Huawei Honor 6X smartphone review
At $200, is this budget-friendly smartphone too good to be true?
At first glance, you might mistake the Huawei Honor 6X (available at Amazon) for a budget-friendly smartphone that punches well above its weight class—its sleek, metallic build and dual cameras give it an air of sophistication. But the time I spent with the 6X told a different story, one of immediate frustration and eventual disappointment.
First, the good news: It’s an ultra-affordable smartphone with a battery that rivals some of the best we’ve tested in recent years. Plus, it plays the part of a premium phone better than the rest of the players in its class, dressing in metal rather than plastic and sporting the type of design you might find in a higher-end device.
But the Honor 6X’s sluggish software, undependable camera, and long list of hardware concessions are a constant reminder of why its price tag is so low. It’s a good option for people looking to spend as little as possible on a new smartphone, but for savvy shoppers looking to maximize their dollar, there are other budget-friendly devices that offer more upside.
What we like about the Honor 6X
A huge, long-lasting battery that goes the distance
The Honor 6X’s heavy duty 3,340mAh-sized battery is easily the phone’s strongest attribute. It clocked in at just under 7.5 hours of heavy use in our lab, which translates to roughly a day-and-half of regular use.
To put this into perspective, the Samsung Galaxy S8 (our highest-rated Android smartphone) lasts just an hour and a half more in our battery test. Not bad for a budget-friendly phone!
An attractive design with some caveats
One of the first things you’re bound to notice about the 6X is its design, which is closer to an iPhone in its look & feel than most devices in this price range.
Nearly every aspect of the aluminum body is crafted thoughtfully (though I must admit I find the volume rocker to be a bit too high up on the frame). The rounded edges rest snugly in my palm and the metal build gives the 6X a certain posh.
What we don't like about the Honor 6X
Sluggish software strikes again
One of my hang-ups when it comes to Huawei/Honor brand smartphones is Emotion UI, the company’s Android skin. And although it’s improved as of late (especially in faster, higher-end devices like the Mate 9), I still find it to be sluggish and sometimes difficult to navigate.
For starters, there are problems with the UI’s visual language, like how an unchecked box in a settings menu closely resembles a checked box until you inspect it. Additionally, some elements of the software are vaguely worded or just flat-out confusing. It’s as if every user-facing aspect of the software was poorly translated via Google, and the end result is a phone that works alongside you rather than with you.
But the real issues are performance-based: Every swipe and tap operates on a slight delay, which makes the experience feel like you’re struggling to walk in knee-deep jelly. If you happen to be downgrading from a more premium smartphone, you’ll notice the difference immediately.
The camera isn’t very good.
Like the Huawei P9, the Honor 8, and the Mate 9 he Honor 6X features a dual-camera setup. Unfortunately, the dual sensors (which are 12MP and 2MP, respectively) don’t really add much to the Honor 6X’s lackluster camera experience.
Rather than aiding a picture’s overall contrast, the wide-angle 2MP sensor on the 6X is designed to create a bokeh effect by blurring out everything but the subject. Although it’d be unrealistic to expect the 6X to perform as well as, say, the iPhone 7 Plus in this regard, the degree to which this feature stumbles is still surprising.
The cameras often struggle to identify subjects, and even when subjects are accurately singled out, the effect itself doesn’t look great. The 2MP secondary sensor just isn’t robust enough to make the feature worthwhile.
And this is to say nothing of the 6X’s overall camera performance, which is way behind the curve, even for budget-friendly phones in this price bracket. I was unable to snap any daylight shots that didn’t look blown out, even when adjustments were made to the exposure. In low light, the 6X produces muddy, noisy photos that look like they might’ve been taken on a smartphone from years past.
I suppose if all you’re hoping to do is share an occasional plate of food on Instagram, the 6X will suit you just fine. That said, if you thought its dual cameras were an indication that this affordable phone had some tricks up its sleeve, you’re heading for disappointment.
Too many cut-corners
It’d be silly to expect a $200 smartphone to come equipped with as many bells and whistles as a mid-range or high-end device, but the Honor 6X is particularly lacking in features that would otherwise set it apart from comparably-priced smartphones. Heck, the 6X doesn’t even use USB Type-C, opting for the outdated, non-reversible USB ports of yesteryear.
I do appreciate the inclusion of an FM radio, I suppose, but the 6X doesn’t do much to stand out in a sea of low-end smartphones beyond having the design of a phone in a higher class.
Should you buy it?
If you do, don’t let its appearance fool you.
Despite the shiny exterior and dual cameras, the Honor 6X is low-to-mid-range smartphone through and through. The truth is, while the idea of a second camera sensor on a budget-friendly phone is a spirited one, having two below-average sensors is just as disappointing as having one.
And although the slightly-more-premium shell conjures up thoughts of a higher-end smartphone, the Honor 6X is quick to remind you of its true trappings the moment you encounter its sluggish software and disorienting design.
There's no denying the 6X's value as an affordable Android phone, especially given its long-lasting battery. That said, if you're hunting for a phone whose premium looks match its performance, Huawei's own P9 can now be had for roughly $300-$350 if you know where to look, and the added $150 goes a long, long way.
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