Hardware Phones Reviews

Honor View20 review: why pay more than £500 for a phone?

Honor View20 review

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Honor View20

Product Name: Honor View20

Price: £499

Availability: InStock

Buy from Amazon

  • Build quality
  • Photo quality
  • Speed & battery

Summary

A true premium phone for an affordable price and the battery just keeps on going

Overall
4.7

Pros

  • Battery life
  • Eye-catching design
  • Camera quality

Cons

  • Still quite expensive
  • Wide chassis
  • Too much bling?

The Honor View20 makes a compelling argument that you don’t need to pay more than £500 for a killer phone. It’s a brilliant games machine, comes with a magnificent 48-megapixel camera and has battery life most phones can only dream of. It’s a deserving winner of our Buy Now award. But that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

Honor View20 review: design triumphs… and question marks

The Honor View20 isn’t designed for retiring wallflowers. It has too much bling. I don’t mean gold, but a dazzling hologram effect on the rear: it catches the light in a V pattern that moves from top to bottom, which Honor says indicates speed. Whether you buy it in black, red or either of the blues, this is a phone that sits apart from its peers.

You may be taken aback by its width. It’s surprising, here, how much difference a couple of millimetres can make. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro I currently use as my daily phone measures 71mm across and has never felt big in my hand; the View20 is 73.5mm wide but feels chunky.

That’s partly because the screen is flat whereas the Mate 20 Pro’s curves at the edges, but Honor still claims that the screen-to-body ratio is 91.8%.

Note that the rear of the phone doesn’t dazzle with its symmetry. The main camera lens sits alone, with a black lozenge to its right containing the 3D camera (more on that later) and LED flash. Honor sticks with the “proper” fingerprint reader rather than the Mate 20 Pro’s in-screen offering, but don’t be dismayed: I far prefer having a separate reader.

I also appreciate the convenience of a 3.5mm audio jack at the top, but the payback is that this phone is splash-proof rather than water-proof. Dropping it in the bath (or worse) could be a costly mistake.

Honor View20 review: how fast is it?

The View20 uses Huawei’s Kirin 980 chipset, and this has enough power to feel speedy not only today but for years to come. It isn’t the fastest mobile chip found in Android phones anymore – that honour falls to the Snapdragon 855 – but it’s so close that the difference is almost academic.

It’s a similar story in 3D games, with the Mali-G76 graphics churning through GFXBench’s less demanding benchmarks with contemptuous ease. For instance, it raced through Manhattan 3.1 at 50 frames per second at the screen’s native resolution, which is about 10% faster than the Galaxy S9.

And according to Futuremark, makers of the 3DMark gaming benchmark software, the Honor View20 generally outperforms 97% of phones in the demanding Sling Shot Extreme test. Notably, my review sample powered to 5,038 in the Vulkan benchmark, while the Galaxy S9 struggles to get past 4,000.

Honor View20 review: how good is the battery?

The only way to be disappointed by the View20’s battery life is to play games on it all day long; then, yes, it will give up before sunset. But otherwise, this phone’s huge battery means it should easily last for a day – two days at a push.

I put it to the test using the battery benchmark built into Geekbench 4, where it lasted for 11 hours churning through tasks with the screen on. That gave the View20 a score of 6,720, which puts it second only behind the iPad Pro in Geekbench’s table.

When it does come time to recharge, just reach for the 22Whr super-charger. This takes the View20 from zero to 50% in under 30 minutes. What a shame that the phone doesn’t support wireless charging, though. (And on the subject of wireless, note that there’s no NFC chip which means no Google Pay support.)

One of the reasons for the strong battery life, Honor claims, is that it uses liquid cooling to shift heat away from the processor. It reckons that knocks 5°C off the temperature, which should both boost battery life and reduce the lag suffered when components get hot.

It seems to be true, too. I held the View20 after an intense benchmark session and it was pleasantly warm rather than hot, while my Mate 20 Pro started to feel toasty.

Honor View20 review: screen quality

The View20 includes a big screen. It measures 6.4in from corner to corner, packing in 2,310 x 1,080 pixels. There are higher-resolution displays out there, but I see little point in them because our eyes aren’t clever enough to spot the difference. Plus they consume more battery power.

The main thing you’ll notice is the lack of a notch, with Honor “punching through” the display to create a pinhole-style camera at the top left. I prefer this to the notch simply because it means more room for notifications and doesn’t get in the way when in full-screen mode (playing games, say).

You still benefit from facial recognition and can take as many selfies as you like with the front 25-megapixel camera.

Honor saves a little money by choosing an IPS panel rather than the AMOLED seen in most top-end phones, but again I’m not worried. Yes, AMOLED screens are punchier, but I can’t imagine anyone will be disappointed by the quality of this screen.

Honor View20 review: camera options

Honor packs a lot of cleverness into its main camera. It’s a 48-megapixel beast, but rather than default to huge images it sticks to 12 megapixels. Most people will struggle to notice the difference; it’s only if you’re printing out at poster size that the lesser resolution becomes obvious.

It’s easy enough to change the resolution too; click the Settings cog, then Resolution sits at the top. As supplied, your options are 48 and 12 megapixels at 4:3 ratio, 9 megapixels at 1:1 ratio and a widescreen 4,000 x 1,872 option (19.2:9).

An over-the-air update adds a mode called AI Ultra Clarity, which asks you to hold the phone in position for five seconds while taking the shot. A pain, but if there’s a scene you want to capture in enormous detail then it’s worth the effort.

Note that you can even shoot RAW files. You need to be in Pro mode for this, which gives you manual control over settings such as ISO, shutter speed and white balance.

In fact, there’s very little this camera can’t do. There’s Slow-mo for capturing at 32x slow motion, which translates into 960 frames per second, and a few fun modes too. This is where the AR lens comes into its own, letting you introduce 3D “Qmoji”, special effects and backgrounds. I’m weirdly fond of the one that turns you into a Van Gogh-style picture.

The AR lens in action…

Honor View20 review: camera quality

Quality is excellent. With a large 1/2-inch sensor and a wide f/1.8 aperture it proved adept at capturing all types of scenes. Colours are vibrant without being over-saturated, and it doesn’t suffer from the post-processing that can blur details. I still prefer the Mate 20 Pro for capturing details, but – as you can see from the photos below – the View20’s colours are more natural.

It’s also excellent in low light, which is again largely thanks to that big sensor and wide aperture combo.

The Honor View20 (left) captures more natural colours than the Huawei Mate 20 Pro (right) – click to enlarge
Honor, left; Huawei, right

The above two pictures were taken from the same distance at the camera’s default settings, which are 12-megapixels for the View20 and 10 for the Mate 20 Pro. Despite appearing larger, the View20 doesn’t catch the text quite so clearly – but note that its grey clouds are more accurate than the blue-adjusted Mate 20 Pro.

Honor View20 review: video quality

A final note on video quality, which is worth a mention all of its own thanks to the excellent image stabilisation on offer – this is even possible at 4K thanks to the fast processor; cheaper phones, with mid-range processors, can’t keep up.

Check out this stability in action below. This video is taken by my 12-year-old daughter, yet it looks like we used a steadycam. The video does highlight the stuttering nature of the audio picked up by the mic, though, which was also present when I recorded inside.

Honor View20 review: conclusion

This is in many ways an excellent phone, and it fully deserves its Buy Now logo. (Although if you’re reading this in the US, you’ll have to import it.)

Reasons to buy? Phenomenal power and battery life, an eye-catching design and a stellar camera.

Reasons not to buy? It is chunky, and that eye-catching design could look like ripped jeans on a 60-year-old if you’re not careful.

But overall, this is an excellent phone – and exceptional value for money compared to, say, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and latest flagships from Samsung, Sony and Apple.

Honor View20 review: where to buy

The View20 comes in two configurations. One with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for around £500, which comes in a choice of “midnight black” or “sapphire blue”. And a “phantom blue” model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, which you can buy for £580 from Amazon or direct from Honor.

Want the black or sapphire blue model? They currently cost £499 on Amazon and £500 direct from Honor UK.

Honor View20 review: specifications

  • 188g, 754. x 8.1 x 157mm (width, depth, height)
  • 6.4in IPS display, 1,080 x 2,310 resolution
  • Kirin 980 processor (two 2.6GHz cores, two 1.92GHz, four 1.8GHz)
  • £500 VERSION: 6GB RAM, 128GB storage, no card slot
  • £580 VERSION: 8GB RAM, 256GB storage, no card slot
  • 4,000mAh battery
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5
  • 48MP (f/1.8) rear camera, plus TOF 3D stereo camera
  • 25MP (f/2.0) front camera
  • Android 9 with Honor’s Magic 2 interface

Honor View20 review: test results

Speed tests
Geekbench 4 single core3,231
Geekbench 4 multicore9,646
GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 on-screen50fps
GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 off-screen 1080p54fps
Screen tests
sRGB gamut coverage99.3%
Maximum brightness419cd/m2
Delta E (maximum)3.24
Contrast1,218:1

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About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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