Huawei Honor 5C Review: Smooth, reassuring, compact.

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Detailed review Huawei Honor 5C

A few months ago, when we tested the Honor 5X, there were some aspects that we didn’t quite appreciate. The device had notable hitches, the camera wasn’t class-leading and even the overall build quality, despite being all-metal, was nothing worth appreciating greatly. Quite a few months have passed since then and budget smartphones have raised the bar higher than before, with Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 and LeEco Le 2 leading the way.

The Honor 5C here is a testament to the improvement and effort that brands are now putting into creating value-for-money devices that are more than worthy of being recommended. In sharp comparison with the Honor 5X, Huawei’s Honor 5C now presents a better metal construction, a slightly different design and much more worth talking about. Let’s take a closer look at Huawei’s latest budget smartphone, the Honor 5C.

Build and design
The Honor 5C essentially uses a similarly built chassis, but with a different design that feels refreshing in light of the competition† The Honor 5C has rounded edges on the sides and the back, making the device easy to hold. The form factor also makes it smaller than many other devices around, although the bezels around the display could have easily been slimmed down, effectively making the device even smaller. It is 8.3 mm thin and weighs 156 grams. All these factors make the device quite ergonomic, easy to hold and operate, although there is nothing really remarkable about it.

The quality of the metal used in the build feels much better than what was used in the Honor 5X, and the grooved metal panels on the top and bottom of the back panel add to the overall design of the smartphone. The striped lines also run down the sides, adding to both the design and grip. The standard setup sees the volume rocker and power button on the right, the dual SIM tray on the left, the 3.5mm audio port on the top and microUSB on the bottom. The buttons offer decent feedback and don’t feel flimsy in any way. The dual SIM tray contains a dedicated SIM slot and a hybrid SIM and memory card slot, allowing you to expand the storage by up to 128 GB.

In summary, the Honor 5C has decent build quality, a slightly different design, and nifty ergonomics, all of which make it a device that can be easily typed with one hand or tucked into pockets without being aware.

Display and user interface
The 5.2-inch IPS LCD has a screen resolution of 1080×1920 pixels, which is what you would expect from a budget device these days. The Honor 5C’s display is amply bright, in addition to being reasonably sharp and vibrant. The colors don’t pop but still seem very well balanced and optimal for watching video content. The colors here are not oversaturated, but have a sharp, vibrant quality that is pleasant to look at.

The brightness is good and the screen remains legible in direct sunlight. The only issue here is the lack of screen protection on the Honor 5C, which makes it prone to scratches or incidental damage. The touch response is decent, although there are a few missed taps and swipes every now and then. This may not affect your daily use, but it does have an impact when you play games like Basketball and Stack.

Huawei’s EMUI v4.1 offers custom icons, no app drawer, and no curated content feed, keeping the layout fairly clean and easy to use. There are a few small but useful tricks here, such as a blur slider for your background. It may seem insignificant, but is actually a useful addition to keep your icons prominently visible, no matter how colorful a background you choose. Overall, it’s fairly light, although even without apps running, I’ve never seen more than 950MB of RAM for free (more on that later). The Honor 5C runs on Android Marshmallow and you get all the good stuff out of the box.

Performance and audio
The Honor 5C is powered by Huawei’s custom HiSilicon Kirin 650 SoC, which features two clusters of Cortex-A53 cores arranged in big.LITTLE architecture, clocked at 2GHz and 1.7GHz respectively. It is built using the 16nm FinFET fabrication process and is accompanied by an i5 co-processor to support lightweight tasks, and a Mali-T830 GPU that the company claims offers 100 percent better performance than its predecessors. The device also comes with 2GB of RAM, of which I have never seen more than 950MB free. However, this is just a number as the device performs fairly smoothly.

Apps that you would regularly use, such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapseed, Gmail, and the like, all load without a hitch, although the device is remarkably consistently slow. It’s not exactly slow, but doesn’t offer flawlessly smooth performance like Snapdragon 650 and 652 powered devices offer in this price range. In general, it is fast enough to control your daily email, calls, notes, messages and browsing quite easily. Browsing with Google Chrome on the Honor 5C with more than five other apps open leads to noticeable slowdowns when switching between tabs and a slightly halted scrolling.

Even when it comes to gaming, the Honor 5C outperforms its predecessor, the Honor 5X. The performance has been greatly improved and is actually quite decent for casual gaming, even with heavy games like Asphalt 8, Injustice: Gods Among Us and Dead Trigger 2. Lightweight games like Stack, Jetpack Joyride and the like run almost without any glitches. However, with heavier games, there are sudden stutters that hinder the gaming experience. The benchmarks are a good representation of how the smartphone lags behind in terms of performance, but still maintains a decent face.

Despite only having 2 GB of RAM on board, the device does a pretty good job, thanks to the octa-core processor and the on-board co-processor to tackle lighter background tasks. The fingerprint sensor is blazingly fast and highly accurate, and you can even use it to scroll through the notification shade, take a photo, or mute pending notifications. The added functionalities generally make the device more convenient.

Call quality is good – there were no unusual or frequent network outages and the quality of the earphone audio is decent. Network retention is decent too, and the device retained 3G in areas where iPhones usually switch to 2G. The integrated speakers provide loud audio, although their quality is nothing to brag about. There is no real diversity of frequency ranges and the overall audio has a hollow, tin-like atmosphere. It may be loud, but it’s not a portable speaker on its own.

Camera
The 13-megapixel rear camera is paired with a 5-element f/2.0 lens to meet your primary smartphone photography needs. Huawei offers plenty of options to swap with manual and automatic presets to find the perfect shot. By default, it is set to complete shooting automatically at a resolution of 13 megapixels 4:3. For a 16:9 aspect ratio of photos, you get photos of 10 megapixels. There are separate Pro modes for shooting stills and videos, giving you manual control over metering, white balance, shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO and focus.

The Honor 5C Shoots clear, vibrant, balanced and sharp photos in daylight or adequately lit conditions. The colors are fairly close to the source, the noise level in daylight shots is very low, although the saturation levels in the auto modes are a bit too low, making photos look a bit gloomy, especially in cloudy conditions. This can be easily fixed with manual shooting, but for the most part you’ll find yourself shooting in instant auto, which isn’t too bad.

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Low-light photos, as expected, look somewhat soft, although they do very well while retaining color originality. The camera tries to reduce the noise level, making subjects appear a bit soft here. However, under soft tungsten light, that adds to the essence of the photos. The camera itself, with its shutter response, seems to be a bit sluggish, which is the only real deterrent in an otherwise noteworthy smartphone camera. It’s not extremely slow, but it takes more than a second to save a photo taken in standard mode, which is now classed as ‘slow’.

The 8-megapixel front camera also does a pretty good job, producing reasonably sharp photos as long as you place it under adequate light. A good aspect is the built-in photo editor, which will help selfie enthusiasts and social media shutterbugs.

Battery
The Honor 5C offers enough battery capacity to last the entire workday, with more than light use. With approximately 50 emails, 90 minutes of calls, many messages, 15 minutes of GPS navigation, 10 minutes of camera use, 20 minutes of gaming, an hour of music streaming and half an hour of video streaming, the device lasts from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and retains still about 20 percent charge after an 11 hour day. You should ideally charge it every night, although you can still use it for 30 minutes streaming music and 15 minutes navigating along with more emails and calls. This all adds up to almost a day and a half of real-world usage, which is a decent result for the Honor 5C.

Our benchmark tests suggest a screen duration of 9 hours, 54 minutes and 30 seconds, which in itself is quite commendable.

bottom line
The Honor 5C is a neat, simple and easy-to-use smartphone, offering decent performance for the average user, a good camera, good battery life, construction, design, and there’s nothing about this smartphone that really disappoints. At Rs. 10,999, it’s a pretty decent smartphone to consider. Sure, at Rs. 11.999, you do have the LeEco Le 2 and Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, both of which perform better. The Honor 5C happens to be the more ergonomic of the three, so if you’re looking for a compact smartphone with a good screen, good performance and camera, the Honor 5C is a very good smartphone to consider.

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