Huawei’s Honor 6 Plus boasts impressive hardware and an interesting dual camera set-up, see how it all performs in the real world in the GizChina Huawei Honor 6 Plus review.
Anyone has been following GizChina for any length of time will know that I personally go for camera specifications first on each Android smartphone I choose. It’s the feature that I use the most have come to enjoy especially on Chinese smartphones. For almost the past year the Vivo Xshot served as my trusty camera/phone, but after a few knocks and bumps it is starting to look its age (but still perform flawlessly), the search was on for a new camera phone.
I tried the Oppo N3, the most obvious choice for a Chinese camera specific smartphone, you can read my thoughts on the device in my Oppo N3 review, but to sum up I can’t live with a device which has lost so much for features that don’t bring all that much to the device as a whole, a shame because the camera is amazing. So the search has continued and led me to the Huawei Honor 6 Plus.
Huawei Honor 6 Plus Review
The main draw (for me) is the dual rear camera set up of the Huawei Honor 6 Plus. Sure the camera’s are only 8 mega-pixel, but there are 3 of them, and 2 are on the rear! The prospect of some rather cool photography features lured me in, and the fact it comes with a decent 5.5-inch FHD display, 3GB RAM, Kirin 925 processor and huge battery didn’t hurt matters.
Huawei Honor 6 Plus Review: Hands on and first impressions
Huawei Honor 6 Plus Review: Design
The Huawei Honor 6 Plus looks a lot like a slightly larger version of the Huawei Honor 6, hence the ‘plus’ name (well it was either going to be ‘plus’ or ‘pro’). The actual body shape of the phone is very basic, with clean lines and no bulk.
Front and rear are covered in glass with smooth transitions from the body to screen, and slight protective lip around the rear camera.
The top, left and right sides of the Huawei Honor 6 Plus get a metal edge which offer a nice comfy feel, while the base is a much more rounded all plastic allowing the phone to sit very comfortably in your hand while making calls and general use.
Huawei have done a good job creating a clean and simple design, no fuss or silly features, and all the components are right where they you would expect them to be. USB in the base, headphone jack in the top with IR blaster, and power and volume controls on the right. The right hand side is also where dual trays live for either dual SIM usage or a single SIM and SD card.
Some neat touches include the knurled alloy design on the power and volume controls which add some nice grip them. On our test model both physical button can be wobbled from side to side, but they are not loose to the point of rattling in the frame.
With glass front and rear the body is very smooth in your hand, but hardly slippy. I do like the smooth feeling on the screen which makes gaming smooth and fluid, it also appears to be coated in a oleophobic coating as finger prints and smears don’t tend to be as visible as say the Meizu MX4 Pro, and clean off much easier. The front screen is hard wearing Gorilla Glass 3 and so far I have not managed to scratch it, however I have picked up plenty of small scratches on the rear. Luckily these are not easily visible on this white version of the phone.
The glass and plastic body is light and comfortable, however I am not 100% sold on the feeling of quality. It feels ‘OK’ but compared to the Xiaomi Mi Note (also glass and plastic with metal sides) it feels a little cheap.
A thick body means a 3600mAh battery nestles inside the phone with promise of extra long battery life, but the phone itself is quite compact with narrow bezels and minimal body top and bottom.
There are no capacitive controls on the Huawei Honor 6 Plus, only on-screen instead which doesn’t really both me too much normally but I feel Huawei could have made these controls a little more functional (ala Flyme’s smartbar), but more on this in the ROM section of the review.
Huawei Honor 6 Plus Review: Hardware and Performance
With a 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 FHD display up front there is really nothing to complain about. With brightness turned up you can see well on bright sunny days, and touch response is very good, also aided by the super smooth display. Some work is needed to improve the brightness control which seems to do little to adjust brightness. Automatic seems to just keep the screen on full and manual controls are a little delicate with a large jump in brightness especially notable when using at night.
Colours and text are reproduced very well, and overall the screen is a joy to use, even better once Huawei sort the brightness control in future ROM updates.
The single external speaker offers loud, crisp and clear audio. Huawei have also cleverly designed the the speaker so it shouldn’t be covered with your hand while holding in landscape. There is plenty of volume to fill a small room with sound, just don’t expect much in the way of bass.
Audio quality through a good set of earphones is very good. The Huawei Honor 6 Plus features DTS sound and there is a notable change in richness and bass once this is enabled. Call quality is very good too, the receiver being one of the clearest I have used in a long while.
Huawei develop their own Hisilcon processors for many of their mid-range and flagship phones. The Huawei Honor 6 Plus uses an octacore Kirin 925 processor with 3GB RAM, and a Mali-T628 MP4 GPU. In benchmarks Kirin processors aren’t setting any records, but as we all know by now real world testing is really needed.
Unfortunately performance isn’t all that stunning in real life either. The phone never feels snappy, and when browsing complicated websites the Honor 6 Plus simple stops and just cannot cope with the rendering. This get’s extremely tiresome, and isn’t acceptable.
While using the Honor 6 Plus I was also testing the JiaYu S3 with 2GB RAM, and actually felt the difference in performance when moving to the MT6752 powered phone, Mediatek have done a sterling job this year. To be fair to the Kirin processor I feel that the issue could be down to ROM optimizations, and as Huawei are rolling out updates on a regular basis feel confident we will see some improvement.
The Kirin chipset also seems to be working pretty hard to run games and benchmarks judging by the amount of heat that the phone gives off when really pushed hard.
Huawei Honor 6 Plus Review: Benchmarks
- Antutu: 40,768
- Antutu X: 37,717
- GeekBench Single-Core: 848
- GeekBench Multi-core: 2873
- GFXBench Manhattan: 535.2
- GFXBench Manhattan 1080 offscreen: 500.7
- GFXBench T-Rex: 969.5
- GFXBench T-Rex 1080 offscreen: 919.1
- Vellamo Metal: 1351
- Vellamo Multicore: 1650
- Vellamo Browser: 2136
- 3DMark: 11899
Huawei Honor 6 Plus Review: Camera
The camera is really what I wanted the Huawei Honor 6 Plus for, or should that be cameras with an ‘S’. Huawei have given the 6 Plus a single front facing 8 mega-pixel camera, stunning for video calls, and dual 8 mega-pixel cameras on the rear.
A dual rear camera set up isn’t new for phone design, but this was the first time I have every tested a dual camera phone for any length of time and I was eager to see if having the extra sensor made a difference.
First of all what does the additional rear sensor bring to the function of the phone? Well as far as I can tell during my testing (and it has been very through), the dual camera set up is primarily used to add depth when using the ‘wide-aperture’ mode, and to collect more light when using the “super night mode”, both very cool features which can produce amazing photos.
Super Night mode sucks up so much light that I am able to take photos of stars that I didn’t even know were there! That’s impressive. Using the Honor 6 Plus was the first time that I have ever trekked out in to the middle of a field at night with my tripod and snap photos:
I don’t know about you but I think that is very impressive. To get this photo, “super night mode” either automatically chooses an exposure time or you set it manually (manual is an option in the later ROM updates). Hit the shutter button and a timer will count down and you can watch your photo build up from dark to light. You can even choose to stop the shot when you reach an image your are happy with.
The issue with this though is that you must use a tripod. I would simply not be able to have taken the above photo by standing completely still for 30 seconds.
Setting to night mode to 1 or 2 seconds is doable freehand, but anything more and you will get a blurred image.
“Wide Aperture” mode doesn’t need a tripod to work, but you will need to ensure yourself and your subject don’t make any sudden movements. Shooting an image in this setting actually records an image at many different focal lengths. You can either set the effect before shooting or after shooting. It’s a cool effect similar to the one found in Meizu’s Flyme ROM, but the Huawei makes a much better job of it.
The rest of the features are quite basic and not really what I was hoping for from a camera-centric device, which the Honor 6 Plus is hence the dual camera set up. From the camera menu you have options for beauty mode, panoramic, HDR, audio note, watermark, online translation, and best photo.
Watermark allows you to add a preset watermark to photos, online translation uses Baidu to translate from Chinese to English or vice versa, and best photo takes a couple of photos together and automatically chooses the best one (you can also choose manually).
Photos taken in the normal mode, i.e with a single 8 mega-pixel camera are very good and don’t get too noisy in low light conditions. The camera itself is very fast to capture images, but the shutter animation, and sound aren’t really sorted and gives the illusion of slow response.
Huawei have created a phone that can take some really stunning photos, but if you want to get the most out of the Super Night Mode then you are going to have to invest in a small tripod, a worthy investment in my opinion.
Huawei Honor 6 Plus Review: Sample Photos
Huawei Honor 6 Plus Review: Battery
The thick body of the Huawei Honor 6 Plus has a large 3600mAh battery. 600mah more than the Vivo Xshot, 300mah more than the Meizu MX4 Pro, but it doesn’t last as long when you start hitting the data. If you aren’t a heavy user and don’t receive many calls you can get 2 days of life from the 6 Plus. If you are hitting the data and shooting photos you will be heading to the power outlet before the day is through. Again, I believe the major issue here is the lack of ROM optimizations.
Charing the battery isn’t as slow as the JiaYu S3, but it still seems like an age when compared to VOOC. Around 3 hours should see you fully charged if you use the supplied Huawei charger, a lot longer if you are using an in car charger or generic plug.
Huawei Honor 6 Plus Review: ROM
Using the Huawei Honor 6 Plus reminds me a lot of my time with the IUNI U3. The UI of EMUI is very similar to the IUNI ROM with nice animations, but there are a lot more features in EMUI.
With no capacitive buttons Huawei give you a virtual on screen navigation bar. By default you have a central home button, triangle back button and square button for controlling multitasking. There is also a smaller arrow to the left of the buttons which let’s you hide the navigation bar, swipe up and it will reappear.
If you don’t like the default navigation then you have the options to swap buttons around and even add an additional button which opens of the notification area.
You can also access the notification area with the traditional swipe from the top edge of the screen. Swiping down from a lower position brings up your most used applications (something EMUI learns over time) and a global search bar.
The square multitasking button has two options to use. A single press will bring up all applications that are running in the background where you have the option to close them one by one all of them at once. So far I have not found a way to keep apps open, usually by locking them (a feature Flyme, MIUI and ColorOS all share). Pressing and holding the square button takes you back to the application you were using last.
Huawei have also loaded EMUI with lock screen gestures which you can customise, for example writing a ‘C’ on the lock screen by default will open the camera, but you can switch that to any app, or contact you like.
Double tap is also available to quickly unlock your phone and there are even lock screen widgets for music control (when music is playing), calendar, camera, torch or a mirror, plus a shortcut to the camera application.
EMUI also features nice wallapaper gallery which you can control from the lockscreen with options to change to the next photo, save a photo or share a photo. Photos come from a speical gallery which is updated quite often.
There is also an option for Touchplus which requires the user to fit a special screen protector with ‘touch buttons’ printed on it for navigation. Our test phone didn’t come with this film so I was unable to test it.
EMUI features a lot of nice components, but there is plenty of room for improvement. A camera centric phone like the Huawei Honor 6 Plus needs more camera features. Vivo and Oppo both realised this with their phones, and I hope Huawei can create new functions for the dual camera set up.
Optimizations for battery life and performance are the major hurdle for the Huawei Honor 6 Plus. As mentioned above the phone struggles while web browsing, and battery life should be more reliable for a large battery device such as this.
Another issue is that the Chinese version of the ROM for the Honor 6 Plus (there is currently no international version) won’t allow you to sync your contacts from Google. Installing Google Play and getting it to work is as easy as pie as Google services are still part of the ROM, but for some unknown reason there is no option to add a Google account to sync contacts, an issue that other Huawei users have also come across.
I minor niggle are the EMUI icons for some applications are just plain ugly. Not a big issue and one that can easily be solved with an icon pack or launcher.
Thankfully EMUI is getting regular updates, if you are running the Chinese version of the ROM (which only has English and Chinese), so these issue will hopefully be solved in future versions.
Huawei Honor 6 Plus Review: Conclusion
The Huawei Honor 6 Plus is a phone capable of some really great photos, and I really do enjoy the device as a camera-centric phone. I don’t feel I have found a Vivo Xshot replacement just yet though as the Honor 6 Plus still needs to be optimised to make the most of it’s octacore chipst, 3GB RAM and huge 3600mAh battery, but once the ROM is sorted Huawei will have a killer phone on their hands.
I paid $486 for this 3GB RAM, 32GB memory version of the Huawei Honor 6 Plus from Teknistore.com, they offer shipping from either Europe or China too which is a great benefit .
Huawei Honor 6 Plus Review: Specifications[table id=191 /]
Thanks to Teknistore for sending the review Huawei Honor 6 Plus to us.