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Honor 5C review

Katharine Byrne
3 Aug 2016
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
150
inc VAT (SIM-free, as of 1st August)

It's quick and cheap, but the Honor 5C's uninspiring build quality and mediocre battery life leave it floundering

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Specifications

Processor: Octa-core 2.0GHz Kirin 650, Screen Size: 5.2in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Rear camera: 13 megapixels, Storage (free): 16GB (10.4GB), Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Dimensions: 147x74x8.3mm, Weight: 156g, Operating system: Android 6.0.1

The Honor 5X failed to make much of an impression earlier in the year, but now Honor's back with an even cheaper Android smartphone, the Honor 5C - and with a new octa-core processor at the helm, this budget handset looks like it might just have what it takes to depose Motorola’s £170 Moto G4.

Build quality and design

At just £150 SIM-free, it doesn’t take much detective work to find where Honor has tightened the purse-strings: the 5X’s rear-facing fingerprint sensor has now completely disappeared, and the screen has shrunk from 5.5in down to a slightly more pocket-friendly 5.2in.

Design-wise, though, the Honor 5C doesn’t put a foot wrong. Squint a little and the combination of its smoothly-curved edges and brushed metal rear could pass for a far pricier phone. Get up close, however, and it’s no surprise to find that Honor has had to skimp elsewhere – the rest of the 5C’s frame is cast from plastic, and there are no luxuries such as Gorilla Glass to keep the display safe from harm.

Sadly, first impressions weren't exactly promising, and our review sample showed all the scars of a smartphone that had already had a tough life at the hands of other reviewers. Huge gouges littered its metal rear and scratches were in plentiful supply. On the evidence of this particular sample, you have to wonder if the Honor 5C is actually up to the challenge of surviving in a jeans pocket alongside your keys and loose change.

Performance

There’s no doubting the 5C’s performance pedigree, though. Thanks to the octa-core 2.0GHz Kirin 650 processor and a generous 2GB of RAM, the Honor 5C is a lot more powerful than the 5X, and a good deal faster than the Moto G4, too.

The benchmark scores are seriously impressive for a £150 phone. Scoring 905 in the Geekbench 3 single core test and 3,941 in the multicore test, the 5C surpasses Motorola’s budget champ by quite some margin. Make no mistake, this is one of the fastest budget smartphones I've tested. Unsurprisingly, Honor's Emotion UI Android skin feels super slick and snappy as a result, and I barely had to wait any time at all for apps and menus to load.

It coped well with web browsing, too, as even media-heavy pages such as the Guardian didn't pose much of a problem. It sometimes took a second for it to respond to my thumb strokes when scrolling at speed through dozens of images, but compared to other budget handsets the Honor 5C acquits itself well.

Gaming performance was equally promising. Kirin chips often falter when it comes to running demanding 3D graphics, but the Honor 5C acquitted itself well in the offscreen Manhattan 3.0 test in GFX Bench GL, producing an average framerate of 7.9fps. Granted, that’s still rather jerky, but it's also 20% better than the Moto G4's 6.6fps. That extra horsepower means that demanding games such as Hearthstone run smoothly, and while animations are still a little juddery here and there, it’s still far more playable than you have any right to expect from a budget handset.

Android 6.0 and Emotion UI

One of the Honor 5C's biggest improvements, though, is that it comes with the latest version of Huawei's Emotion UI Android interface, which, at long last, addresses some of the major complaints I've had with it in the past. It's still got some way to go before it beats stock Android (like you'll find on the Moto G4), but its visual improvements are very welcome.

For instance, older versions of Emotion UI used to squeeze all third-party apps into pre-defined squares with rounded corners, often generating extra bits of unsightly background colours to fill in the gaps. You'll still see this on a few apps in the new EMUI, such as Twitter, but the vast majority of them, including the pre-installed suite of Google apps, have transparent backgrounds, which finally brings their design in line with their Android counterparts. It's a small touch, but it makes the phone a lot more pleasant to look at and use on a daily basis.

Sadly, the same can't be said of Emotion UI's drop down menu, as this still insists on separating your notifications and settings shortcuts into two separate tabs. Not only is this incredibly irritating, but it's also entirely unnecessary, as the screen's generous resolution could easily accommodate them both if Huawei merged them together.

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