(Pocket-lint) - While big budget phones get launched on an international stage, following a long campaign of leaks and teases, it's at the budget end of the spectrum where things are fiercely competitive.
Huawei was always an aggressive player when it came to price, and when it launched sub-brand Honor, giving its phones a personality For The Brave, it shook things up further. While companies like OnePlus look to undercut the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, it's devices like the Honor 5C that offer entry-level prices, with mid-range specs.
Where you once had to suffer with a poor build and display, now you're getting a lot for your money at this end of the market.
Honor 5C: Design
The message we're getting from Huawei and Honor is that metal is in, no matter the price point. Huawei has aggressively been pushing metal handsets and Honor is following suit. The Honor 5C comes crafted from aircraft-grade aluminium alloy, brushed and anodised to give it texture and a long lasting finish.
The edges of the Honor 5C have a ridged finish, providing additional grip on the phone that measures 147.1 x 73.8 x 8.3mm and weighs 156g. That's a fair weight for this handset: the HTC 10, which has a more substantial feel to the body work is only a little heavier at 161g, for example. If there's one thing that perhaps makes the Honor 5C look a little budget, it's the substantial bezel around the display. Where many offer a 2.5D curve at the edges, this is flat, so it's more noticeable.
You can't be too critical at this price point, however, as you're getting a device that feels good for the price. We haven't had long enough to fully assess it, but Honor says that it's tested to Huawei's 3.1 quality standards, involving a range of impact, drop, connection and environmental tests, which are getting progressively harder.
Where you'll feel some reflection of the price point is in the buttons. The standby button feels a little loose, rather than offering a distinct and precise click. Additionally, in a bid to keep the price in check, there's no fingerprint scanner on the Honor 5C.
Honor 5C: Display
Sitting in the front of the Honor 5C is a 5.2-inch display, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. That's a good size, giving you plenty of space to play. This is an IPS LCD display and that resolution gives you a pixel density of 423ppi.
This isn't as sharp as this year's flagship devices, but there are plenty of phones with full HD displays at 5.2-inches (the Xperia Z5 for example) that are perfectly good. In many cases, such as watching movies or gaming, you won't notice the difference in resolution anyway.
First impressions are good. There's plenty of punch to colours and a good deal of vibrancy, but we didn't have the chance to fully test this display. Although the viewing angles look good enough, we have no idea how it will cope in brighter conditions and so on.
The Honor 5C comes with a factory-fitted screen protector. This seems unobtrusive enough, although gives a plastic finish. If you'd rather remove it for a slicker touch of glass, it's easy enough to peel off.
Honor 5C: Hardware and battery
The Honor 5C comes with a HiSilicon Kirin 650 chipset. This comes from Huawei's in-house chip manufacturer, but boasts an octo-core 16nm 64-bit chipset. The idea, say Honor, is to give you a chipset that's competitive with higher-spec phones, bringing with it the advantages of saving power over some of the older hardware out there. It's backed by 2GB of RAM.
Our initial play revealed fairly snappy performance, but we'd need to live with the 5C for much longer to fully gauge its performance in the real world, along with the graphic performance from the Mali-T880-MP2 GPU.
There's 16GB of storage internally, which is a little on the low side and will be quickly filled, but there is a microSD card slot. This is on the same tray as the SIM card, and here you have the option of either dual SIM, or single SIM and microSD.
The battery is a 3000mAh cell, which Honor say will get you through a day and a half if you're a power user, and 2 days if you're more casual. Certainly it's a decent capacity and the low-tier hardware and display should see you rewarded with greater endurance than some rivals.
Some of the battery life will supported by power-saving measures on the software side, both from Android Marshmallow's native features, as well as EMUI's own power-saving additions. Again, we'd have to put it through its paces in the real world to fully assess it.
There's a Micro-USB connection on the bottom of the handset, sitting between the two speaker grilles. One of the elements that is included in the Honor 5C is a sensor core. This allows the phone to detect things like motion in a low-power state, so you'll be able to keep track of your steps without draining the battery.
Honor 5C: Cameras
Honor has impressed us with its cameras, as has parent company Huawei. There's a 13-megapixel camera on the rear with an f/2.0 aperture and hybrid autofocus, which should give you nice quick focusing. Honor has coated the lens glass to try and reduce fingerprint smear so your photos always look good. It's supported by plenty of features, like touch focusing, lots of shooting modes, HDR and so on.
Our few test shots give some good results with rapid focusing, although we couldn't take away the rather uninspiring images of the briefing room to share. One of the indicators of this phone's budget position is that it doesn't offer 4K video, instead limiting itself to 1080/30p.
You do get the Pro shooting mode, however, giving you plenty of manual controls for those who want to get a little more creative.
The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor, again with f/2.0 aperture, designed to give you great selfies. There are no less than 10 beauty modes. We had neither the time nor inclination to test them all out, but as this phone is pitched at the young and beautiful, we're sure they will get plenty of use.
Honor 5C: EMUI Software
The Honor 5C follows its Honor family devices, and those of Huawei in offering the EMUI software. This is a skin that sits on the top of Android Marshmallow, which this phone launches with. EMUI (emotion user interface) changes pretty much everything about Android, putting its own look on things.
There isn't a huge amount of duplication, but you'll find that perfectly good stock Android apps are omitted in preference of EMUI's own apps. That will leave you with some apps that we don't think are as good, like the calendar or messages apps.
One of the big changes from stock Android is the removal of the apps tray. This is standard for Honor and Huawei, but moves the phone closer to an iPhone experience where all the apps are on home pages, rather than tucked away in a menu. That's not the end of the world, however, because you can easily install your own launcher, like Google Now Launcher, if you want an apps tray back.
There are some things, like the rearrangement of the settings menu, which feels a little unnecessarily over-worked. The aim is to make Honor's phones feel different to all those phones that are closer to Android, so Honor owns the experience. Whether that's for better or worse is open to debate, and very much a case of personal preference. Fortunately, this being Android, you can easily change just about everything to get the experience and the apps you want.
There are also some benefits, however, like the camera, which is much more sophisticated than the basic Android camera.
For the low asking price of £149, you really do get quite a lot of phone for your money in the Honor 5C. That's the aim of Honor - giving good value for money without making too many compromises.
The only real omission on the spec sheet is the lack of a fingerprint scanner. With most devices offering this technology, both in the top and mid ranges, it would have been more appealing if that had been offered.
Honor's play here is offering a good size of display, paired with hardware that should give you a slick experience, in a good quality handset, without breaking the bank. This end of the market is increasingly competitive, but the Honor 5C is certainly worth a more detailed look.
The Honor 5C is available to buy online for £149 or €199. It will be launching exclusively on Three in August 2016.