Huawei is no stranger to trying new things, they’re also not a stranger to taking a feature or two from their top-tier devices and bringing it down a peg or two, and that’s what’s happened here, the Honor 7X is the new midrange flagship from Honor, the Huawei subsidiary, and you know what, it’s almost perfect for a lot of people.
Disclaimer: Honor provided us with this review unit for an unbiased personal review. We used it as our primary device for a little over 3 weeks on the Three UK network in the southeast of the UK, in that time we had a single major software OTA bringing us to version BND-L21C432B105. No one was paid or in any way compensated for this review, and no one aside from other MTT editors is seeing this piece before it goes live.
Speeds and feeds
- 5.93” 2160x1080p IPS Display (18:9 Aspect Ratio)
- Octa-Core Kirin 659 SoC
- 4x Cortex A53 @ 2.36Ghz
- 4x Cortex A53 @ 1.7Ghz
- Mali-T830 MP2 GPU
- 4GB of RAM
- 32GB/64GB of eMMC Storage
- MicroSD expansion
- 16mp main camera. 2mp “depth information” sensor
- 8mp front facing Camera
- 3340mAh Battery
- MicroUSB Charger
For more information on the specifications of the Honor 7X, check out the GSMArena page here
Huawei is one of the companies in recent years that has been pushing better external hardware down to lower end devices. It wasn’t too long ago that any device under £400 was fully plastic and crappy screened etc, but because of what Huawei and other far east manufacturers have done, we now have devices like the Honor 7X with full metal bodies, big batteries, dual cameras and more.
Up front on the Honor 7X is one of the cleanest faces I’ve seen in a while. In the centre is of course the 6” 2160x1080p IPS display, and boy is it a great display, I’m still more of an OLED fan (especially when I have the Mate 10 Pro right next to this) but this is without a shadow of a doubt the best IPS Display I’ve seen on a phone sub £500, bar none. Below the gorgeous display, we have the one part I dislike, but I can look past, and that is the Honor Logo. As If you needed reminding of who you bought your phone from, it’s silly and useless, remove it from the front and just leave the branding on the back. Above that display, we have the front facing 8mp camera that is just ok, and I’ll get more in-depth about later, the earpiece and the ambient light and proximity sensors.
Having a look at the chassis, the top has nothing but the secondary noise cancelling mic, and the bottom is a little more crowded with the ever more elusive (though, I personally don’t care) 3.5mm audio jack, Next, the opposite side of the bottom is the single bottom firing speaker, this is annoying, I’d have liked to see Honor go with a bottom firing speaker and the earpiece acting as a speaker in landscape like the Mate series do, but I think that might cost a little too much.The last bit is the utterly ridiculous inclusion of a MicroUSB port, which is inexcusable on a phone that costs £270 in late 2017/early 2018 unless a phone is sub £100, it needs to be USB-C, otherwise, I will call you out and call you lazy and cheap, simple as.
On the left-hand side of the chassis, we have MicroSD and nanoSIM tray. On the flip side, we have the volume rocker and power buttons, these are okay, they’re pretty tactile but my issue with them is the placement, they’re pretty high up on the phone, and as this is a 6” screen with a 2:1 aspect ratio, it makes the phone pretty damn tall as is, but if you’ve got larger hands, the buttons are pretty great. Lastly we have the rear of the phone, and on my black unit, it’s great because aside from the camera bumps, the LED flash cutout and the fingerprint reader it looks pretty bare, when in reality there are antenna bands pretty well hidden by the colour, and on the bottom is an Honor logo and the regulatory information, this looks pretty great aside from the same thing that plagues all black metal devices… Fingerprints, this is a fingerprint magnet.
Externally, the Honor 7X is pretty damn perfect for me, sure I would have prefered it to be a 5.7” 2:1 screen, but that’s a personal preference, the only real egregious error on the hardware is the inclusion of a MicroUSB port. As I said, in late 2017 when this launched, and in 2018 when this review is coming out unless your phone is sub £100 it should have USB-C, no arguments, no excuses. You don’t help people adopt a new standard by only shipping it on expensive stuff, it has to permeate the entire product stack.
Software isn’t too bad on the Honor 7X, but it is worth noting that it is running on the Older EMUI 5.1 and the Android 7.0 operating system, yup, that’s right 7.0, the same software package that the Huawei P10 launched with back in February is what the honor 7X is using in late December. Now, for what it is worth, Huawei have promised that the 7X will be getting Oreo and EMUI 8.0, which is great, because Oreo has some really neat changes to Android, one of which is Autofill, and I never realised how much time it takes me to set up a new phone after I had set up my Mate 10 pro with Oreo and then set up the 7X on Nougat.
If you aren’t a fan of EMUI, it’s going to be hard for me to try and convert you. I’m not the biggest fan of EMUI, not in the slightest, but my hatred towards it has waned lately since it is far less broken for no reason. Most of the things people dislike about EMUI are visual, and thankfully most of those can be changed. Don’t like the stock launcher? Change it, Like I did, Action Launcher 3 works really well on this. Don’t like the messages app? There are a plethora to choose from in the Google Play store, one of which is Android Messages from Google, or even Facebook Messenger which recently regained the ability to parse SMS. My only real issues with EMUI that are harder to change are the settings app, but that might just be because I am spoilt by the Oreo ones on the Mate 10 Pro, and the Dialler, If I could get the stock google dialler on here I would, but alas, it is not compatible, I also don’t make that many calls, so swings and roundabouts I guess.
Stability wise, the Honor 7X has been pretty solid, which is good, because that was one of the biggest issues people had with skins for years, things were changed for changes sake and things got broken and often weren’t fixed for years, and EMUI was one of the most egregious examples next to older version of TouchWiz from Samsung. Thankfully, few bugs reared their ugly heads since the B105 update, and that is great. Would I prefer the Honor 7X to run a Google version of Android with the Huawei Camera? Sure, but that’s about as likely as Apple re-implementing TouchID.
I Don’t seem to be having much luck with mid-range devices and cameras lately. Starting with the BlackBerry Motion and continuing with the Honor 7X, things aren’t going to get much better.
Honor is quick to shout that this has a dual camera setup, just like it’s flagship phones and like the 6X last year. Except that it isn’t. Honor has swapped the 2mp monochrome sensor from last year with a sub par 2mp unit specifically for depth sensing, and let me say this. Without a shadow of a doubt, this was a horrendous mistake. The camera doesn’t benefit from this at all, the portrait mode and wide aperture modes seem worse than last years Honor 6X, which, once again had the secondary sensor as a monochrome one which in my testing actually did help.
Performance wise, the Honor 7X camera is pretty good, it’s fast enough without little to no shutter lag, although autofocus is noticeably slower than on other devices, even in Huawei’s other product ranges. The other issue I think most people will have with the Honor 7X is the camera app, it’s very crowded. I downloaded the Google Camera app and I think for most people, that’ll be enough.
Weirdly though is some of the settings that most people don’t look for, such as resolution for slow-mo or panorama modes. Slow motion video recording on the Honor 7X is 480p! 480p! Sure it is at 120fps, but 480p? Hot damn. Panorama fares a bit better at 8mp, but still, that’s half the resolution of the main sensor. Video tops out at 1080p, but seeing as Huawei don’t state otherwise, I’m assuming it is 1080p30. Funny thing though, if you jump over to the front camera and turn off the Beauty mode, that also shoots at 1080p. Your front and rear cameras shoot the same resolution and frame rate video, I don’t know about bitrate, but that seems off to me. ISPs have usually been an area where Kirin chips suffer, and after fixing it on their flagship phones 2 years ago on the P9, sadly those ISP fixes haven’t made their way down to the midrange Kirin chips yet, much to my dismay.
Here are some photo samples from the 7X, so you can judge for yourself.
Next is the front-facing camera samples (so, selfies.)
Lastly, the lacklustre video samples from the 7X.
For the most part, the Kirin 659 pulls the Honor 7X along nicely, very few performance hiccups on my end aside from the first setup where I tried to use the phone whilst Google Play had about 85 apps lined up downloading and installing. Once that was over though, the 7X doesn’t really suffer much in day-to-day usage. Sure, app opening times could be better, but it isn’t painfully slow, it’s just a little longer than other, more expensive, more powerful devices.
Whilst I’m not the biggest fan of Benchmark applications as a dick waving contest, I think they are somewhat useful as a comparative tool, som without further ado, here is a gallery of a load of Benchmarks that I ran on the Honor 7X since I got it.
Another thing that Honor tried hard to do this year is the battery, and boy did they deliver. The Honor 7X has a low power SoC utilising A53 cores at varying clocks, and a massive 3340mAh battery, this thing, just like my KEYone, Motion and Mate 10 Pro all have 2 days of battery for the most part, and that is awesome, and it makes having that useless MicroUSB charger a little bit easier.
Whilst I would have liked to have run the full Geekbench Battery benchmark, that doesn’t appear to be possible for whatever reason, so the partial one will have to do, and here is the result for that.
The Misc section of my reviews tends to talk about things that don’t often get their own sections, the Misc section this time talks about NFC, or the lack thereof and the Fingerprint reader.
The Fingerprint scanner is an FPC1028 of the world-renowned Fingerprint cards. FPC makes pretty much all of the fingerprint scanners for smartphones unless it’s a Samsung or Apple device for the most part. The FPC1028 is actually one of FPC’s newer sensors with a higher resolution and a more diverse reading patterns which means that it doesn’t matter if the OEM makes it round, square or rectangular shape cutout on the front or rear of the phone, the sensor can find the optimal way to read it, which is awesome. The sensor is nice and nippy, and I haven’t had a single failure since getting the 7X, which is par for the course with Huawei devices really.
Next is my Other main annoyance from the 7X aside from the use of MicroUSB, it’s the lack of NFC, and this is another inexcusable omittance on a device that costs £270. The reason I was given as to why the 7X doesn’t have an NFC antenna, whether it be true or not is annoying. The reason I got (which I have not been able to confirm or deny) as to why it didn’t have NFC was that in Asia, NFC is rarely used, and as the 7X was originally an Asian focused device, they didn’t want to make a separate SKU for R.O.W with NFC. Once again, I wasn’t able to confirm or deny this report, but It’s very annoying that the 7X doesn’t have it, and once again stops me from being able to use this as a daily driver.
The Honor 7X is one of those phones that annoys me because it is so close to being amazingly great for most people, and the title like I said, the 7X is nearly perfect. For me, the things that stop it being perfect are MicroUSB and no NFC, for other people I spoke to it is EMUI and the camera, or that it is an IPS screen instead of OLED or whatever. No one I have spoken to has liked everything about this phone, and funnily enough most people find just 2 things that stop it being perfect for them.
My Issues with the Honor 7X stem from the fact that at £269, this is not an inexpensive phone, yet there are less expensive phones that have USB-C, and NFC, and fast charging, and newer versions of Android. Sure, Huawei will point out that the 7X has the newer 2:1 screen and the big battery, but in the long run, I would have taken a 3000mAh battery with USB-C and NFC, than what we got here.
Should you buy the Honor 7X? Well if you don’t mind the few niggles I have pointed out, sure. You get a fast phone with a great build that lasts for days (literally) and has a gorgeous screen, but If you’ve already switched peripherals in your house over to USB-C, or have grown accustomed to using Pay, or NFC for pairing Bluetooth speakers and Headphones, I think you’ll likely want to look elsewhere, as once you start to take advantage of the things the 7X is missing, going back to older standards is rough.
- Beautiful Display for this price
- Nice performance
- Solid build quality
- Massive battery
- Plentiful storage
- MicroUSB is inexcusable at the price
- No NFC is crap
- old Android version
- Camera setup feels inferior to last year