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Honor 7s extended hands-on: a Budget heavy weight

Honor is known for their vast product portfolio and their stellar performance for each price point. Adding to that now is the Honor 7s, a device that comes in at as little as $110 (no UK price has been announced as of yet). How much phone can you get for $110? Turns out, a lot more than you used to be able to get.

Disclaimer: We were only able to get 4-5 days with this device, which is why we aren’t calling it a review. We at MTT try not to call anything that is not tested for at least 2 weeks a review. We feel this is a sufficient amount of time to get to know a device, and 5 days is not. However, we have enough preliminary thoughts to share with you.

Honor 7s extended First look

Specifications – Honor 7S

  • 5.45” 1440x720p IPS screen (2:1 aspect ratio)
  • MediaTek MT6739
    • 4x Cortex A53 @ 1.5Ghz
    • PowerVR GE8100 GPU @570Mhz
  • 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM
  • 16GB of eMMC Storage
  • 3020mAh Lithium-Polymer Battery
  • MicroUSB Charger (5v1a)
  • Android 8.1 w/ EMUI 8.0
  • 13MP Rear facing camera
    • Autofocus
    • 1080p30 video capture
  • 5MP front facing camera
    • Fixed Focus
    • LED Selfie light
  • 802.11b/g/n WiFi, only 2.4Ghz
  • Bluetooth 4.2

 

For a more complete look at the specifications, head on over to GSMArena here

 

Hardware – Honor 7S

Honor has a pretty cohesive design language at this point, especially since moving towards 18:9 (or, you know, 2:1) screens. This means screen up front, earpiece (which also doubles as your speaker) flanked by camera and sensors, and below the screen is the Honor Logo. the buttons are all along the right-hand side, with the left-hand side holding the SIM and microSD tray. The top gets a headphone jack and bottom gets the main microphone and the microUSB charging port.

Honor 7s extended First look

Honor needs to get props for this display. The 5.45” size is nice for those of us who like smaller displays, and the 2:1 aspect ratio means this is narrow, meaning it is more like a tall 5” display, than a narrow 5.5” one. The screen gets decently bright and has okay viewing angles, and to my surprise, the screen is actually pretty well laminated to the cover glass, there is almost no perceivable air gap between the display and the digitiser, nice.

Honor 7s extended First look

The back is all plastic, but I did think it was metal at first because it was so solid, but the fact it didn’t get as cold as metal does leads me to believe this is plastic. In the top left we have the camera module with LED flash, a little below that we have the Honor logo in the centre, and at the bottom we have the regulatory information, which, on this black model, is nearly imperceptible.

Honor 7s extended First look

Whilst unimpressive if you’re comparing it to the glass and metal slabs like the (much) higher priced Huawei P20 Pro (you could buy nearly 9 of these for the price of one P20 Pro) but for $110 (around £80) you’re usually looking at cheap slabs, thin plastic, creaky designs, crap screens etc. the Honor 7s is not that, and Huawei should get props for that.

Honor 7s extended First look

Software – Honor 7S

This is usually the part where I rag on Huawei/Honor phones for their use of EMUI meaning they’re behind the times, but honestly, the Honor 7s runs Android 8.1 out of the Box with EMUI 8.0, but it is not normal EMUI. Because of the lower power processor, it’s a more tame version of EMUI which is awesome!

Honor 7s extended hands on

Would I rather the Honor 7s be an Android Go or Android One device? Duh, of course I would. I definitely think Android Go would help the rather anaemic processor here, but the fact Huawei/Honor had the foresight to give this a toned down version of EMUI instead of the full-blown version we see on the Honor 7x for instance, I’m very impressed.

Honor 7s extended hands on
This modified power menu screen makes me inordinately happy, I just really don’t like the full screen EMUI one

This is still mostly a Huawei/EMUI experience here, you get the standard Launcher, dialler and contact apps, but things like the Huawei messages app is gone in favour of the Google one. The Camera app has been dramatically simplified and has removed a ton of extraneous settings. This is still a Huawei user experience here, there is no doubt about that, but they’ve put it on a diet, and set it up for success with the current most up to date version of Android there is, and the security update is even pretty recent at the 5th of March (look, I know it’s not that recent, but I’m giving props for even being in 2018 at this point for some OEMs)

Performance – Honor 7S

This is where things start to take a sour turn for the Honor 7s. The MediaTek MT6739 is not a fast chipset, in fact, it’d say it is on the lower end of acceptable to be perfectly honest with you. But Huawei has eked out as much performance as they could, and for the most part, things are fine.  But sadly no more than that.

At this point in time, 4 Cortex A53s just isn’t really cutting it, especially when you’re clocking them rather conservatively at 1.5Ghz. At this point, the Cortex A55 has been out for almost a year, and is a much better, much newer, much more power efficient chip. The A53 is from the first generation of 64bit capable chips from ARM. You know what else was in that first generation of 64bit cores? The A57, something that was very quickly retired. The A53 isn’t quite that bad, but it is very much due for an update.

The experience of using the Honor 7s is one of patience. Once everything is loaded in an app, performance is generally fine, but jumping in and out of them is most certainly not, and with only 2gb of RAM, things will get ejected from memory often, meaning you’ll have to wait for them to load again. The most egregious example of this was watching a video on YouTube. I will use the “Bumblebee” trailer, because A) it’s new as of writing this, and B) I like Transformers. When watching the Bumblebee trailer at 720p (remember, YouTube on Android will only let you view the video at the resolution of your display or lower, so if you’re watching a video which has been uploaded in 4K, on the Honor 7s you can only watch it at 720, because that is all the display can natively reproduce) The phone stuttered and dropped frames, I had to pause the video, drag the scrubber  back to the beginning and wait about 15 seconds for it to all buffer. This is either on a 4G network, or my home broadband with is 80/20. The networks aren’t the bottleneck here, the device is.

I’ll give you another example, opening up Instagram, you actually have to wait for images to load before you can start scrolling, and yes, I actually mean load, not just render, I havent had to wait for Instagram images to full-on load from a white screen in a long time, but once I’ve waited patiently for a few seconds, the scrolling is nice and smooth, and that nice display comes in handy again for scrolling and double tapping pictures.

I’ll post some screenshots of benchmarks below, but they aren’t pretty. You aren’t buying the Honor 7s for its performance, and don’t let anyone tell you this is a fast device, it’s not. It is competent speedwise, but you need to have the patience for it to be competent.

 

Battery – Honor 7S

With the 3020mAh battery in the Honor 7s, I was actually pretty excited to see how well this thing performed, but I have to admit, with a lower power chipset, a low-resolution screen, and a large battery, I was expecting multi-day battery life, but I was consistently getting worse battery life than my KEYone, a device with a higher resolution screen, a brighter screen and a more power hungry processor, sure it has a 530mAh larger battery, but the KEYone can get 2 days of use out of me, heavy the first day and medium to light the second day, If I even remotely heavily used the Honor 7s, it was dead by 10pm the first day.

One of the reasons I am not comfortable calling this a review is because I don’t think 5 days is enough time to judge things, one of the most important, is battery life. The reason I usually specify 2 weeks for a review to a company is so that I can “play” with the device for the first week, I can use the camera excessively, I can run benchmarks etc, and the second week is my normal usage, without the “ooh, new phone” extra-ness.

Once again, it’ll pop a battery benchmark in here for you that really care.

Honor 7s extended hands on

Camera – Honor 7S

The camera is most certainly another area where corners where cut. The 13mp rear camera and 5mp front camera aren’t terrible, they still have decent shutter’s without crazy lag, it has a decent amount of modes you can use, and it works remarkably well in HDR mode if you can spare the time.

But everything I spoke about in the performance section runs true here, it’s not fast to open, it’s not fast to switch modes or settings, and it’s not fast if you want to burst mode it. But if you want to compose a shot, if you’ve got time, you can get a decent shot out of the Honor 7s, it just takes more work than with a more expensive device.

If you’ve got the time, you can probably take shots that look comparable to the Honor 9 lite or the Huawei P smart, but those devices require less patience and effort for the shot.

One of the interesting points that Huawei/Honor called out is the fact that the front-facing camera houses a hidden LED selfie flash. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of flashes, but in this instance, it can really help, as it gives you an option to adjust the intensity, so you aren’t stuck with the full-on red-eye zombie look you get with a flash usually, and I recorded a short video using the flash as a fill light, and surprisingly, I was visible, despite the video taken near midnight.

Now we all know that Android devices have a bit of a hard time when it comes to photography apps, like Instagram and Snapchat, they don’t always take full advantage of the Camera hardware, when you’ve got an amazing camera, this is annoying, but not experience ruining, but when you’ve got a camera that is on the lower end of the spectrum, you need all the software support you can get to get the most out of it. So when Snapchat doesn’t natively interact with the camera to get the full 13mp instead it just uses a 1440×720 video from what is essentially the software viewfinder, you’ve gone from practically 13 million pixels of available data to under 1 million pixels worth of data, and that’s significant.

Once again, here are camera samples, both photo and video, front and rear cameras

 

 

VID_20180605_222541

Conclusion – Honor 7S

Although I’m calling this a conclusion, this is not the end of the device, it is just the conclusion to my extended hands on. I think the Honor 7s can be a great phone for a certain person, and I’m pretty sure those people are going to be okay spending $110/110 euros, or roughly £90 on this phone, the screen is great, the speaker is surprisingly loud, the battery is decent whilst not being outstanding, and more importantly, it’s currently up to date with the version of Android it is running. Even if it gets no updates, it is still up to date as of it’s launch. We are seeing high end phones launching with Android 8.0, and most budget phones end up still being on Android 7.Something, so props to Honor here.

Honor 7s extended hands on

With a few updates to the software, some tweaking and optimising, I think the Honor 7s can be a stellar little handset, even if personally, I’d try to budget a little more for something with a bit more oomph.

About Domenico Lamberti

Technology has been a big part of my life for years, whether it be ripping the family computer apart to see how it worked, playing with the new phones that Dad brought home from work. Senior Reviewer for MTT.

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