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Honor View20 Review: The Real Deal

We have no qualms saying that we’re a fan of Honor flagships, we also have no qualms saying that the Honor View10 from last year was, to say the least, disappointing. The screen was just ok, the performance was good but the camera underwhelmed, and next to the Mate 10 Pro, the less said about it the better. With the View20 though, that couldn’t be farther from the truth, and with this, Honor is showing they are ready to stop pulling some punches.

Honor View20
+ FOR
  • Great Screen
  • Rock Solid Performance
  • Stellar Battery Life
  • Great Build Quality
  • Stunning Design
  • Great Cameras
- AGAINST
  • EMUI/MagicUI still not everyone's taste
  • Front camera suffers in low-light

Buy on Amazon UK

Disclaimer: Honor PR provided us with this View20 sample for review. In our testing, the phone received a single OTA, that was to enable the “AI Ultra Clarity” feature in the Camera. As far as I am aware, this is a production sample with (now) production firmware. The View20 was used on the Three UK network in the Southeast of England in North and Central London over a 2 week period. No Money has exchanged hands between Honor and MTT and Honor are not reviewing this content before it goes live.

Honor View20 Review

Specifications

  • 6.4” IPS LCD Screen
    • 2310x1080p (19.25:9 Aspect Ratio)
    • AllView Display (Hole punch camera)
    • CoF (Chip On Film) Tech
  • HiSilicon Kirin 980 SoC
    • 2x Cortex A76 @2.6Ghz
    • 2x Cortex A76 @1.92Ghz
    • 4x Cortex A55 @1.8Ghz
    • Mali G76- MP10 GPU
    • 7nm Manufacturing node from TSMC
  • 6GB LPDDR4X RAM with 128GB UFS-II Storage
  • 8GB LPDDR4X RAM with 256GB UFS-II Storage
  • Android 9 Pie
  • Honor Magic UI 2.0
  • 48mp Sony IMX586 rear camera
    • F1.8
    • ½” sensor
    • 0.8µP
    • ToF (Time of Flight) 3D sensor camera
  • 25mp front facing camera
    • F2.0
    • 27mm effective Field of view
    • Hardware HDR support.
  • 4000mAh built-in battery
  • 22.5w Huawei SuperCharge charger

If you want the full spec sheet of the Honor View20, head on over to its page on GSMArena here

Hardware

We’ve seen glass sandwiches before, that is nothing new, we’ve even seen glass sandwiches in funky colours (usually from Huawei and Honor) but what Honor have pulled off here is something strikingly different, yet comfortably familiar.

Honor View20 Review
Up front, we have that massive 6.4” IPS screen with the hole punch in the corner for the 25mp selfie camera and,honestly, not much else, seriously. The earpiece has been relocated to a little slit between the display glass and the metal chassis, the ambient light sensor is on the top of the frame and the proximity sensor is behind the screen. The only thing, aside from the screen and the camera up front is the small chin. Honor have been able to reduce this chin once again by utilising a piece of tech called CoF, or Chip on Film. In layman’s terms, all the important bits that make a touch screen work are put on a flexible board, so that board instead of being below the screen, can be folded behind the screen, making the bottom bezel, or chin, much smaller.

Honor View20 Review
Teeny tiny chin

The screen is a lot nicer than I was expecting as I’m not a huge fan of IPS displays as you all know, but the IPS here is actually pretty impressive, and it’s more impressive when you considered what Honor had to do to get the hole in the display for the camera. Without boring you too much, making a hole in the screen is much harder on an IPS LCD due to the backlight. Punch through too many layers, the light from the screen wrecks the camera, too few and the camera is too dim, also it makes the display a lot more fragile. OLEDs don’t have this issue, which is why it is even more impressive that the screen on the View20 is IPS. My one issue, and it is a super big nitpick, especially as I use a dark background so rarely see it, is that the position of the camera doesn’t match up with the corner of the display, making the mismatched radii more apparent. Once again though, super nitpick.

Honor View20 Review
Taking a hardware tour of the rest, the metal frame on my Sapphire blue unit is, obviously blue, a matte anodised dark blue, and I’m a fan, and it’s not just because Blue is a colour I can see well. On the top is the ever rarer 3.5mm headphone jack, the ambient light sensor, the secondary microphone used for noise cancellation and finally the IR blaster, which is another rare feature. Flipping to the bottom shows us the main microphone and the USB-C port which deserves special mention for its use of the USB3.1 Gen1 spec. While not 3.1 Gen2, it’s a lot faster than USB 2 that most other USB-C phones implement, and makes getting those 48mp pictures off your phone, a breeze. Next is the speaker grille, yes grille, sadly this is a mono setup.

Honor View20 Review
The left-hand rail of the View20 houses the Dual NanoSIM tray slot, no MicroSD or Nano-Memory card slot here folks, though with either 128gb or 256gb of built-in storage, do you really need it? Flipping to the right we have the power button and volume rocker. Once again these deserve special mention. My unit has next to no wobble in the buttons and requires just the right amount of pressure to actuate the mechanism, and once you do, there is a satisfying click that you feel. This attention to detail is really, really nice.

Honor View20 Review
Now we get to the other standout feature, the rear panel. This rear panel uses multiple layers of etched films under the glass so that when the light hits it you get a rainbow of chevrons going up and down the rear, and man are they awesome. It’s a little touch, and in my opinion, is nicer than the altered Twilight finish that Huawei debuted on the Mate 20 Pro. Sadly we don’t get the fancy red in the UK, but we do get Sapphire blue, which I have here, Midnight Black, and a more subdued (but barely) Phantom Blue. On the rear, we have the talk of the show, the 48mp main camera from Sony using the new IMX586. I won’t go into too much detail here so as to not bore you, but if you’re interested to learn a bit more, just plop that model number into Google and search to your heart’s content. I’ll speak more about it in the camera section, but this is a really good camera, and not just in terms of Honor phones. Next to it is the novel new 3D ToF (Time of Flight) sensor used for a multitude of things that aren’t really ready yet, and the LED Flash. To the far right is the AI Vision branding, and right at the bottom is the new, more mature Honor brand logo, a change I am very much a fan of. Oh, and this is where the Fingerprint sensor is, it’s a standard fast, capacitive Huawei affair, nothing to complain about here, it is in the right place (aside from under screen). It’s fast and it’s accurate, nothing more is needed.

Honor View20 Review
The fit and finish of the View20 really is a step up from what we’ve seen from Honor in the past, and that is made even more impressive by the more approachable £499 price tag ( I said more approachable, not budget). As I said earlier, the View20 is Honor’s statement piece. It’s proof that Honor isn’t content just being the Luke Hemsworth of the Huawei Family, it wants to be Liam or even Chris (Editor: +5 pop culture points to you Dom). Honor have gone to the Gym, gotten a new barber, gotten a personal stylist and worked on their posture, and it really, really shows.

Honor View20 Review

Software

Whilst the name may be different, from the outset, Honor’s Magic UI, in version 2.0.1 at least, is a marginally different version of EMUI, much like a Rose is still a Rose whether it’s red or white, Magic UI is still EMUI even though the name has changed. I have been told this is to change though. Just as I talked about Honor wanting to get out from under Huawei’s shadow, the software is another one of those areas. Whilst this version of Magic UI is more or less EMUI 9, future versions will be more heavily AI based, with its own ground-up assistant YOYO, though Google Assistant will still be an option.

Honor View20 Review
Needless to say, whilst the name has changed, not much else has, which, if you’re a fan of EMUI9, or at least know how it works and how to get it the way you like, this is going to be good. Over the years EMUI has slowly grown into something that is less and less abhorrent, and I’m not sure whether it’s actually gotten that much better or it’s just exposure therapy, but there are parts of EMUI, and by extension Magic UI that I really don’t dislike anymore, like the camera and the settings interfaces, EMUI/Magic UI also brings me things that stock android doesn’t have, such as a desktop mode, that is actually what I’m using to write this review on right now, nice and useful features abound.

Honor View20 Review
Sadly, for every feature I like, there seems to be one or two that I don’t like. For instance, I spoke about this in the Honor 10 Lite Review, Huawei’s gestures are just bad, so bad that they fundamentally break one of the core UI aspects of Android, the left-hand swipe for hamburger menus. Another persistent bug in EMUI and Magic UI is the weird blue tinge when going into the recent apps screen occasionally, no one at Honor or Huawei can tell me why it happens, but it never happened on any of my Huawei/Honor devices before EMUI9/MagicUI 2.0, and on every Honor/Huawei device with EMUI9/Magic UI 2.0 I have the same issue. Luckily, the weird bug where I wasn’t getting my notifications from the Honor 20 Lite is gone here, replaced with a weirder bug, which I’m told has to do with the hole for the camera. The bug is that, occasionally the on-screen buttons shift even so slightly to the left, probably about 5mm or so. I’m told this is for when the device is in landscape with the camera on the right hand, the software shifts the buttons down as to not get anywhere near the camera, but sometimes forgets to put them back when in portrait.

Honor View20 Review
Stability wise, this is one of the more stable Huawei/Honor launches in recent years, I haven’t had any weird phantom drain bugs, no software hangs or random reboots, everything that was there, just worked, which is great, which probably isn’t something I should have to praise, but devices from all companies lately have been getting released to market in almost a beta phase and the first few months are used to tweak things, it’s nice to just have a phone that works. Of course under MagicUI is just standard Android 9 Pie, so you get all of Pie’s goodness as well, which is great.

Camera

This is another area where Honor is trying to improve, and it shows. For years, Honor phones have been comparable to their mainstream Huawei counterparts, just without the “wow”. Their AI processing has been just that little more aggressive, they’ve been that bit flatter, dynamic range has been close but not quite as good etc. With the Honor View20, I feel comfortable saying that Honor has caught up with Huawei and the View20 takes shots comparable to those of the main 40mp camera on the Mate 20 Pro.

Honor View20 Review
The main camera is a brand new sensor from Sony, the IMX586, this is a 48MP native sensor, meaning that, if you really wanted to, you could take 8000x6000p photos, which is actually one of the settings Honor has. But the better option is the use the Pixel Fusion mode, where a group of 4 pixels team up and pretend they’re one larger pixel, this gives you a 12mp image, but with all the detail of the 48mp image, this also lets you take in more light, because instead of one small megapixel (0.8µ each) you get 4, which gives you an effective 1.6µP size instead, 4 times larger, means 4 times more light, meaning your late night shots are about to get a lot more impressive.

Honor View20 Review
If, like most people, you aren’t concerned with how it takes good shots, but how they look, well you’re in for a treat.

Neat huh? Well, what about that selfie camera? 25mp must be some great selfies, right? Well, actually yeah, at least if you’re in good light. For some reason, Honor hasn’t implemented the pixel fusion on the front here,so instead of getting an option for 6.25mp low light selfies you only get the standard 25mp mode, a 19mp mode that is 1:1 aspect ratio, or a 15mp mode that is the native 19.3:9 aspect ratio of the screen. One of the interesting parts of the front camera is supposed Hardware support for HDR, and I thought this was just marketing fluff, but actually, the HDR shots were real-time, noticeably more dynamic range than standard ones, so I have no real reason to doubt that claim any more.
Anyway, you know the sitch, selfies now.

Honor made a pretty big deal about the 3D ToF camera sensor on the View20 as being able to do things like real-time AR gaming and placing a digital object in real space, also give better selfies for better edge detection, and I haven’t found that to be the case. It’s neat, and edge detection is a bit better than on other phones, but yeah, this is a gimmick, hands down, I would have much preferred a wide-angle or telephoto second sensor instead.

Honor View20 Review
Can we talk about how bad this studio lighting effect is, please?

Lastly, Video, because this is an area where Honor and Huawei usually struggle, and I’m happy to tell you that this is a lot better. The video is still capped at 4k30 for both encode and decode, but the actual video capture is so much better that it’s not even funny. Despite the fact that the camera defaults to 1080p30 in H.264 mode, the camera can do 720p30, 1080p30, 1080p60, 1080p+ (1080p at 19.29:9 aspect ratio) and 2160p30, all of this in either H.264 or H.265 mode, neat.
So I’m pretty impressed with how Honor has stepped up their Camera game with the View20, seriously good stuff guys and gals.

Performance

Performance on Honor flagships hasn’t ever really been an issue, even back on the Honor 6 with the Kirin 920 days, in my opinion, but since HiSilicon started playing with the big boys, I’m comfortable saying the Kirin chips are amongst the best the ARM world has to offer.

Honor View20 Review
Not quite, CPU-Z, not quite.

The Kirin 980 in the Honor View20 uses the newer A76 and A55 cores from ARM, these new chips include support for something called DynamIQ (said as Dynamic, eurgh, brand names). Which in layman’s terms is a newer way to order the cores. Initially, we had single cores, then multiple cores that shared the same core design, voltage, clock speed etc. then we got big.LITTLE, which allowed for two different core groups at different clock speeds, and even different core designs, what DynamIQ does is take big.LITTLE further, whereas on big.LITTLE you could have 2 Cortex A73s and 4 Cortex A53s, with DynamIQ you can have 1 Cortex A76 and 5 Cortex A55s, this allows for a much more flexible core configuration allowing you to optimise your design for power, or power efficiency etc much easier.

What HiSilicon has done with the Kirin 980 is definitely power focused, we have a triple cluster design, with 2 Cortex A76s at 2.6Ghz as the high power cores, then we get the next 2 Cortex A76’s at 1.92Ghz as the general purpose power cores, and lastly we have 4 Cortex A55s at 1.8Ghz as the efficiency cores, and as the AnandTech look on the 980 from the Mate 20 Pro review shows, HiSilicon nailed this design. It’s powerful, is also smart enough to be power efficient, has a good GPU design and cache design, stellar.

Battery

Another Area that Honor didn’t really need to improve upon, yet here we are. The 4000mAh cell in the View20 is monstrously big, ridiculously so, but even so, the phone doesn’t feel like a tank to me. At 180g, it is not a featherweight device for sure, but it is distributed so well that I rarely notice the mass in my hand or pocket. It’s also not thick, despite that huge cell in there. I’m not sure who the battery supplier is for the cell in this, but Honor should hold on to them for a while.

Honor View20 Review
In most of my testing, It was normal medium usage, a couple of hours of web browsing, YouTube videos and Social Media etc. In this usage, I was able to get 2 days out of my View20 with relative ease. On days when I had to travel the longevity worse, but I was never, not once in my 2 weeks of use, was I able to drain the View20 in a single day, and I tried. I walked around central London with GPS on, I took hundreds of photos, posted and mindlessly scrolled through social media and travelled on the underground with no signal, and the worst I was able to get at the end of an 18 hour day? 22% left. Nuts.
Honor also isn’t playing around with Charging with SuperCharge here. Sadly, it is still Gen 1, so “only” 22.5w of power instead of the ludicrous 40w on the Mate 20 Pro, but even Gen 1 SuperCharging stomps over Qualcomm QC3.0 and trades blows with OnePlus’ Dash Charge, so you’re good here.

Network and Radio

Unsurprisingly, this is pretty positive as well. Huawei makes a lot of the networking equipment that gets used in the UK, and my carrier of choice, Three UK, happens to use a lot of Huawei equipment, so using a Huawei Phone (or Huawei associated phone) on this network is going to give you great results.

Honor View20 Review
In my 2 weeks Testing the View20 consistently held onto signals where other devices struggled to, not just my BlackBerry KEY2, but also other Huawei phones such as my Mate 10 Pro, so that’s impressive. I was able to get 4G+ (LTE-A with CAA and enhanced backhaul) in more places than I usually am able to, and the speeds are generally up there as some of the highest I’ve been seeing, so I’m really happy with this.
Bluetooth is good but not as Astonishingly good as the 8X, but in my testing, I only had my Bluetooth earbuds (Anker Soundcore Liberty Air, review soon) stutter and skip on one occasion and that was when I was wearing a full suit as well as a thick overcoat, all buttoned up, so I’ll give it a pass for that.

Conclusion

If the title didn’t tell you, the rest of the review should have, I love the Honor View20, it’s a seriously impressive phone. Rock solid performance, with never-ending battery, stellar build, a great screen, standout cameras and all of that at a lower price than competitors.

Honor View20 Review
Whilst £499 for the 6GB/128GB and £579 for the 8GB/256GB isn’t cheap by any means, it’s still a lot cheaper than the S9+, Note 9, Mate 20 Pro, V40 etc. And I really feel comfortable saying this is up there and deserves to be up there. It’s only real competitor is the OnePlus 6T at the same price, but you get a better Camera, better Battery, Better fingerprint sensor etc. If you utterly despise EMUI/Magic UI go for the 6T, if not, seriously check out the View20.

About Domenico Lamberti

Technology has been a big part of my life for years, whether it be ripping the family computer apart to see how it worked, playing with the new phones that Dad brought home from work. Senior Reviewer for MTT.

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