Huawei GR5 Review - Beautiful, Capable, Secured And Affordable!

Clearly, Huawei has momentum on their side in the world smartphones now. Release after release, the global electronic giant continues to impress us by making well refined products in every category. Having said that, we think that they'll have a banner year once more.
Huawei GR5 Review - Beautiful, Capable and Affordable!
Huawei GR5 review

Enter the newly released Honor 5X or Huawei GR5 in the Philippines, a midrange handset who's gaining a lot of traction everyday. Why?This highly touted midrange phone with top-end build, looks, features and capable specs.

The question that lingers in our head is, will all the hype built around this phone live up to its promises? Will this be the Huawei hero phone for the average Filipinos? Let's all find out as we take you to a spin in this review.

Disclaimer: This review unit was provided by Huawei Philippines for an honest review

Huawei GR5 Specs

Display: 5.5 Inch FHD IPS 1920 x 1080 resolution at 401 ppi
CPU: 1.7 GHz 64 Bit Snapdragon 616 octa core processor
GPU: Adreno 405
RAM: 2 GB
ROM: 16 GB expandable via micro SD card up to 128 GB
Back Camera: 13 MP f/2.0 w/ 5 element lens, AF and LED flash
Selfie Camera: 5 MP f/2.0
Battery: 3,000 mAh
OS: Android 5.1 w/ EMUI 3.1 (Upgradable to Android 6.0 Marshmallow w/ EMUI 4.0)
Connectivity: WiFi, 3G, LTE, Bluetooth 4.1, A2DP, FM Radio, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, Dual SIM (micro and nano)
Sensors: Accelerometer, proximity, compass
Others: DTS Audio, fingerprint sensor
Dimensions: 151.3 x 76.3 x 8.2 mm
Weight: 158 g
Price: 11,990 Pesos (10,490 Pesos Sale Price)

Unboxing / Accessories

Red Huawei GR5 box
Red Huawei GR5 box

The GR5 comes in a plain simple red box that makes you want to open it in an instant. Upon checking what's inside, we were quite surprised to find out that from all the midrange Huawei devices we've opened this is the most loaded on in terms of included important accessories.
Inclusions inside the box of this phone
Inclusions inside the box of this phone

Aside from the phone itself and the usual paper documentations, you'll see a 1A wall charger, long USB to micro USB charging cables, white earbuds with mic and SIM ejector tool.

Update: It's not using a 2A fast charger

The surprise we're talking about here is this handset was bundled with an embedded screen protector and a good type of clear plastic case with matte back texture. Instantly, that saves you the hassle of buying protection for your phone.

Build Quality / Design

Look at its stylish brush metal back
Look at its stylish brush metal back

Huawei is a master of forging metal crafted phones and to our liking they did the same with the GR5, their most affordable handset with metal unibody phone yet.

Like what we said, the GR5 comes with an all near premium metal unibody with slightly curved brushed back, chrome painted upper part and semi curved corners. In the the middle part, it's tough looking all over with chamfered edge below. 

It feels solid and well made but it isn't as dense as the higher end Huawei G8 in comparison. What we like here is the brushed textured back makes it not that prone to scratches. However it doesn't have the beauty of the 2.5D curved glass anymore and the protection of Gorilla Glass 3.
Top view showing microphone and audio female jack port
Top view showing microphone and audio female jack port
Microphone, micro USB port and good single speaker below
Microphone, micro USB port and good single speaker below
dual SIM and micro SD card slots on the left
dual SIM and micro SD card slots on the left
Power button with no texture and volume rocker at right
Power button with no texture and volume rocker at right

By the looks of it, this handset is the most aesthetically pleasing to the eyes phone I've seen at this price range. Elegance is all over the design, the bezels are thin and the phone is fairly slim overall. I'd put it in the same league of most 20K and above phones of old. It appears to be that beautiful overall.

Being not as heavy as the G8, the GR5 feels more comfortable to hold ergonomically. We also like that they maintained semi curved top and the arcing back design for a better grip. Buttons and ports placement is also good like what we've seen with the Nexus 6P and G8 with slight improvement as this has its own dedicated micro SD card slot.

To rate it against the readily available competition in the market via way of build and style, this smartphone is clearly a notch ahead.


Display Quality

Good screen quality
Good screen quality

Donning a 5.5 inch screen with FHD IPS panel, everything that we wanted to see for a phone with this price range. The quality of it is what we expected to see that goes with accurate colors, nice viewing angles and pretty sharp details.

By default, the colors were balanced looking for me, but you can adjust the color temperature to your preferred viewing experience. The brightness level is on a decent side, but expect it to fall short under direct bright sunlight.

Anyway, while it may not have the same level of warmth, deep blacks and saturation of QHD AMOLED panels, we're very fine with what we saw here for the price. 
10 points of multitouch
10 points of multitouch

It also has 10 points of multitouch for better navigation and touch response that's great for gaming that requires multiple fingers.

Audio quality

The newer gen Huawei devices are known to have good speaker quality just like what we heard with the Nexus 6P and G8 aside from the MediaPad M2. This device is no different, while it's only using a single speaker setup below, it's a loud and good one. It still can produce nice tunes with slight bass kick and clear vocals. The soundstage may not be as wide as the dual speaker setup of G8 and Nexus 6P, but it's still better than most of the lower end phones.

While Huawei isn't putting HiFi chips yet on most of their handsets, they managed to make the headphone out sound of the GR5 fine and quite warm. It's more on the U-shape signature with good emphasis to the bass region where it can reach decently deep, produce sub-bass at times and has nice speed. The mids is on average level that isn't that articulate and the highs has a weird feeling as there are times that its very good, but its peaky or lacking in some tracks.

Overall, it's not on HiFi level yet, but at least it's sounds good and actually decent even to picky ears for a phone.

What we like here is its microphone setup as it has a noise cancelling one on top and a decent one below that makes clear recordings and calls. It should be also good enough for video recordings as long as you're in a quiet place.

Battery Life

Long battery life of GR5
Long battery life of GR5

The GR5 is touted by the company to have very long battery life that can reach up to 24 hours of straight usage. However, we don't really expect that type of battery performance as this one only has 3,000 mAh on an FHD screen. Fortunately, Huawei still managed to make the battery life of this one better than most of the similarly priced devices we tested.

It managed to score over 8 hours at its PC Mark battery benchmark which is at 2-3 hours longer than most phones with near the same config and battery capacity. Under normal usage, I manage to only charge this phone once every two days while using 4G data or WiFi most of the time.

The battery life of this one is better than average, actually more on the above average side that can give you longer than normal usage.

Charging time is less than 3 hours which is at 2 hours and 50 mins to be exact. Fortunately, it supports 2A fast charging, so better use that one to get around 2 hours of charging time.

Camera

The camera UI of GR5
The camera UI of GR5

The Huawei GR5 is using a 13 MP rear camera and a 5 MP wide angle selfie camera. While it doesn't have OIS anymore coming from the G8, it still has a capable rear camera sensor that's great enough for your social media needs.

It takes above average shots with nice color balance and pretty resolved details. You'll get not over-saturated and not overly sharp photos as long as you're taking photos in well lit places. The rear camera of this one also doesn't suffer much from lens glare thanks to its 5 element lens. This also takes photos pretty fast, focuses on subjects with good speed and saves photos without much delay. More importantly, it can take very close macro shots that's actually closer than most I tried under 15K.

Compared with the G8, this one isn't as sharp and the HDR isn't that good in making the details pop, but the difference in price should be also considered.

In the dark, you'll see its weaknesses. It's washed out and has a lot of noise. Gladly, at least it still can see in dark places unlike other cameras who can't survive in those condition. This one also has a decent rear camera flash when needed. Fortunately, the rear camera of this one is still a little step above the standard in terms of quality.

Going to its 5 MP selfie shooter, while it's not as good as the more expensive G8 in terms of details, it can take nicer than most photos especially in well lit places. The surprise here is it has the widest angle of any midrange smartphone I tested. There's even a point that my arm looks like a monopod in shots already. In that sense, you can fit more people in your groufies.

The camera software of the GR5 on the other hand is very easy to navigate and has a lot of features. It includes all focus, HDR, time-lapse, slow-mo, watermark, panorama, audio note, good food, beautify and various filters.

Then as expected, it just takes average videos with 1080p (back) and 720p (front) in terms of quality. It still has nice focus, a little shaky specially when you don't have a tripod with you. Still nice, but I prefer to use a cam with OIS for taking steady videos.

Rear Camera Samples

Normal vs HDR
Normal vs HDR
Close-up macro shot
Food mode on
Food mode on
Panorama test
Panorama test
Around 5:45 pm capturing the sunset
Around 5:45 pm capturing the sunset
Silhouette shot
Silhouette shot
Night mode
Night mode
Flash test
Flash test

Selfie Camera Samples

Wide angle selfie, the widest on midrange yet
Wide angle selfie, the widest on midrange yet
Great details and colors here
Indoor selfie with beautify
Indoor selfie with beautify
Outdoor night selfie showing grains and blur as expected
Outdoor night selfie showing grains and blur as expected
Selfie screen flash test
Selfie screen flash test

Video Sample


Performance

Benchmark scores

By using the upgraded Snapdragon 616 chip which is now clocked at 1.7 GHz. The GR5 feels snappier than expected, where everything is fluid and smooth most of the time. 

On multitasking, I was a bit disappointed when I found out that this only has 2 GB of RAM (good enough for most), but fortunately, using it in person speaks a different story as I can't hardly feel the difference with the higher end Huawei G8 with 3 GB RAM even when there's a lot of apps opened. It doesn't suffer from annoying lags when switching from one app to another and we feel that this handset is nicely optimized.

On gaming, the Adreno 405 GPU did a good job on opening even the heaviest games out there. However, expect frame drops on high settings, but hey at least its playable. That's still something commendable for an affordable phone.

Storage-wise this has 10 GB out of 16 GB internal storage that's good enough to install multiple apps, music games and etc. If you find it lacking, there's a micro SD card slot that's expandable to 128 GB. The only thing that we didn't like here is it doesn't have an OTG support.
EMUI on Android 5.1 Lollipop OS
EMUI on Android 5.1 Lollipop OS

If you're familiar with the EMUI, it still that same feature packed iOS looking type of UI that's easy to navigate and understand. Then to add more good news, there are reports stating that this handset will receive the Marshmallow update to make the experience better and smoother just like what we've seen with the Mate 8.

In terms of connectivity and signal, this has the usual Huawei high grade type of quality. I never had a problem with WiFi, Bluetooth and 4G data connections. Our friend from Filipino Tech Addict who has this set even stated that he was able to call inside the elevator. That's something else.

The best part here is the fingerprint sensor located at the back. Not only that its accurate and easy to locate, this also has the most features I've seen from a midrange handset in that department. You'll get a quick launch of apps and contacts, several files and app locks and set shortcuts aside from the normal unlocking using your fingerprint. The this still has smart gestures liked double tap to wake in case you need it.

Pros - Stylish and ergonomic full metal body, sharp screen, great battery life, good cameras, innovative fingerprint sensor, nice audio quality, capable specs, feature packed
Cons - No glass protection if the screen protector is removed, no NFC, few bloats

Verdict

Huawei did an excellent job again, this time by providing a rare refined entry-midrange handset with the GR5. It's stylish, capable, feature packed, decent in photography, affordable and has long battery life. Something that would fit my needs and most needs of every average Filipinos. Truly one of the best in its class, a must consider!

GIZ Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
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