Honor 7X Review: Premium Quality At An Inexpensive Price

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The Honor 7X shows that there is almost no reason to spend more than $200 on a smartphone in 2017.

Huawei's e-commerce brand Honor has been putting out a great budget line of smartphones over the past few years, starting with the Honor 5X in 2016, then the Honor 6X earlier this year at CES, and now the Honor 7X. Both the Honor 5X and 6X were very impressive for their price points, being relatively powerful devices with great features, great battery life, and excellent builds. But where would Honor go with the Honor 7X? Well, the company improved the phone in a few areas, but it also dropped the price. So not only is it an upgraded Honor 6X, but it is also $50 cheaper, coming in at just $199. That's an unbelievable price for something like this, so it is too good to be true? Is it really the budget smartphone of 2018 like Honor believes it is? Let's find out.

Specs

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Honor 7X has an 18:9 aspect ratio, 5.93-inch display (though Honor claims it is actually 6-inches in all of its marketing materials) that has a resolution of 2160 x 1080. This is an LCD display, with a pixel density of 407 pixels per inch. The display takes up roughly 77% of the front of the Honor 7X. It is powered by the octa-core Kirin 659 processor, with the Mali-T830 MP2 GPU and 3GB of RAM. There is 32GB of storage inside, with a micro SD card slot for expanding said storage. There are 4GB and 64GB models being sold in other regions, but those regions have not been confirmed yet, and the 3GB/32GB model is going to be the main one.

For camera optics, the Honor 7X sports a 16-megapixel camera and then a secondary 2-megapixel camera on the back. These have phase detection autofocus, a single LED flash and can record video at 1080p and 30fps. The front-facing shooter is an 8-megapixel camera, and it can also shoot at 1080p. Honor has kept the 3.5mm headphone jack on this smartphone, and it is using a micro USB port for charging. There's no NFC here but it does support Bluetooth 4.1, as well as WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n. A weird omission, but it only supports 2.4GHz networks and not 5GHz WiFi. Wrapping things up, on the software front there is Android 7.0 Nougat with EMUI 5.1, and there is also a 3340mAh battery powering the show.

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In the Box

Inside the box, you'll find all of the usual items with the Honor 7X on top. You'll also find a micro USB cable for charging with a wall adapter, some paperwork, and a SIM ejection tool. There's no case included with this phone, which is unfortunate, but not too surprising.

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Hardware

Honor went to an all-metal build earlier this year for the Honor 6X, and it kept that trend for the 7X. The Honor 7X is an all-metal build here, which is available in either black or blue, and it really feels good in the hand. Although, since it is all metal, it does pick up fingerprints like magnets. So we found ourselves constantly wiping off the back of the phone to get rid of all of the fingerprints. Which seems to be a common trend these days with both glass and metal collecting fingerprints like crazy. The sides of the Honor 7X are curved, but the actual back isn't. This makes the 7X pretty easy to hold in the hand, even though it isn't a big device, really.

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On the bottom of the Honor 7X, you'll find the micro USB port in the center with a 3.5mm headphone jack on one side and a speaker on the other. It's good to see that 3.5mm headphone jack still on this device. The left side of the phone houses the SIM card and micro SD card slot, while the right side has the volume rocker and a power button. Now the back is pretty clean. There is a logo on the back, but it's also in black, so unless you're in the right lighting, you won't even see it. There are antenna lines on the top and towards the bottom, which are also a different shade of black, so they do also blend in. There's a fingerprint in the middle on the back, so it's right where your finger rests normally (or as some people would say, it's in the correct spot). However, the one issue we have with the backside is actually the cameras. Honor decided that one camera bump wasn't enough, so there are two camera bumps, one for each camera. It doesn't really change how the phone works, or how much it wobbles when you are typing on it with it on a table, but it does look very odd.

The front of the Honor 7X houses that massive 6-inch full HD+ display. Honor decided to join the 18:9 aspect ratio trend, and it is also the first smartphone under $200 to come with this tall display. It's a 6-inch display in the same body as the 5.5-inch Honor 6X. So you get an extra half an inch of screen real estate here, which is nice. There are pretty small bezels all around, but Honor was still able to cram its logo onto the front, beneath the screen.

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Honor 7X is a really great feeling device. It feels great in the hand, it's not too big, and it's not too slippery. Obviously, since it is metal, it does feel a bit slippery, but it never felt like it was going to slide right out of my hands, which is obviously a good thing. It's actually hard to believe that this is a $200 smartphone when holding it in your hand, which is astonishingly impressive.

Display

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As mentioned, Honor is using a taller display on the Honor 7X. So it's a 18:9 aspect ratio, with a 2160×1080 resolution, what many companies are calling full HD+ since it is a bit higher resolution than regular full HD. This is Honor's first 18:9 device (the Honor V10 also has one, but it's not available yet – however Honor's sister brand Huawei, has done an 18:9 display on the Mate 10 Pro). The display here actually looks really good. It is still 1080p so you're not getting a high pixel density here, but the colors and contrast looks really good, and you won't see any individual pixels on the display.

The brightness of this panel from Honor is actually really good. This screen gets very bright, and it is more than visible outside. In fact, I was able to take pictures of the phone's display outside in sunlight (it was overcast but still), and you could see the display without many reflections. That is something that is not possible on most phones – even flagships that cost 2-3x as much. So that is actually really impressive. So you won't have many issues with using this one outside.

Performance

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Inside the Honor 7X is the Kirin 659 octa-core processor which is relatively unknown to most people. Seeing as Huawei's in-house Kirin processors are really only used on its and Honor's devices. But the Kirin 659 is right on par with some of Qualcomm Snapdragon 600-series processors. It's an octa-core chipset with four Cortex-A53 cores at 2.36GHz and then four Cortex-A53 cores at 1.7GHz. That is paired with the Mali-T830 MP2 GPU. So this phone is no slouch, and as you begin to use it, you will definitely notice that.

The Honor 7X is pretty fast, now it's not as fast as something running the Kirin 970 like the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, but it is plenty fast. You won't really notice any slowdowns going through the operating system here, and you likely won't notice any slowdowns when you have a ton of apps open. When it comes to gaming, the Mali-T830 MP2 does pretty well at rendering graphics. It is a tad slow compared to other flagships out there, but that is also because this is only a $200 smartphone.

Now, the one area where it would have been nice for Honor to upgrade the specs is in the RAM department. It's still sporting 3GB of RAM. And for most people, that's going to be plenty of RAM. However, if you are looking to buy this phone and keep it for a couple of years, that 3GB might not be the best option. It'll get the job done, but there's no way to know how Android will fare on 3GB of RAM  in a year or two with Android P or Android Q on the horizon.

Fingerprint Sensor

Honor is using Fingerprint 4.0 on the Honor 7X, which the company touts as being able to recognize your finger in just 0.25 seconds. That is incredibly fast, and it shows in real-life usage. Through our time with the Honor 7X, we have noticed that the phone is very fast at unlocking, and it is also very accurate. Two things you need for a good sensor since a fast sensor is no good if it isn't that accurate. This shouldn't be a surprise though, for anyone that has used a Huawei device in the past few years, the company has always had great fingerprint sensors and has really led the charge (this time around) with getting almost every Android phone with a fingerprint sensor.

There are some gestures and shortcuts for the fingerprint sensor here. For instance, you can swipe down to bring the notification shade down (or up to hide it again). You can also swipe left and right in the Gallery app to browse through your photos. This is also not a new feature on the Honor 7X, Huawei actually started doing this with the Huawei Mate 9 – and even earlier if you count the Nexus 6P which was technically a Google phone. But it is nice to see this available on the Honor 7X, as it is something that Huawei and Honor's customers have really liked about its smartphones.

Sound

If there's one weak spot on the Honor 7X, this is it, unfortunately. The sound quality, coming from the speaker, is not that great. It sounds just a tad bit tinny, but it does get pretty loud. Honor is using just one speaker on this one, so you aren't getting stereo sound like on some other devices. But the sound coming out of that speaker is a bit tinny, which is unfortunate. Now, this does have a headphone jack, so you won't need to live the dongle life with the Honor 7X. And fortunately, Honor has used a decent DAC. Now you won't get audio in the same quality as something like the LG G6 or V30 that has that Quad DAC, but this is also about a quarter of the price. If you plug in a decent pair of headphones, the sound is going to be pretty good. So the only real complaint in the sound department is actually with the speaker.

Phone Calls & Network

The Honor 7X is an unlocked device, but it is a GSM device, which means it'll only work on T-Mobile and AT&T here in the US. So it won't work on Verizon and Sprint, unfortunately, but it will work on some of Verizon's 4G LTE bands, but don't expect full support. During the review process, we've been using the Honor 7X on the T-Mobile network, and the experience has been mostly the same as any other smartphone on T-Mobile's network. So there's not much to complain about there. Data speeds were pretty similar on both 4G LTE and on WiFi. However, do keep in mind that the Honor 7X does not support 5GHz WiFi networks, for some strange reason. So you are stuck with only being able to utilize 2.4GHz networks, and in that case, we did see noticeably slower WiFi speeds than on something like the Pixel 2 XL, which was connected to the same WiFi network here, but utilizing the 5GHz band. And as far as phone calls go, no dropped calls here. Furthermore, those on the other end said we sounded pretty good.

Since this is an unlocked device, you normally wouldn't get things like HD Voice, VoLTE or WiFi Calling here, as those are carrier features and do differ from carrier to carrier typically. But Honor does have support for VoLTE here. Allowing you to take advantage of the carrier's LTE network for making calls, as opposed to its older voice network. From a user standpoint, you won't really notice any difference between a VoLTE call and a regular call, especially since there is no HD Voice. But it's still a nice feature to have.

Benchmarks

On the Honor 7X, we ran the usual benchmarks, like we do with every smartphone. That includes AnTuTu, 3D Mark and Geekbench 4. Over on AnTuTu, it picked up a score of 58,934. That put it at the bottom of the leaderboard, which was pretty much expected, seeing as almost all of the devices listed are flagship devices like the Galaxy S8, LG V30 and so on. Now on 3D Mark, it picked up a score of 403, which is pretty good, and actually a bit higher than some other smartphones in this price range. Finally, on Geekbench 4, the Honor 7X scored 901 in the single-core test and 3336 in the multi-core test. You can see the complete scores from each benchmark in the gallery below.

Battery Life

The battery life is phenomenal on the Honor 7X. Going into this review, I had assumed that battery would still be good, but not as great as the Honor 6X. Looking back at my review of the Honor 6X from earlier this year, I was wrong. The battery life is about the same if not a bit better. Which makes it even more impressive, seeing as it has a larger display (6 inches versus 5.5 on the Honor 6X). So it's good to see that Honor was able to make its Kirin 659 chipset more power efficient, and also optimize the software so that users can get some incredible battery life out of this device.

As far as the numbers you can expect, well you can get about two days of use out of this one. Of course, that will always depend on what you are using the phone for. I have gotten it to last me nearly two days, a few times while reviewing this device. And that included watching a lot of YouTube videos, spending time on Snapchat, and other apps that are pretty battery intense. So if you are just doing normal browsing, this thing should give you some rather impressive battery life numbers.

The flip side of battery life is charging the battery. Since this is using one of Huawei's Kirin chipsets, that means that Qualcomm's Quick Charge standard is not supported here. But Huawei does have its own form of fast charging. It charges at about 2.4A, which is able to recharge the 3340mAh battery on the Honor 7X, in a little under two hours. Since the battery already lasts quite a while, you likely will only need to charge it at night, so fast charging isn't that big of a deal here. Now Honor did say that the Honor 7X would retain about 80% of its battery capacity after 500 charges (usually it gets down to 80% after 300 charges, so this is pretty good). Obviously, since we've only had this phone for a couple of weeks, we haven't been able to test this out. But it is a good thing to note for those that plan to keep this phone for a bit.

Software

At the time of writing this review, the Honor 7X is sporting Android 7.0 Nougat with EMUI 5.1 and it has the November 6th, 2017 security patch. So it's not as up-to-date as the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro from Huawei, but it is still pretty up-to-date. Honor is planning to update the Honor 7X to Android 8.0 Oreo in the near future though.

The software on the Honor 7X hasn't changed much from other Nougat-based Huawei and Honor devices. You're still getting EMUI here, which is now up to version 5.1. The software has improved pretty drastically over the past few years, but Huawei/Honor still has some work to do. EMUI still changes some things unnecessarily, for instance, to change the launcher, you have to go to Settings > Apps > App Settings > App Defaults > Launcher and then select your launcher. Instead of just downloading a launcher, pressing home and selecting the launcher you want to use (like every other Android device on the planet). That's not the only task that requires multiple extra steps to get accomplished, but it is a good example of one. There are fewer things broken this time around, compared to the Honor 6X last year, which had an older version of EMUI during our review (it was on Marshmallow). So the company is making strides, but still has a bit to go.

Since this is Honor's first 18:9 device, the company did need to make some changes to support that taller display. Although it didn't make a lot of changes, you are able to force apps into "full display" mode, basically, take full advantage of that 18:9 display. A lot of apps already support this since it isn't really a new thing these days. But there are some that are stubborn like Instagram. Since this does sport that tall display, it makes split-screen mode even more efficient, since you'll have a square for each app – of course, you can still adjust the size of each window. This is one of the few things that Huawei/Honor hasn't changed from AOSP, multi-window or split screen, can be accessed by long-pressing the recents button. And it is definitely nice to use on this much larger, 6-inch display here.

As a whole, the software here seems to be pretty good. It's arguably much better than what you would find from other smartphones in this price range. EMUI 5.1 is pretty smooth on this hardware, which shouldn't be surprising but it is nice to see. It's also good to see that Honor has a pretty new security patch here. Sure it is December, but the November 6th patch is new enough (considering there are other smartphones launching with nearly 6-month old patches in some cases). The experience will likely get even better once Android 8.0 Oreo comes to the Honor 7X, hopefully that won't be too far down the road!

Camera

The Honor 6X was actually the first "budget" smartphone from Honor to sport a dual-camera setup. It actually turned out pretty good, even though it wasn't the same setup that Huawei had used in the P9 and Huawei Mate 9. Now, Honor has improved that dual-camera, upgrading the main sensor from a 12-megapixel shooter to a 16-megapixel in the Honor 7X. The secondary shooter is still a 2-megapixel sensor, but that sensor isn't really for taking images. The secondary sensor is actually more for collecting more data on the shot. Which in turn helps the phone to create an even better bokeh effect.

The camera here has an aperture of f/2.2 but with software, you can bring it all the way up to f/0.95. This actually isn't new. It's something Huawei did on the Mate 9 last year, however, it wasn't on the Honor 6X. Now it is here on the Honor 7X, and it appears to work out better than it did on the Mate 9. Perhaps due to Huawei having more time to work on this software and improve it. You can adjust the aperture before you take the shot and after. If you go to the image after you snap it, you can adjust the aperture, and make the background more blurry, or you can even adjust the subject that is in view. Maybe you want something in the background to be in focus, you can tap on it and do just that.

Honor's camera software, from the user-side, hasn't really changed much, and there's really no need for it too. It's simplistic and really just works. Swipe in from the left, and you are greeted with the many modes that this camera has. Including Photo, Pro Photo, Video, Pro Video, HDR, Panorama, Light Painting, Time-Lapse, Slow-mo, Filter, Effects, Watermark and Audio Note. There is a button to download more, but the only additional mode available is for food. Huawei and Honor have both told us that the Food mode is the most popular one on their devices. It's the one that customers love the most, which makes sense, since everyone posts pictures of their food on Instagram these days. Now swipe in from the right and you get your settings of course.

Now let's talk portrait mode. Huawei and Honor have had this mode for quite some time. Basically, since it debuted the dual-camera setup on the P9. And it keeps getting better and better. It is actually called "wide aperture" on the rear camera, and there is a toggle at the top of the viewfinder that you can turn on or off. Honor has also brought it over to the front-facing camera. So it is also doing portrait mode on the front-facing camera. Now while it does work, and works well, we still think that the Pixel 2/2 XL do a better job of it. But those that want to take some great selfies with the Honor 7X will be able to do just that with ease on the Honor 7X.

As always, we have a gallery of images taken with the Honor 7X down below. But let's talk about the quality of these images. They are really good, and you would be shocked to learn these came from a $200 smartphone. The Honor 7X does really well at night. I took a few images of Christmas lights and they came out pretty well. Typically, these would have the lights blown out and/or a ton of noise in the background. There's still noise, which will be there no matter what due to the small amount of light that the camera has. But it's not as much as many other cameras. Even in good lighting, the camera does really well. On the front-facing camera, portrait mode seems to work well, as well. it is able to determine what is in the foreground and only blur the background. There are a few times where it did blur part of my face or the hoodie I had on. But you really can't see that unless you zoom in. And even the Pixel 2 does the same thing sometimes. So it's hard to knock the Honor 7X for that. All in all, this camera is really impressive.

The Good

Price

Battery Life

Camera

Display

The Bad

Micro USB Port

Speaker sound quality

GSM only, not CDMA unlocked

Wrap Up

2017 has been the year of the ultra-premium smartphone, with Android and other flagships topping the $1,000 mark like the LG V30, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and the Apple iPhone X. But one can't forget about the "budget" smartphones from companies like Honor, Motorola, and ZTE. Motorola really started the whole phase of making budget phones good with the Moto G. But it looks like Honor is taking that crown away from Motorola. While the Moto G5 series has been good in 2017, it's tough to recommend Motorola's options over the Honor 6X and now the Honor 7X, unless you are on Verizon or Sprint. The Honor 7X does check just about every box. There are really only two major complaints that we have about this phone, which is the speaker quality and the fact that it charges over a micro USB port. Otherwise, it's a fantastic smartphone from Honor.

Should I buy the Honor 7X?

Definitely. These days, you don't need to spend nearly a grand on a new smartphone. There are a ton of options available right now for under $400. And Honor has just raised the bar by offering the Honor 7X for just $199, which is still mind-boggling.

Buy The Honor 7X