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Huawei U8860 Honor review: Huawei U8860 Honor

Huawei U8860 Honor

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Jessica Dolcourt
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Jessica Dolcourt

Editorial Director / CNET Money, How-To & Performance Optimization

Jessica Dolcourt leads the CNET Money, How-To, and Performance teams. A California native who grew up in Silicon Valley, she's passionate about connecting people with the highest standard of advice to help them reach their goals.

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6 min read

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6.6

Huawei U8860 Honor

The Good

The <b>Huawei Honor</b> has an easy-to-use interface overlaying Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and a mega battery that promises lengthy talk times.

The Bad

You don't get all the performance you'd expect from the specs, including the 8-megapixel camera. Call quality was also harsh in our tests, and the unlocked price is a probable deterrent for U.S. customers.

The Bottom Line

The Huawei Honor may be a step up from most of the company's devices that we get our hands on, but U.S. customers should seek local versions of the Android smartphone, like the Huawei Mercury with Cricket.

Huawei has been steadily supplying second-tier U.S. carriers like MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless with midrange Android smartphones at lower prices--at least ones that are affordable for those buying phones off-contract, at a higher up-front cost. Take, for instance, the Huawei Ideos X5 and the Huawei Ascend family.

Although the company often saves a better class of devices for Asia, we are starting to see higher-caliber Android smartphones from Huawei in the U.S., like the Impulse 4G from AT&T.

The Honor, with its Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system, 4-inch screen, 1.4GHz single-core processor, 8-megapixel camera, 2-megapixel camera, and promise of three days of battery life, resides in the higher end of the smartphone spectrum. Though the Honor still falls short of premium status (sadly not all of its features deliver), the company is headed in the right direction.

Design
The Honor is a pretty good-looking device, and in terms of size, it hits a sweet spot at 4.8 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.43 inch thick--not too big, not too small. Its glossy black face is encircled by a silvery rim, and its backing comes in six colors: Glossy Black, Textured Black, Burgundy, Elegant White, Vibrant Yellow, and Cherry Blossom Pink. I tested the white model.

Long and fairly slim, the Honor has the rounded edges and straight sides that are so popular today, and its sharper corners are reminiscent of the iPhone 4. It weighs 4.9 ounces.


The Huawei Honor has a 4-inch screen and some interesting customizations to Android, including this lock screen.

A 4-inch screen is the perfect size for easy viewing, especially if you find devices with 4.5-inch screens awkwardly large. It has an FWVGA resolution of 480x854 pixels, and supports 16 million colors. The screen is very bright, colorful, and clear, and the larger-than-usual icons are still sharply detailed, in addition to being easy to press.

Above the display is a 2-megapixel camera and below it are four touch-sensitive buttons for navigating around the typical Menu, Home, Back, and Search quartet. There's also a tiny message indicator light on the phone's face that glows when you receive a notification. The Micro-USB charging port is on the bottom of the phone, the volume rocker is on the left, and the power button and 3.5 millimeter headset jack are up top.

On the back, you'll find the camera lens and LED flash. Unfortunately, you'll have to remove the battery to access the microSD card slot. I should note that the SIM card took a lot of maneuvering to slide in and out. I wish Huawei had used a more streamlined design for inserting and removing those plastic wafers.

Interface
The Honor ships with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but was the first phone to be technically upgradable to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, using a software download from the manufacturer's Web site. In the past, Huawei has played around with adding different skins to differentiate its Android smartphones. This time, the software is a little different.


This virtual keyboard has a clever method for capitalizing letters and inserting numbers.

There's an unlock screen, similar to what we've seen on HTC devices, which lets you slide a circle over icons of a padlock, a phone, a card, and a camera to unlock the phone to show the home screen, the call log, the text message inbox, and the camera app, respectively.

You'll have five customizable home screens, with a default animation that makes the screens appear as if they're on a cube as you swipe among them. The pull-down menu offers quick-access buttons for toggling Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, automatic screen rotation, and data on and off.

The apps tray also receives a design touch with two large, static buttons. One takes you to the home screen and the other "activates" your app icons, making them vibrating squares you can rearrange within the app list. This isn't the strongest or most intuitive feature.

Better is the TouchPal virtual keyboard, one of the Honor's four input options. (The others are the Android keyboard, Huawei IME, and MobiDiv keyboards.) Although not every one of TouchPal's innovations is strictly necessary (a tutorial walks you through them all), I do really like that for any given virtual key you can swipe up to capitalize a letter and swipe down to choose a corresponding number, rather than the usual technique of pressing down on a letter key until the associated number pops up. TouchPal's virtual keyboard offers the fastest, most convenient method yet for capitalization and numbers. My only complaint is that the virtual keys are a little tall and narrow.

You can also slide your finger across the keyboard with right and left swiping motions to pick from among three keyboard configurations. There are buttons to quickly select TouchPal settings, a grid of controls to edit, and a shortcut to voice actions.

Features
As an Android 2.3 Gingerbread device, the Honor has the usual communication features, like Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth support, access to multiple e-mail accounts, and multimedia messaging. There's also support for social networking and browsing. There's a clock, a calculator, a calendar, a basic music player, and in this case an FM radio as well. The Android Market has 300,000 additional applications and games to download.


There's a blue cast to this standard studio shot that is unexpected for a high-quality, 8-megapixel camera.

Google services are a major Android perk, and they're here as always: Google Maps, navigation with turn-by-turn voice directions, Places, Talk, YouTube, and others.

Additional apps are preloaded as well. These include Facebook, Twitter, a DLNA app, a sound recorder, and a social networking app (Streams). There's also Cloud+ Drive, a backup app, Cloud+ Settings, TouchPal settings, and a traffic manager. A third batch includes a weather clock, an app installer, a document viewer, a memo pad and note pad, Security Guard, and a voice dialer. Even without a carrier's preloaded apps, the list of preinstalled titles is notable.

You'll find additional features in the settings--everything from enabling tethering or turning on the mobile hot spot to adjusting visual preferences in the phone's interface.

Earlier, I mentioned that the Honor has an 8-megapixel camera with an LED flash. It's now time to evaluate how well the camera actually performs. I took a variety of indoor and outdoor shots, and a few self-portraits for good measure. I wish Huawei had extended its skin to the default camera app, which could use some work when it comes to surfacing settings and visual appeal.

The software itself can dial up a variety of scenes, and takes photos in 8-, 5-, 3-, or 2-megapixel sizes, and also a small VGA size. It also has the usual presets for white balance and color effects, and autofocus, and there's support for HDR (high dynamic range, a setting often used in landscape shots).


Flowers in bloom outside of CNET's office look vivid.

I took photos using the automatic controls. Images were hit or miss, but overall lacked the clarity and sharp edges of the best smartphone cameras out there. As usual, outdoor shots were better than indoor shots, especially in scenes with even lighting.


The packets of gum on my coworker's desk should be more detailed.

In addition, I tested the 720p HD video capture on the Honor, which shoots video at a rate of 30 frames per second. The video playback looked good on the phone, without any noticeable compression, pixelation, sputtering, or jaggedness. Volume sounded a little constricted and mechanical.

Although there's a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, I wouldn't recommend using it to produce your own glamour shots. Even the best image I took was highly pixelated when viewed in full, whereas other cameras fare better.

The Honor comes with 1GB built-in storage, and holds up to 32GB if you insert a microSD card.

Performance
I tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) unlocked Huawei Honor in San Francisco using T-Mobile's network. Call quality was acceptable, but less than stellar. Voices sounded slightly hollow and muffled to my ears, and I heard a high-frequency whine every time the caller spoke. Although the sound was faint, once I heard it, it was hard to ignore, and began grating on my ears. After prolonged use, this could be a phone that someone could learn to hate listening to.

Callers, on the other hand, said I sounded pretty good, though they could tell I was on a cell phone and not a landline. They said my voice sounded a little muffled.

Huawei Honor call quality sample Listen now: "="">

Speakerphone threw me for a loop when I held the Honor at waist level. I've never heard a phone produce sounds in quite the way the Honor did. My caller's voice sounded human, but not like it came from him. Instead, it sounded halting and overly deep, as if the person at the other end were tightening his cheeks and pursing his lips, much as you would to play a musical instrument like the saxophone or flute.

The only complaint about the speakerphone call on the other end was that I sounded kind of quiet and was a little hard to hear, but otherwise all sounded fine and clear in a quiet room.

I had few complaints about the Honor's internal speeds, drawing on its 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor. Animations flowed smoothly, and apps opened fairly quickly. Not every app will snap open instantly on any phone, especially if, like the image gallery, there's a lot of content to load.

I couldn't say the same about the Honor's data speeds. In theory, an unlocked 3G world phone (which this is) should be able to produce 3G speeds on these shores using a T-Mobile or AT&T SIM card. I tried both and unfortunately never got past EDGE. Performance was terribly slow at those 2G speeds, and was likely not indicative of the typical user experience.

The Honor has a rated battery life of up to 10 hours of talk time on its 1,900mAh battery. Huawei claims that's a three-day life span. Of course, I'll still be performing a battery drain test and will update this section when I do.

Conclusion
The Huawei Honor, while not the best phone on the planet by a long shot, has the potential to be a very good midranger. There are several red flags though when it comes to aspects of the camera and call quality, and I didn't feel I was able to accurately test data speeds at all. Still, 720p video capture was good, and the phone's hardware and software are easy to use.

I'd never recommend buying the Honor at its unlocked price in the mid-to-high hundreds, but I will say that Cricket customers should keep their eyes open for the Huawei Mercury, the first U.S. version of this device. It's sold without a contract for $249.99.

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6.6

Huawei U8860 Honor

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 6