HonorView20 Review. Honor’s View 20 introduces the world’s first in-display selfie camera.
Yes, Honor has eradicated the hated notch, without circular cut-out at the upper left of the having to resort to sliding mechanisms or mechanised pop-up cameras – just a tiny, unobtrusive display.
It’s an impressive feat, beating Samsung to the punch by many months. The View 20 is also the first flagship phone in almost six months to feature a 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s refreshing to see a manufacturer refusing to slavishly follow an inexplicable trend.
Design and build quality:
But the phone’s biggest talking point is that notchless design. Instead of extending down from the bezel, the camera is set into the upper left of the phone’s large 6.4in display. It’s gloriously unobtrusive,
thanks to the small size of the lens: it measures a mere 4.5mm across, significantly less than the 6mm of a typical front-facing camera. Finally, we can all stop complaining about the positioning and styling of the notch.
You won’t see a fingerprint sensor on the front of the View 20, either: to keep the bezels to a minimum, Honor has moved this to the back of the phone.
I prefer this to an in-display or a front-mounted sensor; it makes unlocking the device easier, and allows you to use gestures, such as swiping down on the sensor to expand your notifications, more naturally.
the back of the phone looks almost as good as the front, with the rear glass panel bearing a laser-etched V-pattern that shifts with the light. It’s one of the most attractive
smartphones around, with the only drawback being that it’s a little slippery to hold. Along the top, a distinctive compartmentalised design separates the rear-facing camera from the IR and time-of-flight (ToF) sensors (more on that later).
And the top edge doesn’t only house the 3.5mm headphone jack, but also an IR blaster so you can control TVs, projectors and other appliances through the preinstalled Smart Remote app.
Finally, at the bottom you’ll find a camera and 48-megapixel rear shooter, the View rear shooter, the View20 is a very exciting phone USB-C port and a single downward firing speaker.
I would have preferred stereo speakers, or at least front facing audio, but you can’t have everything. For wireless connectivity, there’s NFC, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, and Bluetooth 5 with aptX HD and LE codec support.
One feature that hasn’t yet materialized is “Link Turbo”, a proprietary technology that – Honor claims – allows the phone to intelligently combine LTE and Wi-Fi connections.
The other thing that’s notably lacking is an IP rating. Honor claims that the View 20’s internals are water resistant, but that’s not backed up by any official certification, so we strongly suggest you avoid throwing this phone in the pool.
The View 20’s full-face, notch-free IPS screen makes a fantastic first impression.
It measures a generous 6.4in across the diagonal, and runs at a sharp Full HD+ (1,080 x 2,310) resolution at an aspect ratio of19.5:9. In terms of image quality, however, it’s disappointing.
Our calibrator measured peak luminance at a mediocre 387cd/m² in “standard” mode – far from the dazzling 996cd/m² that Samsung’s Galaxy S9 achieved in auto-brightness mode.
In “vivid” mode, the View 20 hit 410cd/m², but colour accuracy takes a hit. The contrast ratio is some way off best-in-class as well.
At 969:1 in standard mode and 1,035:1 in vivid mode, it’s not bad, but it can’t compete with the flawless AMOLED displays of Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro and Samsung handsets. Viewing angles aren’t a huge
concern with smartphones, since you’ll normally be looking at the View 20 square on, but I did notice a slight blue tint becoming apparent when looking at the display from the side – a minor foible we’ve also observed on the Google Pixel 3 XL.
The View 20’s Kirin 980 processor is the same chip that powers the flagship Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
It’s the fastest CPU you’ll find in any Android phone, at least until the Snapdragon 855 lands, and the benchmark graphs on p70 show its power.
Those scores were for the more expensive, £580 model, which includes 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. In reality, most people will be perfectly happy with the £500 system that includes 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
Whichever you choose, you’ll have no problem running lots of demanding apps at once, but note there’s no micro-SD slot. Gaming on the Mali-G76 MP10 GPU
is electric, too: intensive games such as PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 8: Airborne are fluid and don’t suffer from the slightest stutter.
In synthetic benchmarks, too, the View 20 is on par with its Kirin 980 counterparts, which means it’s a touch faster than phones with last year’s Snapdragon 845 – and the user interface feels fluid and responsive. On that note, the View 20 is one of
the first phones using Honor’s new Magic UI 2 front end, which is set to replace the previous EMUI Android overlay.
Frankly, I couldn’t distinguish any difference between this phone and its predecessor. What I can say is that it’s some way from the stock feel of Android 9 Pie, which will disappoint purists.
Another aspect of the View 20 that might disappoint is battery life. Its 4,000mAh battery lasted 14hrs 41mins in our battery rundown test, which is well below the 21hrs 40mins of the OnePlus 6T.
The good news is that if you’re running low on juice, the View 20 can be fast-charged to 55% in only 30 minutes, and fully charged in around an hour.
There’s no wireless charging, however – a surprising omission in this day and age.
The View 20’s rear camera offers a staggering 48-megapixel resolution – representing 8,000 x 6,000 pixels, the highest we’ve ever seen from a phone.
This is made possible by Sony’s latest IMX586 camera module, which uses a large 1/3in (8mm) CMOS sensor and has an f/1.8 aperture with PDAF (phase detection autofocus).
To make the most of all those pixels, the phone’s camera app gives you the option of shooting in both “48MP” and “48MP AI Ultra Clarity” modes.
Both produce images of the same resolution, but the latter captures more fine detail. The trade-off is that pictures take a little longer to capture, so you’ll need good lighting or a perfectly still subject.
While the View 20 is capable of capturing great-looking shots, it’s up against stiff competition.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro, OnePlus 6T and Google Pixel 3 XL all have stupendously good cameras: take any one of those and shoot in standard mode, with AI optimisation and HDR disabled, and you’ll see a clear difference in quality.
The View 20’s standard-mode shots simply aren’t as crisp as photos from rival phones, especially the Pixel 3 XL, which captures more detail.
To get the best from the View 20’s camera you must turn on HDR. Suddenly, there’s almost nothing to choose between this and the Pixel 3 XL (in HDR+ Enhanced mode), and the 6T’s images look visibly worse.
Among the four phones, the View 20 is beaten only by the Mate 20 Pro, which manages to capture better colour tones while retaining plenty of detail.
The View 20 also holds its own in low light, capturing more detail than the Pixel 3 XL. The results are somewhat noisy compared to the Mate 20 Pro and OnePlus 6T, however; here the Mate 20 Pro is the clear winner, producing near-flawless results in murky conditions.
As you might expect, the 25-megapixel forward facing camera captures huge amounts of detail, and does an excellent job of rendering realistic colours and tones.
It can also record video at up to Full HD+ at 30fps, while the rear sensor can record 4K at 30fps with EIS or 1080p at 60fps.
It also captures slow motion at up to 960fps, including options to film at 240fps in HD and 120fps in Full HD. With EIS enabled, the phone’s video stabilisation is on par with the Mate 20 Pro, and conspicuously smoother than you’d get on the OnePlus 6T.
Both Chinese phones are beaten by the Pixel 3 XL, however, which produces buttery smooth, jitter-free video. In addition to the View 20’s regular cameras, there’s a rear-facing time-of-flight (ToF) sensor for 3D scanning, and a centre-weighted IR sensor for depth.
These allow you to scan small objects from around 1m away, and then apply 3D animations to your digital captures. Right now this is mostly a bit of fun – you might use it to bring your favourite cuddly toy to life – but it has potential.
Honor suggested that, in the future, the sensor could be used to scan entire buildings and visualise large-scale projects in real-time through AR.
The View 20 is a big release for Honor. It sees the brand assert its own identity, away from the shadow of its parent company Huawei – which, given recent controversies surrounding the Chinese comms giant, might be a good thing.
For £500, the View 20 is a great package: it’s worth remembering that many of the phones I’ve compared it to cost almost £900. However, the View 20 is as powerful as any of them, and beats them all with a notchless design.
The rear-facing camera might not win in every category, but it’s perfectly competent – and, as a bonus, the phone retains the 3.5mm headphone jack.
In fact, the Honor View 20 has only one problem: the Samsung Galaxy S9 can now be bought for £470. It isn’t as stylish, and only includes 64GB of storage, but is a more rounded phone.
With its in screen camera and 48 megapixel rear shotter the Honor View 20 is very featured packed phone.
It’s one of the most attractive smartphones around, with only drawback being that it’s a little slippery to hold.
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