We’ve reviewed Huawei Honor devices before, but by and large they were designed to target China and similar markets. There were also a number of growing pains as seen in our Huawei Honor 6 review. However, in the time since that review Huawei has done quite a bit of growing up when it comes to resolving some of their weaknesses and improving upon their strengths. Their Kirin SoCs started off with some notable issues in implementations, but with the Kirin 950 we’ve seen a major leap in performance and power efficiency. To keep their momentum going, Huawei Honor is bringing their first phone to the US, the Honor 5X.

  Huawei Honor 5X
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 1.5/1.2 GHz 4x4 A53
NAND 16GB + microSD
Display 5.5" 1920x1080 IPS LCD
Dimensions 151.3mm x 76.3mm x 8.15mm; 158g
Camera 13MP Rear Facing f/2.0 28mm equivalent IMX214
5MP Front Facing f/2.4 22mm equivalent OV5648
Battery 3000 mAh (11.4Wh)
OS Android 5.1.1 EmUI 3.1
Connectivity 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 GHz Only, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS/GNSS, Micro USB 2.0
Network 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Category 4

The basic specs aren’t really going to be all that fascinating at this point as Snapdragon 615 is a known quantity. Huawei continues their trend of shipping odd WiFi configurations as this device only supports 2.4 GHz 802.11b/g/n WiFi. The rear camera is a rather well-understood Sony IMX214 sensor and the front camera sensor is a similarly common OmniVision OV5648 sensor.

However, the Honor 5X actually manages to hit the right point for price and features. The display is a 5.5” 1080p LCD, with an aluminum unibody design. There’s also the usual dual SIM capabilities along a decently sized battery and an FPC1020 fingerprint scanner shared with the Ascend Mate7. At 200 USD, this has the potential to beat out the Moto G for best value smartphone in that price range.

Subjectively, the in-hand feel and overall build quality is shockingly good for the price. The Ascend P8 Lite that we reviewed last year was pretty much par for the course when it came to materials and in-hand feel for a ~200 USD phone, so to go from some rather hard and cheap-feeling plastic to an aluminum unibody that is basically comparable to the HTC One M9 in feel is quite a leap in the course of less than a year. The comparison to the One M9 is rather apt in this case, as the design of the phone is such that the phone has a brushed finish that can be seen, but not really felt in the hand.

Unfortunately, the performance of the Honor 5X is a bit wanting. I suspect that Cortex A53s alone aren’t quite enough to get the amount of performance needed to make Android run perfectly smooth, as while in some cases the phone was perfectly smooth in some transitions like opening and closing app folders I saw noticeable frame drops and similar issues.

Casual use of the fingerprint scanner was also quite impressive, as the Honor 5X behaves pretty much identically to the Ascend Mate7 in how the fingerprint scanner will automatically detect and scan a fingerprint even when the screen is off, so with fingerprint unlock set up it’s possible to unlock the phone by simply placing a finger over the fingerprint scanner and waiting for the phone to wake up and unlock automatically.

As previously mentioned, Huawei is selling the Honor 5X for 199.99 USD. It will be available for preorder starting January 6th, and will have general availability starting January 31st on HiHonor.com and Amazon. Although it would have really been exciting to see something like Snapdragon 650 show up in this phone, at the price it’s going it could be a viable option if Huawei has managed to nail down the details without show-stopping issues.

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  • Mondozai - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - link

    As Josh rightly notes, the S650 is going to be a killer (A72s) in midrange phones.

    Still, aren't the Zenfones still king of the budget for the performance you get? The Intel chips are significantly more powerful than the A53s and you can often get very good devices from Asus at this same price point.

    I'm expecting a similar device such as this but with the S650 but for $150 from Xiaomi. They're probably going to expand even further this year. There's less and less reason to get a ultra-high end phone unless you want an iPhone, as the flagship space in Android becomes less differentiated from the mid-range and the delta shrinks.
  • Infy2 - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - link

    S650 is based on 28nm process... Interesting too see how A72 works when not based on state of the art 14/16nm FinFet process.
  • jospoortvliet - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - link

    yeah, I'm super curious about SOC's with the A72. If performance is as good as promised, even the 65x socs on 28nm will probably not be far off from the 80x and 810 series... And A72 cores on 14/16nm will be very nice to get.
  • jvl - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - link

    I'd like to request a new measure for phone specs: the ratio of screen area vs. front surface area.
    That would make it so very easy to compare bezel sizes.. :-)
  • jvl - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - link

    Damnation, wrong thread. I'm on mobile device, pardon me. @mods, please feel free to delete (both posts, obviously)
  • dave1231 - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - link

    Not enough screen area?
  • 911paramedic - Thursday, January 7, 2016 - link

    The product promo page on Newegg says it's a "72.5% screen-to-body ratio." I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments, it's an important statistic that really matters to users.


    (wow, its been a while since I've posted on the anandtech site)
  • jvl - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - link

    I'd like to request a new measure for phone specs: the ratio of screen area vs. front surface area.
    That would make it so very easy to compare bezel sizes.. :-)
  • kadajawi - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - link

    Can you swap the battery? Nope? Not interested. Can you extend the memory? Nope? Really not interested.

    Maybe that should be mentioned early on in a review/hands on... so that we know if it's worth reading on/getting excited over the device or not.

    I mean I'd be fine if it is possible to replace the battery, but requiring a few screws to do so. Just after half a year, maybe a year I want to be able to swap the battery, because it'll be half dead by then. Having to buy a new phone because the battery inevitably has died is not an option.

    Btw., I've seen a really impressive phone recently, that I am kind of tempted by. It's the Doro 825. Meant for old folks/pensioners, it is the only phone in recent times that is actually well designed. The glass screen is recessed into the device. Perfect. A phone that can survive without the need of a case, thus in the end being much slimmer than all those stupid smartphones everyone else produces.

    Back to the Huawei... I don't think the performance issues you noticed is because of the hardware. I've seen lesser hardware run very smooth. The problem is that Huawei insists on putting their EMUI on top of Android, and they aren't good programmers (just like Lenovo). The result is poor performance. If it were running stock Android or MIUI (Xiaomi) it should be more than fast enough. The Honor does look good, and Huawei knows how to produce expensive feeling phones. Shame it's all design at the expense of usability... but almost all manufacturers are like that.
  • blzd - Thursday, January 7, 2016 - link

    This is impressive stuff for $199. A more capable SoC and Android 6 would make this a must buy.

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