Huawei's known for its Ascend smartphones around the world, but back in late 2011, the company also started toying with a small Honor series for select budget markets. Fast forward to today, the latter sub-brand has become Huawei's platform to compete with the sudden surge of affordable online brands in China -- most notably Xiaomi, the pioneer of that industry. With a little help from MediaTek (and ironically not Huawei's own HiSilicon), the phone maker is upping its firepower over this territory with two new dual-SIM devices: Honor 3X and Honor 3C.

The Honor 3X joins the first wave of octa-core 1.7GHz MT6592-powered devices, and it boasts 2GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel f/2.2 main camera, a 5-megapixel 1.4-micron front imager plus a generous 3,000mAh battery. The 720p resolution on the glove-friendly, 5.5-inch IPS touchscreen may seem like a let-down, but in this case, Huawei reasoned that going 1080p would push power consumption up by as much as 20 percent, plus many folks may not notice the visual difference -- a point that Huawei Device Chairman Richard Yu has often echoed publicly.

On a brighter note, the 3X is the first phone to feature dual-3G SIM slots -- one Mini SIM and one Micro SIM -- for WCDMA (China Unicom and most carriers around the world) and TD-SCDMA (China Mobile). Better yet, both slots will recognize either type of 3G radio, as opposed to having designated slots for each. There's also a dual-mic system for in-call noise cancellation, as well as DTS audio support. The price? From just CN¥1,698 or about $280 off-contract, making it a tad more affordable than the Xiaomi MI3. Alas, there's no launch date just yet.

The "C" in Honor 3C probably stands for "cheaper," as evidenced by its specs. This Android 4.2 device features a quad-core 1.3GHz MT6582 SoC, along with a 5-inch 720p LTPS panel, a 2,300mAh battery, a Sony 8-megapixel f/2.0 main camera, a familiar 5-megapixel front imager, dual-SIM slots (WCDMA + GSM or TD-SCDMA + GSM), 8GB storage and microSD expansion. Like the 3X, this model also comes with dual-mic noise cancellation. The damage is only CN¥798 (about $130) for the 1GB RAM model, or CN¥998 ($160) for the 2GB RAM flavor, both of which are eating into the shanzhai price range. China-based folks can pre-order the 3C from online retailer JD.com or Huawei's own Vmall.com as early as tomorrow, and naturally, we'll be keeping an eye out for its international availability.

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Huawei's Honor brand challenges Xiaomi with 3X and 3C low-cost phones