The first device in the new-for-Europe Honor brand mixes high-end specs and an affordable price point
Huawei's continued push in Europe has recently seen the launch of the Honor brand, and with it the Honor 6. It's an interesting proposition, in so much as it's offering a high-end Android smartphone at a low price thanks to avoiding carrier partnerships. The Honor 6 is available through Amazon for an extremely reasonable £250 all-in, and for that you get quite a lot of smartphone.
Honor is being marketed and delivered completely separately to Huawei's flagship, Ascend line, but there are a number of similarities between the two. 2014 has been an impressive year for Huawei, so does the Honor 6 close it out in style? Read on to find out.
The Honor 6 video hands-on
You want the full list of specs, right? Well here's what makes the Honor 6 tick.
|OS||Android 4.4.2 KitKat with EMUI 2.3|
|Chipset||Octa-core Kirin 920|
|Display Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Radios||Varies by market|
|Connectivity||Wifi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC|
|Dimensions||139.6 x 69.7 x 7.5 mm|
Hardware and design
Of late Huawei hasn't just been putting out well designed, well made phones by its own standards. They've been well designed and well made by any standards. The Honor 6 is no exception, but in keeping with the ideal of an affordable experience, there's no metal here.
Huawei's phones of late have been well designed by any standards, the Honor 6 is no exception
The design is reminiscent of the Ascend P7 that launched earlier this year. This time round the metallic looking band that flows around three edges of the phone is just that, metallic looking. It's plastic, but it's a decent effect and it's nice to hold. It also means there's no awkward trays to remove, either. The SIM card slot and microSD card slot are both accessed by pulling out a flap on the right hand side of the phone.
The rear of the phone is glass and thankfully the Honor 6 is a little thicker than the Ascend P7 was so it's not so difficult to hold onto. The back is a little slippery and naturally is a fingerprint magnet, but no more so than any other phone with a glass back. Beneath the glass you see a discreetly etched pattern, again reminiscent of the Ascend P7, though on the black version at least, much more subtle.
Around the front things are a little less inspiring. It's just a plain, black slab. Since Huawei is marketing Honor as a brand on its own there are no manufacturer logos on the front at all. The solitary Honor logo on the rear is all we get. As such the front is just glass, earpiece and camera. Beneath the glass is a 5-inch, 1080p display and it's about as impressive as the same sized panel used on the Ascend P7. By that, read very. It's crisp, clear, colors pop nicely and while the blacks aren't the deepest, whites are at least, well, white.
Once again, Huawei has proved it can cram a pretty enormous battery into a phone
Inside, Huawei has once again opted for an in-house CPU in the Kirin, teamed up with pretty standard sounding internals for any mid-to-high-end phone launched in the last 6 months. Put all together we've got a phone that eats up every day tasks with ease and doesn't seem to struggle when shown a little Asphalt 8. We've got 16GB of internal storage backed up by a microSD card slot, and a highly respectible 3GB of RAM. And once again, Huawei has proved it can cram a pretty enormous battery into a phone without adding any additional heft, and the 3100mAh power plant in the Honor 6 is impressive. We'll discuss performance a little later.
Considering the price point of the Honor 6, though, there's nothing to complain about with the design. It certainly doesn't feel cheap in any way. It's solid and well put together, but the one criticism would be directed at that glass back. The review unit we've got already shows up some light scratching on the rear of the phone after just a couple of weeks of average use. So you might want to invest in a case. On that front Huawei offers a range of protection, including a flip case with a window.
But if that's all you really need to worry about, then it's a job well done.
Unlike the recently launched Ascend Mate 7, the Honor 6 for Europe is running a previous version of EMUI, Huawei's custom software. Here we're looking at version 2.3, the exact same as that which shipped on the Ascend P7. Largely the experience is the same, too, but with one notable improvement. Previously present lag appears to have gone.
The big difference here is an extra GB of RAM
The big difference here is an extra GB of RAM over the Ascend P7. It's not perhaps the way we'd like Huawei to have refined the software experience, but hey, if throwing more hardware at the problem works for them, so be it. It's an important improvement, though, as it makes the overall user experience fast, smooth and relatively problem free. Whatever the price, if you're touting a high-end device, it needs to behave like one. The Honor 6 does.
That's not to say that all the issues with Huawei's software experience have been resolved. Since version 2.3 has since been one-upped by the much nicer version 3.0 on the Mate 7, there are no signs of any refinement to this particular release. Visually it's still like a cross between Gingerbread and something LG would have released in 2013, and there's lots of white and blue throughout.
It's also the same old launcher that Huawei prefers without an app drawer. It isn't horrid – and yes, it is how the iPhone goes about its business – but you can also theme the living daylights out of it via Huawei's own theme store. But if you turn off the display and turn it back on, you'll see the nicest looking part of the Honor 6 software; the lockscreen.
The lockscreen is gorgeous, there's no other way to describe it. Known as the Magazine Unlock, it's simple, elegant, it'll show a different high quality image every time you turn the display on based on your subscriptions and it's not filling your eyes with information. No notifications or widgets, just a clock, the date and a shortcut for the camera. If you want more you can swipe up from the bottom and reveal the Control Center-esque menu for quick access to music controls, your calendar, calculator, flashlight and mirror as well as options to save and share the image you're seeing.
Better news for anyone buying an Honor 6 is that it will, at some point, get updated to Huawei's much improved EMUI 3.0.
Since most of the software features have been seen before on other phones, it'd be easy to expect that some of the same issues would also be present. Thankfully that doesn't seem to be the case for whatever reason, here. The notification manager and phone manager don't seem to be as aggressive by default as we've seen on other Huawei phones. That's a good thing. You can still customize your notifications and optimize your phone for better battery life, for example, but it seems to be a better out-of-the-box experience than Huawei has given previously.
However, better news for anyone buying an Honor 6 is that it will, at some point, get updated to Huawei's much improved EMUI 3.0. In some regions of the world the phone already runs it and many of our frustrations with EMUI 2.3 are rectified in the later version. For more on both EMUI 2.3 and 3.0 check out our reviews of the Ascend P7 and Ascend Mate 7 from earlier this year.
Huawei has offered some surprisingly capable cameras on its 2014 smartphones and happily the same applies to the Honor 6. There's a 13MP rear shooter paired up with a 5MP selfie camera which includes Huawei's now common beauty filters and Groufies.
The camera application is pretty simple to use but packed out with features such as HDR, filters and a bunch more. The Honor 6 is pretty swift at focusing and snapping images, and the quality is good all round. As we've said before with Huawei cameras this year, the Honor 6 is a good, solid all-rounder. It may not necessarily excel in any one area compared to some competing devices, but it doesn't disappoint in any.
As you'd expect, low-light situations are less favorable, but at the same time the Honor 6 doesn't fall apart as badly as something like the Samsung Galaxy S5. Outside, in good light, the Honor 6 produces crisp, clear images and once again Huawei's HDR feature adds some subtle, yet noticeable effects. Colors pop just a little more with higher saturation, but at no time do you enter the realms of unrealistic looking images.
The front facing camera isn't going to disappoint, either. The 5MP resolution takes good quality images, and the Honor 6 is flush with Huawei's selfie improving features such as beauty filters and the panoramic "groufies" – still hard to show off on your own.
But, pictures speak louder than words, so check out a selection of samples in the gallery below.
Video from both the rear and front cameras is decent. Huawei phones of late have been less impressive with video than still images and it's fair to say the same applies here. It's not that it's bad, it's just not so impressive.
Huawei has proven itself to be very good at inserting large, albeit sealed, batteries into devices that perhaps you wouldn't expect it from. The Honor 6 continues that trend with a sizeable 3200mAh power plant nestled beneath that glass back. In real world testing it's more than good enough for a day's hard use, but it falls quite a bit short of the two-days we're able to get from something like the Ascend Mate 7.
For most people a day is plenty, and without straining it with any gaming or extended Netflix or music streaming sessions it's quite easy to stretch that to a day and a half.
The bottom line
Huawei should be commended for its approach with the Honor 6. High-end smartphones without a high-end price are still few and far between, with even this year's Nexus release commanding a hefty outlay. The Honor 6 ticks most of the boxes for what we would consider to be high-end. Great display, good all-round camera performance, a hefty battery, beefy internals and some obvious effort with the design and construction. The software will still split opinions, be it the version the European phone still runs or the newer version it will update to in the future.
But for the asking price of £250, the Honor 6 is worthy of being called a bargain. By avoiding the carriers and instead going the Amazon route, Huawei is offering something that stands above a lot of other devices that can be had in and around the £200-£300 price bracket. And there aren't many compromises to make, either. It's a great phone at a great price.