Honor Vision at IFA 2019

Honor demonstrated its Honor Vision Smart TV at IFA 2019, which is a first for two reasons. First, it’s Honor/Huawei first television, and secondly, it is the first device to use HarmonyOS (codenamed HongMeng), Huawei’s proprietary cross-device operating system that may become an Android alternative someday, although it’s not the preferred option.

There are two versions of the TV, namely Honor Vision and Honor Vision Pro. We had a peek at the hardware and technology behind it when we visited (one of) Huawei’s campus in Shenzhen (China) last month. We played with the demo unit, and more importantly, we could ask questions to various experts who worked on the project.

Only available in China, for now, Honor Vision is built around a 55” UHD/4K display the Honor Vision is meant to be much more than a TV, and was thought as being a home hub and a communications device as well. Yes, it’s not the first time that a TV has such ambitions, but more on that later.

HD video calls over WIFI (TV) and LTE (phone)

  • Honor Vision: ~$550, 16GB storage, 2GB RAM, 4 speakers
  • Honor Vision Pro: ~$650, 32GB storage, 2GB RAM, 6 speakers

The specifications of the Honor Vision aren’t super-impressive by phones standard, but it is meant to stream content, and even games, rather than executing them with its own CPU.

It is more than powerful enough to run casual games obviously and to handle 4K video and FHD video-conferencing if the network allows. Finally, the proprietary processor developed for this platform has an NPU (AI processor) which helps with machine-learning tasks such as facial recognition which could be essential to recognize different users in a household.

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Industrial Design and Display

The design of the TV is classic and clean. It is not meant to compete with high-end televisions that cost many times the price. The image quality is very decent for the price (87% NTSC colors, 400 NITs), but not exceptional in absolute terms.

The “Pro” version has a retractable camera, which pops in and out when needed. We like the idea because privacy has been a big concern, and in the past, some TV webcam from other manufacturers have proven to be hackable, so at least, there’s a physical element that prevents video hacks.

There’s an array of six microphones to pick up the sound from all around the TV, instead of assuming that you’re right in front of it like many PC webcam microphones do. It’s great for chatting while moving into the room, but potentially also for voice commands as the user’s voice can be picked up from 5 yards away.

There are four to six 10-Watt speakers depending on which model you choose to buy, and the sound was plenty powerful for a regular-sized living room in Asia. The sound demonstration (movie trailers) was nice, but we would need to test this in a different environment to cast a final judgment. So far, it sounds good.

User Experience

In TV mode, the Honor Vision seems and behaves very much like other smart TVs. There’s a remote control, but can, of course, use your Huawei/Honor phone via Honor Magic Link a multi-device protocol and associated app that lets you control the TV and transfer data to the TV (and more appliances).

Typical use cases include cloning your phone’s screen to the TV, showing photos and video and casting games from the phone to the TV to play on a big screen. To cast something, you pair the phone with the TV via proximity (~1-inch) using NFC. In my opinion, proximity pairing is often faster and more practical than listing all potential device and requiring a password.

Honor Vision also has a message board for family members to send quick thoughts, reminders, or just about any message from Huawei Share.

Conclusion

Overall, the user experience seemed more polished, integrated, than many other smart TVs we’ve seen, and that’s because Huawei can exert a tight control and coordination on hardware, software, and wireless protocols.

On the other hand, Honor Magic Link or Huawei share are requirements that will limit the customer base to Huawei phone customers. Granted, it’s not a problem in China since Huawei/Honor holds such a significant market share, but it could prove to be challenging abroad where the Huawei eco-system could either pull or repel, potential customers.

Yet, this is one of the most exciting developments at IFA 2019 and in the Smart Home market in general, with the introduction of a new operating system and a unique TV-phone user experience that may give a boost to the whole genre, thanks to competitive forces.

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