Honor 7S review: Your grandma deserves better

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Honor 7s in hand

With the Honor 10, Honor created a smartphone that challenged a lot of flagships at a very affordable mid-range price tag. The OEM has proven itself to be a master of efficiency in engineering and highly competitive in lower price categories.

This is Honor’s cheapest phone yet. So, what happens when that same company takes on the budget market? What can we expect for a measly 99 pounds (~$129)? Let’s find out in this Honor 7S review. Let’s just say it’s best not to get your hopes up.

Don’t get your hopes up

Design and features: Plain Jane

Let’s start with the design. You should expect a number of concessions in a phone costing 99 pounds, and this one’s got plenty.

This is a very plastic phone with a generic design. It’s also quite thick, which may not be an issue depending on your preferences – but it further betrays the phone’s budget nature.

Honor 7s rear

It’s not necessarily ugly, though. In fact it actually looks fairly solid — I really like the rounded edges. It’s not even close to premium, but it’s certainly acceptable.

The screen is 5.45 inches, with a 1,440 x 720 resolution. A sub-1080p screen is pretty rare these days, even at this price. That said, the 18:9 aspect ratio and 73 percent screen-to-body ratio make it feel at least somewhat modern.

From purely a design standpoint, this is a well-made budget device with sensible cost cutting compromises.

Honor 7s

Unfortunately, the average design is one of the device’s best aspects.

Features: None to speak of

Another moderately good aspect of the 7s is its 3,020mAh battery. It isn’t absurdly big, but does very well with the chipset and the low-res screen. I’ve gotten 8 hours of screen-on time with basic usage, which is pretty darn good. Taxing the CPU and connectivity will drain it a lot faster. You’re really looking at just over a day when it comes to more intensive use.

There’s no fingerprint scanner here, which is a bit of a blow. There’s no face detection either, so you really are left with only the basic PIN or password for your security.

Honor 7s security

Hello, old friend

The 7s uses Micro-USB. Nicer features like water resistance, NFC, and wireless charging are missing — all perfectly fair and to be expected (even if the AWOL fingerprint scanner stings a bit).

What strikes me as a really cheap move on the other hand is the complete lack of a speaker grill. The 7S instead uses the phone speaker for media and notifications, which creates a lot of distortion at higher volumes. It’s useful if you want to kick a YouTube habit, but otherwise actually quite unpleasant.

Honor 7s Screen

Coupled with the 720p screen, this really isn’t a good option for media consumption. I’ve used plenty of cheap devices but none completely lacking a speaker grill!

It’s only got 16GB of storage, which meant I actually had to pick and choose which apps I wanted to transfer from my previous device.

This really isn’t a good option for media consumption

However, there is expandable storage up to 256GB, so you’ll at least be able to store a lot of data there. Still, 16GB is very limiting, especially considering the apps that need to be installed on internal storage.

There’s dual SIM, which I know will please a lot of people.

Performance: Low specs meets bloated OS

I’m just going to come out with it: the Honor 7S is not an impressive phone — even taking into account the low price.

The Honor 7S packs a low-end Mediatek MT6739 processor, and a minimal 2GB of RAM. That’s certainly not an impressive showing on paper, but the actual real-world performance somehow manages to fall short of even the most modest expectations.

Honor 7s setings menu

Response time, load times, browsing, and smoothness all take a serious hit. Often, you’ll hit a key and wait a fraction of a second for it to respond. You’ll spend a fair amount of time looking at splash screens while apps load, or wondering if the phone’s crashed. It’s not uncommon to find basic animations freezing mid-way through. Pretty much any time the Swiftkey keyboard pops up (the pre-installed default), you’ll get a brief blank space underneath your current app.

I’ve actually become bored waiting for my photos to open up. Even trying to use the wallpaper app for photos was a chore. Technically it supports split screen multitasking, but I wouldn’t bother.

This really isn't a demanding game, but you can only play it in super slow-motion

While most other lower end devices can handle most games just fine, the Honor 7S is not the device for you if you plan on playing 3D titles with decent performance. Even a favorite 2D title of mine — Run Gun, Jump Gun — runs in slow-mo as though everything is taking place under water. PUBG doesn’t work due to a glitch. There’s no gyroscope sensor either, so 360-degree content is off limits and VR is definitely a no go. It probably wouldn’t have the horsepower to run it anyway.

It really isn’t any fun to use

The performance should be better than this, even given the hardware. I suspect the issue may have something to do with the Color OS UI layer, the amount of bloat (especially egregious given the small amount of space), and a lack of optimization. The Honor 10 made up for software bloat with its Kirin 970, and some potential AI RAM management. The Honor 7S is an experiment in combining poor software optimization with sub-par hardware, and it really isn’t any fun to use.

Honor 7s launcher

The default Huawei launcher is not pretty, but at least you can change it

Phones aren’t just luxuries anymore — they’re essential tools for most of us. When you can’t rely on your device to open up the camera, maps, or even contacts quickly, you have a problem.

It at least works well as a phone. Call quality was good and the phone allows turning the volume on the earpiece up extra loud to drown out background noise. It’s a nice touch, though clearly only included to sidestep the need for a speaker.

Camera: Meh

Believe it or not, I take no pleasure in writing a negative reviews (well, maybe just a little bit). I was really hoping the camera might be this phone’s saving grace. Honor has a habit of sticking feature-packed cameras into even its cheaper models.

Honor 7s camera

That’s not the case here. All the Honor 7x’s fun options have been stripped out of the app, including the pro mode and light painting. You get a few fun filters, but it’s otherwise a basic, stripped-down affair. As a result, the camera gets very little support.

The good news is that the rear shooter here is 13MP, which is respectable. The selfie camera is also not bad at 5MP — it even comes with an LED light.

Unfortunately, photos are dark, lack detail, and often come out blurry due to the lack of stabilization. White balance is all over the place, and a lot of shots just don’t work because of that. Low light performance is also poor, and the aperture is fairly narrow at f/2.2, limiting the depth of field effects that you can achieve.

It’s not atrocious — I have seen worse. If you take a lot of photos, you’ll probably want to bring your camera along too. You won’t be hanging these on your wall.

Video is available at 1080p, but seeing as there’s no gyroscope, you shouldn’t be surprised to find that there’s no stabilization here either resulting in some pretty shaky footage.

Bottom line: There’s better out there

I usually aim to use a phone for at least a week before writing a review , so I can give it a fair chance and catch any kinks not immediately apparent. To be completely honest, I gave up after a few days with the Honor 7S — it was simply too frustrating to use. There were already enough “kinks” for me to make up my mind.

This might all seem a little unfair. Maybe it comes across as a rant (my apologies). I am perfectly aware that you shouldn’t expect the world for 99 pounds.

Honor 7s Step

However, other devices out offer far more impressive specs, features, and performance that cost a similar amount.

Take the OPPO Realme 1 that I reviewed recently. The base model costs $110 and it comes with a better screen, more RAM, face detection, a glass back, faster processor, bigger battery, and (gasp!) speaker grill.

For 50 pounds (~$65) more, you could get something like the Moto G6 Play or a host of other much more compelling devices.

Honor 7s review

I could live with the design and the lack of high-end features. Even the low resolution would be fine; the sluggishness is just too much. The sound quality is also actively unpleasant. To conclude this Honor 7S review, I just can’t recommend this device.

So that’s it for our Honor 7S review. If it weren’t for the poor performance, I could suggest this as a gift for your Grandma or someone else who doesn’t need any high-end features. As it is, I wouldn’t wish this on your Grandma.

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