Honor 7 review: a mid-range marvel made of metal

Expert Rating
  • Gorgeous metallic body
  • Multipurpose fingerprint reader and Smart Key
  • Loaded innards
  • Camera doesn’t match the competition
  • Average battery performance

Honor, a sub-brand of Huawei, ventured into the hyper-competitive smartphone category of India almost an year ago with its flagship, the Honor 6 (review). Since then, the brand has tasted success with many of its offerings in the affordable and mid-range tiers, along with the successor of the Honor 6 dubbed the 6 Plus (first impressions | FAQs). Now, the company is aiming to make a space for itself in the sub-Rs 25,000 segment with the Honor 7.

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However, the segment already has hot devices such as the OnePlus 2 (review | FAQs) and ASUS ZenFone 2 (review | FAQs). Does the Honor 7 (unboxing | first impressions) pack enough to stand against them? Read on to find out.

Specs at a glance

  • Measures 143.2 x 71.9 x 8.5mm
  • Weighs 157g
  • 5.2-inches display with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
  • Huawei HiSilicon Kirin 935 processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 16GB storage, expandable up to 128GB
  • 20MP primary camera with dual-colour LED flash
  • 8MP secondary camera with LED flash
  • 3,100mAh battery
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop with EMUI 3.1

Design: the phone of metal

Dimensions: 143.2 x 71.9 x 8.5 mm
Weight: 157 grams

With its design and build quality, the Honor 7 truly defies its pricing and looks as good as super-premium flagships. Built entirely from metal, the unibody smartphone looks and feel exquisite. Though the choice of material makes it quite heavy (at 157g) for its size, it does offer a solid feel in hand. Moreover, the Honor 7’s compactness adds to its handling, since instead of following the phablet trend, the phone features a more manageable 5.2-inch display.

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While manufacturers are running towards thinner and even zero bezels, the Honor 7 keeps it simple – the display panel sits in the middle of the fascia, but there’s considerable space above and below, as well as on the sides. Sitting at the space above the panel is an earpiece, which is symmetrically sandwiched between a secondary camera and an LED flash. The earpiece mesh also hides a notification LED. The space below seems useless, since the brand has implemented keys for navigation as software overlays.

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Towards the right, you’ll find the elongated volume rocker and a power button. The power switch has a textured pattern making it instantly recognisable by feel, although it’s quite small and we’d have liked if it was bigger. On the left, there’s an ejectable tray that holds a nano-SIM card along with a microSD card and another button, whose purpose we’ll get down to in the next section.

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Up top lies an earphone socket along with an IR emitter, which is a welcome addition in a mid ranger, and a microphone. The base of the Honor 7 seems akin to the iPhone’s with a charging / data transfer port flanked by vents on either side.

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At the back, you’ll see a couple of slim horizontal panels that look separate from the main panel and sport a subtle chequered pattern. You’ll also find the primary camera module along with a dual-colour LED flash and a fingerprint scanner. There’s also Honor branding towards the middle.

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While we loved the design ethos of the Honor 7 overall, what we didn’t like is the prominent bulge of the camera at the back. It looks weird and also makes the phone wobbly when kept on a flat surface. It’s a good thing that the camera lens has a coating of Sapphire glass, otherwise it’d have been prone to scratches.

While the smartphone might not win the  title of the slimmest devices around, its thickness of 8.5mm seems decent. The gentle curves at the rear also helps in the ergonomical handling of the Honor 7, although the metal rear is prone to slippage after prolonged use.

Display: 1080 reasons to love it

Size: 5.2 Inch
Resolution: Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
Display Type: IPS LCD
Pixel Density: 424 ppi

The Honor 7 sports a 5.2-inch IPS display which features full HD resolution. The colours look nice and the text also appears sharp on the screen. Viewing angles are decent as well, though the brightness levels aren’t as good, as even with max brightness, we struggled in reading the display under direct sunlight. In case the colour temperature offered by the display doesn’t suit your needs, then the device also gives you the ability to tweak it.

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Thanks to a glove mode, you can use the display even while wearing gloves, which is really thoughtful considering the upcoming winters. For protection against scratches, the display panel on the Honor 7 gets a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

A few other tricks up its sleeve

As aforesaid, the Honor 7 sports a button on its left spine, and you must be wondering about its purpose. Well, Honor has christened it the Smart Key, and has made it entirely configurable for various actions depending upon how you press it. You can open different apps or run some frequently-needed tasks such as starting the voice recorder or switching on the flashlight with this button.

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The button can be configured for three actions – single press, double-press and long-press. The best part is that these actions can work irrespective of the app you’re using or even when the phone is locked (although you need to unlock the phone to open the app, in case you’re using password protection).

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Another intelligent implementation in the design aspect of the Honor 7 is the fingerprint reader. Not only does the scanner work flawlessly and unlocks the smartphone in a jiffy, it can be used for some other actions too. With a simple touch, you can return to the previous menu, while touching and holding lets you jump to the homescreen or capture a photo / video in case you’re using the camera app. However, it’s better that you use it only for a few functions, otherwise you might end up performing actions inadvertently as your fingers automatically rest around the placement of the scanner.

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That’s not it, the scanner also supports sliding gestures with a downward swipe displaying the notification bar, while swiping upwards opens recent apps. You can use any fingers for these actions, even if they aren’t registered in the database.

Software: plays well with user’s emotions

Operating System: Android
OS Version: 5.0, Lollipop

While there are uncountable number of customisations running on top of Google’s Android platform, there are a very select few which has impressed us. Huawei’s Emotion UI is certainly ranks among them, and it has only became better in its v3.1, which is based on Android v5.0 Lollipop.

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If you’re used to the interfaces on smartphones from Chinese brands, then you’ll feel right at home (quite literally) – all your apps and widgets are spread across various homescreens, as there’s no app drawer. You’ll also find the ability to change the look-and-feel of the interface with the Themes app. There’s also an interesting feature of getting a new wallpaper every time you unlock the device. If the UI seems too complicated, then you can also use the Simple mode.

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However, the Honor 7 is packed to the brim when it comes to the preloaded content. While some of the apps offered by the company are useful, there are a lot of third-party apps which come across as a bloatware. Thankfully, most of them can be uninstalled. Phone manager aims to be your one-stop tool to help you with accelerating the device, clean storage, and manage data usage, among many others. The device also comes with Clean Master, Facebook, Instagram, etc. There’s InMobi Services and AppsGallery too, which suggests apps and games that you should download, though we found it to be redundant as you can download them through the Google Play Store.

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To utilise the IR blaster, the Honor 7 offers Smart Controller app, which lets you control electronic appliances. Sadly, it uses a trial-and-error method to connect to the appliance you want to control, and hence requires a bit of a patience for setting up.

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The Moto X (review) certainly pioneered the idea of using voice commands to control the smartphone, the Honor 7 also offers some of those features. The phone comes to life with the voice trigger – “Dear Honor”. Once activated, you can call any contact or find your phone with your voice. Sadly, those are the only things you can do, and the voice-recognition isn’t as accurate as Motorola’s Moto X series.

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Hit the settings menu, and you’ll find several small-yet-useful options. You can change the layout of the navigation bar at the bottom as per your convenience. You can also enable a one-handed mode by simply swiping on the navigation bar towards the left or right, depending upon which direction you want to use it with a single hand.

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The Honor 7 features a user-friendly interface, which is also loaded with tons of useful tweaks. However, we’d have preferred lesser amount of bloatware on the handset.

Camera: an all-rounder of a shooter

Primary camera: 20 MP
Flash: Dual-color LED Flash
Secondary camera: 8 MP

In terms of hardware, the Honor 7 packs top-of-line camera sensors, both at the back as well as the front. Not just the primary snapper, but the selfie shooter is also complemented by an LED flash, though at the back, the phone gets a dual-colour module.

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The loaded camera app offered on the handset brings forth a multitude of options, and the best part is that the app still remains minimalistic. It lets you quickly switch between photo or video along with special modes such as good food and Light painting. In the landscape mode, towards the right, you’ll also find the options to use live filters or preview clicked images / videos. At the left, you can switch the flash on or off, switch to the front camera or hit options. The menu presents a range of modes such as super night, best photo, all focus, etc. along with settings. Super night, as the name suggests, captures more light during night by keeping the shutter open for a longer period, although your hands need to super-stable for the same, and hence using a tripod is advisable. All focus mode lets you play with the image by changing focus on the captured subjects.

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The 20MP primary shooter captures a good level of detail, and works well across most situations. We liked the landscape imagery, close-ups, and even images in low light looked decent. The dual-tone LED flash is also nice in uniformly illuminating the scene. The HDR mode is also effective, and colour reproduction is quite impressive. Along with the regular options, what made us fell in love with the Honor 7 are features like light painting and super night. These modes usually are available in DSLRs, but the Chinese company has managed to offer them in a smartphone.

Take a peek at the images clicked with the Honor 7. If you want a detailed look at the camera performance of the device, then you can check out our camera review.

Honor 7 camera review - long shot Honor 7 camera test - close up Honor 7 camera quality - outdoor shot

If you’re a selfie enthusiast, then the phones has got you covered with its 8MP selfie camera, which can also be used in dim environments thanks to the presence of soft-LED flash. The selfies look lovely, and there’s Beauty mode as well to enhance them.

In terms of video capabilities, the Honor 7 can capture full HD videos at 30fps with its rear snapper. It also has slow-mo mode which records 720p videos at 120fps. The front camera too, can record videos at 1080p resolution.

All said and done, the Honor 7’s camera is good, but still not awesome, especially when pitted against the OnePlus 2 (camera samples).

Performance: the ace of pace

CPU: Quad core, 2.2 GHz + Quad core, 1.5 GHz, HiSilicon Kirin
GPU: Mali-T628 MP4
Memory: 16 GB + Up to 128 GB
SIM Slots: Single SIM , GSM

Like most flagships from Honor, the 7 relies on Huawei’s own Kirin processor for delivering a smooth performance. The octa-core chipset powering the handset is made of two quad-core clusters clocked at 2.2GHz and 1.5GHz respectively. The CPU also offers a Mali-T628 GPU, which helps in smooth rendering of graphics while playing games. The 3 gigs of RAM ensures that the phone doesn’t slow down even when you are running multiple apps. The hardware is capable of handling all your needs, be it while basic navigation, browsing heavy websites or even playing graphics-heavy games. We simply loved playing titles like Dead Effect 2 for long durations.

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Talking about the thermal efficiency of the Honor 7, then we’d say that the manufacturer has done a fine job for keeping it in check. The device only warms up slightly, and that’s noticeable only because metal has an intrinsic property of conducting heat.

For storage purposes, the phone offers in-built memory of 16GB, which after accounting for OS and its resources, leaves around 9.7GB for use. Even though it’s a unibody smartphone, it allows for storage expansion via microSD card, with the capacities supported up to 64GB. There’s support for USB OTG too on the Honor 7, letting users plug in their flash drives.

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In the connectivity department, the Honor 7 feature 4G support, along with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and Infrared. The device also offers promises to offer superior calling experience and internet usage with features such as Signal+, WiFi+ and Roaming+.

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While the design of the Honor 7 gives the impression that it sports stereo speakers, it actually has a mono speaker. For that reason, the sound output isn’t very loud even at full volume, though it remains crisp.

Battery: delivers average results

The 3,100mAh battery fuelling the Honor 7 doesn’t seem to be able to keep up with the usage. Charged 100 percent at 8 in the morning, it barely manages to last till night with moderate use of calls, internet browsing and gaming. In case you use it extensively, then it might give up in the middle of the day, since even with 15 minutes of gaming, the battery juice drops by 6 to 7 percent. To get a relative idea of how the device fares against the competition, we put it through our battery drain test, wherein we play an HD video on loop with both the brightness and volume set at 50 percent. The Honor 7 was able to play the video continuously for 8hours and 30 minutes, which is just about average.

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Like most phones, you can extend the juice by making use of various modes. With the smart mode, the CPU performance and network usage is optimised on the basis of your usage, while the Ultra mode goes to the extreme by shutting down all the functionality, and letting you use only basic options like calling and messaging.

The handset also supports quick charging facility, but sadly its retail box includes a normal adapter with the rating of 5V / 2A.


There’s a little doubt that the Honor 7 defies its asking price of Rs 22,999 with its well-crafted body. And, not just externally, it packs a powerful hardware inside as well. Add to it the fact that the Chinese brand has equipped the device with innovations such as the Smart Key and the multipurpose fingerprint scanner.

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However, the Honor 7 faces tough competition from the likes of the ASUS ZenFone 2 and OnePlus 2, which score high on the performance front, thanks to 4 gigs of RAM. The camera specs too, make the smartphone seem like a winner, but in terms of the quality delivered, we weren’t completely blown away. Features like super night and light painting are definitely interesting though. Another worthy competitor to the Honor 7 could be the upcoming YU Yutopia, which according to the teasers, would be a power-packed offering in the mid-budget segment.

However, what makes Honor’s offering clearly stand out is its compact size, and a premium design language along with packing loaded internals.

Editor’s rating: 4 / 5


  • Gorgeous metallic body
  • Multipurpose fingerprint reader and Smart Key
  • Loaded innards


  • Camera doesn’t match the competition
  • Average battery performance

Photos by Raj Rout