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Honor View 20 review: It's as good as it looks

It's got the world's first hole-punch camera. But is there anything else noteworthy about it? We find out.

Pros

  • Innovative hole-punch camera
  • Plenty of storage and processing power
  • Improved interface

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • Lack of Gorilla glass makes the phone a bit less sturdy

First impressions and design

  • Striking design
  • Edge-to-edge display and no distracting notch

Honor View 20 unboxed back blue

Yet another great-looking Honor device.

Honor View 20 unboxed with charger and case

The Honor View 20 out of the box. Earbuds are not included. Instead, you’ll find the fast-charging adaptor and a TPU case that fits snugly around the protruding camera but doesn’t obscure the shimmering back.

Ever since Apple unveiled its iPhone X back in 2017, notches have dominated smartphone design. A blacked-out area at the top of the screen that houses the front camera and speaker, the notch allows manufacturers squeeze large screens into compact frames. But at a price. The notch isn’t exactly attractive and it can distract from the user experience.

As a result, smartphone-makers have been frantically trying to come up with ways to make it less unseemly. Some, like OnePlus and Huawei, have opted for less intrusive teardrop-shaped notches, while Samsung has eschewed the trend altogether with a more traditional slimline edge at the top of the phone.

None of these, of course, are ideal solutions. And 2019 promises to be the year of the hole-punch selfie camera. This is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s a small, unobtrusive hole at the top of the screen that houses the front-facing camera lens.

But while Samsung, Huawei and OnePlus are all rumoured to be including them in their 2019 devices, Honor has got there first by debuting an innovative in-screen camera on the View 20.

The result is a minimal obstruction on the screen and a very clean, attractive design that’s unlike anything else we’ve seen so far.

Honor View 20 homescreen in hand hole punch camera

Even outdoors, the Honor View 20 has an impressively bright screen.

But of course, Honor isn’t exactly new to striking designs. The Honor 8X, and the Honor 10 Lite are both unashamedly glitzy devices thanks to their shimmering, multi-tone surfaces.

And this latest release from Honor is no less bold. The back is made of multiple layers of glass that create a reflective v-pattern effect as the light hits it.

Honor View 20 back in hand fingerprint scanner closeup hero size

The smooth, shiny surface attracts plenty of finger smudges and dust. But it’s no worse than many other glass-backed devices and you only need a quick wipe to restore to its glorious shine. Don’t even think of put it under the tap though as, unlike some of its more premium competitors, the Honor View 20 is not water-resistant.

Honor View 20 back in hand v

Hold the Honor View 20 in your hands and you’ll inevitably start playing with light reflections.

The device feels large but not unwieldy and its curved lines make it easy to handle despite the smooth glass used at the back.

Honor View 20 fingerprint scanner in use hero size

The fingerprint sensor is located at the back and feels perfectly natural to use when picking up the phone.

Volume and power buttons are on the right side of the slim aluminium frame and feel satisfyingly well put together.

Honor View 20 charging ports in hand

Good to see a reversible USB-C that supports fast battery charging. There’s a single speaker at the bottom.

Honor View 20 back in case

The Honor View 20 keeps its shimmering even with the transparent case on.

Build All glass with metal frame
Weight 180g
Dimensions 156.9 x 75.4 x 8.1 mm

Screen and sound

  • Tiny camera dot on the screen
  • Vibrant colours and bright enough for outdoor use
  • The sound from the single speaker is perfectly adequate

The 19.5:9 ratio screen of the Huawei View 20 is similar in resolution and pixel density to the one seen on the Honor 8X. But it’s slightly below the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, a premium device with which the View 20 shares many of its internal components. Still, given that the Mate 20 Pro is considerably more expensive than the View 20, that’s to be expected.

Colour reproduction and viewing angle are good and I was impressed at how bright the IPS LCD can be. So much so, in fact, that I never found the need to increase the default brightness in any circumstances, even when outdoors in the sunshine.

Honor homescreen in hand

A beauty of a screen that adapts well to any light conditions. The camera dot is located in the least intrusive location and, unlike a wide notch, you soon forget it’s there.

“Adaptive Brightness” mode that optimises brightness level for the environment light works really well. And the Display settings include a “Vivid Mode” as well as a colour wheel that can be used to tweak the colour temperature to suit your needs and preference.

Honor View 20 all screen video hero size

The selfie camera dot is small and you will easily forget it’s there after a few minutes of use.

The single speaker, located on the right of the charging port is definitely be loud enough to fill a room, but it lacks the punch some of the premium phones with dual speakers can deliver. Still, as the View 20 doesn’t come with the high-end price tag, it’s a compromise we’re happy to make.

And crucially, the quality is good when plugging your favourite headphones into the audio jack, conveniently located at the top of the device.

Size 6.4 inches
Resolution 1080 x 2310 pixels
Technology IPS LCD

Camera

  • Very high 48-megapixel resolution available but limited to well-lit scenes
  • Good AI mode detects environment and subject reliably
  • Selfie Portrait is best avoided

Honor View 20 camera interface hero size

An accomplished camera with plenty of features including a reliable AI scene detection.

The innovative selfie camera located on within the display is the most striking innovation of the Honor View 20. Its location on the side may seem strange at first but it only requires a tiny adjustment in your shooting angle.

For best results, make sure you give the screen a quick wipe as even a faint smudge on the lens can make your picture appear misty.

With a whopping 25 megapixels, the front-facing camera takes sharp, crisp shots, particularly if you make sure the main source of light is in front of you. I found that the best results are obtained in Normal Mode with diffused natural light.

Honor-View-20-camera-sample-selfie

A steady hand, diffused light and an uncluttered background is all you need for a social media update.

The main camera at the back, however, is the real star of the show. It is a single-lensed camera with a very high 48-megapixel resolution.

The highest resolution is not on by default so to enable you’ll have to go to the camera settings and choose between two super-high-res modes.

The “AI Ultra Clarity” achieves a fantastic colour reproduction by reading very accurately the environment. Just bear in mind that taking a picture requires a few seconds of processing as well as good light to achieve the best results.

The 48-megapixel resolution is ideal for when you want to get the sharpest photo possible and plan to crop parts of the image or even print the picture with minimum loss of detail.

The HDR mode has to be switched on manually every time in camera mode menu but it yields great results. Even better, the AI scene detection works brilliantly and goes a long way to make up for any limitations of the lens.

Honor-View-20-camera-sample-food

Food photography is hard to get right. Shot with the default 12 megapixels, the AI scene detection correctly identified “Food” as the subject and adjusted the colours and exposure to make a light salad look a lot more appetising.

There is no Optical Image Stabilisation but the software stabilisation does a great job of correcting any motion blur, especially in low light. As we observed with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, Huawei and Honor phones have some of the most sophisticated photo processing software that more than makes up for any lack of hardware capability.

Honor-View-20-camera-sample-plants-2

Colours are realistic with good level of detail.

Well-lit close-ups show little signs of over-saturation. Shot at 12 megapixels.

Honor-View-20-camera-sample-kettle

In order to avoid motion blur, keep the phone steady for a few seconds when tapping the shutter so that the software stabilisation can work its magic.

Honor-View-20-camera-sample-path

Well detailed shaded areas and pleasant blue sky. Shot in standard mode at 12 megapixels.

Shot at 48 megapixels, this is a monster image that takes up more than twice the storage of a standard 12-megapixel photo. It’s worth the storage if you plan to crop or print though. There is hardly any loss of detail when zooming in.

Camera Main camera: 48 MP, f/1.8. Selfie camera: 25 MP, f/2.0 with Flash and HDR
Optical image stabilisation No
Unique features Super-high res mode perfect for prints

Performance and battery life

  • Excellent battery life
  • Powerful processor
  • Good amount of storage but no upgrade slot

The Honor View 20 is fitted with the Kirin 980, the same processor as the excellent Huawei Mate 20 Pro. It’s a high-end processor with an innovative cooling system that, according to the company, helps deliver a super-smooth gaming experience.

The graphics capabilities are indeed at the very top end of what you can find in the market at any price and we’ve found that even heavy graphics game like Asphalt 9 can be played at full-frame with no hint of the phone lagging.

With 6GB of RAM and a generous 128GB of storage as standard, Honor is serious about delivering a device that offers little limitations to power-users.

Honor View 20 time management app

There are plenty of built-in utilities to make the most out of your device. Digital Balance helps your sanity by letting you managing screen-time.

Of course, not everyone chooses a phone based on how well it runs the latest racing game and reliable connectivity should be the top priority. The Honor View 20 is fitted with a triple Wi-Fi antenna designed to deliver a strong signal even when holding the phone with both hands, e.g. while playing a game in landscape mode.

We tested this under various conditions and found that while the loss of signal was small, overall Wi-Fi speed was similar to other devices.

Honor View 20 full screen game

Not all games support full screen. In this case, the black circle of the camera ends up conveniently outside the gaming screen.

The phone runs on Google’s latest version of Android Pie. And over the top, Honor has layered its own user interface (UI) over the top. This shows that Huawei/Honor is committed to improving their UI. And what we have seen so far with regular updates and design refinements, is promising.

Honor View 20 charging

The funky bubble charging animation gets faster when supercharging. Any old USB charger will work but expect considerably slower charging times unless it says “Super Charging“ right under the percentage.

The battery is a very large 4,000mAh, so it’ll provide a full day-and-a-half of average usage. And thanks to excellent battery optimisation app you can stretch this even further. The Power Saving Mode limits background activity, system sounds and visual effects to squeeze more life out of your battery.

We found that it adds two or three hours to the battery life while affecting very little the overall performance and user experience. Fast charging, via the conveniently reversible USB-C port is not the fastest we have tested. But it will give you at least 50% of the charge in 30 minutes which is great if you’re in a hurry for a top-up.

Performance may vary if you use a third-party charger so whenever you use any old USB charger, be aware that the lock screen should say “Super Charging” followed by a percentage. If it just says “Charging” than it may take a lot longer.

Honor View 20 racing game in hand

The Honor View 20 runs any game at full quality with no detectable lag.

Fingerprint unlocking works flawlessly and so does face recognition, a technology in which Huawei/Honor brand still dominates in.

RAM 6GB
Battery capacity 4,000 mAh
OS and version Android 9 (Pie)

Value and verdict

  • Possibly the best Honor phone so far
  • Performance on par with premium phones
  • Innovative hole-punch selfie camera gives you more screen for your money
  • Impressively hi-res rear camera
  • Lack of Gorilla glass and water resistance are acceptable compromises given the budget price

The Huawei sub-brand, known for bold designs and premium features at outrageously low prices has considerably upped its game with its new flagship.

And the SIM-free price of the Honor View 20 is a very reasonable £499. True, this is more expensive than your average Honor device, but comes with a lot of high-end features and a futuristic design that makes even the latest iPhones look outdated.

Its more premium cousin, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, comes in at £699. And the View 20 shares many of its components, including stellar camera specs, a big battery and intuitive software.

As you might expect, the View 20 has a lower resolution screen and it compromises in its materials (the glass doesn’t carry the Gorilla brand that guarantees unrivalled toughness). It also does away with water-resistance, a feature that is nice to have but it requires a considerably higher standard of construction.

But the Honor View 20 is far from being just a stripped down version of a premium device.

While the “punch-hole” selfie camera may be the headline-grabbing feature the Honor View 20 is a very well-executed device all-round.

The design is as eye-catching as we have come to expect from Honor, and unlike some of their other recent models, it seems to have got its dimensions and weight just right.

Unsurprisingly for an Honor phone, there’s plenty of processing power and the camera is mightily capable.

Even the proprietary UI, a sore point on both Honor and Huawei devices, is showing serious signs of improvement.

The Honor View 20 is a worthy challenger to the OnePlus 6T and a valid alternative to the Huawei Mate 20 Pro if you’re attracted to the high-specs but not the high price tag.

Category: Reviews
Tagged: honor
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