Chinese phone makers Huawei are already all the rage in their native land. We’ve seen a number of mid to high end smartphones from the company in the UK and now they’re introducing us to their lineup of top line smartphones from their Honor range. The Honor 6 was released last September with some impressive hardware and Honor’s unique user interface, a few months later Honor unveiled the 6’s bigger brother, the 6+. With the Honor 7 on the verge of launch we take a look at the 5.5 inch powerhouse to see if this could be Honor’s breakthrough into the European market.

So, let’s start with the positives. The 6+ looks and feels great. It’s sleek with smooth rounded edges. There’s not a load of fuss or facial features to distract from the overall look of the phone, even the word Honor emblazoned across the back looks cool. The back also sees the phone’s two cameras (yes, two cameras on the back!), it’s dual LED flash and the phone’s first fault, a tiny back speaker. The speaker which is completely obscured once in the hand just leaves me wondering why in the world companies still put speakers on the back of their phones. It’s always a bad idea.

Apart from the extra 0.5 inches, the 6+ is indistinguishable from its older sibling the 6
Apart from the extra 0.5 inches, the 6+ is indistinguishable from its older sibling the 6

The Honor 6+ feels great in to hold. It’s metal and glass body feels solid and well built. The kind of device put together so delicately that dropping and smashing it is a constant fear. A 5.5 inch display isn’t unheard of and despite being the same size as an iPhone 6 Plus it doesn’t feel or look huge. It has a screen to body ratio of 73% so there’s still quite a bit of room on the face of the 6+ that goes unused unfortunately.

The screen itself divides my opinion. The 1080 x 1920 pixels with a 401 ppi pixel density makes it identical to Apple’s 6 Plus and looking at images on the phone whether stock or taken with the camera is a joy, colours are sharp and really pop. However, watching videos wasn’t as great an experience with 720p the highest quality I could get out of it.

It’s worth noting that the 6+ and 6 look like the iPhone so much you’d think they were knockoffs. The iPhone is yet to gain widespread popularity in China, it still remains an aspirational item and sign of wealth and exclusivity so Honor designing a similar looking device that’s more freely available makes sense from a business point of view.

Smooth rounded edges make for a stylish iPhone-esque looking phone. Volume & power keys sit off centre on the side above the 6+'s two sim card slots
Smooth rounded edges make for a stylish iPhone-esque looking phone. Volume & power keys sit off centre on the side above the 6+’s two sim card slots

Sticking with the hardware it continues to impress with its dual 8MP back cameras and powerful front facing 8MP shooter. The back camera works in a similar style to HTC’s One M8. Two individual cameras allow for greater editing and focus control. With the One M8 the dual camera seemed a bit gimmicky, at times it felt that way with the 6 Plus but I must admit it works pretty well and made shooting with the 6+ really fun.

The camera features three main modes – a standard Photo mode, Wide aperture mode which makes good use of the two lenses and a video recording mode. Within Photo lies your panorama and HDR modes as well as a Best photo mode which takes a number of snaps and lets you choose the best one, a Watermark mode (maybe one of the less useful features), Super night mode and an Audio note mode which allows you record a brief sound bite to accompany your photo (unless you’re unfamiliar with Snapchat another pretty pointless mode). There’s also a Beauty mode which allows you to airbrush your image within the viewfinder before you even hit the shutter button, this is quite a surreal addition but was fun and can see it being a hit with hunters of the perfect selfie.

Being the handsome devil I am I found little use for the Beauty mode features, but here's one for the sake of this review
Being the handsome devil I am I found little use for the Beauty mode features, but here’s one for the sake of this review

The camera itself took great photos in the day adjusting quite nicely to changes in natural light. Its autofocus was near spot on in clear light and did well to recognise faces. It didn’t handle taking pics at night as well though, I found that it focused mostly on where the light was coming from and left much of the remaining image dark and sometimes even unseeable. A little disappointing but once you get a nack of knowing what and when to capture you’ll be able to get some really great photos from the 6+.

The Honor 6+ packs a 3600mAh battery, which on paper sounds great. In reality isn’t amazing but is far from substandard. On average I was getting around 12-14 hours of moderate to heavy use out the handset before needing to charge it up again. Also under the hood is either 16GB or 32GB of storage along with a MicroSD card slot.

In Super night mode took in light well in dark settings for the most part and when it worked produced some really great photos
In Super night mode took in light well in dark settings for the most part and when it worked produced some really great photos

 

It did mostly focus on where light was coming from and often left most of the rest of the scene dark and hard to see, can you spot the guy on his bike?
It did mostly focus on where light was coming from and often left most of the rest of the scene dark and hard to see, can you spot the guy on his bike?

A HiSilicon Kirin 925 chip and quad-core 1.8GHz Cortex-A15 and quad-core 1.3GHz Cortex-A7 processor coupled with 3GB of RAM make the 6+ super powerful. It handled the multiple battery draining apps I’d often leave open with ease and I can’t recall the last time the device heated up to uncomfortable or even noticeable temperatures.

So a fantastic screen, long lasting battery, pretty special camera and impressive specs. You’d almost think this was a perfect phone but by trying to thrash out a standout UI Honor really let themselves down. Emotion UI 3.0 is Honor’s skin of choice and although features some genuinely useful features is overall, just not that good. At all.

Many skins add bloatware and give the device a different appearance but Emotion UI does changes much more than that.  Many features feel like pointless novelties. Things like having a pop up menu so you can change the lockscreen wallpaper instead of having notifications or app controls while the phone is locked seems like a big swing and miss on Honor’s part.

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It’s clear Honor want to shake off the ‘knockoff iPhone’ tag with unique hardware and software but the Emotion UI fails its hardware heavily. Many of the tools and lack of tools in

The two lenses plus its many editing features made for an overall fun experience using the camera on the 6+
The two lenses plus its many editing features made for an overall fun experience using the camera on the 6+

Emotion make using one feel very un-Android-like. With 100s of Android handsets out there but a lot less innovative skins, I can’t criticise Honor for being so left field but by scrapping an app drawer, lockscreen notifications and the general lack of customisation Honor are ignoring many additions that make Android great.

As I said before, some parts of Emotion aren’t utter disappointments. Double tap to wake (as temperamental as it was) was a great addition that I now must have it on any phone I own, there are plenty of shortcuts in the pull down menu which is also good but still not enough to make me want to use Emotion UI on a daily basis and it wasn’t long after using the Honor 6+ I went about forcing a change of launcher.

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Overall it’s got to be said the Honor 6+ is a solid piece of hardware, well build and well designed. The battery will see you through a day with ease and the processor and chipset will handle just about anything you throw at it. The camera takes some fantastic shots and the experience only gets better once you get the hang of it. The screen is glossy and vibrant and for £299 you could be paying a lot more for the same specs or even less. There is just one snag however, Emotion UI just won’t do. Pointless in places and lacking in many others, it’s the single reason why I wouldn’t buy the device.

The Honor 6+ is a triumph for Honor and Huawei when we look at build, but it is also a perfect example of how important good software is to good hardware.

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Sam Arojo is a Phonecruncher writer who loves new tech in all its forms, but at the same time still has time for old school vinyl and trainers Born and raised in London Sam has used his degree in journalism to write about pretty much anything that interests him. With several years experience as an editor and writer, Sam has created content for both online and printed formats. Sam attributes his love of gadgetry to growing up as a sci-fi fan. The gizmos used in everything from Star Trek to Ghostbusters inspired Sam's pursuit of technology. A self confessed social media addict, Sam has his phone glued to his side at all times tweeting almost as often as he speaks. When away from the office Sam is a record collector, footwear enthusiast and amateur chef. He also spends his spare time watching Sci-Fi and Kung Fu movies with a soft spot for Godzilla movies of the 60s.