When we first reviewed the Honor 7X back in December, we called it "the new budget champion." Never before had a sub-$200 phone offered such a modern design and premium build quality, all while also delivering on the basics like battery life and camera performance.
The one thing that set the phone back was its software; not just because of the love-it-or-hate-it EMUI interface, but because even at launch, it was already outdated. The Honor 7X originally shipped with EMUI 5.1 on top of Android 7.0 Nougat, but Honor has since begun rolling out a beta version of an Oreo update with EMUI 8, and it's changed quite a lot about the phone. So it's time to revisit the Honor 7X and answer the burning question — is it still worth buying?
Honor 7X Hardware
Nothing has really changed on the hardware front; the Honor 7X is still one of the most finely crafted devices you'll find within its price range, with an anodized aluminum unibody design. It still picks up finger oils and smudges like crazy, but it's held up well, all things considered, with my unit only showing a few small scratches here and there.
The 5.93-inch 18:9 display is as slick and modern as ever, and the Full HD+ (2160x1080) LCD panel still looks bright and sharp as well. It's an excellent display for a phone of this price range, and the minimal bezels surrounding it make it feel immersive to use.
I'm also still loving the fingerprint sensor on the back, which is fast and accurate, and brings the added benefit of enabling navigational gestures for pulling down the notification tray and swiping through photos in your gallery. Sitting just above the fingerprint sensor are the two rear cameras — I still don't necessarily love the way they protrude separately from each other, but dual cameras are great to see in a $200 phone.
There are still some missing hardware features like NFC and water resistance, but given how few other $200 phones offer these features, I'm willing to give Honor a pass — especially since the 7X still retains the beloved 3.5mm headphone jack. What's more frustrating is the inclusion of a dated Micro-USB port, as opposed to the USB-C standard we've come to expect these days.
On the inside, the Honor 7X is packing some fairly decent specs, including a Kirin 659 chipset and, in most cases, 4GB of RAM. You'll also get between 32 and 64GB of internal storage, which you can expand with a microSD card in the second slot of the phone's hybrid SIM tray.
Honor 7X Software
The biggest difference from the last time we reviewed the Honor 7X is the software. It was pretty disappointing to see this phone ship with Android 7.0 Nougat and EMUI 5.1, and unfortunately, if you buy the phone right now it'll still come with that older software.
But Honor recently launched a beta version of its upcoming Oreo update, and it finally makes the software feel as modern as the hardware. I've been using it on my Honor 7X for about a week now, and EMUI 8 brings some significant and much-needed improvements that make the 7X feel more like the Honor View 10 and Huawei Mate 10 Pro.
The Settings menu is far more organized than before, with sub-categories like wireless networks and system settings containing similar options. You'll notice a few new options in the Settings as well, like the addition of a floating dock for navigation. When enabled, you can place the dock anywhere on the screen, then tap it to go back, long press to go home, or press and drag in any direction to switch between recent apps. If you like it enough, you can hide the navigation bar now as well, freeing up space at the bottom of the screen.
The Honor 7X also receives some overdue features from Oreo itself, including long-press menus on home screen icons, as well as picture-in-picture (PIP) viewing for apps like Google Maps and YouTube. I particularly enjoy the latter feature, which allows me to multitask without having to dedicate an entire half of my screen to another app, though PIP did slow my Honor 7X down a bit — it might be a little too much for the phone's relatively low-end processor.
Arguably, the most important changes to the Honor 7X are happening behind the scenes. With the Oreo beta, it already has the March security patch — something even most flagships can't claim. It also brings Project Treble compatibility, which is hugely significant because it addresses one of Honor's biggest pain points: slow updates.
Project Treble is potentially the biggest win for the Honor 7X in the long run.
This is an especially promising sign considering OEMs aren't required to add Treble support if the phone didn't originally ship with Oreo. While it's still not a guarantee that Honor will keep up with regular software updates, it's at the very least a show of good faith. Project Treble support is also good news for the modding community, since it makes flashing AOSP ROMs (translation: installing stock Android) easier.
The Oreo update has made the Honor 7X an even better budget offering, but EMUI still won't be everyone's cup of tea. It still comes with a fair amount of bloatware, and its power management is still aggressive, to say the least. If you didn't like EMUI before, this update likely won't change your mind. Still, performance is smoother than ever, despite the Oreo update still being a beta, and it makes using the 7X much more enjoyable.
Honor 7X Cameras
And hey — the Honor 7X still takes pictures, too! Things are pretty much the same as before in the camera department, with a dual camera system consisting of a 16MP f/2.2 primary camera with PDAF (phase detection autofocus) and a 2MP secondary sensor used to measure depth for artificial bokeh effects.
As far as the software goes, not much has changed, but the Honor 7X now has AR lens effects, similar to what you'd find on Snapchat or Instagram. You can choose from a number of cartoon animal filters to apply to your face, or place yourself in front of a background like space or the beach. It's a fun effect, but you probably won't be taking many photos like this.
Just like before, the Honor 7X takes fairly impressive photos with good colors and dynamic range. Honor's post-processing helps a lot with overall image quality, but the lack of OIS still means that a shaky hand can easily ruin a shot. It's also still pretty weak in low light situations, though it's certainly not the weakest performer in its price range.
The camera app features a long list of shooting modes (14, to be exact), but don't expect to find Honor's scene detection software from the View 10 here — that's only made possible with the NPU on Huawei's more powerful Kirin 970 chipset.
Honor 7X Battery Life
The Honor 7X already had pretty good battery life the first time we reviewed it, with plenty of longevity from its 3340mAh battery to last you through the day. With a regular load of social media, music and video streaming, work apps like Slack and Trello, and the occasional gaming, I've had no trouble making it through a workday with some juice leftover, and battery life has even marginally improved since the update to Oreo.
Battery life isn't much different, but Oreo makes a slight improvement.
Unfortunately, there's no support for fast charging on the Honor 7X, which means that big battery will take a little while to refuel. Honor's 5V/2A charging is decently quick, but it's not quite up to par with what we're used to these days — and I'm still a little annoyed that the phone uses Micro-USB. Your household may be different, but this phone and my Logitech mouse are the only two things left that I have to charge with Micro-USB; it's time to move to USB-C.
The bottom line
Should you still buy the Honor 7X? Yes
It's hard to believe just how much phone you can get these days for only $200. Between an aluminum body, an 18:9 FHD+ display, dual cameras, and the latest version of Android, the Honor 7X is still an incredible value three months after entering the market, and with support for Project Treble, it should hopefully keep getting better.
You'll still have to make some compromises. The Honor 7X isn't water resistant, nor can it make NFC payments, and it takes a bit longer to charge than most phones these days. But with the upcoming rollout of Android Oreo and EMUI 8, Honor is showing that it's finally taking software updates seriously. Even in its beta phase, the Oreo update has breathed new life into the Honor 7X, and it's likely going to hold its title of budget champion for the foreseeable future.
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