One of the mainstays of our Best Budget Smartphones list has been Huawei’s GR5 2017, and for good reason. It has a sleek build beyond its price point, a strong pair of main cameras, and great performance all around. But what if we could lower that price a little more?

That’s where the GR3 2017 comes in. While it bears almost no resemblance to its larger counterpart, a bunch of Huawei’s signature features are found here, including the attractive aesthetics and smooth interface, but in a more affordable package.

Let’s first admire its physique:

The glossy glass back can easily get smudged and scratched

Beware of tainting it with dirty hands and rough tables

Its 5.2-inch Full HD display is pleasantly bright and sharp

Perfect for those who find the 5.5-inch GR5 2017 too big

The fingerprint sensor is one of the fastest out there

Near-instant logins!

You may remove the app drawer and rearrange the navigation buttons

We prefer making it look like stock Android

This is how the app drawer looks

Continuous scrolling is a plus, but the similar-looking icons are confusing

The audio port is on top…

No need for dongles and adapters here

… and the old-school micro-USB port is at the bottom

Bummer seeing a non-USB-C port on phones these days

How well does it perform?

Liking the GR3 2017 so far? Good, because it’s about to look even better!

Huawei was generous enough to equip this phone with a Kirin 655 processor, the exact same chip found inside the higher-end GR5 2017. That’s insane for a handset costing less than US$ 200! With it, you can expect seamless transitions from one app to another and close to no lag with Android’s animations.

Of course, a couple of compromises had to be made in order to separate the GR3 2017 from its more potent sibling. For one, this device settles for 3GB of memory instead of 4GB, which is still quite good for the amount you’re paying.

On top of that (and this one hurts a lot more), it comes with only 16GB of built-in storage. That doesn’t sound so bad since you can insert a microSD card for your personal files, but having abundant internal storage for large apps is vital. After installing NBA 2K17 and the Asphalt games on this thing — both of which, by the way, ran smoothly on medium settings — I barely had any space left for all my other games and heavy social media apps (looking at you Facebook).

Does it take great photos?

While the GR5 2017 has a dual-camera setup, Huawei chose to go for a single, 12-megapixel main camera and an 8-megapixel selfie shooter for the GR3 2017. Sounds like a downgrade, but that’s far from the truth when you see these sample photos:

This phone proves that having a secondary lens isn’t all that. Yes, you lose those background-blurring tricks made possible by the extra image sensor, but the GR3 2017 once again impresses us with strong colors, sweet overall sharpness, and decent noise reduction in most situations.

My only knock against it would be the somewhat slow focusing times. I can’t count how many moments I missed just because the autofocus point was unsure of what it was looking at.

Can it last more than a day?

Yes, most definitely. It’s all thanks to the combination of the efficient processor, large 3000mAh battery capacity for the phone’s size, and updated Huawei UI on top of all the battery-optimization tricks of Android Nougat.

My screen-on time floated around four and a half hours over the course of a full day, which is great considering how heavily I rely on my daily driver to push every single notification and handle all the photo taking and web browsing I have to do.

One gripe lies in the bundled charger: It’s terribly slow in bringing the GR3 2017 to full. It takes more than two hours to reach a hundred percent, and that’s while the phone is untouched.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

When you review a budget-friendly smartphone, you have to weigh all the omissions before giving a fair recommendation. In this case, the GR3 2017 and its few flaws make it easy for us to give it a solid thumbs up.

Despite a few weaknesses — mainly its not-so-attractive back panel and low amount of storage — there’s no reason not to choose the GR3 2017 at this level. If you look at the rest of our Best Budget Smartphone list, this Huawei stands out for its satisfying performance in a stunningly affordable price point.

Our review unit retails for PhP 8,990 ($180) in the Philippines; that’s a fantastic deal for such a complete package.

The only possible turnoff for potential buyers is the confusing naming scheme. Like the GR5 2017 and its multiple monikers, the GR3 2017 has different model names depending on the region. In India, it’s called the Honor 8 Lite, and comes with more storage at 64GB and a slightly higher price tag of INR 14,449 or about $225.

SEE ALSO: Huawei Mate 9 review: Does it get faster?

SEE ALSO
Huawei Mate 9 review: Does it get faster?