The Huawei Honor 7X shocked us with its pricing when the same was announced at the brand’s grand launch in London, alongside the Honor V10 (or View 10) flagship.
Having reviewed the Honor 9i, there appears to be very little that has changed, both internally and cosmetically, when it comes to design. The 7X is cheaper than the 9i, but it also sacrifices the front facing dual-camera and opts for a smaller battery unit.
After using the Honor 7X for a couple of weeks, it’s clear that this is indeed Huawei’s version of the Mi A1. But as with every Honor smartphone out there, it’s always the software updates that are the sore point. Even before diving into the review, I can tell you right now that if you're particular about firmware updates and security, you will be happier with Mi A1. The Honor 7X seems to have everything else covered.
Build and Design: 8/10
For a smartphone that is priced at Rs 15,999 (Rs 12,999 for the 32 GB storage variant), the Huawei Honor 7X offers stunning build quality that feels more mid-range than budget.
The design still looks very similar to the higher-priced Honor 9i, but with a few differences. There is now an ‘Honor’ branding on the bottom chin and the camera layout on the rear consists of two separate lenses mounted horizontally. Thankfully, the change in layout is only cosmetic and the performance of the cheaper 7x appears identical to that of the 9i, more about this in the Camera section.
The fit and finish are pretty good and the 7X is the only device priced this low that will get you a premium-looking, all-metal unibody design with a polished 2.5D curved glass on the front.
Truly, the design of the Honor 7X makes the slimmer Mi A1 with its chunky bezels and flat glass look like it was designed in 2016.
While the matte finish on the back feels cold and pleasant to hold, it quickly turns into a mess just like Honor 9i did.
There is something about the coating on the Honor 9i and the 7X that makes them a fingerprint magnet. Despite cleaning it from time to time, it took mere seconds for the device to catch new prints, which made for a smudgy mess of a body. Honor really needs to look into this as it is hard to wipe off these prints, especially on the black model. My solution? Get the model with the blue finish.
With a dual camera setup on the rear and a capable Kirin chipset inside, the only reason I marked the Honor 7X below the 9i is due to the lack of the dual front-camera.
Everything inside pretty much remains the same as on the Honor 9i.
You get a 5.9-inch Full HD+ Full View display on the front covered with a 2.5D screen protected by Corning Gorilla Glass.
Inside, there is a Huawei HiSilicon Kirin 659 SoC having an octa-core processor with four Cortex A53 cores clocked at 2.36 GHz and the other four clocked at a lower 1.7 GHz for handling less-demanding tasks.
Paired with the processor is 4 GB RAM and 64 GB of internal storage. Honor also offers a 4 GB RAM and 32 GB storage model. Both offer storage expansion using a hybrid microSD card slot. However, the 7X will get you more bang for your buck here as it supports cards of up to 256 GB, instead of the 128 GB available on the Xiaomi Mi A1.
As for the cameras, the Honor 7X will get you a dual 16 MP + 2 MP camera setup on the rear, with an 8 MP camera on the front for selfie duty.
Connectivity options include a 4G+, 4G, 3G and 2G bands. There’s Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n (2.5/5 GHz Wi-Fi), GPS/AGPS, GLONASS, Wi-Fi Direct, microUSB v2.0, dual SIM slots and USB OTG support.
The handset runs Android 7.0 Nougat and is powered by a 3,340 mAh battery.
The display on the Honor 7X is identical to the unit on the Honor 9i. Which means it goes from edge to edge on the sides and bezel to bezel at the top and the bottom.
The display is sharp and features a high, 407 PPI pixel density, which makes reading text even at the smallest font setting clear on this large, 5.9-inch unit.
The large FHD+ display is clearly the highlight of the smartphone and is the most important differentiating factor between the Xiaomi Mi A1 and itself, the second factor is, of course, the software.
The displays on the 7x and 9i appear identical and noticed that I had the same problems with the 7x's display that I had with the 9i.
The brightness levels decrease drastically when you view the display off centre. It keeps dropping as the viewing angles get steeper, and once placed on your desk, it’s hard to tell if the display is set to the maximum brightness setting as it looks very dim. As explained in my Honor 9i review, it’s not the display, but simply the manner in which the screen above it is set up because the colours remain intact when viewed from different angles.
Overall, the display looks great and is clearly one of the best ones I have seen in the budget smartphone segment so far, producing natural-looking colours without any noticeable gradients, along with adequate brightness levels.
It’s 2017 and with every passing month, expectations for the next best version of Android increase. While I was happy to see budget-like software performance onboard the 9i, a month later, it feels a bit lacking.
It’s the same old EMUI 5.1 experience we have gotten used to for a few months now and it still packs in Android 7.0 Nougat inside. To make things worse, the security patch was last updated in October and there have been no updates till date (December, as of this writing).
While Huawei promises to deliver Android 8.0 Oreo, users clearly will only be left hanging with Nougat as the same has yet to make it to the Honor 8 Pro (which was launched in July), the company’s current flagship until the View 10 arrives. We have yet to receive any official confirmation from Huawei about the roll-out of software updates.
The Mi A1 has received plenty of updates so far and even comes with the latest security patches. Since it comes with Google’s Android One inside, update release cycles are expected to be quicker than the usual, which seems like the right route for a budget smartphone.
While things sure look bleak for Honor right now, the level of software customisations still gives the Honor 7X the edge, I think.
Want to change the saturation or hue of the display? Sorry, the Mi A1 cannot do that. Need to switch to a resolution-changing battery-saver mode? Sorry, the Mi A1 can’t do that either. Clearly, stock Android may not necessarily be the best approach at times. But that’s no excuse for Honor to be stuck on outdated core software.
The Kirin 659 inside the Honor 7X packs in quite a punch for a budget smartphone SoC. Clocked at 2.3 GHz it also happens to be one of the faster SoCs on the block, which meant that most of the benchmarks saw it defeat the Mi A1, which features a tried and tested Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC.
Huawei’s EMUI did feel a bit heavy for once, with the software showcasing minor, but noticeable hiccups in daily use. These were usually limited to swipe action in the user interface and not when multitasking between apps.
Gaming performance was good. While graphically demanding games like Asphalt Xtreme ran smoothly at HDPI and ‘Best Quality’ settings for textures, others like the popular Breakneck by PikPok stuttered all the way through. Indeed, this seems like a game-specific issue as the rest of the games I tested ran smoothly without any problems.
The smartphone did warm up during extended gaming sessions and when using the camera for a long time but was not hot enough for me to shut down the app. Audio quality while listening to music on the headphones was decent and drifted more towards the bass notes. The audio through the speaker sounded a bit tinny. It was just not loud enough to place a call on speaker unless I was in a really quiet room. I had to hold the speaker near my ear to listen to callers outdoors (with plenty of ambient noise). The same can be said about the receiver, which was a bit too low on volume. Hopefully, these can be fixed in future firmware updates. Camera: 7.5/10 Camera performance on the Honor 7X was decent at best. Unlike the Honor 9i, which gets you a quad-camera setup, the Honor 7X does with a dual camera setup with a 16 MP + 2 MP unit on the rear and a single 8 MP camera on the front.
In daylight scenarios, the rear camera was quick to focus and shoot both standard and portrait images with an enhanced depth of field. The photographs looked vibrant and showcased plenty of sharpness as well. The images overall look a lot brighter than those on the Mi A1. However, pixel-peeping into these images revealed that only the edges are sharpened. Textures are smudged over and there is a significant loss of detail. But this is noticeable only if you are in the habit of zooming into your pictures. Else, it’s hard to tell if there is a problem at 50-60 percent crop. All photographs were shot in the auto mode using the default settings.
Honor does let you tweak the sharpness levels in the camera app, which also happens to come with a user-friendly UI. In low-light situations, things did not turn out too well. The rear camera had a hard time focusing on subjects, objects or even a street scene under street lighting. This was a problem even in dim lighting. There was little noise in these photographs, which is surprising, but it all came at the cost of details, making most photos look like paintings. Partially responsible for this was also the sluggish autofocus system. The low light images were decent enough for Instagram, but nothing else.
Indoors, things were a bit better when it came to autofocus, but the camera again, in an attempt to reduce noise, killed most of the details.
The same was the problem with portrait mode photos. It’s hard to tell what Huawei did so differently in terms of software as the hardware seemed identical to the unit on the Honor 9i. Feathering in the portrait mode was not really accurate, and the details were decent only in daylight. Switch to indoor lighting and those numbers drop a bit. These were still better than the ones we got with Mi A1, however.
As for the selfie camera. Huawei uses software to deliver the Portrait mode because it lacks a secondary camera to get depth data. The results, as expected, were only decent enough to post on social media. Low light selfies (Portrait or standard) using the screen flash were below average.
Video recording with the phone maxing out at FHD was passable, but showcased a lot of luminance noise.
Charging is a pain when it comes to the Honor 7X. With no quick charging facility, it took well over two hours to charge the 3,340 mAh battery.
Day to day usage saw me get through a day of use, with little juice left at the end of the workday. Huawei sure could have done better considering the size of the battery. Strangely, the Honor 7X didn’t last as long as the Honor 9i here. Blame it on the software optimisations or the battery used, but it did feel a bit lacking considering the capacity of the battery.
Verdict and Price in India
At Rs 13,999 Xiaomi gets you the same build quality, with more bezels, a similar display (although not as tall) and better battery life thanks to its compact package.
The Mi A1 also offers more storage (64 GB), smoother software and faster updates all at a price point that is Rs 1,000 over the base price of the Honor 7X, which starts at Rs 12,999. The 64 GB storage option of the Honor 7X is a lot pricier at Rs 15,999 given that it’s just a storage bump and nothing else.
Despite the odd pricing between storage options, the Honor 7X has plenty of things going for it, including it’s 18:9 display and slightly better CPU performance (not GPU) in comparison to the Xiaomi Mi A1. But then again, the build quality and camera performance (in daylight at least) stand out, making it a better choice over the Xiaomi Mi A1. If you ask me, the 32 GB storage version (priced at Rs 12,999) is quite the deal even when compared to a high-end version of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4.