Huawei’s Honor line has been making a name for itself by selling good yet reasonably priced smartphones. The Honor 6X is no exception, even if it isn’t perfect.
Last year’s Honor 5X offered a lot of smartphone for the money at a time when the stalwart of the good-but-cheap smartphone market, the Moto G series, was faltering. Now the Honor 6X has a lot to live up to.
The Honor 6X looks like a slightly smaller version of the Huawei Mate 9. It’s got a metal back, plastic top and bottom edges, a dual camera in vertical orientation and a fingerprint sensor on the back. The front is plain and all glass. It’s a simple, attractive design that’s more rounded and smoother than its predecessor, the 5X.
It’s well made, with very little flex in the body. At 8.2mm thick the 6X is the same thickness as the 5X, but thinner by 1.6mm than the Moto G4 Plus. The 6X is also shorter by 4mm than the 5X, but whether you could tell that by looking at them is debatable.
It weighs 162g, which is actually heavier than the 158g 5X and the 155g Moto G4 Plus, but the curved back and rounded edges make it feel a lot nicer in the hand. It feels reassuringly heavy with good balance rather than being a lump.
The 5.5in 1080p LCD screen is very good for a smartphone costing under £250, and is improved over the 5X, although it doesn’t quite match up to the likes of Apple’s iPhone or Samsung’s AMOLED displays in its S range. It looks relatively crisp, clear and colorful, with wide viewing angles. The included screen protector is useful, but sort of ruins the smooth glass curve down to the smartphone’s edges.
The Honor 6X has Huawei’s own processor, the Kirin 655, which handled games and apps with aplomb. The in graphically-rich Real Racing 3, for instance, gameplay was buttery smooth and the 6X only got slightly warm while playing. It was responsive and snappy throughout normal Android operations and in no way felt like anything other than a premium device in operation.
Battery life was also very good. Using it as my primary device, even with the Facebook app installed, and receiving hundreds of push notifications, emails and messages, as well as browsing the web and using apps for around three hours, I would finish the day with about half the battery left. The next morning it would only have dropped about 3% battery overnight and would last until evening.
Most users will get somewhere between 1.5 days and well over two days of use between charges, more if you leave it alone for long periods as Huawei’s app control prolongs standby time immeasurably compared to most other Android Marshmallow devices.
It also charges a lot faster than the 5X, which means when it does run out it takes just over an hour rather than a good two to reach 100%.
The 6X also has dual-Sim support, for using two numbers or plans at the same time with the same phone, but the second Sim slot also doubles as a microSD card slot for adding more storage, which means it’s either or but not both.
The Honor 6X has a microUSB port, not the new USB-C port for charging, which is disappointing. It might be helpful in the short term to be able to use your existing microUSB cables, but soon almost everything will use USB-C and the Honor 6X will be the odd one out.
Old Emotion UI
If there’s one weakness to the Honor 6X, it’s the software. It has an old version of Android 6 Marshmallow, not the current Android 7 Nougat, which for a new smartphone going on sale over four months after Nougat was released is pretty poor.
At the same time Huawei makes modifications to the basic Android experience which are a mixed bag. Some tweaks such as aggressive control of background applications and notifications when they’re draining your battery are good.
The removal of the app drawer in favour of every app installed having to be on the home screen is not. Some people like Huawei’s so-called Emotion UI - EMUI 4.1 in this case - but many do not.
EMUI 5, which the Honor 6X is due to get relatively soon, is a big step up, but for now it’s stuck with the same version of EMUI as the Honor 8 and Huawei P9.
The dual camera on the back produces really quite good images, with accurate color and a solid amount of detail in all conditions short of really poor light. The 12-megapixel sensor captures the images and the auxiliary 2-megapixel sensor below it captures depth information. Using the two, with a special wide-aperture mode, you can take a variable aperture photo for various blurring effects, but also refocus the picture after the fact.
The HDR mode is not built into the main shooting mode, and while it is easily one of the best cameras for the price, it won’t trouble the best there is available on a smartphone for sheer image quality.
The 8-megapixel front-facing selfie camera is fixed focus, which eliminates out-of-focus shots, but also means you’re unlikely to get anything with a pleasing out-of-focus background. Nevertheless, it captures a really good amount of detail in photos, even in poor artificial lighting conditions, and has enough beauty modes to satisfy all but the most self-obsessed.
* The fingerprint sensor is very fast and very accurate
* The fingerprint scanner can be used to swipe through photos or pull down the notification shade
* Call quality was good, and reception and data speeds were excellent
* Some versions of the Honor 6X, including the US variant, do not have NFC and therefore no access to Android Pay and on-touch pairing
The Honor 6X is another excellent reasonably-priced smartphone from Huawei and is yet again a lot of smartphone for the money.
It has a great camera, good build, dual-Sim and microSD card support, a snappy processor, a decent screen and good battery life. But it has an old version of Android without the latest security updates, an inferior version of Huawei’s EMUI and microUSB not USB-C.
If those faults can be overlooked then the Honor 6X is a great phone.