Huawei Budget Phone Boxes Well Above Its Weight

  • 9/10
    - 9/10
9/10

Summary

Huawei Y7 Pro

Huawei may be battling governments left, right and centre, but when it comes to their phones, they’re winning, and their new budget offering is no exception, says PAT PILCHER

It’s been a tough 12 months for China’s Huawei brand, yet despite Five Eyes intelligence agencies attempting to ban the company from western countries (a move which may have failed), Huawei has launched a knock-out line-up of smartphones over the past year.

Having earned plaudits at the top end of town with the impressive Huawei P20 and Mate 20 Pro, Huawei has also launched into the budget space with the 2019 edition of the Y7 pro.

The Huawei Y7 Pro bears a startling resemblance to Huawei’s other budget powerhouse brand, Honor, whose 7A handset has proved wildly popular overseas (the Honor range is not sold in New Zealand for reasons kept close to Huawei’s chest) and is a solid upgrade of last year’s Y7 Pro.

First impressions are that the design shape and heft of the new device is generic. But flipping it over reveals a dual-camera configuration, hinting that there is more to this phone than meets the eye.

While the black review unit I was sent is shiny and sports a distinctly premium look, it isn’t made of glass but is instead hewn out of plastic, which is how it manages to weigh in at a pocket-pleasing 168g. It’s also thin, at just 8.1mm deep.

Its sides have a subtle curve and are also made of a semi-gloss plastic. It’s simple things like that which translate into it being a comfy fit for extended smartphone sessions.

There is no fingerprint sensor, and the Y7 Pro is reliant on Huawei’s Face Unlock system, which is swift and reasonably reliable (you also have the use of a pin or password lock). The 3.5mm headphone jack (a nice bonus) is located on the top, while a micro-USB port and speaker are on its underside. For those on multiple mobile plans, it is also a dual SIM phone – which can be dead handy.

The front of the Y7 Pro has an 18:9 display, complete with a teardrop notch for the front camera. At 6.26-inches, the screen feels big, although its resolution is 1520 x 720 (229 PPI). While some reviewers may see 720 instead of 1080 as a drawback, the reality is that an HD display at $349 is nothing to sneeze at. Besides, most people struggle to tell the difference between 1080 and 720 content.

All told, the display is plenty bright and its colours are accurate. You can also tweak the colour temperature of the screen under Settings.

The Huawei Y7 Pro runs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 430 CPU. It isn’t particularly fast, but considering the price point, the performance is zippy, especially with Huawei tucking a roomy 3GB of RAM under its hood.

Web browsing is a smooth experience, and switching between running apps isn’t a problem. Gaming performance is a pleasant surprise. PUBG ran well, while simpler titles such as Bejewelled ran at a clip that was indistinguishable from the Y7 Pro’s high-end siblings.

Unlike a lot of similarly priced handsets, Huawei has been reasonably generous with storage and provided 32GB to play with as well as a microSD slot which will play nice with up to 256GB cards. For those on a budget wanting an affordable phone for use as a media player, this is a good pick.

It comes with Huawei’s EMUI interface overlaid atop Android of 8.0. EMUI does the trick and doesn’t feel caked onto Android, and it is intuitive with some nice features baked in. I liked the ability to choose to have or not have an app drawer.

The problem is that EMUI needs an overhaul. Its icons look dated and while there is a theme store to spruce things up, it’s a bit naff. Perhaps Huawei need to give users the option of a stock Android UI?

Credit where credit is due, the number of duplicated apps is minimal, and there is also a refreshing absence of crapware and pointless games cluttering things up.

Huawei has a well-deserved reputation for excellent smartphone cameras, and the Y7 Pro continues this with its rear dual-camera setup. Its main camera is a 13-megapixel unit, which is accompanied by a 2-megapixel shooter. The secondary camera provides depth information to the main camera for the Wide Aperture mode to provide convincing bokeh effects.

One of my favourite features of the Wide Aperture shooting mode is the ability to select a new area of focus after a picture has been taken by merely tapping. In well-lit or daytime conditions, good photos were effortless. In darker situations, results tended to be passable but sometimes looked desaturated and occasionally blurred. All told, the rear shooters box above their budget sticker price.

Around the front, there is a 16-megapixel selfie camera which does a passable job.

The Y7 Pro has a 4000mAh battery, which makes sense given it doesn’t pack in as many pixels as its high-end Huawei stablemates, and its CPU is relatively energy efficient. In practice, I found I could get through a full day of heavy use and still have plenty of charge in the tank. With light use, I managed two days easily.

The Huawei Y7 Pro is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a budget phone. Where budget used to translate into compromises for specification and design that made for a horrible experience, the Y7 Pro offers a solid camera, plenty of storage and excellent battery life at a compelling price point.

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