You may have seen recently the little photo special our Dear Leader posted on the Honor 5c. Recently Huawei have caused significant disruption in the phone market both with their own devices and sub-brand Honor devices. Devices such as the Honor 6 Plus, the Honor 7 and the Honor 5X have all delivered a lot for a very attractive price. The latest in this is line in the Honor 5c.
We here at Coolsmartphone towers are no stranger to Honor. But for those who may not be as au-fait with them, they are a sub-brand of Huawei which are predominantly sold online/SIM-free (though some contract deals do exist). This kind of approach decreases overheads and means that they can price their devices aggressively. The 5C is their budget device and is available for £149 and yet has an impressive spec list. When I was on the lookout for my mothers Moto G, initially I was looking at the new Moto G4, a device that has been launched to widespread acclaim and often thought of as the best budget Android device. When, however, I came across this (for £20) cheaper on Amazon I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I decided to go for it and these are my thoughts. Could this be the best budget Android device toppling the current king? Could this be the Moto G killer?
Coming to those specs, here they are..
Android OS, v6.0 (Marshmallow) + EMUI 4.1
Chipset HiSilicon Kirin 650
CPU Quad-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A53 + quad-core 1.7 GHz Cortex-A53
Dimensions 147.1 x 73.8 x 8.3 mm (5.79 x 2.91 x 0.33 in)
Weight 156 g (5.50 oz)
Dual SIM (2 x Nano-SIM/Nano SIM + MicroSD, dual stand-by)
IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
5.2 inches (~68% screen-to-body ratio)
1920 x 1080 (424 PPI)
16 GB, 2 GB RAM + microSD, up to 256 GB (uses SIM 2 slot)
Back – 13 MP, f/2.0, autofocus, LED flash, check quality
Geo-tagging, touch focus, face/smile detection, panorama, HDR
Video 1080p@30fps, check quality
Front 8 MP, f/2.0
Alert types Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
Loudspeaker + 3.5 mm Jack
Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, hotspot
Bluetooth v4.1, A2DP, LE
A-GPS, GLONASS/ BDS (region dependent)
microUSB v2.0 Micro USB charging
Non-removable 3000 mAh battery
Looking at those specs, a couple of things stand out. Firstly the use of the in-house Kirin processors. This is standard for Huawei and Honor. The best equivalence to the more common chipsets we’ve seen is the Snapdragon 652, although it does use the 16nm process rather then 24nm process leading to better power consumption. This is means some stellar performance should be expected, much better then the Snapdragon 617 in the Moto G4.
Secondly, as a whole these are near enough flagship specs from 2014, the fact that Honor have got this high standard at such a low price-point is astonishing.
Thirdly these are the specs for the UK/European models. That means that there is no fingerprint sensor which is present in the Chinese/Asian models. I assume its a licensing thing, or it could be to decrease costs. Frankly, at this price point, who cares!
Finally, the dual purpose SIM slots where you can either use it as a dual SIM device or single SIM with a microSD card. This is a very useful piece of functionality that I hope other device makers employ in the west.
The 5C is a mix of metal and plastic. Its predominantly a metal device, with a metal back encased in a polycarbonate plastic shell and buttons. It feels quite nice, not like proper metal devices like the HTC 10 or OnePlus 3, but definitely better then what we are used to at this price point. The back is slightly curved meaning it fits well in the hand.
At 5.2in screen size one-handed use isn’t a problem with minimal side bezels. The metal back can be a bit slippy, but the plastic sides aid grip. The top has 3.5mm jack, whilst the bottom has a microUSB port (standard, not USB-C, which i think is a good thing) and a down facing speaker. The speaker is adequate if a little on the quiet side.
On the side is the dual SIM tray, which can house a nano-sim + either micro SIM or Micro SD card. With 16GB of onboard storage only, I think the SD card makes more sense.
Our dear leader has taken some great pics to show off the hardware here.
The 5C packs a 5.2in 1080p IPS LCD screen which is better then what we are used to at this price point. Most competitors ae at 720p. The resolution is good, however the colours seem slightly washed out, brightness is average too. Videos played nicely on the device. On the whole, good for the price, but not ground-breaking overall. It is a fingerprint magnet though, there is no oleophobic coating, something that i hadn’t realised many budget phones didn’t have (being so used to flagships).
So the 5C runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow, not that you’d ever notice as it has the Huawei heavily customised EMUI 4.1. EMUI has a reputation for being an iOS clone, and I can see why, no app drawer and similar shortcuts (swipe down for search, swipe up on lockscreen for more shortcuts) folders, multi-tasking switcher, even the colour palette in the settings.
I thought this iOS-ness would annoy me. Actually far from it, I quite enjoyed using it! It is heavily customisable, the lack of an app drawer isn’t a big deal, it works speedily and on the whole was a nice experience. Its not Stock by a long way, but then (controversy alert!) I think Stock Android is over-rated, many manufacturer skins add really good functionality, and this one is no exception. There are a few niggles with icons and notifications, but they didn’t bother me and Huawei have responded positively to criticism EMUI has seen.
There are a myriad of settings and quite a nice Health app (if you are into that kind of thing.
As we saw on the Huawei P9, there’s a stack of data management and battery management tools to keep your device running smoothly and as it was “out of the box”. It’s a very granular system and means that you can fully control what each app is doing or can do with your battery and precious data. Stop background data, stop cellular data and more – it’s all there and it’s very easy to understand.
A range of tools and all the Google apps you’d expect are here, but they’re organised nicely into folders..
The keyboard works well and you can switch it out for another if you wish. The experience is quick and painless plus there’s virtually every quick-access setting and notification you need from the pull-down menu / notification screen at the top. Note the step counter too, just to keep you healthy :)
I was very happy with the performance. The Kirin 650 is a better chip then most at this price-point, and is more power-efficient. I had no slowdowns or stutters. The RAM management is quite aggressive, which is understandable with 2GB RAM available. This does push apps out of RAM quickly which is an annoyance especially if you do a lot of multi-tasking. The Mali T830 GPU also performed very well. Some graphically intensive games did tax it, but other less intensive games worked fine. It never seemed to get hot either, I assume the 16nm process helped with that
The device has a 13MP rear-shooter which is surprisingly capable. The actual sensor is quite ordinary, but Huawei have done good work with their processing which means that the pictures are better then I anticipated. There’s no OIS and low-light photography is a bit ropey, but in good lighting some good shots can be had, probably equivalent to my Xperia Z2 from a few years ago. The camera app is full of features (panorama etc) but laid out a bit different to what we are used to, blame EMUI I guess!
Here are some samples. The HDR mode was on for all of these and it’s definitely my preference, however the preference to have HDR on doesn’t “stick” and you will find yourself checking whether it’s enabled when you turn it on or hop back into the camera app..
Here’s a selection of HDR and non-HDR (“DAV”) shots…
The 5c comes with a decent-sized non-removable 3000mA battery. There are reviews out there talking of 2 day battery-life. EMUI does have a raft of power-management tools and 24 hours+ is possible but I think 2 days is stretching it far. I would have 25% or so at the end of a full day of moderate use.
I was a bit worried taking a punt on this device. I normally recommend a Moto G for people in this segment and had the G4 been smaller, I would’ve bought that for my mother without any hesitation. But this phone really surprised me. Frankly this is the best budget phone on the market now. Sure, as a phone-nerd it doesnt have the features and power that I want for all the things I do with my phone. But for a lot of people, it really is all the phone they’d ever need. Everyday tasks are done easily with good performance, a good screen, good battery life, decent camera and a surprisingly enjoyable software experience. For the non-nerdy “normal” person, or someone like my mother, this phone ticks all the boxes and I think is the best budget phone out there… I mean come on guys! £149! nuff said! and my mom likes it too!
Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments!