Huawei Honor 5C Review: When Experience Defies Specs
Honor, the online-exclusive sub-brand of Huawei, has made a strong presence around the globe, and specially in India within a span of 2 years. The company has offered wide variety of phones right from its popular mid-rangers like Honor 4X and the Honor 5X (which did well in Europe) to affordable flagships like Honor 6 and Honor 7, to budget fitting segment with Honor Bee.
Today, the company has launched the Honor 5C in India priced at Rs 10,999 (~$160), and the phone is here to impress. We have been using the phone for a while now, and simply put, it’s impressive. The phone performance is above par, thanks to software and hardware optimization, camera is decent, battery lasts for more than a day, and the build is premium. So let’s break it down and start with the review of Honor 5C.
Look, Feel and Design:
Honor 5C comes with a full metal unibody design with black front delivering a premium looking phone which you will love to hold it in your hands. The rear carries forward the brushed metal looks of the Honor 5X, which Huawei has nearly perfected.
The phone’s build is mix of metal and plastic. The section which holds the camera, fingerprint sensor, and LED flash is placed on a metal sheet which covers 70% of the rear, while the edges, buttons, and the speaker grilles are built using plastic decorated with horizontal and vertical lines to add to the design. This is a common practice used by many OEMs to make sure the signals from antennas don’t get interrupted.
The phone houses a 1080p (FHD) display, and it looks impressive. It is crisp, clear, and you cannot miss to notice how sharp those icons, and fonts look. The real experience comes when you start playing games at full resolution, and watch movies. The screen might not have the usually Gorilla Glass or Dragon Trail layer, but protected by Honor’s proprietary screen protection which keeps regular scratches from keys and coins at bay.
You will be impressed when it comes to daylight readability. Switching from controlled environment to daylight as you walk into the road is smooth, and the auto mode works really well. You won’t have to stress your eyes, nor have to manually up the brightness level.
On the rear, you get the 13 MP primary camera with single LED flash on the left, followed by the fingerprint sensor located right below the camera module. The speaker module is located at the bottom edge, and is decorated by two speaker grilles with actual speaker placed at bottom right, while left grille is present only for the aesthetics.
Honor 5C houses a 5.2-inch 1080p display with 423 PPI. When it comes to processing power, the phone houses a Hisilicon Kirin 650 Octa-core 1.7 GHz Octa-core 64-bit processor coupled with Mali T830 GPU. You get 2 GB of RAM with 16 GB of internal storage of which you get around 12 GB of free space out of the box.
That said, let’s talk a bit more about the processor which is worth a mention. The Kirin 650 chipset uses FinFET Plus 16 nm chip technology which delivers incredibly better performance compared with previous-generation 28 nm chipsets. The same goes for Mali-T830 GPU which the company claims to have improved the gaming experience by 100%. Technicalities aside, this is the first time we are seeing a 16nm chipset on a lower mid-range device.
The chipset also comes with silicon-chip level protection which uses a dedicated security module within the silicon chip that ensures user security, handling key information like fingerprints, keypad, and voice. Honor 5C also comes with all the necessary sensors including LED notification which works nicely. It supports 4G LTE in India on both the SIMs, and supports hot swapping. Sadly, no VoLTE support yet.
The phone ships with Honor’s custom skin EMUI 4.1 which is built on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The phone really performs well, thanks to rapid eMMC 5.1–based flash memory chip that works well in sync with the software. It is snappy, apps open up really fast, and gaming experience is great as well.
EMUI offers a lot of customization, and options that you will end up using on a daily basis. The best part of this version of EMUI is that it doesn’t spoil the experience compared to its previous versions. Here some key features from experience persepctive:
- Scrolling is fast. So if you have a huge contact list or a long threaded email, it really helps.
- Searching for something which is deep seated in settings is easy to find now. You will end up searching most of the time instead of relying on your memory. Also, you get to discover new things this way.
- It offers a lot many ways to customize your experience. Right from choosing the Font Style to Fingerprint management to Floating Dock to Battery Management to Security. There is something for everyone.
A lot more can be talked about EMUI, but the base line is Honor has done a brilliant job when it comes to Software and Hardware Optimization, and this for us, is the key selling point of Honor 5C. Mind you, we were not impressed with the higher priced Honor 5X when it came to performance, so it’s a big deal here.
This is one of most impressive parts of the phone, not just because it’s incredibly fast, but it also comes with built-in fingerprint management. Android 6.0 aka Marshmallow has native support for Fingerprint Sensors, and the EMUI 4.1 has implemented all the features.
The Kirin 650 also comes with silicon-chip level protection. There is a dedicated security module within the silicon chip that ensures fingerprints details are stored at Chip level.
You can configure it to:
- Take Photos and Shoot Videos.
- Answer Calls.
- Stop Alarm.
- Show Notification Panel.
- Browse Photos
- Lock Apps with native App Lock Feature.
- Access Safe : This feature allows you to hide files into inbuilt safe and lock it with Fingerprint.
Now you know why we dedicated a separate section for the fingerprint sensor in our review!
Media & Audio:
Honor 5C packs in a decent speaker which delivers smooth audio experience. We did not had any issues when playing music directly over speakers, but if there is ambient noise around, the speakers don’t help much. Since the speaker is only on the right grille, most of the users will end up putting either a finger or their palm on top of it lowering down the volume further.
Technically speaking, the amplifier is smart enough to optimize the sound output in real time using a built-in DSP algorithm and Huawei’s super wide sound (SWS) technology to produce a rich, immersive audio experience with reduced noise and distortion. We just wished it was a bit louder overall.
Honor 5C houses a 13 MP + LED flash on the rear, and a 8 MP front camera. The camera software offers right from simple point and shoot modes to pro/manual mode which gives you access to DSLR like settings where you can manually choose ISO, Shutter Speed, EV, AF and white balance.Those who are curious, the camera does offer features like Panorama, HDR, Light Painting, Time-Lapse, and Slow Mo modes which are so used to in Honor phones by now.
Huawei and Honor phones have always been impressive when it comes to camera. Right from Honor 4X to Honor 7 to Huawei Nexus 6P, all did well. The company wants to replicate the same success with Honor 5C camera.
But we have mixed views about it, but let’s get some facts clear upfront. If you are a kind of person who never moves photos to a PC, want a camera which does better than normal, and your goal is to share them on Facebook or WhatsApp, you won’t be disappointed. And yes, the selfies are impressive for sure.
But if you are someone who like to admire your pictures from little professional perspective, then read on.
Day Light Experience:
In general, the day light pics come out nice, and most of the regular users will have no complaints about it. However, when we did dig a little more, there are certain things which may bother the pro users.
- Subjects out of focus get over exposed which results in unbalanced picture.
- Color reproduction could have been better.
The best results for day light pictures are when you have little controlled light. For example, have a look at the picture below, the color reproduction, saturation and white balance are excellent.
But the same can’t be said about other images (like the first one below) which look rather dull overall.
Low Light Experience:
When it comes to low light shootout, Honor 5C takes slightly longer to focus in low light, but at least it manages to focus properly in the end or you will have to take effort to put the focus manually. Technically, the issue seems to be with all the phones which come with PDAF (Phase Detection AutoFocus). However compared to phones like Redmi Note 3, it did better.
When it comes to colors, much like daylight it still looks washed away, and probably worse. If you use flash, it comes out little better, but the result is not satisfactory. One thing that you will like about the camera is that it keeps the flares off from lights which is a good thing. If you can meddle around with the manual settings, the results can be better.
In our opinion, a software fix is very much required for the camera which should improve the overall experience.
The phone packs in 3000 mAh Battery, and can easily last a day and a half with 3 to 4 hours of screen on time. Our usage included messaging services, music playback, watching videos, lot of incoming calls, and all these over 4G. This is pretty decent in our opinion.
The phone also comes with Battery Manager which caters customization, and control on apps running in background, power intensive apps, option to optimise battery by finding issues, and so on. The software also offers Power Plans where you can choose for performance or ultra saving mode.
Call & Network
The phone includes flagship-grade dual antennas system automatically switches to the antenna with the best signal to prevent dropped calls. This is important, if your hands block one of the antennas, the second antenna kicks in to keep the call experience smooth. The in-audio calls are loud, and we hardly faced any network issues during my usage. Huawei has always been good when it comes to call quality and network connectivity and that’s the case with Honor 5C as well.
In EMUI 4.1, under Settings > More, there is an option labeled as “LINK+”. This feature offers improved network experience based on logic.
- Wi-Fi+ : Can switch between Mobile network and Wifi depending on which is faster.
- Signal + : Enables phone to receive signals from all directions when network is poor, and even when you are on high-speed train.
- Roaming+ : When you are traveling to different city, this makes sure you get the signal faster.
We loved using Honor 5C, thanks to improved software experience and terrific build quality. It’s rather unusual to see phones with just 2GB RAM coming from Chinese companies at this price point, but Huawei has managed to optimize the software enough so much so that we didn’t find a great deal to complain about that. The impressive battery life, truck loads of features on EMUI, multi-utility fingerprint scanner and the bright screen, all added to the pleasurable experience. The camera though could have been slightly better, specially considering Honor phones in the past have all packed excellent cameras. Considering the competition, the biggest loser will probably be Huawei’s own Honor 5X which is priced at Rs 12,999 and doesn’t really provide enough reasons to pay that premium. Although we would have loved if Huawei had kept a 4 figure price, we can safely recommend Honor 5C to be shortlisted in your quest for the best smartphones around Rs 10,000.