Hands-on with the Honor 7 at UK launch

honor 7 right edge angleYesterday saw Huawei’s Honor brand officially launch its latest handset, the Honor 7, in the UK. I was there to witness the spectacle and get up close and personal with the new smartphone.

The phone, which replaces the Honor 6, is loaded with a faster processor and bigger screen. Its premium-feel aluminium construction is also equipped with a fingerprint scanner, space for a pair of SIMs, and is dust and water resistant.

Everyone on the Honor team seems to be both proud and excited about their new phone and the fact that they’re also launching vMall – Honor and Huawei’s online store – makes them even more giddy.

president George ZhaoLooking at the brand satisfaction scores pointed out by Honor President, George Zhao, during his presentation, I can understand why.

Honor 7 design

The Honor 7 has a metal frame and an aluminium back cover (apparently to assist with cooling when giving the chip plenty of work to do) that has been blasted with ceramic particles to give it a smooth matt finish.

As well as power and volume buttons, it has programmable “Smart Key” that gives users access to the Honor 7’s voice commands or whatever you want it to do.

honor angle greyThe camera module, which protrudes slightly from the rear of the device, is covered with Sapphire glass, which is second only to diamond in its hardness and extremely durable. Immediately below it is the fingerprint reader, which appears as a square indentation and blends with the back cover. The front screen is similarly protected, but by Gorilla Glass.

honor grey frontHonor has made efforts to ensure the device has a premium feel, with all the ports and buttons nicely rounded off. At 157g, it also has a satisfyingly weighty feel.

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There are narrow plastic strips along the top and bottom edges which makes it easier for the radio waves to run back and forth, these plastic elements do match up pretty well with the metallic bits. The plastic sections aren’t that noticeable when you’re holding the phone as the main contact points are along the metal sides and back.

Honor 7 processor, storage and battery

Under the hood, the Honor 7 is running Huawei’s homegrown 64-bit Kirin 935 CPU, an octa-core chip packing four higher-clocked “A53e” cores at up to 2.2GHz and four lower-power A53 cores at 1.5GHz. All of that is paired with an ARM Mali-T624 GPU and an impressive 3GB of RAM.

honor 7 batteryThe Honor 7 has a decently-sized 3100 mAh battery, which should see you through a typical day. Unfortunately, like many others, it’s not removable. Saying that,the phone does have fast charging capabilities and so, with the right charger, you can power the battery back to 50% in around 30 minutes.

It also has 16GB internal storage, expandable up to 128GB with a micro-SD card.

Honor 7 display and user interface

Honor 7 frontThe Honor 7 has a 5.2-inch Full HD 1920×1080 display, which is clear with bright, vibrant colours. The bezel is about a millimeter all the way around, and Honor claims the device has a 72.4% screen-to-body-ratio so who am I to argue?

The phone runs Android 5.0 (Lollipop) overlaid with Huawei’s EMUI 3.1 skin. This takes a bit of getting used to – for example, there is no app drawer, so all the apps appear on your homescreen by default.

It is possible to hide them away in a “hidden apps” folder, which you can bring up by pinching the screen, but I am yet to be sold on this part of the design.

I will say that the Honor 7 does offer a fairly clean Android user experience, albeit with the quirkiness of EMUI 3.1.

Honor 7 cameras

honor 7 sensor and lensThe Honor 7 has an excellent pair of cameras – 20MP on the back with a dual-LED flash and an f/2.0 lens, and 8MP on the front for taking selfies  – even the front camera has an LED flash for duckfacing in dimly lit bathrooms.

The Honor 7’s rear camera can focus in just 0.1 seconds which is darned impressive, and EMUI 3.1 does possess a wide variety of filter effects, including de-mist, soft light, and “good food” mode for all your food porn needs.

Honor 7 reviewThe selfie camera also comes with a beauty setting, allowing you to adjust the level of enhancement and airbrushing on your selfies. Once you’ve chosen your settings, the phone will remember your preferences and even create custom filters – so you’ll always be beautiful when updating your socials.

I managed to ping off a couple of snaps and they seemed of a decent quality and with the on-board editing tools I see no reason to say that these aren’t on a par with those offered on most top-end devices.

Honor 7 – there’s even more

Fingerprint sensors are gaining favour amongst top-end phone cobblers but the Honor 7 takes a different path with its digit device. For a start, it is the only one that doesn’t use a metallic ring, favouring a square inset panel on the back of the device instead.

honor 7 fingerprint scannerYou can register as many fingerprints as you like, and the sensor gets better at recognising your fingerprint over time until it can unlock the device in under 0.5 seconds. During my playtime with one it took several attempts to unlock the phone using my fingerprint so it probably needed a bit more time than the few minutes I had. However, if you are having problems with the scanner you can always revert back to entering a four-didgit code instead.

The new fingerprint sensor does more than unlock your Honor 7 though. It can also control some pretty useful software shortcuts. For instance, you can swipe down to open the notification shade, or up to view recent apps.

The Honor 7 is also packing a configurable “smart” button on the left edge, which can be programmed to load up different apps or perform various tasks on a single, double or long press.

honor 7 smart contollerThe Honor 7 has dual nano-SIM slots, so you can either link two phone numbers to the same device, or use one of the slots for a micro-SD card for extra storage. Other notables include a top-mounted IR blaster that works with the built-in “Smart Controller” app that allows you to control just about anything with an IR receiver.

If you can’t find your phone, or if you just want to ask it a question, you can use Honor’s voice recognition-powered assistant. Apparently you don’t have to call it Honey Bear if you don’t want to 😉

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Honor 7 first look conclusion

From the short amount of time I had the Honor 7 it does seem to be a well made and attractive device and could even become a serious competitor to some of the high-end devices from Apple, Samsung, Sony, LG and HTC. But, for that to happen there would have to be a lot of brave people. When the phone launched in China they sold 200,000 phones in the first 2 minutes – so it is possible.

This really seems to be a flagship product at mid-range money!

honor 7 priceIf you’re looking for an attractive and functional device with an excellent set of cameras at a sub-£250 price point, you could do a lot worse than the Honor 7, it’s even better value if you use the £40 coupon you are rewarded with when you sign up to Huawei and Honor’s vMall. All you’ll need to do is create an account and you can then use the coupon to make purchases.

The Honor 7 is available to buy now in Fantasy Silver (or white as it’s better known) and Mystery Grey (which actually is grey) – head over to the UK vMall now and get the Honor 7 for £209.99 when you use the voucher code!