ASUS ExpertBook B9

Personally, I don’t pay attention to Chinese phones at all, until the OnePlus One was announced and shook the world with a magnitude of its incredible price tag! Then came along the One’s competitors – the Honor 6, and later the Honor 6 Plus. After more than a year, Honor is back with their brand new iteration, dubbed naturally as the Honor 7. With the current state of budget high-end smartphones, how well does the Honor 7 stand among the crowd?

The packaging is simple – just break the seal, and reveal everything that’s in there. There is a wall charger, USB cable, the phone itself, and all the documentations are nicely packed in a single cardboard box. Very neat!

Acer Nitro 5

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I’m surprised actually, since the plastic film covering the screen can actually double as a pre-installed screen protector itself! It’s just a film, and it does its job very well.

[nextpage title=”Design and ports”]

The phone itself takes on a simple slab design from the usual smartphone design language – and it works exceptionally well for this phone too.

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At the right side of the phone is where you’ll find the usual volume rocker and power button. Nothing much to see here other than the power button itself is isolated from the volume rocker and has a rough texture to it.

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At the left side however is where one of the many magical things of the Honor 7 is found – a single tray that holds both dual SIM, and an extra button! This button is dubbed as the Smart Key by Honor, and when I first saw this in the Settings menu, I was awestruck.

Honor knew how to fully utilize the function of this key, and can program a total of 3 things on this single button itself. You can either press, hold, or double press. 3 different functions, one single button.

Obviously I got it to be a shutter button – not just any basic shutter button, but a quick capture shutter button. From the lock screen, press once, and snaps a picture within 2 seconds! I know it’s within 2 seconds because of the timer displayed 😀
Very nice continuity of features on the Honor 7 right here!

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Up top is where the other magical thing is found – a technology that I think is hardly found these days, an IR blaster! Seriously, thank you for including an IR blaster to the Honor 7! I know it’s not the most frequently used piece of hardware on phones, but it’s really nice to have – just like NFC, although the Honor 7 doesn’t have NFC. Of course there’s also a 3.5mm audio jack beside the IR blaster too.

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At the back is where two other parts of the magic are found – firstly the 20MP camera with phase-detection autofocus (PDAF), and secondly the fingerprint sensor. I’ll get into each of them deeper later in the review.

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The bottom of the Honor 7 however is a tad disappointing – as there are two set of speaker grills, but only the left one is making noise. However, the Honor 7 redeemed itself by having one of the best audio quality on a smartphone of this size.

[nextpage title=”Camera”]

As I’ve mentioned above, it’s a 20MP rear-facing camera that comes with a two-tone LED flash, and another 8MP front-facing camera with a single white LED flash that can even take panoramic selfies.

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Pictures turn out to be great – it was taken with precision and speed, and the phase-detection autofocus did not disappoint at all. It’s quick and to-the-point, but using the Smart Key to take pictures do seem like a bad idea at times, as the focusing is really questionable.

Taken using the Smart Key
Taken using the Smart Key

I also found out that the phase-detection autofocus works great only in bright light, but quickly matches the performance of a basic autofocus system when indoors.

Taken with the Smart Key in low-light condition
Taken with the Smart Key in low-light condition

Speaking of the Smart Key, I kinda worry about this feature, as the time needed to take a photo can vary between 1.1 seconds to a whole 2.8 seconds. That’s quite a big gap, as this feature is meant to take quick pics on the fly with just one button.

Another one with the Smart Key
Another one with the Smart Key

Still, I like this feature a lot. Just that you’ll have to hold the phone up to 3 seconds pointing at the same thing to take the picture. Depends on your RAM and the state of the Camera app of course, but I’m not dwelling into that.

[nextpage title=”Performance”]

I did the usual tests on smartphones – first off, Epic Citadel. I ran this almost instantly to test out the performance of the Honor 7, just because everything else on the phone was a beacon of overwhelming positivity. When I got the initial results, I was literally confused.

Sure, the Honor 7 is a 5.2-inch, 1080p device running on Huawei’s in-house HiSilicon Kirin 935 chipset, with a double-quad-core processor; one being 2.2GHz and another 1.5GHz, with 3GB of RAM and Mali-T628 graphics. It comes with 16GB of storage (at least the one I have) or opt for a larger 64GB version if you need to – but I digress, the main thing we’re here for is the raw performance.

Screenshot_2015-11-01-15-10-33

37.4FPS? What is this? I explored further – and I found battery saving power plan options. To my surprise, there’s a total of 3 preset power plans which are not customizable – Performance, Smart, and Ultra. By default, it’s on Smart. So what I did next was to push it to maximum with Performance power plan and rerun Epic Citadel.

Screenshot_2015-11-01-15-15-56

Ahhhh! There we go! 49.6FPS on ultra high quality at full resolution! That’s really amazing! Onward to the next test – Vellamo!

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I can pretty much tell that Vellamo doesn’t really translate to real world user experience as the scores just don’t match the usage at all. From the charts, it surely seemed like the Honor 7 is missing out but I can assure you – the Honor 7 is speedy as heck, and it’s a true flagship.

[nextpage title=”Emotion UI 3.1″]

I’ve talked about Emotion UI before – also known as EMUI for short – when I reviewed the Huawei Ascend G7. EMUI was clunky and slow – but take note that I said was – as EMUI is improved beyond recognition since then.

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First off, the fingerprint sensor. It’s definitely one of the best fingerprint sensors that I’ve ever used. It’s quick yet accurate, and it just works even at different angles on the sensor! Other than that, Honor 7’s fingerprint sensor actually works as a trackpad in some apps too – although in comparison with the Huawei Mate S, it seems like the only difference is found in the variation of the EMUI software itself.

Honor 7 (10)

Secondly there’s the Smart Key button. One of the best features found on the Honor 7 in my opinion. The OnePlus 2 has a notification slider? The Honor 7 might not be able to replicate that feature just yet – but the Smart Key can essentially be used to perform a shortcut task or launch an app.

Screenshot_2015-10-31-23-04-42

Oh, I have to mention that the Honor 7 actually has what Apple ripped off and call as “Force Touch”. Just use your knuckle and knock twice on the screen and a screenshot will be taken instantly. Neat!

Screenshot_2015-10-31-23-05-40

Also, did I mention that the fingerprint sensor is the best I’ve ever used? It’s just way too good compared to the rival smartphones with fingerprint sensor. Samsung and Apple, learn from Huawei and Honor.

[nextpage title=”Battery life”]

It’s amazing to see that the Honor 7 is packed with a generous 3,100 mAh battery – that’s 400mAh more than its elder cousin, the Huawei Mate S!

The Honor 7 can actually last for a day on performance mode, and that’s very good, given that I do play Angry Birds 2 and also check on my Neko Atsume quite often to being with. With that said, it can last from morning till night on a single charge, with Facebook and browsing mixed in it too.

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That said, the Honor 7 comes with a fairly standard charger – 5V with 2A, and magical enough Honor 7 does have speed charging with this output rating. Here’s a comparison between having Fast Charging turned off and on.

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[nextpage title=”Wrap up”]

Last year, the flagship killer of 2014 was the OnePlus One. It owned the Honor 6 pretty much in all aspects. A little more than a year later, the flagship massacre has arrived again – and the winner of the flagship killer title is definitely not the OnePlus 2, but the Honor 7.

Honor 7 (1)

Solid specs, great features, the best fingerprint sensor I’ve ever seen, and tough unibody metal build with a single slab of glass. This is definitely the best budget-high end I’ve seen this year.

blue recommendedNLT GOLD
Bravo to the team who created the Honor 7. This phone is absolutely fantastic. Makes me wonder why anyone would opt for the Mate S, given that the Honor 7 even has Bluetooth v4.1, larger battery, more pixels for the camera, same screen resolution, and has the same chipset.

Where to buy?

Let’s talk about buying though – Honor 7 retails for only RM1,399, and you can even get RM100 off your purchase if you check out the deal here from Lazada!

Honor 7 (2222)

If it’s not available anymore, no worries – check out this link, where I personally provide you a Lazada discount code!


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