Honor already has one of the best value phones of 2017 - so why not make it two for two?
The £370 (S$665) Honor 9 might be a a real bargain if you’ve got the cash to splash, but there are plenty of people that don’t - which is where the 7X comes in. It replaces the already impressive 6X, which might have only arrived in January, but that’s a lifetime when it comes to phones.
The 7X shouldn’t show its age for a long time to come, thanks to an ultra-modern 18:9 aspect screen and a pair of cameras on the back. That’s pretty much two of 2017’s must-haves right there, and we’re only just getting started.
DESIGN & BUILD: BLUE ME AWAY
On sheer looks alone, you’d be forgiven for thinking the 7X was just a rehash of April’s Honor 8 Pro.
Both phones have all-metal bodies, sculpted corners and edges that sit comfortably in your hand, and that signature Honor blue hue. Even the antenna bands on the back look the same.
That’s no bad thing, however - the Honor 8 Pro looked pretty slick, and the 7X feels pretty premium too. The corners have apparently been reinforced this time around, so it should survive bigger bumps and drops without shattering into a million pieces.
The 7X keeps Honor’s super-quick rear fingerprint sensor, skipping the home screen in a scant few milliseconds, and the elongated size hasn’t shunted it out of reach either.
Speaking of screen, it makes up almost all of the front of the phone, with slim bezels at either side and only slightly chunkier ones at the top and bottom. It’s no Galaxy S8, but it certainly looks high-end.
Important extras like the headphone jack haven’t gone walkabout just yet, which is good to see, but the microUSB charging point is a bit of a bummer - surely USB-C wouldn’t have pushed the price up too dramatically?
No NFC means no contactless payments here in the UK, either. You'll find them in other mid-range phones, and with Android Pay picking up steam just about everywhere, it's a real shame you don't get that as part of the package.
SCREEN & SOUND: STRETCH IT OUT
It’s the 5.93in, 18:9 ratio screen that’s the real attention grabber, and with good reason - few phones in this price bracket can match it for size, while still staying physically small enough to slip in a pocket.
The extra pixels from that longer aspect ratio means you’re looking at a 2160x1080 resolution, which is spot on in this price range - or slightly above it if you're comparing with an old-school, 16:9 screen handset.
The panel is LCD, and seems to be a pretty decent one: text, images and video all look sharp enough, colours are vibrant without going too overboard, and brightness goes very high indeed. It's easy to see clearly on a bright day - albeit a cold December one in London.
The single speaker can pump out surprisingly loud audio, but it’s only really good for YouTube clips - anything more taxing and it shows its limits. The placement isn’t ideal, either - it’s all too easy to muffle it with your hands.
Honor’s Hasten 3D surround sound EQ setup returns, as long as you plug in a pair of headphones. We weren’t blown away by it on the Honor 8 Pro, and it's more of the same here - if you like tweaking your music with more bass then go for it, otherwise leave the setting alone.
CAMERA: TWO BECOME ONE
The 7X doesn’t mix up the formula too much when it comes to the rear cameras - but it does improve on it.
You still get one main sensor and a second, much lower resolution one that’s there purely to capture depth information, just like you did on the 6X. Only here, the main snapper gets boosted to 16MP, up from 12.
Honestly, though, unless you're feeding it brightly lit subjects, the results are only average. As soon as the light gets low, your pictures become grainy. There's no optical image stabilisation either, so without a very steady hand, you'll almost certainly end up with a few blurry shots.
Colours are surprisingly muted, too - even in broad daylight. The detail is there, but photos just don't have as much punch as other phones.
Honor reckons it has tweaked its algorithms so its depth-blurring wide aperture mode should be a bit more realistic now, and the 7X also gains a portrait mode - for both the back cameras and the 8MP selfie cam up front. The rear cameras do a pretty good job, but the front cam is easily tricked by hair - the results can still look a little dodgy.
The 7X is only using phase detect autofocus, so isn't as nippy as more expensive phones with multiple AF types - you have to wait quite a while for it to focus at night, so it's often quicker to tap and focus manually, but it gets the job done during the day.