Budget phones don’t necessarily have to be that bad. While there are devices out there that simply aren’t worth your money, there are Android phones from international brands that are competitively priced like the Huawei Y5 2017.

While working on this review, I read about Huawei’s plan on ditching the low-end smartphone market and it made me wonder why. The Huawei executive pointed out their low-profit margins compared to their flagship phones, so I double-checked this phone’s pricing and realized that it’s indeed cheaper than its main competitors. So, what makes this handset stand out?

Let’s first take a look at the phone’s physique:

It’s a brick phone with a 5-inch HD display

EMUI 4.0 doesn’t have an app drawer

The back panel is dimpled to provide texture

The pinhole above the camera is the secondary microphone

We have the usual volume and lock keys on this side

They’re easy to reach and tactile

There’s an extra button called “Easy Key” for assigning shortcuts

It allows quick access to apps and certain features

The 3.5mm headphone jack is here to stay

Never ever take this away from cheap phones

What’s special about it?

What makes the Y5 2017 stand out from its rivals is the extra traits you get without spending more. Other phones that cost as much get a subpar display, but the Y5 2017 has an HD IPS panel. The few extra pixels make the screen sharper — perfect for viewing pictures and videos. While the loudspeaker doesn’t keep up with the display, you can plug in your own headphones through the 3.5mm or wirelessly connect via Bluetooth.

Apart from the display, the phone also has a sizeable battery — 3000mAh. For a 5-inch phone, that’s the best you can get without making the phone chubby. This battery capacity will be able to give you a full day’s worth of use (given that you use the phone moderately). There’s no quick charging feature, though.

Can it handle more than just the basics?

Huawei gave the Y5 2017 a MediaTek processor with 2GB of memory. If you’ve used other phones in this range, you’d already know what to expect from the Y5 2017’s performance. MediaTek’s processors for budget phones don’t really fly, but this one gets the job done. We’re talking about basic tasks like calling and texting, web browsing, and using social networking apps. The interface runs smoothly; however, using memory-hogging apps causes hiccups.

How about gaming? It’s not really the strongest suit of budget phones. Thankfully, available titles on the Play Store have graphics settings that you can tweak. Intensive games like Asphalt Extreme and NBA 2K17 work fine when set to low, while casual games don’t have any performance issues.

The phone has Android 6.0 Marshmallow with the early EMUI 4.0 skin on top. A miracle must happen for this to get Nougat with EMUI 5.0 since these kinds of phones rarely get updates. The 16GB of storage won’t be enough; that’s why there’s a dedicated microSD card slot. There are also two SIM card slots — a nano and a micro — with support for 4G LTE.

How’s the camera?

Equipped with an 8-megapixel rear sensor, we didn’t really expect much at first coming from our review of the LG K7 (2017) which has the same price point, but with a lackluster rear camera. As for selfies, it has a 5-megapixel front shooter with its own LED flash.

The Y5 2017’s shooters perform surprisingly well during our test. The photos look okay for a budget phone and usable for social media posting. We do wish for faster autofocus times, but it’s not that slow either. The front LED flash opens the chance for a selfie in the dark.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Huawei sells the phone for just PhP 5,890 (US$ 115) in the Philippines and for that price, you get an Android smartphone that performs well and doesn’t look cheap. Its HD display is a good selling point for those who watch videos on their phones on the go, and the front LED flash will help in low-light selfie shots.

The phone is not without its flaws, such its plastic body and underwhelming gaming performance, since it must stick to its low price point. You can easily fix the build issue while at the same time protect your phone by slipping it into a case. As for gaming, you can try turning down the graphics settings if possible. There’s always a workaround for budget limitations; you just need to be creative.

If you can add a couple thousand pesos, we highly recommend the other affordable Huawei phone — the GR3 2017. You may read our review why it’s one of the top budget smartphones.

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