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Honor 7 review: Wait for the Honor 6X

Nathan Spendelow Katharine Byrne
5 Jan 2017
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
250
inc VAT (SIM-free)

With the Honor 6X coming soon, the Honor 7 is let down by battery life issues and worrying build quality

Pros 
Great display
Decent performance
Cons 
Worrying build quality
Short battery life
EMUI woes
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Specifications

Processor: Octa-core 2.2GHz Kirin 935, Screen Size: 5.2in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Rear camera: 20 megapixels, Storage (free): 16GB (10.4GB), Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 143x72x8.5mm, Weight: 157g, Operating system: Android 5.1.1

Honor 7 review: Android 5.1 & Emotion UI

The only problem is that the Honor 7 uses Huawei's Emotion UI 3.1 interface, which is possibly one of my least favourite versions of Android. Not only does it ditch the app tray in favour of crowded iOS-like home screens, but it also insists on separating your notifications from the menu shortcut button screen.

This is particularly irritating when all you want to do is go to the settings menu, as it automatically defaults to the notifications bar if you haven't dismissed every last alert. Likewise, I'm not a big fan of the general look and feel of Emotion UI, as third-party apps just look badly designed alongside the bespoke rounded icons of Honor's first-party apps, and none of the pre-installed themes are particularly appealing.

That said, Honor has gone to great lengths to make the Honor 7 easier to use than its previous handsets, as the phone has an additional Smart Key button on the side which can be assigned to perform up to three separate functions. With a single tap, double tap or long press, you can immediately launch any app of your choice, activate the camera or turn on the flashlight. It's certainly more convenient than having to search through home screens every time I want to open Twitter, for example, but its small amount of tactile feedback can make it a little difficult to press at times.  

Honor 7 Smart Key

^ The Honor 7's Smart Key can be assigned up to three separate shortcuts

Less useful is Honor's KnuckleSense technology. I saw this in Huawei's P8, and it was a bizarre addition to say the least. This rather strange method of controlling your phone lets you take screenshots of whatever's onscreen by using your knuckle, either with a double-tap for a full screenshot or by dragging your knuckle in whatever shape you like to crop an area of your choice which you can then share instantly with friends and family.

Honor's also taken a leaf out of Nokia's Z Launcher book by letting you draw out certain letters with your knuckle as well to launch certain applications. It only supports four letters – E, C, M and W – but they can be configured to open anything you like, from your internet browser to the camera. However, while it's certainly one of the more novel ways I've seen to interact with your phone, I don't find it particularly intuitive and pawing at your phone with your knuckle seems rather inelegant when the Smart Key does almost exactly the same thing.

Honor 7 Android Emotion UI

^ Honor uses Huawei's Emotion UI, which ditches the app tray in favour of a more iOS-like approach to Android

Honor 7 review: Battery Life

More disappointing was the Honor 7's mediocre battery life. Despite having a large 3,100mAh battery, it lasted just 6h 28m in our continuous video playback test with the screen set to 170cd/m2 brightness, which is even worse than the Huawei P8, one of this year's poorest battery life performers. This is very disappointing, and is easily the worst score I've seen this year. With such little staying power, it rather puts a bit of a dampener on the Honor 7's reverse-charging feature, as this lets you use the phone to power other devices - once you've bought the dedicated cable, of course.

Honor 7 review: Camera

The 20-megapixel rear camera has phase-detection auto-focus. Honor says it can snap onto a subject in just 0.1 seconds, but whatever the figure, it certainly seemed to work extremely quickly when I tried it out for myself. There are also numerous several filters, including a Good Food mode, de-mist filter, and a time lapse video mode. Picture quality was good, too, as colours were bright and vibrant and each shot was very well-exposed.

Honor 7 camera test

^ The Honor 7's rear camera captures plenty of detail, but noise levels are rather high

However, look a little closer and you'll see quite a lot of noise and compression at the photo's native resolution, particularly toward the edge of the frame. This can make photos appear grainy at times, particularly if there's a lot of cloud present. Indoor photos weren't much better in this respect either, as shadows were very dim, making any noise even more pronounced. It coped fine in bright lighting conditions, but switching off our external lamp made colours appear quite muted. In these circumstances, I'd recommend turning on the flash, as this helped bring back some much needed life into our still life arrangement.

Honor 7 camera test indoors

^ Indoors, colours were very muted when our external lamp was turned off, but the flash does a good job of correcting this

On the front you'll find an 8-megapixel camera with a 26mm wide angle lens for those all-important selfies. Detail levels were fairly reasonable, but those after true selfie perfection will want to play around with the Honor 7's "perfect selfie" settings, which automatically applies your personalised beauty settings to every selfie you take. The results can be rather horrifying, especially when everything's set to max, but it certainly saves time for selfie perfectionists. 

Honor 7 review: Verdict

The Honor 7 has all the makings of a great mid-range smartphone, but concerns over its build quality, its frustrating version of Android and terrible battery life means it can't help but fall short of its goals. At this price, the £270 Motorola Moto X Play is much better value if you can't get hold of an invite for the OnePlus 2, but if you'd rather save some money, the £200 Sony Xperia M4 Aqua is an excellent alternative. 

Hardware
ProcessorOcta-core 2.2GHz Kirin 935
RAM3GB
Screen size5.2in
Screen resolution1,920x1,080
Screen typeIPS
Front camera8 megapixels
Rear camera20 megapixels
FlashLED
GPSYes
CompassYes
Storage (free)16GB (10.4GB)
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
Wi-Fi802.11ac
BluetoothBluetooth 4.1 LE
NFCNo
Wireless data3G, 4G
Size143x72x8.5mm
Weight157g
Features
Operating systemAndroid 5.1.1
Battery size3,100mAh
Buying information
WarrantyTwo years RTB
Price SIM-free (inc VAT)£250
Price on contract (inc VAT)Free on £20-per-month contract
Prepay price (inc VAT)N/A
SIM-free supplierwww.vmall.eu
Contract/prepay supplierwww.three.co.uk
Detailswww.hihonor.com
Part codePLK-L01

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