It's not just top-end flagship phones that are getting taller, skinnier and therefore easier to handle: the Honor 7X, which is expected to launch on 5 December 2017 at Honor's UK event (although you can already buy it now via some channels for £279-300), also features an 18:9 aspect ratio screen for those on a more modest budget.
That gives this mid-range model an advantage over its nearest competition. Sure, OnePlus just announced the 5T, but that'll be a pricier (and more powerful) handset. The Honor 7X, by compare, has few competitors to speak of - only really the LG Q6 and Oppo F5 offer a similar spec.
Which all points to Honor being on something of a role. The Huawei subsidiary company is finally finding its groove, offering mid-level specification in great designs for those who don't need superpower in the palm of their hand. Is the 7X a surefire success?
- 5.93in display, 18:9 aspect ratio , 2160 x 1080 resolution
- Black and blue colours (gold not available in UK)
- Rear-positioned fingerprint scanner
- 156.5 x 75.3 x 7.6mm; 165g
- Metal body design
We've recently been testing the rather tasty Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 - a phone that's strikingly designed with minimal bezel and powerful innards. Having moved over to the Honor 7X we've often mistaken one for the other at a quick glance, as they're similar sizes and Honor has done a decent job in keeping the bezel minimal.
The 7X sports a 5.93-inch screen, which might sound massive, but the 18:9 aspect ratio means it's a perfect match for one-handed hold. Who said you had to pay a fortune for the latest in screen tech trends?
The longer body does see the fingerprint scanner, which is positioned to the rear, feel as though it's a little too high up the device. We said much the same about the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, a spiritual superpower big brother to the Honor. Still, the scanner works a treat and it doesn't sit near to the camera lenses, so you won't be smearing those lenses with greasy fingers by accident.
The overall build quality of the 7X is decent, too, with a metal body that's finished in either blue or black (gold is China only). We think the "Honor Blue" is becoming a bit of a hallmark for the brand - although it seems to differ from device to device, from the ultra-shiny Honor 9, to the soft-touch matte finish of the Honor 8 Pro. The 7X has a slightly darker that reveals its colour when catching a shard of light. It hides the antenna bands well, too.
We don't think it was really necessary to print "honor" on both the front and the rear of the device, though, especially given the limited bezel real-estate on the front. Just once on the back would have sufficed.
- Kirin 659 octa-core processor, 4GB RAM
- 64GB storage, microSD card slot (doubles as second SIM)
- 3,340mAh battery, Micro-USB charging (not USB-C)
- 3.5mm headphones jack
The Honor 7X isn't pretending to be an ultra-powerful device, it sits happily in the middle of the pack thanks to its Kirin 659 processor - the first time we've had such a chipset pass through our hands.
Paired with 4GB RAM, there's enough space to load apps, but it's just not as quick as a true flagship. For the most part that doesn't really show, though. We've spotted some delays to apps opening, or stuttering when first firing up the device when dozens of apps fought to install.
The bottom line is this: if you're not a power user and don't demand your apps appear in microseconds then the 7X will be a perfect fit that won't break the bank. We've played South Park Phone Destroyer no problems, for example, while dabbling in Gmail and all the usual day-to-day work bits on the side.
Not having the top-end processor on board should alleviate battery drain, however, although having only used the device for a full day we're yet to accurately determine how it truly lasts. When launched in China back in October, the 7X had battery drain issues which, from what we've seen, aren't a current issue on the EU handset that we've received. There's no fast-charging, however, with Honor's ongoing use of Micro-USB a bit of a nuisance in today's USB-C age.
One thing that we do relish the sight of is the 3.5mm headphone jack. The last trio of phones we've reviewed - Xiaomi Mi Mix 2, Razer Phone and Huawei Mate 10 Pro - have all lacked this socket, which has meant Bluetooth fiddling or using a USB-to-3.5mm adaptor/DAC. It's much easier just to plug in a pair of headphones instead, so yay for that.
Software-wise, the Honor 7X comes with Huawei's EMUI 5.1 skin over Android 7.1 - so not the latest EMUI 8.0 over Android 8.0. That's not the end of the world, really, as we find the setup - now it's a few generations mature - to be rather amenable. Huawei adds lots of customisation and alerts, which can be niggling, but can also be adjusted to suit your preferences too.
- 16-megapixel rear camera, second 2-megapixel depth-sensing camera
- Phase-detection autofocus (PDAF)
- 8-megapixel front-facing camera
On the camera front, Honor has decided to tread a slightly different path to the current dual camera norm. As you can see from the two circular optics on the rear, it does also have two, but only one is a proper camera, the second is a low-resolution sensor used solely for depth perception.
This depth-derived information can then be used to blur the background of a shot, via software, to get more pro-looking portrait shots and the like. It's something we've seen in Huawei phones before, but the Honor is similar but ditches the Leica endorsement, thus its software and abilities are slightly lesser.
It does have plenty of positives though. The phase-detection autofocus system is fairly quick, as is the shutter (although not instant like current flagship phones), and there are various modes ranging from fun effects and filters to the more serious full manual mode.
We'll be playing around with the camera more as we get to grips with the 7X ahead of its launch, with a fuller review to follow.
Although there's no official UK price just yet, a little digging online reveals that the Honor 7X ought to launch in and around the £279-299 price range (as that's how much you can buy it for right now on various channels). That's quite a bargain for a good-looking and capable 18:9 ratio phone, ensuring Honor holds strong against its OnePlus and LG competition.
Complaints from our use so far are limited: yes, we'd like USB-C and fast-charging, and we're surprised the handset doesn't launch on the latest EMUI 8 (Android 8.0) software setup either - but neither of these are nail-in-the-coffin issues at all.
Ultimately, the 7X represents that Honor has finally found its groove. It understands its brand position as a mid-level phone with design appeal, and while the 7X isn't going to challenge the true flagships of today, it'll save you in and around £400 in the process. And it looks great in blue. Can't say better than that.