Huawei Y7: Full, in-depth review

Huawei's best budget phone yet

As with any budget phone, the Huawei’s 2017 refresh of the Y7 is best looked at in context. After all, the lower the asking-price, the more valuable even the basic box-ticking features become. More specifically, it’s best compared to the slightly-cheaper Y5.

With a better display, bigger battery and crisper camera, the Y7 promises to give a little extra bang for your buck to those who like what Huawei is selling with the Y5 but want to cut down on the compromises.

The Pitch

The gist here is that for a price-point only $100 greater than that attached to the Y5, you get a suite of pretty marked improvements across the board. If the sell for the Y5 was a box-ticking smartphone experience for a sub-$200 pricepoint, the sell for the Y7 is one that begins to erode and blur the often-stark divide between budget and mid-tier devices.

It literally turns the Y5’s weaknesses into strengths, smoothing out its cut corners and leaving customers with a product that more than just ticks all the boxes and doesn’t break the bank.

Specs

The Y7 boasts an IPS LCD display (720 x 1280 pixels) and runs on a Qualcomm MSM8940 Snapdragon 435 chipset paired with 2GBs of RAM. Like the Y5, it boasts 16GB of on-board storage but is able to be expanded via MicroSD.

Credit: Huawei

Again like its cheaper sibling, the Y7 features a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top-most edge but otherwise boasts the same metal and glass aesthetics you’ll find in most of Huawei’s range. It runs on Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) coated in Huawei’s own EMUI 5.1.

However, unlike the Y5, the Y7 has a more-sizable 4000mAh non-removable lithium-ion battery, charged via MicroUSB and supporting Dual-SIM configurations. It lacks in QuickCharge but boasts a Huawei-developed power-saving solution intended to bridge that gap.

Finally, when it comes to the cameras, the Y7 features a 12-megapixel shooter (f/2.2) with phase detection autofocus and LED-flash on the back matched by a 8-megapixel camera (f/2.0) on the front.

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Design

While the marketing around the Y7 does talk a good game - saying “the rondure of the front 2.5D glass perfectly links the screen with the body, giving the impression of a floating display” - the reality is that the Y7 looks like most smartphones out. Rather, it looks like what people expect to see when they look for a smartphone. If not for the embossed Huawei branding at the base of the front-side, it’d be easy to imagine the Y7 fitting somewhere into HTC or Samsung’s respective line-ups.

There’s a sort of friendly familiarity to its layout - which drops the small design quirks found in the Y5 like the Any Key. Weighing 165g, it’s not particularly heavy. Nevertheless, pretty much across the board, the Y7 just looks much more modern than its cousin.

Credit: Huawei

Performance

Everyday performance is absolutely the area where the Huawei Y7 shines best. Matched up against both the Y5 and its fellow sub-$300 competition, the Y7 outperforms them at every turn. While it’s true that it is a little bit more expensive than the other phones we benched it against, we’d say the gains more than outweigh the extra cost here.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

At the end of the day, the performance in the Y7 isn’t still about half of what you’d get out of a flagship offering. However, if you compare it to the competition, it shapes up nicely. For the most part, it’s a pretty snappy and responsive phone to use. That said, we did encounter a bunch of strange-but-persistent issues on the software side of things. The Y7 often crashed and froze while using the Facebook and Messenger apps, which proved particular irksome.

Camera

Like the Y5, the Y7 packs in a lot of the features and modes you’ll find in Huawei’s more-expensive offerings. While the ceiling for what you can do with these is a bit lower here, they’re still great, easy-to-use inclusions that make the camera in Y7 much more user-friendly than a lot of other budget phones.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

However, unlike the Y7, it’s clear that, well, the picture quality is indeed pretty clear. Far fewer compromises have been made this time around and it shows. Low-light shots in particular seem to show the most improvement, turning out surprisingly clear.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

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Battery Life

Aside from raw performance, battery life is the other area where the Y7 shows its stripes. The 4000mAh battery absolutely lives up to its potential. Most days, we’d make it through a full ten hours of use without even hitting the halfway mark on the battery bar.

Credit: Huawei

The Bottom Line

Compared to Huawei’s Y5, the Y7 is clearly both the better phone and an option that absolutely justifies the 50% increase in asking price. A much sharper and brighter display, longer-lasting battery and beefier camera make it a bargain phone you’ll want to root for.