Huawei launched its flagship phone - the Honor 6 Plus - last month. This is an upgrade to the Huawei Honor 6 which was launched last year. Also Huawei has decided to adopt the online only sales model with the Honor branding. Its Huawei Honor 4X has been selling well according to reports, so let us see if consumers looking at a high end phone will be enticed by the Honor 6 Plus.
Build and Design: 7/10
One of the striking features of the yesteryear Huawei Honor 6 was its light weight. The Honor 6 Plus repeats the story. It is just 165 grams thin and has 7.5mm thickness. The Honor 6 Plus is a 5.5-inch device and it felt like the front-face has too much bezel on the top and bottom edge. Even the bezel on the sides isn’t as thin as we have seen with flagship devices. It has flat topped edges and it uses rounded corners around the phone. This flat design element with rounded edges does seem inspired by the Apple iPhone 5 and the rounded corners and flat-topped edges does remind one of the Sony Xperia Z2. You will also notice antenna cuts on the top edges, but according to Huawei, they are meant more for aesthetic purpose.
The rear side of the phone is made up of 6-layer carbon fiber material, which Huawei claims is quite sturdy. The shiny surface does make one think it is glass, but thanks to the carbon fiber material, the weight is under check. But after using it for a couple of weeks, we could see scratch marks on the rear side, which will make you want to get a cover. Also the rear side tends to attract fine dust particles.
The volume rocker and power/standby buttons are on the right hand side below which you have the dual SIM card slot. On top edge, there is the headphone jack along with an IR blaster. Overall, the build quality is good despite the lightness of the device. The grip is good, but the back can seem slippery at times.
The Huawei Honor 6 Plus houses the HiSilicon Kirin 925 SoC which has an octa-core processor in the big.LITTLE configuration. There is a quad-core Cortex A7 and a quad-core Cortex A15 processor which are paired with 3GB of RAM. The phone comes with 32GB of internal storage which can be expanded using the microSD card slot.
It has a 5.5-inch full HD display and comes in the dual SIM configuration. It can accept a microSIM card and a nanoSIM card. The nanoSIM card slot also takes in the microSD card on the other side of the SIM card.
On first glance at the phone and the shape of the soft buttons for home, back and menu, one would mistake this phone to be sporting the Android 5.0 Lollipop OS. But that is not the case. It comes with Android 4.4.2 out of the box. Huawei has put on the Emotion UI 3.0 skin atop the Android OS. Just like Gionee’s Amigo and Oppo’s proprietary UI, Emotion UI too lets go of the app drawer.
On the connectivity front, there is support for Wi-fi a/b/g/n as well as Wi-fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS with A-GPS, NFC support and so on. There is also an IR blaster at the top of the phone.
Huawei Honor 6 Plus comes with the Emotion UI 3.0 on top of the Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS. As we have seen with a lot of Chinese phone makers in the past – Xiaomi, Oppo and Gionee, the Emotion UI 3.0 also doesn’t have an app drawer. You have the apps arranged in a 4×5 grid. The default theme has icons with rounded edges, but of course you can change this theme if you so wish.
Among the proprietary apps we have Themes and Phone Manager which has menus such as phone accelerator, harassment filter, power saving, traffic manager, notification manager, app lock and so on. The Tool folder has a lot of utility apps such as Mirror, Magnifier, Torch, Notepad, Recorder, FM radio, Backup and so on. With the Themes app, just like with the Cyanogen OS on the OnePlus One, you can customise the fonts, wallpaper, lock transition screen, home wallpaper from multiple themes and make your own custom theme.
The lock screen has a slider at the base which when pulled up gives you quick access to weather, voice recorder, calculator, torch and camera apps. Taking a screenshot, shows you a preview of the image and gives you options to edit or share the screenshot on the spot.
Just like Xiaomi MIUI, the notification drawer reveals two sections – Notifications and Shortcuts.
As the name implies, the Shortcuts gives you access to quick menus such as bluetooth, brightness adjustment, auto-rotate, settings and so on, which can be rearranged according to your preference. The notification tab shows you the notifications in an interesting timeline sort of a user interface. Settings menu is straight-forward and there are motion gestures as well.
Long pressing on the square shaped menu button, brings up the recent apps which can be swiped off to shut the app or pulled down upon and released to lock them. To clear all the apps you just swipe from the base to the top.
Huawei Honor 6 Plus houses the HiSilicon Kirin 925 SoC which has a Cortex A15 quad core and a Cortex A7 quad core processors in the big.LITTLE configuration. It also supports heterogenous multi-processing (HMP) which allows the phone to switch from a quad-core cluster to a single core for performing low end tasks in order to preserve battery.
The benchmark scores of the Honor 6 Plus are comparable to Snapdragon 800 SoC, and in some cases to the Snapdragon 801 SoC. They are not the highest, and that can be attributed to its lower clock speeds as compared to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC. But if terms of daily use case, the device performs quite well. The phone has a speedy response despite the skin on top. It can work smoothly even with multiple apps open and multi-tab browsing dosen’t slow down the device. Gaming was smooth as well with heavy games such as Asphalt 8, Frontline 2 running without breaking into a sweat. All in all a powerful device which runs anything you throw at it.
Call quality was good and at no point did we notice any call drops. 4G testing was not possible as we are still awaiting 4G networks in Mumbai. The earpiece speaker is loud enough to be audible even in high traffic areas.
Huawei Honor 6 Plus offers a 5.5-inch full HD display with the Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. It sports an IPS LCD panel which offers great viewing angles. The display is bright and blacks are impressive. Of course, the display does not merge with the bezels in dark backgrounds. The text appears sharp and we did not notice any pixellation. Watching movies is a good experience and legibility in sunlight was also great. The auto-brightness feature works well outdoors. The glass protection keeps smudges and fingerprints at bay, which is appreciated.
One of the most important features of Huawei Honor 6 Plus is the dual-lens rear camera. It has two 8MP sensors in place of one and it’s located in the top left hand corner on the rear side of the phone. There’s a dual LED flash unit just beside the camera section. Even the front-facing camera is has an 8MP sensor. There are no details as to what sensor Huawei has employed.
PS: The sample images below have been resized. Please click on the images to see a full resolution version on Flickr. You can also check out more sample images in the Huawei Honor 6 Plus Flickr album.
The sensor used in the rear camera has a 1.98 micrometer pixel size which is as big as HTC’s UltraPixel (seen on the HTC One M8) which was around 2 micrometers in size. The HTC One M8 was the first phone to sport two cameras, they were placed one below the other and in the One M8, only the 4 Ultrapixel camera was used as a primary camera whereas the other camera was used for depth sensing. The Huawei Honor 6 Plus on the other hand has two 8MP sensors placed side by side.
Just like the HTC One M8 though, the dual camera of the Honor 6 Plus lets you adjust the focus of the image after the fact. If you have shot an image in the wide aperture mode, you will see an aperture like symbol. Tapping on that opens up the image and you can choose the focus you want, and beside the focus circle, you will see a slider. This slider has the aperture range from f/0.95 to f/16 which lets you play with the depth of field in your images. We got pleasing bokehs when we opened the aperture all the way to f/0.95. Also the bokeh looks more organic and natural than the simulated refocussing seen via apps.
In terms of image quality, we were quite impressed with the daylight shots. The focussing is speedy and images are packed with a lot of detail. There was barely any chromatic aberration or purple fringing around the edges. Barrel distortion was noticeable in the landscape shots. The colours appear natural and there isn’t any warm tinge as we have seen with some phone cameras in the past. The wide aperture mode is fun to play around with, but ensure that there is a decent gap between the objects in the foreground and background to get a proper bokhelicious image.
Low light photography isn’t as impressive as that seen on the iPhone 6. Noise is noticeable in low light, but it does not ruin the image with colour noise which is generally seen with most smartphone cameras. In some instances, the noise appears as fine grain which adds an aesthetic value to the image. The low light image quality is better than that seen on the OnePlus One and the Xiaomi Mi 4.
Honor 6 Plus is capable of shooting full HD videos and it also offers video stabiliser mode along with object tracking feature. The video quality is quite normal and the stabiliser is not of much use while shooting handheld. Object tracking worked fine so long as there was a clear background.
Battery Life: 8/10
With a 3,600mAh battery capacity, the Huawei Honor 6 Plus should easily last you over a day and a half. In fact in our 8-hour loop test involving 2 hours each of video streaming, video playback, calling and audio-playback we had 41% battery remaining. Although in the PC Mark for Android test, we got around 4 hours and 43 minutes, the actual battery life lasts much longer. In addition to this, the Honor 6 Plus comes with the Ultra saving mode, which similar to the one seen on Samsung Galaxy Note 4 switches to a monochrome display which only keeps the calling and messaging feature activated.
Verdict and Price in India
Huawei Honor 6 Plus is a great phone and performs well in most departments. The battery life and the camera performance need special mention as they are both impressive. Considering the Honor 6 Plus houses the Kirin 925 SoC, the performance is at par with Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC. In terms of everyday performance though, you will not find the phone giving any issues such as lags or stuttering.
The phone is priced at Rs 26,499 which is premium pricing. Considering the build quality, features offered and the performance, the price is decent. But one needs to consider the fact that other Chinese players such as OnePlus and Xiaomi also have equally good offerings in the form of One and Mi 4 respectively, at slightly lower price points. Not to forget, Samsung Galaxy S5 is also priced around Rs 28,500 which is a good deal if you are spending over Rs 25,000 on a phone. We felt that the price of the Huawei Honor 6 Plus should have been closer to Rs 23,000 as it would give a good competition to the OnePlus One and Xiaomi Mi 4 - which offer 64GB variants at that price point.
The premium that the Huawei Honor 6 Plus charges, is most likely for the dual-camera setup. It certainly does give a more natural looking bokeh than one that is seen with refocussing apps. Low light photography is certainly better than the OnePlus One. So if that is something that entices you, then the Honor 6 Plus is the phone to go for. You also get the option to add more storage capacity if you so wish, an option which is not there on the OnePlus One or the Xiaomi Mi 4.
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