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May 09, 2017

Honor 6X Review: Going Double?

By: John Diew



The Honor 6X was released early this year in Malaysia as the successor to the Honor 5X. Apart from performance upgrades, the most obvious addition to this mid-range smartphone is the dual camera configuration at the back. Let's find out how does this phone performs in our day to day usage.


Honor 6X Specifications Overview

Build Quality & Design



Trying to recognise this phone through the front will be difficult as other than the Honor logo at the bottom chin, the rest looks pretty standard for a smartphone, even among Honor's own arsenal.



Honor offers 3 different colours for you to choose - Silver, Grey and Gold. As you can see, this particular unit we have in our labs is the Silver unit.

To keep the cost low, the chassis of the 6X is not made of metal. Instead, the back panel is consists of a piece of metal with plastic antenna cover at the top and bottom. As far as I could remember, the Honor 5X and 5C also uses the same design principle. It is a shame that the 6X's rear panel finish isn't as high quality as before. Especially considering the gap between the metal panel and the plastic cover is not flush, and you can actually feel the grove.



The dual camera module is positioned in Mate 9's vertical style, with a single LED flash awkwardly placed at one side.

The fingerprint scanner is strategically placed under the camera module for easy access. It may not be the fastest fingerprint scanner out there, but not the slowest either. The fingerprint scanner has improved a lot in the last 2 years and I can say the scanner on the 6X has the perfect balance among the cost, speed and accuracy.



Symmetrically designed speaker grills at the bottom is purely cosmetic. The left grill houses the microphone while the other houses the actual speaker.

I can't believe that Huawei has yet to equip their 2017 mid-range phones with USB-C ports. Do we still need to wait for another year for the technology to trickle down?



While I prefer to have the 3.5 mm audio jack at the bottom, at least we still have it here on the 6X.



The power and volume buttons are slightly slanted towards the back on the right side.



The hybrid SIM slot is located on the other side. It takes either 2x Nano SIM or 1x Nano SIM + Micro SD card.

The Honor 5X did the right thing for supporting both Dual SIM and Micro SD card at the same time. I don't understand why they decide to go for hybrid SIM tray.

Sound



Please pardon the wrong focus here; As mentioned before, the downward facing single channel speaker is actually located underneath the right grill. It is easily blocked by your hands when you hold the phone in landscape.

Nevertheless, it is sufficient for general usage which includes speakerphone calls, videos and gaming. While there is slight distortion, it only happens at higher volumes at around 90%.

Display



Honor has maintained the usage of 1080p Full HD IPS display for the 6X. Thanks to the IPS panel, the colour reproduction is great and the wide viewing angle is without the colour shifting issue. However, sometimes I can't help but feel a slight dullness in the colours, it just doesn't seem as vibrant as I expected. Hey, maybe that's just me.

Camera

Main Camera



The camera of the Honor 6X is the main attraction here as Honor has equipped it with the dual camera technology. This, however, is not the same camera module as the Honor 8 because it uses 12 MP + 2 MP combination.








The camera app is intuitive to use and covers all your basic needs such as the Pro Photo mode and Pro Video mode. Of course, it also supports other creative shooting modes such as light painting and panorama.

The camera performs well in good lighting situation but when the light goes dim it is another story altogether, especially the focusing performance and photo quality. The main culprits would be the cap of 3200 ISO sensitivity and f/2.2 aperture. What's left is the slow shutter speed which leads to blurred photographs. Straight out of the camera, the colour would seem dull and un-lifelike. I double checked the exposure and white balance just to make sure I didn't miss-configure any of the settings, but it turns out that it is just the way how the camera behaves in low light situation.

After a few complaints as above, I have to make clear that all the above issues are pointed towards low light photographs. Like I said, it performs really well in good lighting situations but the performance contrast between the two different lighting situation is too obvious to ignore.

I'll leave the judging up to you with the following samples.

Gallery: (High res - Flickr Album)











Wide aperture mode



Not to forget that it now comes with wide aperture mode thanks to the dual camera configuration. This feature utilises the dual-camera hardware and software to emulate the bokeh effect.



Front Camera



The front camera has received a respectable upgrade from the 5X - bumping the megapixels from 5 MP to 8 MP. Aperture wise, it gets a 2/3 stop of extra light with the new f/2.0 aperture lens, compared to the 5X's f/2.4 aperture.


Software & Features



Honor 6X is shipping with EMUI 4.1 and it is expected to receive EMUI 5 update within the H1 2017. I've been waiting to receive the update on my review sample to no avail. Therefore, this review is solely based on the EMUI 4.1.

Comparing the EMUI 4.1 and the latest EMUI 5, the latter looks obviously dated. Check out our review of the Huawei Mate 9 and Huawei P10 Lite, no offence but honestly speaking, the EMUI 4.1 looks absolutely ugly.

Looking at the positive side, the interface itself at least is snappy and responsive to use. While I personally dislike having all the apps showing on the home screen, the next update will bring the app drawer back which pretty much solves the issue. At least we now get to choose which interface to use based on our preferences.

Performance

Benchmark



The Honor 6X comes with 3 GB RAM and 32 GB internal storage. There is also a higher end Honor 6X with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage.

If you're looking at numbers, don't expect it to perform high and mighty as the flagships. The Kirin 655 is just a mid-ranged system-on-chip that offers reasonable performance at a reasonable price tag. The CPU performance is (theoretically) slightly better than of the Snapdragon 625 at the same power consumption. Meanwhile, the GPU performance is another matter as the Kirin 655's Mali-T830MP2 is obviously a weaker graphics processor compared to the Snapdragon's Adreno 506.

Real life performance

So how do all those translates to real life usage? Frankly speaking, the Honor 6X performs well at all the tasks we throw at it. Be it social media apps or photo editing apps. Graphics heavy tasks such as gaming, however, is not that well with occasional slow down because of the weaker GPU. Nevertheless, with a slight tweak at the graphic settings solves the problem.

Battery Life



Battery life is great thanks to the 16 nm CPU architecture. The screenshot above is an extreme example where I used the phone for 15 hours with 3.5 hours of SOT.

Now you may question me saying why the 6X has great battery life, when the above screenshot only shows 3.5 hours of screen on time. I have to disclaim that, the above scenario is an extreme example where I had the phone unplugged for 15 hours while having 3.5 hours of screen on time. In between, I actually used the phone as a portable hotspot for at least 2 hours.

If you don't know, enabling your phone's portable hotspot feature will drain your phone's battery like no tomorrow. I am actually surprised that I manage to pull all those usages without having to charge in between. Speaking of charging, it is kind of a shame that mid-rangers are being ignored of fast charge feature.

Final Words

Finally, at the price of RM 1,199, it is RM 300 or 33% more expensive than the model it is replacing. No, it is not just because of the MYR currency weakening that causes the price hike. In fact, the 5X costs US$ 199 while the 6X costs US$249. If we compare the specs side by side, aside from the CPU upgrade, the next major upgrade would be the camera module. Hence, is it really justifiable that the dual camera would contribute to US$50 increment? I am no expert in the pricing of the components, but looking at the smartphone market, I have to agree that smartphones are getting more expensive than ever.

Why should you buy this phone?

Consider that the phone has reasonable performance and great battery life, this is one of the great choices if you're looking for a mid-range smartphone that has balanced performance, features and price. Then the camera, it indeed offers dual-camera configuration, but you will have to enable the wide aperture mode to fully utilise the hardware. Otherwise, in regular mode, the camera only utilising the 12 MP sensor. Double or nothing, right?

PROS:

  • Good build quality
  • Good 5.5-inch 1080p IPS display
  • Decent image quality
  • Good performance
  • Great battery life

CONS:

  • Rear metal panel not flush with plastic antenna cover
  • Sub-par wide aperture mode
  • Micro USB instead of USB-C
  • No fast charge
  • Higher price than predecessor

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