness to auto etc. to save as much battery as possible at that time.
You can also choose one of three power plans: Ultra, Smart or Normal. Ultra keeps only basic call and message functions so you’re using this when you’re at the lowest point and need to get in final few hours of the day. It almost doubles the battery life but you’re practically using a feature phone with a great screen at this point.
Smart automatically adjusts the CPU and network usage for balanced performance and this is recommended for daily use. I couldn’t use this for half a day without half my notifications not coming through when I needed them. This is not for daily use. The battery saving here seemed average at best when compared to Normal.
Finally, the Normal setting lets you use the phone as it’s meant to be and you can easily squeeze a day’s worth of battery out of it. I was streaming videos, listening to music, browsing all social media channels and even using maps with GPS on High Accuracy a couple times a day and I would only put it to charge before I sleep. While in Normal, the phone runs fine with apps opening at a fare pace and you can multitask without too much frustration. If there are a few too many apps doing background tasks though, you’ll experience the slight lag here and there.
Honor 5X: Camera
Cameras on smartphones are tricky business. You’ve got flagship phones that have inferior cameras from some phone makers and you’ve got Huawei’s Honor 5X that packs in a really good 13-MP shooter at the back with an equally impressive 5-MP snapper in the front. You’ve got 5 modes you can play around with: Good Food (yup!), Beauty, Photo, Video and Time Lapse. The Beauty setting is becoming a standard in camera software now.
The Beauty setting is becoming a standard in camera software now.
If you haven’t gotten a chance at using this before, it basically clears up your skin and generally beautifies your face using soft focus to make everything look smoother. With HDR, burst-photography and panorama features available in the settings, you’ve got a fully equipped camera for all your amateur snapping needs.
Huawei credits its SmartImage 3.0 image processor for all the crisp photos and it deserves that credit. The interface, like most of the phone, is sleek and easy to use. You pick up all you need to in the first couple of minutes and you’ve begun snapping by minute 3 trying out all the different modes and features it has. With ample light you have great photos. Low-light is where most cameras struggle and so did this one. The front 5-MP performed great in all tests as well so all your selfie needs are well taken care of here.
Honor 5X: In Conclusion
Huawei does not disappoint with the Honor 5X. The software can take a little getting used to, but if you’re not as picky as I am, you’ll be fine. At just Dh899 you’re getting a medium-spec phone that looks good, works great and can easily be long-lasting. Battery and OS are one of my first lookouts when reviewing a phone and this really fared well on those fronts.
Camera and performance come second and it didn’t disappoint often on those fronts either. With a sleek UI and the Play Store filled with enough launchers and skins, you can customise this phone as per your liking and be very happy knowing you spent less than a thousand Dirhams on a worthy smartphone. It’s definitely not perfect, but is good value for money.