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Honor 5C Review: In Depth

5
Looks can be deceiving

The Good

  • Great camera experience
  • Premium design touches
  • Good performance
  • Solid battery life

The Bad

  • Lacklustre video performance
  • Screen is a little washed out
  • Fingerprint prone screen
  • Middling design

Honor 5C review: Honor is gunning hard for best affordable smartphone of 2016 with the new Honor 5C, but does it make the grade?

Design

Overall the 5C doesn’t look like a particularly impressive phone; it’s unassuming, somewhat generic alongside the slew of other handsets from Chinese manufacturers out there, but there are plenty of nice details to win you over.

Honor 5C - front Honor 5C - back

The back is hewn from brushed, aircraft-grade aluminium with a soft finish that plays nicely against the light and it adopts a subtle curve to fit comfortably in the hand. The border is a little less premium, with colour-matched plastic skirting the phone’s edge. It conceals the 5C’s dual antenna design, which promises more reliable connectivity, and it’s where you’ll find the phone’s tactile hardware controls, hybrid SIM tray and ports.

Honor 5C - side

The soft rounding makes it a more manageable and comfortable handset to wield than some and it features nice functional details like Torx screws at the base, but the sealed design means you can’t get at the phone’s battery. If the dark grey model we reviewed isn’t to your taste, the phone is also available in silver and gold colourways too.

Screen

As the name hints at, the 5C is the smaller sibling of the 5X, which launched earlier in 2016. It packs a 5.2-inch Full HD IPS display which remains distortion free at any angle, although brightness drop-off and brightness overall aren’t all that great at combating external light sources and paired to the fingerprint-prone front, the 5C can sometimes be hard to view outdoors.

Honor 5C - Screen

That said, Full HD resolution is always appreciated in an affordable smartphone such as this, giving you more pixels to enjoy content on.

OS

Unlike the 5X, the 5C enjoys the benefits of launching on the latest Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow experience, with Honor’s most recent Emotion UI 4.1 interface on top.

It offers plenty of customisation and a wealth of tweaks within the settings menu for themes, home screen transitions, and other personalisation options as well as some more functional extras, like a one-handed mode – a welcome inclusion on a plus 5-inch display like the 5C’s.

The sheer number of options may, however, be a little overwhelming for some and the complete lack of an apps drawer, along with Honor’s implementation of the notifications and quick settings drawers might feel a little awkward coming from other Android devices.

Performance

The 5C opts for one of Huawei’s own 64-bit Kirin 650 octa-core processors. It’s the first in the family to benefit from a 16nm FinFET+ processor – something usually reserved for flagship smartphones with top-tier chipsets. Honor says that paired to the phone’s sizeable 3000mAh battery you can expect up to two full days of regular use or up to one and a half of heavy use, and out the box, we’d have to agree.

Honor 5C - SIM tray

General performance also feels responsive and the high-resolution display doesn’t appear to tax the 650 (paired to 2GB of RAM) all that much either. You might run into a few long load times with certain apps, but general swiping and typing feels really tight.

Honor 5C - camera

As with a lot of Huawei and Honor phones, the 5C backs versatile connectivity options too. You’ve got 4G and NFC making it Android Pay ready and the hybrid SIM tray will accept two SIM cards or microSD cards up to 128GB, bolstering the phone’s 10GB of user-accessible space.

Camera

The biggest surprise has to be just how good the camera setup is on the 5C. The main 13-megapixel snapper copes exceptionally well across all environments, with great macro capabilities, competent, considered HDR capture and surprisingly good low light shooting that produces results markedly similar to the likes of the mighty iPhone 6S.

There’s also a whole host of modes with everything from document capture to light painting and manual control for both stills and video – a real rarity in the smartphone space period.

Selfie lovers will appreciate the 8-megapixel front-facing camera too, which captures plenty of detail and comes with multiple selfie modes to smooth out skin, enlarge eyes and modify your actual appearance in all manner of ways.

The weakest point as with previous Honor cameras is still video capture, which even at Full HD resolution turns out slightly murky footage with a narrow dynamic range, no image stabilisation, and slow autofocus, but that said, it’s still a notable improvement on the 5C’s predecessors.

Verdict

Honor 5C - handheld

The Honor 5C presents itself as an unassuming, middling Android handset, but you’ll quickly realise that it’s full of surprises. Great performance, battery life and cameras elevated the 5C above our expectations and at £149 it undercuts other top affordable offerings like the new Moto G4 giving it a serious edge.

Key Specs

  • 5.2-inches
  • Full HD (1920x1080)
  • 156 grams
  • Android 6.0.1
  • 13-megapixels
  • 8-megapixels
  • 1.7GHz/2.0GHz octa-core Kirin 650
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB. Expandable via microSD up to 128GB
  • Yes
  • Dual SIM, Perfect Selfie, one-handed mode

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