Flagships get most of the world's love because they're made from premium materials, pack high-end components, and ship with unique software. That's been true for a long time, but devices in other segments have proven themselves to be worthy of your attention as well. Take a look at Honor, a sub-brand from Huawei that focuses exclusively on budget-friendly products.
The Honor 5X was released in 2016, and in a risky bet, the phone made its way to a number of markets including the United States. That decision worked out. Critics and consumers enjoyed the Honor 5X so much that it sat alongside the Moto G as one of the world's best mid-range phones. But the Honor 6X spoiled the fun in 2017. The phone didn't come across as a special value. Somehow Honor wasn't able to improve upon a successful formula and the Honor 6X vanished soon after debuting at CES 2017.
Honor wants to right its wrong now. The Honor 7X has the look and feel of a flagship. With its elongated display and aluminum body matching phones priced well above $650, it would appear the brand knew what it had to do.
An all-metal design fools you into thinking this phone costs more than $199. But really, it's just $199. There was a time when that amount of money could only get you plastic or rubber; however, the entire mobile industry has been able to obtain premium aluminum on the cheap. The Honor 7X carries a top-tier appearance without a top-tier price.
Don't worry if you already own something like the Galaxy S8 or iPhone X. You're not being ripped off by the industry's giants. Overall, the Honor 7X's design is plain and simple; no design awards are heading here. It's still better than most of the competition, though. Motorola uses an all-metal design for the Moto G5S Plus, but that phone gives an industrial vibe while the Honor 7X comes across as modern. The body is a single piece of aluminum with buttons, ports, and cameras carved in.
The Honor 7X really rises above in the mid-range segment by shipping with a 5.93 Full HD+ (2160×1080) display. It's not the size or resolution claiming the victory but its aspect ratio. Honor implemented 18:9 aspect ratio, which is a standard feature for flagships. Yet this phone costs a fraction of the price. Top and bottom bezels are on the smaller side while the left and right sides of the display are average. You're not going to find a design like this anywhere else at a similar price, that's for sure.
Looking at the display won't make you cry tears of joy, honestly. The IPS LCD panel is one of the colder units I've seen lately. The Honor 7X lets you crank up the brightness, but you're left wanting some more vibrancy from the colors. Regardless, it's not a bad display. It's merely passable.
Unfortunately there's one annoying problem with the design. Honor, for whatever reason, opted to use a micro-USB port. It's 2017, and USB-C is expected across all new devices from phones to tablets to computers. Consumers are starting to have a USB-C port on their checklist when buying devices; therefore, the Honor 7X could instantly be dropped out of the running due to this puzzling commission.
If you're able to get past the missing USB-C port, you'll like the Honor 7X's button and fingerprint scanner placement. Along the right side of the frame is a power button and volume rocker. Over on the left side is the removable tray for a SIM card and microSD card. And around the back is a fingerprint scanner.
The Honor 7X is a treat to hold, and maybe that can't be said for the majority of phones at this price.
Honor sells the 7X in black and blue, and availability is limited to its online store. The Honor 7X doesn't appear to have a spot on Amazon. It's hard to imagine how the Honor 7X will be as successful as its predecessors if the massive online retailer can't sell the phone.
An affordable phone gets affordable specifications on the inside no matter how beautiful it is on the outside. Huawei's own Kirin 659 is the processor. Like Qualcomm's Snapdragon 600 series, this processor is meant to be efficient. You're not going to get record-breaking performance out of the Honor 7X, but you'll move between apps at a satisfactory pace. And, for $199, you can't complain. Day-to-day performance is on par with what we've seen from Motorola's Moto G5 Plus and Moto G5S Plus.
Just appreciate the optimizations Honor achieved by having an in-house processor since usually it doesn't go well for phones having a non-Qualcomm chip.
Again, the processor isn't made for power. It's made for longevity. Between the Kirin 659 and 3340mAh battery, the Honor 7X should get you an entire day of usage on a single charge. Honor's estimates include up to twelve hours of video streaming or up to ninety-one hours of music streaming. The results from my usage lines up with that, though I'm not streaming video and music for hours on end.
My typical day includes sending messages on Android Messages and Slack, tweeting throughout the day, checking Instagram every few hours, and playing some Threes! at night. Never did I go through an entire day where I thought the battery had drained too quickly. Depending on how much I used Snapchat, there were times I could get the Honor 7X to spill over into a second day on a single charge.
Well done, Huawei. All phones from the Chinese company consistently impress with how far they can go.
Honor doesn't get a custom version of EMUI; it's stuck with Huawei's offering. And EMUI isn't anywhere near as appealing as the software overlays from Samsung, LG, and HTC. It's old and ugly. Huawei isn't a small company, either. It ranks highly in sales among all companies in the mobile industry. Still, an investment in a modern-looking software overlay doesn't appear to be happening anytime soon. Huawei is perfectly happy with the current state of EMUI.
The beautiful thing about Android is that, although different companies deliver different experiences, the overall impression is the same. That can't be said for EMUI. If you're not familiar with Huawei's software overlay, you're going to feel lost. Animations are unlike anything else, the color scheme is jumbled, and an app drawer isn't on by default.
Honor couldn't even get Huawei to provide this phone with Android 8.0 Oreo. Despite being released four months after the latest version of Android reached its public release, the Honor 7X is stuck on Android 7.0 Nougat. Sure, there could be a software update in the future. But it'll probably come well into next year. Huawei has to do better in distributing current software, as do all Android partners.
Phones with Huawei and Honor branding aren't usually the best at taking pictures. That remains accurate for the Honor 7X. It has a 16MP camera and a 2MP camera on the back, but the results aren't anything surprising for a device in this segment. Pictures come out well if there's probably lighting and don't if you're in a dark setting, the latter improving dramatically if you turn on the flash.
The Honor 7X is excellent for its price and should be considered by anyone trying to save money on a new phone as long as they're aware of what's missing. It doesn't have a USB-C port, NFC, and an important Wi-Fi band (802.11ac). So you won't be able to charge the Honor 7X using the same cable your next laptop (or possibly your current one) uses, make wireless payments using Android Pay, or get the absolute best network connection. Those compromises, however, might be totally fine for someone willing to spend just $199.
Then there's EMUI, the software overlay every Huawei and Honor product ships with. It hasn't kept up with Google's updates for Android, both visually and on paper. EMUI is dated, due for an overhaul right away. In the U.S., the experience will also be completely foreign. And that's scary because Honor 7X owners are likely to be coming from another Android device.
While we do say consideration should be given to the phone, the Honor 7X doesn't seem like the best budget-friendly buy. Motorola's Moto G5S Plus, or its very similar sibling, stays standing at the top. That phone is also expected to have a successor announced within the next few months.
So you could get the Honor 7X, which is more attractive, but Motorola's experience churning out spectacular mid-range phones is appreciated in more areas and will again generate buzz in early 2018.