We review the Huawei GR5!
Huawei’s Honor line of smartphones made a splash last year when they were released in the PH, punching way above their weight in terms of specs and design. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen anything new from the Honor lineup this year – which made us wonder about the sub-brand’s future in the PH.
That was until Huawei announced the GR5 for sale in the Philippines. For those not in the know, the GR5 is a modified version of the Honor 5X, a smartphone being sold in other countries under the Honor line. It seems that Huawei’s consolidated their own budget Honor lineup to their own brand moving forward, so as to not confuse customers in some territories.
As for the phone itself? It’s another solid mid-range offering from Huawei, punching well above its weight. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Huawei GR5 specs
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 octa-core processor
- 2GB of RAM
- 5.5-inch full HD IPS panel, 1920 x 1080 resolution
- 16GB of expandable storage, up to 128GB
- 13-megapixel rear camera with f/2.0 aperture, AF LED flash
- 5-megapixel front camera, f/2.4 aperture
- Dual SIM
- 3G, LTE
- WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, Fingerprint scanner
- 3000mAh battery
- Android 5.1 with EMUI 3.1
A midrange offering that feels more expensive than it is
Huawei’s been working hard on their own design identity with each release, and the GR5 certainly looks the part. Despite having a mid-range price point the GR5 sports a full metal build, which belies its mid-range nature. What’s even better is that metal body is a unibody type, cut from a single piece of aluminum. The unibody nature of the phone lends it a very premium heft and feel that’s not present in other similarly-priced smartphones.
The back of the phone features a brushed metal finish, which gives it a bit of visual variety when looking at it from the rear. Also on the rear of the phone is the 13-megapixel rear camera, as well as the fast and highly accurate fingerprint scanner that Huawei’s known for.
Flipping the phone back over to the front, you’ll see the 5.5-inch full HD display as well as the narrow side bezels. The top and bottom bezels aren’t that big, which reduces the overall size of the phone. On the right side of the device is the power and volume rockers, while the left side holds the SIM slots and microSD expansion slot. The top of the phone holds the 3.5mm jack while the bottom has the USB port.
Overall the GR5 feels hefty and premium. The phone curves slightly to the side to allow you to get a better grip at its otherwise slippery body. All-in-all the metal construction of the phone and its build quality is rather impressive, considering the price point that it falls in. We’ve seen more expensive smartphones than the GR5 that had less than ideal materials and fit.
As far as display goes the GR5 uses a 5.5-inch full HD IPS display. Overall the display is quite good – it has generous viewing angles, punchy colors and crisp details.
A slightly improved mid-range processor
The GR5 comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 octa-core processor, paired with 2GB of RAM. What’s the difference between the 616 and the venerable 615 SoCs? Nothing much – aside from a slight bump in speed for the lower-clocked cores, it’s essentially the same.
So it’s not surprising that the phone has the same performance compared to the older 615 SoC. Theoretically – in practice it was a little different.
While the phone performed well for the first few hours we had it, we felt a bit of sluggishness as our day went on. We experienced choppy animation, delays in pressing the keys on the keyboard when we had a lot of apps open as well as apps not loading right away. One culprit could be the mere 2GB of RAM on the phone instead of the more common 3GB in other mid-range smartphones, but we’ve seen other 2GB equipped Snapdragon 615 phones do better than the GR5.
Another more likely culprit for the delays and slowdowns? Huawei’s UI overlay, EMUI. It’s the company’s own take on Android, and it might be the cause for the issues in the phone during heavy use. The good news here is that the performance issues can be addressed later on via a software patch.
Moving on to the other bits of the phone: the fingerprint scanner is fast and accurate, which is pretty much what you can expect from Huawei’s offerings nowadays. Sound is loud from the speakers, if a bit tinny. call quality is superb, and antenna performance for both LTE and GPS is excellent. There’s a bit of heat from the phone when under full load, but it’s not too bad.
Camera is okay, but could be better
The GR5 comes with a 13-megapixel rear camera, f/2.0 aperture as well as a dual-tone LED flash. Photos taken outdoors are generally okay though colors are a little on the warm side. Some of the photos that we took had a distinct softness to them, but they’re perfectly okay if you’re looking to upload them to social media.
For low-light shooting, the GR5 struggled a bit, and the lack of OIS doesn’t help, especially if you’re looking to shoot videos a lot.
Really good battery life
Efficient Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor + 3000mAh battery = long battery life. That’s been the formula for other phones that we’ve tested in the past, and it certainly rings true for the GR5. The phone got 7 hours and 29 minutes on a single charge using PCMark’s battery benchmark, which translates to about a day’s worth of battery with a little left over with heavy use. That’s not too shabby.
Verdict: another solid mid-range offering, though Huawei needs to optimize it more
At the surface the GR5 is a very solid mid-range offering from Huawei. It’s designed and made much like a flagship smartphone, and its specs are solid for the price.
However, it’s hampered by a UI that slows it down quite a bit. We hope that Huawei addresses the performance issues of the GR5, because that’s the only thing that’s hampering the GR5. Right now it’s a nice to buy smartphone, but with the right tweaks, it could turn out to be the must buy device for the price range.
As for the Honor brand? Well, its future in the PH is unknown. We’ve seen Huawei release two Honor devices in the PH under their own mobile brand, and we fear that may continue in the future.