Chinese OEM honor may have only been around for a couple of years, but the Huawei subsidiary has recently been trying to make a splash in global markets. Last month, it introduced the new honor 5X to the US market at CES and today at an event in Germany, the honor 5X made its Western European bow.
It’s been a year since honor released the honor 6 and honor 6 plus and last August, we saw the first switch to metal with the honor 7. Now, the honor 5X aims to offer a premium experience at a very affordable price, but how does it compare to honor’s flagship and which one should you buy? Join us below for a quick look.
Before we dig into our first look, let’s take a look at the specs of each of these smartphones:
|honor 5X||honor 7|
|Display||5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 resolution, 401ppi|
TP & LCD full lamination
|5.2-inch IPS LCD|
Full HD, 424 ppi
|Processor||Octa-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 616|
Adreno 405 GPU
|2.2 GHz octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 935 processor|
expandable up to 128GB via microSD
expandable up to 128GB
|Software||Android 5.1.1 Lollipop|
Planned upgrade to Android Marshmallow
|Android 5.1.1 Lollipop|
Planned upgrade to Android Marshmallow
|Dual SIM||Yes, 2 SIM cards and microSD card||Yes, 2 SIM cards or 1 SIM + micro SD|
|Camera||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
dual LED flash
5MP front, no flash
|20 MP rear camera with|
f/2.0 aperture, 1/2.4" sensor size, phase detection autofocus
dual LED flash
8 MP front,with flash
|Connectivity||WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, 2.4QG|
GPS, AGPS, Glonass
|Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac|
|Sensors||Fingerprint sensor, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, Digital compass||Fingerprint sensor, Accelerometer, |
Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, Digital compass
|Battery||3000mAh, non-removable||3100mAh, non-removable|
|Dimensions||151.3 x 76.3 x 8.15mm|
|143.2 x 71.9 x 8.5 mm|
|Colors||Dark Grey, Daybreak Silver, Sunset Gold||Gray, Silver, Gold|
Both handsets adopt a similar design with large displays and equally large bezels dominating the front of the handset. As you might expect, they adopt a similar design to Huawei’s own smartphones, albeit with enough tweaks to have their own identity. Put close together, you might struggle to distinguish them apart, however, as you might expect from two similar yet unique smartphones, there are certain things that can help you tell them apart.
On the front is the most noticeable difference: the display. The honor 5X has a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS display while the honor 7 sports a smaller 5.2-inch IPS-Neo display of the same resolution, but crucially, this comes with Gorilla Glass 3 protection. In actual usage, the honor 7 display is noticeably more vibrant with colours and while the honor 5X display is definitely inferior, it still provides a good experience. Each handset comes with a screen protector applied out of the box, and while you’ll have few issues if you remove the protector on the honor 7, the honor 5X display does scratch quite easily.
One of the most noticeable differences is the Smart Key on the left of the Honor 7, which lets you set customisable shortcuts to launch certain apps or features but has been left out of the honor 5X. Given the lower price of the 5X, certain sacrifices are to be expected and as useful as the Smart Key can prove to be, it’s an acceptable sacrifice.
Each phone sports a metal frame, where on the bottom, you’ll find the speakers – a mono speaker in the honor 7 and stereo speakers in the honor 5X – and microUSB ports. On the left, you’ll find the SIM card tray and a key difference: the honor 7 has two independent trays, with the first used for SIM cards and the second for a microSD card or a second SIM card. In comparison, the honor 5X has just one tray but gains an extra slot; while many handsets do offer dual SIM support, only a handful allow you to use two SIM cards and a microSD card at the same time.
Both handsets offer metal unibody designs, with the honor 7 sporting a matte finish, and the honor 5X a brushed design. While the honor 7 feels premium in every sense of the word, the honor 5x… doesn’t. It’s difficult to explain why, but despite being very well built, the honor 5x doesn’t feel like a premium metal smartphone. That being said, it’s still a very nice design and more than solid in the hand.
Underneath the camera, each device has a square fingerprint sensor and this is an area that Huawei – like we saw with the Nexus 6P – and subsequently, honor, definitely excel in the smartphone market. The honor 7 bought a range of features to the fingerprint sensor including being able to launch a call or app and the honor 5X also has a few tricks up its own sleeve. Different taps and swipes on the sensor can be used to navigate back to the home screen, access recent apps, dismiss your alarm, answer calls, take a photo and much more.
It’s worth noting though that while both fingerprint sensors do offer a lot of features, and are exceptionally fast at unlocking your phone, you won’t be able to use them for Android Pay. As both devices also run Android 5.1.1 at their core – although, the honor 7 is expected to get the Marshmallow update in the coming weeks – you won’t be able to access any apps that use Marshmallow’s built-in fingerprint API.
Overall, hardware has been a strength for Huawei for a few years now and as we’ve seen with the honor 7, and now the honor 5x, the company can offer great hardware at an affordable price.
An issue that’s faced both honor and Huawei devices, is the interface with EMUI proving to provide polarized opinions. Both devices run on EMUI v3.1 atop Android 5.1.1 Lollipop but is it any better than previous interface and have some glaring issues been fixed?
One of the biggest differences between EMUI and a more traditional Android approach is the home-screen and launcher, where Huawei has opted to ditch the traditional app drawer and place all your app icons on your home screens. While some of you may find this disconcerting, it does become usable after you get used to it and you can always install a launcher to change some of these elements.
EMUI also heavily customises the notification menu, with it adopting a dark opaque colour that also takes on the colours from the home screen in the background. The notification menu comes with two tabs, one for Notifications and the other for Shortcuts, and a particularly neat feature is that it will automatically open the shortcuts tab if you swipe down and have no notifications.
The differences are minimal between the two on the software front, but the honor 7 does come with a range of software features that are – oddly – missing on the honor 5X. These include the Knuckle Sense feature that let you capture a screenshot or launching an app by drawing a letter or tapping with your knuckle on the display.
Also absent is the voice command feature that allowed you to locate your phone from a distance, and while missing features are always worth mentioning, it’s worth noting that these features aren’t the most reliable. Instead, the honor 5X offers a more simplified experience that is actually more pleasing to use than EMUI on the honor 7.
Overall, EMUI is certainly not stock Android, but Huawei’s approach does have its fans and the software experience from the honor 7 to the honor 5X has definitely been improved. The latter offers a more refined interface and while both do still have their issues, it’s good to see that Huawei is making progress in the software department. Neither smartphone runs the latest Marshmallow OS, but the update is already available as a beta for the honor 7 and is expected to launch for the honor 5X in the coming months.
Hardware & Performance
Under the hood is where you’ll find a major change from the honor 7 to the honor 5x; the processor. With the former, honor opted to use Huawei’s own HiSilicon Kirin processor, while the latter is powered by a Qualcomm processor.
The Kirin 935 inside the honor 7 features eight Cortex-A53 cores, with four clocked at 2.2GHz and four at 1.5GHz, while the Snapdragon 616 inside the honor 5X has the same amount of cores at lower clock speeds of 1.5GHz and 1.2GHz respectively. The honor 7 sports 3GB RAM under the hood while the honor 5X has just 2GB but a crucial difference is also the GPU; the Kirin 935 has a Mali-T628 GPU while the honor 5X has an Adreno 405 GPU, which should, in theory, offer better graphics performance.
Both smartphones also come with expandable storage and the honor 7 has either 16GB, 32GB or 64GB storage depending on which model you go for. The honor 5X meanwhile offers 16GB storage across all models, meaning you’ll most likely need a microSD card to expand the measly storage.
Given the price differences between the two devices, some concessions were to be expected, and under the hood is where honor has attempted to scale back some of the features. The honor 7 offers Wi-Fi n/ac, a wide range of Bluetooth profiles, NFC, infrared and LTE Cat 6, which offers download speeds of 300Mbps on the go. In comparison, the honor 5X offers just Wi-Fi n and doesn’t come with support for 5GHz wireless, has no NFC or infrared capability and supports the slower, yet still very fast, LTE Cat 4.
Where both smartphones certainly excel is the battery, with the honor 5X offering a large 3000 mAh battery, and the honor 7, a 3100mAh battery. Compared to other devices at the same price point as these devices, the battery capacity is definitely on the larger side of the market and each smartphone should easily last you a full day’s usage.
On the back, each handset has a square camera sensor and the honor 5X follows on from the honor 7’s camera fantastic camera, albeit not without some compromises. Budget smartphones aren’t known for having fantastic cameras, but honor has sought to break the mould by equipping the honor 5X with a 13MP shooter with f/2.0 aperture, 28mm wide-angle lens, blue glass infrared filter, anti-reflective coating and Huawei’s SmartImage 3.0 image processor for low light shots.
In comparison, the honor 7 comes with a 20MP 27mm wide-angle lens with f/2.0 aperture, 1/2.4” sensor size, phase detection autofocus and a range of software features including the super-night and light-trail modes. Both handsets offer dual LED flash and Full HD video recording but only the honor 7 offers HDR in video.
honor 5X camera samples
On the front, the honor 5X has a 5MP sensor with 22mm wide angle lens, f/2.4 aperture while the honor 7 has an 8MP sensor with 26mm wide angle lens, f/2.4 and an LED flash. Both devices also come with Huawei’s Beauty Mode feature that lets you apply effects and filters to your selfies to bring out your face’s natural features.
honor 7 camera samples
Overall, both cameras are certainly impressive for their respective price points and there’s no doubt that the honor 7 camera is one of the best at the price point. Where honor have done exceptionally well however, is in the camera on the honor 5X; it’s rare that budget smartphones have cameras worth talking about, but, despite its shortcomings, the honor 5X camera definitely breaks the theory that budget smartphones should have poor cameras.
There’s no doubt that the honor 7 is a smartphone that’s helped honor capture the mid-range market and to follow it up, the company has attempted to take on the budget segment. With a 5.5-inch 1080p display, metal build, excellent fingerprint sensor and impressive camera, there’s a lot to like about the honor 5X before you even see its price point.
Throughout this quick look, we’ve been talking about the price without mentioning it and there’s a very good reason for that; the honor 5X feature set may seem like it should cost $300 or more for an unlocked device, honor’s latest smartphone costs just $199 unlocked, direct from the Chinese OEM. In comparison, the honor 7 isn’t officially available to buy in the USA – not least from honor directly – but can be had for approximately $350 to $450 depending on where you choose to buy from.
Which smartphone should you buy? It’s a rather straight forward decision; at its price point, the honor 7 has a lot of competition from a lot of more established devices, including last year’s flagships and becomes a lot harder to recommend. However, at its $199 price point, there’s very few devices that can compete with the honor 5X’s feature list and none that offer the same metal build and ultrafast fingerprint sensor.
For more on each handset, be sure to head over to our honor 7 and honor 5X reviews. Let us know what you think about each smartphone and which you’d buy in the comments below and over in our honor forum, where you’ll find more discussions around honor and the company’s devices.