Honor 7X review

WHEN WE FIRST got our hands on the Honor 7X back in November, our first impressions were of a solid mid-ranger with an excellent price (now officially announced at £269). However, already we could spot a few potential pitfalls — and now we’ve had the phone for a little longer, we’re ready to give you the full picture.

The Honor 7X comes in blue and black, with an additional gold variant we’re not likely to see on these shores. We’d call its design high-end generic: it has the smooth aluminium curves and sleek antenna lines of your standard iPhone clone, with a shallow circular fingerprint pad on the back. The dual cameras are aligned horizontally alongside the flash, and the branding is very subtle.

Flip over to the front and it’s a bit more noticeable, with ‘Honor’ emblazoned in silver on the bottom bezel. And those bezels are delightfully slim for a sub-£300 phone. Honor calls the 18:9 display panel ‘FullView’ because of the super-sleek borders on either side, and we’re inclined to agree: this is an impressive screen-to-body ratio for an inexpensive phone.

The left edge of the handset houses the dual SIM tray, which can also take a microSD card up to 256GB if you don’t want a second SIM. On the right is a volume rocker and power button, and the bottom edge holds the 3.5mm headphone jack, single speaker and charging port. All fairly standard, but it’s definitely a higher standard of standard (sorry) than we’d expect for this price point.

Hardware, storage and performance
There’s only one option for hardware in the UK: 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Honor could have got away with 32GB at this price, especially with the microSD option, but it’s good to see they made the numbers work without skimping on space.

Performance-wise, that 4GB of RAM is twinned with the mid-level octa-core Kirin 659, offering four cores at 2.36GHz and four at 1.7GHz. This is plenty of power to run the most popular apps and services, and while it’s not the best out there for gaming, it’s plenty good enough for most people’s needs. We experienced no problems with lag when multitasking — and yes, mum, it runs Candy Crush just fine.

One big hardware omission though: no NFC. That means no Android Pay for you if you buy this phone. It’s rare we see a handset without NFC these days, and while some people won’t even notice, it does seem a bit stingy to leave it out. It’s likely because QR-code-based systems like Alipay and WeChat Pay are dominant in China, but as Chris noted in our hands-on, its exclusion “could be seen as a little naive for a company desperate to break the US as well as Europe as a brand for Digital Natives.” It won’t be a dealbreaker for everyone, but it would be for me.

You wouldn’t expect the very latest version of Android at this price, and you’d be right not to. Out of the box, the 7X runs Android Nougat, and although Honor has confirmed it’ll get Oreo ‘soon,’ we don’t have a date.

Which version of Android you have matters slightly less on an Honor phone in any case, because the OS is overlaid with Huawei’s Emotion UI. It’s a controversial one – some people really hate it, whereas others don’t really notice it’s there. One thing’s for sure: Huawei has improved EMUI considerably over the last couple of years, including adding an option to bring back the app drawer (menu). Just go to Settings > Home Screen Style > Drawer if you prefer not having to have all your app icons on the home screen like laundry on the floor.

Oddly, one of the features of EMUI is a smaller status bar at the top, with tiny icons. We’ve noticed this sometimes makes it harder to spot a notification icon, just because it’s not as noticeable as it is on other phones. You get used to it, though, and you can customise the icons on the quick settings panel which is handy.

You can also customise the look of EMUI, to a far greater degree than many phones offer. There’s a preinstalled app called Themes that includes armloads of different skins, not only for colours and backgrounds but entire app packs too. Some of them are pretty terrible, but there are some cool ones too.

The one downside of Huawei’s custom version of Android is that it sometimes causes compatibility problems with apps. On the 7X, we had major problems with the Amazon Kindle app, which refused to run at all for the first week of owning the device. Reinstalling didn’t help, but an eventual update sorted it out. The original version of the app worked fine on our other Androids, though. Additionally, we ran into some crashes with other apps, but not to any great degree. It’s just worth being aware of, as you’re more likely to have these kinds of problems on an Honor than a device running stock ‘droid.

Honor is known for being generous with their power packs, and the Honor 7X lives up to that reputation with its 3340mAh cell. It doesn’t last as long as it might on other handsets due to the large, high-res screen, but the 7X still delivers strong battery life and got us through the day most days (while being used as a daily driver, for everything from calls to WhatsApp to social media to streaming).

It’s not the kind of phone where you can happily forget where your charging points are, because you will want to top it up when you have the opportunity. And it definitely isn’t one of the 2-day devices. But for the price, the power pack performs very well — better than it has any right to, really — and left us happy to take it on a night out without worry.

There’s no wireless charging on the 7X, which isn’t surprising, but it also doesn’t come with a fast charger, and that’s disappointing. Most phones have some kind of expedited power option these days, even if you have to pony up the cash to buy it separately. Not so on the 7X, and it also — again, surprisingly — doesn’t use the USB-C standard charging port. It’s the old non-reversible micro-B type that we hoped we’d seen the last of. It works fine, but buying a brand new phone with micro-B in 2018 feels a bit wrong. Even if it is this cheap.

Definitely one of the high points of the device, the 5.93in ‘FullView’ display is gently curved and offers FHD+ (2160×1080, 407ppi) in an 18:9 IPS LCD format. In other words, it has a large, high-resolution screen with very slim margins on either side and more space vertically than phones with a 16:9 aspect ratio.

However, since not all Android apps are built with 18:9 in mind, a lot of them have an annoying strip across the bottom saying “full screen display” on this phone, to give you the option to artificially expand the graphics into that space. Sometimes it works fine, sometimes it screws things up. You can turn it off in the settings if it bugs you, though.

That’s the only negative thing we have to say about the Gorilla Glass-coated screen of the 7X, because it’s gorgeous. Pixel-dense, clear and colourful, with a good range of brightnesses and strong readability in a range of lighting environments, including bright light. Plus of course those super-slim bezels mean you get more of it, and it shows when viewing videos or watching movies — especially with the built-in split-screen mode. In short, lovely.

Note: if there’s an Illuminati-ish eye icon on your Honor 7X’s status bar, it’s because you’ve got Eye Comfort mode on. Do not be creeped out. I definitely knew this without Googling it. Ahem.

Another high point. Honor cameras are generally strong, and the 7X delivers more than you’d expect for its price tag. The Honor camera app is as feature-packed as ever, with a plethora of modes on offer including Pro (photo and video), HDR, light-painting, panorama, slow-mo, filters and effects, and even downloadable add-ons like one to make your food look tastier.

The Honor 7X can be set up to open the camera on a double-tap of the lower volume key, which we’ve always found handy. However, it can be a little sluggish getting to the capture stage from screen-off. Additionally, we noticed some niggling pauses when switching modes or changing settings, particularly between the selfie and main cameras. It’s also worth noting that touching the Video option only opens video mode, it doesn’t start recording. We missed a cool cat moment because of the confusion there. Additionally, recording only goes up to 1080p (at 30fps), so you won’t be able to shoot in 4K.

The 8MP selfie camera includes smile capture, a handy palm-triggered gesture option, a beauty slider and Perfect Selfie mode, which lets you set up a series of tweaks to be automatically made to any selfie you take from then on. The camera itself takes decently-flattering, clear selfies that will be plenty good enough for most people’s needs. It doesn’t allow you to change focus with a tap, so you’re at the mercy of the software there, but we found it focused well on our faces most of the time. It struggles in lower light environments, but that’s to be expected.

The main camera has two sensors (16MP and 2MP), which means you can create some cool DSLR-like effects in Wide Aperture and Portrait Mode. It also packs phase-detection autofocus and an LED flash, meaning the 7X should offer smartphone photography fans more than enough to play with.

Camera samples

UK price and availability
The Honor 7X is available now directly from Honor for £269. You’ll also find it SIM-free at Amazon and other retailers.

In short
If the Honor 7X cost about £400, it’d be a good phone. For £269, it’s a great phone. 

The good
Lovely screen. Strong cameras. Generous battery. Low price.

The bad
No wireless or fast charging. Old-style charging port. Older Android (for now).

The ugly
No NFC. Some of the EMUI themes are genuinely eye-melting.

Bartender’s score

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