Performance & Battery Life
Huawei is not too stingy in terms of hardware. For starter, you have Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 615 SoC, 2GB of RAM and a 3,000mAh battery. On paper, the 64-bit octa-core processor (4 x 1.5GHz Cortex A53 core + 4 x 1.2GHz Cortex A53) and the Adreno 405 GPU should be capable for everyday use. This is largely true.
For everyday use, the phone felt quite smooth but it is certainly not lag-free. The phone will hesitate a little here and there. For example, you will experience the latency when you swipe down on the homescreen. The keyboard will take a little while to appear. When you tap on some larger apps, it might take a little longer for the loading page to appear. However, most of the times the experience is not that bad.
The phone seems to handle the RAM moderately well. Background apps are not killed even if you jump between few apps. You will only wish for more RAM when you try to do too many things simultaneously, which is a rare case for most people.
If you love playing games on your phone, the good news is that most games I tried run just fine. The loading times are not too slow and there are not too much of frame skips noticed during my gaming time. After prolonged gaming time, the phone will get quite warm and this is when the throttling kicks in. During this time you will notice that the frame rate drops a little but the game is still playable.
Speaking of getting warm, for unknown reason, the phone tends to get warmer if you are using mobile data to surf the web as compared to playing game. This is quite obvious, thanks and no thanks to the metal back. It is not alarming hot, but it is something worth noting.
In short, the performance of Honor 5X is by no means disappointing. However, the performance is the area where the phone starts to show it is still a midrange device. It is closer to the lower end rather than the higher end of the spectrum. So if you are looking for a power house, Honor 5X is not your answer.
The 3,000mAh battery can really provide reasonable battery life. If you charge it every night, you will never face the anxiety that your phone is dying soon. With normal mode, I usually can get around 4 hours of screen-on time while getting an extra half an hour more with smart mode. The amount might reduce a little if you play more games. The standby time is reasonably well too as I had the phone surviving for 2 days before it ran out of juice, although I admit that my usage is really light that time. When your phone is dying, you can utilize the ultra power saving mode, which turns your Honor 5X into a touch-screen feature phone. You can only make calls and send text messages, but at least you are still staying connected.
The Honor 5X is running Android Lollipop 5.1.1. However, Huawei placed a heavy skin known as EMUI on top of Android. At first glance, I think that the EMUI resembles Apple’s iOS more than Google’s stock Android. For example, there is no app drawer to keep all your apps and the icons of the stock apps are very cartoonish and flat. You will need to use folders to keep your apps organize. The folders are paginated and each page will hold 9 icons, not unlike the folders on iPhones. You also can swipe down on the homescreen to search for stuffs on your phone. Again this is exactly how you perform Spotlight Search on an iPhone.
By default, Huawei’s EMUI will also wrap every icons with white or blue backgrounds to match the shape of the stock icons. While the intention might be keeping the look uniform, I think the EMUI has made these icons really hideous.
I don’t really understand some of these design decisions on the user interface and I still opine that these changes were made for the sake of changing things. Of course, this is something very personal. There is no problem if you like the appearance of the EMUI. If you are not a big fan of it, the good news is that this is an Android phone. You can just install launchers like Google Now launcher or Nova launcher to make the phone the way you want. The changes made by Huawei will be out of your way. This is why I value the openness of the Android platform.
However, not all are that bad here. There are still some meaningful changes made by Huawei. I like how they make the notification into a timeline form so you can have a more organized look on your notifications. This is quite useful when you have a lot of them coming at once. You can also double tap to wake your device or draw patterns on the locked screen to perform some actions. The lock screen design is quite thoughtful too. You can swipe up from the bottom to access camera, calculator, flashlight and others easily. However these can be a little useless since one tap on the fingerprint sensor will unlock the phone immediately.
Huawei also let you change the arrangement of the software navigation buttons. Depending on what’s your previous phone, you can let the button adapting to your preference instead the other way around. You can also add a notification toggle button too. Realizing that this is a phablet, there is also a one-hand layout which will shrink the screen to one of the bottom corner, depending on which way you swipe on the virtual navigation buttons.
The software experience on the Honor 5X is certainly far from perfect. There are a lot of weird decisions made and this makes me feel that the EMUI is quite unpolished. A lot of the problems can be ignored by using third-party launchers, thanks to Android itself so I don’t think this is a deal breaker. However, this highlights how much improvement can be done by Huawei on the software side compared to other major players in the market.