*This is a review of a loaned product unit from Huawei Malaysia*
Not too long ago, when you’re looking to buy an Android smartphone, you think of the usual names – Samsung, HTC, Sony… Today, times have changed. The Android smartphone market has grown – you get so many choices from the usual big brands, to Chinese brands and there’s even a growing market of locally made smartphones. Whatever your fancy, there’s a phone out there for your needs, screen size preference, camera preference and price point.
I am constantly impressed with the development and growth of Chinese made Android smartphones. My initial negative perception of Made in China stuff are cheap but of poor quality. That is no longer the case, especially when it comes to tech gadgets. Heck – even you know the iPhone is “technically” Made in China!
I have been vocal about my love for my current personal phone – OnePlus One (read my review here). I’m still using it today. But it’s time for me to look at a gadget refresh.
Enter the Honor 6 Plus.
About the Honor 6 Plus
A little background info. Honor is a brand by the Chinese manufacturer, Huawei. While Huawei also sells Android smartphones under their main brand name, the Honor series are (slightly) lower end devices at a cheaper price tag, sold only online via their Vmall.my website in Malaysia.
With the success of online-only, cheaper in price but not quality, Honor series Android smartphones, Huawei continued to churn out more Honor smartphones to compete with the OnePlus, Xiaomi and Oppo for great Chinese made devices, which can compete with the bigger brands.
While I love the OnePlus One and had only brief hands on time with Xiaomi smartphones, I was glad I was approached to give the Honor 6 Plus a thorough review.
First up, here’s a quick specs overview of the Honor 6 Plus :-
- 5.5″ Full HD TFT display (1920 X 1080) (403 ppi)
- 1.3 GHz quad-core Hisilicon Kirin 925 CPU
- 32 GB internal storage (up to 128 GB expandable microSD) + 3 GB RAM
- Powered by Android 4.4 “Kit Kat” OS (with EMUI 3.0 skin)
- 8 megapixel Dual Parallel rear camera; 8 megapixel front facing camera
- 7.5 mm thin, weighing only 165 grams
- 3,600 mAH non-removable battery
- Connectivity : Dual SIM (micro & nano SIM), 4G LTE/3G HSPA+, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
- Available in 3 colours : Pure White, Wise Black and Honor Gold
For more information and specifications, check out the Honor 6 Plus Malaysian product page HERE.
Hardware & Build Quality
Inside the turquoise blue box, you see the 5.5″ screen smartphone, 3-pin power adapter and USB to microUSB charging cable, and user manual. That’s it. No bundled headphones or case or anything. Not needed, really, in my opinion.
The device is a black candybar with no buttons on the front, opting for on-screen button navigation.
Choosing to keep all buttons on the side. I like that this keeps the device looking clean and simplistic. The back houses the dual camera and flash.
I really like the back of the phone with the subtle pattern and glass backing. It’s apparently a “Bullet Proof Outer Shell” with 6 layer coating on the back case.
I have the Wise Black colour version of the 6 Plus for review. While the outlook reminds me very much of a larger iPhone, the device feels very solid in hand. With glass front and back, metal sides, and rounded corners, the device feels premium and solid in hand. Another proof that Chinese smartphones are getting better looking and improved in build quality. So far so good.
I like that Huawei included instructions on the side buttons and SIM tray in the plastic stickers. The stickers protect the new phone from scratches in production and distribution. And now it’s informative to tell you what each button and ports does. All smartphone manufacturers should do this, coz no one read the user manual. Am I right?
Features & Usability
One of the few things that I noticed is a common feature for all Chinese made Android smartphones is the Dual SIM feature. I guess a lot of people in China carry multiple SIM cards.
Do you know, that Malaysian mobile phone penetration is about 150% – which means more people are carrying 2 phones. Usually one smartphone and one feature phone – for work and personal use, I assume. Likely one with a mobile data plan, and one without.
Now, you don’t really have to do that with Dual SIM phones. You can carry 2 SIM cards in 1 smartphone – have both profiles active (meaning make/receive calls in both lines) and use data in 1 of them. I mentioned before that I like Dual SIM phones especially when I’m traveling and can keep my local Malaysian number active, and buy a local mobile data enabled SIM when roaming. Saves money and convenient, too.
And Honor 6 Plus is a device that enables my 2 SIM card usage. But the SIM ttray is a little tricky and unusual looking. Thanks for the pictorial guide in the user manual though, I managed to insert my nano SIM correctly. Coz, it was in a weird position, I feel. So I was a little confused at first.
Honor 6 Plus is powered by Android 4.4 OS, but comes with Huawei’s EMUI 3.0 (Emotion User Interface) as a skin on top.
The UI is very much like the Android we’re familiar with, more or less. The look and feel is a little different. For example, there’s no App Drawer, but you scroll right to reveal all apps installed in the phone, with rounded corners icons. You still swipe down for the Notification Shade, which also includes another tab for shortcut toggles.
There are 3 on-screen navigation buttons at the bottom – “Back”, “Home” and “Multitasking”. You can customise this in the settings. How nice.
This comes along with a bunch of other cool settings for touchscreen navigation, motions and gestures (eg, double tap to wake screen, flip to decline phone call, etc), and other “smart” features.
I appreciate that Huawei has not filled this with too many bloatware, aka pre-installed apps that I cannot delete. They do exist, but not too many and not overly annoying. But hey – some of them could be useful to some of you… Personal preference.
Overall, I find Huawei’s EMUI 3.0 interface nice and easy to use. It’s clean and easy enough to use. Navigation is smooth, and no visible lag was present. Clean interface and fast navigation. Even though the 1.3 GHz quad core processor isn’t exactly the highest of specs, it’s barely noticeable in my day-to-day use.
Camera & Image Quality
A quick scroll at the Malaysian Honor 6 Plus website here and its list of highlighted features, you’d notice that most of them are about the rear and front camera.
- Dual parallel camera – shoots at 13 megapixel resolution and fast 0.1 seconds focus.
- Super wide F0.95 – F16 aperture, means you can control depth of field and blur backgrounds like with a DSLR
- Better low light photography – with enhanced Night Mode
- Excellent HDR – perfect to balance out shots with back light, night photo with strong lights, etc
- New Camera Functions – like Super Snapshot (activate & snap a photo from standby more in 1 second), Focus Tracking (follow a moving, focused object), Camera Scan (QR code scanning) and more
With so many features baked into the camera functionality, I wasn’t surprised that there’s more than the usual controls in the Camera app. In fact, I was a little confused with some of the toggles and took awhile to familiarise myself.
If you shoot in Auto mode, like most people do, you wouldn’t need to worry then. But if you’d like to play around with the features and perhaps take advantage of the wide aperture of the rear camera, then the on screen toggle needs a little getting used to.
Here are some sample pictures taken with the Honor 6 Plus. Images are not edited or resized, so click to view original enlarged version.
As you can see, images are clear and crisp. One of the better smartphone cameras I’ve used, to be honest. Even macro shots (close up) are clear and beautiful. Low light photos are good, without too much noise. My only complain is that the flash can seem a little harsh though.
Wide aperture, for the non-photography enthusiasts of you, is basically the toggle for you to adjust the depth of field. How sharp do you want your object to be, whether they’re closer or further away from the camera. In simpler terms, how blur do you want the background to be, so your forefront object is sharp and stands out.
In the “Wide Aperture” mode in the Camera app, you’ll see the aperture “lens” icon in the middle of the shot with a line toggle next to it. Tap on the object you want to focus on, and then slide your finger on the toggle to the aperture that you want. You’ll see as you slide your finger over the toggle, the “lens” opens and closes accordingly, and the background goes blur or sharp accordingly.
Here are some sample images taken with “Wide Aperture” mode. Again, image unedited and not resized, so click to view enlarged version.
My favourite shot taken with the Honor 6 Plus throughout my review, is the one of the B&O Headphones. The lighting was good in the showroom as well. But what I like about it is the fact that the “Wide Aperture” mode in the 6 Plus blurred the background just enough to make the image look like it was taken from a high end DSLR camera. Very impressive indeed.
The other 2 shots of the Starbucks frappucino shows when I played around with the widest aperture of F0.95 (where the background is super blurred) versus the narrowest aperture at F16 (where the background was as sharp as the drink in the forefront). Play around with this toggle and you’ll be taking great pictures with this smartphone. I am very impressed.
8 megapixel front facing camera
Not forgetting the front facing 8 megapixel camera. With high megapixel count like this, the 6 Plus is perfect for selfies. From Selfie Preview Windows, Panoramic Selfies and Dynamic Face Enhancement for that perfect, smoothed skin portrait.
Here are some sample shots from the front camera. Also, images not edited or resized, click to view enlarged originals.
The front camera takes really good shots.
In fact, I noticed the “Dynamic Face Enhancement” is adjustable via its “Beauty Level” settings. Even on Level 0, my skin looks smooth and healthy. When I turned it up to Level 5, I look visibly glowy. This is the best selfie beautification, in my opinion. I could stop here, but I went on. At the maximum Level 10, my skin was so smooth and glowing it wasn’t realistic anymore. Unless of course, you’re one of those girls who enjoy over-editing for that glowing skin look.
With a 3,600 mAh battery, I didn’t expect anything less than a full day of battery power, or more.
True enough, in my review, the battery always lasts me a full day of 16 – 19 hours of use, until I have to charge it again at bed time. I was on light to moderate usage of the phone throughout my review.
In fact, on more than one occasion, I managed more than a day and a half of battery life. Yup – the battery is impressive.
Pricing & Availability
At time of review, the Honor 6 Plus was the latest in Huawei’s Honor series smartphone. At time of writing now, it’s trumped by the recently launched (last week, in fact) Honor 7 which will go on sale officially on 28 Sep 2015.
Nevertheless, the Honor 6 Plus is still a great smartphone. While some features are slightly upgraded, the Honor 6 Plus brings great camera tech of the Dual Parallel camera that’s not in the Honor 7.
Honor 6 Plus is of course available for sale, exclusively online at their official website and online store, Vmall.my at RM 1,399 including 6% GST HERE.
What I Like
- Camera & Image Quality – Makes my pictures look like it came from a DSLR with its Wide Aperture function & great low light shots
- Build Quality – Surprisingly feels very solid with its glass & metal finish
- Price – At RM 1,399 for close to a high end flagship spec
What I Dislike
- Confusing Camera interface – Takes awhile to get used to
- Specs – only 1.3 GHz quad core processor. Still mid range specs
- EMUI 3.0 UI – can be streamlined a bit more, or removed altogether. Not a fan of skins
I am really impressed with the Honor 6 Plus.
Like I said, the Chinese Android manufacturers are catching up to the mainstream brands. Spec wise, they’re on par or sometimes better spec-ed than the flagship phones of the premium brands. Performance wise, there might be some more polishing to be done here and there, but overall in daily use, they perform really well. Battery life in the Honor 6 Plus is good.
The icing on the cake is the amazing camera on this thing. It takes really good pictures for a smartphone, almost on par with a point-and-shoot compact camera. This alone is worth the purchase.
Coz, hey – the phone’s only RM 1,399 so no hesitations here.
The competition here, are the other Chinese smartphones at the same price points selling at the same, or cheaper price tag with the same or better specs. Tough market here.
For more information, check out the Honor 6 Plus product page at http://www.vmall.my/honor-6-plus.html or LIKE their Honor Malaysia Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/HuaweiHonorMY