2017’s Bezel-less Android From Huawei: The Honor 7X Review

Mid-range Segment Gets Benchmarked

Our take on the Honor 7X

Huawei’s sub-brand Honor has come up with many interesting products over the past few years. This has translated into sale figures and recognition in inaccessible markets. About 10 months ago, Honor brought the Honor 6X to Indian shores which offered a compelling value for money package. Adhering to the well-received Honor 6X and 2017 smartphone changes, we get the successor, Honor 7X. What does it offer? Is it worth your hard earned moolah? Let’s find out.

Smartphones have changed this year onwards and Honor gets the gist of it. We tested the pre-release phone for a couple of weeks and here is our full review of the Honor 7X.

Design

In 2017, design and displays have seen a major overhaul. We are glad to see that Honor brings the minimum bezel 18:9 aspect ratio display to an affordable phone. To begin with, the phone looks and feels much premium than its asking price. The 5.93″ Gorilla Glass display has a FHD+ 2160 x 1080p resolution with 82.9% screen-to-body ratio. The 13% addition to the field of view over its predecessor is quite noticeable. To put it in perspective, the resolution is similar to the OnePlus 5T. For the price, this display is mighty impressive. Great viewing angles, punchy colours and good outdoor visibility make it stunning to look at.

The sides are clean and buttons tactile

Designed entirely with metal rounded edges that seamlessly meets the 2.5D curved glass display, gives the phone an illusive yet sturdy unibody design. The front fascia is clean with sensors and camera on top of the display and Honor branding at the bottom. All the ports are housed at the bottom of the phone. There is a neat machine cut headphone jack, a microUSB 2.0 port and a speaker grill. The primary microphone is at the bottom and a secondary noise cancelling microphone is at the top.

The rear feels subtle yet functional

The left side houses a hybrid SIM tray while the right has tactile yet satisfactory clicking power and volume buttons. The rear looks neat with a single tone flash and dual cameras lined on the network strip. The cameras do protrude but look stylish with chrome accents. The fingerprint sensor is well placed with a pronounced depth, to find it blindfolded. The Honor branding at the lower bottom of the rear suits the overall design and is not very intrusive.

Ports we are used to

Overall, the design and display make this phone an absolute beauty. Honor has nailed the look and feel of this phone, making it a worthy design successor to the Honor 6X with all the 2017 elements. At 7.6mm, it is also quite thin to handle. Despite the tall display, it fits comfortably in any pocket.

Performance

Performance is a broad concept when it comes to a phone. Let’s break it into understandable aspects for better assessment.

Display Performance

With the number of complaints about tall displays floating all across the internet, display quality is worth taking a look at. The Honor 7X display is an impressive IPS LCD panel with everything just right. The resolution, 407 ppi, viewing angles, outdoor visibility, brightness, saturation and contrast are impressive for this price range. It rivals phones above its asking price and the panel is enhanced with software enabled features.

EMUI 5.1 is feature loaded to utilise the added screen estate

Not only does the phone allow you to choose the colour temperature of your choice but also features a full-screen display mode. This mode lists all the apps that you would want the phone to re-scale for optimum tall/widescreen usage. Alternatively, you are prompted by the OS to enable this mode on apps that are not optimized for 18:9 aspect ratio displays. Users also have the option to choose from text size and styles.

Also included is an Eye comfort mode for filtering out blue light. Users are given the option to choose the colour temperature and schedule it to trigger as per their choice. The software scaling of apps to match this display does a commendable job on most apps. Do note that when starting the app, the logo of the app may appear stretched for a fraction of a second, but in the app, we could not find any abnormalities worth mentioning. The display also adjusts brightness levels when outdoor for optimum visibility.

Hardware and software galore

With the advancements in mobile processors, performance is not a bottleneck on most phones despite their price tags. The Honor 7X is powered by an Octa-core (4 x 2.36GHz A53 Cores + 4 x 1.7GHz A53 cores) Kirin 659 SoC. Based on the region, this phone is available in 3/4GB RAM with multiples of 32GB ROM variants (32/64/128). All these variants support up to 256GB microSD cards or dual SIMs via the hybrid SIM tray.

Huawei’s own HiSilicon Kirin 659 Processor powers the Honor 7X

Running this hardware combo is EMUI 5.1 based on Android 7.0. Honor has promised an Android Oreo update with EMUI 8.0 + AI integration. If you’ve used an iOS device, the EMUI interface will feel familiar. EMUI 5.1 is a rather heavy skin over Android 7.0 but it does offer loads of functionality.

Its feature list includes motion controls, gesture controls on the fingerprint sensor, twin app capabilities on social media apps for different accounts, navigation key editing and much more. A swipe down on the home screen brings up a spotlight like search option. Also, a custom menu can be chosen with a swipe up on the lock screen for quick actions.

Usable performance

In day-to-day tasks, the Honor 7X feels snappy but lacks the finesse of the latest versions of Android. We strongly believe that an Android OS upgrade will breathe a new life into this brilliant package. That said, EMUI 5.1 is quick at day-to-day tasks but aggressive when it comes to RAM management. It also suffers from the usual Android 7.0 shortcomings.

Open a few heavy apps and the phone shows signs of stutter. The Mali-T830 MP2 is a capable GPU and is able to handle most of the games thrown at it. However, graphics-intensive games with multiple textures struggle to run at their optimum frame rates. Also, running graphics heavy games does make the phone a tad warmer at the top rear portion. One-handed usage is made easy with software enhancements and accessing the notification panel does not require wrist yoga moves.

The bezel-less display is great and optimised for nearly all apps

That gorgeous display is best suited for social media apps, casual gaming, videos (H.265 video formats natively supported) and web-browsing. Call quality and network reception are absolutely stellar. In fact, you might want to lower the call volume on the earpiece as it has insane volume. The loudspeaker is average at volume level and could have been better. Let’s hope the next update converts the earpiece into a second loudspeaker. That thing has the potential!

The 3340 mAh Li-ion battery will last you a day with medium to heavy usage. This battery charges via a microUSB 2.0 port and sadly does not support fast/quick charging. Honor deliberately chose this port for a price advantage and we have no complaints. After all, this is still the most used port in India and charging this phone should be a familiar affair. The headphone jack is convenient and the fingerprint sensor is blazing fast to unlock. 0.25 secs claim does seem legit.

Camera performance

The dual camera setup at the rear comprises of a 16MP + 2MP cameras. The second 2MP camera does not click any images but helps the 16MP camera understand the depth of field. This allows for a plethora of loaded shooting modes and even more, can be downloaded! There is a pro mode for both photos and videos. Advanced users can control everything from shutter speed, white balance to ISO as per their choice. HDR and portrait modes perform as expected. Portrait mode uses software trickery with the help of the secondary camera to create a bokeh effect. Also, thanks to the depth 2MP camera, wide aperture mode allows post-capture editing for foreground or background focus.

The depth of field camera hardware + software work great at times
Portrait vs Auto mode on the front camera. We hope the software improves over time.

The images clicked in auto mode usually turn out to be quite impressive for social media sharing. The contrast, colours, saturation and sharpness is on point. Though, if you zoom, the details end up in a hit or miss state. Videos are capped at 1080p and the quality is good. Lack of EIS and OIS does necessitate steady hands.

HDR vs Auto mode in daylight
Auto vs HDR Mode in low light

The 8MP front camera can also shoot in several modes including a software-enabled portrait mode. It does tend to miss some edges and could improve with EMUI’s AI update. The beauty mode also is quite aggressive and you might want to tone it down if you want to see yourself without virtual makeup every time.

Auto mode performs amazingly under extreme conditions as well

It does struggle to find focus in low light and results in noisy and detail-less images. The cameras perform at par with phones in this budget and have a potential to improve with the promised update.

Our opinions

If you are someone who desires the best of flagship design and features but is limited by your wallet, this phone is quite a package! The modern design with that gorgeous display makes it a brilliant phone to look at. Promised EMUI 8.0 + AI integrated update are sure to breathe a new life in this phone. The major downsides are the Android 7.0 shortcomings and the lack of gyroscope, which will make VR and 360° videos a nightmare. Overall the phone performs great at day-to-day tasks and will not disappoint when you need to click that perfect shot.

Honor 7X prices start from Rs.12,999/- for the 4GB RAM + 32GB ROM variant and Rs. 15,999/- for the 4GB RAM + 64GB ROM variant. There is a 128GB variant coming soon as well and might be priced just under INR 20K. For the price, this is one of the most compelling packages available right now. Available in black, gold, and blue, the Honor 7X sets a benchmark which will be hard to beat especially after it receives the EMUI 8.0 (AI) OTA update early next year.

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Loves technology and follows it passionately. A curious soul trapped in a weird dimension.

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