Honor View 20 review: a ‘hole’ lot better than the OnePlus 6T

Honor View 20 1

Rating: 8.6/10

Yay:

  • Attractive overall design
  • Superb display
  • Punch-hole design is unique and trendy
  • Night mode shots look good 
  • Great multimedia performance
  • Blazing fast performance

Nay

  • Bloatware is still a problem on Magic UI 2.0 (rebranded EMUI 9.0)
  • Speaker could’ve been better

Introduction 

Here’s the thing: the Honor View 20 is a must buy. Okay, review over. Let’s all go home. 

I’m just kidding. Obviously, no Mr. Phone review is complete without us going through every tiny detail of the phone. 

But, as I said in my first impressions, the Honor View 20 is an impressive phone with a plethora of new technologies on offer. The marquee ones being the new punch-hole/in-display camera and the Sony IMX586 48MP sensor. 

Let’s get on with the full review of the phone.

Honor View 20 5

Honor View 20 design: will turn heads and sprain necks

That the Honor View 20 is an attractive phone is mostly true. But along with the good design, the phone also packs in more ports and a bigger battery compared to the OnePlus 6T. To add to that the View 20 is slimmer by 0.1mm and lighter by 5 grams. Oh wait, the View 20 also has a bigger 4000mAh battery and it includes a 3.5mm jack! Those are legit useful design improvements over the OnePlus 6T and no one can deny that. 

What I find particularly attractive about the View 20 is the rear design. The whole V-shaped pattern that forms on the rear, when light hits at it a certain angle, highlights the whole View 20 branding on the phone itself. But, the phone is made entirely of glass and therefore it attracts smudges. That said, I’ve rough used the phone for a long time and surprisingly I couldn’t find a single scratch on the back panel or the front for that matter. This is particularly great because the View 20 doesn’t come with any sort of Gorilla Glass protection on the front or the rear. Also on the rear is the physical fingerprint scanner. It is fairly fast and responsive too. The face unlocking mechanism works well too but it is a little iffy in low light situations.

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If there is one design choice that might annoy a few folks, it could be the weird placement of cameras on the rear. The primary 48MP camera is separate from the 3D TOF camera, which is placed inside a separate module with the flash. Let it be known that both these modules protrude slightly from the rear. But, this is just a minor nitpick and not really a big problem as such. Another minor issue would be that the View 20 doesn’t come with any sort of waterproofing. But, there are not many phones in that price range that actually come with IP-certification. So, not a big deal really. 

Thanks to the gently sloping curves on the rear – very similar to the OnePlus 6T – the phone also feels nice and comfortable to hold in the hand. As for the rest of the design, you get a Type-C port at the bottom with a mono speaker to its right and a mic to its left. The dual nano-SIM tray is on the left edge. And, the right edge has the volume rocker and a ridged power button, both made of metal and offering incredible tactile feedback. The entire phone feels really solidly built. 

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Now, the top edge is interesting. Apart from the 3.5mm jack, you also get an infrared port, a noise-cancellation microphone, and the ambient light sensor. Yes, the ambient light sensor has been moved to the top so that it doesn’t ruin the unique aesthetic created by the in-display camera. There’s also a tiny notification LED light right next to the earpiece. 

The Honor View 20 is so good looking that it can definitely turn heads and maybe sprain a neck or two while it is at it.

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Honor View 20 display: don’t underestimate the power of a well-tuned LCD

The View 20’s display is where its all at. All the innovation. All the surprises. Yes, the View 20’s 6.41-inch IPS LCD FHD+ panel has a cutout on the top left corner for the selfie camera. This circular hole for the camera is really non-intrusive, even more so than the massive notch on some phones. *cough Pixel 3 XL *cough* Some people might think that a dewdrop notch provides the same experience but I believe the hole punch offers slightly more screen estate and the placement is just bang-on.

There are a couple of things I noticed about this hole, though. Firstly, the glass touch panel extends to the camera. This means that you can swipe down on the camera to pull notifications for example. That said, on the Samsung Galaxy A8s’ hole, you can open the selfie camera app when you swipe on the hole. It is a neat feature in my opinion. The downside to this, however, is that it will smudge the display. So, you will have to keep cleaning it. 

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Secondly, if you notice closely, you will see a fairly large black-coloured outer ring measuring 4.5mm. Now, this exists so as to prevent the light emitted by the display from entering the camera. So, it is essentially a “black hole” around the selfie camera. Science 101, right there!

Coming to the display itself, this is one of the most accurate LCD panels on an Android smartphone I’ve seen. It is almost as good as the LG G7+ Thinq’s QHD panel and that is saying a lot. I loved the accurate colour reproduction on offer and the viewing angles are really good too. The ambient light sensor does a good job with tuning the auto-brightness accurately. Every time I held the display, I was in awe. Honestly, I didn’t miss the Optic AMOLED panel on the OnePlus 6T after using the View 20. Again, high praise for an LCD panel really. 

My only grouse with the display and its related tech is that the haptic feedback is extremely heavy handed. I switched it off the moment I tried the phone for the first time.

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Honor View 20 multimedia: great video, even better headphone audio

The Honor View 20’s display HDR10 and it looks crisp AF on some YouTube videos that are uploaded in 4K HDR. But unfortunately, at the time of writing this review, the Netflix app topped out all videos at HD playback and there was no HDR option. Despite that, the multimedia experience on a large phone is going View 20 is top class. 

Furthermore, the sound quality through headphones/earphones is great. If you use a pair of wired earphones and use Huawei’s Histen sound effects to push a Natural reproduction, you are bound to appreciate the tangible improvement in sound quality. I can assure you that the sound quality is better than what you will experience on the OnePlus 6T. 

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The only downside of the multimedia performance is the mono speaker at the bottom. Not that it is bad, but most of its competitors — including the ZenFone 5Z, OnePlus 6T, and the LG G7+ ThinQ, among others — offer a better speaker performance. 

Honor View 20 software: Magic UI 2.0 is barely any different from EMUI 9.0

Honor has used Magic UI 2.0 software from the Honor Magic 2 on the View 20. I couldn’t notice anything different from regular EMUI 9.0. But how the software accommodates the new punch-hole camera is the key here. Key…hole…there is a joke in there somewhere I am missing. 

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Anyway, as far as the top panel on the home screen is concerned, the network and Wi-Fi symbols, and the notifications are moved slightly to the right. Apps work just fine in full-screen mode and I didn’t notice any anomaly as such. No visible distractions really. You can also turn off the “notch” (as Honor likes to call it). I don’t know why you’d want to do that but you can if you choose to. However, the cutest tweak to the software is the handlebar animation around the hole when you make the call. I really hope future updates bring more such innovative tweaks. 

There are a few software tweaks carried forward from EMUI 9.0 that I like. For example, you can tap on the screen with your knuckles to take a screenshot. There’s support for full-screen gestures as well now. And oh, I really cannot stop praising the Huawei Share feature. It works like a charm every single time and – for someone like me who uses a Mac at work – it becomes doubly easy to share stuff from the phone over a wireless network. Clean and easy. 

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Having said that, the problems with EMUI are only two at the moment. Firstly, I really do not like the big size of the icons which cannot even be resized for some odd reason. Secondly, EMUI is still filled with a lot of unnecessary bloatware. No Honor, I don’t want to see the absolutely horrendous Vigo app on my phone even if it can be deleted. No, just no.

Honor View 20 camera: the new 48MP Sony IMX 586 sensor is a revelation

While the punch-hole camera is great and all, I was more interested in the swanky new 48MP Sony IMX 586 sensor. This half-inch sensor has a pixel size of 0.8 microns. But since it has a quad-Bayer design, in low light situations, it merges four pixels together — using a technique called pixel binning — to produce a reduced 12MP image but with a lot of details. Here’s the interesting thing, you can shoot full-res 48MP images in daylight but it is not advisable for low light shots. 

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In any case, the 48MP shots in daylight look soft and bereft of details. And unfortunately, the Indian review units didn’t get the AI Ultra Clarity mode update, which apparently merges multiple 48MP shots together to create more detail. But worry not, because the 12MP images from the View 20 are stunning. This sensor is an excellent one by Sony. 

I got incredibly detailed and surprisingly colour accurate shots from the View 20 in situations where there was ample light. The pictures are contrast-heavy and since the auto-HDR is almost always on, even the dynamic range was spot on. But note this, I used the camera with AI on. Yes, AI can do a whole lot of things like detect scenes, switch on the Portrait mode automatically if it detects a human subject etc. But, I am not a fan of the processed pictures that come out in the end. While AI doesn’t boost the colours unnaturally anymore like the P20 Pro — except for when it is capturing food — it does sometimes create a weird vignetting around images. Not a fan. 

Word of caution: Honor’s Gallery app boosts the colour in images. I find it super annoying.  I had to transfer the photos to my Mac to identify the real colours captured by the camera.

In low light, the View 20 shines again, thanks to the competent Night mode. The only problem is that sometimes the phone goes overboard on the processing and in a bid to reduce the noise the image ends up feeling like a watercolour painting instead. Nonetheless, I managed to get some other shots that didn’t look this way on closer inspection. The Portrait pictures look good, but maybe a bit aggressive on the background blur making the subject look unnatural at times. 

Without Night Mode

The camera app is, as usual, feature-rich, where you have a plethora of modes on offer. There’s a dedicated Pro mode in case you like fiddling with manual controls. And, modes like the Artist Mode — which is essentially a collection of filters — and Light Painting add to the fun of using this camera. The phone can also shoot 4K, 30 fps footage with gyro-based EIS that looks good. 

With Night Mode

Now, you must be wondering: but Ershad, what about the second camera? Well, there is a secondary 3D Time-of-Flight (ToF) camera. The only two visible use cases I saw for this camera is in the camera app. The 3D Panorama mode and the shape sculpting feature when shooting portraits use this camera to create images. Both of which work as advertised. Then there are also the AR sticker modes and 3D Qmojis, in case you are interested. I did find a few of the stickers amusing. 

 

At the briefing, Honor also showcased that the phone can be used as a Kinect to identify your motion for games that can be played on a big screen television. This is possible due to the 3D camera. Unfortunately, I could not test it out. 

Overall, I am convinced that the View 20 has the best camera among its peers. It is a damn good shooter and is truly next-gen when it comes to camera sensors on smartphones.

 

Honor View 20 performance: as good as the best

The Honor View 20 also uses top-of-the-line components. It has the latest Kirin 980 chipset with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. You cannot expand the storage, by the way. This storage is the UFS 2.1 kind with great read/write speeds of around the 820MB/s and 195Mb/s, respectively. 

This combination of specs ensures that your phone keeps chugging along like a well-oiled machine with enough grunt to spare for most tasks. Unlike other Honor phones, the RAM management was not too bad with most apps staying in memory. As for the benchmark numbers, my View 20 scored 2,80,058. The number should go up for the 8GB RAM variant for sure. I also managed a Geekbench score of 3243 for single-core and 9040 for multi-core performance. 

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These numbers are very close the Mate 20 Pro, higher than the OnePlus 6T, and lower than the iPhone XS Max. But the differences are negligible and barely noticeable in day to day performance. Oh, and playing PUBG on this phone is a superb experience thanks also to the highly sensitive touch panel. 

I used the View 20 with my Airtel and Jio SIM cards in Delhi NCR for the duration of my review. The phone supports VoLTE, at a time, in both the SIM slots. Also, the call quality and the network performance was top notch. Despite moving the earpiece to a tiny slit at the top, I found the sound to be crystal clear with Huawei’s AI-based noise cancellation working in full swing in calls. Similarly, the Wi-Fi performance was top notch too with the option to share your Wi-Fi network as well. 

Honor View 20 battery: lasts longs, charges super fast

Coming to the battery, the View 20 comes with a 4000mAh battery. This is bigger than the battery inside the OnePlus 6T. I easily managed a screen on time of over 6 hours on the View 20 and the battery just lasts a long time. I am sure that you can easily get a day and half of battery life on a single charge if you use the phone moderately. 

Our review unit also came with a 40W fast charger. The View 20 supports Huawei’s Super Charge technology. It managed to charge the battery from 0 to 100 in 1 hour and 11 minutes. That is stupendously fast. The only thing missing is wireless charging but that is an extra feature that most of us can live without. 

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Should you buy the Honor View 20?

After using the Honor View 20, I am convinced that this is Honor’s best phone yet. Despite using several “world first” technologies, Honor has managed to create a product supremely refined and attractive. I will wholeheartedly recommend the View 20 to anyone looking for a phone under the Rs 40,000 price range because that is what I think it will be priced at. Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing the price for now because we are shooting this video way before the launch. 

Now, let’s compare the View 20 to some of its peers. 

OnePlus 6T

The OnePlus 6T is still a great phone, there are no two ways about it. But, the View 20 is clearly one generation ahead with its camera performance, design, and display. Yes, you don’t get the in-display fingerprint scanner but I still don’t think that such scanners are ready for prime time. The View 20 is the perfect poster boy to usher in 2019. The OnePlus has its work cut out. I hope OnePlus really goes with that slider design to cut the notch. That’d really be something. 

Also read: OnePlus 6T review: aggressively marching towards the future

OnePlus 6T

But for now, if you want a phone and cannot wait for the OnePlus 7 to launch, the View 20 is clearly the better buy. 

Poco F1

I am adding the Poco F1 in this comparison, because it is much more affordable and the performance could entice a lot of folks. But trust me, compared to the Poco, the View 20 is a 100 times more polished experience. So, if you are considering the View 20 and for some odd reason find the Poco F1’s price tempting, don’t change your opinion. The View 20 is a solid buy and is bound to be recommended by a lot of folks, not just professional reviewers. 

Also read: Poco F1 by Xiaomi review: don’t think it, just buy it

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So, that’s it from me. That was my full review of the View 20, a phone that I am glad exists today in the form that it does. It makes me root for an underdog brand like Honor.

Ershad Kaleebullah

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?