Aesthetics & Hardware
We already felt Honor 5X’s premium body during the unboxing and the feeling stays true until this moment. Unlike most affordable phones, the Honor 5X’s back is made of metal and it really makes the phone stand out. We have the silver unit with us, with is arguably the least attractive one as compared to the gold and grey models. Nevertheless, the brushed metal lines and the shinning edges around the camera and the fingerprint sensor still looks really nice. I would recommend you to go for the grey model, since Huawei is charging more for the gold variant just for the color.
The value added by metallic body are actually not limited to the aesthetics. The metal back provides the confidence that the phone that it can handle quite some torture, even though we certainly do not want to experiment that ourselves. The premium feeling in your hand is something cannot be matched by full plastic build.
Metal phones tend to be slippery but we are glad that this phone is an exception. The sides are flat, but the chamfered edge and the slight curve at the back really help with the grip. I never felt that the phone is going out of my hands. The Honor 5X is still free of any scratches up until this moment, which is a good news even though I have to admit that I always handle electronics devices with great care.
The majority of the front is taken up by the display, which means that the physical size of the phone is no larger than what we expect of a phone with that 5.5” screen. However, like other phablets, handling the phone with only one hand is still difficult. There is no hardware navigation keys so we are left with an empty chin at the bottom.
The buttons and ports are at the positions you expect them to be. The power buttons and volume rocker are textured, which make them easier to find without looking. The key press is tactile and the travel distance is just nice. There are 2 slots on the left hand side of the phone which will pop out if you poke in the ejection pin. Each slot will hold 1 SIM card and one of them will carry the microSD card as well. This means that you do not have to choose between dual SIM capability and microSD expansion. Thumbs up to Huawei for making our lives simpler. There is 16GB of storage, with around 10GB available out of the box. If that is not enough for you, it is always nice to know that you can expand it.
In overall, I think Huawei has done an amazing job in the design of the phone. The Honor 5X looks good and it is easy to handle. Surely you can do some nitpicking on the finish. For example, the 1mm protrusion of the camera lens is too much and the top and bottom plastic pieces at the back does not flush seamlessly with the metal body. These are unforgivable for a flagship phone. But remembering the fact that the Honor 5X only cost a fraction of those flagship phones, you simply cannot expect it to have the same build quality. Comparing the Honor 5X to its peers, it really stood out.
Display & Sound
The Honor 5X has a 5.5” 1080p IPS display. With 1080p displays getting more common, we are expecting no less from the Honor 5X. The IPS display on the Honor 5X inherit a lot of positives from the screen technology. It has accurate colors rather than the over-saturated colors found typically on the AMOLED displays. Of course, your taste may vary but I am comfortable with the colors. White is almost pure white and the black is quite dark for a liquid crystal display.
The brightness is somewhat adequate and the auto brightness works well. The display can be a little too dim under sunlight but not totally unreadable. In short, this display is certainly not perfect. The pixel density of 401ppi is common by today’s standard and the limited brightness range is less than ideal. But is the display good enough for most people? Definitely yes. The quality of the display did not leave me asking for more.
My biggest complaint about the display is not the quality of the display itself. It’s the black border around the display that irritates me the most. Having a black border around the display is not uncommon. Whether it is a technical limitation or it is an intentional trick to create the illusion that the bezel is thinner remains unknown (although the latter is more unforgivable). Regardless of the reason, the thick black border around the display of the Honor 5X is really distracting once you notice it. I cannot get used to it and forget its presence even after using it for weeks. For me, using a dark wallpaper helps a lot. Of course, not everyone is particular over this so your mileage may vary. I would recommend you to get the grey unit as the black front will hide the border better.
The speaker is more or less what you expect from an affordable phone. It is placed at the bottom of the phone. While both sides have the grilles, only one of them is a speaker where the other houses the microphone. The position of the speaker is certainly not perfect as it can be easily covered when you hold the phone in landscape. The volume is acceptable but the audio quality is definitely far from the rest. The songs you played will get distorted once you cranked up the volume somewhere near to the maximum. However, for casual music listening and video watching, it will get the job done.
One year ago, fingerprint sensor is a feature that is exclusive to high-end smartphones and I did not expect it will reach the masses so soon. The arrival of fingerprint sensors on devices like Honor 5X is not a big surprise, but it is definitely a welcomed one. Honor 5X’s fingerprint sensor is placed on its back, below the camera. At first I felt that the sensor is too low for me but after a day or two, my index fingers can find it naturally and effortlessly regardless which hand I use to hold it. It is a trouble that you need to lift up the phone to unlock it, but it is not so much of a hassle if you compare that to typing the passcode.
It is great that you do not need to turn on the screen first. The sensor will be reading your fingerprints readily even though the screen is off. Moreover, the fingerprint sensor on the Honor 5X is really responsive and accurate. It is not as speedy as its counterpart found on iPhone 6s, but it is still really fast. 5 taps on the sensor are all you need to register a finger. While the setup process is simple, the accuracy is not affected at all. I would say it works 9 out of 10 times.
However, if you are using the edge of your fingers or your fingers are too wet, the sensor will not work. The latter is common among all capacitive fingerprint sensors and I suspect the former is caused by the oversimplified setup process. Just take note that the sensor works the best with the middle of your finger and you will be fine.
As the fingerprint sensor is actually a capacitive sensor, Huawei did implement some tricks with it. For example, you can tap on the sensor to snap a photo, swipe down to access the notification shade, register specific fingers to launch certain apps or to call someone. Most of these are quite gimmicky and to be honest I turned all off except the swiping-down action to toggle notification shade. This is useful in one-hand operation.