By now, almost everyone would’ve heard of honor. Once known only as a sub-brand of Huawei, honor has really made an impact among consumers, especially budget-conscious ones. Its flagship devices, the honor 6 and honor 6 Plus, were really good smartphones for their asking prices. The honor 7 continues this trend by offering even more capable hardware at a competitive price, and boy, it’s definitely a worthy successor.
DESIGN & FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The honor 7 is without a doubt a very handsome smartphone. Unlike its predecessor, it now has a metal construction. The matte finish of the back of the device feels very nice to the touch, although this makes it pretty slippery – I almost dropped it a few times because of this. On the flip side, I did get a few compliments on how sleek the honor 7 is.
However, the design of the honor 7 isn’t without any flaws. For one, the frame itself isn’t entirely made out of metal; there’s still a plastic lip surrounding the front of the smartphone. While this may seem like a minor issue, it does affect the premium look and feel of the device.
The use of plastic doesn’t end there either. Looking at the back of the honor 7, I notice there was a slight colour difference between the rear chassis as well as the top and bottom textured areas. After examining further (and asking for other people’s opinions as well), I found out that these strips are actually made out of plastic. While this may seem deceptive, it’s actually pretty clever of honor to do this to make sure the honor 7 doesn’t suffer from any signal disruption. Other devices (such as the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus), have more obvious plastic antenna lines.
While the plastic bits do affect the honor 7’s overall premium quality, it is still a well-built smartphone. It has a nice heft to it (due to its metal body), and the buttons have a nice tactile feedback. One handed-operation isn’t too difficult as well, thanks to its rather compact 5.2-inch display. While I’m not a big fan of the camera bump on the back of the honor 7 (I cringe every time I have to put the phone down on a rough surface), the sapphire lens didn’t seem to have any visible scratches after a few weeks with the device. This is…somewhat reassuring.
I’m not a fan of any type of security locks on smartphones. I find it much easier to just wake the phone by double tapping the display and swiping to unlock. With the honor 7, however, I decided to give the fingerprint sensor a try. Not only is it much more natural to place my finger on the rear fingerprint sensor, it also unlocks pretty fast; faster than the amount of time it would’ve taken me to unlock the phone myself without any security lock. Not only did I completely stop double tapping to wake the phone, it’s now my favourite method to unlock a smartphone.
The fingerprint sensor isn’t a one-trick pony either; it has several useful features. I can swipe down on the sensor to summon the Notification Shade instead of reaching for the top of the display, and swiping up closes it accordingly. I can also double tap on the sensor to clear any notification in the Shade when it’s pulled down. Very convenient.
All things considered, the honor 7 is a major improvement over its predecessor. My daily driver was the honor 6 Plus, and I find it hard to go back to it now; that’s how much the honor 7 has impressed me.
The honor 7 isn’t the most well-equipped flagship device on the market. It has a 1080p display instead of a 2K panel (though some will argue there won’t be any perceivable difference if it had a 2K display), and while the Kirin 935 processor is Huawei’s best processor yet, it’s not exactly the most capable chipset in the market. The benchmark results down below clearly show this.
That being said, it’s priced much lower than other flagship devices. That’s how honor has managed to be so popular among budget-conscious consumers; the company’s devices offer plenty value for money, and the honor 7 is no exception. For its asking price, the hardware underneath the honor 7 is worth every penny.
I’ll start of with this statement: I absolutely love the Smart Key. Located on the left side of the device as a singular button, it can be customised to do three different actions. I personally set a single tap of the button to launch Messenger, a double tap to activate the flashlight, and a long press to launch the camera. I’m surprised such a small addition can prove to be so convenient in the long run.
Other than that, honor has definitely improved the Knuckle Sense on the honor 7. When I used the Huawei P8 for a few days, I didn’t like how it had difficulty differentiating between a finger input and a knuckle input. With the honor 7, I had absolutely no issue. In essence, Knuckle Sense enables me to take a screenshot of the device by double tapping the screen with my knuckle. I can also use my knuckle to crop a specific area (although it can be pretty difficult for the device to recognise my knuckle input).
As for the software experience as a whole, it’s largely similar to the honor 6 Plus. Emotion UI 3.1 still feels light and responsive, and there’s no perceivable lag when I used it to browse the web, reply messages, and play some casual games. I also like how I can hide unused apps by performing the “pinch to zoom” gesture when I’m on the home screen. I don’t miss the app drawer at all thanks to this neat little feature.
Equipped with a 3,100mAh battery, the honor 7 is one long-lasting smartphone. Throughout my time with it, I’ve never had to charge it in the middle of the day. It’s absolutely effortless to get through a full day with the honor 7 on a single charge. For more light users, I reckon it could last for up to two days.
My typical usage habit involves tons of web browsing, instant messaging, and occasionally a few rounds of Hearthstone and navigation using Google Maps. With a screen on time of more than three hours and thirty minutes, I managed to drain the battery down to 5% in 16 hours. That’s more than enough battery life for any type of user in my books.
It’s worth noting that the honor 7 supports fast charging, but as the fast charger is sold separately, we couldn’t test this out.
While the honor 7 only has a 1080p display, it’s more than adequate on a 5.2-inch panel. WIth a pixel density of 424ppi, text and images are sharp and crisp. On top of that, colours are also bright and vibrant, although whites have a tad yellowish tint. Thankfully, the colour temperature can be adjusted to my liking.
In the audio department, nothing particularly stood out. While there are two speaker grilles on the bottom of the honor 7, audio only comes out from the left opening, so no stereo output here. In terms of loudness, the device can definitely make itself heard, but the audio quality is just…okay. While there’s no crackling when the volume is set to the maximum, the audio quality leaves more to be desired.
The honor 7’s 20MP camera is definitely up to the task. In comparison to the honor 6 Plus’ camera, I much prefer the former. Not only is it more responsive, it has a more natural colour reproduction as well, whereas the 6 Plus tends to produce more saturated colours. Seeing how the honor 7 uses an IMX 230 sensor from Sony (the very same sensor found in the flagship Motorola Moto X Style), this doesn’t come as a surprise.
However, while its camera is more responsive than the 6 Plus’, there’s still a distinct pause after every shot is taken. For moments where you need the right timing to get the perfect shot, this can prove to be cumbersome.
Fortunately, the honor 7 produces really great shots under ideal lighting. The colours are more true to life, and it captures a decent amount of details as well.
Other than that, it also has a camera mode called “Good Food.” As its name suggests, it makes food look more…appealing. Judge for yourself with the images below. (Top images are shot in normal mode, followed by Good Food mode.)
As for low-light performance, the honor 7 is decent for the most part. As is the case under ideal lighting, the colours are not over-saturated. The images actually look a little washed out, making them look more bland than they really are.
All in all, I enjoyed photographing with the honor 7, though I wish the low-light performance was better. The camera’s responsiveness could’ve been improved as well.
A side note: if you noticed, all of these sample images are actually 10MP in size. For some reason, the camera app’s default setting is set to shoot in 10MP instead of its native 20MP 4:3 aspect ratio mode. Unfortunately, I only noticed this after the review was done.
Even though the honor 7 is priced pretty competitively for a flagship device, there are several worthy competitors to it. For one, we have the highest-end Asus ZenFone 2, which is priced exactly the same at RM1,399.
For that kind of money, the ZenFone 2 provides a more fluid experience, a larger display, and arguably better low-light camera performance. In terms of storage, it also has a much more generous 64GB of internal memory, whereas the honor 7 only has 16GB of on-board storage (although both devices feature expandable memory).
However, the honor 7 trumps the ZenFone 2 in terms of build quality. After all, the plastic body of the latter can hardly match up to the premium metal construction of the honor 7. It also has a quick fingerprint sensor and the very convenient Smart Key, not to mention better battery life.
Other than that, we have to compare the honor 7 to the 2014 “flagship killer” as well, the OnePlus One. Now, just because it has been over a year since it was launched, the OnePlus One’s very competitive price tag of RM1,199 is hard to ignore. Not only is the One cheaper, but its Adreno 330 GPU is more capable than the honor 7’s Mali-T628 MP4, making it much more ideal for gaming.
But, the honor 7’s camera performance is definitely better than the OnePlus One. Although the One has a much bigger 64GB of internal memory, it doesn’t have a microSD card slot like the honor 7. As for build quality, the OnePlus One doesn’t quite match up to the honor 7, mostly due to its plastic construction.
The honor 7 is the Chinese company’s best device yet. Its premium construction, quick fingerprint sensor, and overall usefulness of the Smart Key make it one heck of a smartphone. This is one well-thought-out product from honor.
If there was anything that the honor 7 could improve on, it would be the plastic bits used in its construction; it ever so slightly ruins the overall premium vibe of the device. Other than that, a more powerful processor and GPU would’ve been appreciated. While it performs admirably, it doesn’t offer the same kind of fluidity and performance of other flagship devices.
But, we are talking about a very affordable flagship device. With a retail price of RM1,399, I really can’t complain much. It’s offers plenty, plenty value for money.
If honor keeps this up, I can’t wait to see what it has in store for the honor 7 Plus.