Honor's latest brings solid specs and decent construction at a highly affordable price point.
The past year has seen Honor, Huawei's online-focused sub-brand, building out a range of highly focused, highly affordable handsets at various price points. The Honor 7 and Honor 5X were part of the growing trend throughout 2016 of lower-priced phones being able to go toe-to-toe with more expensive competitors in many areas. And although neither device was perfect, they were worth contenders.
Now Honor's back with a new handset aimed at the entry-level space, the Honor 5C. Unlike last year's Honor Holly, the 5C brings the fundamentals of the premium construction we've seen from other Huawei-made devices, and combines it with a new, efficient CPU, a Full HD display and a promising camera.
A smart and unpretentious Android phone.
From the outside, the Honor 5C is a smart and unpretentious Android phone. The front face is relatively featureless save for the Honor branding down below and earpiece up top. Around the back, the 5C echoes the design language of its big brother, the Honor 5X, with a few tweaks. It's a metal-backed design, but technically unibody, since the edges are plastic. Still, the phone feels sturdy, and the use of aluminum adds a welcome touch of class.
One of the Honor 5C's most significant feature, considering its low price, is its 1080p display. At 5.2 inches there's plenty of pixel density to go around, and while it's not as spectacularly vibrant as leading IPS and AMOLED panels, it's also not bad looking. We've had only a limited amount of time to test it in daylight, but it shows promise. Our biggest disappointment has to do with the lack of oleophobic coating, a crucial hardware feature also missing from the 5X — and this means it gets gunked up really easily with fingerprints.
On the inside, the Honor 5C packs the latest chip from the Huawei-owned Hisilicon, an octa-core Kirin 650, backed up by 2 gigabytes of RAM. The big deal with the Kirin 650 is its 16-nanometer FinFET manufacturing process, which means it's more efficient than 28nm chips like the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615. And paired with the built-in 3,000mAh battery and EMUI's software optimizations, Honor says we can expect 1.34 days of heavy use out of the 5C — a claim we'll be sure to test in our full review.
More importantly, we're not noticing any of the pervasive, system-wide lag that we experienced with the Honor 5X. Apps are fast to load, and there's no very little noticeable shutter lag when taking photos with the rear camera.
'Surprisingly good' is the order of the day.
We've also been pleasantly surprised by our first impressions of the image quality from the main camera — a 13-megapixel unit with LED flash behind an f/2.0 lens. The 5C inherits some of the premium camera features from more expensive Huawei phones, including super night mode and light painting for longer exposures when the phone is stabilized.
It's still early days, and we haven't been able to test the camera in low light — but even in challenging indoor lighting we were able to get decent shots using the dedicated HDR mode. And the new Flash HDR mode seems to work well, capturing plenty of detail in both darker and lighter areas.
Huawei's EMUI software layer has improved significantly in recent months, and all these changes have made it across to the Honor 5C. EMUI 4.1 is based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and it's just as usable as it was on the Huawei P9, with none of the nagging software bugs we experienced from older EMUI versions. What's more, Huawei seems to have scaled back its meddling with certain app icons, as Google apps and many favorites from the Play Store are no longer themed by default.
Overall, the Honor 5C is shaping up to be a promising device at a competitive price point — we've only a few reservations over the lack of oleophobic coating, and potential issues with daylight visibility as a result. It's also a little disappointing to see European buyers missing out on fingerprint security, a feature offered to 5C buyers in China.
The Honor 5C launches in the UK this week, priced £149.99. In August it'll arrive on contract and PAYG with Three UK.