CES 2017 was a good show for anyone looking for cheaper phones with solid performance and premium features. The two best options we saw were the ZTE Blade V8 Pro and the Honor 6X, from Huawei’s lower-cost sub-brand. Both featured dual-camera arrays on the rear, marking a first for midrange phones, while stuffing the spec sheet with solid specs for the everyday user.
We’ve been able to use the Honor 6X for a couple weeks now, and while the specs and cameras are about as good as they look on paper, there’s a lot else to like about this $250 phone — as long as Huawei delivers the software updates to Android and their EMUI overlay that they’ve promised.
Like a lot of Huawei phones, the 5.5″ Honor 6X is remarkably comfortable to hold. It’s got a soft-touch metal back and is fairly lightweight at 162 grams. The top and bottom of the back are made of different material to allow for the antennas inside to work properly, but that’s the usual compromise, and it looks less jarring than the white antenna lines seen on many other phones.
We’re less sure about durability. Huawei hasn’t specified what, if any, kind of protection is on the display, and there’s no waterproofing or water resistance to speak of. That’s to be expected from a midrange phone, though, so you’re better off getting a case with the Honor 6X — unfortunate, because like always, all the good cases get made for Apple and Samsung phones.
The Honor 6X comes in grey, silver, or gold, and thanks to the aluminum build and sleek, curved design, it looks and feels a lot more expensive than it is. The only real knock on it is that for whatever reason, the display seems to be more of a fingerprint magnet than those on other phones.
The big question we had about that Honor 6X was how it would perform. The phone runs on Huawei’s Kirin 655 SoC, which appears to be a new midrange chipset from the company — before now, we saw Huawei use Qualcomm’s midrange chipsets in Honor phones and cheaper Huawei devices. In the Honor 6X, that chipset is joined by either 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage or 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage (we reviewed the 3 GB/32 GB model). Both have a microSD card slot located on the SIM tray (doubling as the second SIM slot) good for cards up to 256 GB.
|PC Mark for Android Work 2.0||4233|
|GFXBench GL 3.1 1080p Manhattan Offscreen||284.2 frames|
|3D Mark Sling Shot ES 3.1||565|
|PC Mark for Android Work 2.0 Battery Life||10 hours, 31 minutes|
The phones most easily comparable to the Honor 6X are the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus from last year, which were priced similarly and ran on Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 SoCs. Benchmark tests reveal good news for Huawei — despite the Kirin chipsets typically lagging in graphics performance, the Honor 6X tops both Moto G4 models. It scored quite a bit better in AnTuTu, which provides a balanced look at CPU and GPU performance, but was also better in the GPU-specific 3D Mark and GFXBench tests.
During everyday use, it met expectations for a midrange phone. There was some occasional lag, and images and video can take a bit longer to load than on premium phones, but on the whole there were no glaring problems that would make the phone less valuable.
Same goes for the 1920 x 1080 IPS LCD display. It’s plenty sharp (1080p displays fare well at this size), but the colors don’t seem to be as crisp as on premium phones, nor does the display get as bright. But, compared to other phones in its price range, the display performs just fine.
The Honor 6X has a 3,340 mAh battery — that would be pretty great on a premium phone, but on a midrange phone, it’s golden. A battery that big powering midrange specs is a big reason why the Honor 6X performed so well on PCMark’s battery benchmark test. In mixed use, the Honor 6X can easily clear a whole day on one charge. That said, you’ll probably want to charge it every night — the phone somewhat surprisingly has a Micro USB charging port, and Huawei apparently hasn’t outfitted their midrange chipset with any fast charging capabilities. The battery went from two percent to 31 percent in 30 minutes of charging, which isn’t bad, but is blown away by any phone with Quick Charge (or something similar). However, Huawei did talk about new battery tech that prevents degradation over time. In theory, that means the phone should still get over a day of battery life one or two years from now, but there’s no way we can test that to be sure. Fingers crossed it works!
Like all too many phones, there are two deceiving speaker grilles on the bottom of the device. There’s only a speaker behind one of them, and while it gets loud enough, music sounds a bit tinny and flat. That’s usually a fair enough compromise, but the ZTE Axon 7 Mini has terrific speakers and audio processing, and can be found for only $30 to $50 more than the Honor 6X. Here’s one definite piece of good news, though — there is a 3.5 mm audio port for headphones.
Rounding out the hardware is a speedy fingerprint sensor, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, and an accelerometer. There are some disappointments, though — 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi means no dual-band Wi-Fi, limiting speed. However, the Honor 6X is unique in that it can be used as a hotspot for Wi-Fi connections (usually this can only be done with network connections). The one time this could be useful is if you’re in an airport that requires you to sign in with an email address to use their Wi-Fi — with this feature, you can connect your phone to the Wi-Fi network, then have the phone extend the network to your laptop or tablet.
There’s no NFC, so the phone can’t be used with Android Pay. While no gyroscope is listed on the official spec sheet, the phone does work with VR apps. The Honor 6X is a dual-SIM LTE phone, so it’ll be a good choice for travelers, too.