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Honor 20 Pro Review: an affordable "almost premium" device

We test out Honor's new flagship device.

Pros

  • Beautiful colours
  • Good camera
  • High performance

Cons

  • Surfaces not as durable as more expensive rivals
  • Low light photography is hit and miss
  • Uncertainty over Google support in the long term

After an awkward delay, the latest - and arguably greatest - Honor device is finally here, and it looks every bit the flagship device Honor want it to be..

The company has just lost Google’s support, courtesy of the US government which has deemed the Chinese manufacturer “untrustworthy” due to the controversy surrounding its 5G equipment.

Honor 20 Pro back in the sunAs with many Honor phones before, the body comes in a highly reflective multilayered construction

The Honor 20 Pro is indeed one of the best phones of the year and at a retail price of £549, it could be the steal of the year too.


First impressions and design

  • Beautiful multilayered glass back
  • Punch-hole selfie camera may annoy video streaming purists
  • Fingerprint unlocking doesn’t get faster than this

Honor makes stylish phones aimed at a younger - or young at heart - audience. They’re stylish, powerful and very good value for money considering their impressive internal specs and performance.

Honor 20 Pro fingerprint readerAn unusual location for the fingerprint sensor. It is easy to get used to and practical, unless you’re left handed…

A 6.26-inch screen makes the Honor 20 Pro is big enough for you to enjoy the latest trailers, yet the slim frame and hole-punch camera nestled in the display means the overall size of the device makes it closer to the pocket-friendly likes of Apple’s iPhone XS and the Samsung Galaxy S10.

The construction is glass and metal, with a thin aluminium frame and a multilayered glass back that is more subdued than the one found on the Honor View 20 or 20 Lite.

Honor calls it “Dynamic Holographic Design,” with it giving reflections a 3D quality. A bit like those lenticular postcards that were all the rage in the seventies, but less kitschy.

The effect is actually rather beautiful and it’s hard to pick between the dark aquamarine of the “Phantom Blue” or the amethyst-purple of the confusingly named “Phantom Black”.

Honor 20 Pro screen white wallThe screen has plenty of brightness when needed, only struggling in full-on direct sunlight

Honor 20 Pro purple blue hero 2 “Phantom Black” vs “Phantom Blue”. The first is far from being black and is actually a dark amethyst/aubergine, darkening towards the edges.

The Phantom Blue goes from dark teal to an ocean green/aquamarine hue depending on how the light hits it. It’s what Aquaman would most certainly pick.

Honor 20 Pro bottom usb It packs a USB-C port that supports fast charging, but no audio jack. But don’t fret, Honor has included an adaptor so you can still plug your headphones in.

Honor 20 Pro out of the boxThe Honor 20 Pro is the most premium-looking Honor phone so far. Even the packaging reflects the great amount of care given to its branding.

The screen is not interrupted by a notch, instead, there is a punch hole on the top left of the device to host the selfie camera. At 4mm wide, it is one of the smallest in the industry, and given that most app interfaces will ignore that portion of the screen, you’ll soon forget it’s even there.

The location of the fingerprint sensor is unusual. Honor hasn’t yet adopted the nascent in-display unlocking technology but with the 20 Pro, neither has it stuck the sensor at the rear. Instead the fingerprint is on the right side of the metal frame - a location that is super-convenient if you’re right handed, but significantly less so if not. Not to worry as the Honor 20 Pro also supports a swift face recognition which is fast enough to unlock the phone before you even reach the sensor with your finger.

The 6.26-inch screen is an IPS LCD effort, with a resolution of 1080x2340. It is squarely in the mid-range sector, identical to the resolutions of the Pixel 3a and OnePlus 6T and similar to the more expensive Galaxy S10e.

Pixel density is also in line with phones at this price point, and as long as you don’t place it next directly up against a Huawei P30 or OnePlus 7 Pro, you’ll be more than pleased with your purchase for both YouTube watching and casual gaming.

Build Glass and Metal
Weight 182g
Dimensions 154.6 mm x 74 mm x 8.4 mm
Screen size 6.26 inches
Resolution 1080 x 2340 pixels
Pixel Density 412ppi
Technology IPS LCD

Camera

  • Extremely versatile, a lens for every occasion
  • 3x Optical zoom
  • Optical Image stabilisation works really well
  • Low light in standard mode can be disappointing

Honor 20 Pro cameras close up The three main camera lenses are arranged vertically while the tiny Macro lens in under the flash. The camera housing protrudes a couple of millimetres and it can be prone to scratches. Best make use of a protective case for peace of mind.

The Honor 20 is more than capable of delivering great results when it comes to taking pictures. This little Swiss Army Knife of photography comes with four cameras at the rear and you’re sure to find a lens for any situation.

The standard 48MP lens is a fast and capable shooter, it takes advantage of the powerful processor and sophisticated processing software present in all current Huawei/Honor devices to produce remarkably sharp images.

Optical image stabilisation, a feature that can often overpromise and underdeliver even in more expensive devices, works well here by ensuring motion blur is rare unless light conditions are challenging.

The 48MP sensor is not available by default and needs to be manually switched on from the camera settings. Results may not match the 40MP effort in the P30 Pro and you lose the zoom in this mode, yet it is another nice-to-have feature that in good light conditions delivers images that you can happily crop and enlarge without sacrificing detail.

When it comes to low light, the standard mode can disappoint, especially compared to the likes of the Google Pixel or Galaxy S10.

A dedicated “Super Night Mode” is available but it requires you to keep the phone still for up to 10 seconds, simulating a long exposure. It is best used with a tripod and while it is remarkably good at illuminating scenes in almost total darkness, images can appear over-processed and somewhat artificial.

Honor 20 Pro camera interfaceThe camera interface is a stripped down version of what you find on Huawei phones. Aperture mode, for blurred backgrounds, is tucked away in the More section, while switching to 48MP requires you to visit the settings.

The wide-angle camera has a 16MP sensor and offers a great way to capture a large group of people, it is marginally less capable than the main camera but if the light is good, you’ll find it hard to tell the difference.

The 8MP telephoto lens is capable of 3x Optical zoom. Whilst not as revolutionary as the 5x zoom found in the Huawei P30 Pro, it’s a rare and welcome feature in a phone in this price bracket.

Honor 20 Pro sample20 Macro camera could be better

Honor 20 Pro sample coin close up For close up, best to skip the Macro mode and use the zoom instead

Night Mode vs Standard. The long-exposure simulation takes a few seconds but gives brilliant results

Honor 20 Pro samples the hulk Wide angle is not just for panoramas, here are two variations of an angry superhero

The Macro camera seems like a good idea and has its applications, but the small 2MP sensor naturally limits the amount of detail on offer.

It needs to be a distance of around 4cm from the subject and requires more light than a standard shot. Results appear sharp, but you’ll often get better results by sticking to the standard camera and using the 3x zoom instead.

Main camera 16MB/48MP f/1.4, 28mm (wide) with OIS
Wide angle 16 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide)
Telephoto 8 MP, f/2.4, 80mm (telephoto) OIS
Macro 6.26 inches

Performance and battery life

Powerful processor that can cope with the latest and greatest games Excellent battery life and power management features No Wireless charging

The Honor brand has officially started moving away from the Huawei EMUI system and striking out on its own with their own ‘Magic’ UI. For this iteration you’ll be hard pressed to find any glaring differences, it appears the change will be gradual…which is a good thing. EMUI has improved greatly over the past two cycles and changing too fast can be a bit of a risk when it comes to software interface familiarity.

If you’ve used an Honor device before the interface will be familiar, it has all the essentials plus a number of pre-installed apps like Booking.com and Fortnite, as well as a number of proprietary software and utilities that can be used as an alternative to Google’s core suite.

Honor 20 Pro icons The Honor 20 Pro comes with the Alexa app pre-installed. If you’re familiar with Amazon’s own assistant or prefer it to Google’s, you’ll be up and running in seconds.

At the risk of losing the attention of technophobes, I must make an exception and mention the Honor 20 Pro’s internal processor…this is where things get interesting.

The Kirin 980 chip found in the 20 Pro is identical to that of the Huawei P30 Pro, a phone costing almost twice as much and one of the most impressive all-round devices to debut this year.

Honor 20 Pro gaming screen 1 If youre into games, you can't go wrong with the Honor 20 Pro. Only complaint? It's easy to cover the speaker with your hands when playing.

This is remarkable and makes the Honor 20 Pro as the ideal choice for gamers on a budget.

The on-board storage is also a very generous 256GB. When even some of the most expensive phones (looking at you, Samsung Galaxy S10) ship with just 128GB.

Honor 20 Pro audio adapter The included USB-to-audio adapter is a life saver if you still haven't switched to Bluetooth headphones

Battery life? That’s pretty good too. At their global launch event, Honor declared that the 4000mAh battery will provide “All-day Non-Stop Action on a Single Charge”.

Now “Non-Stop Action” may mean different things to different people, but what I can tell you is that unless you spend hours streaming YouTube videos over the mobile network, you can rely on the Honor 20 Pro to take you comfortably to the end of the day…and then some.

With even more careful use however, only being used for the occasional browse or catching up on message, you can probably stretch it to a full two days of use.

Honor 20 Pro battery management If you’re stuck far from a power outlet and are nervous about running out of juice, UltraPower Saving Mode will turn the Honor 20 Pro into a dumb phone with a battery lasting days

Wireless charging is not supported, but who needs it when you can use fast charging? Plug it in for around 30 minutes to get a whopping top-up to 50% battery life.

RAM 8GB
Storage 256GB
Battery capacity 4000 mAh
OS and Version Android 9 (Pie) - Honor Magic UI

Value and verdict

  • One of the best mid-range phones of this year
  • Unique multilayered glass construction makes it a looker
  • Brilliant camera is a stripped down version of the one in the exceptional P30 Pro

It’s hard not to like the Honor brand. Their phones are affordable, powerful and always beautifully designed.

Honor 20 Pro purple blue herp

Expected to retail at around £550, the Honor 20 Pro is one of the most upmarket devices ever released by the Chinese brand and may put off bargain hunters that were drawn in by the likes of the Honor 20 Lite and Honor 8X.

This is a different beast though. Similar to the excellent Honor View 20, this is a valid alternative to more top-flight of premium devices. If you need a powerful device with a good camera and don’t mind going without with water-resistance and almost unbreakable glass, the Honor 20 Pro is an obvious choice.

Category: Reviews
Tagged: honor, honor 10, honor 20
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