Honor Holly review

Huawei's £110-or-less 5in smartphone hits the spot

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Price when reviewed 
110

Huawei’s Honor range of smartphones, which debuted in the UK with the Honor 6 late last year has taken a curious turn with the launch of the Honor Holly in Europe. See also: The best smartphones of 2015

A budget phone built to take on low-cost handsets such as the Moto G and G2, you might think the focus would be on beating the specifications of its low-cost rivals. Instead, it’s Huawei’s novel approach to pricing that takes centre stage.

Honor Holly - front camera

Honor Holly review: how much? Make it lower

That's because instead of setting an SRP and letting the market do the rest, Huawei has set up an initial SRP of £110 and a website (www.) where “fans” can “register their interest” in the phone. The more people who register, the lower the price will be when the phone eventually goes on sale on February 23rd.

Huawei told us it expects the final price to end up well below the £100 mark, and although that price will rise again after an initial promotional period, it should be lower than the initial £110 price tag.

The question is, for that money, is the Holly worth a punt? A quick glance at the specifications reveals that even at the initial £110 price this phone represents very good value for money.

See also: The best upcoming smartphone releases

Honor Holly review: design and specifications

For a phone this cheap, the design isn’t bad at all. It isn’t as well made as a Nexus 6 or an iPhone 6, but you wouldn't expect it to be. More importantly it can hold its head up in the £100 to £200 bracket. It isn’t overly chunky at 9.4mm thick, and although the white glossy back panel feels a touch cheap, its curved profile sits comfortably in the hand, and the volume and power buttons feel positive and solid.

Honor Holly - rear angle

It's similar in look and feel to the slightly more expensive 5in Vodafone Smart 4 Power, and the specifications are, in most departments, superior. The screen is the highlight, with a crisper 720 x 1,280 pixel resolution than the Vodafone’s 540 x 960, and the fact that it's an IPS panel means it delivers good levels of brightness, viewing angles and good contrast.

Inside, the Honor Holly is powered by a quad-core 1.3GHz Mediatek MT6582 processor, backed up by 1GB of RAM. There’s a reasonably generous 16GB of eMMC storage plus a microSD card slot, and dual micro SIM slots, while the battery delivers 2,000mAh of capacity.

Even the main, rear-facing camera - normally a significant weak spot for budget phones - isn’t too bad. It captures images at 8 megapixels in size, has a single LED flash to help out when the light gets low, and produces photos that, although, marred by mottled noise in low light, are pretty crisp and clean in good conditions. It also shoots Full HD video where the Vodafone can only manage 720p, and it’ll close-ups can be captured from a distance of 80mm - good going for a low-cost phone.

Honor Holly - top edge

In fact the only major disappointment in the specifications department is in the wireless department, with only single-band Wi-Fi on offer, and no 4G. This is the one area where the Vodafone steps ahead - it has 4G.

Honor Holly review: performance

We wouldn’t expect a phone of this price to perform like a rocket ship, and when put to the test we weren't shocked by the figures. A time of 1,465ms in SunSpider (in Chrome) is far from slick, and results of 353 (single-core) and 1,170 (multi-core) in GeekBench 3 and 7.1fps in the GFXBench T-Rex HD (onscreen) test don’t break any records either. In raw performance terms, this is very much a budget, second-tier handset.

However, these figures all put the Honor Holly dead level with its main rival, the Vodafone Smart 4 Power, and even some more expensive handsets. The Motorola Moto G2 and the Nokia Lumia 735, for example, both fall into the same performance bracket, so in that sense it’s perfectly acceptable.

Honor Holly - buttons

General responsiveness is good, too. So far we’ve experienced very little keyboard lag, and navigating around Android 4.4.2 - customised heavily via Huawei’s cartoonish Emotion UI - is a joy. The only place you really notice the second-tier performance is in graphics intense games and apps, but this is a long way from the laggy, budget Android smartphones of old.

It’s a shame battery life isn’t quite up to the same standard, but there is some good news. In our audio streaming test, over 3G the phone consumed battery capacity at a rate of 1.9% per hour. This is a very good result and far better than the Motorola Moto G 2 and Vodafone Smart 4 Power, and means it shouldn’t be one of those phones that chomps through its battery when left on standby. However, the picture isn’t quite as good when the battery is put under more pressure, with a projected runtime of only 171 minutes in the game-based GFXBench battery test.

See also: The best Android apps of 2015

Honor Holly - speaker

Honor Holly review: verdict

We don’t know what the final price of the Honor Holly will be just yet, but even at £110, this smartphone represents excellent value, despite the mixed picture on battery life. It has a decent screen, performance is more than adequate, and the camera is much better than most in the budget smartphone sector. If 4G isn’t important to you, you’d be well advised to haul yourself over to the Huawei website and get registered.

Price when reviewed 
110inc VAT

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