The perception of smartphone consumers is changing rapidly towards the Chinese-made smartphones. They’re no longer considered as the cheap knockoffs involving plastic materials. If you’re one of those people that have paid attention to this thing, then welcome to the club. For the last year or so, quite a few names have risen from the east and have shown their abilities to innovate and amaze people with the technologies. One such name is the Honor brand from Huawei.
The Chinese manufacturer sold 75 million smartphones last year and this year company seems to be on track to reach around 100 million sales, as in the first half of 2015 they’ve already sold 48.2 million smartphones. While the Honor brand has completed more than 20 million sales all over the worldwide and they’re planning to sell 2 million handsets in India by the end of this year. Their latest smartphone from brand Honor made its entry to Europe this summer and had received great remarks. The Honor 7 is the smartphone that is supposed to disrupt the smartphone market like OnePlus One. Now the same device has been launched in India as well. It is the successor to the Honor 6 smartphone. We have been using the device for past couple days, and this is our detailed review of the same. Let’s read-on.
The first thing that comes to your mind when you pick up the device in your hands is that how heavy it is for a 5.2-inch screen device. I know that it’s a metal built but so does Samsung Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6s Plus. I’ll say that Honor 7 feels heavier than S6 but lighter than 6s Plus, the feeling is spot-on as I recently hold the new iPhone 6s Plus. It would be coming in two colors in India from Oct 15; Fantasy Silver and Mystery Grey, we have the later one.
The design of Honor 7 feels to be more industrial in appearance than its predecessors, meaning new Honor stick to the flat, chamfered edges. The design isn’t as flat as seem, though. You can find the back is tapered towards the center. The flat edges help in maintaining a grip on the device, rather than making you fear of slipping the device. Whereas the tapered back helps to fit the device in your palm. The company calls it an L Paradigm design.
Talking about the ports placements, on the right edge you’ll find volume rocker and power keys, which is quite usual. Reaching for those buttons is easy if you’re a right-hand user while it won’t be ideal for left-hand users. While on the left edge, the device houses the SIM Card and microSD card slot. Note that the Indian variant doesn’t come with dual SIM support while the European variant comes with dual SIM setup. It was a miss by the company as the dual SIM smartphones are quite popular in India. We would have liked if that same facility was extended to Honor 7 in India. You get a Nano SIM and microSD card port inside the tray. Below that slot is the “Smart Key” which allows you to assign some actionable tasks when press or double tapped. More on that later.
At the top of the Honor 7 is the 3.5mm audio jack, which is accompanied by the noise canceling mic and IR Blaster as well. Coming to the bottom edge, you’ll notice dual speakers that are quite impressive with a focus on clear sound than loud noise. Between these two speakers, there is a microUSB port, no USB Type-C here. The rear on Honor 7 is as clean as it can be possible; it houses protruding camera module, LED Flash, and a unique Fingerprint scanner. Overall, the upgraded design on Honor 7 is pretty much what Huawei’s consumers was waiting for. A premium built quality and easy on hands, the new Honor device is a steal for its design.
Sporting the same IPS LCD technology, the display size has been increased to 5.2-inch on the new Honor 7. We are not complaining about why the company didn’t include the 2K Display on this device, the full HD resolution is more than enough. The display is diagonally 5.2-inch but looks and feels much bigger than something of the same size, like the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. But unlike Samsung, Honor device doesn’t sport a 2K resolution screen.
Display enthusiasts won’t agree to this but, not everyone and especially manufacturers is ready to jump on this bandwagon just yet. The quality and component cost should be balanced, and 1080p seems to be the acceptable choice.
The Honor 7 doesn’t compromise on display quality, as we thought it was quite impressive. We watched YouTube videos and checked out many high-resolution samples on the phone. With full brightness, they all looked stunning. Though, the display is a bit reflective, which is natural.
The viewing angles are quite excellent as well. And when it comes to sunlight legibility, you have to make sure the brightness levels are full. Otherwise, it struggles little to showcase content. The Color reproduction was good, but sometimes it felt like the images and videos look darker than iPhone 6s and Galaxy S6 Edge.
The display wasn’t a fingerprint magnet, and I like that on phones. Especially these days’ manufacturers are not focusing in offering fingerprint-friendly displays. Thank God to Honor for making it right.
Running on an Android 5.0.2 Lollipop-based OS; the interface on the Honor 7 is pretty similar to what you saw on the Honor 6 and 6 Plus. One of few visual differences that you’ll notice at the first sight of the interface was the icons and colorization of quick settings. The company brands their custom Android experience as EMUI, and you might be familiar with the interface if you have used previous Honor handsets.
The Emotion UI 3.1 is the version you’ll be seeing on the Honor 7 smartphone. The app launcher clearly shows the iOS inspiration. But these days it has become common on Android smartphones not to offer an app drawer. Huawei may have followed the visual guidelines of iOS, but they certainly made some changes in perspective of Android. You’ll see many of the Android Lollipop features such as adaptive display, All Notification toggle, etc. on the EMUI.
In terms of the bloatware, you won’t see so many pre-installed apps on the device except for a couple of social apps, such as Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and UC Browser. There are some apps like Phone Manager, Smart Controller, File Manager, and various other tools that would be quite resourceful for many purposes.
If you want to personalize the appearance of the device, then you can do with one-click via the default Themes app. Changing wallpapers to icons, you can give a full makeover to the appearance of the interface. Of course, it’s a modified Android experience. The Notification tray isn’t the same as stock Android Lollipop, but Huawei embeds two pages here, one for Notifications and other for shortcuts.
The UI is laden with animations, from the lock screen to the time you switch between apps, you’ll notice a lot of animation going on. They can be visually gratifying at first, but they’ll eventually be grating. Talking about the internal storage on the device, the device comes in 16GB variant only. But don’t worry you storage junkies; there is a microSD card slot on the device that would fulfill the need for storage.
Additionally, there is an OTG support on the device and we attached an OTG drive to test whether or not its true. And it was detected by the system quite fast. You can access the data of drive from File Manager app under Local storage.
There are many smart and some unique resourceful features that company has bundled up with Honor 7. One of them is the smart gestures where you can trigger actionable gestures. Such as draw letters on the screen to launch apps, double tap to wake and many other gesture options. Other interesting, smart features like Voice Wakeup that lets you make calls and find your phone via speech control technology.
Hardware & Performance
We do benchmarks to get the idea of how the device would perform. But they aren’t the right means to measure the real life performance. After all, history has taught that the numbers can forge and apps can be forced to perform better for some dedicated devices. But hey, we are still asked about those numbers because those apps are popular. Though, I suggest you take these numbers with a pinch of salt.
Talking about the numbers, the device is powered by homegrown 64-bit Kirin 935 processor, packing four higher powered A53e cores at 2.2GHz while other four lower-power A53 cores at 1.5GHz. It’s the same power house as the Kirin 930 but with higher clock speeds, which is present on the Huawei’s P8 smartphone. Paired with ARM Mali-T624 GPU and a 3GB of RAM.
We ran some benchmark tools on the device to test the potential performance. Let’s start with everyone’s favorite benchmarking app, Antutu. We run this app while there were no recent apps playing in the background. The device scored around 39000 when the 64-bit version was not running while when we enabled the 64-bit version the core jumped to around 42000, which doesn’t affect much in number, but in real world usage, the 64-bit does help in improving performance. Comparing to other scores from other devices,
Vellamo is Qualcomm’s benchmarking tool, and Honor 7 doesn’t pack a Qualcomm chipset. Let’s see how the non-Qualcomm devices fare in this benchmarking tool. This app offers three different types of tests; Browser, Metal, and Multi-core while the most important of all is the multi-core test. The device was ahead of last year’s models such as HTC One M8, OnePlus One, Motorola Nexus 6 and few others more. The Vellamo app scores for browser were 2394, for metal 1220 while for multi-core was 2054.
As enlightening as it can be to run these tools and compare the numbers with other smartphones, it is the ordinary use case scenarios that would matter to consumers. In my experience, the hardware on Honor 7 is more than capable of handling all the fancy animations you through at it. But we wish for much cleaner and snappier user interface. Moreover, it’s up to you that whether you want those animations or not. Either way you’ll have good time using the device as your daily driver.
You can modify the interface and the launcher can be even swapped for any other simpler alternative. But it would be hard to escape the multitasking and having many apps running in the background. Fortunately for the Honor 7, the device nails this too, even with half the dozen apps running, music playing, and email-sync always being on, it didn’t sweat at all. Perhaps if some RAM hogging apps would make it stress, but then Huawei’s tool will be there to remind you to revoke those app permissions.
Talking about the gaming experience on the Honor 7, we were satisfied as far as average gaming is concerned. It didn’t sweat until we started to play heavy games like GTA V and Modern Kombat. Note that since we had 16GB variant we could only install so many games until it starts to slow down the system. The one thing that disturbed me while playing games was the speaker output. With games like Asphalt 8, Riptide GP2, and most of the games these days you have to hold the device in landscape mode. I noticed that the supposed dual speakers on the bottom were not so dual and stereo either. As only one of them was working and was not loud enough. It may be the device specific issue, but I wanted to put this out there.
There’s a Smart Key on the left edge of the device, which is programmable to launch different apps or perform task on single, double, or long press. This offering from Honor is all genuine and works like a charm, but it is purely accidental that you might end you clicking the smart key button along with power button.
Fingerprint Scanner is one of the USPs of the Honor 7. Smartly optimizing the touch-activated sensor on the rear of the device, it integrates tricks like opening recent apps, swiping up & down the notification panel. The later one is ridiculously useful, even in the relatively small phone like the Honor 7; it can be a troublesome to reach shortcuts shade. The swipe shortcut replaces the finger-gymnastics with just one easy gesture to swipe up and down. It was a buttery smooth experience using this feature.
Huawei has experimented a lot with their smartphones when it comes to the camera, for instance, the Honor 6 Plus sported a wacky dual-camera setup. Now upping the ante from 16-megapixel setup on the Honor 6, the Honor 7 packs 20-megapixel camera module. The rear camera is the Sony IMX230, which was announced last year and is happen to be on Moto X Play as well. The sensor is capable of 21-megapixels but has been maxed out at 20. It has an aperture of f/2.0, which can let in plenty of lights. Moreover, the sensor uses Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF) for that fast 0.1 seconds Autofocus time. But by now you should know that megapixels and specs aren’t the full stories.
During the broad daylight the rear camera was able to capture some impressive shots. There might be a PDAF technology used here, but in some situations the focusing just doesn’t seem to work. The autofocus is quick as advertised but when you try to take macro shots in bright light, it tends to have some issues. Personally I don’t like a camera phone that can’t shot good macro shots. We also noticed some oversaturation at times, which lead to inaccurately brighter photos. The final outputs look excellent most of the time, and the down time can be managed easily if you know your way around to the smartphone photography.
When it comes to low-light conditions, the camera struggles for showing details, most of the time it was grainy. But I’ve managed to capture some impressive sunset at the beach side. One thing is true; it won’t disappoint you during dim –light conditions. While for dark conditions, you would always have to use the HDR mode or flash light to make those details appear. It still fairs better than most of the smartphones in the same category.
Why wouldn’t Huawei offer a 4K Video recording capability? That’s what we have been wondering all the time during our photo walk with Honor 7. The Sensor is surely capable of producing the 4K content. Even its main contender, the OnePlus 2 offers that feature on the 13-megapixel module. I would not point out further, because aside that the Honor 7 handles itself pretty well in the video category.
The one thing that I hated about the camera was that it was protruding. When putting device in the pocket you can still feel the bump but it’s avoidable. While what’s not inevitable is that lens will surely get damaged after some time, since we put the device on our desks a lot. Due to camera bump it won’t lie on the surface as flat.
The 3100mAh capacity battery, is not the largest in this form factor, but is certainly larger than many smartphones including Samsung Galaxy Note 5. On top of that all the Cores are essentially A53, where four clocks at 1.5 GHz while other four at 2.2 GHz. Keeping the same cores allowed Honor to keep a check on the battery life efficiency. And I mean it makes a massive impact.
Using it just for more than 3 hours in two day’s time, the device was mostly in standby mode. With most devices, we have experienced that even during idle time; by default the app management is not good. But with Honor 7 Company managed to turn around that to a user’s advantage. No, I didn’t miss any notifications; the necessary apps were running in the background. This here might be the best smartphone of this year in terms of the battery life.
Even if you’re a heavy social media user, it won’t be hard to get more than 5 hours Screen-on time with this handset, and it would still have some battery juice left after completing the day. Despite company claiming there is a fast charging facility on their phone, I experienced nothing. These days 120 minutes charging time is standard, I wouldn’t call it a fast charging. Overall the battery life on this thing is insane.
The Honor 7 has some interesting tools to offer when it comes to connectivity. The SmartControl 2.0 uses the IR Blaster on the Honor 7 and allows you to control any devices that are Infrared enabled. You just have to set it up, and you’re good to go. Control your TVs, Air Conditioners, or music system via your phone. There is a dedicated app for that aptly named SmartControl 2.0. It works swiftly just setting it up takes time.
The other set of connectivity options that are important on the device includes 4G LTE, dual-SIM, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS. Note that we have the Chinese variant of the device, which comes with the hybrid dual SIM slot where you can use two Nano-SIM cards or either use one Nano-SIM and a microSD card. But unfortunately, the Indian variant won’t come with this dual SIM setup, it will only have one slot for Nano-SIM.
The 4G and WiFi download speeds were good, as well as transferring data over Bluetooth was fine. We hoped to see NFC functionality on the Honor 7 since Android Pay would be coming with Android Marshmallow 6.0. Guess NFC is the only thing it lacks in terms of connectivity.
The Honor 7‘s has an impressive array of hardware that comes at a competitive price point to make consumers crave for the best. It wasn’t hard for this device to keep my attention towards it with such snappy performance and well-built premium design. Sure, there are few bumps, but they’re little to the overall picture of a best affordable flagship smartphone of 2015. Yeah, the affordable flagship is a thing since OnePlus One was introduced.
So far this year, we saw OnePlus 2 and Meizu MX5 in the same price range, while the latter isn’t that great phone, the first one seems to hit and miss depending on users preferences. The Honor 7 does not miss anything that’s important to a power user, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s one of the recommended smartphones of this year.
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