Honor 6X Review – Most Bang For Buck Again?

The name Honor is not an unfamiliar name right here in Malaysia. Being a sub-brand of Huawei to target the mid-range smartphone market to attract younger buyers, Honor has been on fire to get its name noticed around the world and trying to gain more market share in the highly-competitive mid-range smartphone market. This is where the new Honor 6X comes in, replacing its predecessor, the 5X, which is one of the most successful mid-range smartphone in 2016. So, are they able to replicate the success of the 5X with the new 6X? Let’s find out.

The Honor 6X in Malaysia is priced at RM1199, with a 3GB RAM and 32GB internal storage configuration, or for RM200 more, you can get a 4GB RAM with 64GB storage configuration.

Unboxing

The packaging of the Honor 6X is pretty straightforward. It comes in the usual Honor blue. Apart from the Honor 6X branding at the front with little details on its back, that’s pretty much it. The phone is immediately presented on the top when you first open it. The Honor 6X comes with the basic accessories to get you started, including a USB wall adapter, a microUSB cable, a pair of earphones and some documentations. You do lose out on a screen protector and a case, which is what the Moto M gives you at the same price. But it’s no big deal.

Design

We do love the design of the recent and more expensive Honor 8 and we do expect the Honor 6X to feature similar design language. Unfortunately, Honor has decided to continue to reserve it for the more expensive Honor devices. The Honor 6X is not bad in the design department. It looks mature, straightforward, if not a little to blend and boring. It has curves at the right places to allow it to be comfortably held in the palm, while the rest of it are just pain straight lines. Overall dimensions are not a big deal, though some people may find it a little too big to hold. With a thickness of 8.2 mm, it’s not the thinnest device out there, but that’s not really an issue.

The choice of materials is a bit of hit and miss. For starters, the front panel is made of glass, and not only it looks good, its premium to the touch as well. The usual 2.5D-looking curved edges are that are present on all 4 sides contribute to the premium touch. The back of the device, however, is another story. It does not feel as premium as what a metal unibody actually feels (take the Moto M for instance). There’s nothing to complain about the build quality as it is solid, and well-weighted at 162-grams.

The front of the device is simple and no-nonsense. It is dominated by a 5.5-inch display, with slim and minimal bezels on both left and right sides. The top houses the earpiece, 8-megapixel front-facing camera and a couple of sensors. Since the Honor 6X utilizes on-screen Android navigations, what’s left for the bottom is only the Honor branding.

The removable SIM tray is located at the top left, and you can use the included SIM-tray removal tool to pop it out. Like most recent smartphones, in there we find 2 slots of different sizes. The primary slot takes a nano-SIM, while the secondary slot takes either a nano-SIM or a microSD card up to 256GB for storage expansion. This does mean that you have to give up on storage expansion for dual-SIM functionality, or the other way round. The volume and power buttons are conveniently located on the right, if not a little too high.

The microUSB port lives at the bottom of the device, while on both sides, there are speaker grills which makes the Honor 6X looks like it has stereo speakers, but in the real world, the ones on the right is where the actual mono speaker lives, and it only contains a microphone on the other side. The 3.5mm headphone jack lives on the top.

On the back of the device is where the speciality of the Honor 6X shines. Unlike other smartphones where you get 1 camera lens, but in this, you get two – a 12-megapixel sensor and a 2-megapixel sensor respectively. Like the Mate 9, both are located in a vertical way, with a slightly budged out silver housing that matches the colour of the device. To the right is where the LED flash located. The fingerprint reader is located below the camera sensors. Like the Mate 9, the scanner is quick and accurate, and rarely has any trouble scanning the fingerprints. Even with greasy fingers, thanks to its matte surface, it’s not a problem at all. Both the left and right sides of the back cover are rounded off to provide good grip and comfort when holding the device in hand.

The Honor 6X does come in 3 colours for our market – Gold, Grey and Silver (like our tester). Our silver model does look a bit on the blend side, and makes it look like a toy as well, which is why we recommend to go for the gold or grey model.

Specs and Performance

For a midrange device, the Honor 6X does boast some quality specs. Like always, Honor (or Huawei) has turned to HiSilicone for their in-house developed Kirin 655 processor. This Kirin 655 processor is often compared with Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 and MediaTek’s Helio P10, where all of which are efficient processors for mid-range devices. The Kirin 655 is an octa-core unit, where the primary 4 cores will go up to 2.1GHz, where the rest which are lower-powered ones can still go up to 1.7GHz. There is also a co-processor built in to handle lower-powered tasks to help the overall process to be as efficient as possible. The unit that we get here in Malaysia does bundled with 3GB of RAM.

In real world daily usage, the Honor 6X does perform quite well. The Kirin 655 is able to handle basic tasks well, so it should not be a problem browsing light internet pages or using some of the pre-loaded apps. Even though the Honor 6X is running older Huawei’s EMUI interface with heavy skin and features, it coped pretty well. It does slightly struggle when it comes to heavy tasks and multi-tasking, where there are noticeable lags, and sometimes it can be frustrating. This is not going to be the best performing Android device or even in its own league, and the Moto M with its vanilla interface and slightly better optimization definitely have some advantage even with its MediaTek processor. Unlike the Moto M, the overall usability is smoother, and could be better with a lighter skin.

Using our usual Geekbench 4 benchmarking app, the results produced are rather average, with the Honor 6X scoring 787 for single-core and a whooping 3284 for multi-core. The Kirin 655 proves to have better and more efficient way of getting things done when it comes to firing up all 8 cores, and its way higher than its predecessor, the 5X or even its rival, the Moto M. The results does put the Honor 6X at the higher side amongst its rivals.

The Honor 6X does not disappoint as well when it comes to wide range of connectivity options. As standard, it features Cat 6 LTE and Bluetooth 4.1. It does slightly disappoint in the Wi-Fi connectivity department. Yes, it still has the basic 802.11b/g/n with Hotspot functionality, but it’s only a single band 2.4GHz only. The Moto M wins this round too. If you feel the built-in 32GB is insufficient, it will also take microSD cards up to 256GB as expansion.

Speaker

Let’s make it clear first, the Honor 6X does only feature a downward-firing mono speaker, not stereo speakers as the design of the speaker holes suggests. The actual speaker unit is located on the right, while the left is a small microphone. While it is an improvement over its predecessor, its still just an average-performing loudspeaker. Bass is almost non-existent, and while the volume is loud enough, at higher volumes, things do sound distorted. Huawei should also look into improving the clarity of its speakers too, as it still sounds quite muffled.

Display

The Honor 6X boasts a 5.5-inch Full HD display, with a resolution of 1080 X 1920. Yes, and once again we came across these two magic numbers. This gives the Honor 6X a pixel density rating of 401 pixels-per-inch, another familiar magic number. This setup seems to be a sweet spot for most users, with the right size and right amount of pixels, which is why most manufacturers decided to stick with this setup. There isn’t much to complain about this setup though, as like always, it is sharp and clear enough, and hats off to Huawei for offering it on the Honor 6X.

The Honor 6X utilizes LTPS IPS LCD panel, which promises more efficiency, better colour accuracy and higher brightness over the previous model. The display is on the cooler side, and while it is sharp, colour accuracy is still a hit and miss. While it is not bad, its does not project the most accurate colours on the display. The contrast runs at a higher level than it should which results in colours looking slightly faded and less vivid, like it has a very thin layer of white tint above everything else. Unlike the Moto M which has the same issue, this does not have any software enhancements at all to make the colours pop more. Blacks are at an acceptable amount, but its still far off a AMOLED display. We won’t even believe it that this is an IPS panel in the first place. The panel brightness is also rather average, as 550 nits is as bright as it’ll go. Under sunlight conditions it can be slightly darker, but still usable. Nevertheless, the screen can go quite dim at night, and the auto brightness function works very well at adjusting the brightness depending on the condition.

Camera performance

Since camera is the only thing that Huawei/honor likes to emphasize on recently, lets focus on that now. The Honor 6X is famous for its dual-lens setup like some of Huawei’s latest products and is not found on any other smartphones in this price range yet, but there’s a catch – there’s no Leica branding or involvement in the development of this setup, and it only consists of a primary 12-megapixel sensor and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. There’s no monochrome sensor combined with RGB sensor or many other craziness. It’s all simple on the Honor 6X, where the 12-megapixel sensor gets most of the job done, and the 2-megapixel sensor collects all the depth information required for wide aperture mode which applies artificial bokeh effects to subjects in picture.

The results? Let’s start from normal still photos. Photos taken in conditions with sufficient lighting is pretty well actually. You do get pictures with well-levelled exposure setting, and although colours are vivid, it still seems to be neutral. There are plenty of details as well with a wide dynamic range. I am surprised to find the HDR is a separate mode rather than a toggle. Nonetheless, it works alright and nothing much to complain about. It was able to adjust the image accordingly without blowing the details away, but sometimes tend to darken the image slightly for no reason.

Taking pictures with the Honor 6X in low-light conditions easily lets you see how much the camera struggles. Even in indoor lighting conditions, details are gone, textures get messed up and colours are often inaccurate. It does not help improving the quality of the pictures when white balance and exposure can go rather panicky in this conditions. You do end up with photos with less accurate colours, messed up details and quite an amount of noise. You could use the Night mode to improve the lighting, but you do need a tripod or somewhere steady to rest the phone as it increases the shutter speed to 10 seconds. Even with that, there is no way to rescue the details.

The wide-aperture mode works alright. It’s all down to the secondary 2-megapixel sensor to collect all the information required to determine the object and its distance to the sensor and applying necessary amount of simulated background blur effect to the subject. We’ve seen very well-executed and impressive samples from more expensive devices like the Huawei Mate 9, the Apple iPhone 7 Plus and even Honor’s own Honor 8, but on the Honor 6X, while its close, but still not as good. It does works best when the object is placed within 2 meters away. It gives you the option to adjust the amount of blur to be applied to the background, ranging from f/0.95 to f/16, and as the aperture number gets higher, the less blurry effect there is. Although there are times where it struggles to get the shape of the object right which results in overlapping blurs on the sides of the object, but it still works okay. You can also choose which part of the image to focus on and the aperture level even after the image is taken, which is really nice.

Honor 6X Sample Photos

The Honor 6X will only record up to Full HD resolution (1920 X 1080), and goes all the way down to MMS resolution. In 1080p and 720p resolutions, videos are recorded at a steady 30 frames-per-second, and its smooth without any choppiness. While colours are vivid yet natural and still have wide dynamic range, it does require more work details department as it loses some sharpness. The exposure is spot on for most of the time, and it didn’t constantly jump around when scene changes. Sadly, there are no any form of stabilization found on the Honor 6X, which means that it’s all up to your hands. There are no complaints on the audio as well as it records crisp and clear stereo audio.

The front facing camera houses an 8-megapixel sensor with a 77-degree wide angle lens, and like the rear camera, while it may not be the best out there, it’s definitely one of the better ones in this price range. It preserves details decently with the right level of colours, and the wide angle lens do work pretty well when you’re taking selfies with a group of friends or trying to get as much scenery in the background as possible. There’s nothing much to complain about the focus distance as it is spot on, and you do not have to stretch your arms too far or too near to get your face focus. Overall, you can expect the Honor 6X to take some good quality selfies.

The camera app that is preloaded in the Honor 6X is usual standard Huawei/Honor camera interface, and like the one we’ve seen on the Huawei P10 recently, it does look simple at first, but there are lots of modes and functions for you to explore. You do get a nice viewfinder, with the shutter and switching to video mode buttons located towards the right of the display, and there are some toggles towards the left. Swiping to the right on any empty area will bring you to a list of modes which includes panorama mode, pro mode and HDR mode, amongst other modes. Swiping to the left reveals the list of settings, while swiping up brings you to gallery. The pro mode allows full manual control over the shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation and methods, focus and white balance, although unlike the Huawei P10, there is no chance to get a live preview of real time information for those settings in auto mode.

Software

The Honor 6X runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow right out of the box, and its preloaded with Huawei/Honor’s older EMUI 4 custom user interface. Those who are familiar with Huawei products will easily feel right at home with this interface, but as for other users, it may take some time to get used to it. For instance, unlike the newer EMUI 5, all apps will be scattered around the home screen and there is no option to enable a simple app drawer. The user interface also looks noticeable dated compared to the newer one. While Huawei/Honor promised Android 7.0 Nougat with EMUI 5.0 update for the Honor 6X, till the day we’re writing this, there is still no update yet. There is a fair amount of pre-installed bloatware, but most of them are hidden in a folder. Overall performance is alright, and we’d like to see the Android 7.0 Nougat update improves it further.

Battery life

The Honor 6X is packed with a 3340mAh built-in non-removable battery, which is bigger than what’s found in the Moto M or even the Huawei P10. While Huawei/Honor claims at around 1.5-2 days of usage, on an average usage, it will easily go through a full day, and at times it will also stretch to 2 days. On our usual real world usage test with 1 SIM card running, there are usually 25%-30% left at the end of the day, and it only died on us if we do lots of video watching with the remaining battery. The battery is charged through a microUSB port in an old fashioned way. While it does not support any modes of fast charging technology, it will still take charge up to 5V/2A, which will charge an empty battery to full in a little over 2 hours. Although this can be achieved with the supplied charger, any other chargers or supported USB cable which can provide the charge works too.

Conclusion

Even though there are places which require improvement, the Honor 6X, like its predecessor, the 5X, have proven yet again to be one of the most bang-for-your-buck smartphone you can buy at this price, and while it’s still not the best in the segment, if you’re choosing a smartphone at this price range, you shouldn’t give this one a miss either. And with Huawei producing some of the best devices in the smartphone and tablet industry, you can be assured that the Honor 6X will not be too far off from its flagship devices.

Recap:
5.5-inch IPS-NEO display, 1080 X 1920 Full HD resolution, 401 ppi
HiSilicon Kirin 655, 4x 2.1GHz, 4x 1.7GHz
3GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, microSD expansion support up to 256GB
12-megapixel + 2-megapixel depth sensor, 1080p video @ 30 frames-per-second
8-megapixel front-facing camera
3340mAh non-removable battery

Pros

Cons

Premium looking front Overall average and boring design
Dual-camera setup at this price point Performance from speaker is average
Massive battery and good battery life Performance from camera is average
Value for money Back metal feels a bit fake
Fast and accurate fingerprint reader Display colour accuracy is a bit off