When it comes to mid-market Android phones, there are a huge number of options at under $300. Most of those devices have compromises of some sort to keep that price point, some of which are painful to overlook. That’s not so much the case with the Honor 6X. The follow up to last year’s 5X, the Honor 6X brings a lot of power and features in its 5.5″ frame and has the features that you would expect for this price point. But it is not perfect and does have some blemishes, most of which will be addressed when this phone sees its impending Android Nougat update. With that update, there is no reason to overlook the 6X if you are wanting a good sized, mid-range phone.
I’ve been spending the last few weeks with the Honor 6X and without giving away the plot, I don’t have a problem recommending it. It performs well, has a good camera and plenty of battery power to get you through the day. Here is my review and thoughts on the latest phone from Honor.
The Honor 6X measures 150.9 x 76.2 x 8.2 mm or 5.94 x 3.00 x 0.32 inches in old money. It weighs 162g or 5.71 ounces. The display on the phone measures 5.5″ and renders a Full HD resolution of 1080 x 1920. That gives you an approximate pixel-per-inch count of 403. That gives the 6X a comfortable screen for viewing text or general viewing for a long period of time. The screen has a 71.8% screen-to-body ratio
and is curved.
Powering the phone is the Huawei subsidiary HiSilicon built Kirin 655 processor. It is an octa-core design with four cores running at 2.1GHz with the remaining four running at 1.7GHz. This is coupled with the Mali-T830MP2 GPU. The Honor 6X is sold in two variants when it comes to RAM and Storage. There is the 3GB and 32GB of storage model and the 4GB/64GB model. For this review, Honor provided a 3GB/32GB model. In either configuration, the phone is sold with a dual-SIM configuration with the second SIM slot being configured to be the MicroSD slot too. That slot can take up to a 256GB card for additional storage.
The main camera configuration of the 6X consists of dual-cameras rated at 12MP and 2MP. The Sony built sensor has a 1.25µm pixel size and has phase detection autofocus. It has an LED flash for low light photography. On the front, the selfie camera is an 8MP shooter. Both the front and the rear cameras are capable of shooting HD video at 1080p at 30fps.
Like other Honor and Huawei phones, the 6X is sold unlocked with an antenna array that supports a wide range of 3G and 4G frequencies. The phone will work only on GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile here in the United States. As always, check with your carrier before making the purchase of this phone to assure compatibility. Here are the frequencies and bands supported by the US version of the Honor 6X.
- HSDPA 900 / 1900 / 2100
- LTE band 2(1900), 4(1700/2100), 5(850), 12(700), 20(800), 38(2600)
Completing the antenna array is the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth assembly. For Wi-Fi, 802.11 b/g/n are support along with Wi-Fi Direct and hotspot configurability. Bluetooth 4.1 LE is built into to connect your peripheral devices. A nice bonus is that the Honor 6X also has an FM radio tuner built into it. Given that the phone has DTS audio built-in, it is nice to have the tuner too. Other sensors include the rear mounted fingerprint scanner, accelerometer, proximity and compass. Unfortunately the US version of the phone does not have NFC which is a drawback for those who like to use contactless payment with your phone via Android Pay.
Finally, powering all of this is a built-in 3340mAh battery. While the battery is capable of getting you through the day, the MicroUSB port over USB-C is a disappointment. The phone does support fast charging if you use the supplied charger from Huawei.
The design of the Honor 6X is straightforward and you won’t find too many surprises or sex appeal. It looks like a lot of other phones frankly but that’s not necessarily always bad. It just means that this phone isn’t going to stand out in the crowd while its getting on with things. As you would expect, the front of the phone is pretty much consumed with the 5.5″ display. It has a small bezel on each side with a larger one on the top and bottom. At the top is where you will find the phone speaker, the proximity sensor and the front facing camera while on the bottom you find the Huawei log. On the top edge of the phone is where the 3.5mm headphone jack is located while on the bottom, there is the MicroUSB port for charging flanked on each side by a speaker.
The back of the phone is made of aluminum and has a solid feel to it. The only interruption of this is the rear facing camera and accompanying flash with the fingerprint reader just below it.
Overall the Honor 6X feels solid in your hand and the design is comfortable. It feels premium, especially for a phone in the sub-$300 price range.
The overall performance of the Honor 6X is what you would expect from a mid-range phone. In general daily use, it works great and will get the job done. Likewise, streaming content from YouTube or Netflix is not a problem for the 6X. The challenge will come in if you want to do any intensive gaming on the phone. While the 3GB of RAM on-board does help, when it comes to graphically intense games like Real Racing 3, the phone struggles to keep up. Lag and frame stuttering was an issue but it wasn’t unplayable. Other, less graphics intense games like Alto’s Adventure or Angry Birds 2 was not a problem. If you are looking to pick up this phone as a gaming device, you will likely be served better with a slightly faster processor/GPU combination.
Using the OS Benchmark II app, the Honor 6X scored 1307 points, some 2000 points of the high scoring Huawei P10 and 92 points adrift of the Nexus 6P. For daily tasks like email, web browsing and content streaming, this is more than adequate for the task. In my testing of the phone, I had no issues with any of these tasks. It was only with the intense games that the phone struggled to keep up.
The display of the Honor 6X is certainly a bright spot (pardon the pun) on this phone. It is a bright, crisp display with excellent colors. The high pixel-per-inch measurement of 403 makes this display very easy on the eyes for long periods of time. The display also makes viewing text from email and web pages easy to read.
The speed of the display is also very good. Transitioning between the App Drawer to the Home page or between Home pages was a smooth experience with no real lag to speak of as I moved around. Also, accessing the Notification Shade was quick and responsive with accurate drawing of the shade or pages each time.
Another bright spot of the 6X is the camera. The dual-camera configuration shoots excellent indoor and outdoor photos with excellent color
accuracy and contrast. The camera quality produces photos that are above many other phones in this price range. The rear camera does not have a dual-tone flash so flash photos are a bit cooler than dual-tone flash images from other phones, but not horribly so nor anything that could not be addressed with Google Photos to warm them up.
Coupled with the great optics is Huawei’s camera app which provides a wealth of photo options depending on your subject or setting. There is a manual mode as long as specific settings for portraits, landscapes, night time shooting and panoramas. When you first open up the app, if you have not come from a Honor or Huawei phone, it can be a little overwhelming. Don’t let it be. Get use to the phone & camera first, then you can start diving in further to the app’s shooting options. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it is an excellent camera app.
With dual speakers at the bottom of the phone and DTS audio technology built into the phone, the Honor 6X provides a rich and nice audio experience, especially for a phone in this price range. I played a wide range of music – from Enya to Iron Maiden – and regardless of the genre, the music was crisp and clean in playback. This phone does not disappoint when it comes to audio.
Another solid element of the Honor 6X is the battery performance of battery built into the phone. The 3340mAh battery easily makes it through the day under normal use (email, web surfing, some gaming and content streaming). Battery life is often an area this compromised on lower priced phones and it is good to see that Honor did not take that path with this phone. Honor claims that you can get two days of battery life on a single charge and, with all of the battery saving features enabled, you can get darn close. In the real world, a full day is no issue but two days might be a bit of a stretch. Charging of the phone is done through the MicroUSB connector at the bottom of the device and, if you use the Honor provided charger, can charge the device rapidly thanks to the rapid charge technology built into the phone.
The only disappointment with the battery isn’t the battery itself but the charging done via MicroUSB. It is a shame that Honor did not include USB-C as the charging port as it is becoming the standard on devices.
If there is another disappointment in the Honor 6X it is the fact that it is shipping with the Android Marshmallow-based EMUI 4.0. While there have been a few minor changes over the course of the past year, fundamentally it remains the same as it did when I first reviewed the Mate 8. It is clunky, difficult to configure and not the best user experience on the market today. Indeed, if you have had a chance to read my review of the Huawei Mate 9, you know it comes with EMUI 5.0 and it is a world of change for the platform. As I remarked in that review, everything that was wrong with 4.0, they fixed in 5.0.
The good news is that EMUI 5.0 is on the way. Honor has committed to getting the Nougat-based update out in the early part of this year. The question is when as Honor (and Huawei for that matter) don’t have the greatest record of getting updates out fast. That’s changing, especially on the Huawei side of the house. All in, I would still recommend the Honor 6X as it stands today. The fact that Nougat is coming along with all of the improvements in EMUI 5.0 and in large part you can change the way the phone feels daily by changing launchers (I personally prefer Nova Launcher) gets you through until the update is available.
I reserve the right to change my mind however if this review is up in July 2017 and the upgrade still hasn’t been released.
Conclusion & Recommendation
Despite some shortcomings, I still don’t have a problem recommending the purchase of an Honor 6X. On the plus side, the phone is solidly built with outstanding performance and long battery life. It is well constructed with a solid feel in your hand and the display is excellent for viewing media and reading text for a long period of time.
On the negative side, the lack of NFC is a bit of a head scratcher. With tap-to-pay more secure and more readily available in the market, it really doesn’t make sense not to have this feature. Adding salt to the wound, it is on the 6X internationally. Further, EMUI 4.0 can’t go away fast enough and I really wish Honor had opted for USB-C charging on this phone.
The fact is, if you are looking for a phone in the sub-$300 range that is still supported by the manufacture and has software updates coming that take it to Nougat, the Honor 6X is certainly one to have on the short list. It has a lot of bang for the buck without breaking the bank.
The Honor 6X is available through a variety of online retailers including the Honor website. The price is $249.99. For those of you who like to shop Amazon, it is available there for the same price. Shipping on Amazon is also free for Prime customers.