Honor 5X review — great outlook, mediocre innards
+ Great build quality; aluminium body at an affordable price
+ Rear mounted fingerprint sensor; again, amazing at this price
+ TWO dedicated SIM slots, with microSD support
+ Decent battery life
+ EMUI offers some extra ways to make use of the fingerprint sensor
+ 13 MP camera offers acceptable image quality
+ 1080p IPS display offers good color and viewing angles
- 1A charger is provided instead of the usual 2A ones; no earphones
- Snapdragon 615 chipset is outdated; offers sluggish performance at times
- Fingerprint sensor not as fast nor as accurate as the competition
- No material design elements in EMUI
- Camera start-up time can be slow
- Loudspeaker distorts at higher volume
Honor devices are known to be great budget-oriented devices. With Huawei’s experience in making amazing premium smartphones, I can’t see why not either. Today we have the Honor 5X which sports a surprisingly premium build for its sub-RM1000 price tag. Without further ado, let’s take a closer look.
The Honor 5X comes in a bright blue box, a stark departure from Huawei’s sleek black boxes. Since Honor is targeting the younger generation of smartphone users, it does seem appropriate.
Opening up the box, the first thing you see is the Honor 5X. Note that the sticker on the back details pretty much all you need to know before using the phone. Lifting it up you will get access the little box keeping the SIM/microSD card tray eject pin and some documentation. Under that box is the charger and charger cable. The Honor 5X comes with a miserable 1A charger, which is an unusual decision given that most recent smartphones come with a 2A charger.
Aaaaaaand that’s all in the box. You don’t get any earphones with the Honor 5X.
The 5.5″ display panel dominates the front of the Honor 5X with slim bezels on the sides. I would prefer black bezels for a more seamless look instead of the gold here. As usual for anything from Huawei, there is a fine black frame surrounding the actual display. The camera, proximity sensor and speaker are located at their usual position, above the screen. No branding of any kind is found on the front.
Over on the back, I feasted my eyes on the premium brushed aluminium finish. The top and bottom bits are plastic and are dimpled for a more premium appearance. It looks great and I must admit the contrasting materials actually made the phone look even better than some all-aluminium smartphones I have seen.
The camera protrudes from the surface of the Honor 5X, which is worrying considering that there was no mention of sapphire glass protection here. Given its price, it would be rather unlikely to find it here, too. Flanking the camera sensor is a single LED flash, which means no dual-tone flash for better balanced flash output here.
All the physical buttons of the Honor 5X are on the right. The Honor 5X’s volume rocker and power button features the exact same texture, which may make it difficult to differentiate. On the left we will find the two SIM/microSD card trays, which we will discuss more about later.
The top is home to the standard 3.5 mm audio jack and a tiny microphone hole. That’s all over on the top.
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:||Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 64-bit (4 x A53 @ 1.5 GHz + 4 x A53 @ 1.2 GHz)|
|Display:||5.5″, FHD (1080p) IPS display|
|Storage:||16GB internal (expandable with microSD up to 128GB)|
|Camera:||13MP f/2.0 Sony Exmor RS IMX214|
5MP f/2.4 front camera (wide-angle)
|OS:||Android 5.1.1 with Emotion UI 3.1|
|SIM:||Dual SIM (one nano-SIM and one micro-SIM)|
|Battery:||3000 mAh (non-removable)|
Powering the Honor 5X is the popular Snapdragon 615 found in many other mid-range devices. It is a little outdated in the face of the recent slew of newer chipsets, so do not expect the Honor 5X to top any benchmark chart, which to be honest was never the idea behind the Snapdragon 615.
For tests that have detailed information, they will be in the thumbnails below the description of the benchmark.
Antutu is one of the most popular benchmarks out there to test the overall performance of the device. The Adreno 405 in the Snapdragon 615 package is quite under-powered for a device in 2016 and it shows here in the 3D section. The scores for the other sections are much more acceptable though.
In Geekbench the CPU performance of the Snapdragon 615 is tested. As expected due to the lower clock speeds, it doesn’t score as well as the Kirin 930/935s in the Huawei P8 and Mate S, even though both SoCs are based on an octa-core A53 configuration.
As the GPU in the Snapdragon 615 is considerably weak, it doesn’t make a great showing in 3DMark too.
The Honor 5X doesn’t impress in terms of performance, but that is expected with the mid-range Snapdragon 615 CPU. Also worth noting is the missing support for the 802.11ac WiFi standard in the Honor 5X, even though the Snapdragon 615 SoC does offer support for it, which means no crazy fast WiFi connection speeds. However in our beloved country where we apparently prefer slow Internet connections, a fast WiFi connection means little.
3000 mAh keeps the Honor 5X running for around 13 hours, with an OST figure just 5 minutes shy of 4 hours. This was with the Honor 5X running on a mobile data connection and playing Spotify for more than 2 hours and frequent Whatsapp-ing with the random peek into Instagram and Facebook. I believe the Snapdragon 615 is a great choice for the Honor 5X as the Kirin 930/935 chipsets suffered from poor battery life when using a data connection. There is no fast charging here so it will take around 2 hours to fully charge with a 2A charger, and even longer if you use the supplied 1A charger.
When I hold the Honor 5X, the premium brushed aluminium back is cool to the touch and is surprisingly grippy. While sandblasted aluminium may look better, they are much more slippery. The slight ergonomic curvature and flat edges make it even easier to keep it in your hands and away from the hard floor. Take into account the slim bezels and what you have is a very nice to hold smartphone. Gotta say Huawei did a good job here.
The first thing that I did with the phone was to insert the SIM and microSD cards into their respective slots. It was great to find that the Honor 5X comes with dedicated slots for TWO SIM cards and ONE microSD. This should be the way ALL phones that claim to be dual SIM are made! No one wants to make the difficult choice of using dual-SIM or adding more storage capacity with a microSD when using a DUAL SIM phone! Two big thumbs up for Honor here.
Now with that done, I went ahead to start up the phone and go through the usual process of adding my Google account, setting the time-zone, bla bla bla. Then it was time to teach the fingerprint sensor to recognize me, it’s new master for two weeks.
It needed me to press my finger on the fingerprint sensor five times to register five different zones on my finger, and the deed was quickly done. I have previously mentioned I prefer rear-mounted fingerprint sensors for their convenience and the one on the Honor 5X is quite nicely placed to allow for easy access. Needless to say, I immediately locked the device and tried unlocking it. It responded but there was a very slight delay between the time I put my finger on the sensor and the screen actually being unlocked. After using it for a few days, I noticed that even slightly wet or dirty fingers will fail to be recognized by the fingerprint sensor on the Honor 5X.
The fingerprint sensor can also be used for various gestures, which is something that I missed when I was reviewing the Nexus 6P. Of course, having a proprietary Android overlay has it perks sometimes.
Now that we are on the topic of proprietary Android overlays, the Honor 5X features Emotion UI 3.1 based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. The same version of EMUI was on the Huawei Mate S I reviewed previously, but the Honor 5X lacks some features like the multitask windows and also Knuckle Sense. While the multitask windows was pointless even on the Mate S as it was limited to the built-in apps only, Knuckle Sense was actually quite unique and I really used it frequently to take screenshots. Other than that, the Honor 5X features the same UI. Which means the issue of horrible mismatched notification bars in third-party apps is still present here. In the built-in apps, the color of the notification bar will follow the app for a seamless appearance but for some reason it doesn’t work like that for other apps also. Overall, the experience of using the Honor 5X was acceptable, with slight delays and stutters every once in a while.
The Honor 5X’s rear snapper relies on the ubiquitous 13 megapixel Sony Exmor RS IMX214 sensor, while the front sports a wide-angle (22mm equivalent) 5 MP camera. Since I rarely ever use the flash on my smartphones, I do not find the lack of dual-tone flash a disappointment at all.
Starting up the camera, the Honor 5X has a noticeable delay before it was ready to shoot. The camera UI on the Honor 5X is rather simplistic. There is no manual mode here, and there doesn’t even seem to be a way to enable the Rule of Thirds grid overlay, but there is the ever-popular Beauty mode for the vain and also a new Good food mode for those who want to make their Instagram followers even more jealous of their food hunting escapades.
Basically all the Good food mode does is make the photo warmer and thus look more appetizing. Noise control is decent with images becoming grainier at the higher ISOs instead of becoming a watercolor art piece. However fine detail is visibly lacking even at the lower ISOs. The front camera also does pretty well in well-lit conditions, but in dimmer environments your face will be marked by chroma noise, which can also be removed along with any of your imperfections simply by using the Beauty mode. Full-sized samples can be found here.
Audio output through the loudspeaker of the Honor 5X is LOUD. However at maximum volume it does suffer from some crackling noises creeping in, which can be easily mitigated by dropping the volume three steps, at which point it is still plenty loud. It does lack bass, but then what are you doing listening to music with the loudspeaker? Considering its main purpose of notifying you of, err…notifications, or waking you up, the speaker is fit for the task. Plugging in some earphones into the 3.5 mm jack and the Honor 5X pumps great sound, directly into my ears.
The Honor 5X features a 5.5″ 1080p IPS display, which ensures wide viewing angles, at the very least. 1080p in 2016 is more or less taken for granted already, but its great that the Honor 5X doesn’t disappoint here. Colors are fairly accurate, with the option to adjust the color temperature if you find a need to. Sunlight readability is also a non-issue with the Honor 5X as it can automatically adjust the color saturation to improve visibility under direct sunlight. The automatic brightness is also very responsive and adjusts the brightness quickly when the ambient light levels changes. I have zero complains about the screen, especially at this price.
While the performance offered may be mediocre, it does have a premium body, a good camera and a great screen to make up for it. The fingerprint sensor on the back of the Honor 5X also make it the first smartphone under RM1000 to have a fingerprint sensor, with only one other device that has a fingerprint sensor in this price range, which is the newer Redmi Note 3. In comparison to the Redmi Note 3, it is difficult to recommend the Honor 5X with it priced so close to the Redmi Note 3 now, but I believe that Huawei has proven its point with the Honor 5X; it is a capable contender in premium and affordable price ranges and hopefully there will be a model succeeding the Honor 5X with a more recent chipset to take the fight to the competition.