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Starting the new year with a bang this January is HONOR. We know that the HONOR View20 is coming already since it was launched in China, then announced that there will be a global announcement event held at Paris on the 22nd of January 2019 – which is today. But we are not here today for the announcement – we are here to give you the full in-depth review of the HONOR View20.

We actually had some hands-on time with the HONOR View20 and demonstrated a few new technologies that makes it a worthy flagship. Let’s dive into the review.

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Unboxing

Looking at the box itself, the HONOR View20 comes with a fairly adequately fancy box. The front and back renders of the phone is printed at the front of the box and has reflective lines debossed onto the lid itself. Right here the blue colored HONOR View20 is shown, and the V-shaped aurora reflection is teased here.

HONOR View20

At the back of the box… we have nothing interesting.

HONOR View20

Opening the lid reveals the HONOR View20 itself.

HONOR View20

Under the HONOR View20 is where we can find the accessories box. More on that later.

HONOR View20

Under the accessories box is where we can find the Huawei SuperCharge charger and also  the accompanying USB-C cable.

HONOR View20

Laying out everything, we have the HONOR View20 itself, a protective TPU case, the Huawei SuperCharge charger, and also the USB-C cable. What we are lacking here are documentations – which we definitely do not need.

Then comes the design of the HONOR View20. It once again reminds me the curved design like the Xiaomi Mi A2 and the recently-launched HONOR 10 Lite – because the back is curved towards the screen at the two long edges – making it much more comfortable to hold.

HONOR View20

That curvature is also what makes the HONOR View20 feel thinner than it already is – and that is a good thing because there are some serious hardware packed into the HONOR View20.

HONOR View20

During the announcement of the HONOR View20, we get to know that there will be a total of 4 colors – the Midnight Black or Sapphire Blue, and then there are two more Moschino Edition color options. The one we have with us is the basic blue color which does not seem to be basic at all, because looking at other angles results in this.

HONOR View20

Depends on how the light is shined onto the HONOR View20, the blue appears differently. It can appear purple as well, which goes to show how much thought HONOR has put into creating the View20.

HONOR View20

As for the purple color, here is how I saw it through the camera.

HONOR View20

HONOR says that they are using nanolithography fabrication process to create the aurora effect that is seen at the back of the phone. The pattern that reflects the aurora colors is aptly shaped like a “V”, because this is the HONOR View20 after all. And it has an alternative name known as the HONOR V20 too.

HONOR View20

The included transparent TPU case is actually pretty decent, and the aurora back shines through the transparent TPU case too – so we do not have to worry about its beauty being compromised.

HONOR View20

Then comes the front of the phone – which is nearly all-screen.

Shifting around our review structure a little, let us talk about the display of the HONOR View20. This is the first ever smartphone from HONOR to be featuring a punch hole display or an under-screen selfie camera or a circular notch – however you want to call it.

HONOR View20

The HONOR View20 has a 6.4-inch IPS LCD display with 2310×1080 pixels in resolution. It has great colors and also great white balance – though it is a tad to the colder side than what I’ve gotten used to.

HONOR View20

Of course, there is a circular cutout at the top left corner too. HONOR actually moved that cutout so far off to the corner that I honestly forgot that it exists when I use it. It is just tiny and can be ignored easily.

If you really don’t like the notch – even though it does not bother your day-to-day usages – then you can actually disable the notch in the settings menu. You will, however, create a bar of nothingness at the top of the screen.

Because of the nature of how capacitive touch screen works, you can actually touch the circular cutout notch and drag the notifications bar down – which is impressive since that space is not actually wasted. Furthermore, if we are to look at it, the cutout itself is the entire selfie camera.

HONOR View20

HONOR also included a film screen protector pre-installed on the HONOR View20 itself – so that you do not  have to worry about scratching up the display at all.

With the front of the phone taken up by the display, where did all the sensors go?

Remember when we said there is a preinstalled screen protector on the HONOR View20? Looking at that screen protector itself, there is a little cutout on the top right side of the screen. Upon further inspection, that is where the ambient light sensor is found.

HONOR View20

This ambient light sensor it only samples light from a tiny little slit between the screen and the edge of the display. Yet it works like any other phone. Marvelous.

HONOR View20

At the top of the phone is where we can find another row of electronics. We have the 3.5mm audio jack (thank you, HONOR!) and then we have the proximity sensor (more on that later), a microphone, and also an IR blaster to control your TV or AC.

The proximity sensor – again – works just like on any other phone. Its function is the same since the early Android smartphones – to detect if the phone’s earpiece is near your ear. Even when the proximity sensor is placed at the top, it still works fine.

HONOR View20

At the right side of the phone is where we can find the usual volume rocker and power button.

HONOR View20

At the left side is where we can find the dual nano SIM card slot. That’s right – the HONOR View20 does not have any expandable memory card slot. They just have a big internal storage – which is fine by me.

HONOR View20

At the bottom is where we can find the speaker grill, the USB-C port, and a microphone.

What’s interesting here is that HONOR still retained all nearly all ports for the View20, and yet still packs a huge 4,000mAh battery. That means the HONOR View20 almost does not have any compromises in terms of connectivity and ports.

Then comes the cameras that are found in the HONOR View20. It comes with the fancy new Sony IMX586 sensor – which can take pictures at 48MP in resolution. With a bit of software magic, that sensor can do wonders.

HONOR View20

The HONOR View20 also comes with a secondary camera. It is actually a 3D TOF camera, similar to what we have seen on the OPPO R17 Pro that we reviewed here. However, HONOR already has all of the functions baked in and ready to go for the View20. We will show you more on that later.

HONOR View20
The 3D TOF camera is working!

Not only that, the HONOR View20 comes with 3 very special photography modes too – their iconic AI mode, then there’s the 12MP night mode that combines 4 pixels into 1, and also the new 48MP AI Ultra Clarity mode.

Here are the list of specs for the cameras found in the HONOR View20:

  • Rear-facing cameras
    • 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor with f/1.8 aperture lens; laser autofocus
    • 3D TOF camera
  • Selfie camera
    • 25MP f/2.0 with fixed focus

With all that said, all of the pictures shown in this review can be viewed in full size with all metadata at our Shutterfly album here. It is highly recommended since the HONOR View20 takes pictures in 48MP in size.

Rear-facing cameras

Let’s first take a look at a few shots taken with the HONOR View20. All pictures here are taken only with the 48MP sensor and that means that in the camera app itself, there are no fiddling around with which camera to use while taking certain shots. This one single Sony IMX586 sensor with a f/1.8 lens can take some amazing shots.

Review - HONOR View20 1

I also realized that taking pictures with the AI mode results in a much clearer picture overall. This patch of grass is taken in 48MP, and in AI mode, I can see the individual strands at full resolution.

Review - HONOR View20 2

In the usual HONOR’s AI mode fashion, colors are slightly more saturated, and the dark spots are brightened as well.

Review - HONOR View20 3

Obviously, the HONOR View20 is also good in taking indoor shots.

Review - HONOR View20 4

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Then comes the night. I was “fortunate” enough as the electricity went out and . I compared the normal 48MP shot against the 12MP night mode shots and realized that there are some loss in details when 4 pixels were combined to create a single pixel while using the night mode.

Review - HONOR View20 6
Without night mode.
Review - HONOR View20 7
With night mode.

48MP AI Ultra Clarity mode

This is actually a brand new camera feature that was brought to the HONOR View20 about 2 weeks after we got the review unit. The pictures taken with this AI Ultra Clarity mode are actually very close to manual mode.

HONOR themselves recommend to only use AI Ultra Clarity mode on non-moving objects and sceneries that are brightly lit – either in a studio or outdoors when the sun is up. That is because it will take a few seconds to take the picture – like the night mode.

Here, we have 4 different pictures – all taken with different modes. Take a look at them.

Review - HONOR View20 8
Taken without AI or AI Ultra Clarity mode.
Review - HONOR View20 9
Taken with AI mode.
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Taken with AI Ultra Clarity mode.
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Taken in manual mode.

From these 4 images, we can see a huge difference in the final image that the HONOR View20 produces. The first image is without any AI or AI Ultra Clarity, which results in a darker image but retains many of the details of the controller, particularly the grainy texture.

AI mode on the other hand, creates a HDR-looking image instantly – which does show its weakness since the image was taken with just one snap. Hence, the image looks washed out and over-sharpened as well.

HONOR View20

Then comes the 48MP AI Ultra Clarity mode. This is indeed my favorite mode of all since it takes about 2~4 seconds to take a brightly-lit scene or object, but the result is stunning. From above, we can see that the HDR is done correctly and the entire image is lit evenly, yet retains the natural look of the details and gives an eye-pleasing amount of saturation to the colors. For some not-so-bright places, the AI Ultra Clarity mode can actually decrease the ISO automatically – hence decreasing noise as well.

As for the manual mode that we took as a reference. From here we can see that the dynamic range is retained but the colors are a little washed out. Of course, you can take RAW format images with the HONOR View20 on manual mode and put it in Snapseed or Lightroom to fine-tune it however you want – but that consumes a lot of time.

Hence, the 48MP AI Ultra Clarity Mode is here to combine a few modes together – HDR, a healthy amount of saturation, low noise, and narutal-looking details. All of these in its full 48MP glory.

3D TOF camera

As of now, HONOR does have a two games developed for demonstration that makes use of the 3D TOF camera. We do have a demonstration coming soon.

However, HONOR worked their creative juices and implemented a “body shaping” mode that is found within the portrait mode. Take a look at these two images where we compare the 3D TOF camera’s body shaping feature at zero and maximum levels.

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Zero body shaping.
Review - HONOR View20 13
Maximum body shaping.

Selfie camera

Once again, I’m not much of a selfie fan. There are a few features worth highlighting here but from what I can judge, the selfie looks pretty good for social media. I mean, no one wants to see your pores up close, right?

Review - HONOR View20 14

Camera UI

The camera UI is pretty much the same in terms of design language and button layout. It works, though I do wish it is easier to jump between different modes.

HONOR View20 camera UI
The central hub for different camera modes. You can even download more modes, if you want to.

As for the Pro mode or manual mode, you can select ISO down to just 50 and shutter speeds from 1/4000s to 30s. For those who have a tripod for smartphones, then the HONOR View20 can definitely take some fantastic shots. You can take RAW format images too, by the way.

HONOR View20 camera UI

Then comes the 48MP AI Ultra Clarity option that is found within the resolution menu. It’s a little awkward to change between the basic 48MP mode and 48MP AI Ultra Clarity mode since I need to navigate to the resolutions menu each time. And each time I exit the camera app, it will automatically switch back to the basic 48MP mode.

HONOR View20 camera UI

Also, in the 48MP AI Ultra Clarity mode, all other buttons are locked. Flash, moving picture, and the AI buttons are automatically disabled, and a message on how to use the 48MP AI Ultra Clarity mode appears.

HONOR View20 camera UI

By the name itself, I think it is pretty telling that the HONOR Magic UI is based on their Magic series of smartphone – which is meant to showcase their technological advances over the years. Without beating around the bush, the Magic UI 2.0 is essentially EMUI 9.0 that we have seen on the Mate 20 Pro.

HONOR View20

Both of them are so similar here that I don’t actually see any discernible differences from a user’s perspective. The screen knocking gesture is still here – whereby you can knock twice to take a screenshot or knock and drag to take a custom sized screenshot.

HONOR View20

One thing I do like is the fact that the HONOR View20 actually has a dedicated fingerprint scanner at the back of the phone. I honestly, personally still prefer a physical fingerprint scanner over under-display ones for its speed and reliability – and also the gesture. I enabled the option to slide down the fingerprint scanner to bring down the notification, and that is my all-time favorite gesture.

HONOR View20

Then comes the IR blaster which HONOR also included an app called Smart Remote. There are quite a few devices that already works with the HONOR View20 out of the box, but not every device is compatible. Of course, you can download other apps to take advantage of the IR blaster as well. Some other apps can even “learn” and mimic your current remote control.

One funny thing to point out here is that the HONOR View20 does have the option to hide the notch. Not sure why anyone would want to hide the notch though, since it is small enough to be ignored.

HONOR View20 hide notch

In terms of performance, the HONOR View20 is definitely a smartphone that packs the latest and greatest hardware available. The specs of the HONOR View20 are as below:

  • 6.4-inch IPS LCD display with 2310×1080 pixels in resolution with circular cutout notch
  • HiSilicon Kirin 980 chipset
    • 2×2.26GHz Cortex-A76 + 2×1.92GHz Cortex-A76 + 4×1.8GHz Cortex-A55
    • Mali-G76 MP10 GPU
      • 10 GPU cores at 720MHz
  • 6GB LPDDR4X RAM
  • 128GB UFS 2.1 internal storage (no expandable memory card slot)
  • 4,000mAh battery
  • Android 9.0 Pie with Magic UI 2.0.1

Just like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro with EMUI 9.0, the HONOR View20 with Magic UI 2.0 also comes with different performance modes – which actually makes a huge difference in benchmarks particularly on Antutu. While we have seen smartphones like the ROG Phone reaching 300k points on Antutu, it is quite inconsistently. The HONOR View20 can reach beyond 300k points in Antutu by just turning on performance mode.

Let us first show you how the HONOR View20 competes against its competition with performance mode turned off and on.

HONOR View20 3DMark benchmark HONOR View20 VRMark benchmark HONOR View20 Geekbench benchmark HONOR View20 Antutu benchmark

In the benchmark scores, we can see that the performance mode unleashes the CPU and GPU’s performance. Upon further inspection, the performance mode actually increased the GPU performance by a huge margin as shown on 3DMark, VRMark, and Geekbench scores for graphics. When we broke down Antutu benchmark score to its individual score, we can see that the graphics performance increased by 12%.

HONOR View20 Performance Mode Difference

Gaming

The one thing that HONOR always touts since the HONOR Play is GPU Turbo. This one feature is touted to be the literal game changer as it uses AI to lift some burden off the GPU, hence saving battery. Kind of like how NVIDIA uses AI to take advantage of DLSS.

We tested all of these games with performance mode turned off.

Let’s start off with Honkai Impact 3. It can play the game with the highest possible settings, with the Honkai Impact 3’s “God Kiana” character causing a barely noticeable frame rate drop when casting her ultimate skill. Other than that, it is completely smooth sailing.

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Then Asphalt 9, obviously it has no issues here. However, the cars still look jagged as there is technically no anti-aliasing for this game.

As for PUBG Mobile, I am very impressed that the Kirin 980 chipset is now supported out of the box – unlike the Mate 20 Pro during the launch. The game recommended the highest settings (obviously) and I played the game at a very smooth frame rate with zero issues. The best thing is that the game itself looks so beautiful that I couldn’t even see my enemies as the scenery of Sanhok is too beautiful.

Currently, GPU Turbo is in its second iteration – and PUBG Mobile is one of them those games that are supported by GPU Turbo 2.0.

The HONOR View20 comes with a massive 4,000mAh battery – which what seems to be the current goal for new flagship smartphones. With a relatively big battery, the HONOR View20 managed to last for 14.37 hours. That’s impressive!

HONOR View20 battery life benchmark

Once we turned on performance mode, the battery life drops to about 11.80 hours. However, considering that PUBG Mobile runs smoothly without performance mode, I highly doubt that we need to turn on performance mode for gaming at all.

Charger

HONOR View20

As for the charger, the HONOR View20 comes with a Huawei SuperCharge charger that is rated for 5V at 4.5A or 4.5V at 5A – resulting in a maximum output of 22.5W. It is not the same super fast charger as found on the Mate 20 Pro, but still a pretty fast charger.

HONOR View20 battery charging curve

The HONOR View20 with SuperCharge needs 18 minutes to reach 50% and a total of 37 minutes to reach 75%. When we swapped to a generic 5V 2A, it needs 60 minutes to reach 50% and a total of 103 minutes to reach 75%.

Again, the HONOR View20 offers a pretty fast charger and big battery in a single package. That is impressive.

Honestly speaking, I am surprised by how well the HONOR View20 worked right out of the box. The new 48MP camera combined with the night mode is a bliss as I can take great pictures with a beautifully designed smartphone – especially with the 48MP AI Ultra Clairty mode. And yes, the unique design at the back of the phone is most certainly something that I personally like.

Let’s not forget the circular cutout for the selfie camera – it’s so tiny and tucked away so far to the corner that I didn’t even know it exists after using the HONOR View20 for 5 minutes.

HONOR View20

Then comes the 3D TOF camera. We know that HONOR is at an uphill battle here since Google does not officially support 3D TOF yet, so HONOR has to develop apps themselves. Yet the 3D TOF camera works pretty well out of the box – which is impressive, unlike the OPPO R17 Pro.

The HONOR View20 is honestly a fantastic smartphone – from the beautiful design to its fantastic performance to its beautiful screen, I can recommend the HONOR View20 easily. The HONOR View20 is far more superior than the Mate 20 Pro too. By the way, the HONOR View20 has a 3.5mm audio jack.

For the price of only RM1,999 for the 6GB RAM + 128GB storage version – like the one that we reviewed here, is available in both Sapphire Blue and Midnight Black colors. The price is just so good that I can recommend the View20 any day.

For those who seek the the highest specs available, then you can get the 8GB RAM + 256GB version for only RM2,499. This is only available in the Phantom Blue color, which was created in collaboration with Moschino.

Honestly, for this price, this is a much better smartphone to buy compared to the recently-launched Huawei Nova 4 or the Mate 20 Pro. And you can already get the HONOR View20 this Satruday at 9.30am! Early customers can get the HONOR Watch Magic for free too! Learn more about the roadshow here.


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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Materials
9
Software
7
Connectivity and ports
8
Screen
9
Specifications
9
Camera
9
Battery and charger
8
Value
9
The enthusiastic nanoelectronic engineer who found his way into simplifying the world of tech for everyone. Introverted, but noisy. Nice to meet you!