DNA Test: Huawei’s Honor 4X not quite that ho-hum
By Edwin Yapp May 21, 2015
THERE’S no doubt that the mid-range smartphones that have permeated the market in the past year have set new benchmarks in terms of the hardware they pack.
China-based vendors such as Xiaomi, Lenovo, Oppo, OnePlus and Huawei are giving consumers today a field day for phones that cost between RM500 (US$140) and RM1,000 (US$280).
One such smartphone that hit the market recently is the Huawei Honor 4X, which sits just under a slightly more expensive model called the Honor 6. The Honor 4X was released in October of 2014 and came to Malaysian shores in April, 2015.
It is based on an ARM Cortex Octa-Core chip running at 1.2GHz, and comes with 2GB of RAM (random access memory) and 8GB of internal storage, which is expandable to 32GB by way of a microSD card. The Honor 4X also supports dual-SIM cards.
The display is a 5.5-inch, 16-million colour IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 720 x 1,280 pixels. The pixel density translates to about 267 pixels per sq inch.
It comes equipped with a 13-megapixel rear, 5-megapixel front camera with an f/2.0 aperture; a 3,000mAH battery, weighs about 170g, and supports GSM, 3G (Third Generation) and LTE (Long-Term Evolution). The test device I had ran on the Android Kitkat version 4.4.2 operating system (OS), although other sites seemed to have reviewed devices that had Android version 4.4.4.
That said, the Honor 4X is slated to upgrade to Android 5 Lollipop sometime later this year, so you will eventually get the latest OS on your device.
Design and build
The first thing that struck me about the Honor 4X is its massive 5.5-inch screen, me being a long-time user of a 4.7-inch screen. Yet, as I held on to the Honor 4X after about two weeks of use, I found that I could get used to it, although my personal preference is to have a screen size of no more than 5.2 inches.
The Honor 4X is reasonably well built and while it doesn’t sport the all-aluminium unibody found in high-end phones like the iPhone, HTC M9 or Samsung Galaxy S6, the overall build feels solid enough.
That said, I do feel that the Huawei could have used better grade plastics to wrap the Honor 4X, as Motorola has done so with its Moto X, G and E series of smartphones.
Opening the back cover, you’ll find two slots for SIM cards, a microSD slot for memory expansion, and a non-removable battery. On the back, you’ll find a matte white plastic cover with the model name ‘honor’ embossed in the middle, which is a nice touch in an otherwise boring look.
You’ll find the power and volume buttons on the right side, and the headphone jack on the top of the device. On the whole, the build quality is acceptable at this price range, although I did find that after a few times of opening and closing, the back cover began to feel a little loose – as can be expected from a plastic construction.
Some of you may however feel that other competing smartphones in this price range offer better build quality, so my advice is to check them out yourself before committing to buying one.
Performance and battery life
Given the relatively affordable price tag for the Honor 4X, it’s surprising that you can find a powerful 64-bit, 8-core chip underneath the hood. This, mated with 2GB RAM, in theory should power most applications with ease. For the most part, this was true during our DNA Test.
However, I found that there were times when I was using certain apps that seemed a tad slow, such as when I opened multiple tabs within the browser to surf different websites. I found that switching from one tab to another was somewhat frustrating as responses took a second or two longer than I would have liked.
Still, it’s not every day you see an RM600 (US$170) smartphone come with an 8-core chip and 2GB RAM. For the most part, an undemanding user would find the device more than adequate as far as performance is concerned, which to me is the best selling feature of this device. Power users will want to stay away, of course!
Where the Honor 4X does seems to shine is in its battery life. With constant data connection, screen use, the occasional camera shot, music playing and several social media and browsing apps running in the background, the 3,000mAH battery still manages to eke out more than a day’s worth of battery life.
The one thing that was a letdown for me was the fact that the Honor 4X only had 8GB of internal storage. While storage space can be augmented via a microSD card, it’s not unreasonable these days for a smartphone to come equipped with at least 16GB of internal memory.
Display and camera
These days, having a 13-megapixel and 5-megapixel camera at the back and front is pretty standard. For the most part, I found the Honor 4X quite a competent shooter. The camera function has a number of options for the user, including geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, panorama shots, and HDR – many of which aren’t very different from the other mid-range smartphones out there.
The shots I took were pretty good, and the colour vivid enough for a 13-megapixel camera. Low light shots weren’t too bad either although there are other equivalent 13-megapixels that perform better in this area.
The Honor 4X also includes ‘Beauty Mode,’ where the camera software smoothens out defects found in pictures, thereby giving the shot taken a ‘cleaner’ look. I did take some pictures with it but I didn’t like this feature at all – I’ll spare you samples of what I took – as it makes shots look artificial.
Other noteworthy features are the ‘All-Focus Mode,’ which allows you to select areas to refocus after a picture has been taken; the ‘Watermarks’ feature that adds more flavour and personalisation to your photos with a selection of colour watermarks; and the ‘Panoramic Selfie Mode,’ which offers users a wide-angle scope that can now encompass all-inclusive views within the photo.
Display-wise, the Honor 4X performed credibly, but with the resolution set only at 720 x 1,280 pixels and a pixel density of about 267 pixels per sq inch, the display isn’t something to shout about.
I also found the auto-brightness setting frustrating to use, with the sensors a bit too 'aggressive.' For example, if I were coming in from the outside, the sensors would dim the screen too much, to the point that it becomes too dark to read. The reverse happens when I take the smartphone out to bright spots, when the sensors don’t ramp up the lighting fast enough.
Other than that, I had no real complaints.
Software and UI
From a user interface (UI) standpoint, the Honor 4X sports its own Emotion UI (EMUI) 3.0 sitting on top of an Android 4.4.2 (on my test device). The UI is similar to those seen on other Chinese smartphones, such as those from Xiaomi and Oppo. The UI doesn’t sport an app drawer and apps are instead arranged in a 4x5 grid pattern.
Personally, I don’t like this arrangement as I much prefer an app drawer, having gotten so used to the stock Android feel on my Moto X. Still, some people might like all their apps arranged on the front screen.
Amongst the proprietary apps that come with the Honor 4X are Themes and Phone Manager. The notification drawer has two columns – one for notifications; the other for shortcuts.
To bring the list of recent apps up, users simply have to long press the square-shaped menu button, which can be swiped off to shut the app or pulled down upon and released to lock them. To clear all the apps you just swipe from the base to the top.
Overall, the software and UI work, but nothing really stands out from the rest of the pack.
Pricing and availability
The recommended retail price for the Honor 4X is RM619 (US$173), inclusive of GST, which is a pretty good bang for your buck. Only 18 months ago, you would have been hardpressed to find a smartphone with such specs on the market. Those interested can head to the official Honor online store at www.vmall.my.
The Huawei Honor 4X is one of the many devices in the market that has filled the mid-range smartphone gap. It’s a credible performer, but isn’t revolutionary (as is to be expected).
However, the lack of internal memory and the slow responsiveness is what holds it back, to me. With no shortage of similar options out there in the market, consumers would do well to shop around before deciding.