Honor seems to be picking up pace with releases and that’s largely driven by the success they’ve had with their devices over the past few years. This time around we’re looking at the Honor 5C, a 5.2″ 1080p mid-ranger with a stupidly low price tag. Let’s take a look in the full review.
Disclaimer: Honor provided us (Dom) With the 5c review unit for free, however they have no control over the editorial outcome of the review. The 5c was used on the Three UK Mobile network in the southeast of the UK for 7 days as my primary device. The 5c received no system OTAs in the review period.
Honor, the sub-brand from Huawei focused at “Digital Natives” is a brand I can genuinely get behind. For nearly as long as they’ve been formed, Honor have made great choices with regards to hardware (let’s forget the Holly ever existed though, yeah?) and Huawei and Honor have been slowly (almost glacially slowly) fixing and overhauling EMUI to make it more palatable to western audiences, so it should come to no surprise that they’ve pretty much done it again with the Honor 5c, it’s new Moto G busting device.
- 5.2” Full HD 1080p IPS display
- Octa-Core Kirin 650 (8xA53 @16nm)
- Mali-T830 GPU
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB Storage
- MicroSD slot
- 3000mAh Battery
- 13mp Rear Camera
- 8mp Front camera
For a more detailed list of Specifications, head on over to GSMArena (Note, only the Asian model has a fingerprint scanner)
As I said a moment ago, hardware isn’t something that Honor have ever really had a problem with, and that stands here. Despite being a handset that costs only £150 SIM Free in the UK, it is built incredibly solidly, has a nice metal back adding to the quality feel and the rigid glass up front helps cut down on flex as well.
Speaking of the glass up front, it houses one of the best and worst parts of this phone, but luckily it is somewhat fixable; the Glass (which I am unable to find out whether it is DragonTrail or Gorilla Glass). It has no oleophobic coating covering whatsoever, meaning that every single finger swipe contributes to the gunk and grime that ends up on the front of this screen and it makes it harder to clean. This can however be remedied by a screen protector that has it’s own oleophobic coating, but you should not have to add things to a device when it should have just had them to begin with.
Aside from that niggle, under that glass we have one awesome display. It’s a 5.2” 1920×1080 Full HD IPS display and it looks great. It’s not Huawei P9 levels of great, not P8 or maybe even P7, but it is a cracking screen nevertheless, with solid colours, relatively low reflectivity and very little colour distortions even at extreme angles. As I said, if it had had the oleophobic coating, there would be nothing for me to moan about with regards to this display at all.
Above the screen we have the LED Notification Light, earpiece for voice calls, and the 8MP front facing selfie camera. I’ll speak about the camera when it comes to the camera section, but let’s speak about the earpiece first. It’s only okay. It’s quite quiet but it is clear with very little if any distortion, but it could really stand to be a tad louder. The notification LED is very welcome here as unlike most new phones, it had no support for any ambient screen or always on screen, meaning that you would have had no way to know if you missed a notification without the LED inclusion. Last whinge here is about the ambient light sensor. It is slooooooooow, very slow. Much slower than a flagship, but even slower than a mid-range or low end phone. Unusually slow! Which leads me to believe it is a software bug that can be fixed soon.
Below the screen we have nothing but the Honor logo, in case you forgot who you bought your phone from. On the bottom edge we have a MicroUSB port in the centre, with the USB Port in the correct orientation (thin part up top) then two torx screws equidistant from the port on either side, then two grilles of 6 slits on either side again. They aren’t both speakers though, as the right one only is. The other is purely for decoration and must hide the microphone. Symmetry works really well on some phones and this is one of them, it just looks really nice. Would I have preferred this be a USB-C port? Sure, but I wish everything was a USB-C port at this point. Flipping 180 up to the top, we have the 3.5mm headphone jack and the secondary microphone, nothing else, and not much to say here.
On the left spine there is nothing but the NanoSIM and MicroSD tray. This is something I want to touch on because it is so simple to get right, but Honor did it right and wrong at the same time; let me explain. Let’s start with what they got right shall we? It’s very simple, it’s a tray, an actual tray. It’s not an outline for your SIM to fall though, it’s an actual goddamned tray. This is important for people like me who have ancient SIM cards that have been cut down, and then changed in and out of a gazillion phones and that sometimes don’t always stick in the outside variety. Honor did this great here. Now onto to the wrong; it’s upside down. You heard me right, the SIM tray is upside down. Luckily a small tab holds the SIM into the tray, but if your SIM is in even worse condition than mine, you’re going to have a bad time.
Looking at the right spine there is the power button and volume rocker and these buttons have a little bit of play in them but not enough to cause a rattle when the phone is vigorously shaken. They both have just enough travel without it being hard to actuate or far too easy to press, a nice middle ground.
Lastly is the back, a simple affair. Top to bottom we have the plastic frame puncturing a little slit into the metal backplate. I assume this is where the NFC antenna is. Below that is the 13MP camera sensor with the single LED flash. I am unable to find out who makes this sensor, but analysing the shots, I’m almost certain that it is the Sony IMX214 which is a stable for mid-rangers for the last little while. Lastly down the bottom is the Honor Logo as well as a Huawei tagline, model number etc. A nice simple back for a nice simple design. Honor/Huawei have mostly done this incredibly well.
Android 6.0 Marshmallow with EMUI 4.1. Ahhh, I feel like I could copy and paste the software section from my Huawei P9 review over and it’d be incredibly similar, but without further ado, let’s go.
Like most phones, Huawei/Honor are not completely up to date. They aren’t on Android 6.0.1 and they haven’t gotten the August Security patch. Instead they’re on 6.0 and the May 1st security patch. We don’t know when it’s going to get Nougat and we don’t know what their stance on security patches are, but seeing as they are already 3 months behind, I think they have more in common Motorola than with BlackBerry.
EMUI has come a very long way since it was first introduced and even since my first interaction with it on the Honor 6 a few years back. It still very obviously draws its design cues from Apple and iOS, but Huawei have refined it so much that a lot of the quirks that were introduced because they just changed things for changes sake, have been fixed. Gone are the days when EMUI used to wreck your notifications. Everything shows up visibly now. Gone are the days when EMUI put coloured ‘squircles’ behind every app icon and gone are the days when Google apps on EMUI had horrendously outdated logos because of the ‘squircle’ messing about.
Is EMUI perfect? God no, it still does many things that I am not a fan of, such as the changed notification shade, the multitasking menu and the lock screen. But Huawei have gone out of their way to make each of those less annoying than they used to be. As I said the notifications shade has been fixed so that you can actually see your notifications, and the multitasking menu has been fixed so you can be less precise on where you swipe to close an app. Lastly I just don’t like the lockscreen, and the only way they can fix that is by going to the AOSP one, but that’s unlikely to get ‘fixed’ anytime soon and could just be a personal preference.
Huawei aren’t known for their prowess when it comes to software, but this year that has changed a fair bit. They’ve been keeping their flagship phone, the P9 updated quite regularly, so I have some hope for the Honor 5c. Let’s hope Nougat and EMUI 5 isn’t too far off.
Performance is mostly okay, bar one small thing, RAM Management. The Honor 5c ships with 2GB of RAM, but if I’ve ever seen it go above 900mb free I’ve missed it.
The Honor 5c sometimes (After about 2 days of running continuously) begins to act like a launch Android 5.0 device, meaning it needs a restart to run smoothly again. Whilst I am slightly annoyed that I have to restart it once every few days to get it smooth again, otherwise the Honor 5c is nice and rapid.
The Kirin 650 is a chip that is really solid. The 8 Cortex A53 CPU Cores from ARM on the 16nm FinFET+ process node from TSMC make this a chip that performs valiantly. The one downside for me would be the choice of GPU. Whether it is just not clocked high enough or if it’s just not powerful enough I can’t decide, but if I had the choice I’d put something a little more beefy in that the included Mali-T830MP2. It doesn’t quite get to Snapdragon 615 levels of crappiness, but once in a while, usually limited to graphics intensive things, the Honor 5c could chug a little and lose a few frames.
Enough of that, you all want benchmarks right? Right…? Anyway here are a couple that I’ve run on the 5c, I haven’t just included Geekbench this time as I’ve been informed that people want more than just one benchmark, which is fine with me, so here are screenshots for your perusal.
This is another one of the overwhelmingly positive things about the Honor 5c. The 3000mAh non-removable Lithium-Ion battery is a beast. Paired with a very efficient screen and an efficient SoC choice, the Honor 5c was more often than not able to net me nearly 2 days of use per charge; an unprecedented amount really.
Is it perfect? Again, no. It uses MicroUSB still and there doesn’t seem to be any type of quick charging aside from 5v2a which is a bummer, and even then, with the 5v2a charger I got with my Huawei P9, the Honor 5c just seemed to take a rather long time to charge. That’s the downside to the 3000mAh battery and no quick-charging I guess.
I only did the one battery Benchmark test on the Honor 5c because it would have taken nearly half the time I had with the device if I were to run all the battery benchmarks, but here are the results from Geekbench Battery bench.
When it was first announced a few months ago, Honor really hyped up the camera on the 5c and for good reason, it’s actually really quite good.
The 13MP snapper on the back of the Honor 5c performs very well in normal lighting conditions, but as with most mid-low end phones, it really struggles once you start to take away the light. If I had to take a guess on who made the sensor, my money would fall on Sony and it being an IMX214. It shows many similarities to other cameras using that sensor.
Selfies seemed to be rather disappointing to me for a couple of reasons, but let me get the most annoying out of the way first. Huawei put a selfie timer on first meaning that when you hit the shutter, it doesn’t take the shot, it initiates a countdown. You aren’t told this on the screen by default so the amount of selfies I’ve missed with people was infuriating. Sure you can turn it off, but it shouldn’t have been on by default.
Other than that niggle, the images just seemed to lack any kind of wow factor. Sure there was ample detail due to the 8MP resolution, but dynamic range was ho-hum, exposure almost always leaned to the overexposed side and it was all just a bit flat lacking any depth. I’m almost certain this can be remedied later on with software improvements, but i’m not sure if I trust Huawei to do that.
Lastly I’m going to talk about video recording, and it’s here, it’s… okay. It’s nothing mindblowing but there are no real deal breakers either. It performs like a mid-ranger recording 1080p video which is… okay. Check out the sample and see for yourself.
Radios and Connectivity
Honor have been working hard to improve their mobile radio quality with each passing generation and it shows. Budget phones where once the redheaded stepchild of the family tree, a necessary evil, so to speak, but with the Honor 5c Huawei have given it LTE Cat.6, NFC, 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz, they’ve seriously made each part of the hardware work together because I was able to get signal on the 5c in places that were pretty much off limits most of the time due to being signal dead spots, even to Motorola devices and their legendary radio performance.
There is one downside to this though, and that’s Bluetooth. The Bluetooth radio seemed to be having some problems with either my Pebble Time Steel, or there was just a bug on my unit, but it got so bad that I didn’t even bother wearing my Pebble for the second half of the week it got so bad. I Assume this could be something that gets fixed, or at least I hope it is, because it is the one sore spot in an otherwise cracking section for the Honor 5c.
The only real thing I want to add into the miscellaneous section here is actually something that is missing, and that Is a fingerprint scanner. This isn’t me asking for everything in the world on a lower budget device, but something that is actually on other models of this phone, but was removed for the UK/European launch of this phone. Honor say it was to keep the costs down, and I find that easy to believe, but I think that how much would you have saved by retooling the machines to leave this out instead of just keeping it in.
The conclusion for the 5c is quite an easy one, buy it, especially at £150, even better when it undoubtedly goes on sale like every Honor phone. The Honor 7 is usually available under £200 whilst it retails for £230, the Honor 5X (please don’t buy it) retails for £180 but can often be found for about £150/£160, meaning that this is going to more than likely be on sale for about £130 or so in a couple of months, and it is a cracking phone.
I hope Honor manage to fix the RAM management/RAM leak bug, because other than that and some Camera post-processing issues, I think the 5c is a cracking phone and Is definitely something that I would recommend to friends and family shopping on a budget, but don’t want to feel like they’re shopping on a budget.