Editors' Note:We originally posted this hands-on on Dec. 4. Huawei has since announced pricing and availability for the phone, and we've updated this story with that information.
The $250 Honor 6X instantly became one of our favorite budget phones when it arrived earlier this year. But Huawei's Honor brand is already preparing a successor. Called the Honor 7X, the $199 phone is now available for pre-order, and we've had the chance to play around with it.
While the Honor 7X doesn’t look radically different from the handset it succeeds, Honor has lavished the most attention on the phone's little details. First off is that big 5.9-inch display on the 7X, which is noticeably larger than the 5.5-inch panel in the 6X. Because of the reduced bezels on the new phone, though, the 7X is just a hair longer than the previous model.
Honor has also one-upped the design of the 6X around the back too, by moving to an all-aluminum design rather than just cladding the center portion of the phone in metal. The dual cameras now sport a horizontal orientation at the top-left and are broken up by the antenna lines — a similar look to the Asus ZenFone 4 Max. It’s not very original, but still more tasteful than the 6X’s approach, which made the vertically-stacked shooters look like a tacked-on afterthought. In the center you’ll find a recessed fingerprint sensor, which feels a little smaller than most sensors, though it's very easy to locate thanks to its pronounced edge.
Thankfully there’s a headphone jack on the lower edge of the 7X. Curiously, though, Honor has opted for a microUSB port rather than USB Type-C. This isn’t a deal-breaker when you factor in the phone’s sub-$200 price, but this older port is still odd to see on an otherwise premium-feeling handset. The speaker to its right is the only one on the device, sadly, and the 7X isn't rated water resistant.
As for the screen itself, it’s a 2160 x 1080 LCD panel that certainly looks bright, though Honor hasn’t opted for an oversaturated color profile or provided an assortment of display modes, at least on our pre-production model. Powering the phone is a 3,340 mAh battery which Honor claims will keep the device humming along for a little less than a day-and-a-half. Don’t expect the 7X's battery to top up very quickly, as there is no fast-charging technology to speak of.
Turning to photography, the 7X pairs an f/1.8 16-megapixel main sensor with a 2-megapixel secondary camera that mostly concentrates on depth. Around the front, there’s an 8-MP shooter for selfies.
The rear cameras utilize phase detection for faster autofocus, and the camera app features an assortment of shooting profiles, including Portrait and Pro modes. I had trouble getting Portrait Mode to apply a bokeh effect to the photos I was taking, but otherwise, the 7X captured a crisp, colorful shot of the New York skyline on a beautiful fall afternoon.
Tying everything together is Huawei’s in-house midrange processor, the Kirin 659, mated to 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage you can expand by up to another 256GB through microSD. That’s a step up from the Kirin 655 chipset in the 6X, and while other territories will be able to choose a more expensive variant of the 7X with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, stateside customers will miss out on that configuration. Overseas regions will also get a gold colorway, in addition to the black and blue finishes on offer in the U.S. Unfortunately, all models omit NFC, which means the 7X cannot be used for tap-and-pay transactions with Android Pay.
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The hardware seemed adequate in my brief time with the device so far, navigating Huawei’s EMUI interface swiftly. The 7X launches with version 5.1 of EMUI paired with Android 7.0 Nougat, though Honor tells us the phone will receive both EMUI 8.0 and Android 8.0 Oreo at a later date. Interestingly, the upcoming Huawei Mate 10 Pro already uses the newer software, though it must be said it’s not a significant departure from what the 7X launches with, outside of the addition of a couple features here and there like one-button navigation.
On paper, the 7X seems as respectable as the device it replaces, but the market is flooded with respectably-appointed smartphones. So its success or failure will likely come down to price. And Huawei has made that feature particularly attractive.
At $199, Huawei costs $30 less than the Moto G5 Plus, one of our favorite budget phones. Considering that the 7X offers dual cameras and the G5 Plus does not — you'd have to pay up for the $279 Moto G5S Plus for that feature — Huawei's phone gets a feature edge on paper, though we're reserving final judgment until we have the chance to compare how the camera perform in a faceoff.
Huawei is already taking orders on the Honor 7X, promising that phones will ship around Dec. 15.
At first glance, the latest Honor phone may not seem particularly thrilling in a world dominated by phones with edge-to-edge screens. But the kind of value the Honor 7X promises may be more than enough for this phone to make a splash. You can look forward to our full review in the coming days.
Photo Credit: Adam Ismail/Tom's Guide