After the jaw-dropping Xiaomi Mi Mix back in 2016, phone manufacturers quickly started launching ‘bezel-less’ phones. And many decided to cram in a larger screen rather than make a physically smaller phone.
They did this by making it taller with an 18:9 aspect ratio instead of 16:9. 18:9 is super fashionable, but until now with the 7X, was out of reach for those on a budget. Even the OnePlus 5T costs £449, which is the very top of mid-range.
The Honor looks a lot like Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro, but saves on cost to bring the price right down.
Honor 7X: Price
Honor hasn’t yet announced a price for the 7X, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do a little educated guesswork. It replaces the 6X, which cost £224. If the 7X is anywhere near that, it’ll be a terrific bargain, but it’s likely to be more as the specs are better.
In fact, you’ll find the 7X on ebay and other sites starting from £280, with the full suite of colours and capacities on offer. It’s best to wait for the official European version though to avoid receiving a Chinese model with no Google apps or services installed.
There’s another reason to wait: Honor says that you’ll get a free pair of Sport Bluetooth earphones from certain retailers when it launches in the UK.
Features and design
Let’s start with the screen, as it’s the most obvious feature. On paper the specs – 5.93in, 18:9 aspect, 2160×1080 resolution – could fool you into thinking it’s the same display as the Mate 10 Pro. But it isn’t.
OLED screens are more expensive, so Honor has gone for an IPS panel in the 7X. It makes sense, and it’s still a great screen. Viewing angles are wide, it’s nice and bright and colours are surprisingly vibrant.
Obviously it doesn’t have the option of an always-on clock with notifications, but it still looks impressive with tiny size bezels and much smaller top and bottom borders than other phones at this level.
There’s no room for a fingerprint reader so this is on the back in the middle. You’ll also find a pair of cameras at the top with an LED flash. Rather than spoiling the design, the antennae lines add a bit of interest to the otherwise featureless expanse of matt-finish aluminium.
Talking of finish, the 7X comes in black or blue – the gold version won’t be sold in the UK.
The bottom edge reveals a standard headphone jack, microphone and mono speaker and – slightly strange at the end of 2017 – a microUSB port. Maybe the 2018 Honor phones will move to USB-C. In any case, it makes it easy to charge as you’ll find microUSB cables just about everywhere you go.
Nothing but a pinhole for a microphone breaks up the top edge: the SIM tray sits at the top of the left-hand side and takes a pair of nano SIMs. Alternatively, if you want extra storage you can insert a microSD card instead of a second SIM.
It isn’t unreasonable to expect some waterproofing from a cheaper phone, as the Moto G5 Plus demonstrates, but while the 7X doesn’t have any Honor goes out of its way to talk about build quality. It says it has strengthened all four corners of the phone so it can better withstand drops. We’d still recommend using a case, but unlike with Huawei phones you don’t get one in the 7X’s box.
Specs and performance
Internally the specs are mid-range: a Kirin 659 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. The latter two are generous, but overall performance is in line with what you’d expect: this isn’t a flagship-rivalling device, and it isn’t meant to be.
Benchmark results show that isn’t far from super-fast, but in real-world use it’s perfectly quick. Apps may take a little longer to launch, but they run smoothly and you can run most games (such as Asphalt 8 and Pokémon GO) without issue: they won’t look quite as good as on much faster phones, but they also won’t run like the slideshows we saw in GFXBench, which is designed to highlight the differences between phones.
Honor is working with certain developers including Gameloft to optimise games for the 18:9 screen so you see more of a scene. With most games, forcing them to use the entire screen just crops them so you actually see less (as is the case with all 18:9 screens at the moment).
Battery life, from our weekend of testing, shows that the 3340mAh battery can make it through a whole day with normal use, but it drains quickly if you’re playing games. There’s no fast charging, so you’ll probably end up connecting the charger each night when you go to bed.
The main camera has a 16Mp sensor and uses PDAF for focusing in a claimed 0.18 seconds. The second camera has a 2Mp sensor and is simply used for depth sensing rather than capturing photos or video. It means you get the same portrait and wide-aperture modes that you’ll find on the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and the stock camera app is essentially the same minus a couple of features, and the Leica branding.
One of those is video stabilisation: the 7X doesn’t have any. It’s limited to recording at 1080p30 with no 60fps option, so this will put some off.
There’s an 8Mp selfie cam and you can enable depth effect for blurry backgrounds. Thanks to gesture support you can wave and get a countdown for group shots. In selfie mode there’s the expected beauty mode, but you can also apply fun masks and effects.
Photo quality isn’t amazing from the main camera. It’s best in good light, where photos look sharp and have good detail levels. HDR isn’t automatic, so you have to select this from the list of modes if you think it’s needed. This was taken with HDR on a gloomy day, but even so we’d expect colours to be a bit warmer.
The portrait mode works well, though, and you can switch to the wide-aperture mode when taking a photo of something that isn’t a person. You also have lots of other modes, including light painting, time lapse and slo-mo to play with.
Video defaults to 720p, so make sure you choose 1080p to get the best possible quality. The lack of stabilisation means you need to keep the phone as still as possible, but video and audio quality is reasonably good.
In low light, including indoors at night with artificial lighting, you can easily notice the drop in quality: photos lack detail and sharpness, which is presumably caused by a lot of noise reduction. You also need to make sure your subject stays still: we ended up with a lot of blurry photos of excitable animals and children.
Here’s the 100 percent crop which shows the level of detail captured:
The 7X doesn’t have Oreo, but it’s possible Honor will release an update in the not too distant future. Out of the box you get Android 7.0 Nougat with EMUI 5.1 – older than the EMUI 8 you’ll find on the Mate 10 Pro.
Still, the interface is pretty much identical and it’s hard to spot many differences between the versions. For those unfamiliar with EMUI, it’s looks a lot like Samsung’s TouchWiz and the default setting of placing all apps on home screens makes it very familiar to iOS users.
It has some nifty features such as double-tapping the screen to wake it, and double-pressing the volume-down button to launch the camera app. You have to enable these through the settings as they’re disabled by default.
There’s one-key split-screen so you can carry on watching a video (on Netflix, say) while you reply to an email or message. You’ll also find the same App Twin menu option, but unlike the Mate 10 Pro, you can only sign into two Facebook accounts – there’s no option for Whatsapp or Messenger here.
Like EMUI 8, you’ll get warnings when apps are using a lot of power in the background and it’s generally helpful for stopping lots of apps running, freeing up memory with one tap.
For audio, you get Huawei’s Histen effects which lets you either play with the EQ or enable a ‘3D sound’ mode where you can adjust a slider from Near to Front to Wide. Unlike on the Mate 10 Pro, those 3D modes seemed ineffective, and it was far more useful having a customisable equaliser to add bass.