Huawei GR5 2017 Review: Acceptable but not exciting
The GR5 2017 is a good example of the kind of phone we're seeing with regularity in the mid-range space.
- Battery life
- Decent mid-range performance
Could be better
- Marshmallow, not Nougat
- No NFC
- Limited Wi-Fi
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.
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.
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:
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:
Handset Geekbench 3 Battery Test Duration Geekbench 3 Battery Score LG X Power 14:50:30 5714 Huawei Nova Plus 13:21:20 8013 Huawei GR5 2017 11:33:50 6938 Motorola Moto G5 Plus 11:15:40 6756 Samsung Galaxy J2 10:05:20 2689 Motorola Moto X Force 9:46:50 3914 Alcatel Pop 4 9:20:30 2490
- 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:
Handset Geekbench 4 CPU Single Core (higher is better) Geekbench 4 CPU Multi Core (higher is better) Moto G5 Plus 842 4180 Huawei GR5 2017 814 3398 Oppo R9s 843 3119 Huawei Nova Plus 843 2985 Motorola Moto Z Play 799 2648 Sony Xperia X 1122 2626 Moto G5 630 2605 LG X Power 554 1482 Motorola Moto G Play 522 1334
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:
Handset 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Result Moto G5 Plus 13753 Oppo R9s 13691 Samsung Galaxy A7 13629 Huawei GR5 2017 11859 Sony Xperia XA 11173 Oppo R9 11053 Motorola Moto G4 Plus 9757 Oppo A57 9516 LG X Power 4953 Motorola Moto G Play 4475 Samsung Galaxy J2 3469
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.
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 Specifications||GR5 2017|
|Processor||Octo-core Kirin 655|
|Size||150.9 x 76.2 x 8.2 mm|