Huawei GR5 Review — Premium Build Midrange Smartphone
After months of intensive usage today I’ll share my review of the Huawei GR5, a midrange smartphone offering by Huawei.
Introduction and Design
Before I dig into the details here is a rundown of the specs.
Device ModelHuawei GR5Device TypePhabletSystemAndroid Lolipop 5.1.1CPU1.5GHz Octa Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 (MSM8939)GPUAdreno 405 400MHzRAM2GB RAM (1.8GB Usable)Camera Rear13MP Rear (4160 x 3120) Auto FocusCamera Front5MP Front (2592 x 1944) Fixed FocusStorage16GB Internal (10.41GB Usable)Battery3,000mAhDisplay5.5-inch FHD (1080 x 1920) IPS (480dpi)NetworkGSM/WCDMA/HSPA+/LTESIM SlotDual SIM (Micro + Nano + MicroSD)ExpansionYes, Expandable up to 128GB via MicroSDFeaturesFingerprint SensorWiFI2.5GHz Only (B/G/N)Bluetooth4.1GPSGPS, A-GPS, GLONASSWeight160g
Now that is out of the way this device is available now on the market but it’s also available via Globe MyLifestyle Plan 999 and you’ll get the unit for FREE! for more info check here.
The first thing I noticed with the device is its well build body. Back is made up of aluminum with a brush finish texture, while the top and bottom chin have a dotted texture. pressing the back doesn’t flex which is a great thing for a non-removable battery. Usually, with other devices with the same build when pressing in the center they feel soft and less premium. But that’s not the case with the GR5.
It also comes with a fingerprint sensor that I will discuss in a bit. Located above is the fingerprint sensor resides a 13-megapixel Rear camera with auto focus feature plus a single led flash beside it. while the below has the logo and some certifications, I’ll go into details with the camera’s in the camera section. Moving in front we have the large 5.5-inch IPS display, no capacitive buttons available but it comes with a 5-megapixel front facing, fixed focus camera.
On top is the 3.5mm jack while on the left side is the two SIM tray, first one is the Micro SIM while the second is a combination of MicroSD and Nano SIM. It’s a great advantage for the GR5 for having a separate sim tray for the SIM and Memory card, the device is capable of up to 128GB of expandable storage via the MicroSD slot but as of the moment I haven’t tried it but only 64GB which works well in my experience.
flicking to the right side is the volume rocker on top and power button below. Again, a thumbs up for having the power button below the volume rocker since this is a phablet it’s easier to reach the power button when using with one hand. Moving at the bottom part is the two speaker grills (left and right) and in the center is the Micro USB port. Unfortunately, it’s not capable of Fast or Quick Charging.
Holding the device with one hand is easy and comfortable, not slippery thanks to the sharp edges of the back design.
Other than the good build design, the only thing I don’t like about the design is the chamfered plastic edge that surrounds the front panel. but overall it’s one of the elegant Huawei G series I have seen.
Display, UI, and Features
The GR5 boast a 5.5-inch display that leads it to the Phablet category. The display is almost flat with the panel, viewing angle is great even looking in extreme angle, punchy color but lacking in brightness although, it doesn’t feature a Miravision to enhance the color reproduction but it has a Color Temperature adjustment that can be set to warm or cold. Even the device has a feature called “Increase readability under sunlight” I still find it lacking on brightness even on max settings. That’s why I find it hard to use in a bright daylight condition. Another thing that is notable with the GR5 is the thick black line alongside the bezel, it’s not that I don’t like that thick bezel but that’s what we can expect with a midrange devices? Also, a bit dissapointing it lack a Gyroscope but does have a magnetic sensor plus its a 10 Multi touch point.
I mention a while ago that it doesn’t have any capacitive buttons, but rather an on-screen which is also customizable that can be changed in the settings. Like on my end, I set it to have a notification toggle for easy access , But I’m glad the bottom and top blank space are proportion and appropriate for its design. Up above are the Proximity sensor , 5-megapixel camera, and the ear piece. Below is just the Huawei logo, the bottom chin can be used to rest your finger while using it horizontally like taking photo’s or watching videos. speaking of videos when playing videos the built-in player has a special button that switches the player from full screen to a PIP video that can be dragged to any part of the screen, very nifty. Here is the list of features that I found in the GR5:
- Home Screen Style — UI can be set to Standard or Simple look.
- Power Saving — Can be set to Ultra or Smart.
- Motion Control — Flip to Mute, Shake to rearrange icons, Double touch to turn on screen, Draw letter to open an application.
- Navigation Bar — 4 Choices, navigation can be set to different variations, with or without notification toggle or left/right button sequence.
- One-nad UI — 2 Choices, One-hand layout, and Shifting keyboard where it converts the keyboard to a smaller interface for easier one hand navigation.
- Floating Dock — a floating navigation button similar with iOS floating button, but it only features the 3 navigation button plus the lock and closes all app one click button.
- Smart Cover — if you’re going to purchase a smart cover this activates the smart features on standby.
- Touch-disable mode — to prevent mistaken operation when the phone is in your pocket or bag.
- Gloves Mode — can be toggled on and off.
The UI is has a custom made skin provided by Huawei itself called EMOTION UI with a running version 3.1. Not the fastest and most buttery smooth UI but I like the fact that it has some advanced features which are most likely usable that I mentioned above. In terms of the UI, they’re certain basic features that are missing like the Airplane mode in the Notification toggle section. It’s nowhere to be found but can be dug in the Wireless section part of the settings which is a few steps to access. But I like the Timeline base design for the Notification, the Time-based feature is a great addition.
But for the most user they might like or dislike the no app drawer feature but its a user preference. From the time I used the device I got used to it but the launcher lacks in feature to adjust the look so downloading a custom launcher might be the best choice for some.
For months of usage I didn’t have any issues of unresponsiveness but with just some app compatibility which I think not a problem with the device but rather the developers of the app like Facebook, there are times that it doesn’t load immediately and I needed to close the app just to fix the issue but other than that the UI is stable and reliable. Still, the overall UI design needs improvement for easier navigation and ease of access to some features of the phone.
The GR5 is also LTE capable but no NFC feature, the device is also capable of 700MHz but as of the review since the 700MhHz is still in rollout I didn’t got the chance to check how stable the signal for that band, but atleast it’s future proof.
Camera and Fingerprint
Let me first discuss the fingerprint sensor, comparing to other devices it’s not the fastest but its one of the accurate fingerprint sensor available out there. I like the fact that even the phone in deep sleep once you trigger the fingerprint sensor it unlocks the phone immediately but then again not the fastest since there is a slight animation going on before it unlocks the phone. the fingerprint can also be used to navigate in the gallery and also act as a trigger for the camera to capture or even for selfie lovers. It can register up to five fingers and here are some of the advance feaature of the sensor.
- Back — Click the fingerprint back to the previous view
- Back to Home — once triggere it will go back to home screen
- Take Photo/Video — trigger to take photo or capture a video
- Answer Call — trigger to answer call
- Stop alarm — trigger to stop alarm
- Recent App — Slide up to show recent app
- Show notification Panel — slide down to display notification panel
Take note that the feature mentioned above doesn’t need to enroll any finger to perform the following.
Now the camera, rear has a 13-megapixel with autofocus while the front has 5-megapixel fixed focus. Here is the full detail for both cameras.
FeaturesRearFrontResolution13-megapixel5-megapixelPicture Size4160 x 31202592 x 1944Video Resolution1920 x 10801280 x 960FPS 30fps 30fpsAutofocusYesFixedVideo StabilizationNoneNoneFlashSingle LEDNoneF StopF/2.0F/2.4Focal Length3mm3mmISOAuto, 100–800Auto, 100–800
Rear/Front Camera VideoFHDHDVGAQVGAMMSSize1920 x 10801280 x 720640 x 480320 x 240176 x 144Bitrate10MBs8MBs5MBs800kbps175kbpsFPS30fps30fps30fps30fps30fpsFormatMP4MP4MP4MP4MP4
*Only Rear has Full HD capability, front is only up to HD
Here are the features of the camera
Overall the Camera is decent for 13-megapixel but if I’m going to rely on the display output quality I find it crushing too much of the black that leads it to a very dark shadows but once viewed on a computer the blacks are ok but still has too much contrast even on videos the color are punchy but not too saturated. It lacks in sharpness Autofocus is also slightly slower and soft. Even worst in low light, its hard to focus and the noise is just too much, not sure if a software update can enhance this but for the time being the camera is just below average. a bit disappointing.
There are 5 modes (Good food, Beauty, Photo, video, and Timelapse) these features are common nowadays for midrange devices but it lacks with EIS feature and Manual exposure adjustment.
But if you’re into video recording it records in MP4 with 30fps plus the audio sound quality is superb, I was surprised that audio coming from the video turns out well. I’ll recommend it if you want to record voices for some vlogs and the likes. Although, the front camera is fixed focus but still it can capture up to HD quality.
Performance & Benchmarks
Now above all the features and lacks the ease of access, I think one of the best parts of the GR5 is the performance. Packed with a 1.5GHz Octa Core Processor Snapdragon 616 with 2GB RAM and 16GB Internal Storage. I can safe to say its still one of the stable performer device compares to a cheaper with the same feature. Idle temprature is just 33°C — 35°C while on load is not going far above 43°C (Max). Most of the highly graphical demanding games are playable even on the highest settings but still expect some few drop frames. is the 2GB ram sufficient? Well, I’ve used it heavily on social media and I get tons of notifications every day. With that said, I still manage to navigate smoothly after all the notif drops in. As what I said a while ago the only issue in terms of the performance is the apps that frequently updates like Facebook and Instagram but other than that its stable no memory issues and no extreme heating when used for playing games even having an aluminum back cover.
The only biggest draw back is the 2GB of RAM coming from a 3GB and 4GB smartphones I still noticed a huge difference in terms of smoothness but then again if you’re just a casual social media person well its sufficient for you. While perforrmance is a bit stiff, it’s the other way around for the storage even having just 16GB of Internal Storage and a 10GB usable internals the expandability feature via MicroSD is a big plus. For a device that has a two SIM slot and having a separate slot for storage is an advantage. Users are not tied to switching every now and then just to add expansion for storage. Also while it’s still on Android Lollipop 5.1.1 the lack of adaptive storage feature is not a bummer since its still cacpable of moving to SD card that makes installation of large games an ease.
And for the record here are the Benchmarks. Take note that benchmarks are taken from a fresh install device without installing other games only benchmarks apps.
BenchmarksScoreAntutu38677Vellamo Chrome1958Vellamo Metal1166Vellamo Multi Core1699GeekBench 3 Single698GeekBench 3 Multi Core3024Temp40C
Battery Life and Audio
I mentioned that the recording of the GR5 when it comes to audio is just superb, not only for recording but also the same story goes when using with a decent headphone. (BTW the included headphone out of the box is also fairly decent) First, are the speaker below yup it has left and right speakers.
But how does it sound? when using the phone horizontally even sometimes I tend to cover the speaker grills I still find the sound quality ok, it’s loud but better for listening vocal audio it’s clear but lacks the bass which is expected for the position of the speakers but again I won’t complain about the quality the loudness is above average. While for the headphones it’s CTIA compliant.
For a 3000mAh battery device I expect it to last long but upon doing the PC Mark batterytest, I was surprised that it only took 5hrs on my end. But like what I usually say benchmarks uses all the resources of the device compare to a real world usage. But for the ‘typical’ usage I have an average of more than 8hrs and a great standby time. There’s also a setting in the battery where it can be set to ultra and smart to gain battery life. But I stick to the normal usage and fairly enough I got a decent standby time.
Final thoughts the Huawei GR5 is a bit pricey for its specs but if you’re looking for a well build phone with a stable and less issue in performance smartphone the GR5 is one your choices. Even the UI needs more optimization and an ease of access It’s still a powerhouse midrange device but again Globe offers it for FREE in their 999 plan which I’ll recommend rather than spending too much with the cash price.