HONOR 20 Review — neither here nor there
The HONOR 20 crams more cameras to offer you the ability to capture wonderful ultra wide-angle shots and also macros from as close as 4cm. It did leave us wanting for more though...
6GB + 128GB: RM1699
+ Good performance
+ Great battery life despite smallish battery
+ Interesting camera features
+ Photos turn out pretty good
+ Reasonable price tag
- Uninspired design
- 2MP fixed focus macro camera is difficult to use
- Magic UI 2.1 is due for a revamp
- Camera UI is unintuitive
HONOR follows a two-flagship cadence, where they will release a HONOR View flagship early in the year, followed by a HONOR later. Today we will be looking at the HONOR 20, the latest device to come from HONOR. The HONOR 20 series is supposed to focus more on photography and style than the HONOR View20, with the latter oriented towards gamers. Given that we were very impressed by the HONOR View20’s 48MP AI camera, would the HONOR 20 just blow the doors off the competition?
Similar to previous HONOR flagships, the HONOR 20 features a white box with the product image on it.
Our review unit came with a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle, so you know what you will be missing out on with the HONOR 20. There is also the 22.5W HUAWEI SuperCharge charger and the accompanying USB-C cable. We don’t have any documentation here, but rest assured that retail units will surely come with them.
The front of the HONOR 20 is reminiscent of the HONOR View20, although we are actually seeing a smaller screen here. It has a hole in the screen to house the selfie camera, skipping the notch and any moving parts, all while offering as much screen as it can.
Instead of the chevrons, the HONOR 20 has straight lines ingrained thoughout the back of the phone. It does make for a device which looks a lot less interesting.
While the HONOR 20 has a boring back, the power button is where it gets a bit more interesting. It also doubles as a fingerprint scanner. I find this a pretty interesting shift for HONOR, skipping the unreliable under-display fingerprint scanners while not having to cut a hole in the back of the phone. I still prefer the honor 8’s rear fingerprint scanner with an embedded SmartKey though, but that could probably just be me.
I wish HONOR went with two sets of grilles on either side of the USB-C port, for symmetry’s sake. Unfortunately we don’t get that, nor a 3.5mm jack despite the visibly large expanse of space on the left side.
Over at the top is a cutout for the proximity sensor. The HONOR View20 had both a proximity sensor and an IR transmitter at the top, but it seems like the HONOR had to cut some costs on the HONOR 20 and we are only getting the essentials here.
As a whole, I am very unimpressed by the design of the HONOR 20. The HONOR 20’s color and also back design just seems uninspired, despite it supposed to be a more stylish and camera-centric package than the HONOR View20.
|CPU/Chipset:||Kirin 980 (2 x Cortex-A76 @ 2.6 GHz + 2 x Cortex-A76 @ 1.92 GHz + 4 x Cortex-A55 @ 1.8 GHz), 7nm FinFET|
|GPU:||Mali-G76MP10 @ 720 MHz|
|Display:||6.26″ FHD+ (1080p) IPS LCD display, HONOR AllView, 91.76% screen-to-body ratio|
|Storage:||128GB UFS 2.1|
48MP f/1.8, Sony Exmor IMX 586, 0.8μm pixels + 16MP f/2.2 super wide angle + 2MP f/2.4 macro lens + 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor
AIS, PDAF, laser AF, LED flash, Portrait mode, AI Ultra-Clarity, Super Night mode, Aperture mode, HiVision
AI beautification, AI HDR, Portrait mode
|OS:||Magic UI 2.1.0 based on Android 9 Pie|
|Connectivity:||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz + 5 GHz)
|Battery:||Li-Po 3750 mAh (non-removable)
22.5W HUAWEI SuperCharge fast charging
|Dimensions:||154.25 x 73.97 x 7.87 mm|
The Kirin 980 isn’t new, but it is still HUAWEI/HONOR’s flagship chipset, at least until the HUAWEI Mate 30 arrives with a Kirin 985, that is. So let’s see how it stands against flagships from 2018 and also the most recent ones which we got the opportunity to test.
In Antutu the HONOR 20 somehow performs a tad poorer than the HONOR View20. It still bests the 2018 flagships here though.
Geekbench is where the HONOR 20 regains its footing, but it does not look great against this year’s flagships. Even the Samsung Galaxy Note9 offers better CPU performance, which is quite disappointing.
As expected, the Kirin 980 chipset is not the best when it comes to GPU performance. It is flagship-class though, so you are still going to enjoy all the games you want on an Android device for at least another year or so.
PCMark performance on the HONOR 20 is virtually identical to the HONOR View20.
The HONOR 20 does have a slightly smaller battery, and the battery life we see here does extrapolate well from the 4000 mAh battery in the HONOR View20. It’s a decent showing, but nothing that stands out in particular. It’s curious why HONOR used a smaller battery in the HONOR 20 though, given that it about as thick as the View20, but even skips the tapered sides.
Battery life is still pretty respectable despite the smaller battery. I managed to squeeze out nearly 6 hours over two days away from the plug before it hit 14%. The 22.5W HUAWEI SuperCharge recharged the device by 45% in just 30 minutes, which should be good for another day if used frugally.
The first thing you will realize with the HONOR 20 is that it accepts two nanoSIMs. It does not support expandable storage, so it’s a nice touch that HONOR offers the HONOR 20 starting with 128GB capacities rather than 64GB. There’s no support for NM cards though, which is curious decision on HONOR’s end.
The 6.26″ screen fits well in my largish hands. The unfortunate thing is that the fingerprint scanner have pretty sharp edges, making it quite uncomfortable if you catch the edge with your thumb. This is probably an issue with our specific unit though, as we have felt other units up and they didn’t have such a protruding fingerprint scanner.
Moving on, the software in the HONOR 20 is HONOR’s Magic UI 2.1. It a major upgrade over Magic UI in the HONOR View20. It does look a bit outdated, and is a mild reskin of HUAWEI’s EMUI 9. HONOR should probably rework the entire UI, but then again, that should already be in the cards now.
The camera UI here is also pretty familiar for anyone who has used an HONOR device in recent times. The 48MP AI Ultra Clarity mode is still just as difficult to access, and there is a new ultra-wide angle camera that’s accessible by swiping on the toggle on the right side of the viewfinder. HONOR has also added a Super Macro mode so you can make use of the dedicated, fixed focus 2MP camera which they have added to the quad-camera setup on the back. There’s also a new Super Night Mode, allowing you to take surprisingly stable 8 second exposures.
Instead of packing a 3D ToF camera like the HONOR View20, the HONOR 20 sports an ultra-wide angle camera 16MP f/2.2, a 2MP f/2.4 macro camera and a 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor. The latter is probably the most unnecessary addition as a depth sensor doesn’t really have a place when you already have other cameras to capture depth data for accurate bokeh effects.
In terms of image quality, the HONOR 20 offers a great experience with the primary 48MP Sony IMX 586 camera and 16MP ultra wide angle camera. The macro camera, with its fixed focus and and low resolution is far from impressive. HUAWEI, and later Xiaomi, have already proven that you can do awesome macro shots by adding autofocus to the ultra-wide angle camera. Not sure why didn’t HONOR go down that route, as you want a really sharp photo with lots of fine detail when it comes to macro shots, but fixed focus makes it hard to be sure whether you are at the correct distance from the subject. Let’s not mention that the position of the macro camera makes it too easy for you to cast a shadow on your subject when you are that close, worsening the image quality. You can check out the full-sized camera samples on Google Photos.
HONOR could have done better with the HONOR 20. While the HONOR View20’s 3D ToF may seem gimmicky, somehow HONOR managed to one up that with the 2MP macro camera on the HONOR 20. The uninspired design is even more frustrating, when the HONOR 20 is supposed to be more stylish than the HONOR View20. It’s only possible saving grace is its price point, which is pretty affordable when compared to other flagships in the market.
At RM1699, it offers more storage than its closest competition at the same price, but sacrifices a few niceties too. I find the HONOR View20 a much better buy to be honest, as it has a bigger screen, a bigger battery and most of the same camera chops, with the exception of the Super Macro and ultra-wide angle cameras. It also has a better design, but that’s too subjective.
Our thanks to HONOR Malaysia for providing us with an early review sample of the HONOR 20 for us to evaluate.