Huawei Honor 6 Plus review:

A great, affordable phone, muddied by outdated software

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Huawei Honor 6 Plus (black)

(Part #: HONOR6PLUSBLK)
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Huawei Honor 6 Plus' big, bold screen is great for video, its processor handles most tasks well and its camera takes shots that are ideal for Facebook.

The Bad It's running a version of Android several iterations out of date and the custom interface on top makes the phone not only awkward to use, but also often sluggish to navigate.

The Bottom Line With its good screen, strong processor and solid camera, the Honor 6 Plus is well-equipped for most all the social-networking fun you could want and doesn't ask for much cash in return. It's a shame about its clunky, outdated software, though, which does somewhat take the shine off.

7.2 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 6.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Camera 8.0
  • Battery 8.0

Honor, if you didn't know, is the brand Huawei uses to sell some of its phones in Europe and it's the name attached to the new Honor 6 Plus. A 5.5-inch Android smartphone with a full HD display, an octa-core processor and a quirky dual 8-megapixel camera, it's got everything you need to cope with your social network and Netflix addiction. And true to the Honor brand's affordable promise, the 6 Plus comes with a low price.

Now, here's where it gets confusing: though Honor as a separate brand is supposed to exist only in Europe, the Honor 6 Plus has been on sale since December 2014 in China, but sold as the Huawei Honor 6 Plus. What's more, Huawei does sell phones in Europe with its own name attached -- the flagship P8 , for example, launched in London in April. What's the difference between them all? Not much, really. Strip away the Honor branding and you're left with a signature Huawei phone complete with the same Emotion user interface. That's not a criticism, really, but you shouldn't forget that a phone bearing the Honor name doesn't deliver a unique experience from a Huawei-branded counterpart.

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Like other Honor phones, you can pick up the Honor 6 Plus in the UK, SIM-free directly from Amazon for £300. Yet, the 6 Plus also is the first of Honor's phones to be available through a UK network, showing a definite commitment by Honor (or Huawei) for it to become a recognised brand, selling in stores. The Three network has the phone available on a range of contracts from £24 per month, with a £19 up front charge. In the US, you can buy the Huawei Honor 6 Plus through Amazon for $472.

Design

The design of the 6 Plus is possibly best described as that of a larger, cheaper iPhone 4. The black glass front and back together with the metal-effect band running around the edge are similar to Apple's earlier phone, although 6 Plus' band is plastic, rather than metal, meaning it doesn't feel as solid or indeed as premium.

The back panel has a very subtle criss-cross pattern which you can only really see under certain lights. Honor could have made this a bit more prominent, which would have helped add a bit of interest and separate its design more from the iPhone 4.

With its 5.5-inch display, the Honor 6 Plus is significantly larger than the iPhone 4, measuring 150mm long and 75mm wide. It's comfortable to hold and easy to slide into a pocket, but you'll need two hands to type properly.

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The phone comes with 32GB of storage as standard, which is a generous amount for a more budget-conscious phone. Cheaper phones typically skimp on the storage by offering 16GB or even 8GB of space, so it's nice to see a more healthy offering that doesn't force you to also buy a microSD card. It does accept microSD cards though, which is worth bearing in mind if you save a lot of music and videos to your phone, rather than streaming them.

Display

The 5.5-inch screen has a full-HD (1,920x1,080-pixel) resolution, giving it a pixel density of 400 pixels per inch. That's the same size and resolution as the iPhone 6 Plus, and in terms of clarity, there's nothing to differentiate the two. Small text beneath icons is sharp and easy to read and high-res photos look crisp and sharp.

The Honor's display is reasonably bright, sufficiently countering the harsh overhead office lights in the CNET UK office, although outside in the bright sun it did become a bit more difficult to see, even when set to max brightness. Colours are bold and vibrant, making Netflix shows like 'Breaking Bad," "SpongeBob" or indeed "Power Rangers" look good.

Software and processor performance

The Honor 6 Plus runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat, which is several versions out of date. The most up-to-date version of Android is Lollipop, which you can find on even rock-bottom budget phones, so it's very disappointing to see such an old version of the software on a midrange mobile.

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On the surface you probably won't be able to tell, however, as Honor has heavily skinned the phone with the same Emotion user interface you'll see on most of Huawei and Honor's recent phones. It makes huge changes to the stock Android interface, including the colour schemes and the fonts (which you can alter using various themes), but the biggest change is that there's no app tray. I don't like this change as it forces you to keep all of your apps scattered across the homescreens. Once you throw widgets into the mix, it quickly becomes cluttered and difficult to navigate.

The phone is powered by a Kirin 925 processor -- an octa-core chip that apparently uses four lower-powered processing cores for everyday tasks, and four burlier cores for more intense processing needs. That's backed up by 3GB of RAM. It performed well on benchmark tests, scoring an impressive 4,456 on the Geekbench 2 test, although a less impressive 11,982 on the Quadrant test. By comparison, the Sony Xperia Z3 and LG G4 scored over 20,000 on the Quadrant test and the Galaxy S6 managed to achieve over 36,000.

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Still, it was able to play the demanding game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas extremely smoothly, and photo editing in Snapseed was handled without any trouble at all. Everyday essential apps like Instagram were also handled perfectly well, but navigating around the phone's interface was less smooth, with noticeable stutters and lag creeping in -- an issue I would bet is caused by the bloated Emotion software. I'd really like to see how a stock Android version of this phone performs as I'm sure it would be a lot more smooth to use.

Camera

On the back of the phone are two 8-megapixel cameras. One takes regular shots, but the second allows some interesting depth of field effects and also lets you refocus a scene after you've taken it. I'll start with testing the phone's standard photo quality.

Honor 6 Plus camera test (click image to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

I was pleased with this first shot of the London Eye. There's a great balance in exposure between the bright sky and the River Thames and a nice rich blue colour in the sky as well. There's a lack of clarity on the fine details when you zoom right in, but it displays full-screen well, making it great for Facebook.

Honor 6 Plus camera test (click image to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

This second shot of a fruit stand is not bad either, although the white garlic has been rather overexposed. Again, when zooming in there's a noticeable fuzziness to the picture.

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