[First Cut] Honor 20: Strong specs, safe design

Possible contender for budget flagship?

by: - Last updated on: June 17th, 2019

Huawei may not be Google’s favorite smartphone brand at the moment, but that is not keeping it or its sister brand from launching new devices. The Chinese brand has recently introduced the successor of the Honor 10, the Honor 20. The sub-brand of Huawei follows the philosophy of pairing high-end specs with relatively affordable price tags, which makes the Honor flagships go up against the latest of OnePlus, which pretty much rules the budget flagship segment right now. The Honor 20, therefore, finds itself staring right at the OnePlus 7 and the OnePlus 7 Pro, which is quite a formidable proposition.

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Playing it safe, smart and steady in design

Not even half of 2019 has passed but the year has already seen a tonne of smartphones. These devices came with different specs and prices but one thing that most of them shared is a very similar design blueprint. And the Honor 20, follows a very similar, tried and tested design but with a few unique touches. Yes, it looks smart enough but do not expect something as militantly different as the View 20 launched by the same brand last year.

Update: Honor 20 Review: Looking to Unsettle OnePlus

Even though it comes with a 6.26-inch display, the device feels compact, thanks to the nearly non-existent bezels. It measures 154.3 x 74 x 7.9 mm and weighs 174 grams, and can easily fit in the palm of one’s hand and most pockets. All of it being glass does make the Honor 20 slightly slippery. The phone can be used with one hand but we do not recommend it – it is compact compared to other phones, but it is not “supremely compact,” if you know what we mean.

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The smartphone has glass on both, front and back. The face of the Honor 20 is all about that tall, super thin bezel bearing display – the 6.26-inch display has a slight chin but other than that the other three bezels barely exist. Although drop notches and pop up cameras are getting all the attention, Honor with the Honor 20 decided to take the road less traveled and has placed a punch hole in the display that houses the front camera, just like it did with the View 20. Between the bezel above the display is a thin line that carries the earpiece of the smartphone.

We received the black unit of the device, and well, it is not going to make people turn around and take notice. There is no color gradient or patterns that the light creates when it falls on its back. It is just a plain, simple, old school glass back – just like any other glass back that we have seen.

What is not plain, simple and old school is the primary camera set up on the smartphone. There are four cameras on the back of the Honor 20. Three of these cameras along with LED flash are placed on an elongated vertical capsule while the fourth one is present right next to this arrangement. Accompanying the cameras is “48 MP” and “AI Vision” branding. The lower half of the back carries the brand’s logo in reflective silver color which stands out on the black back.

While the front and back of the Honor 20 are pretty clean and feature light, it is the aluminum frame of the phone that adds an interesting touch to the general phone design. Honor has added an Infrared port to the Honor 20 which sits on top. The USB Type-C port and the speaker grille are present on the base. The left side of the phone holds the dual SIM card tray while the right side houses the volume rocker and the power/lock button. Because there is no fingerprint scanner on the back, it might seem like the device comes with an in-display fingerprint scanner but actually, the scanner is present on the frame. The power/lock button of the Honor 20 doubles up as the fingerprint scanner. The flat button makes it easier to wake and unlock the phone at the same time. It seems like a useful touch, definitely one that we do not see too often (we did see it in the NextBit Robin and some Sony Xperia phones before Samsung brought it back into the spotlight in the Galaxy S10e).

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All said and done, the design of the Honor 20 is nothing exceptional. Perhaps it is just the black unit we received but it does seem very routine as per today’s design standard. It is not a phone that would divide people on how it looks as Honor has played it rather safe in the looks department. People will like the look of it but it surely is not going to turn a lot of heads.

Throwing the kitchen sink at the specs

It might have played it safe in the design department but when it comes to specs and numbers, the brand has pretty much thrown the kitchen sink at the 20. The device comes with a 6.26-inch full HD+ display with a screen resolution of 1080 x 2340 pixels. It is powered by Huawei’s in-house HiSilicon Kirin 980 processor, the same chipset we saw earlier this year in the superb Huawei P30 Pro. The chipset in our unit came coupled with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB internal storage, which is non-expandable (no memory card slot, sorry). We hear there will also be variants with 8 GB RAM and up to 256 GB storage.

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The camera department has always been an important one for Honor, and while the Honor 20’s camera set up is a step down from its Pro cousin, it still packs a formidable punch – the primary set up on the Honor 20 consists of four cameras: the main sensor which comes with a 48 megapixel count, f/1.8 aperture and PDAF, a second sensor which is the 16 megapixel ultra wide angle lens with f/2.2 aperture, a third which is a 2 megapixel dedicated macro lens with f/2.4 aperture, and finally the fourth one which is a 2 megapixel depth sensor with f/2.4 aperture. At a time when people (including Huawei itself) are talking of zoom and ultrawide sensors and megapixels, it is fascinating to see the Honor 20 putting in a dedicated macro lens in its cameras- it is the first smartphone that we have seen that comes with such a provision. The Honor 20 lacks the telephoto zoom seen on its Pro cousin, so do not expect to shoot pictures of the moon with this one. On the front in that punch hole notch sits a 32-megapixel sensor with f/2.0 aperture and HDR.

The smartphone runs on a 3,750 mAh battery which comes with support for 22.5 W fast charging. It is powered by Android 9.0 (Pie) which comes with a layer of Honor’s in-house Magic UI 2.1.0. Connectivity options on the phone include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, infrared port, USB OTG – proper flagship material.

OnePlus rival? A lot depends on the price

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Barring a few innovative additions, the design and specs of the Honor 20 look very 2019 Android flagship fare. The phone follows the current design trends (the seeds of which it itself had sown a few years ago) to a T and does not really pull any rabbits out of its hat – the line-like bezels, glass body, capsule multiple cameras, are all the design elements that a flagship smartphone in today’s day and age carries. And so are the top end processors and oodles of RAM and storage. Even the multiple cameras and punch hole notch that seemed radical a few months ago now appear relatively routine. As a result. The Honor 20 ends up looking like your “next door flagship smartphone.” Which is not a bad thing. But gives it a very tough task when going up against the likes of the OnePlus 7 or its Pro brother. It has smart if predictable looks and some heavy duty hardware, but just how well it fares and where it slots into the market will depend on its price tag which we will discover later. Stay tuned to know more.

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