First impressions and design
- Has the look and feel of a premium smartphone
- Metal design looks gorgeous
- Rear fingerprint scanner ensures screen is the star of the show
Chinese mobile maker Honor might not be a household name here in the UK. But when you consider that it’s part of Huawei, the Chinese giant that has become one of the world’s biggest smartphone players, it’s easy to see why its devices are fast gaining a reputation as some of the best in the business.
Its new Honor 7X is a case in point. Ostensibly a mid-range device, with a SIM–free price of under £300, it has the look and feel of a phone that costs far more.
The all–metal finish immediately makes the Honor 7X feel like a premium phone when you pull it from the box. Fire it up and the LCD display, a widescreen, 18:9 affair, pops. Colours are rendered superbly on the 5.93–inch screen, which dominates the front of the device thanks to Honor’s decision to place the fingerprint scanner on the rear of the handset.
Phones without physical home buttons are nothing new. But they are usually confined to the higher end of the smartphone market, where the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 and Apple’s iPhone X vie for supremacy. When you consider that the Honor 7X is a third of the price of those phones, you really do realise that this is a phone going all out in its efforts to bring top–end looks to a more affordable handset, giving the likes of OnePlus and HTC plenty to think about.
Set up is swift and easy. If you have a Google account, you can enter your email address and password and be up and running within a minute. The fingerprint scanner is neatly placed in the middle of the rear panel and requires a simple set up, with the phone asking users to tap it repeatedly until it has a full scan. Best of all, the scanner can handle a variety of tasks, of which more later.
The button set up is standard, with power and volume keys along the right hand side, while a standard 3.5mm headphone jack means you can use your old earbuds with zero hassle. USB charging means older cables will also work when it comes to powering up the Honor 7X.
||Metal and glass
||156.5 x 75.3 x 7.6 mm
Screen and sound
- 18:9 display is best in class at this price
- 3.5mm headphone slot a bonus
- Speaker delivers tinny sound
Wide, 18:9 screens have become a major calling card of high end phones, from Samsung’s Galaxy S8 to LG’s G6. The idea is to offer improved viewing on apps such as Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime.
Honor’s decision to offer an 18:9 display on the 7X is extremely welcome and points towards a wider shift from budget mobile makers. The result is a viewing experience that comes close to matching much more premium handsets, with a full screen mode that renders movies brilliantly.
This is also largely thanks to the display’s 1080 x 2160 resolution, which features 408 pixels per inch. While its LCD smarts mean it doesn’t quite have the same crispness and detail of an iPhone or Galaxy S8, which both utilise OLED tech, it’s as good as it gets at this price. Only the most hard-core of phone users could find fault with this screen.
Sound-wise, the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack is extremely welcome. The move towards USB–powered and wireless headphones is doubtless gathering pace, with Apple and Google leading the charge. However, there’s no need for lower end phones to do the same. We plugged in our SoundMagic E10s and were impressed by the detailed sound delivered while listening to the Soulwax remix of Tame Impala’s Let It Happen.
Unsurprisingly, things sounded a lot tinnier and much less detailed when the same tune was played through the single speaker at the bottom of the device. Our advice: don’t play audio out loud unless you’re at home.
||1080 x 2160 pixels
- Fingerprint scanner with a variety of functions
- Dual SIM skills for different numbers
It’s easy to forget that the Honor 7X is a mid–range handset and, as such, doesn’t come laden with bells and whistles. That said, its all–screen design does mean that it has a fingerprint scanner around the back. And it can do more than just unlock the phone and make secure payments.
Mounted on the back of the phone, we found it was within easy reach while using the Honor 7X one handed. Set up was swift and once finished, its response was incredibly impressive, with the phone open and ready to go within a split second of placing our index finger on the scanner.
Honor has tied a number of functions to 7X’s fingerprint scanner which can be quickly toggled on and off within the handset’s settings app. There’s the ability to take a photo by touching and holding it, answer calls and stop alarms, while slide gestures allow you to bring up the notification panel and browse through photos. The idea is to leave the screen clear while using the device.
The results are hugely impressive, even if it takes some getting used to using the scanner rather than the display to flick open menus and go through images. It makes one handed use eminently possible, which is amazing when you consider the sheer scale of the handset.
The inclusion of a dual-nano SIM tray means that the Honor 7X can be used as a work and personal phone, with the ability to manage which number should be set for primary functions such as calls and data found within the settings app. And you can forward calls from one SIM to the other when one line is engaged.
Unfortunately, loading up a microSD card precludes the use of a second SIM, as the tray on the side of the phone only has room for either two SIMs or one SIM and a card. Seeing as you can boost the 64GB storage by up to 256GB, this would be our preferred option.
- Rear camera delivers detailed and sharp portraits
- Front facing camera serves up decent selfies
- Manual mode for tweaking settings
As with its predecessor, the Honor 6X, the Honor 7X features a dual camera setup, albeit one that isn’t quite as all-encompassing as those found on the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. The main lens features a 16-megapixel sensor, while the secondary effort is a two-megapixel snapper designed to capture depth information.
The latter means that the Honor 7X has a Portrait Mode, delivering images that pull out the details in the foreground while blurring the background. This has become such a core part of top–end phones that we can’t help but be impressed that Honor has delivered it on a sub £300 phone.
The results are decent enough, although you’ll need to ensure you have good light and that your subject is placed at the correct distance in order to get the perfect shot. The camera prompts you to keep subjects between 0.5 and 2 metres from the lens, which is helpful.
Honor 7X camera sample Tower Bridge sign
Honor 7X camera sample signs
Honor 7X camera sample jewellery stand
Honor 7X fridge magnets
Honor 7X camera sample cake stand
Honor 7X camera sample Underground fridge magnet
Honor 7X camera sample Tower Bridge
Honor 7X camera sample buckets
Honor 7X camera sample Christmas tree
There’s also a ‘beauty level’ scale which appears to smooth out wrinkles and make subjects appears as if they’ve had a serious dose of Botox. This feels rather tacky, although it will likely be loved by those who enjoy smoothing filters in apps such as Snapchat.
There’s the ability to toggle on wide aperture mode and switch to a ‘moving picture’ option when reeling off action shots. Because the Honor 7X isn’t a top–end device, it doesn’t have the multiple AF skills to deliver truly killer live action snaps, but its phase auto-detect will satisfy those who want a device that can do basic point and shoot in solid fashion.
The front–facing 8-megapixel camera also features a portrait mode, again with adjustable beauty levels, And the special ‘perfect selfie’ option lets you really go to town, taking snaps from all angles before allowing you to fix everything from the shape of your face to the size of your eyes. In practice this again feels like a gimmick, aimed squarely at younger users more used to filters and extreme image editing.
Swiping right to left brings up a settings menu that allows for quick editing and access to different modes, with a strong emphasis on making the 7X’s camera easy to use, no matter your photography skills. Overall, this is a camera more in keeping with a premium smartphone rather than one aimed at a more budget conscious audience.
|Optical image stabilisation
Performance and battery life
- No USB–C for fast charging
- Battery is good enough for one day
- No Android Oreo
- Solid chipset
Chipset fanatics may not be overly keen on the Honor 7X’s Kirin 659 Quad–core processor. But with a more than ample 4GB of RAM, this device can handle everyday tasks with aplomb. Twitter or Instagram load up in a flash and Gmail works snappily too. The demo of Sonic Runners ran without any lag or drop in performance. For casual users, chipsets tend not to be of primary concern, and the Kirin version used here is more than capable of delivering on a day-to-day basis.
Disappointingly, the 7X doesn’t come with the latest version of Android. It packs last year’s Nougat edition, rather than Oreo, with Honor’s own Emotion UI custom skin on top. This might not be a deal-breaker for those after a basic new smartphone, but considering Oreo has been available since August, there really is no excuse for new Android phones not to have it preloaded as standard.
That’s not to say the 7X is hard to handle. In truth, the Emotion UI doesn’t hide much of Android’s easy-to-use interface and the menu structure requires little to no prior knowledge to get to grips with. The wider concern is that Honor might not be able to offer the best security features by using an out–of–date edition of the Big G’s OS.
The large, 3340mAh battery should mean that things keep ticking along longer than rival devices. But that big screen eats up a lot of power. We found that a single charge lasted us from 9.30am until around 8pm, including regular email checks, twenty minutes or so of gaming and some time playing with the camera. That’s hardly ground-breaking, but in keeping with rival midrange devices.
Sadly, the Honor 7X doesn’t come with USB–C, instead relying on standard USB for power. While you can optimise the battery, it can’t be fast charged, meaning it takes a couple of hours to go from 0 to 100. Plug it in overnight though and you’ll be golden.
|OS and version
||Android 7.0 (Nougat)
- Metal build feels solid
- No water or dust resistance
The Honor 7X’s metal build makes it feel extremely solid in the hand. But while it doesn’t seem as fragile as some of the fancier, glass and steel smartphones out there (hello, Apple), its lack of a dust and waterproof rating means that it is somewhat deficient when it comes to durability.
Protecting a phone from splashes and scrapes has become standard practice in recent years. Last year’s Moto G4 range, which costs far less than the 7X, could withstand being splashed, so there is really no reason for Honor not to offer such functionality here.
It means that if you’re clumsy, you’re going to want to invest in a case to protect the 7X, or be ultra-cautious if you make calls or send texts while out in the rain. It makes for a rather annoying blot on the 7X’s copybook.
||Corning Gorilla Glass
Value and verdict
- First rate design
- Stonking screen for the price
- Impressive camera, both front and back
- Fingerprint scanner gets extra marks for additional functionality
- Lack of water and dust proofing lets the side down
- Ample storage thanks to microSD support
- Dual SIM makes it a work phone too
- Superb value for money
With a Portrait Mode–packing camera, rear mounted fingerprint scanner, 18:9 display and dual SIM smarts, the Honor 7X rivals some of the best mid–tier phones around. In fact, with a SIM–free price tag of below £300, it’s getting close to being one of the finest budget devices we’ve played with in 2017.
The camera is a good all-rounder for the price, while the decision to place the fingerprint scanner on the back gives the 7X the look and feel of a much more expensive device. Throw in dual SIM skills and space for an extra 256GB storage on top of the existing 64GB internal offering and you’ve got a phone that represents amazing value for money.
The lack of the latest Android software and even basic splash proofing is a touch annoying. But at this price, it’s rare to find a smartphone that is perfect in every aspect. If you want an affordable handset that stands out from the crowd, then look no further.