I’ve followed Honor for as long as I can remember. Not only have they introduced me to a mid-range market that is incredibly compelling in the face of ever more ludicrous pricing increases at the top end, but they have also made me take more notice of their parent company, Huawei, and their devices too. The latest offering from the team at Honor is the Honor View 10. It looks to cement itself as a compelling high-end alternative to the established flagship devices and duke it out with the likes of OnePlus for the throne at the sub £500/$700 price point.
Honor’s relentless push for mid-market dominance sees their latest offering aim squarely at the likes of the OnePlus 5T, and looks to take its throne as Flagship Killer with some value-adds in their EMUI skin atop Android 8.0. On paper, it has every chance, but after a two week review period, what do I think? I think it does a good job and only really loses ground in one area. Let’s dig a bit deeper.
To start with, a tour of the device doesn’t reveal anything that suggests it will stand out from the now ubiquitous smartphone crowd. The aluminium frame encompasses a 1080 x 2160 IPS display with a very 2017/2018 18:9 ratio to satisfy those wanting that elongated feel. Up top is an array of sensors and the front facing 13MP camera with only the addition of the argument inducing fingerprint scanner-cum-home button at the base of the front. Coming from the OnePlus family of devices, I am quite happy with the placement but many who have had their head turned by the likes of LG and earlier Honor/Huawei devices will bemoan the lack of a rear fingerprint sensor to keep that front panel nice and clean.
The 16MP / 20MP dual camera dominates the back of the Honor View 10, with the only other additions to the chassis being the Type-C USB charging port, speaker grille and 2.5mm headphone jack down low, with the volume rocker and power button on the right-hand side.
Honor’s previous device, the Honor 9 was nicknamed the ‘Lightcatcher’ due to the multi-layered glass approach. Those wishing for such luxuries here will be disappointed as we’re stuck with matte aluminium. It still looks quite nice but it’s not as eye-catching as the former offering. Equally, it means there is no Qi wireless charging included. Whether that bothers you or not, the market couldn’t care less about Qi it seems so this shouldn’t be seen as a loss for anybody unless you’re coming from a Samsung device.
- OS – Android 8.0 + EMUI 8.0
- COLOURS – Blue / Midnight Black
- CHIPSET – Huawei Kirin 970, Octa-Core (4*2.36 GHz+4*1.8 GHz)
- BATTERY – 3750 mAh
- CAMERA – Main dual camera: 16MP + 20MP, Front camera: 13MP
- STORAGE ROM: 128GB (Expandable storage: up to 256GB, Micro SD)
- RAM: 6GB
- CONNECTIVITY – 4G TD-LTE/4G LTE FDD/3G WCDMA/2G GSM; Wifi 802.11 b/g/n, 2.4GHz; Wifi 802.11 a/n/ac, 5GHz; Support Wi-Fi Hotspot, Bluetooth 4.2, USB 2.0
- SIZE – Dimensions: 157mm(L) x 74.98mm(W) x 6.97mm(T), Weight: 172g
- SIM – TD-LTE/FDD LTE/WCDMA/GSM, SIM card 1 (SIM only), SIM card 2 (SIM or microSD card up to 256 GB)
- FEATURES – Fingerprint Scanner, NFC, Ambient light sensor, Compass, Status indicator, Accelerometer, USB-C, mircoSD, 3.5mm headset jack
- OUTPUT – 5V/4.5A
There are some serious specs here with 128GB storage, 6GB RAM to handle most multitasking requirements as well as the Kirin 970 with it’s AI NPU included for some grunt to back it up. One of the key features aside from the power it packs under its glass and aluminium hood, for most, will be the dual camera setup. A 16MP f/1.8 aperture camera is backed up with a 20MP f/1.8 monochrome sensor for adding detail to colour photos or for taking detailed black & white shots.
As you can see the Honor View 10 has a capable camera (these were mostly taken on automatic mode with some portrait shots and wide aperture shots) but whether it’s just me or not, but I actually found it on par with the OnePlus offering in daylight but it deteriorated rapidly in lower light. You’ll also have to have your hands in full-on steady mode to offset the omission of OIS here, especially in lower light.
If you’re after some other filters or camera modes, Honor has you covered also, revealing its Asian roots. There is a Pro Mode, monochrome, panorama, time-lapse, HDR, Night shot, light painting and many more. There are far too many options for me here but it doesn’t hurt having these options to hand for those with more specialist requirements.
The front-facing camera is a little disappointing, however. Overexposure is near guaranteed and low light selfies require that steady hand once more. There’s plenty of detail from the 13MP camera, but I can’t help thinking that I’d much rather attempt the wrist-twisting rear facing selfie shot than persist with the poor output from the front facing camera. That should say it all.
The 18:9 aspect ratio is nice to see here. Whilst I’ve used other devices that utilise that ratio, this is my first prolonged experience of it. I am sold on it in general however with key access to items in Android controlled by both top-down and bottom-up swiping, the increased height of the device does cause those with anything but large hands some contortion when swiping for notifications or apps.
The IPS display here could do with being brighter as the daylight can take its toll on visibility, but in general, most will get on with this just fine. The FHD+ resolution will please many looking for battery improvements over barely visible pixel per inch increases, and the colour reproduction on the panel is acceptable with the ability to tweak the temperature for those fussy individuals amongst us.
The big omission here is any sort of always-on display. There are options available for both LCD and AMOLED displays so there really isn’t an excuse for not delivering this feature in 2018. That said, if the lack of it provided battery improvements I’d take the battery juice overseeing my notifications a little bit easier. To offset this disappointment somewhat is a nice “new notification” screen that turns on when a new email, message or other notification comes in. It’s not the always-on we deserve, but it’s the only option we have here.
Let’s just start by saying the Kirin 970 is beastly. It kills anything thrown at it and the only time I find myself wishing I had a full-on flagship device is when playing crazy 3D games, but even then the Mali-G72 delivers in most instances. In 2018, as in 2017, the chipset is a less important specification for consumers as the assumption is now that almost all offerings can deliver at least good performance now that Android has matured and been optimised more and more. That is true but coming from the dark days of the mid-range CPUs being quite simply poor, I’m always happy to see a chipset that doesn’t flatter to deceive, even in 2018.
The addition to the chipset is the NPU (Neural Processing Unit) which will look to learn and become better utilised over time. Currently, the NPU is being used almost exclusively for camera scene recognition, but its early days. We expect AI chips to provide more standout features moving into 2018 and 2019.
6GB RAM and 128GB ROM here is becoming a relative norm in the higher end devices and they make good bedfellows. I still believe 6GB is overkill for Android, but in many cases, I’ve been proven incorrect with the Honor View 10 and OnePlus devices delivering stellar multi-tasking when compared to those with lesser RAM. Luck of the drawer of specific applications sleeping better on Android? Who knows, but I’ll take the placebo and be happy with the higher number here. Bigger is usually better in these specifications.
Well, here we are. High-end hardware is, to coin an Americanism, a dime a dozen, and has been in the mid and high-end market for more than 12 months. The value adds that the like of HTC’s Sense used to bring are areas that can look to differentiate one device from another. Here, the Honor View 10 delivers the latest EMUI skin atop Android 8.0 and there are both good and bad things to say about it.
By default, there’s no App Drawer, but don’t fret, you can re-enable this. This is a testament to Honor’s increased concentration on the Western market, however, there are still more than enough Eastern influences, and unfortunately, I don’t think that’s a good thing.
From the white-washing beauty mode to the bloated included apps, and on to the poor and aggressive memory management, there are a number of areas that just take the lovely hardware of the Honor View 10, and hold it to ransom.
My biggest gripe here is the aforementioned Memory Management. Notifications are frequently ignored when the screen is off and the application isn’t explicitly open. This leads a user to wonder whether a lack of notifications is due to simply no notifications, or a failure of the software which sadly happens on a number of occasions. I tried to white list the applications such as Hangouts, Messenger and the like, as well as remove them from battery optimisation, all to no avail.
It’s not all bad here though as there are some good additions. Being able to utilise the front facing fingerprint scanner as a gesture pad for navigating, as well as granular control of aspects of data handling and permissions (standard Android I know), and review the backup options direct from the device are all value-adds I’m happy with. It’s just a shame that the software is so pervasive. Had Honor taken the Motorola approach or indeed the OnePlus approach I’d be recommending this product over and above almost any other flagship based on bang for the buck and the added value. They didn’t and the persist with EMUI.
It has certainly improved over the years with, and Honor is a company that listen, but with their roots firmly in the Asian markets I’m not confident that we’ll ever get a more stock feel to an Honor device or indeed a more polished EMUI, and that is currently the one Achilles heal the Honor View 10 has.
Battery life is perhaps the biggest issue for smartphone users and seemingly has been for a number of years. Advances in performance, base storage offerings, and smartphone cameras have all taken precedence over what is perhaps the most important specification of all, the battery. Without the battery, no matter how lovely that screen is, or crispy the 4K recording might be, you’re limited to how long you can enjoy them.
Thankfully here the 3750 mAh battery delivers a day of use without issue, and I managed to get close to 6 hours of screen on time during my review period; not always but sometimes. I averaged around 5 hours of screen on time I think which is still good compared to other devices based on my usage. There is no doubt that the FHD+ resolution helps here and I applaud Honor for their restraint. There is no point chasing 2K or 4K resolutions if you limit the use of them (see previous points) and I’m glad that the likes of Honor and OnePlus remain staunch in their resolution.
There is no denying that the Honor View 10 is aiming squarely at the OnePlus offerings and hoping to topple their Flagship Killer mantle with a combination of compelling price, quality hardware and an increasingly effective marketing strategy which focuses on the community and their digital natives.
On the price and hardware they fully deliver with the performance up there with anything we’ve tried recently, and the optical package on par with that of the OnePlus whilst not causing the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S8 any lost sleep. It’s with the software where the Honor View 10 trips up on what would seem its victory lap.
EMUI has come a long way in the past few years but the niggles and pervasive nature of the Android skin is no less annoying now than it once was; it’s just different. The launcher is no longer the issue, with enough options to make everyone happy, but the notification management and lack of simple setting retrieval have taken over. If Honor gets this right then they have a world-beater on their hands.
As it stands the Honor View 10 sits proudly at the top table based on its hardware and its price point and is a compelling option for consumers for those two reasons.