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Honor 6 – the best budget Android phone we’ve tested so far [Review] [Editors Choice]

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The smartphone market is heading for a huge shock, as the traditional brands find themselves under increasing pressure from some very slick Chinese products which are making their way westwards. The big names like HTC and Samsung are already suffering from slower sales and declining profits, and this trend is going to continue, as lower priced Chinese manufacturers pulverize the established brands on price and features. This new superphone from Honor is a classic example of what we mean.

You probably won’t have heard about Honor, because it’s a brand which has only been in existence a short while. But its owner, Huawei, is one of China’s largest telecommunications companies. The Honor brand is their attempt to create a separate superior phone label, designed to appeal to Western tastes, and the Honor 6 is the company’s first flagship product. If this is the future of the Honor brand, it’s a great start. (See below at the bottom of this post for details of a cool design competition based around the handset).

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First impressions
The Honor 6 comes in a bright pastel blue box, which is the first sign that the brand wants to do something different. No dull greys and blacks here. Inside the box are the usual array of accessories, including headset, power block and cable and a fancily packed user guide. So far so normal. But it’s when you actually take a look at the specifications of this phone that things start to get interesting. Check out our video below for a run through of the features and specs.

The phone features a beautiful 5 inch 1920×1080 full HD Gorilla Glass 3 touchscreen, 1.3 GHz custom octa-core processor, 3GB RAM, 16 GB of internal storage, microSD support up to 64 GB, 13 megapixel rear camera and 5 megapixel front (high res selfies eh?), plus a stonking great 3100 mAh battery. It runs Android 4.4.2, and the really important thing is it supports 4G LTE, and not just 4G, but Cat 6, which is the super fast spec which has only recently started its roll out across the world. This handset is fast in every department!

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In use
The phone fits beautifully in the hand, thanks to a nice slim-line shape and a clever positioning of buttons. Good to see that manufacturers have stopped sticking buttons all over the place, and now have the important ones in the right places. Another nice touch is the addition of the extra microSD card slot to upgrade storage. Again many of these newer 4G phones seal everything away so you get no external storage, which is a disaster we think.

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One thing you’ll either love or hate is the stock EMUI interface that the Honor features as standard. We really like it, since it gives loads of customization options, and yet manages to keep everything fairly Android standard. It’s a fine line, but the Honor 6 manages it well. One very cool touch is the ability to switch instantly between the stock Android type launcher look, and a super simplified home screen which is perfect for newcomers to smartphones. It’s an example of how well thought out this phone is in terms of the software.

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We also found the general operation of the handset to be top notch, amongst the best we’ve ever tested (including Samsung Galaxy models). The audio quality during calls is exceptionally clear and easy to hear, and although the phone only sports a single small speaker it’s plenty loud enough for general use when needed. The GPS lock works faultlessly (we’re thinking that 4G data really helps with fast A-GPS satellite lock and stability) and with all that RAM and CPU power this thing eats up any apps you throw at it.

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Games run at maximum rates, Google maps tile in beautifully, and web browsing is silky smooth and instantaneous, even when paging in larger images. There’s lots of nice touches too, like the fact that a custom Swype keyboard system is included as standard, as well as a very nice Gallery, which splits images automatically into date order to make for easy browsing. These are usually additional apps you would need to download and install, but they’re included as default on this phone. There’s no question this phone deserves to be called a flagship model.

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The camera is also top notch, with nice crisp shots with little noise in good light. We especially like the super crisp close up photo abilities (see our samples below), which is again something we haven’t seen at all on other budget phones, only on the more expensive brands.

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In fact, if we had to give a summary of what impresses us about this handset, it’s not really so much the raw specs, but the fact that a lot of thought has gone into the ergonomics of the user interface and how people will use their phone out of the box. If you want to dig deep you can change things around, just as with any version of Android, but even out of the box it’s a lovely phone to use day to day.

Talking of which, the battery life is also great. The huge 3100 mAh battery easily gives a day and a half of normal use, and light use should be able to stretch that to two days. You’ll need to keep an eye on rogue apps you install of course, as always, but again the Honor 6 comes with a built in power management and monitoring system which will automatically warn you if an app is over-using battery, so you can stop it. Nice!

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Conclusion
There’s a huge amount of competition in the smartphone market nowadays, with great handsets at competitive prices coming out every week. So it takes some doing to produce a phone which actually stands out from the crowd, looks good, works brilliantly and comes with some genuinely valuable features out of the box. The Honor team have managed to pull it off with bags of style, and they’re to be commended.

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It’s relatively easy to cram ‘tick the box’ specifications into a phone, slap on a cheap price and call it quits. But the Honor 6 delivers much more than a cookie cutter experience, so much so that we’ve barely touched the surface of some of the other features that the phone has. For instance the instant snapshot from sleep (just tap the down volume button twice quickly) and the cool themes you can apply to spice up your phones look and feel, or the infrared port on the top which lets you control your TV etc using a special phone app.

There are quirks of course, there always are (for instance we’re not quite sure why the developers decided to do away with the app drawer and just dump all installed apps on the home screens) but these are far outweighed by the sheer coolness of this phone. If you’re looking for a budget priced smartphone (yes it’s around half the price of major brand phones with inferior specifications!) then this has got to be on the top of your list. Really! Highly recommended.

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Price: $466.99 / £239.99

Samples: (click on thumbnails for larger example)

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Specifications:
Display – 5.00 inch
Resolution – 1080 x 1920 pixels
Pixels per inch (PPI) – 441
Gorilla Glass 3
Processor – 1.3 GHz (octa-core)
RAM – 3GB
OS – Android 4.4
Networks: 3G / 4G LTE (Cat 6)
Internal Storage – 16 GB
Rear Camera – 13 megapixels
Front Camera – 5 megapixels
Battery capacity – 3100 mAh
Removable battery – No
Ultra Power Saving Mode
Do Not Disturb Mode
Motion Control
Expandable microSD storage – 64 GB
Dimensions – 139.6 x 69.7 x 7.5 mm
Weight – about 130 gms

Antuttu Benchmark Score: 41270

Honor 6 Competition (#HonorDesign #ForTheBrave)

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The Honor folks are currently holding a design competition to help create new icons, wallpapers and back cover designs for the Honor 6. Big prizes. You can apply right here. Good luck you design types!

Nigel is the managing editor of the Red Ferret, as well as a freelance columnist for the Sunday Times newspaper in London. Loves tech and fancies himself as a bit of a futurist, but then don’t we all?

Nigel – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.


  • Stevie

    Very nice. What has that magnifying feature?

    • Yeah, it is. The magnifyer is an app which you fire up and uses the camera as a magnifying glass. Not seen that before. :)

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