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Huawei Honor 5X review: Good, no-fuss phone

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The Good The Honor 5X has a nice metal build, accurate fingerprint reader and lots of expandable storage. It's much cheaper than almost-identical Huawei GX8.

The Bad There's minimal internal storage space, and some minor camera flaws with color and focus.

The Bottom Line Huawei's Honor 5X is a great deal for budget-phone seekers.

The world of low-cost phones is a world of compromise, but Huawei does a pretty darn good job making its Honor 5X a usable phone with a mix of high- and low-end features (see specs chart below). You'll still run into flaws here and there in the camera's photo quality and processing speeds, but compared to other phones in its category, the 5X is a more than decent buy.

One of the Honor 5X's best assets is the fingerprint reader on its back, which is accurate and easy to use. The phone is also more attractive than you'd expect for its $200 price tag, which converts to about £135 and AU$275. Handling its formidable 5.5-inch metal build can be clumsy, but no more so than other phones of its size.

Don't let the Honor 5X's Android 5.1 software turn you off (we're not sure about Huawei's Android 6.0 upgrade plans), nor Huawei's custom Emotion UI interface that's laid out more like Apple's iPhone than purists would like (there's no app tray, just home screens populated by folders and apps). You'll soon catch on, and besides, you can experiment with the extra software options, like gestures, various visual themes and one-handed use, that are now standard Huawei fare.

Here's where the 5X tripped up most. Camera specs sound good on paper and on the whole images look colorful and bright, though not as sharp or detailed as other phones'. It also struggled to crisply focus on people. Selfies likewise appear soft and cast a blue-grey wash on images taken indoors. The 5X's lower-end processor is common for phones in this range and mostly gets you what you need, but sharp-eyed gamers may note a dip in speed. Also, storage space is on the smaller side, but you'll be able to expand it with a microSD card if you run out of room.

You'll be hard-pressed to find a fingerprint reader in a phone of this price.

Josh Miller/CNET

You can track the phone's battery life by turning on a meter in the settings. Anecdotally, it lasts a nice, long time on standby, but heavy use drains it at a faster rate; it should last a full work day. The Honor 5X wouldn't run CNET's battery drain video, so I wasn't able to compare it to other phones yet. I'll post test results as soon as I can test it.

I'm not exactly sure why Huawei chose to make the Honor 5X nearly identical on the inside to its pricier GX8 ($350, or about £240 or AU$485), but the end result makes the Honor 5X that much more enticing. You can buy it from Huawei's Honor website as well as other third-party retailers in your area. For example, in the US, it'll sell at HiHonor.com, NewEgg and Amazon.

Hardware specs comparison

Huawei Honor 5X Huawei GX8 Motorola Moto G (Late 2015) Blu Vivo 5
Display size, resolution 5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels 5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels 5-inch; 1,280x720 pixels 5.5-inch; 1,280x720-pixels
Pixel density 401ppi 401ppi 294ppi 267ppi
Dimensions (inches) 6x3x0.32 in. 6x3x0.30 in. 5.6x2.9x0.48 in. 6x3x0.27 in.
Dimensions (millimeters) 151x76x8.2 mm 152x77x7.5 mm 142x72x12.2 mm 152x75x6.9 mm
Weight (ounces, grams) 5.6 oz.; 158 g 6 oz.; 167 g 5.5 oz.; 155 g 5 oz.; 141 g
Mobile software Android 5.1 Lollipop Android 5.1 Lollipop Android 5.1 (upgrades to 6.0) Android 5.1 Lollipop
Camera 13-megapixel 13-megapixel 13-megapixel 13-megapixel
Front-facing camera 5-megapixel 5-megapixel 5-megapixel 5-megapixel
Video capture 1080p 1080p 1080p 1080p
Processor 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 1.4GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 1.3GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6753
Storage 16GB 32GB 16GB, 32GB 32GB
RAM 3GB 3GB 2GB 3GB
Expandable storage Up to 128GB Up to 128GB Up to 32GB 64GB
Battery 3,000mAh (nonremovable) 3,000mAh (nonremovable) 2,470mAh (nonremovable) 3,150mAh (removable)
Fingerprint sensor Back cover Back cover None None
Special features Dual-SIM card slots Dual-SIM card slots Customizable online (varies by region) Dual-SIM card slots
Price off-contract (USD) $200 $350 $180 (16GB); $220 (32GB) $200
Price (GBP) Converts to £135 Converts to £245 £179 (16GB); £209 (32GB) Converts to £135
Price (AUD) Converts to AU$275 Converts to AU$511 AU$369 (32GB) Converts to AU$275

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