When buying an expensive Android phone, the decision often boils down to: “What do I get?”. There are so many options out there, an extra camera feature or curve of the front glass may swing the decision if brand loyalty is not a factor. The Honor 7S is a budget entry-level smartphone with Android Oreo and dual SIM support. The hardware configuration leads one to believe that the smartphone is likely to be fairly slow. This latest budget phone from Honor looks great but has some very rough edges. To find out if this is true, read on.
We have already reviewed several smartphones made by Honor. Whether entry-level or mid-range smartphones, all devices have one thing in common: A comparatively low price. The Honor 7S gives prospective buyers the opportunity to purchase an Android Oreo device for 120 Euros (~$140). In exchange, users will get a smartphone with a Mediatek MT6739 SoC, a PowerVR GE8100 graphics unit, 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of eMMC flash storage.
Honor 7s: Nice design, rough performance
It’s worth leading with the price because it’s largely why anyone would seriously consider buying it at all. In Europe, it’s going for €119.90 (£106 or $140) so it’s really cheap. That, in turn, leads to a number of compromises.
Design and build quality aren’t one of those, though. You still get a metal-look back and sides that are solid as a rock and around the front you’re treated to an 18:9 “Fullview” display. The resolution is ‘only’ 720p but on a 5.45-inch display, it isn’t the end of the world, especially at this price. More important is that it’s a good-looking, vibrant display. The size and weight are excellent and perfect if you’re looking for a smaller phone but still getting one of the larger 18:9 displays.
Its processor is the Mediatek MT6739, a quad-core CPU with PowerVR graphics. This is a low-end CPU that scores a lowly 1722 in Geekbench 4. Again, it’s not powerful but should be powerful enough to cope.
The more expensive Honor 7A suffers from the same sort of basic performance anxiety, though. There’s a familial disorder in Honor’s cheap 2018 phones. It’s a reminder phones like the Moto G6 Play are excellent value even if they are £50 more expensive.
Display and software
However, real effort has been put into making the Honor 7S seem a “current” phone. It has an 18:9 aspect screen, longer than the 16:9 kind you likely own currently. This screen shape helps the display fill more of the phone’s front, even if its surrounds aren’t ultra-slim like the Huawei P20 Pro’s.
The screen itself measures 5.45 inches across, roughly the equivalent of a 5-inch 16:9 display. Its screen resolution is lower than a £200 phone’s at 1440 x 720 pixels, but still looks reasonably sharp. After all, its pixel density is only 10 per cent lower than an iPhone 8’s.
Colour performance is solid too. And while not the clearest on a bright day, the Honor 7S gets by. Solid-quality phone screens are no longer prohibitively expensive.
Even the software is sound. The Honor 7S has Android 8.1.0, and the Huawei EMUI interface on top. As such, it looks quite similar to the much more expensive phones from Honor and Huawei.
The Honor 7S can just use homescreens, or the apps page can be reinstated with a quick tweak in the Settings menu. EMUI has been criticised perhaps more than any other manufacturer UI over the years, but nowadays it looks good. We do have to wonder whether the software is also in part to blame for the Honor 7S’s poor performance, though. If it is, it has effectively ruined this phone.
Camera and battery life
The Honor 7S’s camera is passable. It has a 13-megapixel sensor with flash on the rear and a 5-megapixel one on the front.
In good light it can take reasonable photos. However, even in these conditions fine detail is handled roughly by the processing, and shots appear much brighter on the phone’s display than they are when transferred to a computer, or uploaded somewhere. They are not quite as vital as they look directly on the Honor 7S display.
The phone also has issues with low-light focusing. It mis-reads the focus more often than not, resulting in very soft-looking images. There also seems to be no EIS, electronic stabilisation. This is where a phone uses the internal sensors to avoid firing off the exposure during motion. As such, you’ll find your night photos are often blurry. And even when they are not mis-focussed or blurred, they are quite soft.
The Honor 7S uses energy very economically, but competing devices on our comparison list do even better. Note: The overall energy usage is lower for our test device, but this is only because the power draw under maximum load is lower. The power supply that comes with the smartphone has a power rating of 5 watts, which is too little to simultaneously power the system and charge the device under maximum load.
In our WLAN test, designed to simulate everyday use, the Honor 7S lasted almost exactly 14 hours. With this run time, our test device takes the first place in our comparison list. The power supply that comes with the smartphone fully charges the 3020 mAh battery in around two hours.
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The bottom line
Availability is the key here, and the Honor 7s is probably never going to cross the path of many budget phone hunters reading this. It’s priced well though in the markets it will be sold and has plenty to like.
It looks good, with a design and construction that outstrips its price tag, the display is nice and the camera is decent for something in this segment of the market. It’s even packing a pretty big battery so you’ll likely never have to worry about running out before the end of the day.
It’s ultimately the performance that lets this phone down. Perhaps it’s because Honor opted for a MediaTek CPU and not a Kirin or Qualcomm chip, perhaps it’s just engineering gremlins. Whatever the root cause, the phone is mostly not enjoyable to use because it’s so stuttery and full of lag. I do hope it’s the latter and Honor can push out a fix, because without this spoiling the experience we’d have a really nice budget phone on our hands here.