Honor 6+ review: Can it better its little brother?

As Honor graduates to offering devices on contract with Three, can it better the excellent Honor 6 with its latest device?

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 11.41.06

When we reviewed the Honor 6, we called it ‘very impressive’ and gave it a four out of five rating. Can the Honor 6 Plus go one better? On paper it looks promising. As well as boosting the full HD screen from 5-inches to 5.5-inches, the Honor 6 Plus has an extra camera on the back, a better front camera, a faster processor, more storage and a bigger battery.

When holding the Honor 6 Plus with the original device, the family resemblance is clear. The glass front and back with the curved plastic base is retained and, as with the original, it’s a good-looking device. It does feel big in the hand, but with 5.5-inch devices becoming more and more popular, it is less of a concern than it might have been six months ago. At 7.5mm thick, the device doesn’t feel too bulky. The dimensions are particularly impressive given the huge battery that is included. The buttons on the device are sensibly placed and click reassuringly. Both the volume and power buttons are on the right-hand side, just above the main SIM slot and the secondary SIM slot (which can be used as a microSD slot). The 3.5m headphone port is on the top of the device alongside the IR blaster.

One of the more polarising aspects of the Honor devices is the EmotionUI skin. The Honor 6 Plus ships with Android 4.4 KitKat, with a Lollipop upgrade due in the next few months. We are seeing a lot of Lollipop devices struggle for performance and battery life, two things that the6 Plus certainly doesn’t have an issue with. In use the device is extremely fast and as smooth as anything else on sale. Unquestionably, EmotionUI does make a lot of changes to base Android. It brings new colours, new icons, a drawer-free home screen / launcher; all things that might not be to everyone’s taste. While some tweaks aren’t what we’d consider a worthwhile change, there are a lot of changes that do enhance the base Android experience.

It’s only as you get to know the device that you’ll come across them. Enhanced permission control, improved device storage / memory management, double-tap to wake and screen off gestures; version 3 of Huawei’s skin is finally starting to provide genuinely useful features.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Honor 6 Plus is the camera (or rather cameras). On the back of the device you’ll notice a parallel dual 8MP camera setup, designed to provide improved performance in low light and an ultra-fast focus time of 0.1 seconds. The setup also enables a ‘dual aperture’ mode, with an onscreen slider allowing variable levels of

background blur. The camera application itself, while appearing pretty basic at first use, provides a lot of manual controls. So what are the photos like? Impressive, particularly for a mid-range device. While they can’t match the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S6 or LG G4, the camera innovation is worthwhile, easily outperforming devices at a similar price point.

It’s unexpectedly hard to find things not to like about the Honor 6 Plus. If you are a big stock Android fan then you might find the Emotion UI skin jarring at first, but give it a chance and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s a shame you can’t use dual SIMs and a microSD card, but this is offset by a generous 32GB of storage as standard. Honor is so confident of the phone’s battery life that you can even use it as a battery pack to charge another device!

Big name manufacturers should be concerned. As with the Asus ZenFone 2 we reviewed on page 68, the Honor 6 Plus marks another stride from lesser-known manufacturers towards making more expensive devices unnecessary.

This review originally appeared in Android Magazine issue 53. For in-depth reviews of the best new Android phones, tablets and accessories, buy the latest edition of Android Magazine now.