Honor View 20 review: Hands-on

These days, CES is dominated by laptops, TVs, and smart home tech, so it’s a little bit of a surprise to see Honor use the show as an excuse to show off its latest flagship device: the Honor View 20. Still, you can see why the company wants to put the phone in front of people at the year’s flashiest tech show: thanks to a punch-hole camera and a fancy ‘nanolithographic’ rear, the View 20 is a very striking device – even by Honor’s standards.

Price and availability

We’re not sure yet when the View 20 is coming out – or how much it’ll cost – but expect to find out soon. Honor is holding a European launch event on 22 January, where it’ll no doubt reveal the full release info.

If we were to bet, we’d guess you can expect to see it available immediately from that event, with a price somewhere around the GBP400 mark, give or take a little.

See the V

In all honesty, most of the things that make the View 20 exciting come down to its design, rather than its specs, with both the front and rear of the device exciting in their own ways.

For the front, you get a punch-hole/pinhole/in-screen camera (take your pick, no-one seems to have decided what to call these yet). The View 20 isn’t the first phone to pull this off – Samsung got there first – but Honor has been at pains to point out that its camera is a whole 1.5mm smaller, so there’s that.

In practice, this notch-alternative gives you a close-to full-screen 6.4in display – but in practice it takes up the same amount of screen real estate as the teardrop notches in the likes of the OnePlus 6T, only shifted over to one side and separated slightly from the bezels. Your mileage will vary on whether it’s more or less distracting than a notch, but it’s undeniably striking. And so’s the rear of the phone.

Honor’s last few flagships have all played around with interesting refractions, and the View 20 takes this to a whole new level with a nanolithographic design that boasts a subtle V-shape running down the whole back of the phone, without adding any texture to the smooth glass rear. Honor View 20 review: Hands-on

Shift and move the phone around and it catches the light in all sorts of shades and highlights, especially if you opt for one of the coloured versions of the phone. Our review unit is the Phantom Blue pro version of the phone, but you can also get it in Phantom Red (also a pro version), or Midnight Black and the slightly lighter Sapphire Blue if you opt for the non-pro version – more on the difference later.

Basically, this phone looks lush. Honor phones are almost always visually exciting, but the View 20 might just be their prettiest yet, and it’ll give almost any other flagship device a run for its money in aesthetics alone. Oh, and you get a headphone jack.

Praise the Lord.

Peak performance

Still, looks alone do not a flagship make. Luckily, the View 20 is no slouch when it comes to specs. Inside you’ll find Huawei’s flagship Kirin 980 processor (the same chip as the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro), which means this phone should breeze through day-to-day tasks and handle just about any high-end mobile game too.

RAM and storage depend slightly on the model you opt for. The regular View 20 will come with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, while opting for the Pro versions gets you 8GB and 256GB storage – plus those different colour options we mentioned before. Realistically, either will be plenty fast, so the choice should probably come down to how much storage you want – and which colour you prefer – though we don’t yet know how much the prices will differ, or indeed whether every model will launch in the UK.

Honor View 20 review: Hands-on

The screen is a 6.4in, 2310×1080 LCD with a very respectable pixel density of 398ppi, and on first impressions it’s bright and colourful, especially on Honor’s aggressive default colour temperature settings. As for battery life, you’re looking at 4,000mAh, which means this should last most people a couple days of usage – though we’ll have to test that out more fully. Honor claims it has ‘supercharging’, though note that it’s just 22W – not the 45W supercharging of the recent Honor Magic 2.

Still, it will supposedly charge to 55% in 30 minutes, which isn’t half bad.

Picture perfect?

Those internal specs are impressive, but what Honor really wants to push is the View 20’s camera setup – on both sides of the phone. Let’s take the front first again. That in-screen camera is packing 25MP of horsepower, so it’s no slouch, and from using it a bit there’s no evidence that sitting underneath the screen has compromised photo quality at all.

I’d hardly consider myself a passionate selfie taker, but it certainly seems to me that anyone who is would be fairly happy with what the View 20 has to offer – obligatory portrait lighting and beauty effects included. Honor View 20 review: Hands-on

The rear cameras are arguably more interesting, punch-hole aside. The twin sensors are each interesting in their own right: one is the first 48MP sensor anyone has ever bothered to put into a camera, while the second is a 3D camera which the phone uses for depth sensing.

At this point it’s worth reiterating that megapixels aren’t everything, and this is a case where more definitely doesn’t always equal better – and in fact there can be some disadvantages to super-high pixel counts. Still, under the right conditions this 48MP sensor should produce some seriously crisp shots, especially with the help of the Kirin 980’s AI image processing in the dedicated Ultra Clarity and Night modes. The secondary 3D infrared lens should help improve portrait mode, along with a few more niche use cases: artificially slimming you in photos; more accurate calorie counting through the camera by judging portion sizes; and motion-controlled gaming (a la Xbox Kinect, and probably about as well-supported).

Verdict

The View 20 is stunning to look at – from just about any angle, thanks to the one-two punch of the pinhole camera on the front and the genuinely unique holographic V effect on the glass rear.

The specs are plenty powerful to match, but it remains to be seen how the cameras themselves will hold up – high megapixel counts don’t always mean a lot, and recent Honor devices have been hit or miss on actual photo quality.

Still, if the price is as competitive as Honor usually manages, this could be one of 2019’s first best phones.

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