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December 30, 2015

Unboxing & Review: Honor 7


Back in 2014, Huawei launched their new smartphone lineup with a new brand name - Honor, to appeal to a wider range of markets and customers. The brand aims to be different from its parent company, targeting younger generation consumers and delivering high performance at low prices.

Honor 7 is the latest flagship of the Honor family, to replace the Honor 6 which was released in conjunction with the Honor brand launching. The Honor 6 priced at around RM1000 comes with its in-house HiSilicon Kirin SoC is giving Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 a run for its money.

Let's see if the new Honor flagship is capable of living up to our expectation.

Retails for RM1399.00 at Vmall.

Specifications Overview

General

  • Dimension: 143.2  x  71.9  x  8.5 mm (5.64  x  2.83  x  0.33 in)
  • Weight: 157 g (5.54oz)
  • Body: Aluminum Alloy
  • SIM: Dual Nano-SIM
  • Connectivity:
    • GSM / HSPA / LTE
    • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Dual band (2.4 & 5 GHz)
    • Bluetooth 4.1

Display

  • Size: 5.2 inches
  • Resolution: 1080  x  1920 pixels (~424 ppi) IPS-NEO LCD

Under the hood

  • CPU: HiSilicon Kirin 935, Quad-core 2.2 GHz Cortex-A53 and Quad-core 1.5GHz Cortex-A53
  • GPU: Mali-T628 MP4
  • RAM: 3 GB
  • Storage: 16/64 GB, supporting MicroSD up to 128 GB (uses SIM2 slot)
  • Battery: Non-removable 3100 mAh Li-Po

Camera

  • Rear:
    • 20.0 MP phase detection auto focus
    • 1/2.4" sensor
    • ƒ/2.0 27mm lens
    • Dual-LED, Dual Tone flash
    • 1080p video
  • Front:
    • 8.0 MP
    • ƒ/2.4 26mm lens
    • Single-LED flash
    • 1080p video

Software

  • OS: Android 5.0.2 Lollipop (upgradable Android 6.0, coming soon)
  • UI: Emotion UI 3.1

Packaging


The cyan colored box has a very clean design. The character "7" is debossed to the top cover of the box with a silver/chrome filled "honor" words.


After cutting the warranty sticker at both sides, the top cover is removed to reveal the phone itself.


Taking out more mini-boxes.


In the box:
  • Honor 7
  • 3pin USB charger (2A)
  • USB cable
  • In-ear earphones
  • Product guides and warranty
Pretty standard package with a bundled in-ear earphones that actually look like a certain brand's earpods earphones.

Design & Hardware


The Honor 7 we have in our labs is the white model. The difference between the white and black model is the front bezel's color.

The ear piece is a thin, long cutout from the glass panel. Ambient light sensor and proximity sensor can be found at the top left corner. Sandwiched between the sensors and earpiece is the front facing 8MP camera. The camera is coupled with a single LED flash at the right of the earpiece.


Though the phone looks rectangular-ish, but the edges are well rounded and chamfered to fit nicely on the hands. The back is ceramic sand blasted for the smooth sandy texture and premium feel.

Instead of full metal unibody design, as seen in the picture above, the top and bottom part has different color tone and they are actually non-metal. Apparently, network antennas are placed at those locations to avoid "death grip".

The camera module protrudes out at the back and accompanied by the dual tone LED flash.


Fingerprint scanner is conveniently located below the camera module where our fingers usually rest on.

The fingerprint sensor is extremely responsive. At 0.5 second response rate, it is definitely one of the most responsive fingerprint sensor I've ever experienced. On top of that, it also supports quite a number of gesture actions. For instance, a swipe down to pull down the notification shade or a swipe up to display recent apps.

There are pros and cons compared to placing the scanner at the back of the phone. Yes it is more ergonomic when you're pulling out the phone from your pocket, but the major drawback would be the accessibility of the scanner when the phone is placed on the table with screen facing up. Other than that, it comes really handy when you're holding the phone. Pun intended.


Audio jack is located on top of the phone, though, I'd prefer it to be at the bottom since I would put the phone upside down in my pocket.

A small hole beside the audio jack is the external mic input for noise cancelling during phone calls.

Infrared blaster window can be found at the other side.


Power button and volume rocker at the right.

The power button has textured surface for users to differentiate the buttons with touch.


The mono speaker at the left grill. The matching right speaker grill is for aesthetics.

Micro USB port at the middle and it is upside down like Samsung's and Xiaomi's.


SIM and micro SD tray at the right side.

A special feature of Honor 7 is the SmartKey button. Basically you can configure 3 functions or commands to the single click, double click or long press of the button. For instance, I configured the double click to launch the torch and long press for Google Now.


Popping out the SIM/microSD tray.

Note that for dual SIM configuration, the second SIM requires a MicroSIM adaptor.

Display


Under the front glass panel is a 5.2 inch Full HD IPS-NEO screen.

Even if QHD screen is a trend among flagships, but FHD is all you really need for a 5 incher because you won't be noticing the difference unless you pixel peeping. Plus it is less taxing on the GPU as well, that's a plus for power efficiency,

Viewing angle as well as color accuracy is living up to IPS panel's reputation. Even the brightness is sufficient under bright sunlight. So there's really nothing we can complain about the display.

Camera


Honor 7's rear facing 20MP camera features a Sony IMX230 module to achieve high sensitivity and low noise image capturing. In terms of hardware, the sensor itself is a real performer, but what about the software that is going to utilize it?

As seen above, the interface alone is showing a lot of resemblance with MIUI 7 and iOS. More about the OS in the Software section below.


Now, back to the camera app. The app itself is feature packed with different camera modes to allow your creativity go wild. I personally find that most of the modes are really useful especially the Pro camera mode. It allows me to take control of the camera to produce the image I wanted.

Here's a photo of the moon I attempted to take by using the Pro camera mode.


ISO100, f/2.0, 1/125.

Due to the wide angle nature of the lens, you can't really see what's going on in the photo, but when you look closer in the photo. Here's the 100% crop:


I'm impressed. Honest, this photo is 100% out of camera without any editing.

Here's some sample shots:









Low light samples:





The downside of the camera app is a rather annoying one. Although the camera seems very responsive but there are times where the software would become very slow especially when you first launched the camera app. This often happens in the background because from the user interface of the camera is still working but in fact when you press the shutter button, you will notice a delay until the photo is saved. Therefore, sometimes you will miss the first shot.

Software


Honor 7 runs Emotion UI (EMUI) 3.1. In terms of user experience, thanks to the high performance Kirin 935 SoC, the phone feels extremely smooth and snappy.

The OS is clearly a branch off from MIUI. Most of the interface and functionalities resembles MIUI. Of course Honor has done quite a bit of customization to it, especially the notification shade comes with the time of the notification.

But then, no matter what name you give it, Color or Emotion, it is still a branch from MIUI. Just look at these screen shots and compare with your iOS or Xiaomi devices:

 

We don't hate MIUI, we respect it as a successful deviation from the AOSP. What we felt disappointed is the fact that Honor choose to branch off from MIUI instead of AOSP.

To us, they are trying hard to be like iOS, but they never will because the core engine they running is Android. If the China phone manufacturers continue to branch from MIUI and try to mimic iOS, in the coming few years, all the China made phones will have identical OS with different badges. This will ultimately hurts the Android development because as the China phones getting cheaper and cheaper by ripping off existing products, those innovative companies will start to lose money and eventually die off.

We really do hope that Honor could learn something through Huawei's Nexus 6P program and become more like Motorola, to embrace the AOSP instead of third party branches.

Final Thoughts - Actual Usage Performance & Battery Life

HiSilicon Kirin 935 is a beast and power sipper at the same time.

It handles all the heavy processing apps such as games and image editing with ease and at the same time allows a full day use out of the 3100mAh battery.

Though Kirin might not packing as much "OHM" as Apple, Snapdragon or Exynos, but if you factor in the price to performance ratio of the device, they are outstanding!



Battery life turns out to be really good. Without any app optimization, I still manage to pull a 13.5 hours on battery with 5 hours Screen on time.



Oh wait, 14.5 hours on battery with 5.5 hours screen on time. Imagine what can you achieve if you optimize the apps.

Pros:
  • Clean & compact packaging
  • Aluminium alloy body design
  • Excellent build quality
  • Dual SIM
  • MicroSD card support
  • Fast and responsive fingerprint scanner
  • Excellent display
  • Great camera quality
  • Good performance
  • Great battery life
  • Price

Cons:
  • Inconsistent (response) camera software
  • Software

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