Honor has been doing a lot of things lately and making a lot of fuss in the smartphone game. Rightly so as the Honor 8 was wildly successful, the 5c was a solid mid range device at a low cost and the 5X, despite being deeply flawed was it’s main entrant into the US market. What about the Honor 6X? Has Honor done it again?
Disclaimer: Honor supplied us with this 6X Review unit, but due to limited supply, we only had 6 Days to complete this review, so Battery section will be shorter with less detail than usual. Despite Honor providing the device, they have no control over the editorial outcome of this review and no money changed hands. The Device received no OTAs and has been used on the Three UK network in the South East of the UK.
Speeds and Feeds (Specifications) – Honor 6X
- 5.5” 1920x1080p IPS display
- Octa-Core Kirin 655 SoC
- 4x Cortex A53 @2.1Ghz
- 4x Cortex A53 @1.7Ghz
- Mali-T830 MP2 GPU
- 3GB LPDDR3 RAM 32GB eMMC
- 4GB LPDDR3 RAm 64GB eMMC
- 3340mAh non-removable battery
- MicroUSB charging port
- 3.5mm audio jack
- 12mp+2mp dual camera setup (12mp Colour,2mp monochrome)
- 8mp selfie camera
For a more comprehensive spec sheet, head on over to GSMArena’s Honor 6X page, here
Hardware – Honor 6X
How do you describe the Honor 6X? Well, mate a 5x with a Mate 9, and it’s pretty much that, in fact, the 6X is near identical to the Mate 9 Lite, for what it is worth. So for our gold Review unit we have a light gold back piece which is aluminium, and a white front face (with a pre-applied screen protector that barely fits). Starting off from the front, up top we have the hidden LED notification light which is a nice touch, I think it is RGB, but I can’t be sure as of yet. Next to that is the ambient light and proximity sensor bundle, which are for the obvious things. Then is the disappointing earpiece. It’s not that it isn’t loud enough, it’s plenty loud, but the quality just isn’t there, it lacks depth and warmth, it’s a very tinny shallow earpiece. Then we have the 8mp Selfie camera, one of the things that Honor has done really well is knowing what to focus on and they’ve done it again, from the outset, as soon as you fire up the Selfie camera on the Honor 6X, you’re more than likely going to get a good shot.
Dropping a few mm down we have the 5.5” full HD IPS screen, this is a decent screen, it is not an OLED panel by any stretch of the imagination, but it is not a bargain basement LCD like we have seen on some other low-cost devices, it has decent viewing angles, and a high enough manual brightness, and the auto-brightness can crank it up to 450 nits when in direct sunlight, which is impressive. My gripe is the lack of an oleophobic coating, and this’ll be something I continue to rag on Honor about until they start using an oleophobic coating on the glass and stop pre-applying these screen protectors, they feel cheap and adversely affect the experience of the phone. Below the screen is nothing but an Honor logo, once again another thing that doesn’t have to be here that I would prefer it not to be for a cleaner aesthetic, but I can live with it.
Taking a look at the left hand side of the phone we have the Sim and MicroSD tray. Like most chinese phones, the Honor 6X is dual SIM, either Dual-Nano SIM or Single Nano SIM and a MicroSD card up to 256gb. Unlike other phones which allow dual SIMs and a MicroSD card, you’ll have to chose with the 6X. On the right hand side is where we find the Volume rocker and the power button, and Honor has done a decent job of making the volume buttons something you don’t easily press, but the same cannot be said about the power button, it is too shallow, and too easy to depress without any tactile bump to make sure you’ve actually hit the button, a weird disparity that might be localised to my unit, but something to make note of.
Looking at the top of the 6X shows us the 3.5mm audio jack and the secondary noise cancelling microphone. Unlike other OEMs, Honor kept the Headphone jack here, which is a good move in our book. Though sadly unlike the P9 and Honor 8, the Honor 6X does not support audio routing through the USB port, so things like USB DACs or USB headphones like the Zorloo Z;eros won’t work. Doing a 180, we have a look at the bottom of the 6X, showing us the MicroUSB charging and Data port with two speaker grilles, only one of which is actually a speaker, whilst the other houses the main microphone. The choice to use MicroUSB on the 6X infuriates me, not jsut because I have spent the last 6 months wiring my office and room to run USB-C cables, but because Honor sells a phone with a USB-C port, they know how awesome it is, and it came out long before this, and probably while this wasn’t even in development, sticking with MicroUSB just reeks of laziness because it was easier and cheaper to include it than switch to Type-C.
Having a look at the back of the Honor 6X, you’d think it was a much more expensive device than it’s £225 price tag. We have a nice metal back for pretty much everything you’d be touching, with 2 small plastic inserts for the top and bottom for the radio transparency. Below the top window is the camera setup with a single LED flash next to it, with one of Huawei’s legendary fingerprint scanners below it, and right on the bottom is the Honor Brand and the model number. The back of the 6X is classy, elegant and simplistic, and this is in the colour that I’m least fond of, I can only imagine how nice it’ll look in dark grey or silver.
Overall, the external hardware of the Honor 6X should be commended, it’s solidly build with little to no creaking or flexing, and with the exception of the MicroUSB port, I’m happy with most everything huawei/Honor have done here, despite being a big phone with a 5.5” phone, the curves make it feel manageable in the hand for even my hands.
Software – Honor 6X
So, this is where I’d love to tell you that the software experience on the 6X is magnificent and Nougat runs well on the Kirin 655 and EMUI has cleaned up everything we hated about EMUI, but I can’t, because the Honor 6X ships with Marshmallow and EMUI4.1, something we very much dislike. Luckily the 6X will be receiving Nougat and EMUI5, we just don’t have an exact date yet, Sadly.
So let’s talk about what we have here instead. We have Android 6.0 (not even 6.0.1) with the October 1st Security Patch and EMUI revision 4.1 Build number B122. If you’ve read a review of a Huawei phone over the last year that is not the Mate 9 or an Honor 8 with nougat beta, you know what we’re getting at here. The Software experience on the 6X is no longer extremely broken, like in previous years, but there are still issues come with trying to change software like the notification shade, applications that throw up big notifications, like ebay or Google maps get truncated and squashed and look wrong.
We also have the extremely over zealous power management and application manager who tells you all the time what programs are taking a lot of battery in the background (for the record, I don’t want to close GBoard, Honor 6X) Thankfully I can whitelist apps like Pebble, so it doesn’t shut off, disconnecting my watch, and I can turn off that power warning notification, because boy that gets old fast. Most annoying stuff can be turned off of altered to your liking in EMUI, the problem is that it’s all turned on by default, except for the cool stuff.
Things like the notification shade pull down when you swipe on the fingerprint sensor? That’s freaking awesome, it’s so good that even Google borrowed it, but it’s turned off by default. But things turned on by default? A beauty mode for selfies. A selfie timer, a nagging battery manager and more. As I said, you can actually tweak EMUI to be livable relatively easily now, especially since they stopped messing with icons so much, and it only gets better with EMUI5, but it’s all just a little much, but let me reiterate once more.
EMUI IS NO LONGER EXTREMELY BROKEN FOR NO REASON
Camera – Honor 6X
Well how about those cameras? Something Huawei and Honor struggled with for pretty much ever until the P9/Honor 8, and over here, well It is good news, It’s a scaled back version of the P9/Honor 8. Instead of getting identical 12mp camera sensors, one colour and one monochrome. We get one 12mp sensor (the colour one) and one 2mp one (the monochrome one). It still does the funky image blending that the Honor 8 and P9 did, it still takes all the colour from the colour image and blends it with the depth information, shadows and highlights of the monochrome image, and blends it into the best image it can make for you. Sadly, like the Honor 8, they’ve removed the option to take monochrome images (it’s a Leica thing, so if there isn’t Leica branding, they don’t want you t take black and white images).
So what can I say before I just direct you to look at the image samples? Well, first off it is fast, for most everything a normal person would want to do with this camera, the Kirin 655 keeps up and things keep going along nice and smooth, Putting it into burst mode does slow things down a tad, but in the same way that HDR mode does, but navigation is mostly smooth and seamless. If I had one gripe it is about the complexity of the camera app, for normals who leave it in auto, it’s fine, for shutterbugs who know what to tweak it is fine, but it is the people in the middle, that aren’t quite up on all the terminology and dials and sliders that could easily feel a little overwhelmed. But this isn’t just an EMUI problem, most companies outside of Samsung can’t really get the Camera UI right, in my opinion at least.
Enough stalling, have a look at these Camera samples.
See, pretty impressive right? Especially when you remember the £225 price point of this, that Is Moto G4 Plus pricing with a way better camera, Good job Huawei/Honor, stills are great with the rear camera, but what about selfies?
Some impressive selfies no? Aside from, well, me. But the resolution, the lighting, the exposure etc all works as it should. The only gripe is that whenever you open the front facing camera it defaults to having the beauty mode on. Whilst I’m sure there are people that love it, this is another feature that is on by default that I really wish wasn’t.
Lastly, here is a 1080p video sample, because you deserve it. Also because I need to test the video capability of the Honor 6x, but mainly because you deserve it.
Performance – Honor 6X
Thankfully, Honor have decided to forgo the horrendous Snapdragon 616 that was in the 5X for a return this year, but they didn’t even go with the direct successor, the Snapdragon 625, instead, like with the Honor 5c, they went in-house and pulled the Kirin 655 from the shelf, functionally near identical to the 625, and you know what that means, awesome battery, buttery performance and not a hint of slow down, man am I happy that the 615 series is dead.
The Kirin 655 is comprised of 8 Cortex A53 cores, the Cortex A53 has a level of performance roughly on par with the Cortex A9 from a couple of years ago, but the A53 is 64bit capable, and I say capable, because the 6X is actually running with a kernel is 32bit ARMv7 mode, for some reason. But the 8 cores are split into 2 clusters of 4, 4 lower clocked 1.7Ghz cores, and 4 higher performance 2.1Ghz cores, there are paired with the Mali-T830 GPU in a 2 core configuration and all this is made on TSMCs 16nm FF+ manufacturing node, a modern node, with a modern core architecture and a modern GPU, who knew that these things would make a good processor (literally everyone, but still).
Despite the fact that benchmarks are effectively useless, especially on midrange chipsets where they all look kinda bad, the experience of using the 6X is solid, in the week (or so) that I’ve been using the 6X as my daily device, I’ve never had to wait for anything, nor have I had to reboot to gain performance back. I haven’t had any stalls, or slow down, or hangs or microstutters, everything on it just happens when I want it to, and that is a serious step up from the 5X, so Good job Honor, using your own chips benefits you yet again.
Battery – Honor 6X
With a 3340mAh battery and a midrange SoC on a modern node, if this section was anything less than incredible, something was deeply wrong, luckily, the Honor 6X is awesome in this section, easily lasting me 2 days. In Fact, I’ve only charged the Honor 6X twice in this review period, and I wasn’t even going all that light on it. In fact I was likely harder on it due to this extremely limited time frame to do this in.
The Kirin 655, paired with the 1080p screen, the big-ass battery and the relatively fast charging mean the Honor 6X will be an easy phone for you weekend warriors or road warriors, or maybe just the people that for some reason leave everything turned on, at the highest brightness and watch a gazillion cat videos on youtube. The Honor 6X lasts, and I’m impressed. Do I wish It had a bigger battery? Actually, not really. The bigger battery would have added extra weight and thickness, and on a device this size, if that extra weight was not distributed evenly, the chance of dropping it goes up, and I wouldn’t want to drop this, the battery size is actually great.
If I could have changed anything, it would have been to add a USB-C port and adhere to the USB- Power delivery specification for fast charging, because that is a fast charging standard I can get behind quite happily, plus, you know, USB-C.
Radios and connectivity – Honor 6X
Radios are actually something Huawei do really well, like Motorola they have background expertise, so they can really fine tune their mobile hardware to perform admirably, and boy do they, Not once was the Honor 6X on mobile networks below 3 bars of signal where others are on 1 or maybe 2, and fringe spots in my house where just another part of the House with the Honor 6X, good job Honor 6X, good job.
Where the radios tend to fall down is with WiFi, the Honor 6X does not support 5Ghz WiFi, and because it cannot support 5Ghz, it cannot support 802.11ac WiFi, which sucks, so the fastest you will get here is 802.11n 2.4Ghz which is… less that stellar to put it politely.
Misc – Honor 6X
Starting with the easy things in miscellaneous, the fingerprint scanner. The Honor 6X has an awesome fingerprint scanner that beats most everything in it’s class. It’s slower than higher end Huawei devices, that’s for sure, but it is faster than the Galaxy S7, I can tell you that much. My P9, Honor 8 and Oppo F1 Plus still outshine it, but those are ludicrously fast, so the 6X shouldn’t feel too badly about that, it’s in great company. The Scanner in the Honor 6X is the FPC1025 from Fingerprint cards, a stellar scanner that Huawei has put to good use and I could not be happier with.
Now how about phone calls? Because despite how infrequently some people make calls on smartphones, they’re still phones, and I have to say that the experience is a little middle of the road, for one reason, that earpiece. The reception and the fact that I never once dropped a call was great, but sadly despite the other end of the call saying I sounded fine, I couldn’t say the same for them, it was just a little sad that the earpiece was so decidedly meh on an otherwise great device.
Conclusion – Honor 6X
So, should you buy it? Hell yeah! The the £225 price tag means this is a crowded market, but when you have the solid performance, stellar battery life, great camera and more the 6X takes it away. You can find devices with better cameras, or better screen, or better performance , but finding one that has all of them at a similar price to the 6X is where it gets difficult, and it’ll only get more difficult once Nougat and EMUI5 comes out because this will then be an even bigger force to contend with.