The Honor 7X is a good-looking phone, though it’s undoubtedly derivative. From the back it looks very much like an iPhone 6 with its all-metal body, rounded corners and horizontal antenna lines – not to mention the shape and size of its camera lenses.
That said, the striking metallic blue our test model came in gives the Honor 7X a subtly different look to anything Apple has produced outside of the iPod Touch family. It’s also worth reiterating that this is a £225 phone we’re looking at here. Held in the hand, it feels like it’s worth a lot more.
Not that the Honor 7X is especially hefty, however. With a modest thickness of 7.6mm and a weight of 165g, it nails that tough-to-define ‘just right’ sensation. That’s impressive in itself when you consider how big the phone’s screen is.
By far the Honor 7X’s biggest selling point is its all-screen design. This is arguably the first time we’ve seen a stretched-out edge-to-edge approach in such an affordable phone – and it’s undeniably exciting to see.
The phone’s top and bottom bezels aren’t as small as the iPhone X equivalents – though there’s also no notch – while its side bezels won’t be worrying the Samsung Galaxy S8. But those are phones at the opposite end of the price spectrum.
The practical result of this approach is that the Honor 7X squeezes a 6-inch display into a phone that’s roughly the same size as the 5.5-inch OnePlus 5. Even the Honor 9 couldn’t boast such a forward-thinking design feature.
So what’s the catch? Take a closer look and the Honor 7X isn’t quite as classy as it initially seems. The screen is slightly raised above its metal body, and is surrounded by a plastic band.
Another telltale sign that this isn’t a premium phone comes from the bottom edge, where a Micro USB port sits right where a more modern USB-C port ought to be. Meanwhile, the lack of NFC is a major blow to anyone looking to make use of Android Pay for mobile payments.
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Back on the positive side, the phone’s rear-mounted fingerprint sensor is easy to find, extremely fast, and impressively reliable.
Honor 7X – Display
Of course, making your phone all about the screen is only a worthwhile tactic if the screen itself is up to scratch. Just ask Google what can happen when you get that simple equation wrong.
Fortunately the Honor 7X display is on point. It’s a 5.93-inch LCD with a 2160 x 1920 resolution, or FHD+ to give it a slightly snappier name. That’s well short of QHD, which might be of concern given the size of the display, but we genuinely didn’t find the pixel count to be lacking at any point.
That ‘+’ reflects the fact that the screen is longer than usual, with an 18:9 aspect ratio (most phones are 16:9). That’s a very similar shape to the iPhone X’s screen, except here you get an unadulterated rectangle.
It’s great for media content, with decent brightness and colour accuracy for a phone at this end of the market. IPS technology ensures that viewing angles are decent too.
No, it doesn’t have the same level of contrast as an OLED display, but it’s perfectly good for what it is. You won’t find many other phones that let you fine-tune the colour temperature to the same degree as this, either, while there’s also a setting to reduce the eye-straining effect of blue light.
Honor 7X – Performance
You’re not getting anything like top-of-the-range performance from the Honor 7X and its Kirin 659 CPU.
This is the newest mid-range effort from Huawei subsidiary HiSilicon, but it didn’t exactly set our benchmark tests alight. An average Geekbench 4 multicore score of 3563 shows you the performance shortfall to the Honor 9 and other high end phones, which comfortably score past the 6000 mark.
Looking at phones more at the Honor 7X’s level, the Moto G5S Plus scored a superior 4460, while even last year’s Honor 6X managed 3270.
Despite this middling score, though, the Honor 7X runs well where it matters. We didn’t detect any lag when moving between home screens or opening apps, while the camera app and fingerprint sensor both operate quickly and smoothly.
Even demanding applications such as 3D games ran reasonably well during our time with the phone. Technically demanding racer Gear.Club and online FPS Guns of Boom were perfectly playable – if not flawless – while tense twin-stick shooter Xenowerk and its nifty lighting effects ran like a dream.
Doubtless a factor in smoothing out the Honor 7X’s humble engine is the provision of 4GB of RAM, which is 1GB more than most budget phones get given.
While we’re talking specs, the Honor 7X has been given a generous storage allotment of 64GB. You could argue that a choice of more would have been welcome, but that would be a little churlish. That’s a generous amount for such an affordable phone.
Besides, it’s accompanied by a microSD slot, so you can always expand your storage options by up to 256GB if you so wish.
Honor 7X – Software
The Honor 7X doesn’t run on the very latest version of Android – we’re talking Nougat rather than Oreo here. But that doesn’t really matter too much.
For one thing, Android reached an accomplished level of usability and base features some time ago, and has plateaued somewhat in recent years. Mainly, though, you simply won’t be able to spot the differences because Huawei’s heavily modified EMUI skin is slathered on top.
EMUI, as always, feels like a low-rent mash-up of Android and iOS. But it’s not a complete write-off by any means.
Huawei has tidied its Android skin up considerably in recent iterations, to the point where it’s quite intuitive and painless to use. Like we mentioned in the previous section, it runs at a fair old lick too, with few of the stutters that used to be synonymous with custom Android skins.
You’ll notice that EMUI follows Apple’s lead and ditches the classic Android app tray, so you’ll need to keep all of your app icons stored across your home screens. We’d recommend dragging them on top of each other to form themed folders if you’ve got a lot installed.
Elsewhere EMUI is bright and bouncy, but more than a little tacky compared to stock Android and iOS. As always, you can adjust the look of your home screens through the bundled Themes app. This acts as a separate store front for different designs, which change everything from your wallpaper to the lock screen and even some of the app icons themselves – though none will correct the clunky pop-up menus and ugly fonts.
Even though this isn’t the first phone we’ve used with EMUI 5.1 this year, we still can’t get used to the lock screen shortcut menu. Mirroring the role of iOS 11’s Control Centre, you drag up from the bottom of the lock screen to bring up a small shortcut menu. From here you can get speedy access to the torch, a calculator, a timer and a sound recorder.
Such a shortcut facility is always welcome, but its placement feels a little counterintuitive right below the Swipe to Unlock command. We can’t tell you how many times we brought up the shortcut menu when we actually wanted to get to the home screen – and we would have done so a lot more if it wasn’t for that excellent fingerprint sensor.
EMUI is also a little clunky in the way it handles the Honor 7X’s taller screen, offering an ugly text prompt to go full-screen the first time you use an app.
Inevitably, you get some bloatware with the Honor 7X too. Besides the pointless duplicate apps for calendar, email, music and photos you get a bunch of pre-installed third party apps. These apps include Facebook and Instagram – which are perhaps understandable in this day and age – and Booking.com, which is less so.
You also get five pre-installed Gameloft games, which aren’t the best examples on the Google Play Store by any means. At least they’re tucked away in their own folder, and can be uninstalled.
Honor 7X – Camera
The Honor 7X follows the Honor 9’s lead in offering a dual-lens camera set-up. Here, though, the second lens isn’t used for capturing zoomed-in or wide-angle shots.
Like the Honor 6X before it, the 2-megapixel secondary sensor here acts exclusively as an assistant to the 16-megapixel main sensor. Specifically, it feeds in extra depth data for the camera app’s Wide aperture mode. Selecting this in the Camera UI adds varying degrees of background blur to the background, in theory making the close-up subject pop.
You can manually alter this between f/0.95 and f/16, but the effect can be rather patchy towards the former. While lots of manufacturers are trying such a trick these days, this doesn’t represent the best execution. The edges of your subject tend to become blurred in with the background, and you can generally get a more natural and crisp effect simply by getting close to your subject and shooting a normal picture.
Having said that, Wide aperture mode does capture all of the information necessary to adjust the blurring effect after the photo has been taken, so it’s nice to have the option.
It’s a similar case for portrait mode, which specifically focuses on enhancing close-up shots of people. It works best between 0.5 and 2m, and once again exaggerates the bokeh effect for a crisper subject. Where Portrait mode differs is in its application of a ‘beauty’ effect – that weird adjustable smoothing out algorithm that makes your loved ones look less and less human and more like a waxwork model as you crank it up.
Gimmicks aside, the Honor 7X is capable of capturing some decent shots in strong lighting. Unusually for an affordable phone, we found that we didn’t really need to manually select HDR mode, with the phone capable of exposing landscape shots intelligently without blowing out the skies or underexposing shady areas.
Unsurprisingly, it struggles a little in less than ideal lighting, but plenty of far more expensive phones can be accused of that.
Around front you get an 8-megapixel camera, which offers plenty of pixels, the option of that weird beauty mode, and iffy performance in mediocre lighting conditions. Which is par for the course, really.
On a practical note, the placement of the Honor 7X’s twin-camera setup so close to the top of the phone makes it a little too easy to block them with your finger. It’s something you adjust to, but depending on how you typically hold your phone in such situations it can be quite a pain.
The same shot at f/0.95, and things are looking rather artificial
Reasonable sharpness and colour accuracy on close-ups
Shots in good lighting are well balanced
Normal auto-exposures tend to be fine without HDR
When you do manually apply HDR, the effect is subtle
There’s a lot of noise in lesser lighting, but the general tone of the scene is preserved
Honor 7X – Battery life
The Honor 7X has a 3340mAh battery, which is exactly the same as the Honor 6X before it. Of course, that phone had a smaller 5.5-inch display rather than the power-hogging 6-inch monstrosity available here.
Still, Honor reckons you can get 12 hours of video playback from a full charge, which sounds pretty good.
In practice, we found that a two hour film downloaded from Netflix and played back at full screen brightness sapped 28% of the phone’s charge. Elsewhere a 50 minute TV episode downloaded from the Google Play Store (again at full brightness) sapped 13%. That’s consistent, but not particularly great.
Elsewhere, 15 minutes of playing Guns of Boom with the screen at half brightness sapped 9 percent of the battery. Again, that isn’t brilliant in our experience.
In moderate general use you’ll be able to get a full day of usage out of the Honor 7X. But if you’re intending on hitting the phone hard with media consumption, you might find yourself looking for a wall socket well before the day is done.
Talking of which, the lack of a USB Type-C port is a shame rather than a flat out disaster. More problematic is the fact that there’s no fast charge facility here. We’re starting to expect such a feature even from more affordable hardware.
Why buy the Honor 7X?
If you find yourself casting an envious eye at the all-screen designs of the smartphone elite, but aren’t in a position to spend top dollar on such a thing, then the Honor 7X makes for an interesting proposition.
The phone successfully manages to cram a big, bright 6-inch display into a normal-sized body for a third to a quarter of the price of a modern flagship.
There are compromises of course, including average performance, mediocre battery life, and a lack of NFC meaning no Android Pay compatibility. Huawei’s EMUI continues to underwhelm next to less fussy Android skins, too.
But if your priority is to cut down on those screen bezels for a reasonable price, there aren’t too many phones on the market like the Honor 7X right now.
The Honor 7X offers the kind of all-screen kicks that we’ve only really seen from expensive flagship phones to date. It’s not without its compromises, but after the disappointingly generic Honor 6X we’re glad the brand has tried something daring with its premium budget line.