Honor has released a new low-cost all-rounder in the form of the 5X. Not to be confused with the Nexus 5X but nevertheless worth a look.
Now that Huawei is slowly but surely positioning its aircraft higher in price range, there is an opportunity for subsidiary Honor to take the vacant position. This started with the Honor 7 and the 5X is a clear continuation of that, with a price tag of 229 euro (April 2016). Just like the Honor 7, the 5X has a metal unibody and fingerprint scanner. This time, the Full HD screen resolution is divided over a 5.5 inch screen and the camera has 13 megapixels.
Content of the box
In terms of specifications, the Honor 5X is therefore very competitively priced and this is also a strong point compared to the competition. The half-sister of Huawei is the G8 and has similar hardware in a slightly tighter design, but is also considerably more expensive. The same goes for the Motorola Moto X Play. Although it has a much larger camera. The almost one year old Sony Xperia C4 is almost the same as the Honor 5X but still a few tens more expensive. In between is the unknown WileyFox Storm positioned. Devices that are cheaper anyway have a lower screen resolution and less powerful processor.
The Honor 5X is the successor to the 4X and a size larger than the Honor 7. Especially with the latter it has many external features in common and thus seems to confirm the new design philosophy of Honor. We have tested the grey version. It has a completely black front. The silver version has a white front and the golden one a (surprise!) golden one.
The entire front is covered by a glass plate with a thin plastic rim around it. In our case the glass was covered by a very well fitting screencover. The Dutch press department of Honor is always very concerned about their properties. Since the 5X is not equipped with Gorilla Glass or any other type of reinforced glass, it is probably advisable to use a screen protector as well.
There is also a small notification light at the top right of the screen. There is quite a lot of empty space under the screen and the edges next to the screen are not childish either. As a result, the screen to device ratio is not optimal and the device delivers in terms of manoeuvrability. On the left side there are two slots for microSD and SIM cards. The top one fits a microSIM, the bottom one only fits a nanoSIM. On the right side of the device we find the on/off and volume keys. Both have a fine ribbing.
The back is made of shiny aluminium and runs over to the sides. The back has a slight bulge and is brushed with a kind of stripe pattern while the sides have a matt sandblasted finish. The edges are polished at an angle. The metal seems sensitive to scratches. Just above the centre, the fingerprint scanner sits in an easily accessible spot for the index finger. Above that, the camera, which protrudes a few millimetres, is placed with a single LED flash next to it.
Just like the Honor 7, the metal doesn't run all the way to the top and bottom, but there are plastic caps here. This is probably partly to ensure that the reception is not disturbed. It is not the best solution but the Honor 5X is a bit neater than the Honor 7 and it feels solid.
The headset port is located on top of the device. On the bottom we find a microUSB port with speaker holes on both sides. Only behind the right one is actually a speaker.
The Honor 5X runs on a Snapdragon 615 octacore processor accompanied by 2 GB of working memory. The processor is a solid midrange but the amount of working memory seems a bit tight. This sometimes leads to hiccups when scrolling and opening apps. The interface also runs fairly smoothly, but it is certainly not a speed monster.
The advantage of the processor is that it doesn't require as much of the battery as the heavier ones we find in top-of-the-range models from other manufacturers. Nevertheless, the Honor 5X is still equipped with a 3,000 mAh battery. That pays off in a solid endurance. With a screen on time of more than six hours, the question is whether a usage time of 48 hours can be accomplished. A long day with very intensive use should therefore not be a problem for the Honor 5X.
Under the heading energy saving in the settings we find some more options that you don't really need. Such as performing optimization for power saving. At first glance, this seems like a handy and useful function, but that's pretty disappointing. It scans the device for possible 'problems' and saving options. However, the 'problems' it comes with are mostly regular phone functions that you can't miss. The proposed optimizations therefore have a relatively large impact on the operation of the device with limited power savings as a result.
It is also possible to set the feeding plan. This regulates the CPU and network usage to match performance and energy usage. However, the difference between smart and normal mode is minimal. With the ultra mode the endurance can be stretched considerably but only the call and message functions with the contact list are available.
In addition, you are still confronted with the so-called 'flow-intensive prompt'. These are notifications when the system detects an app that would use a lot of power. Fortunately, this can be turned off because the power consumption is normally not that high and Android will also take care of shutting down apps if necessary.
Whereas the 4X still had to do it for its 5.5-inch screen with a meagre resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels, the Honor 5X, just like the Honor 7, has 1920 x 1080 pixels (Full HD). For this price range, this can easily be classified as solid and above average. A pixel density of 401 PPI on this IPS screen provides a sufficiently sharp image with good viewing angles. Colors also look neat.
For the image, the color temperature can still be adjusted. We did not think this was really necessary. In addition to the automatic screen brightness, there is also the option to improve readability in sunlight. What exactly this means is not immediately clear to us.
The Honor 5X has unfortunately been released with Android 5.1.1. On top of that runs the EMUI shell which we also see on Huawei devices. An update to Android 6.0 has already been announced for later this year. The EMUI interface ensures, among other things, that there is no application menu but that all apps are on a home screen. There are a maximum of nine home screens available on which you can store those apps.
In addition, all icons have the same shape and size. To maintain this, icons from other developers are also pressed into this fit. This does not always yield the best results. Moreover, the number of beautiful and/or useful widgets is rather limited. For the home screens, grid size, screen rotation, alignment and notification badges for app icons can be set. By default, all apps are on one home screen, part of which is stored in folders for tools and Google, for example. Some apps, such as the games, can fortunately simply be removed. Apps that you cannot delete but never use can be hidden by moving two fingers apart on a home screen.
The notification window hidden behind the status bar has also been taken care of. Notifications are nicely arranged on a kind of timeline and can still be swiped out of view. If there are no notifications, when dragging down the status bar, the tab with shortcut keys for settings immediately appears. It is not immediately clear but it can be scrolled through to make more shortcuts visible.
The settings menu has also been overhauled. Many functions are easy to find while you would expect to find some in a different place. Also a tab for general settings has been added but unfortunately you can't change the content. Compared to standard Android, the on-screen control buttons are very close together. This takes some getting used to in the beginning and sometimes causes you to press the wrong button. The order of the buttons can be changed and it is possible to add a button for the notification panel.
We prefer the pure Android experience and find it hard to get used to the peculiarities of the EMUI interface and the sometimes special translations. However, EMUI does have the possibility to choose a different set of icons by means of themes, in order to change the look of the interface. You can also install another launcher to change the look of the start screens and add an application menu.
The Honor 5X has two different SIM card holders with space for a micro and a nano copy and one microSD card. The settings can then indicate which SIM should be used for 4G/3G, mobile data and calls/messages. Nevertheless, in the wireless & network settings we also had to change the preferred mobile network type from 'only 2G' to 'car 4G/3G/2G'. This is a rather clogged up setting and the average user will not immediately understand why his internet speed is so limited.
The Honor 5X cannot make a WiFi connection over a 5 GHz frequency. Normally the 2.4 GHz frequency will take you a long way, but strangely enough the WiFi connection is sometimes disconnected for inexplicable reasons. Moreover, every time we came back within range of a known network, we had to manually restore the connection. That quickly becomes quite boring. Signal+ and WiFi+, which we saw earlier on Huawei/Honor devices, is not available on the Honor 5X. Support for NFC is also lacking.
Fingerprint scanners are normally reserved for more expensive devices but the Honor 5X also has one. The scanner of the 5X works reasonably fast but is a lot less accurate than we saw with the Huawei Mate S or Nexus 6P. He also has a lot of trouble with the slightest moisture on your finger. When your finger is not recognized, the device gives a short vibration signal. The scanner activates and unlocks the device at the same time.
An alternative unlocking method, such as a PIN code or pattern, must also be set before using the fingerprint scanner. This is to prevent the scanner from being easily bypassed. Because the scanner is on the back you cannot quickly unlock it when, for example, it is lying on a table. You can store multiple fingerprints in the device. For example, a left and right index finger so you can unlock the device with both hands. A fingerprint can also be linked to an app or contact that needs to be opened or called if the device is unlocked with that finger. We don't see any real added value in this.
In addition to unlocking the phone, the scanner can also be used to operate the device. For example, by holding it down and going back to the start screen or answering a call. And open recent apps or the notification panel by swiping up or down, respectively. These actions do not require registering a fingerprint first.
As said, the camera has 13 megapixels and is operated from a reasonably clear interface. It is rather unpacked with different recording functions. In addition to photo and video, the search screen also allows you to choose 'good food', 'make beautiful' and 'time lapse'. Good food should enable you to make attractive close-ups of food. With beautification, the level of beauty can be improved by smoothing facial skin to the extreme. Timelapse is for timelapse movies.
The settings menu allows you to select panorama, HDR, focus, best picture, watermark, slow-mo and audio annotation modes. For all of them it is not possible to turn them on permanently. From this menu you can also access the other settings, which oddly enough do not rotate automatically when you keep the camera horizontal. Different color filters can also be applied.
In daylight, the camera holds up well, as can be expected. The image is a bit pale, but white balance, colour and details are displayed neatly. Provided you take the lack of image stabilization into account. This is certainly also necessary when using HDR because photos can be moved quickly. Indoors and with less ambient light a lot of noise is introduced and the exposure also leaves something to be desired.
At the front, the Honor 5X has a reasonable 5 megapixel camera with slider for beautiful shooting and filming it does maximum in Full HD resolution. Nevertheless, the video quality is not really spectacular.
In short, the Honor 5X is indeed a phone with metal unibody, 5.5 inch Full HD display, fingerprint scanner and 13 megapixel camera. As far as that's concerned, it absolutely offers the most smartphone for your money at the moment. With the Honor 7 we saw for the first time the new look of Honor that rests on a metal unibody with plastic top and bottom. The Honor 7 has stronger hardware, but in terms of design, the 5X is slightly more refined. Thanks to the larger battery and modest processor, the 5X has an impressive endurance.
Unfortunately, such an affordable device does not come without hooks and eyes. The camera is a bit changeable but that should be possible in this price range. In terms of connectivity, the 5X has obvious shortcomings in terms of hardware and functionality. Especially when it comes to WiFi. The biggest stumbling block for us is the software. It is a pity that Honor presents a device in 2016 that does not yet run on Android 6.0. We don't really like the EMUI shell either. The interface is being modified too much and EMUI is trying to exercise too much control over the functionality of Android. People who use Android less intensively or use less different phones as we do might not be able to handle this as much. To be honest, because of its price, we are willing to turn a blind eye to any shortcomings. Especially when the price is going to drop even further towards or below 200 euros.