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.
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/128GB, $580 8GB/256GB, estimated), but we already know that high-end phones have to content with a smaller footprint for even better specs.
The Honor View 20 has a 3.5mm audio connector, and that’s great because, despite all the buzz that OEMs tried to make, every single consumer survey shows that 70%-80% of users like the 3.5mm port.
On top of that, the “USB-C to 3.5mm” adaptors have huge compatibility issues, which means that the adapter you got for one phone might not work with another. In fact, none of these connectors worked on another phone in our office.
Unfortunately, the Honor View 20 is not certified with an IP rating. We know that the certification itself is somewhat expensive and that in the high-mid range market, there aren’t a lot of IP-rated phones anyway, so it’s hard to blame Honor if hardly anyone else does it at that price, at last for 2018-2019 phones.
Finally, there’s no support for storage extensions, through microSD or nano-SD. Since users can opt for 128GB or 256GB at purchase time, and since the handset is very affordable (for this level of tech), Honor believes that it can keep users happy, even without storage extension.
Camera: Megapixels are 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.
Just like the P20 Pro sensor, it uses a Quad-Bayer RGB pattern, which is a clever setup that can be used for three main scenarios:
- High details in daylight (48 MP)
- High dynamic range in daylight (12-24 MP)
- High sensitivity in low-light (12 MP), similar to pixel-binning
All scenarios are common and if the software is clever enough, it can pick one of these modes and make the best of it. In practice and by default, the camera is set in 12 Megapixel, which is the resolution at which all three scenarios can be handled. You can switch to 48 MP mode, but some options, such as zooming will be turned OFF.
Looking at the camera data of the Honor View 20, we rate it as the most powerful camera hardware in its category (~$450). Honor has really removed the gloves and intends to give a run for their money to the best camera phones on the market.
IMPORTANT: We have published an even more detailed review of the Honor View 20 Camera, in which it yields a score of 150 in our Uber-G Camera IQ tests.
Camera image quality
We will publish a more in-depth test of the camera because it is a topic in itself, but the bottom line is that the Honor View 20 brings unprecedented camera performance at this price range."UNPRECEDENTED CAMERA PERFORMANCE AT THIS PRICE"
We suspected that the latest batch of camera sensors from Sony would make Megapixel meaningful again, and that’s fortunately true. Although the performance does not scale linearly with the megapixel increase, the Honor View 20’s zoom capabilities can nearly match those of a 2X optical zoom such as the Galaxy Note 9 – in daylight conditions.
When compared to phones in its class, like the OnePlus 6, the Honor View 20’s zoom capabilities come far ahead. There is no question about it.
In low-light, the Honor View 20 camera delivers much better color rendering and sharpness than the View 10. In night photos the Honor View 20 easily outpaces same-class competitors to compete with phones such as the Oneplus 6T or the Google Pixel 3.
However, it falls short of equalling or beating the Huawei P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro in low-light photography. Of course, Honor has integrated the Night Mode inherited from the Mate 20 Pro, and it works in a similar way."IN NIGHT PHOTOS THE HONOR VIEW 20 EASILY OUTPACES SAME-CLASS COMPETITORS TO COMPETE WITH PHONES SUCH AS THE ONEPLUS 6T OR THE GOOGLE PIXEL 3"
Other camera features
The camera software benefits from both the trickling technology coming from the Huawei P20 Pro / Mate 20 Pro and from the advanced Camera AI that Honor introduced with the Honor 10. For example, there’s an AI Ultra-Clarity mode that will shoot many 48 MP frames to compose a final photo with lower noise and higher details.
A Night Mode does something similar but using multiple exposures in order to expose dark areas in an nearly night-vision style. There’s a 720p/960 FPS video mode (we think, using interpolated frames, tbd), just like on the Mate 20 Pro.
Primary camera sensor: Sony IMX586
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.
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.
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.
For example, the Black Levels are clearly not as good as an OLED display, but even within IPS LCDs, this screen has relatively visible light bleeding. This means that black colors come out as dark grey. It’s not a problem for day to day use, but if you watch a dark movie at night, OLED will look better.
In our lab, we have measured the brightness at ~520 NITs, which is very good, but short of the 700-800 NITs that the best smartphone displays can reach these days. From an economic point of view, there are constraints that even Huawei/Honor have to deal with, like everyone else, and within its category, this is great.
The color gamut doesn’t seem great, but we’ll have to confirm how much of the sRGB color space this screen can cover. The display’s performance is perhaps the only crack in the armor of this handset, but it seems that it is the price to pay to get the full-view design.
Just as expected, the Honor View 20 Kirin 980 processor, lifts it in the top league with a performance that matches the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. This means that its CPU score on a test like Geekbench 4 multi-thread is slightly above a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845.
When it comes to graphics, Snapdragon 845 keeps an advantage in most benchmarks, although Kirin 980 definitely brings high-end performance into the ~$450 market. When it comes to gaming, the Honor View 20 is ~30% faster than the Honor View 10.
When it comes to performance/price, the Honor View 20 brings an amazing performance for the price and does extremely well and ranks well above even the typical value-oriented phones such as the OnePlus 6T, let alone high-end phones such as the Galaxy S9 and of course the Apple XS.
Only the Xiaomi Pocophone F1 ranks better because of its ultra-low price of ~$315, which is unbelievable for a Snapdragon 845 handset. But to achieve that price, the Pocophone F1 is seriously underpowered when it comes to the camera, and the Honor View 20 has no problem crushing it in any camera side by side (if you want a dedicated article about this, drop a comment!).
Also don’t miss our article about GPU Turbo, Honor’s graphics optimization software.
Battery"3.5X FASTER CHARGING THAN THE IPHONE XS MAX"
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.
In our tests, the Honor View 20 performs exactly like Honor said it would: it can charge 55% of the battery in ~30mn, which makes it one of the fastest-charging handsets at 77 Mah/mn. That’s 3.5X faster charging than Apple’s iPhone XS Max out of the box, faster than the Galaxy S9/S9+/Note 9.
Conclusion: watch for the price in your market
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. At 2999 Yuan, the Honor View 20 value is just incredible.
Honor has thrown a lot of resources in the primary camera, betting that a single camera module with a 48 Megapixel sensor could perform very well, even with zoom. Our camera tests show that the investment has paid off, and the View 20 can reach near the performance of a 2X optical zoom."THE HONOR VIEW 20 VALUE IS JUST INCREDIBLE"
Obviously, a lot depends on the price. As of now, there is a huge price difference for how much this phone retails at in China (2999 Yuan, or ~$440 USD) and Europe (550 Eur, or ~625 USD). We based our analysis on a $450-$500 price point for an eventual availability in the USA.
In terms of performance (speed, camera), if the Honor View 20’s needs to be priced around the Oneplus 6 (~$490) to make it an easy buy recommendation. As it goes above that closer ~$650, the value-proposition will shrink, and it will depend on your personal preferences.
At the moment, we have not seen imports, and there isn’t a reliable street price yet. Looking back at Honor View 10, prices in the USA should be lower than Europe.