Huawei Honor review: look out, Samsung - TechCentral

Huawei Honor review: look out, Samsung

Though Huawei isn’t a newcomer to SA, it’s only really begun to get traction in smartphones this year. It’s best known for its budget handsets but the Chinese company is also looking to tackle the top-end of the market. One of its first attempts is the U8860 “Honor”, a smartphone with a feature-phone price tag.

As far as specifications go, the Honor stacks up well against its nearest competitors. It’s powered by a 1,4GHz Scorpion processor (the same one found in Nokia’s Lumia 800) and has 512MB of RAM and 4GB of flash memory. The Honor’s storage space is expandable by up to 32GB via a microSD card slot.

The Honor runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and comes with the custom user interface overlays we’ve come to expect from manufacturers looking to differentiate their products. Huawei’s attempt at jazzing up Android is surprisingly good and it includes a couple of real gems.

Most noticeable among the various tweaks is Huawei’s treatment of the Honor’s on-screen keyboard. Swiping across it lets you select from three different keyboard layouts: a Qwerty keyboard; one that pairs letters together for larger keys and then uses predictive text; and a numeric keyboard for the one-handed typists who miss the days of three letters to a key.

Swiping up on a key inserts a capital letter while swiping down inserts the symbol beneath it — the numbers 1 to 6 in the case of the letters beneath Qwerty. The result is a phone that allows for incredibly speedy text input, complete with haptic feedback and traditional Android shortcuts such as the ability to hit the space key twice for a full stop.

Huawei calls its keyboard treatment “TouchPal” and it includes an edit menu that offers users four-way arrow keys grouped around a “select” button and options for “page up/down”, “home”, “end” and the requisite copy, paste and cut functions. For those that type long message or e-mails, this feature alone makes the Honor worthy of a second look.

A further addition to the user interface that may not be unique to Huawei — but is nevertheless welcome — is its amendment to the Honor’s lock screen. Dragging the padlock icon to the left of a circle opens messages, while the right side unlocks it. Dragging it up opens the call log and down the camera — and what a capable camera it is.

The Honor’s no lay-about when it comes to its camera; something that’s normally one of the first things to be sacrificed when the price tag is low. Boasting an 8-megapixel autofocus shooter that’s also capable of 720p video at 30 frames per second, and offering a great deal of manual control, the Honor holds up pretty well against its far pricier competitors.

Though the autofocus is not the snappiest we’ve seen, and is always centred, video quality is respectable. The front-facing camera might only be VGA, but the fact that there’s a front-facing camera at all is something to be impressed by. It’s not the best camera phone in the world but when one considers that the Honor costs less than R2 500 it’s downright astounding.

That’s right, the Honor is R2 399! Despite the price, it has a four-inch display that’s the same width as the iPhone’s but a little taller. The resolution isn’t to be sneezed at, either. With 480×854-pixel resolution and a pixel density of roughly 245ppi, the Honor has the best screen we’ve seen on a budget device to date.

Thanks to its processor, the Honor is very smooth to operate — there is no lag whatsoever when moving between home screen and applications open nearly instantly. Even with multiple applications running it doesn’t slow down. Frankly, the user experience is akin to that of a device twice its price.

If there’s any complaint to be levelled at the Honor, it’s the shoddy English that’s crept into the software. For example, the tutorial for TouchPal includes typos such as “accroding” and “recommanded” on the page explaining its auto-correction functionality.

However, that’s a minor gripe about what is a truly incredible device. For the price, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more capable handset. If Huawei can continue to up its game while keeping its prices low it could do what Hyundai did to cars and Samsung did to, well, handsets. If Huawei’s competitors aren’t paying attention, they certainly should be. The dragon is awakening.  — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media

  • At the time of publication, TechCentral was quoted a price of R2 499 for the Huawei Honor. Huawei has since indicated that the standalone price in SA is in fact R3 599. Unfortunately, the impetus of our review was shaped by the far lower of the two prices and the piece should be read with that in mind.

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