Honor 5X review: a promising phablet with a few rough edges

Expert Rating
  • Clean, classy build
  • Good battery life
  • Responsive fingerprint sensor
  • Slow touch response on display
  • Sluggish UI
  • No USB OTG

“The Honor 5X is the latest budget phablet from the brand. We put it to the test in our review”

Honor 5X_11

If we had to pick one Honor smartphone that really made an impact in the market in the last year, it would be the Honor 4X (review). The budget phablet packed in quite a punch with its specs, pricing and performance, and was among the more popular devices of 2015. Less than a year later, a lot has changed in the Indian smartphone market. You can now get a whole lot more specs for the same price, as is evident from the wealth of affordable phablets flooding the market. There are notable devices in this segment from heavyweights like Lenovo, LeEco and Coolpad, and it didn’t take too long for Honor to up its game. The company announced the loaded Honor 5X in China a few months ago, and has finally launched the smartphone in India. The premium smartphone appears to offer a whole lot of bang for your buck on paper, but to see how it fares in real life, we’ve been using it as our primary driver for the last fortnight to bring you our review. 

Size 5.5 Inch
Resolution Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
CPU Quad core, 1.5 GHz + Quad core, 1.2 GHz, Snapdragon 616
Internal memory 16 GB
External memory Up to 128 GB
Capacity 3000 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable
Talktime Up to 26 Hours (3G)
Standby Time Up to 740 Hours (3G)
Primary camera 13 MP
Secondary camera 5 MP
Network support Dual SIM 4G
Other options Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS
Battery Capacity 3000
Operating system Android 5.1 Lollipop

Design: built to dazzle

Dimensions: 151.3 x 76.3 x 8.1 mm
Weight: 158 grams

Honor 5X_15

A good paint job makes all the difference, and that’s exactly what Honor has done with the 5X. The 4X’s plastic body and textured back panel have given way to a metal body that’s made of aluminium alloy. Our review unit looked very classy in gold, with polished sides and a brushed back panel. The smartphone is also available in colour options like silver and grey. While the Honor 5X certainly looks the part, the quality of the metal isn’t the best, and is liable to get scratched easily. The use of metal also makes the device slippery, although the curved rear and rounded edges make usage comfortable.

Honor 5X_13 Honor 5X_12 Honor 5X_7 Honor 5X_6 Honor 5X_2 Honor 5X_1

The front of the smartphone features thin bezels at the top and bottom, and is surrounded by a raised metallic rim. The 5.5-inch display takes centre stage, and above it lies the earpiece, sensors, front camera and notification LED. The Android navigation keys appear as onscreen controls, leaving the bezel below the display bare. On the right side you’ll find the power button and volume rocker, both sporting a textured finish that make them easy to locate. The left side is embedded with two ejectable trays – one holding a nano-SIM and microSD card slot, and the other featuring a micro-SIM card tray. The bottom edge features the micro-USB port flanked by precision-drilled holes. Only the grill on the right houses the loudspeaker, with the one on the left concealing the primary microphone. Up top you’ll find the 3.5mm audio jack along with the secondary noise-cancelling microphone.

Honor 5X_9

The back panel features two thin plastic plates at the top and bottom sporting a dotted pattern. The primary camera located at top-center protrudes slightly, and is encased in a metal trim for protection. There’s a dual-tone LED flash next to it, and a fingerprint sensor below. The only other adornment on the rear is Honor branding and certification information. 

Display: pixel perfection

Size: 5.5 Inch
Resolution: Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
Display Type: IPS LCD
Pixel Density: 401 ppi

Honor 5X_14

Like the Honor 4X, the 5X features a 5.5-inch display. That’s where the similarities end. The resolution has received a major upgrade from HD to full HD, bumping up the pixel density to 401ppi. The display settings lets you adjust the colour temperature between warm and cold, and there’s also a sunlight legibility option which increases the brightness under harsh lighting. The screen performs well under sunlight, and offers good viewing angles too. Text is sharp and icons look crisp, making any form of media consumption a delight to use.

Honor 5X_Display settings_1 Honor 5X_Display settings_2

There is a downside to the display though. Throughout our usage, there were noticeable lags in touch response. For example, adjusting the brightness slider in the quick settings panel always takes a couple of tries to register. It’s the same for flicking up to clear recent apps, or scrolling through a feed in an app. Unresponsive touchscreens are a rarity today, particularly for phones in this price range, and we’re hoping this is more a case of EMUI being sluggish rather than the display itself, mainly because the former could be rectified with a software update.

Cameras: gets the job done 

Primary camera: 13 MP
Flash: LED Flash
Secondary camera: 5 MP

The Honor 5X’s primary camera is a 13MP unit with an f/2.0 aperture and 28mm wide-angle lens. The front camera features a 5MP sensor with f/2.4 aperture and a 22mm lens. The camera app features a simple interface with the ability to swipe through the viewfinder to toggle modes like Good Food, Beauty, Photo, Video and Timelapse. There are a range of filters you can apply in real time, and additional modes like All-focus, Slow-mo, HDR, Watermark, Panorama, Best photo and Audio note. The front camera features Beauty, Photo, Video and Timelapse recording modes. It also features a Perfect Selfie option which lets you set adjustments that automatically apply to your selfies taken in the Beauty mode. Among the manual control options, you’ll be able to adjust ISO, white balance, exposure, saturation, contrast and brightness. 

Honor 5X_camera UI Honor 5X_camera filteresHonor 5X_camera modes_2 Honor 5X_camera modes_1

The Honor 4X delivered surprisingly good image quality for its price, and the 5X follows suit. Macro shots appear sharp with soft backgrounds. Landscape shots also detailed, and the HDR mode can be effective as well. The camera does struggle to capture any sort of movement though, and we often ended up with blurry photos of moving subjects, even when taken in broad daylight. In low light, the camera app automatically enhances images, presumably by bumping up the ISO. The end results are images that are noisy and lack detail, but on the plus side, are usable. The dual-tone LED flash does an effective job of providing illuminating subjects evenly. The front camera shoots in the Beauty mode by default, but we quickly learnt to disable it, after ending up with hazy skin and bug-like eyes. The normal photo mode can get you good results in natural lighting, but tend to look oversharpened and lack on detail. Low-light selfies are a no-no, although there is a screen flash option if you decide otherwise.

Our only gripe with the camera is the sluggishness of the app itself. It takes a good 2-3 seconds to load, which resulted in more than one missed moment. There’s also a minor delay between pressing the shutter button and the image being captured, which accounted for blurriness in some shots.

Here are some images taken with the Honor 5X’s primary camera. Open the thumbnails in a new tab to view them in full resolution.

Honor-5X_camera-performance_HDR-on.jpg Honor-5X_camera-review_close-up.jpg Honor-5X_camera-review_portrait.jpg Honor-5X_camera-sample_low-light-with-flash.jpg Honor-5X_camera-test_daylight.jpg Honor-5X_image-sample_night-shot.jpg

Software: all the usual EMUI tweaks 

Operating System: Android
OS Version: 5.1, Lollipop

Honor 5X_Magazine Unlock Honor 5X_homescreen

The Honor 5X runs EMUI 3.1 atop Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. We’ve covered EMUI extensively in our previous Honor reviews, most recently with the Honor 7 (review). You’ll find the usual EMUI features on the handset, including Magazine Unlock, various lockscreen shortcuts, modified icons and interface, and no app drawer. The Themes app gives you access to a few local themes, plus a large selection of downloadable ones. You can customise each theme further by choosing animations, wallpapers, icons and font.

Honor 5X_themes Honor 5X_Phone Manager Honor 5X_SOS emergency

The Phone Manager app is a multi-utility tool featuring a virus scanner, harassment filter, storage cleaner, phone accelerator, power saving modes, a traffic manager, notification centre, do not disturb and app lock. A new addition among the default apps is SOS emergency. It requires you to set up an SOS gesture, which could be pressing a combination of the power and volume buttons, or shaking the phone with the power button pressed. The app will then send an SOS message along with a link to your location to a preselected contact. We tried it and it worked flawlessly, and while we hope no one has cause to use the app, it’s a handy feature to have. In terms of third-party apps, you’ll find WPS Office, Clean Master, UC Browser and InMobi Services, among others.

Honor 5X_Simple Home Honor 5X_Motion Control Honor 5X_navigation bar

Going into settings, you’ll find options to switch your homescreen style between standard and simple. A Smart Assistance section features some motion control settings like flip-to-mute, double-tap-to-wake and drawing a letter on the lockscreen to open a particular app. You’ll also be able to customise the layout of the Android navigation keys, enable a one-handed mode, or a dual-window mode which lets you run two apps side-by-side.

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One of the key features of the Honor 5X is its fingerprint sensor. The sensor is easy to set up, and can recognise up to five fingerprints. Honor says the sensor can unlock the device in 0.5 seconds, and we’re inclined to agree. The sensor was snappy and accurate, and we had a success rate of about 90 percent during our usage. Apart from just unlocking the phone, the fingerprint sensor has a few tricks up its sleeve, just like the one on the Honor 7. You can press it when the screen is unlocked to go back to your previous action, or long press it to return to the homescreen. It can be used to capture a photo in the camera app, answer a call or stop an alarm. Apart from this, the sensor also registers swipe gestures. You can slide up to view recent apps, and slide down to bring up the notification panel. All these actions can be performed with any finger, since the phone is already unlocked. Deep inside the fingerprint settings are some hidden features, including the ability to program a quick launch action for specific fingerprints. For example, you can configure your right index finger to directly open WhatsApp, and your left index finger to dial a predefined contact. We really like the effort Honor has put into all these extras, which adds so much utility to the fingerprint sensor. A word of warning though – while some of these gestures are useful, you’ll have to be careful about what you enable because inadvertently touching the sensor can be disruptive to usage.

Performance: a smooth ride with a few hiccups

CPU:  Quad core, 1.5 GHz + Quad cor…
GPU: Adreno 405
Memory: 16 GB + Up to 128 GB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM
Battery: 3000 mAH

Honor 5X_16

Powering the Honor 5X is an octa-core Snapdragon 616 processor clocked at 1.5GHz. There has been some confusion regarding the processor, since most CPU identifier apps we’ve used detect the chipset as Snapdragon 615. This is likely because the model numbers are essentially the same (MSM8939 vs MSM8939v2). We reached out to Honor regarding this, and have been assured that the processor is indeed the Snapdragon 616. The SoC consists of two Cortex-A53 quad-core clusters (1.5GHz + 1.2GHz), plus an Adreno 405 GPU. In China, the Honor 5X was launched in two configurations – one with 2GB of RAM and the other with 3GB of RAM, but in India we’re only getting the former. On paper, that combination seems to be just fine. Real life usage though tells a different story.

Honor 5X_about phone Honor 5X_storage

We used the smartphone for nearly two weeks as our primary driver, and encountered sluggishness just about everywhere. We’ve already mentioned how the touch response on the display feels off, and how the camera app takes a couple of seconds to open. Those lags appear elsewhere too. You’ll notice delays while opening apps, multi-tasking, swiping between the homescreens or even unlocking the device. We also encountered freezes, app crashes and blank screens. It’s surprising because we’ve reviewed several other Honor smartphones till date, and even low-cost devices like the Honor Holly or Honor 3C didn’t have these issues. We suspect this is due to poorly optimised software and bad RAM management. The 3GB variant of the 5X might offer better performance, but we think that at least some of these issues can be rectified with a software update. While the 5X isn’t unusable by a long shot, it lacks the buttery-smooth experience that we’ve come to expect from a device of its calibre. If you’re wondering whether this affects gaming, worry not. We tested some intensive titles like Dead Trigger 2, and apart from the occasional frame drop, there was no cause to complain. It’s also worth noting that there’s no overheating even after a 30-minute gaming session.

The Honor 4X offered 8GB of internal storage, and the 5X bumps this up to 16GB. The system takes up a chunk of that space though, and you’ll get just 9.78GB out-of-the-box. You can top up the storage by an additional 128GB via microSD.

Honor 5X_power saving Honor 5X_battery

The 5X is equipped with a 3,000mAh battery, but unlike the Holly 2 Plus, it doesn’t support fast charging. On the plus side, battery life is one of the highlights of the 5X. With both SIM cards in use and 4G data enabled, we managed to eke out an entire day’s worth of use, consisting primarily of WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram use, along with the camera, browser and the odd phone call or two. With Wi-Fi connected, we managed to get around 3.5 hours of screen on time on most days, but it’s possible to stretch it to 4 hours. There are three Power Saving modes – Ultra, Smart and Normal – which you can choose based on your usage. In our video loop battery drain test, the 5X gave us 10 hours and 15 minutes of juice, which is a decent result.

One of the features we liked best about the 5X is the presence of a dedicated microSD card slot instead of hybrid dual-SIM. The other connectivity features include 4G LTE (supported on both SIMs), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 and A-GPS. Surprisingly, the smartphone doesn’t support USB OTG, so you won’t be able to attach a flash drive to transfer files. 


Honor 5X_5

All things considered, the Honor 5X is a worthy upgrade to its predecessor, having received a facelift in practically every department, including build, cameras, battery life and new hardware like the fingerprint sensor. Our main gripe with the smartphone comes on the performance front, where the touchscreen lags and general sluggishness don’t befit a device in its price range. However, like we mentioned earlier, these seem like issues that can be rectified with a software patch, and we hope that Honor is prompt with a resolution. 

At Rs 12,999, the Honor 5X is priced higher than the competiton, which includes the likes of the Lenovo K4 Note (first impressions) and LeEco Le 1s (review). The latter is particularly worth watching out for, bringing in extras like 32GB of storage, 3GB of RAM and a more premium design. However, Honor has the advantage of being an established player in the market by now, and provided they roll out a software fix as early as possible, the 5X should be among your top choices for an affordable phablet.

Editor’s Rating: 3.5 / 5


  • Clean, classy build
  • Good battery life
  • Responsive fingerprint sensor


  • Slow touch response on display
  • Sluggish UI
  • No USB OTG