Huawei launched its latest flagship – the Honor 6 Plus last month, a bigger and better iteration of its predecessor the Honor 6. The Chinese manufacturer is known to offer a top notch hardware specs at fairly nominal prices, compared to other Android giants like HTC, Samsung and Sony. Huawei has been on a roll with its Ascend series, and now the follow up to the Honor 6, which was a great overall performer.
Can Huawei compete against other flagships with its latest offering?
Can it offer the user experience and performance and justify its price tag?
Let’s find that out, and much more in our grilling review of the Honor 6 Plus.
NOTE: According to Huawei the phone will soon be available in Europe and other markets.
Build Quality and Design
In terms of design, the Honor 6 Plus essentially features the same design language as its predecessor. It appears to have subtle design cues taken from the Xperia Z3, while the metal frame running along the frame is strikingly similar to the iPhone. The bottom of the device is made out of plastic, which is again largely reminiscent of Sony’s Xperia range.
It features straight lines, rounded corners dual glass front and black panels. The back of the device has a glass finish with a subtle design pattern. The phone weighs around 165 grams, compromising slightly on the portability as it’s a big device, though it has a 73.2% screen to body ratio that makes it good for one hand use.
Huawei retains the same button layout with the bottom edge housing the microUSB port, while the top features the 3.5 mm headphone jack along with an infrared port. The SIM and microSD slots are placed on the right edge below the volume rocker and the power button.
The front is largely covered by the 5.5-inch display with no physical buttons. On the back of the smartphone the dual-lens rear camera and dual LED flash are housed, while the speaker grille at the bottom.
Overall, the build quality and design of the smartphone is really top notch. Despite the 5.5-inch screen size, the smartphone is ergonomically designed and allows easy one-handed usage with easy access to all ports. Certainly, one of the aspects of the phone one shouldn’t be having any qualms about.
As already mentioned, the smartphone sports a 5.5-inch Full HD in-cell display with Corning Glass 3 along with a finger resistant coating, which is quite noticeable as the screen less prone to smudges.
The 445 dpi makes text and images appear rather crisp and sharp while viewing angles are also quite satisfactory, but not great. The screen can handle bright outdoor conditions as legibility is rather satisfactory. Touch sensitivity is quite outstanding as the screen is extremely responsive and snappy. One can also increase the sensitivity by activating the glove mode feature.
Bottom line, the 5.5-inch display on the Huawei 6 Plus is rather impressive.
OS and UI
The smartphone runs Android 4.4 with company’s Emotion UI 3.0 atop. The OS has a striking similarity with iOS, with no dedicated app tray as apps are laid out on multiple home screens.
The UI might take a bit of time getting used to, especially regular Android users as it looks quite unlike the stock version of Android. It gets a plethora of customization options with six different themes each having its own set of icons, wallpapers, font style, sounds and lock screen. In addition, users can also download or install new themes and customize them as per their preference.
The UI is quite responsive and snappy offering easy access to different shortcuts and quick ways to navigate. It pops up rather useful notifications to enhance the overall performance of the phone as per your needs, along with important battery notifications to optimize the battery usage of the phone as per requirements.
However, Huawei would have been better had they kept things simple and less gaudy. It has its own version of Spotlight, though it isn’t anywhere close to being as handy and useful. In addition, the Control Center like keys also haven’t been well thought off. A swipe near the bottom of the screen pops up Control Center, meanwhile to unlock the screen you more than often end up bringing up the panel, even when you don’t want it to.
NOTE: Huawei has officially said that “Emotion UI complies with Google in markets where Google services are available. Our phones in the US and internationally run EMUI and have Google services.”
Huawei’s in-house Kirin 925 processor is an absolute powerhouse on the Honor 6 Plus. Moreover, you’ve got a 3GB of RAM to roll with it, making the smartphone an absolute beast when it comes to performance. It can handle day-to-day activities without even a twitch, while multitasking is like a walk in the park for the Honor 6 Plus. The smartphone’s benchmark scores are a pretty good indication of its mettle, can spike current flagship devices in the market. It aces the Nexus 5 and the Xiaomi Mi3 in synthetic benchmark scores though still lags behind the OnePlus One and the Mi4. There aren’t any lags or stutters creeping in even while playing graphical intensive titles, though the overall performance gets affected while using the phone in power saving modes.
Coming on to the raw benchmark scores, the Honor 6 Plus racks a whopping 43,628 in AnTuTu Benchmark, while it maxes out the Ice Storm test that is quite commendable. However, the phone has a tendency to get heated up, though it shouldn’t be a cause for concern as heat quickly dissipates, and the phone cools down pretty fast as well.
However, readers be advised that the audio performance of Huawei phones is below average. Put simply, we would not recommend the smartphone to audiophiles as the phone has an atrociously low sound output. Hence, users for whom music forms a core ingredient of a smartphone, then it’s better to stay away from Huawei phones.
The smartphone’s camera capabilities are probably one area where it outshines other aspects of the phone. The Honor 6 Plus houses a dual-8MP camera on its back, much like HTC One M8’s duo camera setup, though the app offers more control over the depth of field via a software slider that allows more light to be taken in. Moreover, the whole idea as to how the Honror 6 Plus allows the use of its Wide Aperture Mode, allowing you to change the aperture of the camera, shifting focus from the foreground to the background. Users even have the option to change the focus and the shift the aperture during post production. It can certainly give the more established flagship giants a run for their money, including the likes of iPhone 6 and the Galaxy Note 4.
The camera quality of the phone speaks for itself. Images rendered are sharp and vivid without any amount of oversaturation of colors. The camera is a tad slower when it comes to processing images, though the final output is more than satisfactory. It does a fairly good job handling the white balance and color reproduction, despite the fact that letting in extra light could have easily resulted the pictures being tad overexposed. We are in an era of intelligent cameras and Honor 6 Plus proves that point fairly well, as the camera algorithm takes care of the most of the hassles of a point and shoot camera.
Meanwhile, the front selfie cam should suffice your selfie needs. It takes some great looking selfies and comes pre-loaded with all the inbuilt tools so that you get that perfect selfie. The phone is also capable of recording decent 1080p videos. Lack of Optical Image Stabilization is quite apparent as videos tend to appear rather shaky. It does come with electronic image stabilization though activating the feature significantly hampers the overall quality of the videos.
The battery backup on the Honor 6 Plus would be one of its weak attributes. On paper, it comes with a pretty hefty 3600mAh battery unit, though for a heavy smartphone user of today, which includes constant emails and notifications, gaming, video streaming, music streaming, calling and texting, it’s just not enough. With more careful usage, you can get the phone to last through the day with battery level flashing critically low at the end.
Our standard Inferse Battery Test includes a watching a standard 60 minute MP4 video at full brightness. After the video got over, the battery level drained by about 17%, which is quite a lot compared to other smartphones in the same category.
Hence, overall you’ll able to last through a day of normal use on the Honor 6 Plus. This runtime is severely cut down once you start using the for multimedia usage and 3G data. The 5.5-inch display seems to take a major toll on the overall battery performance of the phone, as on high brightness levels the battery drains really fast.
Call Quality and Connectivity
Despite all the nifty features a modern day smartphone offers, but in the end its all about making a simple phone call, which the Honor 6 Plus manages to do fairly well. Signal reception and call quality is pretty top-notch both indoors as well as outdoors. During my usage of the phone, I didn’t experience any dropped calls while the audio quality on both incoming and outgoing calls is rather excellent.
Connectivity options on the phone include Bluetooth v4.0, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct and NFC. In addition, the Honor 6 Plus is 4G compatible, based on bands B1 (2100MHz) /B3 (1800MHZ). It has been rated as the fastest 4G phone ( Cat.6) in the market, 2x the performance compared to the regular Cat. 4 based 4G phone. Hence, top performance can be expected in areas where it supports 4G bands.
The smartphone supports Indian LTE networks on 2300MHz and 1800MHz frequency bands, however the current model does not work with US 4G mobile networks as prominent network carriers including AT&T and T-Mobile use the band B2 (1900MHz)/AWS(B4) for 4G LTE services.
Here’s a link of LTE bands used by different service providers in different regions provided by Huawei.
Put simply, the Huawei Honor 6 Plus is a solid all-round performer, with one of the best cameras in the smartphone market that too at a very attractive price point of 25-28K INR, while it retails at around $470 in the U.S. market. In terms of value for money, the Honor 6 Plus is an absolute gem of a phone and does justify its price tag.
However, with OnePlus One and Xiaomi Mi4 available at a relatively lower price point, the camera capabilities of the Honor 6 Plus is the only USP of the device. As the both alternatives are worth the money with their new hardware and powerful performance.
From our personal experience, the Honor 6 Plus is probably one of the best performing devices we’ve come across in a long time, though it does come with a few flaws.