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Huawei GR5 Review: An Honor By Any Other Name

Huawei GR5 09

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

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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.

Huawei GR5 01

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.

Huawei GR5 05

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.

Huawei GR5 06

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.

Huawei GR5 02

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.

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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.

Huawei GR5 12

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.

Huawei GR5 14

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.

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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.

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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.

Huawei GR5 03

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.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

24 Comments

  1. yung mga walang pambili pwede wag na mag comment about sa tagprice neto? anu ineexpect niyo? tapatan nila cherry mobile at gawin nilang 5k yan? minsan talaga andaming bobong pinoy.

    1. Matagal nang onscreen ang buttons ng huawei di ba? Then go with samsung or one plus phones, tapos ang problem. Life is easy di ba?

  2. for this price Honor 5x…better down grade to Honor 6…better specs and performance…I have one and already upgraded it into Android 6.0 Marshmallow…

  3. Just bought the Huawei GR5 last Monday for $10,099 at SM Mall of Asia. I must say i like the phone more than Asus and Oppo. My phone before this Huawei device is Asus Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5 and the device lags more and i cannot play heavy games like what i do with Huawei GR5. I can play PSP Emulator games and NBA2k16 and FIFA15 with the phone. So far i haven’t experienced any lag and pixelations.
    Though the battery last shorter thatn what’s in the review. I must say the battery last up to 5hours for gaming and data. Well, Asus and Oppo’s battery drains faster.

    I would rate Huawei GR5 7/10 overall aesthetics and performance

  4. i love huawei gr5.. i bought it last may and until now it’s still the same. and for me it was worth it for the price though its almost 15k the time I buy. so far, i never doubt it. thankyou huawei gr5. I must be satisfied.

  5. I know this is a bit late but i wanted to ask, which is better, huawei GR5 or Lenovo vibe k4 note? Both devices kasi fit sa budget ko. Thanks. 🙂

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