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There may have not been a lot of high-profile Android device releases at this year’s CES, but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t anything for consumers to get excited about. In particular, the latest smartphone offering from honor joins the ever growing list of smartphones that fall in the “premium but affordable” category, and continues to push the boundaries for what is expected from a device with a sub-$200 price tag.
The great news here is that with the honor 5X seeing an official release in the US, users don’t have to worry about compatibility with US network carriers, or any costs that are otherwise associated with importing these devices. What else does the latest budget-friendly offering from honor bring to the table? We find out, in this comprehensive honor 5X review!
As mentioned, the honor 5X blurs the lines when it comes to what we generally expect from a device at this price point, and that starts with its design and build quality, with the phone featuring a metal unibody construction. The brushed metal build allows for a premium look and feel that you will be hard-pressed to find with other budget-friendly smartphones, but it has to be mentioned that the metal does make the phone quite slippery. Unfortunately, the metal is not of the highest grade either, making the body prone to scratches, and something you will have to be cautious about when handling it.
While even the sides are made of metal, the top and bottom of the phone is made from plastic, but honor has done a great job of making that something that is not particularly noticeable just by looking at it. The power button and volume rocker are on the right side, and offer a good amount of tactile feedback. The buttons also feature a grippy, textured pattern that makes for a pleasant experience when using them. The headphone jack and the microUSB port are at up top and at the bottom respectively, with the latter flanked by two grills, even though only one of them houses the speaker.
The honor 5X weighs 158 grams and is 8.2 mm thick, and with its 5.5-inch display, the handling experience is very manageable. All said and done, it is certainly very impressive that honor has managed to bring something that is quickly becoming the high-end standard, a metal build, to a device that falls in the budget category, and goes above and beyond what its price point might suggest.
The honor 5X comes with a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 401 ppi. The display is actually quite impressive as well, and features vibrant colors that aren’t too over saturated, and with the whites being neither too warm, nor too cool. At this resolution, text is sharp and clear, and brightness is of no concern either, and allows for comfortable outdoor visibility.
However, of note is the fact that the backlight shines through in darker areas more so than what is seen with other LCD panels out there, and the black bezel around the display can also be a bit of an eyesore, especially if you opt for the white version of the device. That said, these are the only areas where the screen falls short, and the overall viewing experience on this display is otherwise really good.
Under the hood, the honor 5X comes with an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor, clocked at 1.5 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 405 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. There is a 3 GB of RAM version of the device available as well though, for those looking to get a little more out of the multi-tasking capabilities of the device. This has been the processing package of choice for most smartphones that fall in this premium but affordable category, and while the performance understandably doesn’t match up to current generation flagships, it has usually been good for the most part.
However, that isn’t entirely the case when it comes to the honor 5X, with things seeming a little more sluggish that what we’ve seen before. Animations will be choppy occasionally, and applications do take an extra second to open. There is also a bit of a delay when pressing keys on the keyboard, and the phone even freezes for a second or two while typing. You may also see app refreshes when switching between then via the Recent Apps screen, which is why spending a little extra to get the 3 GB RAM version may make sense for some users. Granted, the performance isn’t vastly different when compared to other smartphones powered by the Snapdragon 616, and these extra stutters can be attributed to the lack of polish of HUAWEI’s EMUI software package as well.
16 GB is the only internal storage option available here, but you do get expandable storage via microSD card by up to 128 GB, to help alleviate any storage concerns. The device also comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, along with dual SIM capabilities, as well as 4G LTE compatibility on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks, which is something that cannot often be said about smartphones from Chinese OEMs, and is another big positive of the honor 5X.
Another useful addition in hardware that is not usually found with other similarly priced smartphones is a fingerprint scanner, placed on the back of the phone. The rear placement of the fingerprint reader definitely grows on you, and makes unlocking the device very easy, and without the need for any unnecessary hand gymnastics. The scanner also unlocks the device directly, without you having to press the power button first, and the reader is very fast and reliable. To see a fingerprint scanner on a budget-friendly device is an impressive fact by itself, and even more so when considering its high quality.
The scanner does more than just unlock the device as well, and offers some additional functionality in the form of gesture controls. Swiping up launches the Recent Apps screen, a tap takes you back to any previous screen, and a tap and hold functions as a home button. Swiping down opens the notification drop down, and you can even use the scanner to answer calls, silence alarms, and take photos. With it being fast and very reliable, and packed with a slew of useful gesture controls, it has to be said that the honor 5X features one of the best fingerprint scanner implementations in the market right now.
Despite the appearance of a dual speaker setup, only the grill at the bottom right houses a speaker, and with this placement, is very easy to cover up when watching videos or playing games in the landscape orientation. The sound quality of the speaker is not particularly good either, with audio sounding muffled and almost distorted, even at lower volumes.
The honor 5X comes with a 3,000 mAh non-removable battery, and allows for surprisingly impressive battery life. Even on a day which involved a lot of gaming and taking pictures, the device managed close to 6 hours of screen-on time. You may not be getting any fast charging capabilities here, but with the battery life being as good as it is, its absence is not going to be felt either.
The honor 5X comes with a 13 MP rear shooter, with a f/2.0 aperture, and a dual tone LED flash, along with a 5 MP front-facing unit. There is no optical image stabilization to be had however, and overall, the quality is actually more of the same when compared to other smartphones that fall in this price range.
In optimal conditions, such as outdoors, the camera performs to the best of its ability and shots do look nice. Without any post processing or sharpening going on, pictures tend to have a lot of softness to them, but despite the seeming lack of sharpness, the images are still clear. The color temperature seems to be more towards the warm side, and colors appear to lack that punch of vibrancy as well. Areas of photos will also be overexposed the majority of the time, but all said and done, you can certainly get some pleasant looking shots from this camera when in good lighting situations.
HDR is available to help brighten up the shadows, and it does a great job for the most part. Sometimes, HDR tends to create an entirely brighter image however, resulting in a poorer looking picture instead. As lighting conditions deteriorate, the camera will try to compensate for the lack of light by increasing the shutter speed, but with no OIS to be found, very steady hands will be required to avoid blurry photos.
The camera can also shoot video in 1080p, but the lack of OIS once again means that videos will be pretty shaky, and over exposing is an issue here as well. It also tries to correct the exposure very rapidly with harsh adjustments, that can be very distracting. Video recording does come with a few extra modes though, including slow motion capture, and object tracking, which lets you select a particular object to focus on, after which the camera will track and focus on that object only, no matter where you move.
The front-facing 5 MP camera also takes some decent shots, albeit with some extra noise. Indoor shots end up being less sharp and with a great amount of noise as well. The overall camera experience definitely has a lot of room for improvement, but is actually par for the course when compared to its similarly priced competition.
On the software side of things, the honor 5X is running HUAWEI’s EMUI 3.1 out of the box, based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. You won’t see a lot of Material Design elements in this user interface, and as is the case with most software packages from Chinese OEMs, there is no app drawer to be found, leaving users dependent on folders to stay organized.
The software package is of course, very different from stock Android, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The notification drop down is very well organized, and split into two parts, with one housing all the notifications, and a swipe left required to bring up the quick toggles. Not only does this allow for a lot more notifications to be shown at once, but there is a lot more information here as well, including the exact time for received notifications. Customizations are seen in the form of themes, transition animations, and home screen grid, and you also get some fun features like shake to re-align icons and auto-align.
This particular software experience may not be for everybody, but if you do give it a chance, there are a lot of extra and fun features to be had. HUAWEI has also stated that the honor 5X will receive timely software updates, including an official OTA update for EMUI 4.0 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, as well as monthly security updates. In fact, the security updates for January are already available for the device, even before its release, and it does look like HUAWEI is going to stick to their word in this regard.
5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 resolution, 401ppi
TP & LCD full lamination
Android 5.1 Lollipop
HUAWEI EMUI 3.1
Octa-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 616
2GB of RAM
16GB, expandable up to 128GB via microSD
13MP rear camera with f/2.0 aperture, SmartImage 3.0 image processor, 28mm wide angle lens with flash
5MP front camera with f/2.4 aperture, 22mm wide angle
GSM 850, WCDMA Bands 1, 2, 4, 5, LTE Bands 2, 4, 5, 12, 17
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, 2.4QG
GPS, AGPS, Glonass
Fingerprint sensor, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, Digital compass
151.3 x 76.3 x 8.15mm
Dark Grey, Daybreak Silver, Sunset Gold
Pricing and final thoughts
The honor 5X is currently available from Amazon and NewEgg. It’s priced at just $199.99, with the available color options including grey, silver, and gold.
So there you have it for this in-depth look at the honor 5X! Priced at just $200, the honor 5X is definitely a great buy, and is one of the only phone at this price point to offer both a premium metal build and a fingerprint scanner, aspects that are usually found with devices priced at more than double what the honor 5X costs. These two things alone make the phone a great bargain, but add to the mix a great display experience and a feature packed software package, and it is difficult to not recommend the honor 5X. Granted, the device isn’t flawless, with its mediocre camera and speaker, and somewhat sluggish performance, but its very affordable price tag more than makes up for any issues the phone may have.