- Great price/performance balance
- Premium design elements
- Good battery life
- Unreliable connectivity
- Thick bezels
- Laggy performance
Honor 5X review: This great-value 5.5-inch metal mobile costs just under £200 but packs some seriously impressive specs, to rival the likes of the Motorola Moto G and Wileyfox Swift. Here's our full Honor 5X review now that it's finally hit the UK.
The 'X' naming convention has typically been tied to the brand's entry-level handsets, but whilst Honor classes the 5X as such, first impressions suggest that it's something a whole lot more premium than you might expect, hoping to strike a balance of price and performance that most handsets struggle to get right.
The DNA from other Honor phones, such as last year’s Honor 7, is clearly visible and whilst we’re not entirely sure that we agree with the notion that the 5X’s design inspiration is Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Spain, it features a nicely rounded, brushed-metal back that offers more grip than an HTC One (M8) – which utilised a similar finish.
Despite its entry-level standing though, the industrial design choices Honor has employed mean the 5X looks and feels great in the hand, with only a few elements that really highlight its affordable nature. The CNC-milled edging works as a nice contrast to the brushed back and the hardware controls feature light knurling for greater tactility. There are also noticeable plastic elements though – most obviously in the antenna caps on the back and the chromed surround on the phone’s front.
The speaker and microphone grilles are placed symmetrically on the base of the phone's body, with Honor claiming that the enlarged speaker chamber inside the body of the 5X means that it's up to 18 per cent louder than the competition, it's hard to prove such a claim without knowing exactly what they're pitting the 5X against though.
The 5X is also a larger device than the Honor 7, with a 5.5-inch Full HD panel that although not particularly bright, packs decent colour reproduction. The trade-offs are its weaker viewing angles and the black bezels beneath the surface glass, which in turn is a touch on the broad side itself.
If you look closely around the earpiece, you'll also notice that Honor has pre-fitted the 5X with a screen protector and whilst it does peel off, we'd recommend against it, as reports from owners suggest that the glass doesn't sport any form of oleophobic coating and as such, attracts fingerprints to no end.
On the software side the 5X packs a familiar build of Android 5.1 Lollipop dressed in the app-drawerless EMUI (Emotion UI) 3.1, already extensively employed by both Honor and Huawei. It's a heavy-handed skin that feels significantly different to a stock experience, but offers a ton of customisation options, giving you control over everything from themes and aesthetic elements to functionality like a one-handed mode and varying home button arrangements. There are also power management tools and dedicated apps like a browser, which double-up on Google's offerings - an aspect you'll either love or hate.
One area where the 5X appears to be treading new ground is the inclusion of additional fingerprint sensor gestures, which let you quick-launch apps based on which finger you’re pressing against the sensor found on the phone's back. It’s a smart extra that we weren't expecting to see debut on a humble entry-level handset like the 5X and we’re hoping it will roll out to the rest of the Honor/Huawei family in the near future too.
Despite launching on Lollipop, Honor has already also confirmed that the 5X will get bumped up to Android 6.0 Marshmallow around March-time and EMUI 4.0 should follow soon after.
On the inside the Honor also appears to punch above its weight with a similar Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 octa-core chipset to the one you'd find in the likes of the Motorola Moto X Play. Tied to 2GB of RAM we were expecting solid mid-range performance, but perhaps as a result of the heavy UI, the Honor 5X does lag and stutter more than we expected, primarily when opening up select apps or multitasking.
The 5X also joins a relatively small band of handsets that boast dual-SIM functionality, which lets users run one SIM on a 4G network and one on a 3G network simultaneously, the difference here is that you can also slot in a microSD card (up to 128GB) to bolster the 16GB of internal storage on top of the dual-SIM functionality as opposed to instead of, making it a real rarity in that respect.
Two places where Honor clearly did have to cut costs was in the connectivity department. Unlike the aforementioned Honor 7, there's no NFC, which isn't unusual for an entry-level device, but it also isn't compatible with 5GHz WiFi networks, which if you live in congested areas like London, may prove to be an issue with regards to reliability. We found that our sample had trouble staying connected and reconnecting with WiFi networks whilst streaming video, which was a real inconvenience.
The benefit of being a larger handset is that the 5X also host a capacious 3000mAh battery, which delivers up to a day and a half of regular use per charge and impressively, around six and a half hours of continuous video playback. There's no fast-charging functionality like other handsets of late have started to include, but it's omission from the 5X that doesn't surprise us considering its affordable focus.
The last key part of the Honor 5X offering is a robust imaging experience, with a 5-megapixel front-facer and a 13-megapixel main snapper. Honor’s dressed the iOS-like camera interface with advanced features like the ‘perfect selfie’ beauty mode, slow-motion video recording (720p HD at 120fps), time lapse recording and even a dedicated ‘good food’ mode.
Capture quality for stills is pretty good in well lit conditions and HDR shots don’t look as over-processed as some affordable smartphones push out, but the drop in quality when shooting in slow motion is noticeable and standard video tops out at 1080p at 30fps. Double tapping the volume key does let you grab a quick photo at a moment’s notice, with sleep-to-snap times of around 1.2 seconds – not bad for what’s considered entry-level, but the software is more impressive than the hardware it leverages.
It's important to remember that the Honor 5X costs just £189.99, which for a dual-SIM 4G phone with a Full HD screen and expandability up to 128GB is pretty enticing. Similarly-priced handsets include the Wileyfox Storm and the Samsung Galaxy A3, which certainly feature elements that out-perform the 5X in one area or another, but don't serve as the perfect alternative.
The Honor 5X is available from vMall - Huawei and Honor's online retail site, with plans to launch on Three UK and Amazon soon after launch.
- Full HD (1920x1080)
- 158 grams
- Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
- 1.2GHz/1.7GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 616
- 16GB. Expandable via microSD up to 128GB
- Dual-SIM w/ microSD card, Perfect Selfie mode, fingerprint sensor gestures