Huawei GR5 phone: Full, in-depth review
Dual-camera high-impact photos in a fast, low-end Android smartphone (aka Honor 6X and Mate 9 Lite)
- Potentially great photos
- Mid-range power
- Occasional hangs
At $400 it's difficult to find fault with the GR5. It can take better pictures than phones which are $700 dearer, it's quite fast and well made. All good.
Price$ 400.00 (AUD)
We’ve raved about Huawei’s ‘Leica' phones’ (P9, Mate 9, P10 and P10 Plus) photography prowess extensively and we even use them for in-house product photography. But despite offering great value they’re also expensive. So we were very interested when Huawei sent us a budget model which costs almost one-third as much as a P10 Plus. This puts it up against the likes of budget marvels like the Moto G5 Plus and Oppo A57. That’s some fierce competition but then the GR5 has some great credentials. So which should you buy?
5.5in, 1080 x 1920 LCD screen, 3GB/32GB RAM, 2.1GHz Octa-core Cortex A53 CPU, Mali-T830MP GPU, Dual 12MP/2MP rear cameras plus 8MP front camera, microSD or dual SIM, Micro USB, Android 6, 2900mAh battery, 151 x 76 x 8mm, 162g. Full specs here.
Handling and design
The GR5 certainly doesn’t look like a budget phone – it’s less than half the price of a Huawei Mate 9 – but it could easily be mistaken for being part of the same mid-range bracket. The 5.5-inch LCD screen is generally colourful, is Full HD and relatively sharp at 403 pixels per inch.
The chassis isn’t oversized and it feels solid if a bit plasticy. That can be a boon considering how fragile the glass-encased top-end phones can be. Huawei doesn’t tell us whether tough Gorilla Glass is used for the screen so it’s safer to assume that it isn’t.
The phone does come with a discreet plastic case, though, and this protects the rear and corners without masking the looks or adding bulk.
The OS is Android 6 which is still adequate but missing neat features like Google Assistant. Huawei’s EMUI software sits atop this but doesn’t interfere much. There’s no app drawer and the basic Home Screen can be converted into a really simple layout if the phone is going to be used by n00bs.
It's powered by a 2.1GHz Kirin chipset with octa-core processor. This really isn’t far behind what we see in top end phones and the result was responsive navigation and fast app opening. It also handled games of all levels with aplomb – Pokemon Go and Angry Birds provided no issues and there weren’t any frames dropped in Need for Speed No limits. That doesn’t mean the phone was never prone to hanging, though. Periodically, we’d have to wait a while for things to happen, but this was usually when hardcore photo processing or downloads were taking place.
There’s a fingerprint reader on the back which was fast and accurate.
The solitary, bottom-mounted speaker lacked any punch but still played audio at a reasonable volume. It was just the right side of tinny. As for speakerphone and video calls, we didn’t have any issues but if you need loud clarity in a noisy room, it will struggle.
The main rear camera is 12-megapixels but it’s joined by a second two-megapixel camera.
This is used to create impressive Bokeh effects – where you simulate an SLR camera’s wide aperture by blurring areas around the subject in order to add impact to photos. On the more-expensive siblings, the second camera adds extra light information and an amazing monochrome sensor. But this one is all about focus effects. And it works.
All close-up subjects – people, objects… cats – all can look fantastic using the GR5’s camera – dramtically more so than anything else near its price.
There aren’t quite as many settings as with the siblings but it was still capable of producing sharp, well-focused, colourful pictures. The colours didn’t quite have the punch or impact that we’ve seen on top-end models, but for the money, it's very good.
Interestingly, while the sibling cameras have struggled badly in low light (when not using monochrome) the GR5 performed rather well. In dark and low-light scenes photos were frequently usable. However, this could require some patience as everything needed to be still for good low-light shots.
The eight-megapixel Selfie camera was generally good and clear. But portraits taken from the rear camera were so much better that we’d prefer to take blind shots and hope we were lined up correctly.
Food Mode added colour saturation and succeeded in making subjects more appetising.
Landscapes were generally well exposed but demonstrated that detail could be lost in dark areas due to a slightly-limited dynamic range.
Video could be captured at Full HD 30fps and we were really quite impressed. While image stabilisation wasn’t great and dynamic range issues meant that light areas were favoured quite heavily over dark when it came to retaining detail, we were left with very usable footage.
Audio stayed just the right side of robotic when indoors and big changes in focus needed a bit of a manual nudge from time to time, but the detail on offer and the impressive low-light performance here meant that the video camera offered better all-round footage than many expensive models.
Next: Battery Life and Conclusion
Join the newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Samsung Galaxy S9+ review: A predictably-exellent flagship uplifted by a standout camera
- 2 Panasonic Lumix G9 review: A mirrorless moulded to the needs of still-shooters
- 3 LG 65E7T Ultra HD OLED TV review: The South Korean thoroughbred is still first past the post
- 4 Hisense takes the fight to home entertainment heavyweights with flagship Series 8 and 9 ULED TVs
- 5 D-Link Omna 180 Cam HD DSH-C310 review
Latest News Articles
- A backpack with a USB charge port and a free Lightning cable is on sale for under $20
- Hands-on: The Atari VCS is a nostalgic mini-PC shrouded in faux wood and mystery
- How to Watch Huawei P20 Launch Live Stream & Live Blog
- Best Buy dumps Huawei phones, another major blow to the company's U.S. aspirations
- Assassin’s Creed 2019: Release date, platforms and location rumours
PCW Evaluation Team
The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use
I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.
It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.
Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.
The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.
The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.
- Samsung Galaxy S9+ review: A predictably-exellent flagship uplifted by a standout camera
- Five 2017 flagship smartphones that are now less than $900
- Hands On: Pitting the Apple HomePod against the Sonos One
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- TPTest Analyst - AutomationQLD
- TPSenior Business Analyst - Customer Centric ContentQLD
- CCChange and Communication SpecialistWA
- FTData Warehouse Project ManagerVIC
- FTSAP TestersSA
- TPEnterprise Architect | QLD Health | $1173/day | BrisbaneNSW
- CCPega ArchitectNSW
- CCField Technician - Windows/ Office 365 EnvironmentVIC
- FTCommercial Contracts AnalystOther
- FTFull Stack Web DeveloperOther
- FTService Desk Analyst - L1Other
- FTProject Coordinator l PMONSW
- CCWindows System EngineerNSW
- CCAndroid developerNSW
- FTSAP Test AnalystsOther
- FTUI DesignerOther
- FTProject Manager - Product & Value ChainOther
- FTJava DeveloperOther
- FTSQL Database AdministratorWA
- FTChange ManagerOther
- FTDRM DeveloperOther
- TPBusiness AnalystQLD
- FTSoftware Technical WriterOther
- FTApplication Support ManagerOther
- FTTechnical Quality LeadVIC