Saturday, 16 December 2017
Reviews

Honor 7x review: When budget phones are this capable, why spend more?


This year has been dominated by big-name smartphones like the Apple iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy Note 8. But it’s also been the year when so-called “budget” phones have passed a certain tipping point.

That tipping point is called “good enough” and it’s an important point to make. Facebook and Instagram are going to run exactly the same on the Honor 7x, which costs £269.99 as they do on the iPhone X, which starts at £999.

Tech fanatics may quibble about the faster loading times or the crispness of the display but the reality is that when phones like the Honor 7x are good enough for the majority of things we want them to do, why would any sane person spend more than three times as much for something that accomplishes the same tasks?

The Honor brand is a subdivision of Chinese manufacturer Huawei and repurposes much of the tech from top-tier Huawei phones at more modest prices. In this case, the 7x has embraced the bezel-less screen trend of 2017 and adopted an 18:9 aspect ratio. If you want a big-screen phone for watching iPlayer or Netflix on the go, then this is hands down the cheapest way to do it.

Design

Despite the price, the Honor 7x feels and looks like a premium handset. It’s got all-metal casing, decent physical buttons on the side, a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner and a 3.5mm headphone jack. If there is one slight drawback, its that the phone still uses a MicroUSB port to charge with rather than the newer USB Type C.

In fact, with the antenna lines running along the top and bottom of the phone, it looks a lot like an iPhone 7 Plus.

But the real star of the show is obviously the screen. It takes up the entire front of the phone with minimal bezels around the sides so that although the phone has the body of a 5.5-inch screen, the actual display is 5.93-inches. It’s an LCD panel, so the colours aren’t as deep as an OLED, but the 2,160 x 1,920 resolution is crisp and viewing angles are decent.

You’ll probably want to get a case for this phone as the metallic back makes it pretty slippy in the hand. But considering the price of the handset overall, splashing out for a case won’t break the bank.

Performance and battery

Going back to the idea of good enough, the performance of the Honor 7x is certainly enough to satisfy the majority of smartphone users when it comes to the basic needs: taking photos, browsing social media and watching Netflix or BBC iPlayer.

Inside the phone is a mid-range Kirin 659 CPU and 4GB of RAM, which powers Google’s Android OS – but not the latest version. Also, it’s got Huawei’s custom user interface, called EMUI, on top which changes up the look a little bit. It’s not as immediately easy to use as the vanilla Android experience on the Pixel 2, but it doesn’t take long to get used to it.

My testing revealed a perfectly decent performance day-to-day, whether that’s composing messages or playing games on the move. What’s not clear is how this will hold up after a year’s worth of cached data and software updates. Even so, for most users, using this phone will be perfectly satisfactory for 90% of what they want to do.

However, just as a caveat – there’s no NFC on this phone, so you won’t be able to use it to make mobile payments through Android Pay.

There’s a 3340mAh non-removable battery inside the phone that will comfortably see you through the day. Don’t expect it to last beyond 48-hours.

Camera

Honor has packed a dual-lens camera onto the back of the 7x comprising a 16MP sensor with a 2MP one right next to it. The 16MP main camera shoulders the majority of the image capture and processing while the second one is dedicated to depth perception. That means you can capture artistic, blurry “bokeh” type portrait pictures.

On the front of the phone is an 8MP camera which will handle selfies and video-calling. Both of which work well although the images can be a little grainy in low light. The phone has all the usual editing tricks on board and you can find hundreds of apps on the Google Play Store to flex your photographic muscles.

Like the rest of the phone, the camera is definitely capable enough for getting some nice pictures without necessarily blowing you away.

Conclusion

The real selling point around the Honor 7x is about getting a phone with such a large and impressive screen for less than £300. There’s really no other phone around at the moment that will give you this kind of a design for this low price.

The rest of the phone rounds out what most of us need from a mid-tiered Android device. The camera and performance aren’t as polished as the Samsung or Apple handsets that are several times more expensive, but for the most part that isn’t a problem.

The fact it has a fingerprint scanner but no NFC for mobile payments is a bit of a mystery, but that’s really one of the only things to be wary of when considering this handset.

What the Honor 7x shows is that so-called “budget” handsets have actually advanced to such a level that they offer genuine competition to the market leaders. It’s true that many may prefer the look or feel of iOS or even some other Android handsets but for those of us on a budget and looking to get a big-screen phone for the next year or two, this is certainly worth a look.

You can buy the Honor 7x here.



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