The Honor 6X comes one year after its predecessor, the Honor 5X (Review), which was a solid, dependable smartphone that delivered decent all-round performance. Honor has produced some notable smartphones in the past year, of which, the Honor 8 (Review) is one example.
The Honor 6X is yet another metal-clad smartphone vying for attention in a very crowded segment. It boasts of dual rear cameras and is powered by Huawei’s custom silicon under the hood. It will compete against heavyweights like the Moto G4 Plus (Review) and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Review), both of which have proven to be solid performers. Let’s see if Honor’s new offering manages to deliver as good an experience, if not better.
Honor 6X design and build
We’ve been using the Honor 6X for the better part of a month now and so far, our impressions of the build and finish have stayed pretty much consistent with when we first got our hands on it. The metal chassis has a satin-like finish which feels really good when you hold it. On the flip side, it does make it tricky to grip this phone, and it can easily slide out of your hand. The gentle curves around the sides don't help much with grip either, although aesthetically, this phone looks very good.
The 5.5-inch display on the Honor 6X has fairly thin borders on either side, which makes at least basic one-handed use possible. You can shrink the display and the preinstalled Huawei Swype keyboard to either side to of the screen for more comfortable one-handed use if needed. We found the brightness levels to be adequate for outdoor use, with good viewing angles and colour reproduction. The full-HD resolution also ensures that there are no visible jaggies around text and icons which makes the display good for reading and watching video. The glass on the display is scratch resistant too. The Honor 6X has a bit of a chin below the screen which helps when you need to hold it landscape mode for gaming or videos.
On the left side, the Honor 6X has a slot for two SIM cards, which can also accommodate a microSD card (up to 128GB) in the second slot. This setup is step back from the 5X, which had a dedicated slot for the microSD card. The volume rocker and power buttons are placed on the right, and have good tactile feedback. There’s a mono speaker grille and microphone at the bottom, flanking the Micro-USB port. The Honor 6X misses out on a Type-C port, which is quickly becoming the defacto standard for Android smartphones.
Around the back, the Honor 6X has the dual-camera setup, LED flash, and fingerprint sensor. Just like the fingerprint sensor on earlier Honor phones, it’s very quick at authentication and we didn’t really have to deal with any misreads during our usage. Overall, the Honor 6X scores well in the design and build quality departments. Its body doesn’t offer the best grip, but barring that, it’s well-crafted and looks good. We were sent just a naked phone for this review but you should expect the usual set of accessories in the retail box.
Honor 6X specifications
The Honor 6X sports an SoC developed by Huawei in-house, called the Kirin 655. This mid-range octa-core chip packs in four Cortex-A53 CPU cores running at 2.1GHz and four companion Cortex-A53 cores running at 1.7GHz. In terms of graphics, we have a Mali-T830 GPU. The Kirin 655 is roughly 20-25 percent slower than Qualcomm’s equivalent Snapdragon 625.
While it’s not exactly a powerhouse of an SoC, it does pack a good enough punch to handle most games and apps. The Honor 6X got an AnTuTu score of 57,530; PCMark score of 4,406; and 3DMark Unlimited score of 7,810. Honor is launching two variants of the Honor 6X in India – one with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, and the other with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. We have the latter in for review.
Other specifications of the Honor 6X include Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi b/g/n, USB-OTG, FM radio, and 4G with VoLTE support. The phone also has the usual suite of sensors, including a Hall effect sensor but misses out on a gyroscope. It’s a litle disappointing that the Honor 6X doesn’t have dual-band Wi-Fi ac, which is now pretty common in this segment.
The phone runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Huawei’s EMUI 4.1 customisation. This is the same version that we saw on the Honor 8, which means you get the same level of customisation, minus a couple of features like the ROG power saving mode. The single-layered interface offers plenty of customisations, right from transition animations to themes. The notifications shade is split into tabs, which separate notifications from the toggle switches. The recent apps screen shows you opened apps in the form of cards.
The Honor 6X packs a host of convenience features under the Smart Assistance sub-menu in the Settings app. There are some motion- and voice-based gestures here which work well. The Emergency Services menu lets you define a customised text message along with your location coordinates which can be sent to up to three contacts. HiCloud lets you sync your contacts, calendar and other settings to Huawei’s cloud backup service.
The interface does take some getting used to, as the customisations are very heavy. There are also a whole lot of apps preinstalled, but thankfully, you can remove all the third-party ones. Honor's own apps include a Health app that lets you manage your workouts, and HiCare, which is a guide to all the features in the phone.
Honor 6X performance
The Honor 6X might not post the highest benchmark numbers in its class but it’s certainly no slouch when it comes to real-world performance. We were able to play heavy games like Dead Effect 2 with no problem. EMUI runs smoothly without any major hiccups, and the phone handles multitasking quite well. Despite the heavy skin and running heavy apps and games, we always had about 2.5GB of RAM to spare, which is great. We only noticed slight slowdowns when playing with the manual settings in the camera app. We also love the fact that the Honor 6X doesn’t heat up easily, even after a long bout of gaming or using the camera.
The stock music and video players handle different types of media well. The Honor 6X can play 1080p video files and FLAC audio files. You even get an audio enhancement features called SWS when you use headphones, although audio quality is only strictly okay through the speakers and with after-market headphones.
We now come to one of the highlights of the Honor 6X, which is its dual rear cameras. The primary 12-megapixel sensor is accompanied by a 2-megapixel sensor below it, which is used only for depth perception instead of improving the quality of the picture, similar to the iPhone 7 Plus (Review). The main camera uses is a Sony IMX386 sensor and supports PDAF.
The camera app on the Honor 6X offers a wide aperture mode which lets you simulate an aperture range of f/0.95 to f/16. You can get some good bokeh effects here, provided you frame your subjects well. In terms of image quality, the camera is pretty capable as long as you have good lighting. In daylight, pictures have good details and colours are represented pretty accurately. Macro shots are also fairly sharp.
Focusing speed is good, and although it dips a bit in low light, the camera never gets unusably sluggish. The camera doesn’t fare too well under low ambient indoor light or at night. Colour noise isn’t much of an issue, but even close objects suffer from a grainy look. The front camera on the Honor 6X also captures sharp selfies in daylight but loses out in low light.
The camera app offers plenty of shooting modes and filters to choose from, and is relatively easy to use. The Honor 6X supports video recording at up to 1080p, and quality is good, although we felt that the framerate could have been steadier. Video isn't too choppy, but it certainly doesn’t feel a like steady 30fps.
The phone packs in a 3340mAh battery with support for fast charging. Using a 10W power adapter, we managed to get to a little more than 50 percent in an hour. During normal usage, we were able to easily go past a day on a single charge. In our HD video loop battery test, we went 11 hours and 54 minutes, which is good.
The Honor 6X is yet another dependable option to consider, just like its predecessor. However, it doesn't really offer any standout feature that would make you want to rush out and buy it. Pricing starts at Rs. 12,999 for the version with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, which isn't bad considering the specifications on offer. However, the version with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage costs Rs. 15,999 which feels like less of a bargain. We wish Honor had paid attention to finer details like Wi-Fi 802.11ac support, a USB Type-C connector, true dual-SIM functionality like the 5X, and perhaps a simpler look and feel to EMUI. The dual-camera setup feels gimmicky and unnecessary, and low-light performance could have been much better.
The Honor 6X’s biggest competitor will be the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, but given how that phone isn't going to be easy to get hold of for a while, the Honor 6X is a viable alternative. If you need missing features like the ones listed above, there’s always the Moto G4 Plus, though a successor seems to be around the corner.