When we deal with budget smartphone, very often it isn’t a perfect experience and we are fully aware of that. Unlike high-end flagship phone where no compromise on software and hardware should exist, sacrifices have to be made somewhere for the price to go down. But where should it be stripped down? Different OEMs have different answer and their varieties of answer might suite your need or maybe not. Last week, I posted about the unboxing of a budget phone from Huawei, Honor 3C and my first impression on it. Now here’s my final thought of it, the full review of this phone and let’s find out did Huawei made some wise choice over here. The review will be made to 2 parts and this is the first one.
Design & Physical Appearance
The look of the phone is important, isn’t it? Honor 3C comes in a beautiful blue box shown in the unboxing post and opening the box will reveal the Honor 3C. The design of the phone is very simple and sleek, and that is a very good thing. The phone does not look cheap at all for the design. I would believe if someone tell me it prices twice of its current retail price. It is rectangular shaped plastic phone and slightly curve at the corner. I have a white model and only the back of the phone is white while the front and the body is black. Honor 3C comes in 6 color options but you don’t really need to have a dilemma here. You can easily replace the back in the future if you feel that you want to have a change in color. You can also choose the flip cover that covers the front and the back, which is good for protection without additional bulk.
One weird thing I noticed is that you cannot find any Huawei logo from the exterior of the phone. You can find the company name inside the phone and the logo of the company can only be found on the battery and it is even inverted when you open up the battery cover. This is quite a funny choice that I don’t really understand. Why not let people know about your brand better?
The dimension of the phone is 139.5 × 71.4 × 9.2 mm, which is pretty standard for a 5″ phone. The phone itself is very light, 140 g only to be exact. How light is 140g? It is has the same weight with iPhone 4S with a 3.5″ display and a little lighter than the Samsung Galaxy S5 with 5.1″ display. Having a light phone is the always the best? When I first hold the phone, I complained that it is too light and I feel insecure holding it. After a week I have changed my mind a bit. After getting used to it, I started appreciating the light weight. The phone is not small at all so the weight actually help me to have a better grip on the phone when I am using it. I can use it with one hand without worrying the phone might fall away from my hand but of course by doing this way I cannot reach the whole screen with my fingers. So having such light weight is not a bad thing and if you really find it too light, you can just add in a case any time. You can’t make it the other way round if you have a heavy phone, isn’t it?
Speaking of holding the phone, be assured that the phone is nice to be hold although you won’t mistake it as a flagship phone. The back of the phone is gently curved so it rest nicely on the palm. The corner of the phone will not hurt after long period of using as it is curved and the phone is light. There is no creaking when you try to twist the phone and holding it tight. Of course the build quality is not that perfect here. I can notice that the gap between the glass and the edge of the phone is slightly wider on the bottom compared to the sides and the top. But the difference is really barely noticeable and this shouldn’t be an issue at all.
The major complaint I have for the body of the phone is that the phone is a fingerprint magnet. As the phone body is glossy plastic, the fingerprints and oil smudges will accumulate over time, and this is quite annoying. Cleaning it isn’t as easy as the other phones for unknown reason. I don’t use screen protector and the front of the phone has the same problem too but you will not notice it after you fire up the screen. But with the screen off, it definitely spoils the look of the phone. After long period of use you might feel your phone unpleasantly oily and I really don’t like this.
The hardware is the part where usually budget smartphones disappoint people. However, Honor 3C is an exception. It houses a MediaTek(MTK) MT 6582 Quad-core 1.3GHz Processor with 2GB of RAM, and a 720p display. The internal storage is 8GB, the battery is 2300mAh and it has a 8 megapixel rear camera and 5 megapixel front camera. More than 1 year ago this was the hardware that you can only find on flagship phones and Huawei has generously packed them in Honor 3C. I just simply can’t ask for more given that the phone has such low price point. We will go into details for each part later. The full specifications is as follow:
In front of the phone has the 5″ screen and the front facing camera, a speaker hole with nice metal finishing, three capacitive buttons, an almost invisible ambient and proximity sensors on the top left corner and a multicolor notification light beside the speaker. The ambient and proximity sensors are hidden nicely along the black bezel, letting the front to have a simpler look. I didn’t expected a notification light in a phone with such price and it’s a good thing it has became the standard. You don’t have to turn on your screen to check for the presence of notifications or to check has your phone be fully charged.
The three capacitive buttons are not backlit key, so sometimes I have to guess the location of the button before I can press on it. I always prefer to have a backlit capacitive keys as they contribute in both form and function. Another thing you should know about the front of the phone is that the edge of the phone is slightly pronounced compared to the screen, meaning that your screen will not make contact with the surface if you put the phone bottom up. I feel that this is a clever move from Huawei to compensate the omission of Gorilla Glass in this phone, although I would prefer to have the glass to cover the phone even I have to pay a little bit more for it.
The bottom of the phone has the micro USB port for charging and data transfer and a microphone. The top of the phone has a 3.5mm headphone jack. The power button and volume rocker lies on the right hand side. This 3 buttons have silver metal finishing and they are not as clumsy as the buttons found in usual budget phone. The response from the button is just nice and the button is not too hard to be pressed. But they are a little bit shaky and this is the part that betrays its price. However, I like the position of the buttons. They are just in the right place and I don’t have to shift the way I hold it to press them.
The back of the phone is clean and simply too. The grey ‘honor‘ logo lays nicely in the middle of the white back. On top there’s the 8 megapixel rear shooter and a LED flash beside it. On top of the camera there’s another microphone. The speaker lies on the bottom left part of the back and it has nicely grilled holes. After listening to the front facing Boomsound speaker of the HTC One, other rear facing speakers just don’t make sense to me. We are facing the front of the phone so why make the speaker at the back? The speaker is just average, not very loud and barely heard if playing music in slightly noisy areas. The clarity of the voice is limited too and basses are not that strong. However, it still will get its job done.
After getting used to the Retina Display 3 years ago, my eyes are spoilt by the high resolution display. Its been very hard for me to tolerate low quality display, which is commonly found in budget phones. But make no mistake, the display of Honor 3C is by no means mediocre. I am suprised by the display the very moment I turned it on.
It is a 5″ 1280 x 720 TFT LTPS LCD and the full name is thin-film transistor low temperature polysilicon liquid crystal display, if you care. Don’t worry too much about it and just read on. Huawei also include OSG (one glass solution) technology to reduce the screen thickness but basically there’s nothing too fancy here. The 720p resolution make up a pixel density of 294 per inch so basically I can’t differentiate individual pixels here. The edge of characters are sharp and images looks crispy. The colors are vivid but not overly saturated. The natural colors make the colorful UI looks nice. Blacks are not very, very black but it’s already better than average. Conversely, whites looks good. The screen is quite bright and I can read from the screen easily. I am using auto brightness and the ambient sensor is doing a great job. I never thought of adjusting the screen brightness manually at all.
The only problem is that the display is quite glossy and reflective. When the light is coming from sideway, you might need to tilt the phone a little bit to read what’s on the display. Luckily, the viewing angle is great and you can just look at the screen from a great variety of angle and the display won’t appear washed out. In short, the display is great to me even I am quite picky over the display. Thumbs up to Huawei to choose such beautiful display for a budget smartphone and I hope every OEM be doing the same thing.
The screen is sensitive enough and there’s a glove mode to be toggled if you want to use your phone while wearing gloves. Not so useful in hot countries like Malaysia but definitely useful for countries with winter. I tried using the phone with gloves and it works nicely.
Honor 3C has a quad-core 1.3GHz CPU & dual-core 500MHz GPU MediaTek MT6582 chipset and 2GB of RAM. The power of CPU is nothing too special but 2GB of RAM is definitely where the phone stands out among the crowd of the budget smartphone. I don’t really trust benchmarks to test the performance of smart devices so in foreseeable future I will not include any result from benchmarking. But how does it translate to everyday usage? In my opinion, it turns out to be very satisfying. I don’t feel any lag when I am navigating through the whole UI very quickly, which can be quite challenging for the other phones with same price. Opening up apps certainly won’t be as fast as beast like Samsung Galaxy S5 or S4 but the speed is reasonable. I tried playing some games like Asphalts 8 but I can’t detect frame skips during my game time although loading up the game will take some time as mentioned. I also tried Temple Run 2 and the phone performs very well. There were only very negligible amount of frame skips after I reach over 10,000m of the run. When doing simple task like browsing the Internet or social media there will be no hiccups at all.
Thanks to the 2GB RAM, multitasking has been a pleasure. Even running all the standard background apps like Whatsapp, Facebook, Messenger and others. I don’t have to clean up the background task as often like the other Android phones. The RAM usage can hardly surpass 1.4GB how hard I tried so you can be assured that RAM shortage will not be a problem if you choose this phone. The only time I experience a great lag is that when the chathead from Messenger showed a new message while I am browsing the Internet using Chrome while downloading an app from the Playstore. I certainly won’t blame a RM499 phone if it can’t handle these 3 things simultaneously.
This phone will get hot when you’re doing heavy task like gaming. The processor seems to locate the somewhere below the camera and that is where my finger will lay on. So I can feel the heat. However, the heat is about the same with the other plastic phones and not up to an alarming level. I never feel that I need to rest it at all. I also did not have any experience of getting the phone heated without doing anything with lot’s of graphics. Out of the 8GB storage only slightly more than 5GB is available and you might fill it up very quickly with apps and photos. Luckily micro-SD expansion is supported up to 32GB and it will be much needed.
With great performance comes great battery usage. Luckily this is not quite true for Honor 3C. The 2300mAh battery does it job well. When I use the phone very frequently, at the end of the day I will still have 30% of battery with WiFi and background task turned on all the time. This is quite good considering the screen on time is more than 2 hours. If I use it moderately, not carefully, the full charge can easily last me for 2 days, as shown in the picture above. Basically you don’t have to worry too much about battery life. If you are running out of charge, you can choose the Endurance mode in the power saving option. Endurance mode will limit the CPU and network usage while Normal mode will maximize performance. There’s also Smart mode to achieve balance between performance and battery life, which is the mode I am using. Do take note that the statistics I mentioned earlier for phone performance and battery life is under this Smart mode.
Phone Call & Connectivity
While the focus is not on phone calls anymore, you still need your smartphone to do that. Honor 3C is a dual-sim phone so it can support 2 micro-sims. However, only the first sim will support WCDMA(3G) and GSM(2G) while the other will only support GSM. LTE will not be supported at all.
I have no problem with holding signal with Honor 3C. In fact I never lost signal in places it shouldn’t (you can’t help it when you are in places like elevator). Phone conversations are clear from my side and the caller has no problem in hearing what I said without using speakerphone. As mentioned earlier, the speaker is not loud enough so you might have problem with speakerphone if the surrounding is too noisy.
For Wi-Fi connection, it has 802.11 b/g/n supported. As far as I try, the Wifi connection is reasonably fast. DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) is supported too where you can share media between different devices via WiFi but I don’t see this very useful. WiFi hotspot Internet sharing, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS are present but NFC is not found here. It will just remind you you can’t have everything in a budget smartphones here and there.
End of First Part
Here’s the first part of my full review on Huawei Honor 3C. The second part will be about the camera, the software, the other features and the verdict. Stay tuned for the second part!
[Update: Part II is available now!!]