Honor 7X review

Honor has previously blown us away with what it can put in cheaper handsets, and the Honor 7X has made another leap forward by bringing an elongated 18:9 bezel-less display to the mid-range market for the first time.

This is especially surprising as the Honor 9 – which the company launched earlier this year – still has a ‘standard’ 16:9 display, unlike most other flagship devices this year.

Following on from the Honor 6X was going to be a hard task for the brand – that was a great phone, particularly if you want a cheaper handset with good spec inside. So does the Honor 7X innovate enough to make it another impressive affordable phone? 

Honor 7X price and release date

The Honor 7X sits in the middle of mid-range devices and will cost AED 999. You can purchase it at the Honor website, with delivery within 3-4 days. It is also available in Saudi Arabia with similar delivery times and a price of SAR 1,049.

You also get three months of Anghami music streaming service as well as three months of Viu video streaming services in the UAE as well as Saudi Arabia.

Design and display

The Honor 7X features a fully metal design that's attractive, although the back of the phone is flat, so it doesn't sit in the hand as comfortably as the Honor 6X did. It does make it thinner than a lot of other popular phones, at 4.6mm, and if you're looking for a slimline device this is an appealing option.

The back panel is metal, but it doesn’t have the same close-to-high-end feel as, say, the Nokia 6. Despite the overall finish on the Honor 7X, the metal doesn't feel as satisfying as when you're holding the glass-backed Honor 9. 

The fingerprint sensor is located on the rear or the handset, and we found it easy to reach when holding the phone.

On the bottom edge of the device is a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is welcome if you use wired headsets. You'll also find the micro USB port and speaker grille there and we're a bit disappointed to not see a Type-C connector which is becoming increasingly common on mid-ranged handsets.

Honor is toting the 7X's display as a major upgrade, and it's certainly impressive that the company has managed to squeeze an almost 6-inch display into a body that would traditionally accommodate a 5.5-inch screen.

The 5.93-inch screen extends closer to the sides of the device than some other phones; it's not as attractive as the way the iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S8 adopt the 18:9 aspect ratio, but that’s to be expected considering this phone is a third of the price.

We found the screen to be bold and vibrant with a high resolution. It isn't as impressive as the screens on a lot of flagship devices, with a Full HD+ 2160 x 1080 resolution equating to 408 pixels per inch, but it’s a very good display considering the mid-range price of this phone.

One irritation with the screen is that most apps will default to the 16:9 screen ratio, and you’ll sea blue notification at the bottom of the screen, prompting you to tap to switch to full-screen mode.

It feels like an unnecessary step when we wanted to use all apps with the 18:9 display. For example, when setting up a watch within the Android Wear app we tapped the option to switch to full-screen mode, and part-way through the setup process it rebooted the app and kicked us back to the start.

We didn’t find any apps that wouldn’t embrace the extended screen, but you’ll have to wait a few seconds for apps to reboot when you press that button, which isn’t very helpful when a lot of other devices do this by default.

Battery life

Battery life is always a big consideration for your next phone, and you’ll be glad to know the Honor 7X offers solid performance that matches a lot of competing phones.

It’s not game-changing, but considering the phone uses a fairly average 3,340mAh cell and there’s a large screen on the front of the phone drawing plenty of power we’ve been quite surprised with how good the life has been.

In general use we found the Honor 7X would happily last a full day. However, if you’re looking for a cheap device with stronger battery life you may want to opt for the Moto E4 Plus, which we found would last two days with average usage.

One feature you may miss with the Honor 7X is fast charging – Honor hasn’t seen fit to add the feature to this phone, so you’ll need to rely on regular charging. It’s a bit of a disappointment considering a lot of other mid-range phones now charge much faster than the Honor 7X.

We put the 7X through our standard battery test, which involves playing a Full HD video for 90 minutes from full charge, at full brightness and with accounts syncing over Wi-Fi, and the phone had 78% battery left at the end of the test.

We found the Nokia 6 dropped to 78% too, while if you’re looking for stronger battery you may want to look at the Moto G5S Plus that performed better only dropping down to 84%.

The phone is charged via the micro USB slot at the bottom of the phone – not surprisingly there’s no option for wireless charging either.

Camera

There's a dual-camera setup on the rear of the Honor 7X, with a 16MP sensor doing most of the heavy lifting and a 2MP sensor to the side of it which is dedicated to depth-sensing.

In good lighting you’ll be happy with the images Honor 7X can deliver. For most photography you’ll be using just this primary lens, and we found it was good at focusing and taking a photo, although it could sometimes be a little slow.

As shooting times can be a little slow you won’t be able to whip your phone out of your pocket and be able to take the picture instantly. Instead you’ll need to wait a few seconds to be able to focus and take a shot.

The depth-sensing 2MP lens comes into play when you use the wide aperture mode, which is a feature we saw on the Honor 6X. This will find the edges of the subject of your image and blurs the background around them, so you’ll have a photo with either the foreground or background in focus.

It’s a great effect and there’s the option to edit the blurred area of the image after. It works quite quickly on the Honor 7X too, but it isn’t as accurate at identifying the subject or as easy to edit as it is on say the Honor 9.

Night-time shooting is when the Honor 7X begins to really struggle. Poor lighting is a real problem for the camera, and you can tell it’s not as powerful as the ones on higher-end Honor handsets or flagship phones. 

That said it does manage to keep pace with competitors such as the Nokia 6 and the Moto G5S Plus, which are around the same price point.

That front camera is an 8MP shooter that also boasts a Portrait mode feature, which we found worked, but not as well as on the rear camera. The selfie shooter will take decent snaps for social media and the like, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

Camera samples

Interface and reliability

The Honor 7X uses the company's own Emotion UI 5.1 software, which provides a skin over the top of Android 7 Nougat. We've yet to learn when the phone will get upgraded to Android 8 Oreo.

Right now Android 7 software is okay, but it’s last year’s release, and it’ll quickly start to feel dated if the phone isn’t upgraded soon.

We found the Emotion UI 5 software worked well, but it’s a shame we don’t get the same software that’s supplied on other recent phones from Honor’s parent company Huawei, such as the Mate 10 or the Mate 10 Pro.

We found it easy to navigate around the phone, and you’re still getting some of the latest features with Android 7, such as multi-window support and the ability to directly reply to texts and emails within the notification bar.

Movies, music and gaming

The larger screen ratio on the Honor 7X makes it great for watching movies, but with some video apps you’ll need to press the full screen display button mentioned earlier to get the whole picture on the screen.

Once you’ve done that, you’re treated to a big screen for watching video without having to grapple with a relatively large and unwieldy phone. Despite the screen only being Full HD, the picture quality and vivid images make this a great phone to watch video on, especially for a mid-range device.

The speaker can be easy to cover with your hand if you’re watching video while holding the phone, and the audio quality isn’t anything to get excited about. It’s suitable for listening to podcasts or music, but you won’t be thrilled with the sound.

A highlight of the 7X is the 3.5mm headphone jack, which has been dropped from a lot of higher-end phones, and a few mid-range ones, in favor of Bluetooth technology.

You can also listen with wireless headsets, and we found the connection quality to be good, but it’s always useful to have the 3.5mm jack option too, especially if you own a decent set of wired headphones already.

Gaming on the Honor 7X is a comfortable experience, with the wide screen looking sumptuous when you’re playing titles, but this phone won’t run more graphically-demanding games as smoothly as a lot of the top-end phones, and we did sometimes find it would stutter slightly.

If you’re looking to play top-end games on this phone it may be worth spending a bit extra on something a bit more stable with more powerful internals, such as the Honor 9 or the OnePlus 5T.

That said, you’ll be able to play a lot of popular less-intensive games on the Honor 7X without experiencing any problems.

Performance and specs

Inside the Honor 7X there's a Kirin 659 chipset and 4GB of RAM, which is enough to run most games and apps smoothly. The 7X runs a little slower and not at such high quality as most flagship phones, but we found it was able to cope with everything we wanted to do on a daily basis.

We ran the phone through Geekbench 4, and it scored an average of 3579, which is an improvement on the score of 3,105 that the Honor 6X achieved.

That’s not a great score, however, when compared to the Moto G5S Plus, which is a similar phone in terms of specs. The G5S Plus is a touch more expensive, but it came out with a score of 4,312, which would make that phone a better choice if you’re planning to do lots of intensive tasks and gaming every day.

That said, the Honor 7X can still do everything you’d expect a phone like this to do it’s just a touch slower, and you may have to wait a while longer for apps to load longer than if you’d spent a lot more money.

We’ve been using the 64GB version of the phone, and we found that a reasonable amount of space – the software only takes up 12.5GB, which leaves a decent amount of space to play with and fill with apps, games and media. 

It’s worth noting that if you want to use a second SIM card in the Honor 7X you won’t be able to use a microSD card at the same time- something that's common on most dual SIM phones of today.

Verdict

The Honor 7X has the makings of a great mid-range phone, and everything adds up to a useful package that can do most things you’ll need it to.

For a mid-market handset the 7X is quite impressive, packing a lot of the specs we’d usually expect to see in high-end devices – and Honor bringing this phone out at the end of the year makes sense, as 2017 has been all about the 18:9 display.

The top-end phones we’ve seen launched this year have started to embrace the new display ratio, and now Honor has managed to bring this innovative look to a phone towards the cheaper end of the market.

Who’s it for?

The Honor 7X is for anyone who doesn’t want to spend flagship money on a phone, but still wants something that runs well and offers the latest 18:9, largely bezel-free screen.

That screen is the clear highlight of the Honor 7X, and it’s the reason why it stands out in a packed mid-range market. Honor has also enhanced the design to a point where this does look like a high-end phone, although it doesn’t feel as premium as the Nokia 6.

Should you buy it?

There are a few missing features on the Honor 7X such as USB Type-C support and the absence of fast-charging technology. If you can put that behind you though, you may decide this phone is for you, especially as it has a mid-range price that veers toward the low end of the range rather than costing as much as the Honor 9.

Competition

Not sure if the Honor 7X is for you? Below we’ve suggested three alternative phones that may be better suited to your needs.

Moto G5S Plus

For a little bit more than what Honor is asking for this phone you can get the Moto G5S Plus, with a similar amount of features and an impressive full-metal-body design.

The G5S Plus doesn’t feature an 18:9 display, but it’s a Full HD 5.5-inch panel that looks great anyway.

Read our Moto G5S Plus review

Nokia 6

With a 5.5-inch Full HD display and mid-range specs inside you might be inclined to dismiss the Nokia 6 as a less exciting phone than the Honor 7X, but it may suit you better if you’re looking for a premium-feeling phone on a budget.

Issues we have with the Nokia 6 include its battery life and charging speeds, but these are also issues with the Honor 7X, so they’re not deal-breakers.

Read our Nokia 6 review

Honor 9

If you like a lot of what the Honor 7X offers, but want something with a more powerful processor and top-of-the-range internals, you’ll love the Honor 9.

You don’t get the expansive 18:9 display ratio, but the screen is gorgeous, and stands out compared to those on a lot of rival devices.

Read our Honor 9 review

Abbas Jaffar Ali,James Peckham
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