Review: Honor 6X Android Smartphone

January 30, 2017 - Written By Alexander Maxham

Huawei’s e-commerce brand, Honor, announced their latest mid-range smartphone at CES 2017 this past month, the Honor 6X. It’s a smartphone that sports some pretty decent specs and is sold unlocked for $250, which is building on the success that the company had with the Honor 5X in 2016. The Honor 6X brings a dual-camera setup, one of the first to a smartphone in this price range. Honor is also promising two days of battery life out of the Honor 6X, which is a pretty bold claim. But does that claim hold up? And is this smartphone worth your $250? Let’s find out in our review.

Specs

The Honor 6X sports a 5.5-inch 1920×1080 resolution IPS LCD display, giving it a 403ppi pixel density. The display also takes up about 71.8% of the front of the device. Inside, there is the mid-range Kirin 655 SoC which is an octa-core processor comprised of four 2.1GHz Cortex-A53 cores and four 1.7GHz Cortex-A53 cores. Additionally there is either 3GB or 4GB of RAM available with either 32GB or 64GB of storage. Now there is a micro SD card slot available for expanding that storage as well. As far as the GPU is concerned, the Mali-T830MP2 is inside taking care of graphics and such.

On the backside, there are two cameras. One is the main 12-megapixel camera and the other is a 2-megapixel sensor that is used for depth information. The front-facing camera is a 8-megapixel shooter. There’s no NFC, but there is a 3.5mm headphone jack included. Additionally it does not support dual-band WiFi, so you are stuck with 2.4GHz on b/g/n. There is Bluetooth 4.1 included as well as a fairly large 3340mAh battery and Android 6.0 Marshmallow with EMUI 4.1.

In The Box

Inside the box, you’ll find the Honor 6X sitting right on top. Beneath the phone, you’ll find some paperwork, which includes a quick start guide as well as warranty stuff. There is also the SIM ejection tool, wall charger and a micro USB cable. Since the Honor 6X does use a micro USB port instead of the newer USB-C port that most smartphones are using these days. And that’s about it. A bit interesting to see that there is no case included, as most other smartphones from Huawei and Honor do include a plastic bumper case.

Hardware

For $250 you typically don’t expect a whole lot, when it comes to build quality, but Honor did a pretty great job with the Honor 6X. We’re looking at an aluminum unibody, but it does have a bit of plastic. You’ll find this plastic at the top and bottom on the backside, and this is to allow the antennas to work, and not have the metal interfere with them. So instead of antenna lines, you get some pieces of plastic. It’s likely cheaper than creating antenna lines as well. The sides are slightly curved, making the Honor 6X feel a bit smaller in the hand than it actually is. Keep in mind that this is a 5.5-inch device, so it’s not exactly a large smartphone, but it’s still got some size to it.

The right side of the Honor 6X is where you’ll find the power button and volume rocker. They are in a great position, as you can press them without needing to readjust your grip on the device. The left side of the device sports the SIM card slot which also has the micro SD card slot allowing you to add even more storage to the device. Up top you’ll find the 3.5mm headphone jack and the bottom has the micro USB port in the middle with the speaker on the right. The left side looks like it’s a speaker but that’s just for aesthetics, it’s actually a microphone.

Moving to the back of the Honor 6X, it looks pretty clean. There’s the dual-camera set up in the center on the back, with the cameras being vertical instead of horizontal (like the Huawei P9 and Honor 8 from last year). There is the single LED flash to the right of the camera and the fingerprint sensor below the camera module. At the very bottom, you’ll find the Honor logo along with regulatory information, and that’s about it for the backside. It looks fairly clean, although it would be cleaner if the regulatory information was able to be removed as well.

In the hand, the Honor 6X feels pretty nice. Its metal build isn’t as high-end as what you’d find on something like the Huawei Mate 9, but then again that phone is more than twice the price, so it makes sense. Being 5.5-inches, it’s in the sweet spot of being a big enough device for most people, but then small enough for those that don’t want a huge device like the Huawei Mate 9, or even something larger like the Xiaomi Mi MIX (or in the US, the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro). The build quality of this phone is pretty impressive to say the least, especially when you factor in the price of this device.

Display

A 1080p panel is about what you’d expect on a mid-ranger like this from Huawei, and it’s a pretty good 1080p panel. I’d say it’s not as great as the 1080p panel that is found on the Honor 8, but the Honor 8 is also slightly smaller at 5.2-inches leading to a higher pixel density. However, the Honor 6X’s display does pop, and the colors are nice and vibrant. Viewing angles are pretty average, you can see the display at different angles, but there’s nothing to write home about there. The display does get really bright, which is great for using the device outside and in direct sunlight. Now on the opposite spectrum, it does get dim, but not as dim as we’d like. This is likely partially due to the fact that this is a IPS display and not an AMOLED panel. Auto brightness here works pretty well, it’s not overly sensitive and trying to adjust itself to the lighting conditions all that much.

Like most other smartphones available right now, you can adjust the color temperature of the display. You can choose between Default, Warm and Cold. You can also tap on where you want the temperature in the color circle to get the perfect temperature for your liking. Another feature that is pretty popular among smartphones today is the ability to filter out blue light when you are using your phone at night. Like with other Huawei smartphones, you can toggle this feature, called Eye Comfort, on/off when you want. You can also schedule when this turns on. Which defaults to turning on at 10PM and turning off at 7AM the following day.

Performance

The Honor 6X has a Kirin 655 inside, which is a more mid-range chipset from Huawei and it definitely shows in the processing power and performance of this device. That’s not to say that the Honor 6X is not usable with the Kirin 655, but you can definitely notice a difference between it and the Kirin 950 in the Honor 8 and the Kirin 960 in the Huawei Mate 9. Honor has paired 3GB of RAM with the Kirin 655, which for most people is plenty of RAM. While it is always nice to have more RAM, 3GB is still plenty and will keep your Honor 6X from lagging.

During day-to-day use, the Honor 6X performed like a champ. And because it uses a lower-end processor, it’s using less power and that translates to even better battery life, which we’ll talk about a bit later. We never had issues with RAM usage, since Android is already really good at managing RAM, there were no issues managing it here on the Honor 6X. Now when it comes to gameplay, performance does take a hit. If you are playing some casual games, then there’s really no issue here. But if you are playing more high-end games, you’ll definitely notice a hit in performance. It’s not going to be terrible, but if you were expecting flagship performance, you won’t see that here. Which is understandable, as this is not a flagship device, but more of a mid-range/budget device from Honor.

Fingerprint Sensor

Honor has a fingerprint sensor on the backside of the Honor 6X here, it’s just below the camera module – like it is on most Huawei devices. And it doesn’t disappoint. If you’ve used a Huawei or Honor phone in the past few years, you’ll know to expect a fast and accurate fingerprint sensor, and that’s what Honor provides on the Honor 6X. This fingerprint sensor is among the fastest available on the market right now. It’s also very accurate. We’ve been using the Honor 6X for around a week now, and it hasn’t failed to read our finger once, which is pretty impressive to say the least.

All of the gestures that Honor debuted on the Honor 8 last year are here on the Honor 6X. That includes being able to swipe down for the notification panel, swiping left/right to browse through photos and even using the fingerprint sensor as a shutter button in the camera. Now because this fingerprint sensor is not an actual button like the one on the Honor 8, you do lose some of the smart assistance functionality for different shortcuts, but the gestures are still here. Which is a nice addition.

Phone Calls & Network

Since Honor is selling this phone in the US, it does work on both AT&T and T-Mobile in the US. We tested the Honor 6X on T-Mobile USA during our time with the device, and it performed just as you would expect. With great data speeds, and great coverage as well. There’s no support for VoLTE or HD Voice here on the Honor 6X, which is a bit unfortunate, especially if you’re looking to use VoLTE a bit more, but it’s not all that surprising. Below you’ll find all of the bands supported by the Honor 6X.

GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900

HSDPA 900, 1900, 2100

LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 12, 20, 38

When it comes to phone calls, users were able to hear us loud and clear on the other end. Now it’s not as clear as it would be if it had HD Voice but it’s still pretty clear. We had no issues with calls being dropped during our time testing the device either, which is also great to see.

Speaker & Sound

Honor kept the 3.5mm headphone jack. These days, that’s something we’ll need to mention in every review. So you will be able to plug in your existing headphones and use them with the Honor 6X, and it sounds just as good as you’d expect. Now when it comes to the speaker, it doesn’t sound as incredible. Which is a bit unfortunate. The speaker is plenty loud, but it can sound a bit tinny, now the sound does get better when you drop the volume, but then it makes it tough to hear. It’s particularly noticeable on the highs. Mids and lows sound about the same as they would with most smartphones. It’s clear that Honor didn’t pay a lot of attention to the speaker, but for a phone in this price range, if they were going to cut corners, this is probably the best corner to cut since most people will resort to using their headphones anyways.

Benchmarks

On the Honor 6X, we ran three benchmarks, 3D Mark, AnTuTu and Geekbench 4. You can see the results of all three in the gallery below. On AnTuTu, the Honor 6X scored a 56,813 which puts it at the bottom of the list. On Geekbench it scored a 798 in the single-core test and a 3231 in the multi-score test. Finally in 3D Mark, it garnered a score of 371. These scores aren’t the highest we’ve seen, and that was to be expected, given the fact that we have a slower processor and less RAM in this device than most of the others on the market.

Battery Life

When Honor announced the Honor 6X at CES 2017 earlier this month, the company touted how great the battery life was on this device. Touting the fact that the Honor 6X could last around two days, and that actually is the case in our testing. Without getting scientific and using different battery tests (that don’t represent real-world use), the Honor 6X has lasted us about a day and a half to two days, repeatedly. Of course, this is going to depend on how you use your smartphone, but the Honor 6X has been pretty incredible when it comes to battery life. This isn’t surprising, considering Huawei – and to that respect, Honor – is known for their incredible battery life. The Honor 8 and the Huawei Mate 9 both have incredible battery life, so that’s kind of expected for the Honor 6X to have incredible battery life as well.

Unlike some other Huawei devices, the Honor 6X does not have any form of quick charging. And this is largely because it is not using a processor that is capable of quick charging. Seeing as it’s not using a Qualcomm chipset, so their Quick Charging feature is not available, and Huawei has kept their fast charging features for the more high-end processors like the Kirin 960. So the Honor 6X does take its sweet time in charging, but since it does last for so long, you won’t need to worry about charging it quickly before running out the door for the evening.

Software

Sadly, the Honor 6X is running on outdated software at launch. The Honor 6X has Android 6.0 Marshmallow and EMUI 4.1 out-of-the-box, along with the December 1st, 2016 security update. Now normally we wouldn’t make that big of a deal about this, but this is inexcusable for Honor and Huawei. Simply because they already have Nougat running on the Huawei Mate 9 that they announced last November. Not to mention the fact that Nougat is running on the Honor 8 in some regions. Now the company did say that Nougat would be coming to the Honor 6X soon, but it should have launched with Nougat. Yes, this is a budget device, but for a company that already has both Nougat and a new version of EMUI running on other devices for months, there’s really no excuse here.

With the fact that this is running EMUI 4.1, you’ll see a lot of similarities to the Honor 8 when we reviewed that last August. Things are a bit of a mess here, compared to the newer version of EMUI, which is version 5, but for now it’ll have to do. One of the big changes is the fact that there is still no app drawer, or an option for an app drawer. This means that you’ll need to download a third-party launcher from the Google Play Store. Notifications are also a bit hit-or-miss. One of the big gripes about notifications is the fact that some of them show up in black text, making it nearly impossible to see with the dark background of the notification shade. Additionally, you have a second page for quick settings, making it a bit more difficult to get to the WiFi toggle to turn it on or off.

Settings are also a bit of a mess. Many of the frequently used settings are pretty deeply hidden in the settings app. This was actually one of the big features that Huawei talked up when they were showing off EMUI 5 on the Huawei Mate 9 last year. So it’s a bit annoying that things like the battery stats are still pretty well hidden beneath the “Advanced Settings” section, when it’s not there on other devices.┬áHuawei does have a nice Do Not Disturb function here, which you can set to automatically turn on a specific time of the day. This can be different for weekends and weekdays and even for different events – which it would read your calendar for that.

The biggest issue we have here is the fact that Huawei launched the Honor 6X with different software than many of their other devices, giving users a vastly different experience compared to other devices. But having said that, the software on the Honor 6X works really well. It doesn’t bog down the processing power of the device at all. And when it does get the update to Android 7.0 Nougat and EMUI 5.0 it’s going to be even better, seeing as that update is even more lightweight.

Camera

With the Honor 6X, Huawei has brought their dual-camera setup to the mid-range/budget area. However, it’s not as high-end as what we’ve seen on the P9, Honor 8 and Mate 9. What we have here is a 12-megapixel camera and then a 2-megapixel camera for depth information. Instead of one being an RGB sensor and the other being a black and white sensor. You’ll still get the same bokeh effects, but perhaps not as great, which you’ll see in the gallery below.

The pictures taken with the Honor 6X were mostly good. There were a few, even in less-than stellar lighting situations that came out pretty good. It was a bit surprising, given the camera that this device boasts. But definitely a good experience nonetheless. It didn’t appear to blow out the background, like some other cameras in this segment tend to do. The bokeh effect did tend to add a bit of noise to the background, which is a bit understandable, seeing as there are less megapixels to use here, so that is going to take a hit

When you are taking photos in the wide aperture mode, you will want to have the subject up close, with some objects further away, to really give you that great looking depth of field. Now what’s great about the Honor 6X is the fact that you are able to take a photo in this mode and then edit it later on. So perhaps you’d rather have some other subject in the photo be in focus, you can change that. You can also adjust the f-stop to as low as f/0.95, which is actually pretty impressive. Now the lower you go, the more bokeh you’ll get, as you’d expect. There are a few pictures below in the gallery that showcase the different f-stops that were done in post-processing.

Overall the pictures from the Honor 6X were actually really good. Adding in that second sensor, even if it was just a 2-megapixel shooter, made the camera that much better. And it also brings that dual-camera setup down to just about every smartphone that Huawei sells. Now this camera isn’t going to outdo the Huawei Mate 9 – which I believe has the best camera out of Huawei’s line up right now – but for most people it’s going to be just fine. It’s a fast camera, that doesn’t make most shots look terrible.

The Good

Build Quality

Battery Life

Camera

Price

Fingerprint sensor

The Bad

Outdated software

Micro USB connector

No Quick Charging available

Wrap Up

Honor is Huawei’s brand for the millenials, they are targeting those that like to buy their smartphones online, and a lot of times they don’t want to pay a whole lot. Which is why the Honor 6X is priced at $250. Now to hit this price point they did need to cut some corners, but I don’t think any of those corners that were cut are actually deal breakers. As this is still a great smartphone from the Honor brand, and definitely a great successor to the Honor 5X that the company launched last year and did extremely well with. Sure it could be a bit better in a few areas, but those areas won’t stop most people from buying this device.

Should you Buy the Honor 6X?

Yes. There’s no reason to spend a boat load of money on a smartphone that has all the bells and whistles if you aren’t going to use all the bells and whistles. While most people would love to have a smartphone with the Kirin 960 inside instead of the Kirin 655, there’s still plenty of processing power available here, and since the device does use a slower and more energy-efficient processor, you’re getting even better battery life. Which for some people, that’s even more important.

Buy the Honor 6X