Huawei GR5 2017 Review : Dual-cam Mid-range Winner

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Huawei’s intent on making 2017 the year of the dual-camera, as the company is set to launch two new dual-camera equipped smartphones in the coming weeks. While the Mate 9 phabletwill probably get the most oohs and aahs from onlookers, a majority of consumers who want to try out the dual-camera magic will most certainly gravitate towards the more affordable GR5 2017 – or Mate 9 Lite, or Honor 6X, depending where you are in the world.

This year’s GR5 is a big improvement over last year’s model, though it’s also Php 2,000 more expensive. Today we’ll be checking out what Huawei’s dual-camera arrangement brings to the table, and what it means for you. But first, let’s take a look at the specs:

Huawei GR5 2017 specs

  • 2.1GHz Kirin 655 octa-core processor
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 5.5-inch full HD IPS display, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 32GB of expandable storage
  • 12-megapixel rear camera with 2-megapixel secondary camera
  • 8-megapixel front camera
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, Fingerprint scanner
  • 3,340mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow, EMUI 4.1

A premium-looking exterior for not a lot of dough

Huawei’s original GR5 looked more expensive than it actually was, and this year’s refresh is mostly the same. The 2017 GR5 has a composite metal body, meaning, a body that’s been infused with both metal and glass to achieve a premium-looking exterior, and the phone mostly looks the part. The rear of the device has a metal back with plastic strips on the top and bottom for the requisite antennas. There’s a very slight chamfer on the side where the plastic front meets the metal back.

The phone’s back curves down slighty at the edges to facilitate better grip and ergonomics, and the device feels nice in the hands, even if you’re using it one-handed. Build quality is superb as expected, which is something we’ve come to expect from Huawei’s phones, mid-range or otherwise.

The dual-rear camera module protrudes a few milimeters from the rear, sporting a coecentric circle design and a metal-looking bezel. If there’s one flaw in the phone’s design, it’s definitely this, since the bezel isn’t completely flat with the glass protecting the cameras, it’s the first thing that contacts a surface when you lay the phone down, camera first. Since the bezel is so thin, it’s very easy to damage and chip. To be fair Huawei does include a case with every purchase that should mitigate that, though it makes the phone a wee bit stouter when installed.

Right below the dual-camera setup is the fingerprint scanner, and much like the other fingerprint scanners on Huawei’s phones, the one in the 2017 version of the GR5 unlocks the phone quickly and easily. Setting up that fingerprint scanner is quick and easy.

Going around the phone, you’ll see the volume rocker and power button on the right, while the 3.5mm jack is located up top. The microSD/SIM tray is located on the left side of the device, while the USB port is on the bottom, flanked by speaker grilles (though only the right grille actually generates audio).

The phone uses a 5.5-inch LCD display that has full HD resolution (1920 x 1080). Colors are good overall and the display is bright enough to see even under noonday sun. One thing that we did notice though that it’s a little washed out for our tastes, though we’ve probably been spoiled by the amount of AMOLED displays we’ve been seeing lately. In any case, the phone’s display does its job well, and we have no major issues with it.

Faster, meaner

This year’s GR5 takes a huge leap in terms of processor performance over its predecessor, armed with a HiSilicon Kirin 655 octa-core processor motoring along at blistering 2.1GHz, compared to the Snapdragon 616 octa-core processor in the previous model. Aside from higher clockspeed, the 2017 version of the GR5 also benefits from a better, smaller and more efficient 16nm manufacturing process, unlike the 28nm lithography of the Snapdragon 616 processor in last year’s model, and Snapdragon 430 in the GR5 2017’s closest competitors.

What does that mean? Well, that means the Kirin 655 should be more powerful and more power-efficient than its peers, at least on paper. Helping out the Kirin 655 processor is 3GB of RAM and 32GB of expandable storage. There’s a model overseas that has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, though 3GB/32GB is the only variant that will be available in our shores.

Anyway, the Kirin 655 processor is quick and snappy, and will make short work of any apps or games that you throw at it without any issue at all. On more demanding games like NBA 2K17, the phone can handle medium settings without significant hit in frame rates, but anything above that the phone will struggle a little bit. It is a mid-range phone, after all.

The phone sports Huawei’s EMUI 4.1 overlay on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and after sampling EMUI 5.0 and all it offers, EMUI 4.1 feels dated. No app drawer, slightly cartoony interface an overall unpolished feel make it feel a little heavy-handed. Thankfully there’s a Nougat update in the cards, but Huawei has not announced its availability as of yet.

Moving onto the other parts of the phone: the 2017 GR5 has no issues with connectivity, with the phone receiving excellent LTE speeds as long as your network does its part. The phone connects to GPS satellites quickly, and we experienced zero issues with call quality. Sound from the speakers are a little soft though, and sound a bit tinny.

Dual cameras produce good photos, though software bokeh is mostly a gimmick

The 2017 GR5 is equipped with two cameras at the rear: a primary 12-megapixel shooter and a 2-megapixel secondary camera. Just like the Honor 6 Plus, the 2-megapixel secondary camera is for taking depth information, which is combined with the 12-megapixel main camera to produce software bokeh in shots.

We’ve seen the effect before in the Honor 6 Plus, P9 and now, the 2017 GR5, and while the effect is a little more convincing and polished this time around, it all boils down to how you capture images with the camera. A single subject (or point) in the foreground with a bit of distance in the background creates the most convincing photos.

With the wide-angle shooting mode selected, you can artificially recreate apertures from f/16 to f/0.9. Like we said before, the apertures are generated via software, and don’t really let more light in. For the best results, try keeping the aperture at around f/2.4 for convincing bokeh.

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As far as the phone’s imaging prowess, it manages to perform better than we expected. Images shot have good detail and color, and the camera does a good job in focusing at a subject. Low-light performance is quite surprising as well, and we were very surprised to see the quality of the photos taken with the phone’s camera, considering the price range.

Can easily get through the day

This year’s GR5 gets a leg up in the battery deparment compared to its older brother, packing a 3340mAh battery inside of its body. Huawei quotes around two days of battery life on a single charge, which is quite a claim.

In practice, we found it to be closer to around a day and a half, but considering the slightly upgraded battery, that’s pretty good, all things considering. It’s not unusual to see the battery hovering at around 40-50% at the end of the working day with moderate use – the Kirin 655 octa-core processor is definitely a very efficient SoC, all things considering.

Verdict: A great mid-range smartphone for the money

Huawei is starting off 2017 with a very solid mid-range device. The GR5 2017 (or Honor 6X, or Mate 9 Lite) has a lot to offer. A relatively powerful processor, large battery, excellent endurance and solid camera make this a solid winner for the Chinese company. If you’ve managed to hold off buying a phone during the holidays or are due for an upgrade, you definitely have to check out the GR5 2017. It’s definitely great value for the money.

(unbox.ph, https://goo.gl/9lmBqp)

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