Honor 5C review — more affordable, yet faster
+ Solid build quality
+ Kirin 650 offers a sizeable performance boost over the SD615 in the Honor 5X
+ Impressive battery life; 7 hours of on-screen time!
+ Fingerprint sensor is slightly faster than the one in the Honor 5X
+ EMUI 4.1 based on Android 6.0 performs and looks better than the previous generation
+ Built-in step counter for the health conscious is great
+ 13 MP camera offers acceptable quality in well-lit conditions
+ Camera UI is comprehensive
+ Loudspeaker is really loud
+ 5.2" 1080p IPS display offers great sunlight visibility and sharpness
+ Very affordable pricing
- A 5W charger is included in the box. Are we still in 2012?
- The great dedicated dual-SIM + microSD trays are gone; replaced by a hybrid-SIM tray
- 2GB RAM and overly-aggressive RAM management may lead to missed notifications
- Noticeable delay when starting up the camera
- Image quality degrades quickly as the lighting drops
Honor is best known for offering premium smartphones at pretty affordable prices. The last Honor device we reviewed, the Honor 5X showed us that they are very capable of that, but the performance of the Honor 5X held us back from recommending it. Now that they have released the Honor 5C with an improved processor, let’s take closer look at it.
The Honor 5C comes in the exact same packaging as the Honor 5X, the same bright blue box, with no indication of the model you are getting inside.
As soon as you lift the top half of the packaging off, you will see the Honor 5C staring back at you.
Under the phone there is a little tab to lift to reveal the other contents of the box. The Honor 5C comes with some documentation, a standard USB cable and the SIM ejector pin. The charger is a pitiable 5W charger, when most current smartphones come with 10W chargers in the box.
The front of the device is pretty standard affair. You get a 5.2″ display, with the Honor logo on the lower bezel. I have the silver colored variant with me, so it comes with matching white bezels.
Over on the rear, you get the nice brushed aluminium back panel, with the protruding camera flanked by the single LED flash. The rear mounted fingerprint sensor is also here. The brushed aluminium panel is actually inset in the plastic frame of the Honor 5C, unlike on the Honor 5X where the aluminium wraps around the sides too. Here you can see the striped plastic at the top and bottom.
More plastic ensues around the curved sides. The buttons do not feature different textures for easier identification by touch, but you wouldn’t need to use that power button as you have the fingerprint sensor on the back.
The top is home to the standard 3.5 mm audio jack and a tiny microphone hole. That’s all here.
The microUSB port on the bottom is flanked by two screws which are themselves flanked by two grilles. No dual speaker love here. The speaker is behind one grille while the other hides the microphone. Nonetheless, I appreciate the symmetry here.
|CPU:||HiSilicon Kirin 650 64-bit (4 x A53 @ 2.0 GHz + 4 x A53 @ 1.7 GHz)|
|Display:||5.2″, FHD (1080p) IPS display|
|Storage:||16GB internal (expandable with microSD up to 128GB)|
|Camera:||13MP f/2.0, single LED flash
8MP f/2.0 front camera
|OS:||Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Emotion UI 4.1|
|SIM:||nanoSIM (dual SIM support, one nanoSIM slot doubles as microSD slot)|
|Battery:||3000 mAh (non-removable)|
The Kirin 650 SoC can get confused with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 SoC, but they are two quite different things altogether. For starters, the Kirin 650 is based on the new 16nm FinFET manufacturing process, which should offer better power efficiency compared to chips based on older manufacturing processes. The GPU is a Mali T830 MP2, clocked at 600 MHz, which is promised to offer 100% more GPU performance than its predecessor, the Kirin 620. Let’s see how all these improvements under the hood present themselves in the following benchmarks.
One of the weakest points of the Honor 5X was no support for ES 3.1 and relatively weak GPU performance from the Adreno 405. The Honor 5C has a clear victory over it, thanks to much more powerful GPU which also supports the newest ES 3.1 API. This should be great news for smartphone gamers. Still, the Adreno GPUs in recent chipsets are still stronger than the Mali-T830 here.
CPU-wise, the Honor 5C again shows it is a clear upgrade over the Honor 5X with much higher scores. Considering that there is only a few months gap between the two devices, one can only wonder why didn’t Honor just release the Honor 5X with the Kirin 650 inside and be done with instead.
The Honor 5C literally blows the Honor 5X out of the water with its Antutu score. The more recent GPU and higher clocked A53 cores definitely show that they are much more worthy of being in a 2016 device.
Performance in PCMark is decent. As PCMark tests the overall performance in work-related tasks, it is no surprise that the strong CPU cores here gets high marks.
Performance is one thing, and battery life is another. As smartphones are meant to be mobile, there is no use in having more performance but lousy battery life. Well thanks to its 3000 mAh battery and frugal Kirin 650 SoC based on the 16nm FinFET manufacturing process, the Honor 5C’s battery life is no laughing matter either. With more than 16 hours away from the plug, I managed to clock 7 hours of SOT, during which I scrolled Facebook and Instagram obsessively, and Whatsapp and Messenger to reply to (a lot of) messages.
The first thing I did was to load the device with my SIM card and microSD. Much to my disappointment, Honor did away with the dual-SIM AND microSD trays, and instead it now has the usual dual-SIM OR single SIM + microSD tray. I thought Honor was going to be different, but it has shown me that they are just like the rest. I am truly disappointed.
Luckily, my experience of holding the device in my hands was not disappointing at all. Eventhough the Honor 5C has smooth plastic sides, I found holding it to be very comfortable. The smoothly curved edges fit in my hand very well. Once again, I notice that the brushed aluminium finish on the back actually offers some extra grip to prevent it from sliding out of my hand.
A grouse I had with the Honor 5X was the rather slow fingerprint sensor, as well as its inability to identify my fingerprint if my finger was just slightly dirty or wet. Well I am glad to report that the fingerprint sensor is now capable of reading my finger when it is slightly wet. It is a bit faster too. The Honor 5C allows you to using the fingerprint sensor as a shutter button or also to pick up calls, something that was sorely missed in devices running stock Android.
In place of vanilla Android, the Honor 5C runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box, with the Emotion UI 4.1 overlay. There is no app drawer in the default launcher, instead all your apps will be a swipe away. Emotion UI 4.1 does offer some enhancements, like better looking default icons and notification bar that finally matches the primary color of the open app, but otherwise it is pretty much identical to the previous version of Emotion UI found in the Honor 5X. Overall, the UI is pretty smooth, but at times you can get some noticeable delays, even when opening apps like Whatsapp or Facebook. Using the camera also oftentimes mean most of the running apps are killed, which brings the risk of missed notifications from the important apps.
For the health-conscious among you guys, the Honor 5C also comes with a built-in step counter, so you can count how many steps you take. This feature was first seen in the Huawei Mate 8, and it is great to see that this feature trickled down to the affordable Honor 5C as well. I do not fancy the step counter much as I lead a pretty sedentary lifestyle, but I am sure some will be pleased to have this feature.
The rear camera is a 13 MP one with a single flash, most probably brought over from the Honor 5X, as even the camera bump looks exactly the same. The front camera received an upgrade to an 8 MP one, which should please selfie addicts.
Starting up the camera, it does have a rather noticeable delay before it is ready to shoot, which reminds you that this is a mid-range smartphone, not a flagship device. Honor has added the manual mode to the Honor 5C’s camera UI, as well as the ability to enable the Rule of Thirds grid as well as other grids to help with composition, both features which were missing from the Honor 5X. Good food mode makes a comeback here, too.
The camera does pretty well in well-lit conditions. Most of the camera samples here were taken on a cloudy day at the D.R. Seenivasagam Park, Ipoh. Focusing is slower than recent devices equipped with laser autofocus and PDAF technologies, but there is little shutter lag to speak of, and the Honor 5C is ready for the next shot almost immediately. HDR images take a little time to process, but that is understandable. In conditions where it requires a higher ISO, images get grainy, as can be seen in the photo of the Hot Wheels model car. Overall, the Honor 5C’s camera offers acceptable performance, but I wish Honor gave us an upgrade over the Honor 5X in the camera department as well. If you wish to scrutinize full-res untouched camera samples, go to our Flickr album.
Audio output from the mono speaker on the bottom of the phone is pretty damn loud. While I would not recommend it for any kind of multimedia enjoyment, they are plenty good enough for watching short videos on Facebook or Vine for that matter. Since I usually just use the loudspeaker for notifications and alarms, the Honor 5C gets high marks for its loud volume. If you cover the grille with your finger, the sound does get horribly distorted though, so it is best avoided.
Whatever you do, do not listen to music with the Headset SWS effect on. It is great for movies but absolutely deplorable for music. With it off, the sound quality was quite nice, albeit being a little muddy due to a slight emphasis on bass. And yeah, the SWS effect is the only customization option for your audio on the Honor 5C.
The 5.2″ display is a slight downgrade from the Honor 5X’s 5.5″ one, but it retains the same full HD (1080p) resolution and IPS technology, making it possibly even better due to a slightly higher PPI. In practice, the difference is negligible, but with that said, the display is actually pretty good. I had no complaints for the Honor 5X’s screen, and neither do I have any for the Honor 5C’s.
I have said in my review of the Honor 5X, that I wished there would be a model succeeding the 5X with a stronger chipset inside, because the Honor 5X is only held back by a weak SoC. The Honor 5C is really just that. For RM799, you are getting a solid mid-range device with a power-efficient Kirin 650 under the hood, and not just any hood, but a nice brushed aluminium one. But still, I can’t stop myself from asking for a little more performance and more RAM, but maybe I am asking for too much at this price? It is actually priced even lower than the Honor 5X, after all. It is a solid affordable smartphone, and for that, I give the Honor 5C our Bronze Pokdeward!