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Honor 7S review: A super-cheap Android phone, now even cheaper

Nathan Spendelow Christopher Minasians
5 Dec 2018
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
100
Incl VAT

One of the cheapest Android Oreo phones we’ve seen, but the camera’s pretty awful and the whole thing’s painfully slow

Pros 
Good battery life
18:9 display
Cons 
Frustratingly slow
Shocking camera
No fingerprint reader
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Honor 7S deal update

The Honor 7S is currently on offer at Amazon, and can be picked up for only £80. That's £20 off the original launch price. Sure, the phone itself is a bit slow and the camera could be better but at that price, it should serve you well as a decent spare phone, or provide something good for the kids.
Amazon
Was £100
Now £80

Nowadays high-end smartphones cost upwards of £500, where some even stretch to the £1,000 mark – now that's an awful lot of money. So, what if you haven't got the money to splurge on an expensive phone? Well, there are some great low-cost handsets now. 

Honor, the Chinese manufacturer, is among one of the most prolific players in the low-cost market. The company practically comes out with a new device every couple of months, and its latest creation is its cheapest yet: the Honor 7S, costing just £100.

READ NEXT: Best budget phones to buy right now

Honor 7S review: What you need to know

At first glance the Honor 7S looks like a much more expensive phone, thanks to the 5.45in, 18:9 display that takes up most of the front of the case. With a resolution of 720 x 1440, it’s not the sharpest screen in town, but it’s perfectly usable, and there’s a 13-megapixel camera at the rear.

Out of the box it runs Android 8.1 Oreo, and inside there’s a 1.5GHz quad-core processor – but unfortunately, coupled with just 2GB of RAM, this isn’t fast enough to make things feel slick and smooth.

READ NEXT: Vodafone Smart N9 review: No better than last year's Smart N8

Honor 7S review: Price and competition

The 7S’ closest rival price-wise is the Vodafone Smart N9 at £109. The internal spec is mostly identical, but you do get a fingerprint reader, which the 7S lacks.

If you’re on a really tight budget, the N9’s predecessor – the Smart N8, as you might have guessed – is also worth considering. Costing just £85, this has most of the same features as the N9, but lacks the 18:9 display. Going even cheaper, there’s the Alcatel Pixi 4 (5) at £55, though this has a lower resolution 16:9 screen and runs the rather outdated Android 6.0.

If you’re prepared to pay a bit more, your options include the £140 Honor 7A, the £145 Nokia 5, and the impressive Motorola Moto G6 Play at £160. All of these have faster processors than the Honor 7S – which makes them all a lot nicer to use, in our view.

READ NEXT: Honor 9 Lite review: A great budget phone with an 18:9 display and a dual front-facing camera

Honor 7S review: Design and features

In the UK, the Honor 7S is available in two colours, black and blue. The phone looks and feels very well made, helped along by a solid backplate that doesn’t pick up fingerprint marks.

It houses a single rear-facing camera with flash; around the side, there’s a volume rocker and a power button, while the micro-USB charging port is found at the bottom and the 3.5mm headphone jack sits at the top. The speaker is embedded into the front of the phone, which is great as sound is projected directly towards you.

One nice feature is the 3-in-1 tray on the left edge, which allows you to simultaneously install two 4G SIM cards plus a microSD card with a capacity of up to 256GB. That’s just as well, since the phone only has 16GB of internal storage.

As we’ve mentioned, there’s no fingerprint reader, which is a shame when the Vodafone Smart N9 manages to squeeze one in at a similar price. It’s not a disaster, but it means you’ll have to manually enter a PIN, password or pattern to unlock the device.

READ NEXT: Vodafone Smart N8 review: Can it live up to the Vodafone Smart Prime 7?

Honor 7S review: Display

Like most phones in this price range, the Honor 7S doesn’t quite deliver the Full HD experience – if you want that you’ll have to go up to around the £150 mark.

Its 5.45in, 720 x 1,440 display doesn’t look bad, though, with a measured 415cd/m² peak brightness and contrast ratio of 1407:1. Colours are nice and vibrant, and viewing angles are near-perfect. Even colour accuracy and sRGB coverage are acceptable, which is as much as you can really expect from a phone this cheap.

READ NEXT: Honor 7A review: Can Honor’s best value smartphone rival the Motorola Moto G6?

Honor 7S review: Performance

In light of the Honor 7S’ low price and lightweight internals, I wasn’t expecting it to fly through tasks or to smoothly handle multiple apps open at once. Even so, I was surprised by how poor its performance was.

For example, when I wanted to adjust the phone’s volume while watching a YouTube video, the virtual slider didn’t appear on screen until 15 seconds after I’d pressed the rocker. Normally, you’d expect it to appear instantaneously. It’s an awful experience.

^ Honor 7S Geekbench 4 benchmark

This is one of those occasions where benchmark results don’t paint the whole picture. In everyday use, the Honor 7S feels a lot less responsive than its competitors.

^ Honor 7S GFXBench benchmark

GPU performance is weak too. The 7S does at least beat the Alcatel Pixi 4, but it’s simply too laggy to play action games such as PUBG. Casual puzzlers like Candy Crush are more its level – just remember to close all your other programs, or the phone’s limited amount of RAM will bottleneck your experience.

^ Honor 7S battery life

The phone’s battery life, at least, is quite good. It lasted 10hrs 33mins in the Expert Reviews video rundown test, meaning you can enjoy back-to-back movies on a long-haul flight. For comparison, the Vodafone Smart N9 and N8 last only 9hrs 11mins and 8hrs 44mins, respectively.

READ NEXT: Motorola Moto G6 Play review: Another winner from Motorola

Honor 7S review: Camera

The Honor 7S has a single 13-megapixel camera at the back, and a 5-megapixel camera around the front. Those sound like decent specs, but I found the image quality disappointing.

For example, in the image below (taken in standard shooting mode), you can see how the rear camera completely smears over the pattern of the brickwork. Trees are a blur of green, and even the buildings in the foreground are lacking in fine detail.

^ Taken without HDR

Switching on HDR mode makes a big difference – but if anything it goes too far in the other direction, thanks to excessive contrast and sharpening:

^ Taken with HDR

Now the brickwork is distractingly conspicuous, while the trees become harshly dappled and the red building in the foreground comes out looking almost white. The post-processing doesn’t seem to work properly at the edges of the image either – check out the weird ghosting at the right-hand side, which makes it look as if the buildings are moving.

And if you thought that was bad, wait until you see the camera’s low-light performance.

Without a flash, the image is simultaneously both blurry and noisy at once.

^ Indoors without flash

You’d hope that turning on the flash would help, but when I tried it the 7S consistently got the exposure compensation completely wrong. I shot the same scene ten times, from different angles and positions, and every single time I was left with an unusable, hugely overexposed image:

^ With flash

The front-facing camera also suffers from a lack of fine detail and a bit of smearing in the background, but that’s perhaps not such a big deal for selfies.

READ NEXT: Nokia 5.1 review: Hands on with the Nokia 5's more powerful sibling

Honor 7S review: Verdict

The Honor 7S is so cheap that it’s tempting to forgive its faults – but they’re simply too big to overlook. The sluggish performance is a constant annoyance, and I wouldn’t be happy carrying such a poor camera around with me.

If you really need to stick near the £100 mark, your best bet is to spend the extra £9 and get the Vodafone Smart N9 instead. But if you can go a little higher, the Moto G6 Play is a much better choice, with far snappier performance, a great camera and a battery that’ll last five hours longer on a charge.

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