Chinese brands are usually associated with two things. Cheapness and Fakeness. TECNO is a brand fairly known for its dual and sometimes triple sim feature phones. They aren’t however, known for their smartphones.
Therefore it was with great trepidation that I took on the task to review the newest top end device from the Chinese company. I took it with a pinch of salt though, having had found in my gadget trolling sessions online that several Chinese and Indian companies are making some excellent hardware at incredibly low prices.
So is the TECNO H7 any good? On paper, its right up there with anything Samsung or HTC have to offer. Sporting a 1.3 GHz quad core processor, 5 inch display at 540x960px, 8mp BSI camera on the back with 2mp on the front, 1gb RAM and 4GB user storage with a bundled 8gb micro-SD card and Dual Sim, 3.75G. All wrapped in a very well built slim plastic shell.
All for the recommended retail price of UGX 550,000. Incredible.
This makes for a fantastic bargain by any standards. The Dual sim nature makes it an immediate challenger to the Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos which offers similar specs but at almost double the price of the TECNO.
But can a smartphone this cheap really be any good?
In the box
The review unit I got came in a rather hefty box. I was pleasantly surprised to find it contained three separate smaller boxes.
- The H7 box containing Phone, Wall socket, USB Charger/ Data cable, Earphones
- An H7 Flip Cover
- A TECNO Power Bank rated at 5200mAH
The addition of the PowerBank was shocking especially given the price point. Already, I was beginning to root for the Chinese. No other manufacturer gives a flip cover bundled with the phone let alone a PowerBank!
Design and Build
Opening the box of the H7 revealed a pure black slab that looked almost like a Google Nexus phone. A handsome device to look at. Picking it up revealed a very light but large phone. The dimensions put it at 143.5m x 72.7m x 8.75m making it about the same size as a galaxy S5 though slightly thicker.
A solid build and feel in hand with a smooth matte plastic finish that didn’t attract fingerprints or smudges.
The front of the device was covered with a 5 inch qHD IPS screen. Above the screen are sensors and the front facing 2mp camera. Beneath the screen there are capacitive buttons for Menu, Home and Back that light up on touch.
The left side has the volume buttons with the right side holding the solitary power button.
The top edge has the headphone jack with the bottom edge housing a standard micro-USB charging port.
The bottom edge of the phone houses a standard micro-USB data and charging port.
The back of the H7 has a removable plastic cover that holds the battery, Dual Sim ports and the micro-SD card slot which in this case came with an 8GB card.
The back cover also smartly surrounds the 8mp camera and LED flash near the top of the rear end of the device. At the bottom of the rear is a surprisingly loud and rich speaker.
Switching on the H7 reveals a beautiful bright 5 inch IPS TFT display running at a qHD resolution of 540x960px which technically makes it far less sharp than current flagship phones from bigger brands.
I fully expected it to be a lackluster viewing experience but very quickly came to love this as my favorite feature on the phone. The screen. Despite its lower resolution was a joy to read and view images on.
Colors really pop and text and icons are very readable throughout the interface.
Very bright and sharp giving no strain to the eyes and working quite well in direct sunlight. I found I actually had to keep the screen on lowest brightness most of the time. It’s that bright.
Viewing angles are great with no visible color warping or distortion when you’re looking at the phone from an angle.
Destroying what would have otherwise been a fabulous screen experience was the strangely calibrated touch sensor on the screen. Perhaps it was merely my review unit however I experienced a problem scrolling content as the screen would pick up my swipe as a press. This was immensely annoying in apps like Facebook where 6/ 10 times I would try to scroll through the timeline, I would end up opening a post or link.
Besides that annoyance, I thoroughly enjoyed the display on the H7.
Performance and Battery
The H7 comes with a MediaTek 1.3 GHz Quad core processor that I found to be plenty fast with only a few moments of D.A as the phone seemed to decide whether to start the app I had clicked but then blaze through it shortly afterwards.
Everyday tasks performed very well with a general smooth responsiveness and very little lag aside from the aforementioned.
The chip makes watching videos or playing games a relative breeze. Casual games like Angry Birds and Candy crush play very well and look great on that large screen. More graphically intense games like zombie killing spree called “Dead Trigger” ran at lowest resolutions and still had some lag and stutter.
Powering the 5 inch screen and quad processor is a large 2020mAH battery that is rated at 6.5hours talk time and 22hours standby. It proved every bit capable of powering the H7 for a whole day of light usage; that is Facebook, WhatsApp, email and a few pictures here and there.
In the event that you do run out of power, the included PowerBank comes in very handy. It is a sleek and light affair with LED lights to show how much charge it has left. Very simple and intuitive.
My experience with the PowerBank was that once fully charged, it can charge the phone from empty to full in about 2 ½ hours. However, I was disappointed to find that it can only do one full charge cycle before running out of power. This is strange because it had double the power rating of the phones battery so I would expect at least two full charges from it.
Either way the combination would ensure that even the heaviest user would easily get through a whole day of use.
The H7 comes with Google’s Android Jellybean 4.2 which is kind of old since we are now on Kit-Kat 4.4.4. However, this isn’t really a disadvantage in my opinion. The software works very well. Just like other major brands, TECNO has dressed up their software with a custom skin. I happened to like their strain of Android much more than say Touchwiz on Samsung.
It is light with bright colors and not very much change in the overall layout and positioning of elements from regular android. Notable differences were in the dropdown notification shade where you find all your notifications.
TECNO added a standard fixed menu at the top which has what they believe are common utilities you might need quick access to. You cannot change these toggles which is a bit of an irritation. However, the general toggles include Torch, Calculator, Plamchat,Flash Share,BBM. Given our power issues in Kampala suburbs, I found having quick access to a torch very useful.
All in all the software environment won’t be new to any android user and that’s a good thing. Unlike Samsung’s Touchwiz which almost completely takes over the Android environment you would be easily convinced it wasn’t Android. The TECNO customizations are light and intuitive.
Telephony, SMS, Email
Calling on the H7 was always good with very good reception. I never experience loss of signal or dropped calls. Voices were loud and clear and using the speaker phone was always a pleasure because of the rich loud speaker at the back.
I never had any complaints about not being heard on the other end of the line. As I’m not a dual sim holder, I didn’t get to test how good the phone handles dual active standby; which is simply both Sims being active at the same time when one or the other receives a call. Traditionally when a call comes in on one sim, the other registers as off to a person calling.
Nevertheless, I’m fairly confident from the overall experience with the phone that it will indeed have no trouble handling two Sims.
SMS messaging and Email were standard android experience. Nothing bad to report here.
The large bright IPS display makes for excellent viewing experience, be it viewing pictures, videos or playing games.
The standard slew of Android compatibility are here with images and videos of all kinds being very easily viewed with stock apps.
The ability to expand storage with micro-SD cards is a big plus with the H7 accommodating up to 32 GB cards easily.
Listening to music is a pleasurable experience too. The H7 features Dolby enhanced sound and the rear mounted speaker produces very rich and loud audio. I was constantly surprised every time I heard audio output from it. It’s not nearly as good as the stereo BoomSound speakers on the HTC One but definitely much better than anything I’ve heard on most Samsung’s.
The camera on the H7 is rated at 8mp with a BSI sensor on the back and a 5mp camera on the front for extra hi-res selfies for social media.
Now, not all 8mps were created equal and the one on the H7 is simply one of the poorer ones I’ve used. I’m not sure if it’s the camera itself or the software processing of the images after they are taken. The majority of pictures bear a smudging like effect that you easily notice when you zoom into the full resolution of the image making for disappointing images.
That being said, taking pictures is fast and easy. The camera has the standard shooting modes, Normal, High Definition Range, Macro, Panorama. Touching on the screen focuses the camera and taking shots is fast.
Videos however are much better affair with crisp clear picture and decent audio. The camcorder records at full HD 1080p resolution and also allows you to take snapshots as you record, which makes it handy for those precious moments.
Image gallery tiles all your pictures in categories and easily lets you share, edit or delete pictures.
Once again, the biggest downside to this phone is the camera. It’s simply lacklustre for a modern 8mp shooter. It can be so much better and I do hope TECNO release a software patch to improve the situation.
Internet & Connectivity
The H7 supports all the standard connectivity options you would expect in an Android smartphone. Wi-fi, Bluetooth, 3G, HSDPA+ are all supported well.
Data speeds were acceptably fast on local 3.75G networks and browsing and downloading was great.
There is no support for 4G and given that’s where all major networks are heading, it would have been nice to have but given the price of this phone, also entirely unreasonable to expect.
GPS Location services are also excellent and very accurate allowing for easy use of Google Maps and other apps like Foursquare and Facebook that do geo-mapping.
Overall, connectivity on the H7 is very well done and you should have no problem connecting using 3g or Wi-Fi at your favorite restaurant.
The H7 is an extremely surprising phone. I never expected to like it so much. It’s an exceptional value for money device, packing flagship phone specifications in a lovely feeling body and bundles with some great extras for an unbelievable price of UGX 550,000.
I can’t say any dual sim smartphone on the market can match it in terms of sheer value for money. The Samsung Duos range is in definite trouble now. Aside from the less than standard camera performance, the H7 gets my absolute two thumbs up and a very strong recommendation to buy.
It’s a clear example that not everything that comes out of china is a fake copy of something else. This one is the real deal. Don’t delay to buy one.