Honor 7X Review: Not just Honor-able, but Formidable
Great display, great design… budget price
Huawei’s youth-oriented sub-brand Honor is known for offering feature-rich smartphones at affordable prices. Earlier this year, the brand launched the Honor 6X which was one of the first budget range smartphones to offer a dual camera and bagged a lot of credit for making the dual camera combo mainstream. The smartphone now has a successor which offers the new feature crush of the tech world: almost bezel-less displays along with dual cameras. The Honor 7X comes with a pair of cameras on the back and an almost bezel-less display on the front. But are these features enough to make it fill in the 6X’s big shoes?
Does NOT look similar, thank God
The thing about budget smartphones is that many of them look very similar and design is generally never their strongest suit. But this is not the case with the Honor 7X. The smartphone is a blend of metal and glass and comes with curvy sides and edges. The face of the smartphone is majorly covered by the display, and there are thin bezels above and below it. The smartphone comes with a 5.93 inch full HD display with a resolution of 1080 x 2160 pixels and an aspect ratio of 18:9 which gives it the very famous “almost bezel-less look”. We actually think that the display of the device is one of its biggest USPs and not just because of the aspect ratio. The display is very bright, and we think it is actually the brightest we have seen in a device falling in this price bracket, with good contrast. It is super responsive as well. It is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass and is topped with a 2.5D curved glass to give it that extra “glossy-curvy” edge.
All this definitely gives the smartphone a free entry ticket to the premium smartphone league in terms of appearance – the dark blue back (we got the blue version) makes it very striking as well, something that is a rarity at this price point, and evokes memories of the Honor 8 Pro, which is not really a bad thing. The company has placed the proximity sensor, the earpiece, front-facing camera and a tiny LED indicator above the display, while the chin only carries the Honor logo in shiny silver color – the smartphone has on-screen buttons for navigation. On the back, the company has placed two very subtle dark grey antenna bands near the two ends of the smartphone. The first antenna band near the top has the two dual cameras and the LED flash placed on top of it while the fingerprint scanner is placed a little down south from that. There is again an Honor logo placed above the second antenna band near the base, but this is one is a rather low key, unlike the one on the front of the smartphone.
The smartphone sports the hybrid SIM card slot on the left side while the volume rocker and the power/lock buttons are present on the right. Both the buttons and the fingerprint scanner are placed in a position where our fingers fell naturally, and we did not find ourselves straying away from the buttons at any point. With the top of the smartphone pretty plain, the base is where most of the work has been done. It carries the speaker grille, the micro USB port and a 3.5 mm audio jack.
Because the smartphone comes with an almost six-inch display, it makes the smartphone a little too big to be used by one hand, in spite of the narrow bezels. It does not feel slippery, but it is not recommended to keep the smartphone down on its face on an angled surface as that might cause a few slips. The back is not shiny but has a matte finish – we think it looks very nice indeed, with understated class, although the blingy shiny crowd might disagree. The smartphone feels pretty solid and sleek, and we do not think the back will pick up smudges or scratches easily. The 7X measures 156.5 x 75.3 x 7.6 mm and weighs 165 grams, and while it is not the heaviest of the lot, it sure is not feather-light either.
A steady performer right through
The Honor 7X already has got some brownie points in the bag for its looks, and it does not do badly in the performance department, either. The 7X runs on Huawei’s in-house octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 659 processor and is paired with 4GB RAM and 128 GB internal storage. The ones who need a bit more storage on the device can expand it up to 256 GB by using a microSD card but would have to sacrifice one of the SIM slots for it. The smartphone is available in other variants with 32/ 64 GB storage, but the RAM on the smartphone will remain the same across all variants – an impressive 4 GB.
In terms of performance, the Honor 7X passes most tests easily. The transition from one app to another was smooth. We switched from messaging apps like WhatsApp and WeChat to social media apps like Facebook and Instagram and the device never lagged. The smartphone also did well in the casual gaming segment. We played games like Subway Surfer, Temple Run 2 and Candy Crush and the experience remained pretty smooth and lag free. But the device did have some difficulties getting into the high-end game zone. We tried Asphalt Xtreme and NFS No Limits on the device, and while we could play the games, the experience was a little laggy, and we did have to cope with the odd crash or three. The device got an AnTuTu score of 60950, which, is pretty good at this price point.
Cameras: two good, some bad…and inconsistent
In the camera department, the Honor 7X comes with a set of dual cameras on the back and a single camera on the front. The dual cameras on the device are a combination of a 16-megapixel sensor with PDAF and a 2-megapixel sensor. The 16-megapixel sensor is the primary camera which collects all the information whereas the 2-megapixel sensor senses depth. The duo is accompanied by a single tone LED flash. The device also has an 8-megapixel front-facing camera for selfies and video calls. Now, the Honor 6X was a good camera phone as per its price tag and did bokeh well most of the times, and it looks like as if its successor is also going down the same path. This time, though, the path has a few potholes.
We took a number of shots with the Honor 7X, and the results were… sometimes good and at other times, not-so-much. The Honor 7X did well in the detailing segment, especially in the close-up shots. We got good details and images did not have any visible noise, though the device did take a bit of time in focusing on the subject. The bokeh in the close-ups was also very deep and sharp around the edges of the subject. But just as we had issues with the 6X’s color reproduction, so did we have issues with the color handling of the 7X as well. The device often created images with colors which were a little over saturated than in reality. It also at times picked up hues in the environment which were not there – an image of the sky would look dark even though it actually was rather bright. The primary cameras do not do a great job in terms low light photography, and we saw the level of noise increase as the level of light decreased. They also did not handle glare too well as the light scattered a lot in pictures. That said, the cameras did well when it comes to moving objects, and we did not get blurry pictures unless the subject was super fast.
The Honor 7X comes with EMUI 5.1 because of which you get a feature rich camera interface. You get about 15 modes with the primary camera, which include Pro photo, Pro Video, Light Painting. There is also an independent setting space from where you can play around with various settings and options. The front camera comes with relatively lesser options as compared to the primary camera interface. It comes with nine modes and with similar setting options. While some might feel this is a bit intimidating, we like having options where we can either switch to just plain simple point and shoot or can go playing around with the fancy modes. And because the phone comes with dual cameras out of which one is a depth-sensing camera, the camera app has two bokeh related features: one is the wide exposure feature which was there in the Honor 6X as well and the second is the Portrait mode feature which is now pretty famous when it comes to bokeh.
In the wide exposure feature, one can change the size of the aperture and decide how much light they want to allow to get in. But the slider actually just varies the degree of bokeh you can get in a picture. It gets deeper and shallower with the movement of your finger on the slider. The wide exposure feature also seemed to have a mind of its own. It sometimes gave us images with deep bokeh and perfectly sharp edges of the subject while sometimes even blurred the subject. In short, it seemed super inconsistent. On the other hand, the portrait mode gave us good bokeh and sharp edges. A bit of noise did get in the pictures in the mode, but we were happy with the results overall.
The selfie camera of the Honor 7X is not all that great. It can just do passable images for your social media networks but nothing exceptional. The selfies had a bit of noise and did not seem that realistic.
Nougat with EMUI? Tastes good!
While the world is running away from toppings, it seems like Honor just cannot have enough of it. The Honor 7X comes with Android Nougat 7.0 out of the box, topped with EMUI 5.1 – we were expecting 7.1 at least even as the world moves towards Oreo and Honor’s record here has been a little spotty. That said, EMUI makes the phone super feature rich if a little heavy.
The smartphone is laden with features and third-party apps, but fortunately, it has all been managed well. Just like the camera app that we talked about above. It comes with preloaded games, social networking and browsing apps which are very neatly managed. The interface is not too loud, but for the pure Android fans, the device will definitely come across as super crowded. That said, we liked most of it. The device has a twin app feature that you can use to run two accounts of the same app. One can do a ton of stuff with the fingerprint scanner of the device as well apart from just unlocking the smartphone – you can take photos and videos, answer calls and stop alarms and it also comes with slide gestures. It may sound like Huawei has thrown the kitchen sink at the UI, but you will not even notice it is there unless you want to. Well played, we think.
The Honor 7X is powered by a 3340 mAh battery, the same number we saw in the Honor 6X. Some might complain that the number of mAh(s) has not gone up with an upgrade or with the increase in the size of the device, but we think the Honor 7X does well in the battery department. We could easily use the device for more than a day on a single charge even when we used it quite heavily, and the device easily saw over a day and a half when used moderately. The phone also has a few battery-related tricks up its sleeve. It comes with a Power Saving Mode which limits background activity, and disables a few other functions and an Ultra Power Saving Mode which only allows selected apps to work on the phone which include the dialer, messaging, contacts and SOS (you can add two other apps of your choice in this mode along with these four). In terms of general performance, the device has good sound quality, both over headphones and in loudspeaker mode. We did not face any call drop issues either.
Yet another Honor-able entry in the budget books!
The Honor 7X starts at Rs. 12,999 for the 32 GB variant and we think the device is right up there with any of the well-established smartphones falling in this range. For its price point, it has no glaring shortcomings. It has a great display, good battery life, performs well, has a super rich UI and has a decent camera which actually makes it a tough competitor for most of the devices in this price bracket, which includes the likes of the Xiaomi Mi A1, the Moto G5s Plus, the Lenovo K8 Note and the Nokia 5 and even the good old Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 which is a bit elderly but is still in running. The very fact that the Honor 7X can easily hold its own in this company tells you just how good it is. If you are looking for a premium looking, dual camera device with an 18:9 aspect ratio display and are on a tight budget, this might be as good as it gets. Or should that be, as ‘Honor’-able as it gets?