Sets a new bar in the $200 large-screen category

Highs

  • Good build quality
  • Large display
  • Functional bokeh camera
  • Aggressively priced

Lows

  • No luxurious glass texture

Rating and Price

  • Rating: 9/10

The Honor 7X was released in the USA on December 5 2017 and was initially geared towards the lower-midrange market ($150-$250). At publishing time, we estimated that the Honor 7X would cost around $200 USD but since the phone is not in the retail channels yet, we cannot be certain. Here’s our review of the Honor 7X.

Phone makers typically let their retail partners announce street prices. Although this product was built to address the lower-midrange market, the reality is that many products will change positioning as their price change over the years.

With “cost” as main criteria, we have found a group of smartphones which will serve as reference points to assess how the Huawei Honor 7X fits in its immediate smartphone landscape: the LG Q6 (230 USD), the Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) (200 USD), the Motorola Moto G5 (200 USD), the HTC U Play (220 USD), the ZTE Axon 7 mini (180 USD) and the Nokia 6 (175 USD),

Key Specifications

  • 5.93” IPS LCD Display (2160×1080)
  • 16 Camera, f/2.2 aperture, No OIS.
  • HiSilicon Kirin 659 platform 4 RAM, 64-128 GB of Storage (+256GB microSD as an option)
  • 3340 mAh battery capacity
  • Android 8.x Oreo

If you are familiar with phones in this price-range, you might immediately notice that the 5.93-inch display and the 3340 mAh battery capacity are out of the ordinary. As we dig deeper into the analysis of this phone, they should prove to be a crucial differentiation factors for this handset.

Industrial Design

The general design language of the Honor 7X reminds us of the Huawei P10, the high-end phone that was launched at MWC 2017 in February. It uses a similar type of metal design, and there are antenna slits in the back, which are relatively discreet.

The camera modules are placed completely at the top of the phone, probably to avoid being placed on top of the battery. Still, the camera lens sticks out noticeably from the back of the phone. I don’t think that this is a big deal, but phone makers have gone to great lengths to have cameras that are flush to the surface in the past year.

Comfort

With a width of 75.3mm (2.96 inches) and a thickness of 7.6mm (0.3 inches), the smartphone feels comfortable in hand. We use U.S M-size gloves for male hand-size reference, so this will vary from person to person. The device weighs 165 grams (5.82 oz), and we would consider that weight to be slightly above-average for its size.

The fingerprint reader is placed in a natural position, and it is effortless to find it to unlock the phone, although it is placed in the back of the phone. The Power and Volume buttons are well placed as well, and I like the general ergonomics of this handset.

Build Quality

The Honor 7X is mostly made of metal. We’re not entirely sure what kind of metal it is, but it does look like Aluminum, and it would make sense since another alloy might prove too heavy when used in a large phone.

Aluminum has a premium feel and won’t crack or break after a drop. However, it will scratch and dent relatively easily when landing on a hard and rough surface such as concrete. Materials that won’t dent easily might be stainless steel, titanium or ceramic because they are harder.

The glass surface in the front is not protected by a metal lip raised just above its surface. As such, an impact on the front or front edges will likely result in a crack. Still, the design of this makes makes it much less likely to sustain a cracked glass when compared to phones that have glass on the front and back. We deem the risk of crack to be relatively low, but not impossible oif course.

Durability

The Honor 7X has no specific durability rating. It does not have an IP-Rating which would certify that it is dust and watertight, nor does it have a MIL-STD military rating to show that it can sustain a certain level of shocks and vibration.

This is quite common for phones in this price range, and out of all the competitors we selected, only the LG Q6 has a MIL-STD 810G certification.

Design Ingenuity

"THE HONOR 7X DOES HAVE AN INGENIOUS DESIGN"

This chassis design packs a very good performance in relation to its size. From another standpoint, the amount of battery capacity the customer gets is excellent for a handset this size and within this category. The Honor 7X is the second best performing phone (CPU benchmarks) of this line up.

However, there are equally excellent contenders like the Galaxy J7 (3600 mAh and ~10% higher CPU performance). The Honor 7X’s display-to-body ratio of 77.0% is also one of the highest, with only the LG Q6 just slightly above at 79.1%.

Our data clearly shows that this handset has an efficient design, which brings a lot of value to the user. The Honor 7X does have an ingenious design, but it (unfortunately?) has a micro-USB connector. Whether this is a big deal or not for you depends on your existing ecosystem of chargers.

Display

Display technology

The Honor 7X display is based on IPS LCD technology. Its 5.93” display is easily the largest of our selection, but at 165g, it is not even remotely the heaviest handset, which is great. Huawei has done a great job of giving a huge screen surface without excess bulk and weight to the phone. The second largest screens are all 5.5” models. This is a significant difference, which is definitely perceptible by the user.

IPS (or PLS) LCD technology made LCD displays so good, first on mobile, then everywhere else. IPS/PLS can render more colors than plain LCD, with higher color saturation and broader view angles. Within the swath of IPS LCD displays there are still some differences, but usually, IPS/PLS are much superior to basic LCD displays.

However, LCD and IPS/PLS LCD displays as a group are not as technologically advanced as OLED displays which often have better contrast and color saturation. While it is feasible to build excellent LCD displays that perform at a similar level to some OLED, these LCD displays should be viewed as the exceptions. You can read our complete LCD vs. OLED article to learn more.

"HUGE SCREEN SURFACE WITHOUT EXCESS BULK AND WEIGHT"

Brightness

The display brightness of this screen is 373 NITs. In general, more intense light is needed to read the screen content on a sunny day (or bright environment). Higher brightness is responsible for better image quality in widespread situations. A brightness of 373 NITs is quite decent, but more expensive phones can reach 600 to 800 NITs, so 373 is not extraordinary in itself. In general, 300+ NITs would make the phone usable outdoors. Anything beyond than that is incrementally comfortable in very bright situations. At 800 NIT, you have no problem with using the phone even in direct sunlight.

Image quality

I found the image quality to be quite good, although this screen is not as nice as the ones found on more expensive handsets, which is entirely reasonable. The black levels and color saturation could be a bit better. That said, in the day to day use, and without comparing side by side, I think that most users will be satisfied, although not “wowed” by this screen. Most IPS LCD displays within this price range will more or less exhibit the same traits, so the Honor 7X display is competitive.

In our selection, the Galaxy J7 and the Axon 7 mini have OLED displays. The Galaxy J7 screen, in particular, should look better in terms of saturation and black levels.

Camera

Photo quality and user experience

"ONE OF THE FASTER CAMERAS IN ITS CATEGORY"

In broad daylight, the photos from the Honor 7X are very good and vivid. In my opinion, the default Camera app tends to have stronger than average exposure and saturation, which many people will like, while others might prefer a more conservative approach to image processing. This is a matter of preferences, and people can argue endlessly on the matter.

At night, the camera performs well for a phone in this price range. Of course, as you increase the price, the low-light performance of the camera tends to increase as well, with the $700+ phones ending up performing much better in severe lighting conditions. This is an area where you mostly get what you pay for. Here is the same scene, shot with different Huawei/Honor phones ranging from Honor 7X (~$200), Honor 9 (~$499) and Mate 10 (~$699+). You can clearly see the image quality improving as you move upwards in price. Makes total sense, but this is a clear demonstration.

I liked the that Honor 7X is one of the faster cameras when it comes to shutter action and overall camera speed. When you take a picture, it’s fast, and the camera is not “hunting” for autofocus (AF) and figures out the light settings fast. This is one of the faster cameras in its category.

OpinonWhat’s a Great Mobile Camera Experience?

Technical aspects of the camera

Smartphone cameras have become amazingly good over time. However, it is clear that there is a massive gap between them based on cost, but also depending on technology and expertise of the handset maker.It is critical to understand that mobile photography has two foundations of considerable importance: Software and Hardware.

The software is usually very secretive, and it is extremely difficult to have reliable information to gage its quality through an unbiased process. Also, photography is not just science. It is also art.The camera equipment is the other factor which is more measurable. Camera hardware is potentially a high limiting factor to mobile photo performance. Even if you use the smartest software on it, the quality of the input signal data still plays a major role in the final photo outcome.

In the Honor 7X, the camera aperture of f/2.2 is common in this price range and the sensor size of 20.28 mm2 would be considered quite large (for a smartphone) in this price category. The only phone that sticks out of the lot if the Galaxy J7 and its f1.7 aperture (larger hole to let light in), although its sensor surface area is 20% smaller than the Honor 7X. Is it better to have a large sensor and a smaller aperture, or the contrary? Hard to tell, it depends on more things, so ultimately, we will need to photo-test.

The 16 Megapixel count should not be used as a default indicator of photo quality. In dark scenes situations, the high Megapixel count (>12) does not matter much. Keep in mind that the physical size of each sensor pixel is critical. With higher megapixel counts, sensing pixels (sensels) may have to be smaller. Each obtains less light information, and in low-light conditions, it is better for the overall image quality to get more light with fewer (but bigger) sensels than the opposite. It is a balance that needs to be achieved. Today, 12 Megapixel seem to be the best sensor trade-off between sharpness, low-light and autofocus performance.

On a sunny day or in very bright light scenes, Megapixel could be a good metric for photographic detail and sharpness. For example, on a sunny day, a landscape photo with a higher megapixel count could lead to finer details. Between 12 MP, 16 MP and 21 MP differences in small details can be quite noticeable, if printed or viewed on a large and/or high-PPI display.

The Honor 7X‘s camera does NOT have Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). The lack of OIS support will lower the chances to snap great photos, especially in dark scenes. Learn more: What is Image Stabilization?

OIS would help achieve better image clarity and higher low-light performance by offsetting tiny hand-shaking motion. OIS makes it possible to leave the shutter open longer to capture more light (more prolonged exposure). Optical and digital stabilization are completely different, with digital stabilization suitable to improve video recording smoothness

The autofocus of the Honor 7X camera is based on Phase Detection technology, although the number of focus point is unknown at this stage (phase detection’s most obvious metric for success).

Phase-detection AF started as discrete AF sensor chips in the DSLR days. Then it got integrated into the camera primary sensor. It works by adding specialized AF pixels sensors that would tell if specific points in the image were in-focus. This method is very advanced and the AF capabilities work well in most cases. AF performance is somewhat proportional to the number of hardware AF sensels. Typically this number can go from dozens to hundreds of Phase-Detection AF points. Phase detection AF is an excellent system, which is only inferior to Dual-Pixel AF.

Camera experience

The camera experience is very decent. The main issue with lower mid-range phones is that they tend to be very slow. I found that the Honor 7X holds its own, even in challenging low light conditions. The camera action stays below 1 second at nearly all times, and we have definitely tested phones that felt much slower under the same conditions and price point.

Dual-camera setup: for bokeh

"HONOR 7X INTRODUCES FUNCTIONAL BOKEH IN THIS PRICE RANGE"

The Honor 7X has a dual camera module, which I think is built mainly to handle bokeh (blur) effects. Since the secondary camera is only 2 Megapixel, it cannot be used to increase sharpness like on the Huawei Mate 10. In fact, the secondary camera isn’t even visible to the Android Camera 3rd party API as it is considered to be a supplemental (depth) sensor.

Learn more: Dual Cameras vs. Single Camera

Instead, the secondary camera only serves to build the depth buffer which is used to simulate the lens blur which is often desirable for portrait and product shots. The Honor 7X does a very decent job with Bokeh, but in my tests, the background blur was sometimes unven. It works better with the far-away background which are less challenging to deal with. The blur around the subject was good, with some blur bleeding here and there, but nothing dramatic. Honor 7X introduces functional bokeh in this price range.

Battery Life

The battery capacity of Honor 7X is 3340 mAh, which is excellent in general, and also excellent in its own category. It outclasses nearly all competitors, except the Samsung Galaxy J7, which tops 3600 mAh of capacity. The Honor 7X is one of the phones that offer the most battery capacity in relation to its size, along with the Galaxy J7 and the LG Q6. There is a real discontinuity between these three and other handsets such as the Nokia 6 or the Moto G5 that fall behind.

Battery life is one of the most critical features of a smartphone. A key indicator is obviously its battery capacity — especially within the same ecosystem (Android, iOS or other). Battery life can be affected by a lot of factors, but the main ones are the main processor, display and wireless radios (broadband, WiFi, the cell towers location and more). It is impossible to precisely pinpoint through benchmarks how much energy drain YOUR unique needs will create. However, two things are without a doubt always good:

  • A greater battery capacity
  • Very fast charging

It is generally not possible to predict realistic battery life by running synthetic tests. Things such as display brightness, (LTE/WiFi) radio usage and distance to access points will change too much. Also, the number of apps on-board and their usage cannot be estimated. Battery capacity is the best battery-life indicator for YOUR usage.

This product does NOT have a swappable battery, which is the norm for smartphones nowadays. Closed batteries cannot be taken out or easily exchanged, but they do allow for smaller designs and slightly bigger battery capacity inside the same product design.

This handset has a relatively mild screen resolution and pixel density. Although this may be a weakness from an image quality perspective, having fewer pixels to compute is a bit better for battery life.

Performance

You can look at individual scores below, but in our estimation, this smartphone’s performance places it in the higher half of devices we selected. The CPU synthetic benchmarks scores are excellent because of the multi-core setup of the Kirin SoC. However, the graphics performance is average in this line up, with faster and slower competitors within a ~15% spread in performance going both ways. Such a difference is not readily perceptible by the user. Interestingly enough, the Honor 7X’s Kirin processor has the highest performance “per CPU core” in this line-up.

OpinionAre benchmarks important? What do they mean?
Learn more: Are more CPU cores always better?

Before you look at any charts, it is critical to understand that most benchmarks are only loose pointers, usually for system or graphics performance. It is possible to see sharp performance differences between different classes of devices (entry-level, mid-range, premium and high-end), but it is less obvious to do so within phones of the same class. Benchmarks alone should NOT drive a smartphone purchase decision.

Gaming performance benchmarks apply only to intensive games using 3D graphics. Casual games such as puzzles and 2D games do not require this kind of speed and can run virtually on any recent phone. I have seen Honor 7X market the display as giving the “Gaming Edge” with images from first-person-shooter (FPS) games, but given the relatively low graphics performance (< 5FPS in the GFXBench Manhattan 3.1) for all phones in this price range, complex FPS isn’t really enjoyable.

Conclusion

At $200 via the official website, the Honor 7X (official site) is a very competitive phone. It is a handset that is well built, with a delightful large screen for productivity and a leading battery capacity for prolonged usage. Our tests and data show that it is in the upper-class of its price segment, sometimes besting slightly more expensive phones on specific features such as battery capacity or bokeh performance/availability.

"THE BEST NEAR 6-INCH PHONE WE'VE SEEN AT $200"

The build quality and general resilience of the design (mostly metal) might be something to consider as well because, in the $200 range, many phones tend to feature more plastic parts. Finally, big-screen enthusiasts on a budget will love how comfortable the display is. In short, Huawei/Honor hit where it counts: display, battery, industrial design. This is probably the best near 6-inch phone we’ve seen at $200.

Overall product rating: 9/10

Filed in Cellphones >Reviews. Read more about Honor, Huawei, Huawei Reviews and Smartphone Reviews.

Display
5.93"
2160x1080
IPS LCD
PPI
Price
~$200 - Amazon
Camera
16 MP
F2.2 Aperture F-Stop
Weight
165 g
Battery
3340 mAh
Launched in
2017-10-01
System
4GB RAM
Kirin 659 + MicroSD
Storage (GB)
128
Honor 7X Review
Score: 9/10
Related Articles
User Comments