Honor Holly Review

Budget Android smartphones are a favourite category of mine. In the last few years the devices under £100 have been getting better and better to the point where they now reach the subjective "good enough" place. This is my review of the Honor Holly, the 5" budget device which is part of the Huawei sub-brand Honor portfolio.

Spec Sheet

5" 1280x720 IPS LCD Display

Mediatek MT6582 1.3 GHz Quad-core processor with 1GB RAM and Mali 400MP GPU

8MP autofocus camera with LED flash / 2MP selfie camera

Dual-standby Micro SIM support. HSPA (3.5G)

16GB internal storage / MicroSD slot for up to 32GB cards

Android 4.4.2 KitKat with Huawei/Honor launcher (and minor modifications) based on AOSP.

Removable 2000 mAh battery.

Impressions

Honor is a sub-brand of Huawei. Think of the Honor/Huawei as Mini/BMW. The Honor Holly is a budget device which offers incredible value for money in the current smartphone market. At time of writing, the Honor Holly is priced at £89.99 on Amazon.

 GoatZ being demoed on All About Android 213

GoatZ being demoed on All About Android 213

I really enjoy using my Honor Holly. The HD screen is just the right size at 5", typing on it is easy without having to be too accurate with screen taps and swipes. The screen is more than adequate for regular smartphone use, even for watching HD video.

Under the screen you have the back button, home button and menu button which are capacitive buttons on the front panel.

The MediaTek system on a chip performs very well for the device class. Battery life in the same daily use as my Samsung Galaxy S5 actually lasts longer. Social networking apps, news reading and podcast listening run smoothly with very few slowdowns if any. Call quality with the SIMs I tested on (Vodafone UK and Tesco Mobile) was excellent, as was overall reception even in Edinburgh's Old Town.

 Honor Holly back

Honor Holly back

The 8MP camera performs reasonably well, but to manage to offer the device at its price it was one of the corners that had to go. Not great, but still a reasonable camera in good lighting conditions and it produces decent cat pictures...

 Sample cat picture taken with the Honor Holly

Sample cat picture taken with the Honor Holly

The front facing 2MP camera is great for social media use and takes good pictures in ideal lighting conditions but suffers in low light.

The software on the Honor Holly is a mixed bag. Using this device feels more like using a reference MediaTek device with an incomplete attempt from Huawei to give it some EMUI love. The EMUI version here is 2.3 running on Android 4.4.2. Most of the apps are AOSP ones, such as the camera, but some of them are Huawei's own product, like the launcher and some skeumorphic leftovers. The end result is an inconsistent icon set with an iOS-like launcher with no drawer. For the average end user this will be something easy to get used to and something they will live with blissfully unaware.

I struggled to live with the Huawei launcher offering, and ended up installing Action Launcher 3 and the Moonshine icon pack, just to stay in the comfort zone of my most used setup. Once the device was as I wanted it I was much happier.

Action Launcher 3 with Moonshine icon pack. That's better!

Conclusion

The Honor Holly offers amazing value for money and is a great piece of hardware for the price. The screen is clear and crisp, the battery life is excellent and the dual-SIM and storage options are best in class.

As you may have surmised from my personal impressions I am not a fan of the software offering, but with a small effort it is easy to overcome this.

I would thoroughly recommend this device to anyone looking for a good value for money smartphone under £100. If 4G is not super important (it isn't), in my view this is better value than a Moto E 4G.

What endears the device to me particularly is the pleather soft back which has no fake stitching. I'm still looking for a mockodile back...