As Huawei continues meddling in the mid-range smartphone category while simultaneously lusting after the high-end market, we get interesting devices like the Honor 5C. The unit we’re putting through its paces is the model with a fingerprint scanner. It sells at a ridiculously low price of Rs 10999 considering all the features it packs in starting with the biometric sensor, the Kirin 650 chipset baked using the 16nm FinFET plus manufacturing process, a mostly metal body, a 13MP main camera and so on.
We’re not going to start this review by talking about the stuff Huawei has left out of the Honor 5C because it is well balanced in terms of what it offers and what it costs. You could even say that it delivers above expectations for a device which sits at the start of the price spectrum for mid-range handsets. Scroll right down if you’re in a hurry to get to the video review and a quick list of its pros and cons. In case you’re seriously thinking about investing in the phone, you might want to read all the details before you buy it.
Huawei has been plying us with affordable metal smartphones for some time. It’s not surprising the Honor 5C keeps to it with a scratch-proof (way better than the iPhone SE in this regard), aircraft-grade aluminum rear flaunting a brushed metal finish. You won’t be able to tell it’s metal while holding the device due to its plastic frame that is color-matched perfectly to the back panel. These edges are ridged to deliver an extra degree of grip; a nice touch which prevents the phone from easily slipping out of your hand.
The ultra-responsive fingerprint scanner can be found on the back, just below the camera and flash unit. Two speaker grilles, a micro USB port and a couple of pentalobe screws dot the bottom edge. The left side is given to the hybrid dual SIM card slot for adding a second SIM or extra memory of up to 128GB. The right hosts volume rockers and the lock/unlock button, while a lone 3.5mm audio jack sits on the top.
Overall, the Honor 5C looks costlier than the price it demands. Before we give you a full analysis, it’d be worth listing out the main specs. A 5.2-inch IPS LCD touchscreen – sadly without Gorilla Glass – takes up the front. There’s 2GB of RAM inside along with 16GB ROM, the Kirin 650 octa core processor, Android Marshmallow 6.0 mated with Huawei’s Emotion UI, a 13MP rear camera, an 8MP front-facing lens and a 3000mAh battery.
A company’s name often speaks louder than the facts when you’re making an intuitive purchase. But if you’re going to force yourself to think logically, the battery life, display, performance and camera should be the most important factors to take into account before buying a phone. The Honor 5C has a 5.2-inch screen that will come as a relief to those who are tired of ‘phablet-sized’ mid-rangers.
It renders 1080p full HD resolution visuals in 423ppi sharpness. The fact that it does not offer 2K resolution or higher is not glaringly noticeable due to the size of the display. The color reproduction is decent, though not perfect owing to too much emphasis on blues and blacks sometimes. Visibility under sunlight is good and IPS helps with the viewing angles. But we wish Huawei had at least stuck Gorilla Glass or Dragontrail Glass on top of it for protection from falls.
The 13MP rear camera on the Honor 5C has an f/2.0 aperture which is great for achieving blurry backgrounds on macro shots. As for the image quality, it hovers around ‘average.’ Pictures are sharp in well lit environments, but present a considerable amount of grain (not exactly unexpected) in poorly lit ambiances. You get admirable color accuracy and dynamic range with this lens. And same goes for videos. When you’re trying to capture moving objects in a video, the object tracking function buried under Pro mode is very handy.
Of course, the Honor 5C cannot deliver higher than 1080p resolution clips. And the flash unit of the back is of the single LED type. Talking about stills once again, there are a couple of modes we really took a fancy to. For example, a document scanner function is present within its settings so that you don’t have to download a separate app for the same. Another interesting mode called Audio Note allows you to record a few seconds of audio along with a photo.
Coming to selfies, the device’s 8MP front camera returns good results. It captures really good details in outdoor and well lit environments, but fails to do the same in dim or low light. The accompanying Camera app is very versatile and intuitive. It’s got a multitude of settings that are easy to access and use. Manual mode, a dubious Beauty mode, Slow motion mode, Manual Video mode, Timelapse mode – you name it. This makes the overall camera experience on the Honor 5C a pretty pleasing one.
Connectivity and audio: 3.7/5
The Kirin chipset inside the Honor should mean better radio frequency performance. On top of that, Huawei boasts about having fitted the device with a dual antenna system. But we did not see any difference in call quality (no support for 4G VoLTE here) or data connectivity on 3G or 4G networks. We faced the usual number of dropped calls and average mobile internet speed. As mentioned above, the smartphone carries a hybrid card slot.
You can choose to use it with two SIM cards or alternately slip in a SIM card, and a microSD card for up to 128GB of extra storage. Since there’s just 16GB of ROM and some of it is already taken up by the OS and pre-installed apps, most users are likely to add a memory card. Still, if you’re going to juggle between phone numbers on the Honor 5C, we’d like to warn you about how frustrating it can get.
Huawei evidently forgot to include something as basic as enabling users to choose from which SIM they’d like to place a call when they dial a number. Instead, a default one has to be picked from Settings. When you want to make a call from the other number, you have to head back to Settings and change this. As for the audio fired through the 5C’s dual speaker and dedicated amplifier system, it’s loud even if it seems weak on bass sometimes.
Huawei’s Honor 5C is the only one in its price range to offer a processor built with the 16nm FinFET Plus technology. It earned 898 on GeekBench 3’s single core test and 3885 on the multi-core test. It scored 52408 on Antutu when we checked. In comparison, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 managed 70889 and the LeEco Le 2 got 81869 on Antutu in our tests. They embed hexa core Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 and octa core Snapdragon 652 processors, respectively. The 5C’s customized Kirin 650 SoC makes huge claims on paper, and it also fares well in reality.
You get extremely smooth operations, fast load times and a swift user experience. There were a few occasions when the phone decided to hang on us. We’re hoping Huawei will be able to fix this with an update. The energy-efficient chip inside works with four 2GHz Cortex-A53 cores and four 1.7GHz Cortex-A53 cores, Mali-T880MP2 graphics and 2GB RAM. We weren’t faced with any issues while trying out graphics intensive games on the handset. So those who spend a lot of time playing on their smartphones should be pleased with the combination of its long battery life and lag-free gaming.
Software and fingerprint scanner: 4/5
The Honor 5C runs on Android Marshmallow. The bad news is that Huawei has layered its homegrown Emotion UI on top of it. This means users will have to wait longer than necessary for software updates. The tweaked interface does have some nice touches such as the unarguably unoriginal floating dock (see below), Flip to Mute, Step Count for fitness fanatics, the ability to add a fourth on-screen button to pull up notifications, a feature to display a message like ‘If found, call —‘ on the lock screen in case your device is stolen, One Hand mode and much more.
The software experience is not different from what other Chinese ROMs offer. Meaning, it’s not stock Android and it shows. If you’re okay with any of them, you’ll be okay with this one. As for the fingerprint reader, we’re mighty impressed with its recognition speed of less than a second. You can unlock the 5C merely by using the sensor; there’s no need to press the lock/unlock button. It supports gesture control even if you’re not using the fingerprint you’ve registered. You can use it to swipe down for notifications and tap to dismiss them, answer calls, click selfies with a tap and so on.
Battery life: 4.5/5
One area in which the Honor 5C really shines is battery life. It stands among the best in its price range in this department. With average usage, you will be able to squeeze two days’ worth of juice from its 3000mAh power pack. We could go on for more than one and half days without getting sweaty palms over whether it would die on us suddenly or not. That included around 45 minutes of calling, lots of WhatsApp messaging, and about 45 minutes each of gaming and ‘Chromecasting.’
This is some highly impressive stuff from the 5C, a feat helped by the much touted prowess of Huawei’s custom Kirin SoC optimally mated with the software for conserving energy and ensuring snappy performance. Google Doze for saving power comes with Android Marshmallow by default. But since it requires you to leave the smartphone idle and not even move it for fear of waking the inbuilt sensors, its effect is not easily measurable.
– Very good looking for a Rs 10,999 phone with its metal rear shell
– Multi-functional and highly responsive fingerprint sensor
– 2 days of battery life on average use
– Smooth, lag-free user interface in spite of occasional freezing
– No Corning Gorilla Glass protection
– Below average camera performance in low-light
– Poorly implemented dual SIM management options
It would feel wrong to ask any more of the Huawei Honor 5C than it already offers at Rs 10,999. It’s not just a handsome mid-range smartphone; it also features a smooth interface, an unexpectedly good fingerprint scanner, a highly competent Kirin 650 processor, decent photography skills and most importantly, up to 2 days of battery life on a single charge. Considering all these points, we’re giving it a rating of 4 out of 5.