On the 21st May 2019, HONOR just made an announcement at London that the HONOR 20 series is now official. It has the word “series” in it because there are a total of two phones released together – the HONOR 20 and also the Pro variant. We have here today with us is the non-Pro version – and here’s our in-depth review of it.

Special thanks to HONOR Malaysia for early unit – we had a lot of fun messing around with the HONOR 20 for the past 2 weeks!

ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14

Unboxing

The HONOR 20 comes with a pretty basic set of contents in the box. The unit that we have isn’t exactly retail since there are no documentations. It is also missing the TPU case. We have confirmed that the retail version of the HONOR 20 does indeed come with a TPU case.

HONOR 20

Digging up all of the contents reveals that the HONOR 20 comes with the phone itself, a 22.5W SuperCharge charger, a USB-C cable with purple tips (since it needs to carry more current) and also a USB-C to headphone jack dongle. Yes, there’s a dongle, just like what the official unboxing showed us.

HONOR 20

From the contents of the box itself, my fear of the lack of a headphone jack starts to materialize… but first, let’s talk about the design of the phone.

By the way, the HONOR 20 does have a screen protector pre-installed out of the box.

HONOR 20

For smartphone veterans who have been aware of what HONOR has been doing with their smartphones over the years. The HONOR 8 has a beautiful, radical design with multiple layers of glass at the back to create the reflections. The new HONOR 20 took that idea and put it on steroids, creating a surreal look.

HONOR 20

HONOR calls it the “Dynamic Holographic glass back” and looks “multi-dimensional” by using “Triple 3D Mesh” technology. HONOR claims that the new glass back looks like it has depth, as in the back of phone looks like it has sunken into the phone itself.

Whatever that means, the new HONOR 20 highly reflective, a fingerprint magnet, and definitely attracts dust like magnet. Just like any other smartphones with a glass back, it is included case to prevent any premature damages. And honestly, the new glass back does like like any regular piece of glass. It’s quite difficult to pick up the reflections.

HONOR 20

Though, grabbing the HONOR 20 does feel like it’s biting into my hand as it does have quite a boxy design. Since we do not have the included TPU case with us, we can only use the phone naked – and I honestly don’t like the boxy shape of the HONOR 20.

The HONOR 20 comes with the usual set of connectivity like any other flagships these days – it has AC WiFi that can take advantage of some of your Unifi Turbo speeds, has NFC, and also dual SIM card slots. However, there is no microSD card slot.

HONOR 20

It’s a little weird since the HONOR View20 did not have a microSD card slot, and honestly, HONOR should have included a hybrid slot instead. But still, that’s okay since the HONOR 20 series comes with a minimum of 128GB of storage.

HONOR 20
This is something that I love.

One of the best features of the HONOR 20 has got to be side-mounted fingerprint scanner. Just like many other Sony Xperia smartphones in the past, the fingerprint scanner is the power button itself. And yes, it is at the side.

HONOR 20

Just above the power button is where the volume rocker is found.

HONOR 20

At the bottom is the speaker grill alongside with the USB-C port and a microphone.

HONOR 20

The top is where the secondary microphone and proximity sensor is found. We’ve already talked about the weirdly positioned proximity sensor back during the View20’s review.

From here I think you might have realized that the HONOR 20 does not have a headphone jack. That is why they included USB-C to 3.5mm audio jack dongle. That’s unfortunate as there are so many people that still rely on that 3.5mm audio jack. Bummer.

The display is actually not bad on the HONOR 20. It comes with a 6.1-inch display with 1080p resolution, and a circular cutout at the top left corner. It’s technically the same display as the View20, just smaller. It’s tiny and the touchscreen still works around the cutout – which is something that I appreciate especially while playing PUBG Mobile.

HONOR 20

You can adjust the color temperature as well, and you have the entire color wheel for you to play with, alongside with 3 presets. That’s great!

HONOR 20 display settings menu

There are two color mods for you to choose from – “normal” and also “vivid”. I personally prefer vivid colors, though. Its contrast is great and colors and saturated although I do think that the display is a little on the blue tint side. Thanks to the versatility of the color temperature setting, I can adjust it to a warmer temperature which I prefer.

Okay, this is the other selling point that HONOR has made an emphasis on – the cameras. It was advertised as the phone with 4 cameras, though the HONOR 20 only has a total of 3 usable cameras while the HONOR 20 Pro has a total of 4 usable cameras. This is a similar situation with the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) and the Galaxy A9 (2018).

Still, we are here solely to review the HONOR 20, and this is the list of camera hardware that it has:

  • Triple rear-facing cameras
    • Ultrawide angle: 20MP f/2.2 with PDAF
    • Main: 48MP f/1.8 with PDAF
    • Macro: 2MP f/2.4 fixed focus
    • Depth sensor
  • 32MP f/2.0 selfie camera

HONOR 20

Here’s the list of pictures that you can have a look. As usual, the full uncompressed image alongside with all the metadata can be viewed at the our Shutterfly album.

Rear-facing cameras

Okay, let’s just start by saying that the cameras on the HONOR 20 is actually quite good. It still has the same hardware and software as the HONOR View20, and we took it to Paris to take some of the most jaw-dropping shots that I’ve seen on a smartphone. That Sony IMX586 48MP sensor is really potent.

Review - HONOR 20: New perspective into the macro world 1
Taken with the ultrawide angle camera.

From here I turned on AI and also used the ultrawide angle camera. It comes with autofocus as well, which is something that I truly appreciate. However, the picture that comes out of it is punchy albeit a little darker than I like. Of course, the exposure can be adjusted before taking the picture.

Review - HONOR 20: New perspective into the macro world 2
Taken with the main 48MP camera with AI Ultra Clarity mode.

Of course, the 48MP AI Ultra Clarity mode is still as gorgeous as ever. I absolutely love this move whereby they combine low ISO with HDR, creating a noise-free image with high resolution and beautiful natural-looking colors.

Moving to somewhere that is showered by sunlight, I took some closeup shots with the brand new macro camera. Here’s a comparison of how close the macro can go when compared to the main 48MP camera.

Review - HONOR 20: New perspective into the macro world 3
Macro camera.
Review - HONOR 20: New perspective into the macro world 4
Main 48MP camera.

From here, we can see that the 2MP macro camera actually does quite a good job – though the colors obviously look different. For some reason, the macro camera produces a much more saturated picture compared to the 48MP main camera.

Review - HONOR 20: New perspective into the macro world 5
Taken with the macro camera.

However, when we moved to an artificially-lit environment with two bright bulbs, the camera already starts to show some clarity issue. It’s also quite difficult to focus as the macro camera is “best at 4cm distance” but it does not show which part of the image is in critical focus. Also, the white balance is messed up.

HONOR 20 camera UI
The HONOR 20 macro camera has a fixed focus which has a focal point at 4cm away from the phone.

Selfie camera

Once again I’m not really a fan of selfies, but the HONOR 20 does take some decent selfies. It does, however, looks a bit too soft. The softness is good for those who want to create a dreamy-looking selfie with beautification, actually.

Review - HONOR 20: New perspective into the macro world 6

Camera UI

HONOR 20 camera UI

The camera UI found in the HONOR 20 seriously needs some cleaning up. It’s clunky and I have no idea why the macro mode is hidden in the “more” menu. Shouldn’t it be on the main screen menu? It can be tucked at the corner – yes, but don’t hide it somewhere obscure.

So… this is awkward. Huawei, the parent company of HONOR, just got its Android OS license prolonged for another 90 days. That means there will be no further security updates from Google themselves, and Huawei/HONOR has to manage that on their own.

In whichever case, Magic UI in itself is essentially still the same as Huawei’s EMUI, just with a different name. To which like I said in our review of the Huawei P30 recently, it is outdated compared to skins from other brands. Quite a lot of useful features are missing as well – like fingerprint scanner gestures.

HONOR 20
That is a proximity sensor, not IR blaster.

Don’t get me wrong – it still works, but I honestly prefer something like Samsung’s One UI or even OPPO’s new ColorOS 6 that has updated features and a cleaner UI overall.

Like what I have said in the Huawei P30 review, the background app management and how EMUI just likes to kill all the background apps bugs me to the core. The system makes it difficult to get into the settings and manually change it.

Let’s go first by saying that just like any other Huawei/HONOR flagship smartphones, the HONOR 20 comes with the company’s best core specs. For our specific unit for review, we have:

  • 6.1-inch IPS LCD display with 2340×1080 pixels in resolution
  • HiSilicon Kirin 980 chipset
  • 6GB LPDDR4X RAM
  • 128GB UFS 2.1 storage
  • 3,750mAh battery
  • Android 9.0 Pie with Magic UI 2.1

Let’s first take a look at the benchmarks, which actually performs just the same like the HONOR View20 (review), the Mate 20 Pro (review), and also the P30 (review). There is also a “performance mode” which boosts the CPU score higher, but consumes a lot more battery and heats up the phone. Hence, we’re not going to talk about that here.

HONOR 20 3DMark benchmark HONOR 20 VRMark benchmark HONOR 20 Geekbench benchmark HONOR 20 Antutu benchmark

Gaming

Honestly, nothing too out of the ordinary here. While its benchmark scores aren’t specifically the best among the current generation of flagship smartphones, the Kirin 980 can still run games without any problems.

It can run Honkai Impact 3 and Asphalt 9 at the highest graphical settings with no issues as well.

I played PUBG for an hour or two at HDR graphics with Ultra frame rates, anti-aliasing and shadows enabled as well. The phone managed to perform without any issues throughout the gameplay and that’s great.

The HONOR 20 comes with a weird capacity of 3,750mAh battery. It’s decently-sized and relatively large compared to other smartphones in the market. However, the because of the Kirin 980 chipset, the battery capacity is not exactly the best.

HONOR 20 battery life test benchmark

Lasting for about 12.5 hours, you definitely need to conserve your usage if you want to use it for a full day.

Charger

HONOR 20

With the HONOR 20, they included a SuperCharge charger. It packs 5V at 4.5A, with a total of 22.5W. It’s definitely not the fastest charger around, but hey – it can get you a considerable amount of battery charge within a short time.

HONOR 20 SuperCharge battery charging curve

With the SuperCharge, it takes about 23 minutes to reach 50% charge and 43 minutes to reach 75% battery charge.

As for the 5V 2A charger, it takes 34 minutes to reach 50% charge and 59 minutes to reach 75% battery.

Alright, let’s jump straight into the core of this review. The HONOR 20 in itself is actually a decent phone, although with some pros and cons here and there. The phone itself is actually quite decent and focusing more on the camera itself.

The triple usable cameras on the HONOR 20 does offer a dynamic – you can go super wide or go super tiny – albeit that the white balancing and noise levels for indoor shots need improvement. The presence of a macro camera seriously offers a whole new perspective, but the quality leaves a lot to be desired.

HONOR 20

The 3,750mAh battery with SuperCharge is definitely something nice to have either, though I feel like the inclusion of a larger battery is still better – like the ZenFone 6.

All in all, it’s still a decent phone overall but after using it for about 2 weeks, I still can’t get over the fact that HONOR removed the audio jack. It’s just not cool to take away something so ubiquitous and useful, especially to mobile gamers.

Perhaps take a look at the HONOR View20 too. It’s still a great phone and feels better on the hands. It comes with more or less the same set of core specs, but it has a 3.5mm audio jack.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Materials
7
Software
6
Connectivity and ports
6
Screen
9
Performance and gaming
9
Camera
7
Battery and charger
7
Value
6
The enthusiastic nanoelectronic engineer who found his way into simplifying the world of tech for everyone. Introverted, but noisy. Nice to meet you!