Honor 5X Review

Premium Quality Meets Affordability

If I told you to think about a phone that cost under $200, what comes to mind? Probably a mid-range device that’s decent, but not great. It’s got OK specs, an OK camera, and lacks features that flagships have. Build quality wise, you’re probably thinking plastic as well. However what if there was a phone that changed that? What if you could have the same features of a flagship, solid specs, a solid camera, and even, oh, an all metal design? Well, that’s a reality with the new Honor 5X. At under $200 it’s one heck of a value, but is it actually worth buying? Let’s find out.

Specs

  • 5.5” IPS LCD Display – 1920×1080
  • Snapdragon 616 Processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB Storage (expandable via microSD)
  • 13MP Rear Camera
  • 5MP Front Camera
  • Rear fingerprint sensor
  • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop/EMUI 3.1
  • 3,000 mAh Battery

Hardware

Let’s just all take a minute to say it. This does not look like a budget smartphone. With an all-metal build on the outside, this is a great looking device. It feels similar to HTC’s One lineup, but not quite as “solid”. It feels like the metal isn’t as thick, or heavy, or something that I can’t quite put my finger on.

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That said, this phone feels great compared to anything out there. There really aren’t many phones on the market  in general that achieve a premium feeling like this, and the Honor 5X has done that for under half the price that most of them do.

That’s not to say the hardware isn’t without its faults however. The top and bottom of the back of the phone are both plastic, although that fact is cleverly hidden if you take a simple glance. The back itself also seems very prone to scratching, something that will undoubtedly become apparent as time goes on.

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The design of this phone is something you’d never expect by looking at the price. Even though this isn’t the best all-metal phone, it’s just dang impressive how good it really is.

Display

Flipping the device over, you get a look at the 5.5” 1080p IPS LCD display. I’m going to sound like I’m repeating myself a bit here, but this is an impressive display for a phone this cheap. It’s not the best out there, or even on a device in this price category, but it’s surprisingly good, all things considered. Colors are good and the viewing angles are great, it’s just brightness that is a bit lacking.

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Unlike most devices, the Honor 5X comes out of the box with a pre-installed screen protector. In my opinion this is a great addition as it keeps the screen protected right away and saves you a few dollars if you usually pick up a screen protector for you device. Of course you can remove it, but really there’s no need to do so.

Software & Performance

Under the hood on the Honor 5X is a Snapdragon 615 processor paired with 2GB of RAM. Combined with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop and Huawei’s EMUI, this makes for decent performance, but it’s nothing amazing.

The phone can keep up with most daily tasks such as checking social media, taking and viewing photos, and watching videos. One area that I noticed it suffering however was in surfing the web through Google Chrome. Things improved a bit through the stock browser, but even then it was a pretty laggy experience. Actually, that’s a good description of overall performance on the phone. Everything from swiping between menus to opening apps has plenty of noticeable dropped frames and while it’s entirely usable and honestly not all that bad, it’s something you will notice if you’re coming from a higher-end device or even something like the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 or Moto G.

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Gaming was also pretty good on this phone. The Snapdragon 615 paired with the Adreno 405 GPU provide a surprisingly good experience when playing casual and fairly graphic intensive games. You’ll find a dropped frame here or there and perhaps the occasional lag, but overall I can’t really complain. Even better than that however is the fact that this device doesn’t heat up when it’s gaming.

Within the EMUI skin there are dozens of features along with some fairly questionable design choices. As far as the features go, it’s actually pretty overwhelming what this skin is capable of. There are some fairly impressive power management options which help users identify apps that are taking up more power than they should be and even some interesting methods of clearing up RAM and storage on the device, but the problem is that these features are almost too much. Huawei is giving users a lot to play with on the Honor 5X, but they shouldn’t. Power users will be happy to see this level of control, but with the phone encouraging users to constantly clear out RAM and storage without telling them the consequences, it’s almost certainly going to do more harm than good.

I could go on for a while talking about the various features within EMUI, but I don’t think I can beat what Phandroid’s Chris Chavez’ has to say on it. Go check out his software overview here.

Battery Life

Inside the Honor 5X is a sealed in 3,000 mAh battery which is honestly one of the more impressive features of the device. I can get through a full day of heavy usage on this phone without any worry about needing a charge. On a heavy day full of social media use, watching videos, and playing games, the Honor 5X had no issues making it until the end of the day.

One thing worth mentioning however is that there is no fast charging on this device. It’s USB 2.0 port and the chipset as well both do not support the feature.

Camera

On the back of the Honor 5X is a 13MP camera and all I can really say about it is that it’s pretty decent. Although it’s got plenty of megapixels, that doesn’t mean much in the final photos. In a well lit area, sure, it can take a solid shot, but don’t expect anything like what other devices are capable of. Below is a gallery of shots taken on the Honor 5X.

Also worth noting is the camera app itself. The interface is pretty, um, familiar (cough, iOS, cough), but it’s easy to use and has plenty of features, and that’s all we care about. The camera isn’t the fastest to take the actual shot, but really you could do much worse.

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Fingerprint Sensor

Last but not least, I wanted to talk about my favorite feature on the Honor 5X. While most $200 smartphones already don’t match the processing power or build quality of this phone, the fingerprint sensor is what really sets it apart. Just like the Nexus 6P and Mate 8, the Honor 5X places it’s sensor on the back and this is really where I’ve come to prefer it.

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The scanner itself is quick, accurate, and easy to set up as well.

Backed up with EMUI however, the sensor gains plenty of extra functionality. Through some toggles within the settings menu, you can set the sensor up to do some awesome things such as pulling down the notification shade, opening apps, and more. I personally have it set up to pull down the notification shade with a downward swipe, pull up the recent apps menu with a swipe up, and open up Google Hangouts when I unlock the phone with my right hand’s middle finger.

The Little Things

One thing worth mentioning about the Honor 5X is its connectivity. Here in the States you won’t be able to use CDMA networks such as Verizon, but you can use it on AT&T, T-Mobile, and other GSM networks. Thanks to the dual-SIM card slot, you’ll even be able to use both on the same device if you choose to do so. .

The Honor 5X also lacks NFC, meaning you won’t be able to use mobile payments such as Android Pay or take advantage of other NFC features.

Another small note, the speakers. They are, I don’t want to say they’re terrible, but yeah they’re pretty terrible. Not only are they extremely easy to cover up while playing games, but they are not very loud and sound quality is not impressive at all.

Final Thoughts

The Honor 5X has seen a lot of praise since its announcement, but does that all come down to hype over the build? Not really to be honest. I wouldn’t be so quick to say this is an amazing phone or even the best budget smartphone, but the Honor 5X is a really good budget smartphone.

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If you can put up with the convoluted software and inconsistent performance, you’ll be impressed by the outstanding hardware and fingerprint sensor. Even with its issues, the Honor 5X can get away with them simply because of it’s price point. This isn’t meant to be a phone that blows you away, it’s meant to be a phone that doesn’t skip out on any particular area in order to achieve a certain price point. If that appeals to you, you can pick it up in the US through Honor’s website, through Amazon, or from various other online retailers.