We review the Huawei Honor 6, a refreshingly affordable Full HD phone with some strong specs for the price.
Huawei has always impressed us with the value for money offered by its smartphones, generally chucking in better specs than similarly-priced handsets. The Huawei Honor 6 is a perfect case of ‘more than we expected’, offering up a Full HD screen, 13-megapixel camera with quick-shoot mode and a promise of two days of life per charge, for just £250.
Design: Apple a-like
When it comes to looks, the Honor 6 ain’t nothing special. The glossy frame sports an almost identical shade of white to Apple’s iPhone 6, but the lack of a brushed metal finish and the plasticky edges give the Honor a much more budgety look and feel.
That said, the Honor 6 isn’t an ugly phone, it’s merely a little bland. Also be warned that the plastic surfaces pick up light scratches all too easy, so don’t have it loose in a pocket or bag with keys, change or other sharp items.
The phone feels a little chunkier than its 7.5mm frame, mostly because the white surface juts out either side of those plastic grey edges. However, it’s also light and quite comfortable to handle, with the 130g body just about possible to operate with one hand. At a stretch. If you have spindly fingers.
You can’t pop the back of the Honor 6 open, but there’s a flap on the right edge which can be opened to reveal the micro SIM card slot and micro SD memory card slot. That memory card slot comes in handy as you only get 16GB of built-in storage, 12GB of which is free to use.
Screen and media: Bright and beautiful
Now onto the good stuff.
The Honor 6’s 5-inch Full HD screen packs an impressive 445 pixels-per-inch, matching most modern flagship phones such as the HTC One M8 and Sony Xperia Z3 for sharpness, and beating rivals like the Xperia T3 and Xperia M2. The screen itself seems to be flush with the surface too, as Huawei has actually done away with the outer layer of glass, so it almost feels like you’re actually touching your desktops.
With its wide viewing angles and bold colours, it’s all too easy to love the Honor 6’s screen. Like Samsung’s premium displays, you shouldn’t expect realistic and natural hues, but HD movies leap out with crisp and colourful visuals, a real boon considering the price point.
The built-in speaker is annoyingly housed on the back of the Honor 6 and it’s quite easy to smother with your fingertips when watching a movie, but it puts out some decent audio, with an impressive top volume.
If you’re hoping to enjoy services like Netflix on your smartphone, then you’ll be pleased to hear the Honor 6 comes with 4G support. As long as you’ve got a serious data contract and you don’t live in some Welsh hamlet in the mountains, you’ll be able to enjoy smooth movie and music streaming on the Honor 6.
User experience: Sweet Emotion UI
Android 4.4 KitKat is the OS of choice for the Honor 6. However, Huawei has made a fair few tweaks to the Android interface in its Emotion UI, some of which are genuinely welcome and some of which are a little irritating or pointless.
Irritant number one is the lack of an apps menu, like Apple’s iPhone, which means that all of your installed apps have to sit there on your desktops. It’s possible to tidy them away into folders, but when you have as many apps as we do, many of which you use maybe once a month or so, we’d rather keep the bulk of them out of sight and leave our desktops free for our favourites, as well as some widgety goodness.
The Honor 6 also comes pre-installed with a bunch of crapware, most of which you’ll want to immediately uninstall to free up space.
Pull down the notifications bar in the left half of the screen and you’ll see any waiting messages and other bits that need your attention. Pull down in the right half and you get a massive table of shortcut icons, which can be used to enable and disable all kinds of features. Wi-Fi, 4G, Bluetooth, auto-rotate, the do not disturb mode and even the ultra battery mode can all be activated or turned off with a quick tap, plus lots more besides.
It’s a bit more in-depth than the standard Android shortcuts bar, which is great news if you hate fiddling around in the settings menu.
Huawei has also added in what it calls a ‘suspend button’. This is a pop-up circular task menu which sits at the edge of your phone screen until you give it a tap, at which point it expands and offers you a number of handy features. For example, there’s a quick clean-up option to close any apps you’re not using and free up some memory, plus the ability to open apps like messenger and media controls in a pop-up window, for multi-tasking.
Smartphone noobs will probably prefer the Lumia 830’s clean and simple UI, but the Honor 6 packs in plenty of features and – if you can forgive the annoyances like the busy desktops – you’ll probably enjoy the bold, colourful design.
Performance and battery life: Octa-plus
An octa-core Kirin processor is backed by a tasty 3GB of RAM and the resulting performance is not to be sniffed at. Android runs like a beauty, as do the latest apps and games, while HD media also has no issues.
Huawei reckons you’ll get a full two days of life from the Honor 6 between charges, although we found that a day and a half was the standard for us. That’s with plenty of email action, some web browsing, the occasional camera use and so on. It might not manage a full 48 hours as predicted, but anything over a day is decent by modern smartphone standards, so we chalk that up as a win.
If you cane the Honor 6 with video streaming, expect just over six hours of playback before the phone dies. Again, that’s a better-than-average result and enough to keep you going on even a pretty horrific commute.
Camera: Snap happy
A 13-megapixel rear-facing camera and 5-megapixel front-facer round off a pretty decent specs sheet and again we’re happy with the results.
That 13-meg snapper is one of the better mid-range cameras we’ve used recently. The auto-focus does a sound job, in all but the most tricky of conditions, snapping onto your subject without too much delay to keep them sharp. Plus you can always over-ride it with a tap on the screen to change the focal point.
After a few days of shooting our lives, we were mostly happy with our photo collection. Everyday shots are packed with detail, even when shooting a subject close-up, while the dual LED flash handles darker scenes quite well. And of course there’s an HDR mode, useful when the lighting conditions turn sour.
If you’re always missing that golden moment, when your cat does something particularly cute or your drunken uncle falls on his arse at your wedding trying to touch up the bridesmaids, then Huawei’s ultra-fast snapshot feature is bound to appeal. Just double-tap the volume down button when the Honor 6 is hibernating and the phone instantly wakes in camera mode and takes a snap (although will remain locked to any other operations if you’ve set a password). From double-tap to snap usually takes around a second, making this one of the faster quick-wake modes out there.
The 5-megapixel front-facing camera is just as impressive, not surprising given Huawei’s fixation on selfie snaps in recent phones. Our ego shots were sharp and again packed with detail, but don’t worry if your skin’s looking well past its best as the obligatory beauty mode will clean up your pores. There’s a 2-second timer after you push the shutter and the Honor 6 even directs your eyeballs towards the camera lens, so you don’t look like you’re gazing off into the distance.
With the Honor 6, Huawei has crafted one of the best mid-tier smartphones of recent times. For less than £300, you get a sharp Full HD screen that’s solid for movies, 4G support for streaming media, smooth performance and a pair of dependable cameras. The UI has some irritating quirks and the design leaves a lot to be desired, but at this price point the Honor 6 is a winner.