Honor 7A review

It's inexpensive, but we wouldn't call it a bargain

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  • Android 8.0 Oreo
  • Huawei's divisive overlay
  • Some bloatware

The Honor 7A comes with the latest version of Android Oreo (8.0 rather than 8.1). However, pasted over the top is the parent company Huawei's proprietary interface, called EMUI (Emotion UI), version 8.0.

While it's fair to say some people won't even notice, if you're coming from either an iPhone or an Android with something closer to stock, you're probably going to notice the somewhat psychedelic color scheme and nursery-school app icons. 

No doubt it'll suit some people's taste, but EMUI is one of the more disliked features of Honor and Huawei phones.

On the home screen, you'll find a Huawei app called Themes that allows you to change up the look and feel of the phone. Some of the options are fairly terrible, but there's a huge range including ones created by fans, so you should be able to find something you can live with.

If you prefer the Android app drawer (menu) to the iPhone-style everything-in-folders-on-the-home-screen approach, you'll want to go to Settings > Display > Home Screen Style and change it to Drawer.

That will bring back the menu of app icons, so you don't have to have a million home screens, but annoyingly you have to bring up the drawer using the old-style round key on the center of the quick apps bar - you can't swipe up on the home screen to open the app drawer as you can in stock Oreo.

As is often the case with budget phones, the 7A includes some pre-installed apps and games outside the native Android stuff. 

There's racing game Asphalt Nitro, Assassin's Creed Unity: Arno's Chronicles (which crashed on opening), Booking.com, Dragon Mania, eBay, Kingdoms, Puzzle Pets, Spider-Man: Ultimate Power, and so on.

There's also a sprinkling of manufacturer apps, like HiCare and the Honor app. Out of the box, we had just 5GB of the 16GB of storage left, and these apps are one reason for that. On the bright side, some - though not all - can be uninstalled.

Movies, music and gaming

  • Cinematic 18:9 screen ratio
  • Karaoke mode, party mode
  • Not great for gaming

Honor aims its devices at a youthful, fun-loving market, which might explain some of the sound features the 7A comes with. One is karaoke mode, which "offers real-time audio monitoring through your earbuds and supports SWS3.1 virtual bass, allowing you to replicate the recording studio experience and hear your own voice while recording your singing." This is… niche, but perhaps less so in some markets.

The second feature is party mode, which lets you connect up to 8 Honor 7A handsets and play the same music across all of them. In theory this is cool. In practice, good luck finding anyone at the party who also has an Honor phone, let alone a 7A specifically.

Party mode is a great idea for a cross-platform service (maybe I go to the wrong sort of parties, but even finding someone with an Android can be tricky, so it'd need to include iOS) but we can't see many people getting much use out of it on the Honor 7A.

It's a slightly curious decision to focus on surround sound on this handset, because it's only been given one speaker, so you'd need two of them to even get decent stereo. There are two sets of six holes on the bottom edge of the Honor 7A, but only one side houses a speaker.

That said, it does a better job than we expected for the price. Music sounds decently well-rounded and goes uncomfortably loud, albeit with the usual back panel rattling and distortion at the highest volumes. It's not amazing, but it's better than some more expensive phones we've heard.

Another, slightly handier feature is the ability to connect to two Bluetooth devices at once. Honor says this is helpful for listening to music while making hands-free calls, but we could also see ourselves using it to connect to wearables while streaming music to a speaker, for instance.

The 18:9 display is ideally suited to watching films, and while obviously they won't look as stunning as on a higher-end (or even full HD) handset, they look perfectly sharp and watchable on the Honor 7A's screen.

However, you're not going to fit many on the phone's paltry 16GB of internal storage (which had just 5GB left out of the box), so you're going to want to take advantage of the microSD card slot, which can increase space by up to 256GB.

Gaming on this phone is sadly not a good experience. Unusually for an Honor device, the 7A doesn't use the parent company Huawei's HiSilicon Kirin line of chipsets. Instead, it has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430, which offers eight Cortex-A53 cores at clock speeds of up to 1.4GHz - not great for 2018.

This is paired with just 2GB of RAM, and together the result is sluggish performance and a pretty poor experience on more demanding games.

We ran the Geekbench 4 benchmarking tool and got an average multi-core score of 2,745 for the Honor 7A. On the league table, that puts it about on par with 2015 flagships the OnePlus 2 (2,756) and Sony Xperia Z5 (2,714).

The phone gets fairly warm during intensive use and starts to slow down and stutter. Graphical glitches and even crashes became familiar, not just in terms of gaming but also just using the phone in general.

Multitasking and app-switching can be downright laborious on this phone, and don't get us started on the number of times the camera app hung or outright crashed. 

While waiting in a churchyard for the camera app to stop malfunctioning so we could take some test shots, we were waiting so long that a suspicious church employee came over to check what we were up to.

We found ourselves rebooting this phone several times to try and improve performance or fix problems, but it didn't make a difference. Apps, especially large ones like games, can be slow to open - if they open at all. We'd say perhaps we were being unfair by trying to play Assassin's Creed on such a budget phone, except that it came pre-installed!

All of that said, not everyone is into the kind of high-performance game that causes this phone issues. 

If you're more about the Angry Birds or Candy Crush style of gaming, you'll be absolutely fine - after all, those games came out when 2GB was pretty standard for phone RAM. Just don't expect to use it for PUBG, because that's not going to be pretty.