With a new year in tow, we have exciting new technologies and innovation to look forward to, and smartphones get to experience these first hand. 2018 was all about the OnePlus 6T, with it becoming the best-seller in the premium segment. After using that phone extensively, and making it my daily driver, I have no doubts over why it did. With the View 20, Honor is trying to grab some of the market from OnePlus, with a phone that makes extremely bold decisions. Here’s why you need to pay attention to the gorgeous Honor View 20.
The Honor View 20 is priced at INR 37,999 for the 6GB RAM+128GB variant, and 45,999 for the 8GB RAM+256GB variant. At that price, it competes with the fan favorite OnePlus 6T, as well as other older flagships that have faced a price cut. Its predecessor, the Honor View 10 was also aimed at the then champion, the OnePlus 5T but barely close to it. But with the View 20, Honor has done an excellent job at making a real competitor that even tips the 6T and brings features that were previously unheard of.
Love at first sight
One of the first things you will notice upon unboxing, which was seconded by dozens of my co-commuters, is that this phone is a sexy looker. And if you opt for the Red or the Blue variant, phew! It’s gorgeous. On the back, you get these sharp lines that shine in neon colors when light strikes to reveal an interesting V-pattern. Honestly, it looks more classy than tacky, and more premium than the price tag would suggest. The glass is not as slippery as you would believe, having a look at the images. If you are scared of scratching up the non-Gorilla glass-covered back panel, use the included case for some added peace of mind.
A display that will captivate you
The front is predominantly covered by the screen, which is one of the major talking points of this phone. The Honor View 20 is one of the only commercially available phones, for now, to sport a punch-hole display, where instead of a notch, the front camera takes up only the bare minimum amount of space needed. It looks cool and functionally frees up a lot of space, offering almost just the display. I had concerns over the scaling and adaptability of this abyss in my screen, but had no issues for the most part. I’m glad to report that PUBG scaled perfectly too, giving some much coveted extra screen on the sides.
As for the viewing experience, the LCD panel with a resolution of 2310×1080 was more than adequate. Sharpness and color accuracy were high, but if you are coming from an OLED display, this LCD might look a little unsaturated. In absolute terms, there’s nothing to complain about. The screen has a brilliant coating which lends a perfect balance between friction and smoothness. Swiping across this 6.4-inch slab of glass was a joy. The display also stays reasonably bright, and I found no need to crank it up to the max.
A new warrior
The good stuff continues on the inside, as the phone is powered by their homegrown Kirin 980 chipset, one of the few SoCs right now to be built over a 7nm manufacturing process. In simpler words, you get top-notch performance while maintaining battery efficiency and no overheating. In terms of pure processing power, it is definitely equivalent to the run of the mill Snapdragon 845, if not better. The performance never let me down, with no lags or stutters that I can recall. The Mali G76 GPU could hold its own for intensive tasks, especially heavy gaming. This is also one of the few phones that can output a constant 60fps while playing PUBG.
Full tanks, please!
Honor has managed to fit this phone with a sizeable 4,000mAh battery to offer battery life that literally, keeps you going. The battery lasted for more than a day, almost every day, but probably not for that one weekend, when I took the device out for a photo shoot and enjoyed unhealthy periods of gaming. During lighter tasks, the processor optimizes itself to not leech the battery unnecessarily. For example, on one instance, I used Google Docs to write some notes for close to an hour, and battery life barely lost 2% charge, with WiFi turned on. This might just be one of the best battery lives I have gotten on a flagship that isn’t unreasonably heavy.
The phone ships with a 40W SuperCharger, and will give about 80% juice in an hour. Not bad at all. Power delivery takes place through the USB Type-C port on the bottom.
On the subject of ports, this phone also boasts of a 3.5mm headphone jack, which has been placed in a rather unusual place. It has been placed at the top, almost towards the center. While the top is not the ideal position for music or even gaming (it will get in the way of your grip), we shouldn’t be complaining at this point. The audio output was great. There is a single mono bottom-firing loudspeaker, which was nothing great and was easy to muffle in landscape orientation.
A worthy second pair of eyes
The Honor View 20 also has a very interesting camera array, with a primary 48-megapixel f/1.8 sensor (Sony IMX586), and a secondary 3D depth sensing ToF (Time of Flight) camera. This is one of the few commercially available 48-megapixel cameras on a smartphone, and it is a particularly interesting one. Inherently, it has a rather small 0.8-micron pixel size, but when shooting at 12-megapixel, it combines four adjacent pixels using pixel binning to create larger pixels of essentially 1.6-microns in size. A larger pixel size helps to maintain detail and drastically improve low light imaging.
During day time, the camera worked admirably with ample detail and very accurate colors. The dynamic range was great for the most part, but often times, the highlights would get clipped. Turning on HDR barely helped, and finding it was another task on its own. Normally, with every smartphone, I would expect the HDR toggle to be present somewhere on the main camera viewfinder, however, with the View 20, it was hidden deep in the “More” options on the extreme right of the regular modes. Unlike the OnePlus 6T, the images do not get a halo of ghosting around the dark objects and help the image look more realistic.
The camera was always quick to focus, and always accurate. There were times when I was trying to shoot a moving dog or a flower dancing with the wind, and every time the focus locked on perfectly. That goes a long way to ensure that you get the image you desired when you don’t have time to compose it properly. The minimum focusing distance was also very low, as seen from the close-up of the fly.
Moving to low light, the images still held strong without losing a lot of detail. There was considerable digital noise when you zoom in, and the sharpness starts to falter. There is a dedicated Night mode, which takes practically exposes for 4 seconds and bring out the details from the darkest areas without blowing the highlights. Normally, you’d never be able to take a 4-second handheld long exposure without bringing in a lot of shakes, but the phones AIS (image stabilization) would always keep up.
Out of curiosity, I tried using the Night Mode during day and it brought in a lot more dynamic range without actually over-exposing the shot. You also get a full-fledged Pro mode to tweak every aspect of the image before shooting, and it worked beautifully. If you know how to use it correctly, you won’t need to use the “Light Painting” mode. The implementation was underwhelming and after the first second or so, you are almost guaranteed to get an overly bright blown-out image.
Portrait Mode images were always well cut out, thanks to the ToF camera. Edge detection was spot on, and background isolation was great even in slightly darker conditions. The Portrait Mode works after it detects your face, so if you want to use it for inanimate objects, switch to the “Aperture mode” under the ‘More’ option for excellent results.
For videos, this phone can record 1080p at up to 60fps, but 4K is limited to 30. The videos are electronically stabilized and it worked well at 1080p. There is still a discernible shake to identify footsteps, but the footage is very usable. The frame you see in the viewfinder is the frame you get in the final video. This was a major pain point with the OnePlus 6T, where the clips would get cropped by a lot, rendering your composition useless.
The front camera uses a 25-megapixel fixed focus camera with an f2.0 aperture. The selfies had a lot of detail when you zoom in to check the individual strands of hair. Owing to the fixed focal distance, images can come out to be soft, at times. The dynamic range was also all over the place and you will need to be prepared for overexposed backgrounds whilst shooting against the sky.
Overall, the cameras on the Honor View 20 will not disappoint and are going to provide you the best stills at this price. The videos could have been better, but are still serviceable.
The weakest point of the otherwise ‘impressive phone’ is its software package. Magic UI 2.0 built on top of Android 9.0 Pie is basically what we have been getting from Huawei since years. It’s not as gimmicky as it used to be back in the day, and has stripped down a lot of unnecessary elements. There is still a fair amount of bloat in the way of duplicate apps from Honor as well as Google. You get the option to have an app drawer, which I’m sure many will appreciate. There are some iOS-inspired elements like the swipe down on the home screen to trigger a universal search. The UI will also look too childish to some.
While the skin is not terrible, it has a learning curve attached to it, especially for those coming from near stock Android experiences. What I hated the most was the inconsistency it brought along. For starters, I turned on navigation gestures to use the entire screen real estate, and firstly, unlike every other smartphone, for some reason, Magic UI demands a swipe from the sides and not the bottom. It is arguably easier to reach, but it forgets the main issues that Android also uses swipes from the sides to access certain features and areas of Material UI. For example, if you use swipe typing, then each time you try to type a word starting from P, you will collapse the keyboard as the back gesture will be triggered. If you are cropping an image from the sides, very likely it will take you a couple of tries to be able to do that. The messiest part was that the gestures also rotate when you are in landscape orientation (Can’t think of any other phone that does that), so when you’re watching YouTube or playing PUBG, the swipe gesture to go to the home screen will not come from the sides.
You can ignore my rant if you are going to stick to soft keys and not gesture-based navigation.
Historically, the View-series was easy for consumers to overlook, as the competition was far better with OnePlus rampaging over almost everyone else. But over these past few months, we saw very few phones launch in India priced at the INR 40,000 mark. In the time when OnePlus phones are almost touching the 50k mark, Honor has stepped up beautifully and stands as a worthy competitor to some of the best smartphones, including the OnePlus 6T.
The Honor View 20 is an amazing device, and one of those few that didn’t make me miss my OnePlus 6T. The buttery-smooth performance, enjoyable cameras, and the beefy battery backup will definitely make every buyer happy. Yes, it is an unconventional phone, but according to me, that adds to its charm of not just being another fish in the sea. When I drop INR 40K on a smartphone, I want it to feel special; and the Honor View 20 does that charmingly!