Honor 6X review: A dual-camera Moto G4 Plus adversary
With fantastic performance at a great price, Honor’s 6X shouldn’t be ignored
We're sure Honor doesn't like to be pigeonholed as a "budget" smartphone brand but the fact remains that it's good at making them, and its latest - the Honor 6X - might just be its best smartphone so far.
Its design is hardly revolutionary, but for the most part it's pretty nice. There's a decently sized Full HD 5.5in LCD screen squeezed into an all-metal body with 32GB of on-board storage and 3GB of RAM, with a choice of three distinct colours: silver, grey and gold are on the cards and, refreshingly, no needlessly flamboyant names in sight.
Its rear is curved, which doesn't play well with your flat desk, but sits nicely in your hand and while the screen isn't curved like the Samsung's S7 Edge it does slightly taper at the edges, which is nice. This isn't going to blow anyone's minds but it's far from vomit-inducing either.
As for connectivity, the phone has a dual SIM slot, handy for the techie who travels abroad and wants to use a local SIM. There's no USB Type-C connector for fast charging, though, with the Honor 6X instead relying on that old-school method of micro-USB charging. A fingerprint reader is nicely nestled at the back below its twin-lens camera (more on which later). This is easy to grab and is easily the fastest we've ever used to unlock a smartphone.
Honor 6X review: Display
The Honor 6X's screen itself isn't AMOLED, but instead a good-quality LCD unit. It measures pretty well, too, with a contrast ratio of 1,694:1 helping it produce wonderfully impactful images. And with a peak brightness of 502cd/m2 you'll likely only have problems reading it in the very brightest of conditions.
Its colour reproduction isn't quite so good, unfortunately. The screen covers only 89% of the sRGB colour gamut, which is far from brilliant. However, thanks to Honor's new "eye comfort mode" which filters out blue light in the evenings, and automatically adjusts brightness and colour temperature according to ambient light, it is easy on your eyes.
Honor 6X review: Camera
The dual-camera is good and the Honor 6X is the only phone we've seen in this price bracket to include twin cameras (in this case a 12-megapixel unit and a 2-megapixel secondary sensor), allowing it to take 'wide-aperture' shots similar to the iPhone 7 Plus' Bokeh mode, blurring everything beyond the point of focus.
The effect isn't quite on par with Apple's plus-sized handset (which at nearly triple the price is as you'd expect), but it's still good enough to give your shots a handy facelift.
There's also the usual suite of shooting modes, with the rear camera producing some decent shots, packed with detail. In our test shot, it captured the brickwork on neighbouring buildings particularly well.
Indoors, image quality isn't quite so good. Photographs look a touch grainy, and lack in vibrancy, but for the most part the Honor 6X produces balanced, well-judged exposures in low light, and has a single LED flash to help cut through the darkness when conditions get really tricky.
Critically, the Honor 6X's snapper beats the similarly priced Huawei P9 Lite by a country mile in our outdoor camera tests. The green roof of the pub in our test shots were well-defined with plenty of detail, and reflections in the puddles on the roof are picked up nicely. The HDR mode didn't seem to bring much to the table, although we doubt the gloomy overcast day did anything to help.
However, if you do feel the need to tweak your images, you do get both Pro still and video modes for fine-grained control over every aspect of your images, allowing you to tinker with ISO and exposure values to your heart's content.
Honor 6X review: Performance
Despite the price, the Honor 6X is no slouch in everyday use. There's a 2.1GHz Kirin 655 octa-core processor inside, joining forces with 4GB of RAM. With a GeekBench single core score of 784 and 3,319 for multi-core, the 6X is more or less a carbon-copy of Huawei's latest P9 Lite.
What this boils down to is a smooth and responsive experience in general, and surprisingly stable multitasking. Honor says its smart file system (HTC's 10 Evo has a similar facility) reduces file fragmentation for faster response times and it certainly feels that way.
It's a great performer once you crack open some Android games, too. It scored an average frame rate of 8.4fps in the GFXBench Manhattan 3 test, which is perfectly respectable for a budget phone, and the likes of Threes! and Angry Birds 2 ran without a hitch.
Battery life is less impressive but it's big at 3,340mAh in size and it didn't do too badly in our test, lasting 11hrs 18mins while playing back video continuously in flight mode. For context, that's roughly an hour longer than 2016's 5X, although it lags behind the current king of budget smartphones - the Moto G4 Plus - which lasted more than two hours longer.
Honor 6X review: EMUI
It wouldn't be an Android phone without a bit of overlay tinkering and the Honor 6X is no exception. Usually, this is the point at which we castigate Honor for insisting on preloading its own onerous launcher software, but Honor's EMUI is nowhere near as bad as it used to be.
And while there's still quite a bit of superfluous pre-installed software - a handful of naff games and unnecessary apps - you can at least get rid of them. The downside is that the Honor 6X doesn't ship with Android 7 Nougat, but Honor is promising an OTA update in the coming months. Watch this space.
Honor 6X review: Verdict
This price bracket is chock full of budget smartphones well worth considering, but the Honor 6X stands above most of them. Its design, camera quality and performance are great for the money, and battery life isn't bad either.
The Moto G4 and G4 Plus deliver more bang for your buck and have better battery life and a more-pleasant-to-use camera. But we'll freely admit we're shallow when it comes to smartphones, and prefer the Honor for its fancier design and that dual-lens camera.
But what's really impressive about the Honor 6X is that it holds firm against smartphones that cost twice (and in some cases three) times as much as its 225 asking price. In short, Honor has created a fantastically capable budget smartphone in the 6X at a very tempting price, and it's impossible not to recommend it.
Honor has created a fantastically capable budget smartphone in the 6X at a very tempting price, and it’s impossible not to recommend it.
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