Honor View 20 review: Can this budget flagship really dethrone the OnePlus 6T?

Honor View 20 review

The Honor View 20 is easily the best device the Chinese OEM has ever created (Image: Express Newspapers)

HONOR VIEW 20 • £499.99 (as tested)

  • FOR – Gorgeous 6.4-inch display with an all-screen design • Unparalleled battery life • Camera capable of taking superb shots • Snappy performance • Affordable entry-level price • Headphone jack
  • AGAINST – Display is not OLED • Selfie camera leaves much to be desired • The garish design will not be for everyone • Single speaker is not the loudest and can be easily covered up • No wireless charging • No water resistance • Incredibly slippery

Honor has long been a pioneer of budget smartphones, but until now the firm’s devices have certainly left users feeling as if they have compromised vital features in exchange for the lower price paid.

But the View 20 changes that, giving the Android faithful a device that, during Express.co.uk’s usage, rarely felt hamstrung.

The Honor View 20 is easily the best device the Chinese OEM has ever created and not only radically challenges the OnePlus 6T, but time and time again it outclasses it.

For anyone wanting to upgrade their phone without breaking the bank, look no further than the Honor View 20.

Design and display

The View 20 is immediately distinguishable for what Honor is calling an “aurora nanotexture” back.

Marketing language aside, the View 20 is etched with a “V” pattern on its rear, the gradient of which changes depending on the angle light strikes it.

We tested the phone in both its sapphire blue and phantom blue variants and was certainly a greater fan of the latter.

Although we can admit the garish design will not be for everyone, the unique aesthetic presented by the phone left us impressed and wishing other smartphone manufacturers were more keen to experiment with their colour and gradient options.

The Honor View 20 comes with a 6.4-inch LCD panel that has a 1080p resolution and a density of 398-pixels-per-inch.

The screen used on the handset is incredibly vibrant and offers great viewing angles, however the display certainly leaves much to be desired where darker colours are concerned.

To be expected, blacks on the device do not look as deep as on OLED panels offered by the likes of the OnePlus 6T.

This means if you are watching content that is not in full-screen, the black bars on the outside are much more noticeable and distract from the otherwise capable performance of the LCD screen used.

Honor View 20 review

The Honor View 20 comes with a 4,000mAh battery (Image: Express Newspapers)

The display employed by the View 20 is instantly recognisable for its hole punch-style cutout that is one of the first of its kind.

While removing a segment of the display itself to house the front-facing camera does allow for a greater screen-to-body ratio, it is ultimately still another stopgap until phones with no bezels are the new norm.

Although the hole punch-style cutout is not a traditional notch per se, Honor treats it as such in the settings menu of the device.

If owners choose to turn the notch off, a black bar will appear at the top of the display that covers the cutout and shows notification symbols and status icons.

Personally, we prefer the hole punch-style notch to a traditional one thanks to the slightly larger screen users are granted in return.

And while the black hole within the panel is noticeable once you first start using the device, being especially prominent when watching video, it soon ceases to distract from the user experience.

With that said, such a design feature is not appealing in any fashion, but it is accepted as a temporary compromise until phones completely rid themselves of borders.

The View 20’s aluminium frame houses a headphone jack that has become increasingly rare on smartphones and is a commendable feature on the flagship.

Honor View 20 review

View 20 comes with an IR blaster, a single speaker and charges via USB-C (Image: Express Newspapers)

Moreover, the product also comes with an IR blaster, a single speaker and charges via USB-C.

A physical fingerprint sensor is positioned on the back of the device and is quicker than the first-generation in-display readers present on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and OnePlus 6T.

Personally, we prefer the physical reader for its added reliability, speed and for its ability to perform unique functions such as summoning the phone’s notification shade with a swipe.

It is worth noting the View 20 does come with a screen protector pre-installed and with a clear silicone case in the box.

The fact Honor has already had the courtesy to apply a shield on the front of the device is a nice touch.

And while the case included in the box will not protect the Chinese flagship from any substantial falls, it does prevent the back from getting scratched.

Plus, the case acts as a way to make the phone much less slippery; during our time with the View 20 it habitually fell off completely flat surfaces when placed on them for a significant period of time.

Honor View 20 review

The Honor View 20 comes with a headphone jack (Image: Express Newspapers)

Performance

The Honor View 20 is powered by Huawei’s Kirin 980 chipset, meaning incredibly snappy performance is present across Android 9 Pie.

The Kirin 980 is built on a 7-nanometre process, meaning 25 percent more transistors are present inside it than the Chinese firm’s previous generation chip, the Kirin 970.

Ultimately, this results in incredibly fast performance for users.

As Express.co.uk noticed when using the chipset on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, performance feels slightly snappier than that offered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 unit.

The View 20’s rapid chipset is accompanied by either 6GB or 8GB of RAM.

Express.co.uk tested both variants of the flagship and did not notice any major differences between the two in terms of performance.

While the View 20 runs Google’s Android 9 Pie software, it does have Honor’s Magic UI 2 skin on top of it.

At the moment Magic UI is essentially a clone of the EMUI software that runs on Huawei products.

Honor View 20 review

The Honor View 20 is priced from £499.99 (Image: Express Newspapers)

Honor has emphasised as time goes on, it plans to diverge from EMUI in a more obvious capacity, however this is currently not the case.

While the Chinese firm’s software is certainly a far cry from stock Android present on Google Pixel devices, we personally adore the interface for its speed and accessibility.

By default the Honor View 20 comes without an app drawer, meaning all icons need to be present on a home screen.

However, such a feature can quickly be enabled in its settings menu.

Just like on stock Android, the drawer arranges apps alphabetically, however Honor has improved the experience for users by ensuring a list of letters remains on the right-hand side of the panel that can be scrolled through.

This is the same as on Huawei software and allows users to easily navigate to apps starting with a specific letter.

During our testing, the alphabetical list on the side of the drawer allowed us to reach items quicker than we would have done on devices running Google’s stock Android version.

The intuitiveness of Honor’s, and essentially Huawei’s, interface is vastly underrated for its ability to improve Android experiences overall.

Honor View 20 review

The Honor View 20 is powered by Huawei’s Kirin 980 chipset (Image: Express Newspapers)

However, it is worth noting the Chinese firm’s interface is not perfect; duplicate and unnecessary applications are plenty and others are simply overcomplicated.

The View 20’s flagship spec sheet means it is incredibly capable under a heavy load.

Playing the latest and greatest games on the Google Play Store is no challenge for the Honor device as is dealing with a legion of different applications at once.

Our View 20 units were both always able to remember where we had left off in an application, meaning we had no issues with regard to memory management.

Honor’s new phone feels as fast and capable as the likes of the Mate 20 Pro that are priced significantly higher, making it incredibly good value.

Honor View 20 review

Honor View 20 comes with Sony’s 48-megapixel IMX 586 sensor on its rear (Image: Express Newspapers)

Battery

The Honor View 20 comes with a 4,000mAh battery that easily provides the best life we have ever tested on a smartphone, even surpassing the astounding Huawei Mate 20 Pro in longevity.

The Chinese flagship easily lasted us a day and a half of heavy use, making it an incredibly appealing option for anyone that frequently goes long periods away from an outlet.

One of the reasons for the handset’s laudable life is surely its decision to employ LCD technology over the AMOLED present on some of its most immediate rivals.

However, in our opinion supreme battery life is a worthy trade-off for a slight deterioration in screen quality.

The View 20 has stamina that surpasses more premium flagships such as the Galaxy Note 9, Mate 20 Pro and iPhone Xs Max and Honor should be applauded for delivering such endurance.

Honor View 20

The Honor View 20 is immediately recognisable for its hole punch-style cutout (Image: Express Newspapers)

Camera

Honor has touted the View 20’s camera as a primary reason to pick up the device.

The handset comes with Sony’s 48-megapixel IMX 586 sensor the firm claims offers supreme clarity.

In practise, the View 20 delivers a great camera for fans but it is certainly outclassed by more premium rivals such as the Pixel 3.

The Honor View 20 is the perfect summation of the fact smartphone photography is as much about great software as it is hardware.

While the Pixel 3 delivers a seemingly much less capable 12.2-megapixel unit, its camera experience is greatly heightened by the advanced machine learning technologies that operate in the background.

And while the View 20 does harness artificial intelligence (AI) in an attempt to improve shot quality overall, it simply cannot compete with Google’s offering.

With that said, the standalone sensor on the rear of the Chinese handset is still capable of taking gorgeous snaps with impressive levels of detail.

Due to the size of the sensor, the View 20 ensures items look sharp even when the user zooms in significantly.

Honor View 20 review

The View 20 takes applaudable HDR shots (Image: Express Newspapers)

Honor View 20 review

The View 20 delivers a great camera for Android fans (Image: Express Newspapers)

This means the hardware is commendable for those that frequently display images to friends and family on larger monitors for instance.

The View 20 also takes applaudable HDR shots and has a night mode, although the latter was certainly hit and miss for us.

In some low-light scenes the View 20 had the tendency to brighten up some shots too much, meaning subjects emerged looking white and lacking detail.

However, in instances the flagship nails its night mode it can produce exceptional results.

We took images of the Eiffel Tower after dark and came away with spectacular photos.

Although the View 20 does not have a telephoto sensor or offer any form of optical zooming, it does do a decent job of capturing objects close-up.

While details definitely degrade when the user zooms in fully, during our testing images were still perfectly usable.

In addition to its main shooter, the View 20 also comes with a time-of-flight (TOF) 3D stereo camera on its rear that Honor claims can be used for object scanning and motion gaming.

Honor View 20 review

Honor View 20 camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Honor View 20 review

Honor View 20 camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Honor View 20 review

Honor View 20 camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Honor View 20 review

Honor View 20 camera sample – full zoom from the picture above (Image: Express Newspapers)

Honor View 20 review

Honor View 20 camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Honor View 20 review

Honor View 20 camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Honor View 20 review

Honor View 20 camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Honor View 20 review

Honor View 20 camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Honor View 20 review

Honor View 20 camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Honor View 20 review

Honor View 20 front camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Honor View 20 review

Honor View 20 portrait mode front camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

However, in practise we were never tempted to the use the hardware thanks to its lack of supported software.

Moreover, the limited use cases for the TOF sensor feel incredibly gimmicky and leave the lens feeling like wasted potential.

In our opinion Honor would have been better served by adding a secondary telephoto or wide-angle sensor to the View 20 and it is disappointing this is not the case.

The Chinese phone’s 25-megapixel front-facing camera is certainly capable in good conditions but struggles when light is hard to come by.

The View 20’s selfie sensor also does not perform the best with HDR situations; during our testing backgrounds had less detail than we would have liked.

However, the firm does seem to have toned down the level of smoothing that occurs when taking front-facing photos.

The software does allow for portrait mode shots but struggles applying it around some objects.

For instance, the phone failed to recognise the fluffy exterior of the coat we were wearing and applied bokeh over some segments of it.

Price

The Honor View 20 is priced at £499.99, meaning the phone costs the same as the entry-level OnePlus 6T.

This variant comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal memory.

Meanwhile, a more expensive version of the hardware comes with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB capacity.

We tested both models and did not notice a difference in performance with the added RAM.

That means the pricier model should only be purchased by those that truly need the added storage space.

It is worth noting the sapphire blue model of the View 20, that offers a more noticeable chevron design, is only available for the more expensive variant.

The entry-level View 20 is only available in sapphire blue and midnight black finishes that are more subtle.

The £499.99 starting price of the View 20 is incredibly great value when you consider the performance, camera and quality of hardware present.

However, it is worth noting the appealing price does come at the expense of any wireless charging capabilities or a water resistance certification.

Honor View 20 review

Honor View 20 (Image: EX)

Verdict

The Honor View 20 is the new budget smartphone champion.

While the hardware makes a few notable compromises such as the use of an LCD panel over an AMOLED, it certainly makes up for them with its increased screen-to-body ratio, supreme battery life and capable camera.

Moreover, the handset also offers flagship performance that is speedier than any other Android phone running Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chipset.

Finally, the Chinese software is also intuitive and actually improves upon the stock Android experience offered by Google Pixel devices.

For anyone looking to upgrade their phone on a budget of £500, look no further than the View 20.


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