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Review: The Huawei Honor 5X -- a lot for a low price

Dan Rosenbaum | Feb. 10, 2016
Its Android overlay will annoy some users, but the Honor 5X is a solid low-cost phone.

The main back-facing camera shoots 13 megapixels; the front-facing camera handles 5 megapixels. The 5X's Wi-Fi supports only 2.4GHz bands on 802.11 b/g -- no 5GHz. The phone does include an FM tuner, which is built into most phones' systems but is usually disabled. There's no NFC chip.

An Android of a different design

The phone's software is based around Android 5.1 (Lollipop), but with a deeply customized interface called EMUI.

If stock Android or something close to it is hardwired into your fingers, EMUI will drive you crazy. It looks far more like iOS than Android -- for example, there is no app drawer, so all icons are accessed from the top-level screen, forcing you to organize your apps into groups/folders. Icons for built-in apps are rounded to a shape reminiscent of early TVs -- somewhere between a circle and a square.

In stock Android, pulling down from the top of the screen displays a card interface with notifications; pulling down again gives you access to the Settings control panel. In EMUI, pulling down gives you a timeline series of notifications, with Settings shortcuts as another tab, very much like the way iOS does things. Swiping up from the bottom of the lock screen brings up a small drawer that allows for a voice recorder, calculator, camera or flashlight, which will also sound familiar to iPhone users.

honor5x screens
Huawei's EMUI interface looks more like iOS than Android (left). Pulling down from the top of the screen displays your notifications (right).

EMUI's interface in the Settings app is similarly refined. There are two tabs across the top: General and All. The former contains the most-used controls: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, screen brightness, wallpaper, sound and lock/password options. The All tab holds all the Android controls, but even here there are interesting degrees of granularity: It's possible to change the handed-ness of the typical Android Back/Home/Selector navigation bar, and to add a button that displays the pull-down notifications.

Another interesting tweak: The Settings panel for Emergency Alerts -- where you can turn on and off weather and Amber alerts -- includes options for Earthquake Tsunami Warning System messages. This is not part of the basic Android 5.1.

The phone is reasonably clear of bloatware, but is hardly barren. It ships with the basic load of Google apps (Google, Chrome, Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Drive, Hangouts and the various Play stores), Facebook, Shazam and Twitter, as well as its own calendar and email apps. The calendar app automatically connects to your Google calendars; the email app handles Exchange, IMAP and POP accounts. It's not obvious why they're there, other than Huawei wanted to give customers a choice.


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