The Honor series from Huawei has not seen a huge response so far, and it is only the Honor 6 that is kept at a price range at which Xiaomi’s Mi4, OnePlus One as well as the Lenovo Vibe X2 are available. The two new smartphones, though, deserve much more appreciation, thanks to the price and specs packed in. The Huawei Honor 4X, with a price of Rs. 10,499, makes itself stand tall with some good specifications, though it has a threat from devices having similar internal specs at a lesser price.
When it comes to a budget smartphone, the importance is given more on the user experience than the aspects like design and such. While Huawei has done quite well with the camera of the Honor 4X, the experience takes a hit due to some games that did not run at all, on the device.
The specifications include a 5.5 inch display with 720p resolution, and under that, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor clocking at 1.2 GHz, with 2GB RAM and Adreno 306 GPU. The phone has a 13-megapixel camera on the back, with its F/2.0 aperture and a 27mm wide angle lens. On the front, we see a 5-megapixel selfie camera. A 3000 mAh battery in the device is packed in, and it isn’t a removable one.
Design, Form Factor
The Huawei Honor 4X has a simple design, nothing extra-ordinary but yet not a design that one would hate. What’s better than the competitors, is that it avoids taking inspiration from the glossy back on Redmi Note and the weird button placement on Yu Yureka. The back of the phone has the cross line matte finish, that although isn’t really helping in keeping it firmly held, it doesn’t attract fingerprints, and the Honor branding (shining black one, on the back unit we reviewed) adds to the good looks.
The removable back cover on the phone covers almost the entire side frame as well, joining the screen panel on the side. Towards the right side, the volume button and the cover around it is slightly raised, and just above that is the volume rocker button. The MicroUSB port and primary microphone take their place along with the round speaker holes in the bottom, while a secondary microphone and the headset jack is located on the top.
The 5.5 inch display is surrounded by not so big bezels, but whatever area is used by the navigation buttons in the bottom, makes the phone unnecessarily bigger. The capacitive buttons below the screen (back, home and app switcher) don’t light up, but they are fairly responsive. Above the display is a set of sensors, earpiece and the 5MP camera.
Using the Honor 4X isn’t easy with a single hand, although the gestures and motion features try to help the user do some functions without having to use both the hands. Not really something to complain about, as we rarely see a phone in the budget-to-mid range category having a compact design for a big 5.5-inch screen. Compromises are bound to happen with the design in such price range, and that’s very much evident here.
The 5.5-inch IPS display has a pixel density of 267 PPI, decent enough for this price range, and this is exactly the same as in Xiaomi Redmi Note and Yu Yureka, but on the brighter side, the display of Honor 4X is easier to read under bright sunlight.
Viewing angles are decent, and although this is a UI feature, the changing wallpaper every time the screen is activated, makes the experience better.
In the end, the display is again, as good as any other in this price range, and Huawei has done a good one except for giving it a little extra blue, that we noticed on the Yu Yureka as well. Though, the Honor 4X isn’t going to disturb with the extra tinge of color.
OS, User Interface
As mentioned in the hands-on, the Emotion UI seemed quite a lot inspired by the other Chinese smartphones, and also by iOS on Apple smartphones. But keep the fact aside about what it derives the inspiration from, you are looking at a very good intuitive interface that doesn’t confuse you, and that makes most of the stuff easier to access and navigate to.
The Emotion UI, or EMUI v3.0 has a lock screen that gives access to notification panel, and a drag-up-from-bottom control centre having shortcuts to important apps. Even the camera app can be opened right from the lock screen. Always, unless you opt against it, you see a beautiful different wallpaper whenever the screen is waken up. Double tapping anywhere on the lock screen opens up a music player widget, which can be controlled without having to unlock the screen.
A vertical timeline of notifications is shown up in the notification panel, swiping which to the left shows the much useful quick settings section, having connectivity toggles, options to toggle One-hand UI, Flashlight, screenshot Suspend button, multi-screen, ultra power saving mode and the brightness toggle bar.
The UI intelligently shows the quick settings panel if there’s no important unread notification, and thus obviously is good and time-saving. Customization is what most of the Chinese smartphone manufacturers have focused on, and thus, the EMUI in Honor 4X has a few themes to choose from, though there’s no store to download more than the ones available already. Into the theme settings, the user can further change the wallpaper style, icon and font style, as well as the way lock screen can be unlocked. Such features might not matter much in classy high-priced devices, but in the budget smartphones, they do look quite good.
Also, when there’s a mention about a device made by a Chinese manufacturer, we expect some (or huge, sometimes) bloatware coming alongside the Google apps. But surprisingly, the Honor 4X has not much except for the Google apps, and the company’s own Phone Manager and few tools. Still, we see no more than 3.9GB of internal storage left for the user, from the phone that wasn’t even set up.
There’s a Simple user mode under the Settings, if the user doesn’t want the cluttered UI to be presented to them. It rather takes you back to the look of early Windows Phone UI, having large app tiles, and only the important apps shown on the main screen. CyanogenMod in the Yu Yureka had some interesting gesture features, but the Honor 4X seems to have done a better job, with options like “Flip to mute”, “Shake to rearrange”, “Double Touch” (which is the double tap to wake) for a better experience. While the screen is turned off, drawing certain alphabets open the set apps.
The other smart assistance features include One-hand UI (useful only in Phone app), Suspend button that shows up few quick options, Smart cover, Smart headset control and the Touch-disable mode (which avoids unnecessary operations when the device is in the pocket).
If we had to talk of the best things about the Huawei Honor 4X, this will probably be one of them – the 13-megapixel camera. While some times, we feel that the number is overrated for budget devices having 13MP cameras, that isn’t the case with Huawei Honor 4X, as the 13MP camera captures brilliant pictures in bright light, and doesn’t disappoint in low light as well.
Bright light captures, color reproduction
Low light capture, using both throw flash and continuous
HDR Capture, compared with natural shot
Low light captures, with/without flash
True color reproduction is seen, especially for the natural shots, where natural green and blue colors stayed there perfectly, and we felt no need to turn the HDR mode on. In low light, for sure there was a need for the LED flash to get better colors, as it seemed washed out without it, but the object was fairly visible without any custom setting.
There are some handy features, modes and settings that help make the capture better, but we’re totally satisfied with the captures that were taken naturally. Even the front-facing camera is a good one for selfies, with too less noise, and although unlike the selfie-centered phones having a LED flash on the front, there is no such assistance, but the camera app comes with a feature to increase the brightness of the screen to help in brighter selfies.
The Honor 4X, although has a very decent 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, clocking at 1.2 GHz, it is surely not a phone one would want if they are into gaming. The Emotion UI does respond fast and over a GB of free RAM is usually there, and the 4X never showed a problem with multitasking, switching between the apps and even while showing all the transition effects in the UI.
The benchmark scores are quite lesser than what you would see in devices with similar internal specs, but in actual, the performance is good for regular use. On the other side, it is quite disappointing if you are someone concerned about high-end games. Not only the device heats up on the games it is able to play (Asphalt 8 on Normal mode), the phone isn’t able to open quite a few games, such as Dead Trigger 2 and GTA Vice City, the common games that we test in most of the smartphones.
The Normal and Smart modes differ a bit, and it clearly shows the difference in the way UI responds. The Normal mode reduces the lags and frame drops when playing a game, while Smart is more about saving battery and compromising with the performance, thus not a good mode for gaming or watching HD videos on Youtube or alternative apps.
As the screen was big enough, Huawei managed to keep the device slim enough to use it comfortably, and still pack a 3000 mAh battery on the back. We’re actually very much impressed with the battery on the Honor 4X, and the device lasted for more than a day on a single charge, and we’re talking of normal usage, including more than an hour of phone calls, some data usage (on 3G though), gaming for about 40 minutes and keeping the Wi-Fi active for over half a day.
While at it, when the battery drained down to 12%, we tried using the Ultra Power Saving mode and it was able to drag on, for about half a day, on active network. Though the functionality changes quite a lot, we were doing so to see how helpful it might be for travelers who are happy to keep the device active, and compromising with the performance.
The Honor 4X has three battery usage modes – Ultra, Smart and Normal. While the Ultra makes it a greyscale interface, the smart mode automatically adjusts the CPU and network usage for balanced performance, and the normal mode adjusts the CPU for maximum performance. The last one is recommended for gaming as well as, for HD video viewing. Though, we did see the battery draining quicker than normal, so, the phone indeed makes it better for gamers but one has to make sure to switch to Smart mode if they aren’t gaming.
Just like the Redmi 2 from Xiaomi, the Huawei Honor 4X has two SIM card slots, both supporting 4G LTE network connectivity, and this is quite good for users who are looking at a device to use for a couple of years, until when some proper 4G coverage is available in India.
For the call quality, it was neat and the earpiece was loud and sound wasn’t distorted. The connectivity on 3G network was mostly stable, and we couldn’t test the device on 4G LTE networks.
- The speaker in the bottom is not too loud, but it tries to keep it smooth and less distorted. The placement is perfect, and I’m one of those who always prefer the speaker anywhere except for the back panel.
- The back cover is removable, but you won’t be able to remove the battery from its place.
- While having the three devices together, the build quality of Huawei Honor 4X seemed better than Yu Yureka for its weight and premium feel, and also better than Xiaomi Redmi Note as the back doesn’t have a glossy finish, and the matte finish keeps it far from fingerprints.
The final question, is the Huawei Honor 4X worth the price? It indeed is, with what comes packed in, and the way it takes brilliant photos, lasts for more than a day on a single charge. But it isn’t dependable in every way. If you are a gamer or someone who puts heavy pressure on the processor, don’t expect this to take it all very easily.
As for the competitors, only if you aren’t much into gaming, there is no reason you should not choose the Honor 4X over Yu Yureka and Xiaomi Redmi Note. It has a better battery life, a better camera and a decent display as well, for a price almost similar. Though, the Redmi 2 has a same processor and it can handle games in a better way, there are compromises here and there, and you might have to jot down a list of what you expect from the device, and end up choosing one between Honor 4X and Redmi 2.