Honor View 10 hands-on preview: Flagship killer killer?
Honor’s latest premium phone is gunning for the OnePlus 5T, with competitive specs, a matching price and AI camera features.
The Honor V series, once limited to China, has evolved into Honor View, with the launch of the brand’s most premium Western-targeted device to date. The Honor View 10, just announced at its global launch event in London, brings across many specs from the more expensive Huawei Mate 10 Pro, and lands at a price point that pits it directly against the OnePlus 5T.
For €499 or £449, you get Huawei’s latest Kirin 970 processor, complete with Neural Processing Unit (NPU) for AI-based future-proofing, along with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and Android 8.0 Oreo. And around the back, a dual 20-megapixel plus 16-megapixel camera rig promises impressive low-light performance and AI scene detection copied wholesale from the Mate 10. Throw in a headphone jack, fast biometrics, a 3,750mAh SuperCharging battery and you’ve got a very compelling €499 phone.
And with the View 10 already confirmed for a U.S. launch, this could be the device to reverse Honor’s fortunes stateside, following the flop of last year’s Honor 8.
A well-built, but not entirely original design.
On the outside, the Honor View 10 is a mash-up of countless other Huawei and Honor designs. The back is brushed metal, and the side walls rounded like the Honor 7X and 8 Pro. The front draws influence from the Mate 10 series, with slim bezels, an 18:9 display and a front-facing fingerprint scanner. The 6-inch screen diagonal at this aspect ratio means it fits comfortably in the hand, and while it’s a little slick, it’s not what you’d call a particularly slippery fish.
The worst thing you could say about the design is that it’s a little derivative — a potential nitpick which also applies to the OnePlus 5T and Honor 7X. It’s an 18:9 slab with a big screen and a metal back, and there are only so many ways to make that work. Nevertheless, build quality is solid, as we’ve come to expect from both Huawei and its online sub-brand.
Speaking of Huawei, there’s a lot of Mate 10 tech in this phone. Thanks to the Kirin processor and its AI capabilities, a partnership with Microsoft for AI-enhanced translations was announced on stage, just like the Mate 10, with the same Translator app preloaded out of the box. And the Mate 10’s AI scene detection features, which helps it identify the top 13 scene types, is also onboard. It’s safe to expect a similar feature set in EMUI 8.0, which appeared near identical to the Mate 10’s software on the Honor View 10. That means standard features like the simplified settings menu, split-screen suggestions for notifications that arrive when you’re in a full-screen app, and AI-based performance tuning, are all along for the ride.
More: Huawei Mate 10 Pro review
Needless to say, given the same core specs we saw on the Mate 10 Pro, the Honor View 10’s performance was flawless in the brief time we spent with the device. And with a 3,750mAh battery on the inside, it should come close to matching the Mate 10 Pro’s epic longevity — although the phone’s LCD display may count against it in that area. The View 10 is also the first Honor-branded phone to use Huawei SuperCharge (rebranded to Honor SuperCharge, naturally) — the same 5V/4.5A charging implementation that we’ve been impressed by in premium Huawei phones for the past year. Charging at up to 4.5A should deliver quick, cool refills.
The Honor View 10’s camera setup introduces a few wildcards into the mix. This isn’t just a Leica-less recreation of the Mate 10 Pro’s setup — instead, there’s are dual 16- and 20-megapixel sensors around the back, behind f/1.8 apertures. The dual camera setup enables the now standard loadout of depth effects in photos (simulated up to f/0.95), and the dual ISP of the Kinrin 970 CPU allows the phone to capture impressive detail and dynamic range. Once again, it was deja vu in today’s launch presentation, where Honor president George Zhao talked up the chip’s AI motion detection features, which it’s claimed can reduce motion blur with moving subjects.
Many of the Mate 10’s camera features have been ported over, but it’s unclear how the optics will stack up.
The presentation also showcased impressive low-light shots taken in full auto mode, not manual mode, and this is where the Honor View 10 could pull ahead of many other phones in its price category. It’s hard to judge low-light performance in just a few minutes in a demo area, but I feel confident in saying the View 10’s camera is at least competent, this phone and stands a good chance of outperforming the 5T in darker conditions.
Around the front, a 13-megapixel selfie camera, combined with the Kirin 970’s image processing chops, can simulate backgrounds for your selfies, replacing that drab indoor backdrop with exotic scenery. And gender detection for portraits lets the phone enable different kinds of beauty enhancements for men and women.
The front-facing camera also enables face unlock, a first for a Huawei-built phone, which the company claims is secure enough to be used for payment authentication. The feature tripped up during its on-stage demo at today’s event, however, and we’ll need more time to judge just how convenient this feature is compared to fingerprint unlock.
Honor says it’s using 3D face detection in its new phone, but didn’t say how it’s doing this with just a single front-facing camera. It did, however, have a knock-off Animoji demo to show attendees, in an effort to prove the precision of its face recognition. And the phone was able to successfully transform one Honor employee into a virtual panda.
Honor View 10 (left), Honor 7X (right)
So after less than an hour with the Honor View 10, first impressions are of a phone that’s competitive in both specs and price, and which could well outperform the OnePlus 5T in battery life and photo quality. The biggest sticking point will likely be Huawei’s highly differentiated (and some might say not entirely pretty) EMUI software, which isn’t as clean as super-lean OxygenOS. In any case, this is a promising phone for Honor, and a model which could see the brand catching the attention of higher-end buyers.
The Honor View 10 will launch in January 2018 in France, Germany, India, Italy, the UK, U.S., Spain and Russia. In the UK it’s priced at £449, in the euozone it’s €499.