Display Analysis

With each year we've seen the displays on smartphones get better and better. It really wasn't that long ago that we saw the first 720p panels on flagship smartphones, and now we're at the point where a $200 mid range phone can ship with a 1080p IPS display. In the case of the Honor 5X it's a 5.5" 1920x1080 IPS LCD panel. Like most phones, the LCD is optically bonded to the cover glass.

Something I'm definitely going to have to keep an eye on going forward is whether or not these mid range phones with IPS displays actually have a native 8-bit per channel color depth. Because of modern Android's relative lack of gradients I haven't bothered doing so, as you don't really see any issues cropping up. However, the Honor 5X has many gradients, especially in the areas where translucency is used in the UI, and it's fairly obvious that there's color banding occurring.

It's difficult to capture this in a photo, but I think the above photo is able to demonstrate the effect fairly well. I suspect that many of these mid range phones are using IPS displays with 6-bit color and frame rate control to simulate a greater color depth, and there simply aren't enough discrete color levels to properly render the gradients. It's not a deal breaker or anything, but it definitely takes away from the aesthetic quality of translucency, and it's something I'll be looking for more closely going forward.

A display can be measured in several ways beyond simply comparing resolution and pixel density, and to examine the Honor 5X's display in a comprehensive manner I've sent it through our standard smartphone display workflow. As always, measurements are performed with an X-Rite i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer, with the exception of contrast measurements which are done with an i1Display Pro colorimeter. All data is collected and managed using SpectraCal's CalMAN 5 software.

Display - Max Brightness

Display - Black Levels

Display - Contrast Ratio

I was honestly quite surprised by the Honor 5X's high peak brightness. 556 nits places it among the best flagship phones, and the black level at max brightness leads to a static contrast ratio of 1207:1, which I've confirmed is not the result of any backlight trickery. Low contrast has definitely been an issue with other mid range and low end smartphones, and I'm happy to say that the Honor 5X doesn't disappoint. The only caveat is that Huawei is still employing their brightness reduction when you use Google Chrome, and the drop is pretty massive as well. It's not even done in a subtle manner either, as the brightness just plummets when you open the browser. I think users should have the option to make the brightness vs. battery life tradeoff, even if that means sacrificing quite a bit of the latter for a brighter screen, and I hope this auto reduction eventually disappears from Huawei's phones.

Display - White Point

Display - Grayscale Accuracy

Greyscale accuracy on the Honor 5X isn't horrible by any means, but it's not very accurate either. The DeltaE value is in the same range as other mid range smartphones like the Moto E, Moto G, and Zenfone 2. Calibration hasn't really trickled down from high end smartphones yet, except in the strange case of some Microsoft Lumia smartphones. In this case, the display exhibits a noticeable blue shift which reduces accuracy.

Display - Saturation Accuracy

Saturation accuracy is similar to greyscale accuracy on the Honor 5X, and for the same reason too. As you can see, all colors are pulled toward blue to some degree which causes them to render differently than they should. Again, this error is in line with other mid range phones, so it's not like Huawei is behind the competition here, but they're not exactly raising the bar either.

Display - GMB Accuracy

Accuracy in the Gretag-MacBeth ColorChecker is also similar to saturation and greyscale accuracy, which isn't surprising when one considers how the test actually includes greyscale values and the fact that color mixtures require both greyscale shades and saturations to be accurate in order to render correctly.

In the end, the Honor 5X's display is above average relative to its price. It's a 1080p panel with a very high brightness and good black levels as well. Color accuracy isn't any better than the competition, but the competition is also mostly made up of 1280x720 panels that are 100 nits dimmer at full brightness, so it's fair to say that Huawei has done a good job with the Honor 5X's display given their constraints. I think the sort of user who buys the Honor 5X probably won't be bothered by the color inaccuracy anyway, although I do still hope to see higher accuracy trickle down from the flagships to the mid range market within the next year as it becomes more difficult to differentiate on hardware and price.

System Performance Cont'd and NAND Performance Battery Life and Charge Time


View All Comments

  • londedoganet - Monday, February 29, 2016 - link

    No LTE Web Browsing battery test? Are the bands incompatible? Reply
  • Brandon Chester - Monday, February 29, 2016 - link

    I was having difficulties getting sufficient reception due to the weather conditions. The phone has to be placed in a place where it's vulnerable to snow and rain. I'll try to run it at a later point if it's possible. Reply
  • tipoo - Monday, February 29, 2016 - link

    Looks like a fair jump over the Moto G for around the same price, nice to see this space heating up. I think the midrange is honestly where the excitement is now, the high end has gotten boring.

    Though, neither this nor the G are close to taking down the Zenfone 2 for GPU performance yet in the same price category, impressively. I'm unsure if the early issues with the 2 were worked out (battery life, screen color shifting to save power), but for gaming that has both trumped. I'd like to see the Zenfone 3.
  • blanarahul - Monday, February 29, 2016 - link

    If wonder what the real life performance /power differences are between S610 and S615 considering that the extra four cores barely make any difference. Also S610 should be a little cheaper as well. Reply
  • usama_ah - Monday, February 29, 2016 - link

    I purchased one from Amazon the day it was released for my mom. Prior to that she was using my OG Moto X on AT&T in Chicago.

    She's extremely pleased with the phone. There was a slight learning curve going from a near stock launcher to this OS but she loves the big, bright screen and the fingerprint unlock. Camera is good enough for her too. She has noticed the slight UI jankyness while moving about but that's not something she cares about. She uses WhatsApp with family and gets a LOT of pictures and videos so now she doesn't have to delete to make room because she can move them to a microSD card (I set it up to be one button transfer to microSD since WhatsApp doesn't let you default media there). She loves the battery life, and usually charges every other day. She loves the build quality and color (we got her the gold). Works well on AT&T LTE in Chicago and soon she'll be running dual SIM when she goes overseas.

    Overall I'm very happy with the purchase, and more importantly she is. It was hard for me to not get her the Moto G but I think we made the right choice, for her. If I was to recommend one to a friend I might still recommend the Moto G first because of customization and flexibility, closer to stock interface. Maybe this year's G will also have a fingerprint reader, we'll see.
  • zeeBomb - Monday, February 29, 2016 - link

    Phone doesn't surprise me due to all the phones I looked at MWC, LOL.
    Brandon, if you get the chance, review the Alcatel Idol 4!
  • fanofanand - Monday, February 29, 2016 - link

    So it barely beats year old Motorola and Asus phones that sell for the same price. We are impressed because it has a little aluminum? I'd rather a plastic phone with Marshmallow, a better LTE radio, faster ram, and more NAND. This seems like year old specs at the launch, which shouldn't impress anyone. Reply
  • formerglory - Monday, February 29, 2016 - link

    Fun fact: the Honor 5X's screen *doesn't* have an oleophobic covering, thus the screen protector that comes with it (that has a coating). Ideally, you're not supposed to remove it, or else suffer the wrath of a constantly fingerprint-covered screen. Reply
  • revanchrist - Monday, February 29, 2016 - link

    This is a low end phone priced at mid range price. Man, look at the Snapdragon 616, it's manufactured on 28nm LP. How old was that process already? I'll consider the 28nm HPM Snapdragon 650 and 652 and even the 14nm LPP Snapdragon 625 as mid range, but not the Snapdragon 615 and 616 thanks. Reply
  • beginner99 - Tuesday, March 1, 2016 - link

    My though as well. I don't see the midrange except in price. A53's are too slow for midrange and if you really use those, take ones made on 14/16 nm and hence better battery life. The charts clearly show you are better off with a 2 year old flagship. Reply

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