Huawei’s sub-brand, Honor, has been releasing one great smartphone after another that offers plenty value for money. We liked the Honor 6, and we definitely think the Honor 4X is one of the best mid-range phablets for its price. The Honor 6 Plus sees a few notable upgrades from its predecessor, including a bigger display and a new trick up its sleeve: a dual-camera setup. Can it deliver, or is it another flop like HTC’s Duo Camera?
At first glance, the Honor 6 Plus has the looks to match its flagship status. It has a nice metal frame and a textured glass back that seems to be the de facto material choice for flagship smartphones – other than metal, that is. However, it’s a shame the metal frame doesn’t extend to the bottom part of the phone. It gives off the impression that the 6 Plus is somewhat incomplete.
Speaking of which, the metal frame is really just three strips of metal “embedded” on the plastic top, left and right sides of the phone. It’s almost as if the 6 Plus was designed to have a plastic frame and the addition of a metal frame was an afterthought. I’d much rather have a plastic phone if it means a lower retail price.
That being said, I do like how the metal strips feel. The glass back of the 6 Plus is very nice to the touch as well. Both of these aspects definitely give the smartphone a premium appearance and feel. The ergonomics of the phone is also pretty good thanks to the rounded edges; this is one instance where the bottom plastic side of the 6 Plus is a plus (excuse the pun), as it feels comfortable to rest my finger on. While I don’t like the volume rocker and power button to be placed on the same side of the phone (as it’s too easy to accidentally press the wrong button), they are very clicky and responsive.
However, heat management seems to be quite an issue with the smartphone. In extended usage (even more so when I am on mobile data), the back of the device does get noticeably hot. When I used it for navigation with Google Maps, the phone gets hot enough to the point that it will be uncomfortable to hold. It does raise some concern as to how this will affect the phone in the long run.
In any case, Honor’s flagship device looks like an excellent smartphone by first impressions alone, and even more so because of its rather affordable retail price. The design of the metal frame could have been improved on though, and the sub-par heat management does raise a few concerns.
The hardware of the Honor 6 Plus is definitely flagship level. The 5.5-inch 1080p display boasts a pixel density of 400ppi, which is more than adequate for a pleasant viewing experience – a 2K screen is hardly necessary for a 5.5-inch display.
Just like previous Honor smartphones, the 6 Plus is powered by Huawei’s own chipset, the HiSilicon Kirin 925 octa-core processor. While it doesn’t exactly offer the fluidity of a “proper” (and much more expensive) flagship smartphone such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 or Huawei’s own P8, it’s no slouch either. It performs very well in demanding games as well.
The software of the Honor 6 Plus is largely similar to the Honor 4X. In fact, it is still running on the same version of Emotion UI that is based on Android 4.4.2. However, there is a slight difference: the on-screen navigation keys. When I first got the device, I was puzzled as to why the buttons are so close to each other. After spending some time with it, however, it’s actually easier to access all three buttons, which can be a problem with a 5.5-inch device.
I was also pleasantly surprised when I found out that the button arrangements can be customised. What makes this such a useful feature is the fact that I can move the back button to the right side of the navigation bar for easier access. On top of that, there is even an option to hide the navigation bar. I’d just have to swipe up from the bottom screen in order to summon it. Very nice.
In other regards, there isn’t that much to say about the software, seeing how it is almost identical to the Honor 4X’s software. It is still stable as ever, the app drawer is nowhere to be found (which isn’t that much of an issue really) and bloatware are still present, although some of them can be really useful (such as the “Harassment Filter”).
That being said, I was expecting Honor to have updated the 6 Plus to Android Lollipop by now, instead of the tentative August roll out. Seeing how the update has been around for more than six months, I’m beginning to question Honor’s ability to deliver timely Android updates, which is a huge dealbreaker to me.
The battery life of the 6 Plus is nothing short of impressive. With a generous 3,600mAh battery, I can effortlessly get more than a day’s worth of battery life out of it. On moderate to heavy usage, which involved heavy web browsing, moderate instant messaging and video consumption, the 6 Plus still had 8% of battery life after about 27 hours.
Seeing how the battery life has impressed me so much, I’ve decided to test it to its limit. On extremely heavy usage with a ton of navigation using Google Maps and completely relying on mobile data, I’ve managed to drain the battery down to 6% after 10 hours, which is more than adequate for a typical day of usage. Do note that this was done on purpose and doesn’t reflect a normal day-to-day usage.
I really like the Honor 6 Plus’ display. It is bright and vibrant, and I love the colour temperature; it’s neither too warm or too cool. The fact that I can adjust the display’s colour temperature (which I find unnecessary to do so) is extra icing on the cake.
Like I mentioned, a 2K display is hardly logical for a 5.5-inch display. It might make sense for a bigger display (such as the 6-inch 2K panel found on the Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro), but with a pixel density of 400ppi, I doubt anyone can tell the difference. The added benefit of improved battery life for a 1080p panel heavily outweighs the negligible difference of a 2K display on a 5.5-inch display.
In terms of the 6 Plus’ audio quality, there really is nothing to write home about. Is it loud? Sure. Does it offer one of the best audio quality for a flagship device? Hardly. It’s just average, but it’s not bad either. While it doesn’t crackle at maximum volume, it just sounds loud without much clarity. I also don’t agree with the rear-firing speaker. It gets muffled when it is placed down on any surface.
Here’s one of the most interesting aspects of the Honor 6 Plus: its rear camera. Honor sang praises for its latest flagship’s dual-camera setup. In fact, the company touts the camera performance as one of the main selling points of the 6 Plus.
And frankly, the company had the right reasons. Honor did deliver what it promised.
With adequate lighting, images captured with the 6 Plus is very impressive. Colour reproduction is very good, and the more time I spend with the 6 Plus’ camera, the more impressed I am. Scenery shots are sharp and detailed, and macro shots are simply gorgeous with the Wide Aperture mode.
This mode basically allows the aperture to go down to as low as f/0.95, giving the camera the ability to shoot with a very shallow depth of field. Even more impressive is the fact that I can actually refocus the images after I have taken it. Let me explain with these two images:
This refocus feature will be very familiar with users of the HTC One M8, allowing users to adjust the focus point of an image after it has been shot. A lot of other phones offer this feature these days, but the dual-camera setup on the 6 Plus allows for a more natural depth of field image, instead of a software-derived one.
Alright, so the camera performs really well with good lighting. How does it perform in low-light conditions? I’ll let the pictures do the talking:
As you can see, low-light performance is pretty good as well. There is also another mode called “Super Night” which essentially takes a series of images with different exposures. However, I wasn’t able to bring out the most of it. When I tried it out, I was required to hold the phone still for about 20 seconds. Needless to say, I didn’t do such a good job:
Even though the image above doesn’t exactly give the Super Night mode justice, I’m sure photography enthusiasts with the proper equipment (such as a tripod) will be able to fully unlock this mode’s potential for beautiful light streaks instead of the blur, ghostly cars on the road like I managed in the image above.
All in all, the camera performance of the 6 Plus does not disappoint. I’d even go as far to say that it is one of the best smartphone cameras that I have had the pleasure to review.
Retailing at RM1,399, the Honor 6 Plus is priced pretty low for a flagship device, but not low enough to be the cheapest one either. In terms of competition, several smartphones come to mind, such as the 2014’s “flagship killer”, the OnePlus One.
Officially entering our market not too long ago, the OnePlus One was one of the most anticipated smartphones of 2014. Even though it has been a year ever since it was introduced, many are still of the opinion (me included) that it is one of the best Android smartphones in terms of value for money.
What makes the OnePlus One such an attractive flagship is what you are getting for the price. For RM1,199 (RM1,270 with GST), it is powered by a (still) very capable Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, a sharp 5.5-inch 1080p display, 3GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage. What it lacks in terms of hardware, however, is a microSD card slot, dual-SIM support, and an arguably less premium construction – though some may argue it has a better design than the 6 Plus.
That being said, there is one major advantage that the OnePlus One has over the Honor 6 Plus: software. The 6 Plus is still running on Android 4.4 KitKat, while the OnePlus not only has one, but two choices of ROMs that are based on Android 5.0 Lollipop, namely its very own OxygenOS and Cyanogen OS 12. Personally, I value software as much as I do hardware; both have to be on par with each other in order for the smartphone to be an excellent one.
Although the OnePlus One has the better software over the Honor 6 Plus, its camera performance leaves a lot to be desired. In our review of it, we weren’t very fond of its camera performance. The 6 Plus, on the other hand, proved to be a very capable shooter. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of what you as a consumer is looking for in a smartphone. Do you prefer a smartphone with very good software with tons of customisability, or a very capable shooter with okay software?
Other than that, the top-of-the-line Asus ZenFone 2 is a worthy competition to the 6 Plus as well. Much like how Honor praises its flagship’s camera performance, Asus is equally proud of the ZenFone 2’s PixelMaster camera as well. The company claims that the technology enables the ZenFone 2 to deliver “unparalleled low-light performance”, but until we can get our hands on it, we’d just have to go by Asus’ words (for now).
In other regards, the ZenFone 2 doesn’t exactly have the hardware to match the 6 Plus. For starters, the 6 Plus has a more premium construction while the ZenFone 2 is completely made out of plastic. It also lacks dual 4G SIM support. That being said, the ZenFone 2 does have 4GB of RAM (the first in the world, in fact) against the 6 Plus’ 3GB.
However, more importantly, the Asus ZenFone 2 only costs RM1,099 for 32GB of internal storage. The Honor 6 Plus, on the other hand, costs RM300 more, but you are getting a device that looks and feels more premium.
The Honor 6 Plus is a great flagship smartphone. For one thing, it has a premium construction, although I wish the metal frame extends to the bottom side of the phone as well. Performance-wise, it isn’t too far off from more expensive flagship devices either. Most of all, its camera performance is nothing short of impressive.
For RM1,399, it is one of the cheaper flagship devices in the market. While it’s not as cheap as its predecessor, the Honor 6, it does bring a few new tricks up its sleeve to warrant the price increase. At the pace Honor is going, I won’t be surprised if it will be as popular as other phone manufacturers in the near future.
Now about the Android Lollipop update for it…