The Honor 7S has a really good camera for its price segment.
It offers decent battery life but performance is rather slow.
The software is a big let-down since it ends up limiting performance.
The universal truth about smartphones right now is that you really cannot go wrong with whichever smartphone you buy. Whether you buy a smartphone that costs Rs 5,000 or one that costs Rs 1,00,000, you’re usually getting what you pay for. The only difference, you will notice, is that when you go up the ladder of price, you will get a more premium build, bigger displays and superior cameras. At the end of the day, the experience of owning a smartphone does not differ much.
This notion plays really well in a country like India, where most of the smartphones sold belong to the sub-Rs 15,000 price segment. According to Counterpoint Research, the best-selling smartphone in India during the last two quarters was the Redmi 5A, an entry-level smartphone that was launched at Rs 5,999 late last year. This is the price segment which has been seeing strong demand and new product launches as well.
Every other smartphone maker is trying to challenge in Redmi 5A in this price segment. There is Infinix and Infocus, who have devices with similar specifications but Honor is one of the established names trying to take on Xiaomi here. The Honor 7S is a new entry-level smartphone from Huawei’s e-brand that it believes will help steer consumers away from Xiaomi. We had a chance to use the device and here is our review.
Design and Display
Honor 7S is a prime example of how the modern design language of a taller display and thinner bezels has trickled down to lower end of the price segment. The Honor 7S features a metal casing with rounded edges at all the four corners. The smartphone is comfortable to hold in one hand and the metal back of the device has a finish that feels premium for this price segment.
At the front, there is a 5.45-inch display with an HD+ resolution of 1440 x 720 pixels and the taller aspect ratio of 18:9 that shows more content than what would be visible on a 16:9 panel. It becomes really useful while watching videos and while reading books on the Kindle app. The display is not the brightest that I have seen but offers decent visibility under direct sunlight. I think Honor should fix the way its auto-brightness works and I found disabling it worked better for me.
The bezels surrounding the display are not the thinnest that we have seen on a smartphone but it is still small enough to pack a big display without extending the dimensions of the device. There is a noticeable forehead and a chin that houses the Honor branding but they do not really come in the way of your experience. The front is also home to a 5-megapixel selfie camera, earpiece and other sensors.
At the back, Honor has opted for a horizontal alignment for the camera module. At the top-left corner, there is the primary 13-megapixel camera and stacked next to it is the LED flash. The camera module and LED flash are integrated together with an oval enclosure that adds a subtle appearance to an otherwise simple design. There is no fingerprint sensor and the Honor branding sits in the center of the device. The 3.5mm headphone jack and micro-USB port for charging and data transfers are at the top and bottom of the device respectively. The design of Honor 7S can be described as something that feels better than the Redmi 5A but falls in the same category as that of the Redmi 6A.
Performance and Battery Life
The Honor 7S almost nails the design for its price point but its performance left me wanting for more. At the heart of Honor 7S, there is a MediaTek MT6739 CPU, which is a quad-core chipset with four Cortex A53 cores clocked at 1.5GHz. The processor is paired with the PowerVR GE8100 GPU for handling all graphics duties.
The processor is good for basic tasks like browsing the web and playing back 720p videos natively on the smartphone. However, it is not really designed for pushing higher frame rates or playing graphics-intensive games. On a day when I only used applications like WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram, the performance seemed to be good enough that most users will not complain. However, there was a noticeable lag while scrolling through the feed on Facebook or Instagram. At times, my feed seemed to scroll either too fast or too slow, often leading to a jagged user interface.
This could be an issue arising from Huawei’s very heavily skinned EMUI skin rather than the processor. Honor could have actually opted for the MediaTek Helio A22 or clocked the Cortex A53 cores at a higher frequency. In more practical terms, Honor could upgraded the device to offer 3GB of RAM instead of 2GB and 32GB of storage instead of 16GB. After using the phone for over a week, I really felt that there is some gap in communication between the hardware and the software.
In terms of battery life, the Honor 7S offered me a screen-on time between 2.5 hours and 4 hours. On days with very heavy use across applications, streaming videos via YouTube, I got a screen-on time of 2.5 hours and during moderate use, I managed to get a screen on time of 3.5 hours and 4 hours. The Honor 7S seems to be a device that will last a full day for most users, which is technically great for a smartphone in this price segment.
My favorite feature about the Honor 7S has to be its camera. The primary camera on the Honor 7S uses a 13-megapixel sensor with f/2.2 aperture and phase-detection autofocus. It also includes LED flash and supports modes like HDR and panorama. In terms of picture quality, I observed that the Honor 7S camera very nicely handles exposure even in scenarios where there is a lot of incoming natural light.
There is plenty of detail captured by the sensor despite having a narrow stop of f/2.2 but you will have to learn to live with punchy colors with little to distinguish between red and orange. Honor, like Samsung, does aggressive post-processing and honestly, it produces pictures that are suitable for Instagram but cannot really be described as true-to-life photographs.
The front-facing selfie camera also does a decent job but the 5-megapixel resolution of these pictures look faint in front of other devices with higher resolution 8-megapixel or 13-megapixel cameras. The front camera does not champion the selfie game but it definitely is fast enough for face unlock.
When it comes to buying a smartphone, the camera tends to act as the deciding factor. Xiaomi, despite being the leader, has struggled to offer a good imaging experience even on some of its more expensive devices. Honor, on the other hand, seems to be tapping into Huawei‘s expertise, to offer a much better camera setup. If you want a better camera then Honor certainly offers one on its smartphones.
For this review, I switched from Huawei P20 Pro to the Honor 7S and I knew what to expect from the software. There are no second thoughts that Huawei’s EMUI is among the most heavily-skinned interfaces on the Android ecosystem today. Even Samsung has decided to tone down its software to make it more appealing to consumers. But Huawei’s EMUI is at a stage where you will either love it or hate it.
In the case of the Honor 7S, the smartphone has little in terms of hardware: a quad-core CPU, 2GB of RAM and 16GB storage. With EMUI, the smartphone seems to be a taking a toll on the hardware, which leads to instances where your scrolling gets slow or too fast and the Facebook feed shows white space. Honor can still fix this by issuing a software update and allocating resources in a smarter way.
Watch: Honor Play First Look Video
In this competitive space for smartphones under Rs 7,000, Xiaomi is not alone anymore. It recently launched the Redmi 6A, which brings the taller display and thin bezel design. But there are brands such as Infinix also offering a similar feature set with the Smart 2. With the Honor 7S, you get a brand that is associated with a leading technology company and has access to a plethora of innovation, research and development.
For starters, the Honor 7S offers a camera that is really rich for a smartphone in the sub-Rs 10,000 price segment. It also has a quality build and offers features such as face unlock. However, the software paired with low-end hardware kills the performance and might leave you asking for more capability, even with the price in mind. If Honor fixes these issues then the Honor 7S is definitely worthy of consideration over the Redmi 5A or Redmi 6A.