Honor 5C review: a capable option for those who aren’t comfortable with phablets

Expert Rating
  • Premium design
  • Latest iteration of Android with useful features
  • Multi-purpose fingerprint reader
  • Average battery life
  • Camera performance doesn’t match the competition

There are two type of smartphone brands – those that follow a carpet-bombing approach to offer more choice, and those that have a clearly differentiated portfolio to target different customers. Huawei’s sub-brand Honor falls in the latter category, since even though it entered the Indian market almost a couple of years back, it hasn’t bombarded the market with a slew of launches. The budget category being among the largest growth drivers, it introduced the Honor 4X (review) last year, followed by its sibling, the Honor 4C (review). This year too, the Chinese company is treading on the same path. After launching the 5X (review) in February, it has now released its smaller avatar in the form of Honor 5C.

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As per our first look, the Honor 5C seems to have struck a perfect balance between performance and portability – and that too at an affordable price tag of Rs 10,999. But does our opinion remain the same after using it as our primary device for the past few weeks? Read on to find out.

Specs at a glance

Size5.2 Inch
ResolutionFull HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
CPU Quad core, 2 GHz + Quad core, 1.7 GHz, HiSilicon Kirin
Internal memory16 GB
External memoryUp to 128 GB
Capacity3000 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable
TalktimeUp to 18.9 Hours (3G)
Standby TimeUp to 630 Hours (3G)
Primary camera13 MP
Secondary camera8 MP
Network supportDual SIM 4G
Other options Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS
Battery Capacity3000
Operating systemAndroid 6.0 Marshmallow

Design: a compact phone encased in metal

Dimensions: 147.1 x 73.8 x 8.3 mm
Weight: 156 grams

Being a sibling to the Honor 5X, the design ethics of 5C are quite similar. However, what’s interesting is that from the front, it also seems to have borrowed some characteristics from the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3. However, the placement of capacitive buttons on the latter and Honor’s branding are a dead giveaway that two devices are different.

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Thanks to its compact 5.2-inch display, the Honor 5C measures 147.1mm by 73.8mm, which is an ideal size for using it with a single hand. It nestles well in the hand, and we didn’t face any issues while reaching the corners of the screen. Its weight of 156g has been distributed well over the body, and it doesn’t seem to be bulky. Although, it’s not the slimmest phone in its segment with its waist size of 8.3mm.

Up front, the display panel dominates the affairs, and there’s considerable amount of bezel around, which seems wasteful. Above the display, there’s an earpiece, secondary camera, ambient light and proximity sensors. Honor’s logo is placed below, and the navigation keys are available as part of the software interface.

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The right edge sports both the power button as well as the volume keys, and both of them offer good tactile feedback. Towards the left, you’ll find an ejectable tray which can accept a SIM card and either a secondary SIM or a microSD card. The spines have a linear pattern which adds to the uniqueness of the Honor 5C.

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The 3.5mm audio socket can be found up top along with the noise-cancellation mic, while the micro-USB port can be found at the base, sandwiched between CNC-drilled holes that hide the speaker and the primary microphone on either side.

The Honor 5C is a unibody smartphone and like most phones these days, it’s crafted out of metal. The edges and antenna bands are made out of plastic though. Our review unit came in gold, which looks premium… though we think the grey option looks better and classier. The rear panel is slightly curved, which helps in the ergonomic handling of the phone. The star-patterned finish seems pleasing and also ensures that there aren’t any smudges.

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The primary camera module which protrudes a bit can be found at the rear of the Honor 5C. An LED flash sits alongside, and below the shooter is the fingerprint scanner. Honor’s branding can be found further below.

All in all, we really like the Honor 5C’s design for its comfortable size and premium construction.

Display: plenty sharp, but lacks the punch

Size: 5.2 Inch
Resolution: Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
Display Type: IPS LCD
Pixel Density: 424 ppi

Similar to the Honor 5X, the Honor 5C sports 1080p resolution. Combined with the screen size of 5.2-inches, the device offers a pixel density of 424ppi. The IPS panel delivers crisp text and natural colours. Sadly, the colours don’t pop as much as we’d have liked. The brightness levels are adequate though, until you use the phone outdoors. The viewing angles are also quite wide.

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If you don’t like the colour temperature of the 5C’s screen just like us, then you can change it to suit your needs. You can choose between warm or cold colours or directly choose the colour in the circle.

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The Honor 5C also offers a glove mode, which is quite useful. It was able to accept touch inputs even when we were wearing gloves.

Software: Marshmallow with an Emotional quotient

Operating System: Android
OS Version: 6.0, Marshmallow

The 5C is the first phone in Honor’s lineup that comes with the latest build of Android out of the box. However, you won’t notice that since Honor’s Emotion UI v4.1 masks Android 6.0 Marshmallow completely. The interface is similar to what’s available in its siblings – be it the Honor 5X or the flagship, Honor 7 (review).

Honor 5C screenshot (6) Honor 5C screenshot (2) Honor 5C screenshot (3)

The lock screen offers a lovely new wallpaper every time you press the unlock button, thanks to the Magazine Unlock feature. The home screens have all the apps and widgets, while the notification drawer lists all the notifications on one tab and quick toggles on the other. The search bar in the home screen is quite handy as you find apps, contacts or messages by simply swiping downwards. If you don’t like the interface of the Honor 5C, then you can tweak it as per you liking with the Themes app.

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There’s all-in-one tool called Phone Manager as well, which lets you optimise the 5C’s memory management, data consumption, battery usage, notifications and more. In terms of preloaded apps, the phone comes with Facebook, Instagram, etc. There’s a Health app too, which tracks your steps and calories. Then there are Honor’s Hi Care app and Hi Game apps, which let you check nearby service centres and download games respectively. The Emergency feature lets you set up emergency contacts who will get a prompt when you press a certain key combination.

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The Honor 5C also supports flip-to-mute gestures as well as one-hand UI. You can also enable the floating dock to access the frequently-needed actions such as back, home, recent apps and even one-click optimisation tool.

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We have come to admire Honor for one of the best implementations of fingerprint readers, and 5C keeps up that reputation. The scanner can register a new fingerprint with just six taps, and is extremely fast. It’s accurate too, and there was rarely an instance where it failed to authenticate. But that’s not what’s great about the biometric module, as it can act as a button too. You can use it to open the navigation shade or recently-accessed apps with swipe gestures. It can also be used as a shutter button while using the camera app or answering phone calls.

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Camera: good for casual purposes, mostly

Primary camera: 13 MP
Flash: LED Flash
Secondary camera: 8 MP

Similar to the Honor 5X, the 5C flaunts a 13-meg snapper at the back with f/2.0 aperture. However, it gets an upgrade in the selfie department as it sports an 8MP shooter. The rear camera also gets an LED flash to assist you in low-light settings.

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The camera app of the Honor 5C is quite loaded, while not inundating the user with a multitude of options up front. The default interface remains fairly minimal, with the right side offering options to capture the image or record a video along with the ability to preview them in the landscape mode. Towards the left, you’ll find the toggle for flash, switching to the front camera as well as the ability to enable live filters such as Mono, Nostalgia, etc. If you swipe upwards in this orientation, then the interface brings forth a number of modes from as basic as HDR and panorama to pro, time lapse, and food among others. What’s worth noting is the fact that pro mode is available for both photos and videos, which means you can tweak white balance, exposure, etc. for both, although options like shutter speed and ISO are reserved for stills only. Light painting is another useful feature, that lets you capture DSLR-like photos by reducing the shutter speed to capture light trails left by cars or stars in the sky.

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Well, the camera app is loaded for sure, but what about  the image quality? In daylight, the Honor 5C is able to capture decent pictures with good details and accurate colour reproduction. The HDR mode is quite effective too as it adds more contrast to the scene. However, if you view these images in the original resolution, then they aren’t able to keep up the same levels of sharpness. This is noticeable in close-ups since the edges are blurred at full size. That said, the close up images are quite impressive thanks to the bokeh effect adding to the charm. The low-light shots are a different story altogether, as there are a lot of grains and the LED flash is often overpowering.

Here are a few image samples captured by the Honor 5C.

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The 8MP camera at the front might seem high in terms of megapixel count, but that fails to show up in results. The selfies captured by the Honor 5C turn out grainy, although we believe that this could be fixed by a software update.

Honor 5C front camera shot

Not just in photo quality, the Honor 5C seems to be trailing the competition in the video department as well, as it’s only able to record in 1080p resolution. In comparison, both the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (camera review) and LeEco Le 2 (camera review) can capture up to 4K videos.

Performance: the power of sweet 16 (nm fabrication process)

CPU:  Quad core, 2 GHz + Quad core,…
GPU: Mali-T830 MP2
Memory: 16 GB + Up to 128 GB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM
Battery: 3000 mAH
While the Honor 5C seems to be just like any other budget offering till now, the Huawei-owned company has put a lot of efforts on its performance front. Not only it has used its own solution for the processor, but it has also ensured that its architecture matches what flagships pack in. The 5C is equipped with the Kirin 650 SoC, a 64-bit chipset with 16nm FinFET+ process. For comparison, most smartphones in the affordable segment come with chips based on 28nm fabrication, and only high-end silicon like the Apple A9 and Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 utilise 14nm size. The processor is paired with 2GB of RAM and Mali-T880 MP2 graphics engine.

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The smaller size isn’t just for garnering headlines though, since the reduction in size improves the thermal efficiency along with delivering better battery life. Our real-life usage lives up to most promises made by Honor as the 5C is able to handle everything well, without getting heated. However, the gaming experience isn’t as smooth as we’d liked and there are noticeable stutters as well as frame drops. The heating issue also exists when you play titles like Injustice: Gods among us and Riptide GP2 for long durations.

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For storage, the Honor 5C relies on 16GB memory on board. After accounting for OS and its resources, users would be able to access around 9.65GB of space. You can also extend the storage further by inserting a microSD card of up to 256GB. Strangely enough, the 5C omits USB On-the-Go support, which is available on most phones nowadays.

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The smartphone can accept two nano-SIMs, and both of them are compatible with 4G networks, though it doesn’t support VoLTE. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS.

The speaker on the Honor 5C offers decent output, but it’s not that loud. Add to it the fact that the speaker gets covered by the hand when the phone is held horizontally, it makes for a dismal experience while gaming or watching movies.

Fuelling the Honor 5C is a 3,000mAh non-removable battery. The battery ensures a day’s worth of usage with basic to moderate use including calls, 4G browsing and some gaming. That said, its battery life can’t match up to the competition which offers as much as 30 percent more capacity. This reflects in our battery drain test as well, since the 5C is able to play back a 720p video on loop (brightness and volume set at 50 percent, and only the cellular network being enabled) for about 10 hours. This is little more than average, but for reference purposes, some phones in this segment can play an HD video for more than 14 hours.

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Another odd thing about the 5C is that it doesn’t feature fast charging. Combine that with the bundled 1A wall charger, and you’e looking at a charging time of about two and a half hours. Even with a 2A adapter, it took quite long to charge fully.

As a respite though, you can enable various battery saving modes to extend the battery life. While Smart mode uses the battery efficiently, the Ultra power saving mode, as the name suggests, shuts down all features and only lets you make calls or send messages. The Battery manager also helps in finding the apps or features that are sucking the juice the most.

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At a time when it’s hard to find compact smartphones in the sub-Rs 15,000 segment, the Honor 5C seems to be filling a huge void, and thus creating a big opportunity for itself. At Rs 10,999, it flaunts an impressive design language with decent hardware.

However, it also seems to have missed the opportunity as it’s average in all aspects. Compact size aside, smartphones like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (review) and LeEco Le 2 (first impressions) come across as a better all-round packages. The Redmi Note 3 has powerful hardware along with the long-lasting battery life, whereas the Le 2 boasts loaded innards as well as an entertainment ecosystem for free movies, TV series and music.

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Overall, the Honor 5C is a mixed bag. It’s a powerful smartphone with a compact form factor, but failed to impress us when it came to its imaging capabilities or hardware prowess.


Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5



  • Premium design
  • Latest iteration of Android with useful features
  • Multi-purpose fingerprint reader



  • Average battery life
  • Camera performance doesn’t match the competition


Photos by Raj Rout