Often when reviewing a smartphone it’s easy — though perhaps lazy — to compare one phone to another in the “X is a Y killer” format. The problem is that this makes it much easier to give you a frame for the performance of a device if you were unaware of the product at all. With that damning verdict in mind, the Honor View 20 is not a OnePlus killer no matter how hard it’s pushed as one.
That seems like an indictment of the quality of this handset, which by the way, will likely never reach US shores. It’s merely an observation and in some regards, personal opinion that maybe when reviewing something we often compare one piece of tech to another, something I view as unfair.
The Honor View 20 is a great device, it’s simply let down in my opinion by a few little things that I’m sure some people will have no issues with. I personally feel we are at a point that it’s really hard to pick up a ‘bad’ smartphone.
Yes, there are little design choices here and there that will help you make a decision. But for the most part, if you spend over a certain threshold (~$500) you’ll end up with a solid device.
The Honor View 20 is most definitely in the ‘solid device’ category and it’s a shame that it likely won’t make it Stateside in any official capacity.
Design & Hardware
The biggest hardware addition to the View 20 in terms of design has to be the in-display cutout. I really like it, mainly as it feels like it’s out of the way in an area of the screen that I never really interact with. I suppose the same can be said of a notch. Although I did feel that this implementation looks a little less obvious in day-to-day usage.
Of course, this is my personal thoughts and you may very well disagree. I much prefer the display cutout for watching videos full screen for instance. I’ll talk more about how the software changes for this cutout later on.
I adore the back glass glossy ‘V’ that shimmers when caught by various lighting conditions. It reflects in a chevron pattern right down the back of the phone but I will admit does look a lot better in the electric blue and red color options than the black review unit I was given.
Honor clearly didn’t want this device to be stealthy or ‘plain’ and that back glass design showcases this eye-catching aesthetic. It does feel ‘thick’ in the hand which I actually really like having come from the Pixel 3 XL as my main device.
As I’ve read in our comments section, we get complaints after we bemoan the removal of input ports and certain features on newer devices and hardware. You don’t need to worry with the Honor View 20, as it retains the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, headphone port and even includes an IR blaster too. I can’t say I’ve ever really used the IR blaster but, hey, it’s here if you want it and that is pretty awesome.
The FHD+ display is an LCD rather than an OLED panel and the pixel density, while nowhere near that of some of the best on the market, it’s still pretty sharp.
You can adjust the color profiles to suit your own personal tastes but overall it’s a solid display that looks great from almost all angles. It also supports the HDR10 standard, with videos looking superb when viewed on YouTube.
Software & Features
Honor, like parent company Huawei, slap their own Magic UI on top of Android with some heavy cosmetic alterations. This is essentially a forked version of EMUI that is found on Huawei devices. That means anyone familiar with EMUI will be right at home on Magic UI.
I still can’t understand the starting without an app drawer but it is an easy fix to reinstate it. The little gripes don’t stop there though, as the look and feel is just not really my bag. I would always recommend Nova Launcher when such heavy skins are involved.
You do get plenty of bloat and duplicate apps. It’s frustrating to see manufacturers still do this but I understand that these brands simply want to try and tie you into their ecosystems.
Android Pie is still very slick on the View 20 despite the relatively heavy skin. I am not a big fan of the gestures, so I decided to stick with on-screen navigation buttons. My attitude is that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s just a shame that we don’t get the Pixel implementation of gesture navigations — but these are far from perfect either. Maybe I will give Honor gestures a longer test drive
This is one area that the Honor View 20 has impressed me massively, granted the phone has a pretty big 4,000mAh battery. Like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, I had to do my utmost to really have the battery dwindle over the course of a couple of days.
The slightly lower screen resolution, massive battery and the Kirin 980 optimizations clearly benefit the Honor View 20 in daily usage. Having chipset optimization is one of the ways that Huawei and Honor can really push battery life to the max. I am not someone who sits staring at their display though.
It’s also worth mentioning the super fast charging, which can take you from 0 to 100% in around 1 hour and 15 minutes. That is frankly lightning fast and sticking your phone on charge only to see the % rapidly jump is still weirdly enthralling.
I found myself topping the phone up here and there rather than charging overnight like some of my other devices. Anyone who is a fan of wireless charging will leave disappointed as the Honor View 20 doesn’t support wireless charging at all.
The camera hardware on the View 20 is impressive on paper as it includes a massive 48-megapixel Sony sensor as part of the dual rear-facing camera setup. I can’t honestly say that the 48-megapixel mode really does a great deal better than the Pixel can with a single lens and superb software.
Even so, when using the AI scene optimizer, I found the View 20 takes some really great photos. They don’t quite match the images that come out of the Mate 20 Pro but when this costs a couple hundred dollars less, it’s still a superb camera setup.
As for those 48-megapixel photos, the option is nice but you can’t utilize the AI scene optimizer tools when using the full resolution mode. I can see that some people will enjoy the ability to take hi-res photos but in practice, they don’t actually look as good in my opinion.
The main 12-megapixel shooting mode is great at optimizing scenes and is particularly impressive if you happen to catch some sun glare. Clearly, the pixel binning system helps improve the overall quality of images in this standard shooting mode and I would suggest keeping it in that mode for the best point-and-shoot results.
The camera software is pretty good, I was critical of the look of the UI in my review of the Mate 20 Pro but it is easy to navigate and use despite having a really odd aesthetic. You’ll find the excellent Huawei Night Mode on the Honor View 20 too. Meaning high-quality nighttime shooting can be part of your smartphone arsenal. I don’t think it is quite as good as Night Sight on the Pixel 3, but that said, it is very good in a different way.
For me, the biggest disappointment with the Honor View 20 camera system was the lack of an ultra-wide angle lens. Instead, you get a 2x zoom lens which is good but really I would have loved to have seen an ultra-wide like the Mate 20 Pro.
The front-facing selfie camera is actually not all that superb. It just seems a little bit average despite being a 25-megapixel shooter. I think I was expecting it to be much better but it isn’t disappointing by any stretch.
Video modes are a little more comprehensive, including slow-mo at 120fps, 240fps and even 960fps. Although that last option is only available at 720p resolution. That said, it would be more than good enough for Instagram for instance.
Due to the value offered, I can definitely see why people would compare the Honor View 20 with the OnePlus 6/6T. The camera is most definitely more flexible than that of the OnePlus but the software, in my opinion, is the one area that the View 20 is let down.
In the US, it’s a no brainer that you would pick up the OnePlus 6 or OnePlus 6T instead, simply because the Honor View 20 is not available officially. You could import via Amazon UK but then you run into the work of murky warranty support and potential carrier compatibility issues.
I can’t deny that this is a fantastic device. It really does a lot for a solid price of around $550. For me though, it’s unfair to call it a OnePlus killer as it’s a great smartphone in its own right. It has better cameras than the OnePlus 6T and it also has a few extras that OnePlus devices are slowly cutting away. The display cutout or ‘punch-hole notch’ is definitely something that I like and can’t wait to see it on more smartphones throughout 2019.
So no, the Honor View 20 isn’t a OnePlus killer. It’s just a great phone hindered — like many — by a few hardware and software decisions.