Huawei GR5 - Camera, lights, action!

The GR5 is pretty, feels well put together and aligns with Huawei's new simplistic design philosophy aimed at removing the 'Chinko' tag commonly associated with the brand

Huawei GR5

The Huawei GR5 is an upper mid-range smartphone launched by the Chinese tech giant in January, 2016.  The device is sleek, with a well put together aluminum magnesium alloy body, 5.5-inch Full HD IPS display, with 1080x1920 pixels.

The GR5 is pretty, feels well put together and aligns with Huawei's new simplistic design philosophy aimed at removing the 'Chinko' tag commonly associated with the brand in this part of the world.

I had about a week to play around with this phone and, while I was not particularly blown away, I really liked it. On the left side of the phone are the two SIM trays, one of which serves as a compound tray that can house a nano-SIM and a microSD card (the GR5 can support as much as 32GB of external storage). On the right side are the volume rocker, and the power on/off lock button, while you can find the speakers, microphone and the charger port at the bottom of the phone. On the back of the phone is the 13MP primary camera with dual tone LCD flash, with the fingerprint sensor sitting just below it. I wish the primary camera didn’t protrude though, but that is just a minor complaint as it doesn't really affect the overall dynamics or usability of the GR5. Farther below the fingerprint sensor is the Huawei inscription and the headphone jack is located at the top of the phone.

The display is clear and the HD panels can do wonders when you're playing first person shooter games, or just streaming the latest episode of your favorite series. The GR5 handled itself well outdoors with the Apical Assertive Display, which uses the smart ambient sensors to automatically adjust the screen brightness to suit the external light conditions.

Away from the display, the fingerprint sensor on the GR5 is on point. It is smart, fast and, I never I'd say it, but conveniently placed at the back of the phone so that you can unlock the phone, answer a call, or take a photo with a single tap of the sensor. Yes, it may not respond as fast as the sensors on an Apple iPhone 6s or a Samsung Galaxy S7, but it is not a flagship device. And the best thing is, it doesn't try to be.

The GR5 is composed, efficient and does what you ask of it, without long delays or questionable UI layouts. The GR5 is similar to the recently launched HTC 10 in that Huawei did well to not cover the Android Lollipop 5.1, which the GR5 is equipped with out-of-the-box, with too many layers of Huawei's own EmotionUI (EMIU). As such, the GR5 is able to function as a proper Android device without the complexity that comes with an overbearing layering of skins and what not.

Let's talk about the GR5's primary camera for a second. The GR5 has a 13-megapixel f/2.0 camera that is very capable. Let's even leave the picture quality on one side, the real prize is in the setup of the camera. There are so many ways you can play with it from manual settings, to effects, and OIS settings - I could go on and on. The 5MP selfie secondary camera in front of the GR5 also did a great job at hiding all the pimples on my face with the Beauty function and, though it took really grainy picture in low-lit conditions, It will still hold its own against most of the primary shooters out there in its price range. Another camera feature on the GR5 which I really liked is the Good Food filter which makes your food basically look as good as it tastes. Great stuff.

Not all the roses are red for the GR5's camera though, the camera layout instantly reminds me of an iPhone. I don't know why Huawei decided to go for this this layout but if they are reading this: It's not that serious, guys. You can do better than rip off a camera layout design.

On the CPU front is where I think the GR5's biggest shortcomings are. The GR5 is equipped with a Qualcomm SnapDragon 616 Octa-Core processor and it does not do very well. I can understand Huawei's decision to go with the 616 (especially if you consider the phones the GR5 is competing with) but pairing that with 2GB of RAM and Android Lollipop just doesn't work in this application. Sometimes, you have to tap the screen 'deeply' to get a response, selecting apps from the multi-app window sometimes takes a while to kick and certain functions just seem impeded - like the GR5 knows what you want to do, but it just needs a few seconds to get to doing it. That just made the entire experience a bit labored.

Another bittersweet spot for the GR5 is it's battery. It packs a powerful 3000mAh battery that lasts for a day (or more) of average use (Wifi, games, music, etc) but takes forever to charge. This phone will take about 2-3.5 hours to get from 2% to full charge. Not very convenient.

Moving on to better things: the GR5's music player. Last year when I reviewed the Huawei P8, which is a flagship device, I talked about the music player and how much I loved the way the whole thing was set up. Well, Huawei seems to have continued that trend in the GR5. The speakers will not do for your house party but they are loud enough (no bass here though). If you use earphones, the experience is a whole lot better. The sound is clear, the bass effect and 3D effect are amazing and the overall layout of the music player is really impressive. Nice one, Huawei.

As for connectivity, you get the usual stuff - bluetooth, wifi, wifi hotspot, GPS, microUSB 2.0, and Glonass. However, this is 2016 and I think all devices at this price point should have NFC, which the GR5 does not have, but I guess that shouldn't really be an issue. Verdict: The Huawei GR5 looks good and works good. I wouldn't mind it as a device for everyday use. The design is clean, effective; the camera is great, the sound does not hurt my ears, and most of all, it works. I had my little issues here and there (I still don't know why OEMs are releasing phones with Android Lollipop in 2016. Where that Marshmallow at? Wyd?) but as a complete package, the Huawei GR5 is a good smartphone. I would buy it. Would you? Let me know in the comments section below.


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