We recently were part of a media group visiting Hong Kong for the announcement of the new Honor View 20. You may have read our initial Honor View 20 launch coverage at the time, but if not, the gist of the phone is that it promises full-view screen, with just a punch-hole camera at the upper left, and a 48 Megapixel camera backed by a large sensor.

This reflects where the battle lines for 2019 are going to be: we already know that Chinese companies see the full-view display as a great innovation demonstrator. Samsung was able to keep Xiaomi, and Honor/Huawei at bay with very thin bezels, but they had announced their own full-view screens when we attended the San Francisco SDC (Samsung Developer Conference) where their foldable phone tech was shown.

Industrial Design

You can check the design from our hands-on photos and compare them with the marketing pictures. The main difference is that the marketing photos make the “V” pattern in the back much more apparent than you’d generally see it. But it’s nice that the V is not always in your face and we were able to see it clearly in certain lighting conditions.

Honor has built an optical V-pattern by etching different kinds of pattern in the back-cover glass structure at the microscopic level. It’s a really cool technique. Unfortunately, the engineers asked us not to take pictures that show the etching. Maybe they’ll reveal it later.

The rear camera setup in particular, with the main camera being at the upper-left and the rest of the camera assembly being separated. Technically, it is due to the fact that the primary camera sensor is so big that the whole module is 2X thicker than a regular camera module to preserve a proper focal length and sensor coverage.

The chassis is 8.1mm thick and relatively large in general to accommodate both the 4000 mAh battery and the larger rear camera module. It’s not a bad trade-off at the Honor View 20 price point ($450 6GB, $580 8GB, estimated), but we already know that high-end phones have to content with a smaller footprint for even better specs.

Camera: can Megapixels be meaningful again?

Honor’s move to a 48-Megapixel Sony IMX586 CMOS sensor provides a large sensing surface, and should, in theory, gather more light, which increases the chance for better photography. That said, the Mate 20 Pro sensor is still ~30% larger according to our estimates.

We have not yet had a chance to put the View 20 Camera to the test in any meaningful way. We were able to snap some photos indoors in very bright lighting, and things seem promising, but we defer any image analysis until we get retail firmware, at least.

As we’ve shown before, Honor did release photo said to be taken by the Honor View 20 camera. However, we have no context of what the original scene was like, nor whether or not the photo was edited outside of the camera, a common practice with photographers.

Official View 20 Photo Sample by Cheng Yanan

From what we could see, the image processing seems cranked-up high, perhaps as much as the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, or even more.

The Sony IMX586 Sensor can also capture full-resolution photos at 30FPS, and capture 4K/90FPS video, along with 720p/480FPS slow-mo video, without cropping. That are the sensor’s capabilities, and we can’t confirm that the phone can actually push it to its limits. We already know that 2019 will see a “high-megapixel war” because Samsung has also released 48MP and 36MP sensors.

Using pixel-binning, these high-megapixel sensors can in theory capture more detailed pictures in daylight, and merge pixels at night (down to 12MP) to increase light sensitivity. This is a sensible approach that we expect more OEMs to follow — if the results are as good as expected. LG has pioneered pixel-binning, and Huawei has proven that it could be put to good use.

Interestingly, the second camera is neither a telephoto lens or an ultrawide lens, but a TOF (time of flight) sensor. Its job is to calculate the distance between the sensor and the environment to create a depth map, which can be used for Bokeh (background blur) or 3D-scanning. It’s a cousin of the kind of technologies used in Kinect, and an alternative to using a secondary full-on camera module to do the same job.

TOF is an interesting choice and potentially a cost optimization, but it does have some drawbacks: the infrared light used can be overwhelmed by ambient lighting (like the Sun.), and you naturally lose out on the potential performance of a 3X optical or ultrawide camera modules. That said, in daylight photo, the high megapixel count could turn into a good sensor-crop lossless zoom.

Selfie camera

The Selfie camera if a 25 Megapixel f/2.0 that has a max. Resolution of 5760×4304. At the moment, the highlight about it is how hard it was for Honor to place the camera into the punch-hole display.

Because Honor uses an LCD screen in the View 20, there are more layers to deal with than with an OLED screen, and Honor has shown us how it took many attempts before finding a drilling technique which preserves the structural integrity of the LCD panel. The trick was to drill only 2 out of 18 layers.

There was some debate about where to place the punch-hole. Upper-left, center and upper-right were discussed, and from user-surveys, it was determined that the upper-left was the best place. Interestingly Samsung has selected the same location for the Samsung A8s which was announced hours after the View 20.

However, The Galaxy S10 leaks show the punch-hole on the upper-right, which Honor says it could be distracting when gaming in landscape mode. This is a matter of personal preferences, but one thing is for sure: the center position was disliked by most people.

Display

The Honor View 20 demo unit in my hand

Punch-hole aside, the display’s primary quality is to be a full-view one. The quality seemed quite good, but at the Premium price point and using LCD technology, we know that more expensive handsets will have better screens. We’ll look at brightness and color coverage with the retail unit, but from an economic point of view, there are constraints that even Huawei/Honor have to deal with, like everyone else.

Performance

With a Kirin 980 processor, the Honor View 20 is poised to be among the leaders in its Premium category. Of course, there are the occasional handsets like the Pocophone F1 that packs a Snapdragon 845 processor, but in general, such a powerful SoC (system on chip) and 4G LTE modem are reserved for the high-end.

This could also be a hint at Honor’s intent to push their AI Camera efforts down from the high-end as fast as possible.

As we have found in our Huawei Mate 20 Pro tests, the CPU and AI performance of the Kirin 980 chip is superb, and it only trails Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 in graphics performance. So unless you want the absolute highest framerate for VR and games, Kirin 980 should have all the bases well covered.

For reference, here are the Mate 20 Pro benchmarks, which we expect to be similar to what the Honor View 20 would achieve. Also don’t miss our article about GPU Turbo, Honor’s graphics optimization software.

Battery

With a battery capacity of 4000 mAh, the Honor View stands tall among phones in its category, but also against high-end phones like the iPhone XS Max which has ~17% less battery, but costs significantly more.

We wonder if it will charge as fast as the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, the fastest-charging phone we’ve tested so far. Premium phones tend to charge less rapidly than Huawei or Oppo’s best. However, they often still charger faster than LG, Samsung — with Apple being the slowest out of the box at only 1/5th the charging speed of the Mate 20 Pro in our tests.

Conclusion

The Honor View 20 is the first salvo of a new battle for the full-view screen and high-Megapixel camera which we expect to last well into 2019. The battle lines are clear, and this handset sets the bar in terms of design and performance for phones in its category.

We’re looking forward to seeing how it will indeed perform in the real world, especially when it comes to camera performance. What do you think? Follow our Youtube, Instagram or Facebook to be notified when we update this story with the full review.

Filed in Cellphones >Reviews. Read more about Android, Editorspick, Honor, Smartphone Reviews and Smartphones.

6.4"
  • 2310x1080
  • IPS LCD
  • 398 PPI
48 MP
  • f/1.8 Aperture
4000 mAh
  • Non-Removable
  • No Wireless Charg.
6-8GB RAM
  • KIRIN 980
Price
~$480 - Amazon
Weight
180 g
Launched in
2018-12-01
Storage (GB)
  • 128
  • 256
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