Huawei hasn't exactly been having the best year so far. Back in January, the company saw AT&T back out of a deal to sell its phones in the U.S., and more recently Best Buy pulled a similar move. But the company is nothing if not resilient, and has put out yet another phone directed at the U.S. market in the form of the Mate SE — a $250 aluminum phone with an 18:9 display and dual cameras.
If that sounds familiar, that's because Huawei's subsidiary brand Honor already released a nearly identical phone back in December, the Honor 7X. For $200, it's one of the best bang-for-your-buck values around, but Huawei's new Mate SE complicates things a bit. What's the difference? And which one should you buy?
The reigning budget champ
Even four months after its release, it's hard to beat the value of the Honor 7X. For $200, you get an aluminum unibody chassis with dual cameras and a rear fingerprint sensor. There's an 18:9 Full HD+ (2160x1080) display up front that brings a modern look and feel to the phone, and it's even dual SIM-compatible.
Inside is a respectable Kirin 659 chipset — it's a rough equivalent to Qualcomm's mid-range Snapdragon 630, and while not blazingly fast it's enough to power the Honor 7X through most tasks. Along with the processor, you get 3GB of RAM in the U.S. variant, and 32GB of onboard storage (expandable via microSD).
The budget champion is made even better with its recent Oreo update.
Even at launch, the Honor 7X felt a bit long in the tooth on the software side. It shipped with Android 7.0 Nougat and EMUI 5.1, which left out a number of improvements from newer software iterations that already existed on Honor's other products (namely, the Honor View 10). Thankfully, the 7X just received an update to Android 8.0 Oreo with the much newer EMUI 8.0 software overlay. With this update, the Honor 7X feels like an even better value than before, and the newly added support for Project Treble means that it should stay up to date for years to come.
The new kid on the block
Huawei Mate SE
The most perplexing thing about the Huawei Mate SE is how indistinguishable it is from the Honor 7X. Aside from differing logos and a full enclosure around the dual camera module (as opposed to the Honor 7X, whose cameras individually protrude from the chassis), the Mate SE is completely identical to the Honor phone that came before it. The antenna lines are in the same spots, and the fingerprint sensor and display remain unchanged as well. Unfortunately, that also means the Mate SE retains the ever-aging Micro-USB standard.
Where you'll finally start to notice some changes made is in the internal specs. Though the Mate SE comes at a $50 premium over the Honor 7X, that extra money buys you an additional gigabyte of RAM (up from 3 to 4GB) and twice the internal storage at 64GB.
The Honor 7X and Mate SE are almost indistinguishable, but the latter pulls ahead with improved specs.
The rest of the specs remain the same, including the Kirin 659 processor, 3340mAh battery, and 16MP + 2 MP rear camera combo. In most applications, you likely won't notice the added RAM (and some models of the Honor 7X already feature 4GB), but this should help with multitasking features like PIP video once the Mate SE eventually gets updated to Oreo.
Unfortunately, at the moment the Mate SE is running the same dated software the Honor 7X launched with — Android 7.0 Nougat and EMUI 5.1. Shipping with software from 2016 was bad enough back in December, but in late March of 2018 it's just egregious. Hopefully, Huawei will be quick to update its new budget phone.
Which one's right for you?
This time around, this is a pretty easy question to answer. With both phones so similar, there are only a few things to consider when deciding between the Honor 7X and Huawei Mate SE. Is $50 worth an extra 1GB of RAM and double the storage to you? Rather, with the option to expand the storage capacity of either phone with a microSD card, you might only need to consider the extra RAM.
In the short term, you might also want to take into consideration the Honor 7X's rollout of Android Oreo. While U.S. customers are receiving the update now, there's still no word on a similar update for the Mate SE. If you're in a rush to get the latest software, the Honor 7X might be the better option for now — otherwise, the Mate SE's slightly improved specs may be worth the extra cash.
Which phone would you buy? If you already have the Honor 7X, do you wish you could switch to the Mate SE or are you content with what you have? Let us know in the comments below!
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