You'd never guess this phone cost £190
As we’ve said before, Honor is a brand to keep a sharp eye on if you like a tech bargain. They haven’t yet made it big in the UK, but as the more pronounceable offshoot of the enormous Chinese Huawei (wa-way, for the record), they have the manufacturing muscle to make high quality phones that don’t cost much at all. If the big phone brands aren’t worried yet, they should be.
The Honor 5X is the latest in their line of Android smartphones, following on from the Honor 7 (which we really liked). While it’s pretty unfortunate that the 5X shares its name with LG’s latest Nexus, Honor’s phone actually came first – just not in the UK.
We’ve been waiting to see if Honor’s 5X would make it to these shores, and as of today, it has. Costing just £189.99, this phone offers a premium look and some interesting features that are beyond what we’d expect at this price. Here are our first impressions.
A quick run-through of the coolest things about the 5X, including a demo of its multi-talented fingerprint sensor:
Honor have designed the 5X to be “the most affordable premium device of 2016.” It certainly doesn’t feel cheap, with its diamond-polished aluminium alloy, matte blasted finish on the sides and brushed metal finish on the back. In fact, it reminds us a lot of the considerably pricier HTC One M9.
Honor say it was inspired by the design of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, which looks like this:
The phone itself doesn’t really pay tribute to the curves or tiles of the Guggenheim, but the three colourways do apparently represent the building at dawn, sunset and nightfall, which we can see:
The dotted finish on the top and bottom edges is a nice touch, and there’s a pretty noticeable fingerprint sensor on the back. That’s a bonus for under £200, and it unlocks very quickly. Registering a fingerprint requires around 6 taps per finger, which Honor were quick to point out is about half the number of taps an iPhone needs. Fingerprints are stored in the ARM TrustZone on the chip, not in the software, and are double encrypted.
As with the Honor 7, the fingerprint sensor has extra talents: it can be configured to open apps chosen by you depending on which finger you use to tap it. That’s really cool. As we demonstrate in the video above, you could use a pinkie finger tap to open Tinder, while a middle finger calls your ex, perhaps.
The swipe gestures from the 7 are back too, letting you access notifications and recent apps directly from the fingerprint pad.
We really like Honor’s camera software. It adds a lot of extra features that you might never use, but might just fall in love with. Those include Super Night Mode, which makes for amazing night-time pictures, Food Mode which makes your Instagram dinner pics look delectable, and even a Demist filter for foggy days/London smog.
Shooting on Auto also produces good results in most cases:
You can double-tap the volume down button to almost instantly launch the camera or take a photo, and there are timelapse and slow-mo modes too (120 frames per second).
The selfie camera on the Honor 5X comes with beauty mode, which you can adjust as you see fit. Here’s me on level zero (left, no change), level 5 (centre) and on level 10 (right, uncanny valley):
We wouldn’t recommend turning this stuff on if you can resist it. It messes with your self esteem.
There’s a Panoramic Selfie option and even a Perfect Selfie mode, where you can select the changes you’d like the software to make to your face every time you take a selfie with you in it. Yep, it’ll even alter your mug when you’re in a group picture, meaning you can shine like an angel while your friends look shabby and mediocre. Ha ha.
It does stack with the existing beauty mode, though, so you can end up looking a bit ethereal (left). Obviously, we turned all the settings up to max because we’ve always wanted to be extraterrestrial (right):
Without all the unnecessary embellishments, though, the selfie cam takes good, colourful, shareable snaps. It’s better than we’d expect at this price.
It’s worth noting that NFC – near-field communication, aka the technology behind Android Pay and Apple Pay – is not on the list. This phone doesn’t have it, so if that’s something you’re likely to use (people mostly use it for transferring files between phones with Android Beam, exchanging contact details and such) then bear that in mind. For most people, though, it won’t be an issue until and unless Android Pay comes out in the UK.
On the bright side, it does have 3 card slots: nano sim, micro sim and microSD. That means you can have two sims in at the same time (if you’ve got two nanos, just use a converter to make the second one micro) – both slots can handle 4G sims, although you can only use 4G on one sim at a time.
Also good to see is the battery capacity: a fairly beefy 3000mAh. It’s not removable (does anyone still expect that?) but Honor says it’ll last a moderate user about 1.5 days, and a heavy user a day. Our experience of Honor battery life is pretty great, so we’re inclined to believe them.
Finally, while 16GB isn’t amazing, that microSD slot is very welcome, and notably missing from some much more expensive handsets.
The 5X is available from today in the UK on Honor’s official site, VMall. It’ll also be available from Amazon UK and Three shortly, but you’ll need to wait a little bit longer for those.
It costs just £189.99 sim-free. We think it looks a fair bit more expensive, and while we’d have liked to see 3GB of RAM rather than 2GB (just for performance and longevity), there’s no denying this seems like a great phone for the price. We’ll be writing a full review when we’ve had some proper time with the phone (as per our review policy) but for now, this is our new favourite Android bargain.