Huawei GR5 2017 Review: Acceptable but not exciting

Alex Kidman 5 June 2017

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The GR5 2017 offers fine value for money within the low mid-range space, although nothing to get too excited about.

Huawei's been making headlines of late with the exceptional Huawei P10 and Huawei P10 Plus as its premium phone plays, but it's in the more affordable phone space that it has historically made the most actual impact.

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The Huawei GR5 2017 (also known as the Honor 6X in some overseas markets) is a fine example of that kind of form. It's not an absolute standout phone against 2017's flagships, but then it's in no way intended to be. What it does show is how quickly even budget to mid-range phones are catching up on the premium crowd, and what this means for phone buyers now and in the very near future.

Huawei GR5 2017: Design

The Huawei GR5 2017's design is almost exactly what you'd expect out of a mid-range phone, and by and large it keeps to the same kinds of ideas you'd see in other, similarly priced handsets such as the Motorola Moto G5 Plus.

Measuring in at 150.9 x 76.2 x 8.2mm with a carrying weight of 162 grams and a 5.5 inch 1080p display, it's a solid but fine phone to hold in the hand. You don't quite get the premium feel of a high mid-range or actual flagship handset, but that comes with the asking price.

Charging is via microUSB with a supplied charger but no sign of Huawei's otherwise excellent fast charging in place. Around the back rests the cameras and an embedded fingerprint sensor underneath, leading to a device that pretty much looks as you'd expect a mid-range phone to look. It's not quite cheap looking in the way that some budget phones are, but its design never strives to be anything other than ordinary.

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Huawei GR5 2017: Camera

You can get on board with Android for well under $200 these days, so mid-range phones really need some kind of standout feature. For the GR5 2017, it's undoubtedly that it's one of the lowest cost phones we've seen to sport a dual camera array.

Before you get too excited, this isn't a case of Huawei porting across its Leica lenses from the P10 or Mate 9, but instead a single 12MP sensor and subsidiary 2MP sensor used for adding bokeh style effects to photos. You've got quite a bit less control over use of the dual sensors than you get out of the P series or Mate series phones, but again, that comes with the territory. Huawei's camera app is simple enough to use with swipe gestures for accessing the various baked in functions, including the inevitable "beauty" mode for the selfie obsessed.

The actual camera experience with the Huawei GR5 2017 is exactly what you'd expect out of a mid-range camera phone. It won't beat the best, and if you push it hard you can easily end up with blur, but for everyday use it's entirely suitable, if not all that exciting.

Here are some sample shots taken directly from the GR5 2017:

gr5sampleshot4 gr5sampleshot3 gr5sampleshot2 gr5sampleshot1

Huawei GR5 2017: Why you'd want one

  • Battery life: The relative size of the GR5 2017 gives Huawei some breathing room to incorporate a larger battery in the handset, and it does so, with a 3340mAh non-removable power pack lurking behind its 5.5 inch display. Combine that with Huawei's own moderate power octa-core Kirin 655 processor and what you get is a recipe for fairly easy all-day battery life. This was also reflected in Geekbench 3's battery test, which placed it well against other low-cost competitors, although not quite top of the tree:
    HandsetGeekbench 3 Battery Test DurationGeekbench 3 Battery Score
    LG X Power14:50:305714
    Huawei Nova Plus13:21:208013
    Huawei GR5 201711:33:506938
    Motorola Moto G5 Plus11:15:406756
    Samsung Galaxy J210:05:202689
    Motorola Moto X Force9:46:503914
    Alcatel Pop 49:20:302490
  • Decent mid-range performance: Huawei uses its own inhouse Kirin processors for its handsets, making comparison with the (mostly) Qualcomm-produced Snapdragons found in other mid-range devices an interesting challenge. It pairs up 3GB of RAM with the Kirin 655 for what can only be called mid-range performance. The GR5 2017 doesn't fly, and there were a few instances where it struggled a little if pushed hard, but that's entirely reflected in the asking price for this particular handset. Compare it against its mid-range brethren, and it's a perfectly acceptable option. Here's how it compared using Geekbench 4's CPU test:
    HandsetGeekbench 4 CPU Single Core (higher is better)Geekbench 4 CPU Multi Core (higher is better)
    Moto G5 Plus8424180
    Huawei GR5 20178143398
    Oppo R9s8433119
    Huawei Nova Plus8432985
    Motorola Moto Z Play7992648
    Sony Xperia X11222626
    Moto G56302605
    LG X Power5541482
    Motorola Moto G Play5221334

    The same kind of performance was evident in gaming, where the GR5 2017 could handle most Android games acceptably well, but never in a stunning fashion. Again, that's quite par for the course when it comes to mid-range phones at this price point, and putting it through its benchmark paces reflected this. Here's how the GR5 2017 compared against other mid-range options using 3DMark's Ice Storm Unlimited test:

    Handset3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Result
    Moto G5 Plus13753
    Oppo R9s13691
    Samsung Galaxy A713629
    Huawei GR5 201711859
    Sony Xperia XA11173
    Oppo R911053
    Motorola Moto G4 Plus9757
    Oppo A579516
    LG X Power4953
    Motorola Moto G Play4475
    Samsung Galaxy J23469

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Huawei GR5 2017: Why you might not want one

  • Marshmallow, not Nougat: The GR5 2017 we tested came with Android 6.0 ("Marshmallow") on board. It's not uncommon for lower-cost phones to eschew the latest version of Android, but given we're awaiting Android 8.0 ("O", yet to be named) and given we have seen Nougat on some other budget handsets, it's a noticeable omission.
  • No NFC: If you're keen on contactless payments via Android Pay, the GR5 2017 isn't the handset for you, simply because there's no inbuilt NFC. Again, it's not an uncommon omission in lower-cost phones, but it's still a nice feature to have.
  • Limited Wi-Fi: The onboard Wi-Fi on the GR5 2017 only supports 2.4Ghz 802.11n, rather than the newer 802.11ac standard. That means it will still work with your existing router, but lacks the flexibility for higher speed 5GHz connections.

Who is it best suited for? What are my alternatives?

The GR5 2017 is a good example of the kind of phone we're seeing with regularity in the mid-range space. It's not especially a bargain at its price point, but it's equally not overpriced for what's on offer. Huawei is bringing out a lot of phones when you look at its output over the last six months, and while the GR5 2017 isn't a hero, it's a solid enough workhorse.

However, it's a workhorse in a field with plenty of competition. The most obvious competitor if you were looking at an outright buy at this price point would be Motorola's Moto G5 Plus, which sells at around the same price and bested the GR5 2017 in most benchmarks. It's not quite as pretty as the GR5 2017, but certainly worth consideration. Equally, there are handsets from makers such as Alcatel, Oppo or ZTE worth pitting against the GR5 2017.
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Where can I get it?

The GR5 2017 is available outright for $399, or as a Vodafone contract exclusive in Australia. As you might expect given its price point, plans for the GR5 don't incorporate any kind of handset repayment, so if Vodafone's general plan pricing appeals, it could be a good effectively "free" phone to throw in with a SIM contract.

Huawei GR5 2017 Specifications

Huawei GR5 2017 SpecificationsGR5 2017
Display5.5 inches
Resolution1920x1080
ppi403
SoftwareAndroid 6.0
Storage32GB+microSD
RAM3GB
Battery3340mAh
Front camera8MP
Rear camera12MP/2MP
ProcessorOcto-core Kirin 655
Size150.9 x 76.2 x 8.2 mm
Weight162g
Price$399

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