NewsReview: Huawei Honor 3C

Review: Huawei Honor 3C

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The Honor 3C arrived at the end of 2014, This phone is one of the few mobiles to offer a convincing alternative to the budget champion, the Moto G.

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It’s even cheaper, in fact. At £109, the Honor 3C offers frankly amazing value. And while it may at first appear to be from a totally unknown brand, Huawei is the force behind the Honor name. 

The Honor 3C doesn’t have 4G, but the Honor 3C is still one of the best budget phones of the year.

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Like the Honor 6 (review) it has a supremely glossy back, but this time it’s not pretending to be glass. It’s just plastic that’s so shiny it looks as though it’s been laminated. 

It’s a completely unforgiving surface that’s going to do the Honor 3C no favours in the long run. Yes, it may look flashier than matte plastic to some eyes, but it’ll show up scratches, scrapes and marks.

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The Honor 3C uses a removable cover, and already you can import replacement covers should yours get too bad.

At 9.2mm thick it’s significantly slimmer than the Motorola, and feels less awkward to use as a result. I’m pretty happy with how the Honor 3C feels in the hand, after getting over the shining finish. 

Unlike many other budget phones it doesn’t use software soft keys, though. It has a trio of touch buttons below the screen the usual Android fodder of ‘back’, ‘home’ and ‘menu’. These don’t light up, though, and are only signposted with very feint icons.

In normal use the Honor 3C looks like a bold rectangle of black from the front, and that’s a good look, one that’s much slicker than we expect from a £100-odd phone. 

Honor 3C has two SIM slots. While we imagine few UK/US Honor 3C buyers will actually use this feature, it’s handy and is useful if you might want to use the phone abroad or as a work device. 

One SIM slot supports WCDMA and GSM SIMs while the other supports just GSM ones. In the UK this is no issue, but be sure to check what connection type a foreign network uses before plugging a SIM in. It won’t fry the phone, it just won’t work.

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You’ll also find a microSD card slot under the back cover. The Honor 3C has 8GB of storage, which is fairly generous for a phone around the £100 mark, but you’ll obviously need to invest in a memory card to store more than a few videos or music tracks.

Honor 3C – Screen

The screen is the most remarkable element of the Honor 3C. Its specs are similar to those of the 2014 Moto G, which cost around £30 more – a not-insignificant amount at this level. 

It has a 5-inch 1,280 x 720 pixel IPS screen, and for the price it is superb. It’s sharp, bright and fairly colour-accurate. To our eyes it appears perhaps even superior to the Moto G’s display, with even less evidence of the pixel structure until you get your eye dangerously close to the screen. The resolution earns the phone 294ppi, a bit lower than the iPhone 6’s ‘Retina’ standard, but fairly close given how cheap this phone is.

Viewing angles are strong thanks to the IPS-type display, and we’re very happy with the top brightness level on offer – we found it sufficient for use in outdoors daylight. Unlike some entry-level phones, the Honor 3C has an auto brightness setting, and it’s a pretty good one too. 

The display even the colour reproduction is very pleasant, with plenty of pop while keeping the tone balanced, and saturation levels in check. You have control over the colour temperature too, with a warm-cool slider sat in the Settings menu. 

Rather than just being able to turn Auto on or off, you can also set a relative level, letting you pick between having a slightly brighter screen or better battery life without having to tweak the backlight level throughout the day. 

The depth of blacks in the Honor 3C is naturally not close to that of an OLED display, but that comes with the territory when using an LCD screen. 

In short: this is perhaps the best 5-inch screen you’ll find at £109, coming in slightly under the Moto G, which offers similar display quality.

Honor 3C – Software and Performance
The Honor 3C runs Android 4.2.2 and EmotionUI 2.0, the Huawei custom Android interface. One of the disappointments of the phone is that both of these are very out of date. From information I have read there are no plans to give the Honor 3C an upgrade to either Android 4.4 or Android 5.0.

The custom interface used here is quite unusual, too. It throws away the standard layout of Android, taking out the separate apps menu in favour of keeping everything on the home screens. 

The Honor 3C also uses themes, which are no longer particularly common in smartphones. These can be downloaded directly on the phone, through a dedicated Themes app.

Fresh out of the box, the Honor 3C uses a customised Huawei version of the Swype keyboard, which helped bring gesture typing to the masses.

Honor 3C – Benchmarks and Games
The Honor 3C has a 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6582 CPU, which offers similar performance to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 performance used pretty widely in bigger-name budget phones. 

It even has 2GB RAM instead of the more common 1GB, which makes Huawei/Honor’s performance-spoiling blunders all the more annoying. 

Gaming performance is where the Honor 3C doesn’t have quite the hardware to impress the hardcore gamer. Its chipset has a Mali 400MP2 GPU, which is a little less powerful than the Adreno 305 you get in the Moto G. 

Asphalt 8 worked well but with obvious frame rate limitations at top graphics settings. The Honor 3C also lacks stereo speakers, which does it no media/gaming favours. There’s a single mono speaker on the back, and it’s the very definition of a so-so mobile phone speaker.

Honor 3C – Camera
The Honor 3C has clearly done its best to outdo the competition with the spec of its cameras. It has an 8-megapixel sensor on the back with an LED flash and a 5-megapixel one one on the front. 

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Evening photo shot without flash

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This sort of load out wouldn’t look out on place on a £200 phone, so it clearly seems impressive on a £110 one.In reality, there’s still the whiff of compromise we expect from cameras of entry-level phones. It’s fairly slow, with shutter and processing lag meaning the Honor 3C misses out on much of the immediacy we look for in a phone camera.

The camera app is reasonably good too. It’s not flashy, but is quick and easy to use, with an interface designed for two-handed operation. Your left thumb chooses what mode to use while the right takes pics. There are plenty of modes too, including HDR, panorama, filters and one that lets you separately pick metering and focus points. 

Video resolution goes up to 1080p, but 720p is the standard res. Comparing the two, we imagine this is because 1080p doesn’t appear to add dramatically to the detail captured, perhaps because of the fairly basic sensor quality.

Honor 3C – Battery Life
The Honor 3C has a 2300mAh battery, which is a fair but not staggering size for a 5-inch 720p screen phone.

I found the Honor 3C easily last a day even with fairly extensive browsing sessions. While you’d have to try pretty hard to squeeze two days’ use off a charge, you should end up with a good 25-30 per cent chunk of battery left by bed time to tide you over until midday or so the next day.

Verdict
An excellent screen helps us live with the Honor 3C’s dated elements, like using Android 4.2 software and non-4G mobile Internet.

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Chris Hare
Chris Hare
A True Tech Geek at Heart, I Started my life of being a Tech Geek at the age of 5 with the BBC Micro. Went on through most of Nintendo stuff and now a Xbox and PlayStation fan. I also leaked the information about the leaked Hotmail passwords story from October 2009 that went World Wide. I Started writing tech articles at the beginning of 2011, most of my articles are about Android phones and Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and other gaming news. When Chris has free time its with the family.

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