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My take on the Honor 6 mobilephone

January 8, 2015

Huawei Mate 7 launch at Valkyrie Nightclub

I first came to know the Honor 6 when I was invited to the launch event of the Huawei Mate7 late last year. My friend who works for Huawei was holding a phone that looked more interesting to me in size, as the Mate7 is yet another too big of a phone for me.

The Honor 6

Just before the holiday madness, I was told it is available only at Lazada as Honor, which is a brand under Huawei, is trying to keep costs of the item down hence no dealership sales.

I pulled the trigger that became the "saga at Lazada," but that's another story. The only color available online is black, which I don't mind.

When I opened up the box I was surprised that it resembles a lot like the Cherry Mobile Alpha Luxe more than the Sony Xperia C3. I would have mistaken one for the other if their screens are off and I'm not paying attention to the details.

Honor 6 (left) and Cherry Mobile Alpha Luxe

As a price comparison, I can buy three Cherry Mobile Alpha Luxe for the price of one Honor 6. So what am I getting?

First of all, this device isn't listed in the Huawei Consumer Products website at all for a reason. I had dug deep before just to get specs from Huawei and there are a few variants of the Honor 6. What I have and is available in the Philippines is the H60-L04 variant.

Fortunately, the Philippine website for the Honor brand is now up, but still a work in progress.

Some quick takes on the features:

- Octa-Core Kirin 920 SoC

I'm not sure how many apps do take advantage of this processor architecture. I would assume the kernel can and would result to a generally pleasant experience.

- 3GB DDR3 Memory

How much is too much? Well, specs is king right? I'll find out later how this massive memory pans out.

- 13MP BSI Camera

Sony technology. I am looking forward to how Huawei did the implementation on the Honor 6 for users to have a pleasurable experience.

- 3100mAh Battery

Now we're talking. Let's see if this really manifests in longer usage and less charge cycles. The battery is not removable and to some it could be a deal-breaker. I don't care coming from iPhone 4S, 5S, and HTC 8S. Now that's a lot of S...

- 4G LTE CAT6

Unfortunately, my carrier doesn't support this yet, so the dream of getting 300 Mbps is just that - a dream.

- 5" 1920 x 1080 445ppi screen

Yes! I like it a lot. Protection by Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

Over-all, the build quality is good and that effort Huawei put into the design of back of the device resulted into an attractive package. Pay attention to the details and it will reveal its true character.

Side controls- volume and power buttons

As I use it, it grew on me and feels like a premium device. It is nice to hold,  easy to handle and is an ideal size for me. The plastic rim provides a little more grip compared to the bare matte plastic on the bottom end of the device.

Packaging

The packaging is basic. Information sheets and warranty card, stereo headset (in-ear type), USB cable, a hefty 2A charger, and microSD removal tool. The bonus items are the front and back plastic screen protectors. It also came with Globe Tattoo SIM pack with P295 load value.

Nice color

Accessories

Documentation, protectors, and microSD removal tool


Display

The display is beautiful. The display to body size ratio is definitely better than that of the Xperia C3 and Cherry Mobile Alpha Luxe. Viewing angles are good and the default color temperature is great for me. It looks like Huawei did a splendid job in maximizing this FHD screen.

The Color temperature setting unfortunately does not have markers on its scale so if you would like to change it, you'll never know at what setting you are without a calibration equipment. How I wish I can use my Spyder color calibration device to find out.

The lock screen image changes every time you unlock the phone

The Screen saving feature is intriguing which when enabled will give warning of degradation in image quality to save battery. It seems that it has a low-resolution 720p mode that it can use. In casual use, it doesn't take away much from the quality and if it saves more power then its a great option.

The phone needs to reboot every time this option is turned on or off.

Sound quality

I am pleased to discover that the Honor 6 sounds very good, but...

Using my Westone UM1 with 114dB/mW sensitivity, the Honor 6 stands toe-to-toe with both the iPhone 5S and HTC 8S (still my favorite). The dynamics are there as well as the nuance essential to me in listening to music. The bottom end is well articulated and never boomy, with top end sparkle to spice up the higher octaves. The mid-range is never tinny and leans on the warm side...

with the Westone UM1 in-ear monitors

... but, coupled to my Harman Kardon SOHO-I (designed for Apple) with 100dB/V it's a different story. Ok, let's take the dB/mW vs. dB/V aside first.

In simple terms, most manufacturers use dB/mW but Harman group started using dB/V based on the IEC 268-7 standard (now IEC 60268-7). To the geeks out there, this formula has been posted over at Head-Fi long ago-

dB/mW = dB/V - 30 + 10*log(R)

where:
dB/mW is the sensitivity in dB (SPL) at 0.001 watt
dB/V is the sensitivity in dB (SPL) at 1 volt rms into impedance R and
R is the headphone nominal impedance in ohms.

To those going through nausea at the moment, it simply means that it will need more power to drive the SOHO compared to the UM1. And rightly so, the Honor 6 is running out of juice. Both the 5S and 8S effortlessly drives the SOHO.

with the Harman Kardon SOHO-I

One of my fear that has been confirmed is that the Honor 6 does not recognize my FiiO Alpen USB DAC. Unlike the Xperia V and C3, at cheaper price points, the Honor 6 ignores the DAC and plays through its speakers. The sound of which, by the way, is pretty good.

Single rear speaker

Now let's talk about the designed for iOS vs. designed for Android headphones. I am pleased that the Honor 6 will gladly take a designed for iOS headphone like my SOHO-I and Urbanears Tanto. Although both came with alternative cable or adapter that I have to use with my Cherry Mobile Alpha Luxe, they're not needed.

3.5mm audio jack that's "made for iOS device" friendly

Without an adapter, both Xperia will warn about the control buttons but will still play music properly, unlike the Alpha Luxe. On the Honor 6, buttons do work which is convenient. Pause, play, next/previous track control is flawless.

Photo quality

There is no dedicated camera button and an alternative to open the camera app is ala iOS, i.e., on the lock screen press camera icon and swipe up. In addition, I can quickly double press the volume down button to either a) open the camera app, and b) open the camera app and take an instant photo. I find the second option not to my liking so I changed the setting to the former. However, if there is music playing this won't work and you have to mute the music first.

Un-cropped photo of Makati skyline, 4160 x 2336 pixels. f/2, 1/30s, ISO 100. This will take a while to load.

I think Huawei did a good job in its implementation of the Sony camera module, and with the supplied camera application, the user has a couple of options.

Un-cropped photo at a random parking building, 4160 x 3120 pixels. f/2, 1/30s, ISO 200. This will take a while to load.

The Honor 6 camera is fast and can focus real close. Here's another sample.

Close-up photo of my watch, un-cropped, 4160 x 3120 pixels. f/2, 1/16s, ISO 400.

What about the front facing camera? Since I don't do selfies and I had trouble looking for willing subjects, this will do.

Un-cropped, flipped, 1952 x 2592, f/2.4, 1/20s, ISO 800.

When taking selfies, the camera app applies this thing called "Beauty level" with intensity from 0 to 10 which I believe is softening effect. And that's the reason why the photo above looks soft.

In the near future, I will be compiling worthy photos taken with this phone an put them in a gallery.

Video quality

I'm not really a fan of taking videos as often as photos. I will update this section when I get a chance to take interesting videos.

DLNA and beyond

This is a Sony strong point. The Xperia devices have built-in apps- Walkman and Movie that will see my DLNA devices- a Western Digital 900C and Synology NAS easily. Both apps also make use of Throw feature to transfer playback to another device. In addition, the Xperia V and C3 includes NFC.

The Honor 6 has Multi-screen capability to "throw" the playback to a compatible DLNA television or via the Huawei MultiQ unit connected to a non-DLNA television or monitor.

Currently, I use the Synology DS suite (DS Audio, DS Video, DS Camera, DS File, DS Finder) to connect and playback media from my Synology NAS. On Windows phone and Surface, I use MoliPlayer and MediaMonkey respectively, for accessing DLNA devices. It looks like I have to use one of them with the Honor 6.

Wi-Fi support for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands is good, and in addition Wi-Fi Direct and Wi-Fi Hotspot are also supported.

Finally, it has Bluetooth.

Performance and over-all experience

My goal is to find a phone that will offer better LTE performance than both the iPhone 5S and Xperia V (best in my location). Huawei being a significant player in infrastructure and carrier industry is an easy pick for me as one of the choices. Did the Honor 6 meet my expectations? YES.

I can now receive LTE on the Honor 6 in my living room while my 5S and Xperia V still need to be out in the garage to get LTE. Mission completed.

This phone is already loaded with my usual stuff, common to all my others phones. It includes the Synology suite, Microsoft suite, Facebook, Twitter, Tapatalk, Foursquare, Swarm, HERE, Waze,  Spotify, and heck even a few Sony Mobile applications such as Smart Connect and TrackID.

While the Honor 6 is equipped with an IR, the application to use it is nowhere to be found in this device. Fortunately, there is Google and I found the Smart Controller app for download.

I have not experienced lag (yeah, new phone) and the animations are fluid and smooth. There is no jitter when scrolling, applications launches fast, and I don't close the apps deliberately.

Battery life seems to be good. My device has been running in battery for 17 hours since last charge with 57% left. I used it quite heavily yesterday and includes 4G operation, navigation using online HERE Drive, social, calls, and SMS. I placed it in "Ultra-battery" mode from 12mn to 6am today, after which I set it back to "Smart" (the default setting).

The last time I charged the phone, it took a little over an hour to go from 35% to 94%.

But then there's this Emotion UI which is Huawei's "skin" for their phones. On initial glance, the first thing that came to mind is "toy" looking at the round icons on this device running EMUI 2.3. It makes using the Xperia a more "professional" experience having a uniform look for both the Xperia V and C3 (KitKat). My biggest complaint with this Emotion UI is that the apps in a folder can't show notifications.

There's also a bug. That lock screen that show glorious images always show "Emergency call" even if there's a valid SIM inside.

EMUI version B114

My device came with EMUI 2.3 B109 version and the B114 version is now live. It came with a Microsoft Word-formatted document on how to install it, but nothing was written about the changes. It didn't address the "Emergency call" issue I reported to Huawei.

I was able to get in touch with Huawei regional support and their reply is that "Emergency call" is normal, in fact, a feature. Both the Mate7 and Ascend P7 running on EMUI 3 still has it.

Honestly, it annoys me.

Conclusion

I'm pretty happy with the Honor 6, performance is top notch. There is absolutely no lag anywhere during use, response is immediate and the animations are fluid and smooth.

While the design is simplistic, it still is an attractive phone. Sometimes simplicity is beauty.

The LTE performance is the real deal for me, and this alone makes me love this device despite its "limitations."