Huawei's Honor series has been a success for the China smartphone vendor --- a lower cost product line separate from its flagship Huawei portfolio. Debuting with the Honor 3C in December 2013, the device sizzled in China, garnering 10 million pre-orders before its official launch. Malaysia was the first country in South East Asia to get the Honor 3C, showing how important the Malaysian market is for Huawei.
Several products followed --- the Honor 6, which I consider the best smartphone money can buy for under RM1,000 in 2014; and the Honor 3C Lite, a low-cost 3C for the masses.
On 1 April, Huawei opened pre-orders for the latest Honor 4X on Vmall.my its official online store, and it quickly sold out within 8 minutes! All 3,000 units of them. Huawei has announced that it will bring a second batch to meet demand, on 8 April.
I've had the chance to play with the device for several weeks before the official launch. In a nutshell, this new well-packaged smartphone impresses, especially at its shockingly low price of RM619 (USD170).
Design and build
First let's look at the design. OK, to be honest, part of the success for Honor in China is due to its resemblance to the iPhone. The reality is that, the gorgeous iPhone is a much-desired device but out of reach of many due to its premium pricing. Huawei's strategy (as with numerous other China brands) is to make its products look and feel as close to an iPhone as possible, and match it feature for feature. And of course, build it at a fraction of the price. And so far, that strategy has worked.
The Honor 4X is a pretty good looker, better in black than the white I have for review. It's slim, has clean lines and is solidly built. The back plate has a textured matt finish, making it nice to hold. The back plate can be removed to reveal the dual-LTE SIM slots, and a microSD slot. While you can remove the back plate, the 3,000mAh battery sadly isn't removable. Although that's no longer a deal-breaker anymore nowadays (just get a RM36 power bank from you know who).
The volume rocker button and power button are located on the right side, with the 3.5mm audio jack at the top and micro-USB port at the bottom. The bottom side also houses a neat speaker grille (very iPhone-ish).
The camera module is neatly tucked on the left side with an LED flash. On the front, the 5.5-inch display takes up the real estate, with a thin bezel of each side. It has a 75% screen to body ratio, putting it ahead of its class.
The Honor 4X measures 8.7mm thin, and weighs around 165g with battery. Neither the thinnest nor the lightest phone out there, but without a doubt, a well-put together phone and a pleasant looking one too.
Internally, the Honor 4X is powered by an octa-core 1.2GHz hiSilicon Kirin 620 chip mated to a Mali 450 GPU. There's a variant floating around that runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 with an Andreno 430 GPU too. It gets 2GB of RAM and a rather paltry 8GB of storage. You can however expand your storage needs via microSD (up to 32GB).
The 5.5-inch IPS HD display (267PPI) is sharp and sufficiently bright despite its lack of pixels.
It packs the usual bells and whistles too --- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, A-GPS with GLONASS, FM Radio, and DTS Sound. It supports 4G LTE --- dual-LTE, dual-SIM, dual-standby.
In the camera department, it gets a Sony-sourced 13MP rear camera with f/2.0 aperture, and a 5MP front-facing camera. The rear camera is supported by a SmartImage 2.5 processing engine for quality photos.
The device is backed by a 3,000mAh battery that Huawei claims can deliver up to 72 hours of battery life with light usage.
In the software department, the Honor 4X runs Android 4.4 KitKat with Huawei's Emotion UI 3.0 layer on top. Emotion UI is rather iOS-inspired, so no App Drawer for those used to that. The absence isn't a big deal though. You can easily install a launcher to bring that function back.
As a whole, the Emotion UI experience is intuitive and pretty snappy in performance.
Quick passive benchmark tests with GeekBench3, AnTuTu and Quadrant reveal a strong multi-core performer, beating out the Snapdragon 600-powered Samsung GALAXY S4 and behind the Snapdragon
810 800-powered LG Nexus 5. Sure we're talking flagships that are at least a year old, but remember though, the Honor 4X is a sub-RM650 device.
AnTuTu numbers put it above the HTC One and Xiaomi Redmi Note, and just below the LG G3 and LG Nexus 5.
Quadrant reveals very decent numbers, again outscoring some older flagships.
In 3DMark's Ice Storm Extreme test, the octa-core Kirin 620 performed commendably well, as it did in PCMark's work scores.
Passive benchmarks will be benchmarks and will satisfy those interested in interpreting numbers. In real world use, the Honor 4X is snappy and fluid, also thanks to the lightness of the latest Emotion UI. I did experience occasional lags when switching between apps but nothing too serious. The iOS-like Emotion UI is fluid and pretty intuitive as a whole.
One thing to like is the camera. It's little to do with megapixels although 13MP is pretty much the bare minimum nowadays. Like the Honor 6 (and in the impressive Huawei Mate 7), the camera is quick and does a good job in capturing detail and colours accurately. I do find the images a little under-saturated sometimes, but in terms of sharpness and detail, spot on. It's also does a good job at video.
Sample photos (rear camera)
The front camera is great for selfies, thanks to its high-res 5MP sensor and wide angle lens. Couple that with a Beauty filter, and wow, pretty boys. And girls.
Sample photos (front-facing)
Another thing to love is battery life. The generous 3,000mAh battery gives you juice to last a long day. The Kirin 620 is pretty frugal too, so battery life is consistently good throughout.
Call and audio quality is above average, although it may lack front-facing speakers, something commonly found on HTC devices. You can't have everything (not for RM600).
For people with multiple SIMs, businesses or those who travel a lot will find the Dual-LTE, dual-standby SIM slots are convenient, enabling you to plug in two micro-SIMs for different types of usage. The Honor 4X lets you assign which apps or contacts to use different SIMs, which is a neat feature. While some dual-SIM phones only offer one with data and the other with GSM, the Honor 4X is one of the few that does both LTE data.
- Pleasant design, good build
- Dual-LTE is convenient
- Snappy performance
- Good camera
- Excellent battery life
- Awesome price
- micro-SD expansion
- Paltry storage
- Slightly under-saturated photos
Pricing and availability
The Honor 4X retails at RM619 and can be pre-ordered from Vmall.my. Ships from 18 April 2015.
To be honest, it's getting more and more difficult to decide on a smartphone these days. It may actually be easier to buy a premium flagship (there's the iPhone 6 and S6) if you have the dosh, but the lower rung is a confusing, sea of high-performing value buys.
The Honor 4X is one of those standouts. IMHO, one of the best smartphones if not the best for under RM700 this year. Like the Honor 6 which I dub the "Best smartphone that money can buy for under RM1,000 in 2014," the latest offering from Huawei packs outstanding value in a neat package.
Aside from the disappointing 8GB of built-in storage, it's got everything you need to get up and running. Huawei could have easily thrown in 16GB, and in many ways I wished it did. This can be easily solved by plugging in a 16GB micro-SD card although that would mean shelling out an additional RM50 (or a little more depending on brand and speed). Perhaps Huawei can offer this as an exclusive online deal on Vmall.my (tsk tsk).
Great device. Fabulous price.