Honor View 20 Review: Looking to punch a hole in OnePlus?
Honor’s spectacular spec sheet wonder
When Apple introduced the notch on the iPhone X in 2017, it divided the industry into two very opinionated halves: one that loved the notch and the other that hated it. But for all the hate that the notch received over this period of time, it still got popular both, amongst the consumers and the companies. Many companies though have tried to step outside Apple’s shadow and bring something new to the notch-dimension. Some brands shrunk it a little, some replaced it with a drop notch, some tried to get rid of it altogether and added pop up and slide out cameras, while some stuck to the basics of notch anatomy.
But 2019 has brought a new kind of notch to the India market. Honor has launched its first flagship of the year, the Honor View 20 and it brings along what the brand calls “Punch Hole” display. But that is not its only USP – the phone also packs a powerful processor and a whopping 48-megapixel primary camera sensor. But just how beautiful a “View” is this and does its performance back it up? Read on to find out our views.
A Viewtiful…er…beautiful phone indeed
There are smartphones that scream out the brands they come from on top of their lungs, and the Honor View 20 is one of them. The reflective (often glass) backs on the Honor-Huawei phones with different light patterns and textures along with the iconic sapphire blue color have pretty much become a trademark sign for the Chinese brand’s devices. The Honor View 20 also comes with a glass back and what’s more, it creates a “V” like pattern when held at a certain angle, making it subtle yet standing out from the crowd. And of course, the “V” pattern goes well with the name of the smartphone. Another interesting thing about the back of the View 20 is how the smartphone carries the primary camera set up on the back, making it look like a triple camera setup rather than a routine dual camera set up.
The design of the View 20 cannot be discussed without mentioning that punch-hole display. The 6.4-inch full HD+ display comes with a small black dot present on the top left side of the display. This little black dot is the front camera of the smartphone. What is interesting to see, is that Honor has display all around the dot, unlike other drop notches that are placed bang in the center and are generally latching on to the top bezel of the display. The smartphone measures 156.9 x 75.4 x 8.1 mm and weighs 180 grams. It is not petite or feather light in any manner but thanks to the slightly thick metal frame between the glass back and front, the device is grippy and feels solid. It sits well in the hand and will definitely leave people “glancing for more.” We have discussed the design in greater detail in our first impressions of the Honor View 20.
Performance worth viewing
Honor has put in a lot of time and effort in making the View 20 look great and it definitely shows. But design is not the only thing the company has paid attention to. The View 20 is packed with some very powerful specs and numbers as well. The device is powered by Huawei’s in-house HiSilicon Kirin 980 processor, the same SoC, which powered the Mate 20 Pro, Huawei’s flagship phone, and won rave reviews for its performance (read our review here: https://techpp.com/2019/01/03/huawei-mate-20-pro-review/). The Kirin 980 on the View 20 is paired with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage. For those who are into even more storage, you either have to buy a different variant of the phone, with 256 GB storage or skip this one altogether as there is no expandable storage on the View 20.
With that kind of hardware, we were not really surprised when the View 20 sailed smoothly through all the tasks and operational hurdles we put the phone through. Hopscotching from one app to another was pretty effortless and we hardly ever faced a glitch while jumping in between text apps to social media to casual gaming applications.
The smartphone did well in both high-end and casual gaming department. We tried time killers like Subway Surfer, Temple Run 2 and The Spearman on the device and all three were pretty much a treat to play on the phone. In the high-end game zone, we tried games like PUBG and NFS No Limits. Apart from (very) few occasional lags, both games actually ran very smoothly. The 6.4-inch display was a treat to play games on – it is bright and responsive and color contrast is pretty good which added to our gaming experience. The View 20 also comes with an option to add a bezel on screen when you are playing a movie, video or games, in order to hide that black camera dot and give you some grip to use the phone in landscape mode – a very neat touch, we think. We missed the presence of stereo speakers but headphone-ing adds to the experience and thanks to the presence of the 3.5 mm audio jack, we did not have to worry too much about finding a separate “dongle” for our earphones (phew!).
While the Honor View 20 cruised effortlessly, even in heavy-duty and pushy performance weather, we did find the device heating up slightly when pushed. It never reached an alarming stage but did get warm.
When it comes to security, the Honor View 20 comes with a fingerprint scanner and also a Face Unlock feature. While registering a face is incredibly easy and quick on the View 20, adding a fingerprint can take some adjusting and a couple of tries especially if you have covered the device with the transparent plastic case in the box. Incidentally, we are going to make an appeal to companies to give better cases with devices – these ones make the phone look kinda basic, taking all that bling away. Call quality was decent, in best Huawei tradition, and connectivity options include GPS, NFC, 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and an infrared port.
Viewing pictures shot by a 48-megapixel snapper!
Its design and specs are noteworthy (pun totally unintended), but they are not all that the Honor View 20’s resume boasts. One of the USPs of the smartphone that is getting a lot of attention is the whopping 48 megapixel Sony IMX586 primary sensor with f/1.8 aperture, that Honor claims is the world’s first 48 megapixel AI camera on a phone. This camera is paired with a secondary 3D camera for better AR performance. Truth be told, we would have liked to see the company add something more functional like optical zoom or a wide angle lens instead of a 3D camera.
Those are pretty impressive numbers, although we must confess to being surprised at the absence of optical image stabilization (OIS). And it is no surprise that the camera delivers good results. Well, in most departments. Incidentally, the View20 comes with a 48-megapixel sensor but if you open up the camera settings, you will find that the phone is pre-set to take images in 12-megapixel resolution. Now it might seem like the company is scamming you by not letting you use your smartphone’s camera at its largest resolution, but trust us, it is a good thing. Honor has used what is known as pixel binning on the View 20, which essentially improves the performance of the camera by combining pixels to create a sort of super pixel which is richer in detail. And it works – you will not find a world of a difference in images taken in 48-megapixel resolution as compared to images taken in 12-megapixel resolution. The only major difference is that of the size as the images taken in the 48-megapixel resolution are roughly three times the size of the ones taken in 12-megapixel resolution. If you want extra large prints of the images you take, we would advise you to switch to 48-megapixel resolution, otherwise, the 12-megapixel resolution is the one to go with.
(Click here for full resolution versions of the below images)
One of the photography zones that the View 20 completely owns is the detail department. The camera was able to capture the tiniest of details on our subjects, especially in broad daylight situations. There were times the camera captured details that we did not pay attention to while taking pictures and discovered later by zooming in to them. While the Honor View 20 rocked our world in the detail department, unfortunately, the same could not be said for the colors captured by the phone. The camera often oversaturated colors, making them rather different from the colors of the real setting, especially in well-lit environments.
Honor has also played the AI card very heavily in the View 20’s camera but that does not really do much as well. Although the feature recognizes environments and subjects and “tweaks” colors and settings as per the subject, we often found the AI versions a little oversaturated in terms of color. And making already warm colors even more so warm is not something that the View 20 particularly needs to do – we get enough of oversaturation as it is. Fortunately, you can turn off AI and we would recommend doing so.
Along with colors, we also had a tough time taking close-ups and macro shots with the View 20. While the smartphone was quick to focus on landscape and portrait shots, it really tended to struggle when it came to close-ups. We would tap on the viewfinder, and just when the subject would get a little in focus, it would go out of focus right in next second. We really had to tap and focus, tap and focus multiple times and be very patient with the phone while taking close-ups and we still ended up with a few blurry shots. The problem got worse in low light zones. That said, when it works, the results are very good indeed.
Our low light experience on the View 20 was a mixed bag. The low light performance of the phone in general photo mode did have notable noise in the shots while the shots taken with View 20’s dedicated Night mode had comparatively lesser noise but were still grainy. The smartphone also had a hard time in handling glare. Another odd thing about the View 20’s camera is that it automatically brightens up an indoor low light situation, even when not required. So, we failed to take any low light indoor shots because the phone would automatically turn up the brightness which was a little annoying.
The device handles action images well and comes with a number of handy modes like HiVision which is more or less like Google Lens and leads you to Flipkart and Shopclues for shopping and mostly identifies subjects accurately. And of course, the EMUI interface comes with a number of shooting options and tweaks for those who like to play around with images. On the front, there is a 25-megapixel selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture. The front facing camera does not capture a lot of detail but is a little better than its sibling on the back when it comes to color handling. The selfies taken from the Honor View 20 generally turn out to be decent enough to be put on any social media but not much beyond that.
All said and done, the Honor View 20’s cameras are definitely good, but we have to confess that we really expected much more, given the hype, especially about the 48-megapixel camera. All those megapixels are still not going to be enough to rock the photography boat of the Mate 20 Pro, the iPhone XS or the Pixel 3, although we think it is superior to the OnePlus 6T.
Viewing a great battery, and a Pie-shaped UI
In the battery department, the View 20 comes with a 4,000 mAh battery with support for fast charging. While most people have been focusing on the design and camera of the device, we think the battery is one biggest plus points of the View 20. The smartphone can easily see a day of heavy-duty usage. This includes lots of video streaming, high-end game playing, and general multitasking. When not pushed too much, the device can easily see a day and a half or can see the light of the second day if you are careful enough, which is pretty amazing, taking in consideration that massive 6.4-inch full HD+ display. This is topped with fast charging which can give you a couple hours of battery life in 15 minutes. The phone also gets fully charged in 1.5 hours. There is no support for wireless charging, though.
Moving on to the interface, while many smartphones are still having a tough time getting the latest Android version, the Honor View 20 brings the Pie (Android 9.0) to the party out of the box. This is sprinkled with Honor’s in house Magic (Magic UI 2.0). There is no app drawer but you can change that in the settings. The UI of the device is generally clean and clutter free. There are a number of third-party apps pre-installed on the device but Honor has managed them well by placing them in a group. We also like how Honor has not bombarded us with options and features right in our faces but has layered it well which makes it useful and not overwhelming.
Something that OnePlus will view with concern
The View 10 had gone toe to toe with the OnePlus 5T last year and this year it is the turn of its successor to do the same with the OnePlus 6T. Priced at Rs 37,999, the Honor View 20 is in the affordable flagship zone and while it does face challenges from the likes of the Asus Zenfone 5Z (which just got an Android Pie update) and the Poco F1, both of which sport flagship level processors, there is no mistaking that its real target is the OnePlus 6T. We will be doing a detailed comparison of the two devices in the coming days, but as of now, we can say that it definitely does enough to unsettle the Never Settler in terms of design, photography and battery life. If you are looking for an Android flagship without damaging your bank account too much, the View 20 definitely is an option – it scores heavily on design, packs in excellent performance has very good cameras (even though we expected more) and has a battery that goes on and on. We quite enjoyed the View. Pun intended.