Huawei, like quite a few other Chinese OEMs, is well known for bringing to market smartphones with impressive specifications and features, while keeping it budget-friendly, which is a key aspect of Huawei’s relatively new Honor series of smartphones. Honor 7, the latest addition to the Honor line retains everything that was great about its predecessors, but in a more refined package. Does this device manage to stand out in this highly-competitive segment? We find out, in this in-depth review of the Huawei Honor 7!
While the Huawei Honor 7, with its angular look, features a very similar design language to its predecessors, there is a departure as far as build material is concerned, from a mostly glass construction to a unibody metallic design. The metal backing comes with a ceramic-coated finish, which not only allows for a great feel in the hand, but also slightly helps counter the slipperiness of the metal. With a thickness of 8.5 mm and weighing just below 160 grams, the device also feels very solid and substantial in the hand, and the use of metal certainly makes it feel more durable than its predecessors. With its 5.2-inch display and thin bezels along the sides, the Honor 7 allows for easy one-handed use and makes for a very comfortable handling experience.
Looking around the device, the volume rocker and the power button are found on the right side of the device, while there is a SmartKey button to the right (more about it below), and all buttons are very responsive, easy to press, and offer a good amount of tactile feedback. The power button is placed within comfortable reach, and comes with a slightly textured surface that makes it easy to distinguish between the power button and the volume rocker. The device also comes with a double tap to wake feature, so you won’t have to reach for the power button too often though. Above the SmartKey button is the dual-SIM card tray, with one of the SIM slots also doubling as a microSD card slot.
Up top is the headphone jack and the IR blaster, and at the bottom is the microUSB port, flanked by two grills, giving the appearance of a dual speaker setup, even though it is actually only a single speaker on the left side. Above the display is a speaker grill which also houses a notification LED, and there is also an 8 MP front-facing camera with a flash. On the back is the 20 MP camera sensor, coupled with a dual tone LED flash, with the setup looking quite similar to what is seen with the HTC One M9, and there is also a fingerprint sensor below the camera.
The Huawei Honor 7 comes with a 5.2-inch IPS LCD display, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, resulting in a pixel density of 424 ppi. Huawei claims that this display features a 1500:1 high contrast ratio and an 85% color saturation rate, making for crisp and clear text and vibrant colors. Viewing angles are good, and it also gets very bright, allowing for comfortable outdoor visibility. While Quad HD is all the rage, the Full HD resolution with this size is more than enough, and no one will have any complaints with regards to the viewing experience.
Under the hood, the Huawei Honor 7 packs an octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 935 processor, clocked at 2.2 GHz, and backed by the Mali-T628 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. Performance is as smooth as expected from this Huawei-made processing package, and very rarely will there be any signs of stutter or lag. Moving through the various elements of the UI is smooth, and opening, closing, and switching between applications is also fast and snappy. The device also handles gaming pretty well, save for the most graphically-intensive games, where you will notice dropped frames and slow load times. While the device gets the job done for the most part, if you’re looking for a fantastic gaming experience, this may not be the phone for you.
The Honor 7 comes with 16 GB or 64 GB of internal storage, and this can be expanded by another 128 GB via microSD card. Keep in mind though that the second SIM slot also functions as the microSD card slot, so you’ll have to make a choice between expandable storage or dual-SIM capabilities. The device comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, as well as NFC, and while it does feature 4G LTE support, it will be a good idea to check for compatibility with your local network carrier first.
As mentioned, there is a fingerprint scanner on the back, placed within easy reach of your index finger. This touch-type finger scanner is definitely one of the fastest I’ve used, and found it to be faster than the Samsung Galaxy S6 scanner. The scanner is also very accurate and rarely failed to read the fingerprint. Its placement on the back means that you won’t be able to easily unlock the phone while it’s kept on a table however, and users will have to depend on a PIN unlock in this case.
This sensor is not just a fingerprint scanner either, but also supports swipe gestures. A swipe down pulls down the notification panel, a swipe up opens up the recent apps screen, and a tap makes it function like a back button. These gestures are very handy to use, and I found myself relying on them when using the phone. Granted, since it lies within reach of the index finger, the opportunity for an accidental tap or swipe does arise, but the gestures were useful enough to make it worth learning to rest your index finger at a slightly different position. Of course, you can disable these gestures if accidental touches become a significant issue.
Another great addition with the Honor 7 is the SmartKey button found on the left side, with functionality similar to what is available with the Active button of the Galaxy S6 Active. You can set up this button to launch up to three different applications or commands, requiring either a single click, a double click, or a long press of the button. This proved to be incredibly useful, and as we expressed during the full review of the Galaxy S6 Active, we hope that this feature makes its way over to more and more upcoming smartphones.
While the microUSB port at the bottom is flanked by two speaker grills, this is only for aesthetic purposes, as the left side is the one that houses a single speaker unit. While this placement is better than if the speaker was on the back, the quality of the speaker itself is unfortunately below average. It doesn’t get loud enough to be heard even in slightly noisy environments, the audio sounds a bit muffled, and it is also very easy to cover up the speaker when holding the device in the landscape orientation.
As far as the battery is concerned, the Honor 7 packs a non-removable 3,100 mAh unit, that allows for excellent battery life, with up to five and a half hours of screen on-time during a typical day that involved watching videos, lots of internet browsing, responding to messages, and taking pictures. If you do run out of battery, you can take advantage of the device’s fast charging capabilities, with the device being charged to 50% in just 30 minutes.
The Huawei Honor 7 comes with a 20 MP rear camera with a dual LED flash and an f/2.0 aperture, along with a front-facing 8 MP unit, with an f/2.4 aperture. As far as the camera application is concerned, there are some nice features available to enhance the shots you can take like super night mode, panorama, slow motion, a food mode to make pictures of food look more appetizing, and more. The camera is also capable of light painting, so you can leave the camera on a tripod for a few seconds to let it capture all the light, resulting in some creative shots. It is also very easy to take a picture, with a long press of the volume down button enough to quickly launch the camera and take a shot.
As far as image quality is concerned, the camera is capable of taking some really good shots with a good amount of detail and saturated colors. That is mostly in well-lit environments however, and as the lighting conditions deteriorate, some amount of grain starts to show up, detail is lost, and colors begin to lack vibrancy. This is true for most smartphone cameras however, and low-light shots with this device are actually quite good. Video quality is unfortunately disappointing, with poor dynamic range and the tendency to overexpose, resulting in you having to continuously tap on the viewfinder to adjust the exposure and focus.
When it comes to the 8 MP front-facing camera with a wide angle lens, it is coupled with a flash, which is more of a dimly lit flashlight, but can be good to let a little bit of light into the shot. The quality of shots possible with the front camera is also impressive, with nice colors and lots of detail, but as expected, some graininess is seen in poorly-lit environments. With features like beauty mode to take advantage of, the selfie lover will not be disappointed by the quality of the this front-facing camera.
The Honor 7 is running Android 5.0.2 Lollipop with the latest version of Huawei’s Emotion UI on top, but you will be hard-pressed to find any Material Design elements in this user interface. In fact, the influence of iOS in this UI is obvious, starting from the lack of an app drawer, leaving users dependent on folders to keep things organized, to the blurred background effect when opening a folder, as well as the ability to pull up a control center of sorts with a swipe up from the bottom, which houses shortcuts to apps like the flashlight and camera.
There are some useful shortcuts and features available that make navigating around the UI much quicker, including the swipe gestures using the fingerprint scanner, the ability to take a screenshot with a double tap of your knuckles on the screen, and the ability to draw out areas to crop. You can also play around with the on-screen navigation keys, by switching the back and recent apps keys or by adding a fourth button for bringing down the notification panel.
The notification panel is chopped up into sections – Shortcuts and Notifications. Although it would have been nice to have these two sections combined, the notifications section is quite nice with a little timeline on the left side keeping your notifications very organized. There is also a theme engine available to change the look and feel of the UI to better suit your liking. While Huawei’s take on Android is certainly different from the traditional software experience and can take some getting used to, it is very sleek and is designed very well.
5.2-inch IPS LCD
Full HD, 424 ppi
2.2 GHz octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 935 processor
expandable up to 128GB
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
20 MP rear camera with dual LED flash
8 MP front camera with flash
Emotion UI 3.1, Android 5.0 Lollipop
143.2 x 71.9 x 8.5 mm
Pricing and final thoughts
The Huawei Honor 7 is priced at $400 in markets where it is officially available for the 64 GB iteration, and can be found on Amazon with a price point of close to $500, with color options including silver and black.
So there you have it for this in-depth look at the Huawei Honor 7! Overall, the Honor 7 is a really good phone, with its beautiful display, impressive battery life, a fantastic fingerprint scanner, and good camera. Performance is smooth and snappy for the most part, save for the most graphically-intensive of games, and while the Huawei’s take on Android can take some getting used to, the slew of shortcuts and gestures available enable a good experience. There are some really good options available out there in this price range though, such as the top version of the ASUS Zenfone 2, the Axon Phone by ZTE, and the Moto X Play, which you might want to consider instead.