Honor made waves at the turn of 2015 with the launch of their Honor 6+ device. Honor, the budget conscious Huawei backed brand, delivered a glass backed, sleek feeling device with compelling specifications, and an even more compelling price point of just £300. In June, Honor released their follow-up device, the Honor 7, with a metallic, premium feeling finish at an even better price of £249. Let’s take a look at the Honor 7 in our full review and see if it improves on its predecessor and whether it’s worth your hard-earned money.
Hardware[pullquote align=”right” color=”#FF9900″]”A solid feeling device with chamfered edges and a slight curve and which helps comfort and grip.”[/pullquote]Honor departs from the industrial design of previous devices slightly, with the glass backface of the Honor 6+ being replaced with an even more robust and premium feeling metallic finish. The quality and finish of this chassis is reminiscent of HTC’s recent “One” line of devices, but instead comes with a textured metal finish. This provides some much-needed grip to the metallic finish, which is welcome.
Nestled neatly into that metallic backface are the 20MP fast focus camera with dual LED flash, and the newly installed fingerprint sensor which is lightning fast to use. It seems most manufacturers have mastered fingerprint sensors judging by the more recent smartphone releases and the Honor 7’s sensor is both well situated and easily triggered.
The device doesn’t feel as big as the Honor 6+ in hand and that’s a good thing. It is indeed smaller in the height and width dimensions whilst being slightly thicker but weighing in 8 grams lighter at 157 grams. The result is a solid feeling device with chamfered edges and a slight curve and which helps comfort and grip. It certainly feels every inch a premium phone.
The buttons on the sides of the devices feel substantial enough when pressed and are easy to find. A little too easy to find perhaps. Often, the action of pressing one of the buttons led to a hand movement inadvertently pressing others. A minor but worthwhile point to include.
One of those oft-triggered buttons is the “Smart Key”. This button, included on the left hand side of the device, can be configured to launch an application or take a screenshot for example, upon a press, double press or press and hold. Your torch could only be a single touch away!
To the bottom of the device is where the speaker grills can be found. Whilst sufficiently loud, sound quality is lacking with it often sounding tinny and vacant. Also, as with many bottom-facing speakers, it’s very easy to cover the grills whilst holding the device in landscape mode.
Around back is where the fingerprint scanner awaits. When you do trigger the fingerprint sensor, the Honor 7’s 5.2″ 1080p IPS LCD screen will illuminate. The screen gets plenty bright enough and the pixel density of 424 suggests nobody other than QHD zealots will have any complaints about the clarity of this display. We applaud Honor’s decision to stick with a good 1080p display in the face of growing market pressure to do otherwise, and instead concentrate on increased battery life.
Speaking of which, the Honor 7 packs in a 3100 mAh battery which, whilst smaller than its predecessor, delivers excellent battery life. With us regularly hitting between 4 and 5 hours of screen on time under normal use, we had absolutely no complaints. Additionally, the Honor 7’s standby time is stunning. We managed to get through 9 days without needing a charge with light use. In the event you are caught running on fumes, the included fast charging technology will top up the battery to around 50% in just 30 minutes.
The rest of the hardware includes a 20 mega-pixel rear camera with dual LED flash, more on that later. Honor also include Huawei’s own Kirin 935 chipset which handles most of what is thrown at it without any complaint and appears smooth with only minimal heat output. 3GB RAM is included as standard, as is 16 or 64GB of internal storage. A microSD slot is also included which can handle up to a 128GB card to supplement the inbuilt storage.
Software[pullquote align=”left” color=”#FF9900″]”There is a lot to Emotion UI and it is pervasive.”[/pullquote]Almost every manufacturer in the market now implements their own interpretation of Android on their devices. Samsung has TouchWiz for example whilst HTC have Sense. Honor are no different in this regard. Emotion UI 3.1, built on top of Android 5.0 Lollipop is what you’ll find on the Honor 7.
Honor recently stated that Honor 7 owners can expect Android 6.0 Marshmallow updates on their devices by the end of Q1 2016. As always though, take this announcement with a pinch of salt; this is an intention and not a firm guarantee, so if you think you’d have issues with a device running Android 5.0 to begin with, take some more time over your decision to buy.
If you’re a stock Android fan…hmmm….perhaps this isn’t the device for you.
Emotion UI’s aesthetic is noticeable throughout the entire software experience. It certainly is very consistent, which is either a good or a bad thing depending on your general opinion, but as always, if you’re unsure, you can always download a new launcher from the Play Store to get the look you specifically want.
There are the usual software inclusions you might expect from other manufacturers; a theme store to change all aspects of the experience, an included application to allow the use of the integrated IR blaster, double touch to wake, and other motion control elements including flip to mute incoming calls and raise to ear to answer them.
There is a deeper level of customisation within Emotion UI however. Screen off gestures allow the opening of an application by tracing a corresponding letter on the screen, notification centre governs application specific toggles for banners, and status bar notifications, and there is even the option to allow applications to stay memory-resident for speedy use, and a screen to configure which applications can use which elements of data networks. There is a lot to Emotion UI and it is pervasive. Whilst it’s fair to say that not all of its features will be used, the good news here is that there seems not to impact resource adversely due to the depth of the integration in the Android skin. The same can’t be said for all manufacturers so…kudos Honor
Camera[pullquote align=”right” color=”#FF9900″]”Daylight shots are crisp..some excellent pictures await.”[/pullquote]Honor delivers a 20 megapixel camera as the main shooter here and it has the capability of delivering some stunning shots. With phase auto detection and a dual LED flash, the Honor 7 holds up quite well in almost all scenarios with low light scenarios causing concern.
Low light shots lack colour vibrancy and exhibit quite a lot of noise and grain to the pictures. By contrast, daylight shots are crisp and with the camera app allowing granular changes to white balance, ISO settings as well as exposure and contrast amongst others, some excellent pictures await.
Honor also include a number of Instagram-esque filters to open up your artistic side, as well a number of shooting modes including a “Good Food” and a “Light Painting” mode for close up shots and time-lapse lighting trail shots respectively.
The front facing 8 mega-pixel is perfectly sufficient for those group selfies and offers a front facing LED flash to capture the fun in low light also. Other than that it’s standard fair.
Video on the Honor 7 is delivered in 1080p at 30 frames per second and whilst acceptable, does struggle for crispness and delivers quite poor dynamic range.
Conclusion[pullquote align=”left” color=”#FF9900″]”It’s very easy to compare the Honor 7 to flagship devices.”[/pullquote]The Honor 7 is a very interesting device. Performance wise it has the power to deal with all but the toughest scenarios. It has a camera that is speedy and capable of some quality photos, and with its battery life you’ll be able to enjoy the device for longer than some of its competitors.
The inclusion of a 20MP camera, 3GB RAM by default and a brilliantly fast fingerprint scanner, on paper, destroys the specification sheets of its mid-range competitors.
The only blot on its copybook is the lack of any 4K video recording, wireless charging support and it’s inclusion of Android 5.0 out of the box, and not a later build.
That’s when it really hits home that the Honor 7 has you comparing it to phones in a different price point all together. The Honor 7 isn’t playing in the same arena as the Samsung Galaxy S6 or Apple 6 plus; it’s intention is to conquer the mid-range tier instead. At £249 its nearest rival would seem to be the Moto X Play, and it’s certainly doing a great job of competing.
The Honor 7 needs only to tweak the software, which at times feels a little intense, and work on the video recording not quite delivering a premium output, to be truly operating in the ‘budget flagship’ market segment moving forward.
The Honor 7 will undoubtedly help the fledgling Huawei-backed brand move on to bigger and better things in the coming years and if they keep churning out devices with the fit and finish and value adds that the Honor 7 has, it won’t be long before more people take notice.