Huawei’s online-only sub-brand Honor has made a name for itself with some excellent budget devices that are doing extremely well in the European and Chinese market. The latest entrant from the company in its Honor lineup is the Honor 5c that sits just below the Honor 5X.
To better cater to different markets and consumer needs, Huawei has been launching different variants of the Honor 5c in various markets. In Europe, the Honor 5c lacks a fingerprint scanner, while in India, the Honor 5c comes with one. Considering how competitive the Indian smartphone market is, it is not surprising that Honor has taken this step. Their last Honor, the 5X, despite packing in a great camera and unibody was overshadowed by the more impressive Redmi Note 3, thanks to its subpar performance. So, let’s find out if the Honor 5c is any different or not.
From the front, the Honor 5c looks like any other handset coming out of China, with the honor branding at the bottom bezel being the only giveaway to its origin. The 5.2-inch 1080p display is slightly smaller than the 5.5-inch display usually found in this price range, but it does make the 5c more compact and easy to use one-handed. Pick the Honor 5c up and you will be impressed with its build quality. The unibody aluminium design at the rear with a brushed look feels very premium — something which the Honor 5x never managed invoke despite packing a similar unibody design.
The rear of the Honor 5c also houses the 13MP shooter, with an LED flash sitting to its left and a fingerprint sensor located right below it. The power and volume buttons are both located on the right edge of the handset, with the hybrid SIM card slot located on the left. The bottom houses the microUSB port and a mono speaker, though there are two speaker grilles, while the top houses the 3.5mm audio jack. It can sometimes get a bit difficult to determine whether you are pressing the volume or power button without looking at the phone, but this can largely be considered a nitpick from my side.
The 5.2-inch 1080p display on the Honor 5c is protected by Huawei’s own proprietary strengthened glass. Like with almost every other 1080p display that you find in this range, the one on the Honor 5c is decent as well. It has ample brightness levels, great contrast ratio, and decent viewing angles. It is also visible in direct sunlight, though you do have to squint your eyes and push the brightness level to the maximum. Since the Honor 5c’s display does not oversaturate colors, it does not look as “attractive” as the Redmi Note 3’s 5.5-inch display.
If you don’t like the neutral color temperature of the display, Huawei has bundled the option to tweak it inside Settings -> Display.
Software, Performance and Battery Life
The Honor 5c runs on Huawei’s latest Emotion UI 4.1 that is based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. While the latest version of Emotion UI offers largely the same set of features as its predecessor, it has been significantly optimised to improve system performance. Compared to the Honor 5X, the Honor 5c never showed any signs of lag or dropped frames while navigating through the UI. This is especially commendable once you consider the fact that the handset only comes with 2GB of RAM.
Emotion UI packs plenty of customization options — far too many to list them all there. Some noteworthy ones, however, include being able to display the network speed in the status bar; using the fingerprint scanner to accept calls, take selfies, navigating around the UI; one-hand UI; and navigation bar customisation. Not everyone needs so many customization options and features, but they are all nicely tucked under the Settings menu thereby ensuring that new smartphone owners will not be overwhelmed by the sheer number of features.
The Snapdragon 615 chipset inside the Honor 5x struggled under load with heating issues, and its GPU was not particularly up to the task while playing heavy games. With the Honor 5c, Huawei has taken things into its own hand and gone for its in-house Kirin 650 chipset. While there are other 16nm based chipsets in the market already, they are all high-end chips meant for flagship smartphones and devices. The Kirin 650 is the first mid-range chip that is based on the 16nm FinFET fabrication process. This allows the octa-core chip to offer significant power savings and run relatively cooler when under heavy load.
The Mali-T830 GPU inside the Honor 5c is not up to the mark as it struggles while playing heavy games like Asphalt 8 at full settings. Casual games like Candy Crush and Temple Run 2 run just fine though.
This brings me to the Honor 5c’s Achilles Heel: 2GB RAM. In India at least, Honor is only selling the 2GB RAM variant of the Honor 5c. While 2GB RAM in itself is fine for a phone with a Full HD display, there is also an added burden of Huawei’s Emotion UI on the 5c. With normal use, you are not going to notice any issues with the somewhat aggressive RAM management on the 5c. However, if you are an advanced user that keeps a game or some heavy apps running in the background, the aggressive RAM management on the 5c is going to be a major point of frustration for you.
Thanks to a combination of a 5.3-inch display, an efficient 16nm FinFET based chip, and 3000mAh battery, the Honor 5c is a winner in the battery life department. I managed to consistently eek out more than 5 hours of screen-on time from the phone on an LTE network with 2 Gmail accounts syncing in the background. With moderate usage, you can easily expect the Honor 5c to make it through 1.5 days easily.
The camera performance of Huawei devices have always been one of their strong suits, and the Honor 5c is no exception to this rule. The 13MP shooter on the handset is not as good as the 16MP shooter found on the Moto G4 Plus, but then that handset is almost $60 (Rs. 4,000) costlier than it.
The 13MP shooter performs decently in daylight, with the output in low-light being just about average. The camera does have a tendency of washing away colors, especially as the amount of available light reduces that can lead to photos coming out looking very bland and lacking details. The autofocus works well when there is plenty of light, but struggles in low-light. However, the image quality and autofocus performance is still above the Redmi Note 3 – a direct competitor to the Honor 5c and the market leader in its price band in India right now.
The camera experience is another strong suit of the Honor 5c. The app packs in plenty of modes including some novel ones like Good Food, All-focus, and Light Painting. There is also a Pro Shot mode that allows one to control almost every aspect of the camera including shutter speed, exposure levels, and ISO levels.
For Selfie lovers, the 5MP shooter on the 5c should do a decent job. I particularly like how the camera app automatically zooms in on your face while inside a small window while taking a picture so that you can make that perfect pout face.
The Honor 5c is Huawei’s second entrant into the rapidly growing sub-15k smartphone segment in India. The handset does a lot of things right that the Honor 5x got wrong – especially with respect to software and performance. However, I cannot help but feel that Honor/Huawei should have also launched a 32GB/3GB RAM variant of the 5c at a slightly higher price as it would have then better sufficed the needs of customers who want a phone with dual-SIM capabilities. The sub-par GPU and multitasking performance also immediately rule out the phone for any power user.
Nonetheless, if you are someone who does not want a bulky and large phone like the Redmi Note 3, but something sleek and elegant with decent camera performance the Honor 5c should be right up there in your list.