Honor 5X Hands-On: Cheap and Stylish, But Shame About the Skin

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

The Honor 5X looks like a lot of smartphone for 170 smackers. We’ve watched from afar as gadget people around the world have had the opportunity to touch the handset up over the last few months, hoping for a bit of action in the UK. We’ve finally laid our fingers on the beast, and the wait may have actually been worth it.

One of its biggest draws is its aluminium body, the likes of which you simply don’t expect to find on a sub-£200 phone. Don’t get us wrong, the 5X is certainly no iPhone 6S rival, but its metal frame is surprisingly well made. The rear is gently-curved, combining a brushed finish with textured trim at the top and bottom. This baby’s got style, and you don't have to pay through the nose for it.

It’s also nice to hold, which is somewhat surprising considering its size. With a bright, sharp 5.5-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS display, the Honor 5X isn’t small -- if you’re interested, its exact dimensions are 151.3 x 76.3 x 8.15mm -- though it feels pleasantly compact. It’s easy to reach the right-hand power and volume buttons without adjusting your grip, which is great.

The SIM and microSD slots sit on the opposite edge, with the dual speaker grilles and charging port on the bottom. We’re pleased to report that there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack too (listen up, Apple). That’s on the top edge.

Around the back is a fingerprint scanner, which you can use to unlock the 5X and launch a range of apps. Honor says you can program it to launch certain apps with certain fingers. This doesn't quite make up for the lack of NFC, but it's a neat addition regardless.

Just above it is the 13-megapixel main camera, which sticks out just a touch. The camera app is very iPhone-like, as tends to be the case with Huawei-built smartphones. In our brief time with it, pictures tended to come out a little soft around the edges, but we're giving it the benefit of the doubt, as lighting conditions in the testing lab were far from ideal. We had a similar experience with the 5-megapixel front-facing shooter, but it doesn't help when the room you're in has a supremely harsh mix of deep shadows and bright lights.

Something we’re definitely struggling to get on board with is EMUI 3.1. The skin sits on top of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, and it’s not the easiest bit of software to get along with. Gone is the app drawer, which means you need to organise your favourite programs on your home screens. Notifications are also held on a separate screen to quick settings, which only seems to have the effect of slowing you down.

Still, for £169.99, these are drawbacks we’d be willing to put up with. The Honor 5X is frankly ludicrously cheap for what it is. The Moto G keeps a tight grip of its well-earned budget crown, but the Honor 5X may just lead an uprising.