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Huawei Honor Review

Huawei doesn’t really come top of mind when it comes to Android smart phones as they have better known for its entry level models. Of course Huawei has got bigger plans and they won’t want to stay in the value segment for long. At CES, Huawei surprised the industry with its ultra slim Ascend P1 S and at MWC, they have revealed their quad core smart phone, the Ascend D Quad.

Recently we we’re given the opportunity to try out their mid-tier device, the Huawei Honor. Read on to find out how does the Huawei Honor perform and if it is any good.

Hardware Overview

The Huawei Honor is a mid-spec device that runs on a single core 1.4GHz processor, 512MB RAM and 2GB of internal storage which is expandable via microSD. Over at the front, there’s a 4.0″ LCD screen that does a 854×480 pixels resolution. At the bottom it features 4 capacitive buttons which are pretty responsive and there’s a front facing VGA camera at the top. Also worth mentioning is the presence of a notification LED at the top right. With our review unit, the Honor comes with a 8GB microSD card, a screen protector and a cleaner cloth.

At first glance, the Honor has a very strong resemblance with the LG Optimus Black. In the hands, the Huawei is comfortable to hold and it weighs a moderate 140 grams with a thickness of 10.9mm. While it won’t attract much attention, the Honor overall looks clean and build quality is rather decent.

Over at the back, we liked the Honor’s textured cover which isn’t prone to finger prints and smudges. We note that earlier Honor models had a glossy back and the new version that we got is a nice improvement. At the back, the Honor has a 8MP camera with assisted LED flash and the loud speaker is placed right next to it.

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Over at the sides, the Honor has a volume rocker on the left with the power button placed at the top, towards the left. The physical buttons protrude out prominently at the sides with its steel-like feel and silver colour finish.

Usability & UI
In terms of UI, the default themes looked pretty cartoonish but this isn’t a hindrance as it allows you to revert back to the standard Android theme. Out of the box, the Honor runs on a rather recent Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread and upgrade to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich expected sometime in Q2 this year. The Huawei Honor custom skin looks like a cross mix between LG and Samsung. In terms of interface design, the default icons for core apps such as Contacts and Messaging could have been better as they looked quite childish for our liking.

With a single core 1.4GHz, the Honor feels snappy and we haven’t got any instability or lag issues to report during our usage. Perhaps the lack of bloaty custom apps and fancy widgets have contributed to the performance. In terms of built-in apps, the Honor does feel quite plain vanilla and even a timer/stop watch app isn’t installed out of the box.

We appreciate how Huawei has included some extras that most users would need. On the lockscreen, the Honor has a one swipe access to camera, SMS & calls which you can go to instantly by dragging the lock icon to the appropriate areas. In addition, the notifications bar offers one touch toggle for WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, Mobile Data and rotation lock. Usually such features are found on higher end Android models.

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Another feature we liked is the Task Manager which is accessible by press and holding the home button. From the task manager, you can view all running apps by thumbnail which are easily closed by tapping on the cross icons.

However there’s one area of the UI which we find it annoying. On the web browser and several apps, the Honor has a weird rocking transition whenever you change screen orientation. Instead of an instant switch between portrait/landscape, the Honor rocks the screen for a few seconds like a boat before settling down. The biggest gripe is that you can’t switch this effect off even if you turn off all animations under Display settings. You can see what we mean in the hands-on video at the bottom of this review.

Display
On the display, the 4.0″ screen is quite mediocre. While scrolling through the apps, there’s a noticable ghosting on the icon’s gray shading. This is also the case when scrolling through the settings where the thin grey lines then to fade when scrolling. We’re not sure what’s the problem but it could be a refresh issue of the screen. While viewing web pages with black text over white background, it doesn’t seem to exhibit any problems and overall text appears pretty crisp and clear.

Camera
In terms of camera, the Honor does a decent job with its 8MP shooter especially at this price range. Close up shots turned out to be pretty good. Although it is a 8MP shooter, the Honor is capable of shooting videos at maximum resolution of 720p HD. On our sample videos, the recordings turn out to be quite bad and it doesn’t look anything near 720p. You can check out the sample photos and video below.

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Sample #1 (click to enlarge)

Sample #2 (click to enlarge)

Sample #3 – HDR OFF (click to enlarge)

Sample #3 – HDR ON (click to enlarge)

Sample #4 (click to enlarge)

Sample #5 (click to enlarge)

Battery Life

The battery life on the Honor is something that we’re happy with. At 1,930mAh capacity, this is probably the biggest capacity in its class and it even outdo smart phones at higher price points. As comparison, the Galaxy Nexus and Sony Xperia S has a 1,750mAh capacity battery.

With a full day of heavy usage with notifications enabled, we still had 50% battery remaining after 12-13 hours which is rather impressive. Those that need a phone to depend on while on the go without access to chargers will definitely appreciate the Honor’s battery life. With average usage, the Honor could probably last 2 days.

Conclusion

At RM1,099, the Huawei is going against mid-tier rivals like the 3.7″ Samsung Galaxy W. The Galaxy W has a similar configuration of single core 1.4GHz with 512MB and it also runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Nevertheless the brand conscious buyers would be more inclined to pick the Samsung which is lower priced at RM999.

However given its excellent long battery life and a larger 4.0″ screen, the Huawei could be worth forking out that extra RM100. It’s snappy and we like the little touches on the UI especially the lockscreen and notification toggle switches. Normally mainstream smart phone brands won’t upgrade anything below their high end models but the Honor was officially announced to be getting Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich sometime in Q2.

Hands-on Video

Photo Gallery