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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Review: Huawei Honor


The name Huawei may not ring a bell for most phone buyers in India, but it is a huge multinational firm. The company is among the leading manufacturers of telecom equipment in the world and in the recent years has become a big player in phone and tablet market.

Gartner, a market research firm, said in February that Huawei had 2.3% share in 2011 in smartphone market worldwide. This put it marginally ahead of Motorola and Sony Ericsson.

After some success in its home country - China - the firm has started expanding operations abroad. Due to similarities in Indian and Chinese phone market - both are developing countries and price sensitive - consumers here are obvious targets for Huawei. Last year, it had tested the waters here with Ideos range of phones. This year it is more assertive. It has already launched Honor, a mid-range Android phone, and plans to bring Ascend D, the flagship device, soon.

We have Honor with us today. With this phone, Huawei promises consumers best-in-class features at most competitive price. Not an easy promise to fulfill, we know. Let's find out if Honor can take on the competition in mid-range smartphone market.

Looks good on paper Honor may not have superstar looks but it's not shabby either. The design is classic candy bar. It has a plastic body with two buttons - power and volume rocker - given chrome finish. Under the 4-inches screen, which has a resolution of 480 x 854 pixels, there are four touch buttons for Options, Home, Back and Search. The back cover, which has a textured finish, can be removed to access SIM slot and battery.

With a thickness of 11mm and a weight of 140grams, there is nothing striking about Honor. But at the same time, it is functional design, which makes using the device very easy.

Honor is powered by a single-core 1.4Ghz processor. It has 512MB RAM and 4GB storage, with option to add a micro SD card. The highlight of the device is 8MP primary camera with a LED flash. The phone can record videos in up to 720P resolution. A 2MP camera is provided for video chats.

User experience
In terms of hardware, Honor is better many mid-range phone. But after using it for weeks, we feel that the hardware advantage has not translated into the user experience that can put Honor ahead of the pack. Let us elaborate.

For most parts, Honor acts like a nice mid-range Android phones. This means it may not dazzle you with speed and superfast user interface but for all practical purposes the performance is adequate. Apps open without any lag, casual games like Angry Birds work very well, GPS locks in a snap, browsing experience is pleasant, and call quality is good. Media playback is average with the phone failing to play several file formats, like the ones encoded with DivX, but that is acceptable from a mid-range phone. Honor's speaker, though, is very loud considering its size.

But there are two aspects that stand out. One for good reasons and another for, well, not being up to the mark.

Good news first. The 8MP pixels camera in Honor punches above its weight. The photograph taken with it have decent amount of details and balanced colours. It doesn't perform very well in low-light but it is all same with most midrange smartphones. Videos shot in 720P resolution are acceptable.

Now, the bad news. Honor's 4-inch screen is disappointing. It shows good colours and is sufficiently bright until you are not standing in sunlight. Viewing angles could have been better but they will not be any issue for most buyers. The problem is with the screen's touch sensitivity, which is a tad slow. It is not as slow or bad as what found on sub-10K phones but then Honor is not competing with these phones. While in many tasks - for example web browsing - it doesn't affect the user experience, playing games like Temple Run, which require flawless touch sensitivity, is difficult on Honor.

Another problem with screen is 'ghosting'. It is especially apparent if you are using a Twitter app. While scrolling through timeline, display pictures of contacts leave traces. Ghosting may not be a problem in most cases but if it occurs - in our case it was during Twitter use - it will bug users.

Battery life is good. When used for emails, Twitter, some photography, some gaming, some calls and lots of browsing the phone lasted over 10 hours on 3G connection.

Worth its price
Huawei Honor is a decent phone for its price. Screen could have been better but given its good performance and a decent camera for still pictures, our experience with Honor wasn't bad. At the same time, it is not the kind of experience that can make us give Honor a clear recommendation. The phone has an MRP of Rs 19,999. At this price, its primary competitors are HTC One V, Samsung Galaxy S Plus, Sony Ericsson Neo V and Nokia Lumia 710.

If you are out in the market, looking for a mid-range smartphone, you should definitely consider Honor. Just that before buying it, make sure you demo it at the store to see if you are comfortable with the touch response or not.

Pros: Good camera for still photographs, lag-free performance

Cons: Screen touch sensitivity is not optimum, out-of-box runs on Gingerbread and not Ice cream sandwich, the latest version of Android