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Honor View 20 UK Review: A good alternative

Honor View 20 UK Review: A good alternative
At first glance it's impossible not to notice that 'hole punch' black circle to its display's upper corner. That, indeed, is this phone's answer to the notch: ditch it entirely, for a not-too-obtrusive front-facing camera.

While this camera is the View 20's eye-catching design lure, however, it's also a strong device from an increasingly established and impressive stock. One year ago the View 10 impressed us with its performance considering the price - and the View 20 looks to take that up a notch and shake it together with some new design prowess too. Assuming the price is right, is the View 20 one to watch (with one eye closed)?

Design and Screen

  • 6.4-inch, 2310 x 1080 resolution, IPS LCD display
  • Rear-positioned fingerprint scanner
  • 3.5mm headphone jack up top
  • 157 x 75 x 8.1mm; 180g

The Honor View 20 ushers in a new screen compared to other recent elongated devices. Although its 6.4-inch panel sounds nigh-on the same as the 6.39-inch ones used in the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S9+, there are a number of differences: first, the Honor panel is LCD, not OLED; second, it's a broader aspect ratio, so it's larger and sits wider in the hand.

Honor View 20 review image 7

Thankfully it's not a panel that's too wide, like the outgoing Apple iPhone 8 Plus. We've found the View 20 to feel just right in the hand, while its high resolution expands some applications even wider than you'll find on slimmer devices: South Park: Phone Destroyer, for example, has a wider view onto the field of play than we've seen on any other device (it's quite strange, but interesting how the game is interpreting this scale and resolution).

So what about the absence of the notch and inclusion of the 'hole punch' camera? Well, it's an interesting idea as full-screen apps don't stop shy of this circular back-out. Instead they extend beyond it, which could be a potential hazard, but we haven't found to be a problem. Ultimately the software ignores the camera as if it's not a notch at all. The main issue with this front-facing camera is that it can be distracting: when there's a white background your eye can be drawn to it, as if there's something on the screen by accident; sure, a notch has a similar issue but doesn't have screen surrounding it on all sides like this does.

It's not all about screen, of course, as the View 20 takes its own twist on design aesthetics. Over the years Honor has been establishing its brand and frequently a blue finish has been at the fore - typically hyper glossy and light-catching in a really interesting way. The View 20 follows a similar path, with V-shape patterning to the rear that catches the light. But, as you'll have noticed from our photos, our review phone is a bold red. It's fun - although blue and black variants are available should you prefer.

Honor View 20 review image 2

Build quality is decent, with an aluminium frame ensuring rigidity. There are metal buttons, the rare sight of a 3.5mm headphone jack, a functional rear-facing fingerprint scanner (it's a little too high set, though), while the protruding cameras to the rear have been polished up beyond their 'blue Minion'-style appearance on the View 10: in this newer device, their separation into main sensor and time-of-flight/LED flash makes for a better composed finish.

Honor View 20

Honor View 20 initial review: A hole new idea

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Specification and Performance

  • Kirin 980 chipset, (octa-core: 2x 2.6GHz, 2x 1.92GHz, 4x 1.8GHz)
  • 8GB RAM, 256GB storage (no microSD expansion)
  • Magic UI 2.0 software (it's EMUI 9.0 software skinned over Android 9.0)
  • 4000mAh battery capacity, USB-C fast-charging (5V)

On the hardware front the Honor View 20 isn't a million miles away from its Huawei Mate 20 Pro cousin (Huawei owns Honor). Under the hood there's the Kirin 980 oct-core chipset - which has 'big' and 'little' cores for different tasks, supplemented with an equal total of 'mid' cores to balance the workload and conserve battery - alongside 8GB RAM and 256GB on-board storage (a 6GB/128GB variant may also be available). There's no microSD card slot here, though, only dual SIM slots.

Honor View 20 review image 8

That's a lot of power in a handset that's anticipated to be mid-priced - although exactly what that means just yet we don't know yet.

Where the Honor View 20 looks to differentiate itself from its Huawei cousin is with its software, which has transformed into Magic UI 2.0. By which we mean in name only: the software is just Huawei's EMUI 9.0 re-skin over Google's Android Pie 9, with few differences between either Chinese brand.

We won't go into masses of software detail here for this initial preview, needless to say the re-skin of Android often brings its ups and downs. There are useful features like App Twin for doubling-up apps relative to SIM card, for example. On the downside, some of the fussier alerts and pre-installed software will irk Android purists (but many won't even notice it as a problem - as the hardware loadout means everything runs smooth and fast).

Honor View 20 review image 9

For logging into the phone there's also Face Recognition, which will use the front camera to map your face for a relatively secure sign-in. It's a solid idea - and one that'll likely be popular in the absence of an under-the-screen fingerprint scanner. Having got used to such a scanner in the Mate 20 Pro it's a shame the Honor doesn't include it - especially as it's rear-positioned scanner is a bit too high up - but for the sake of cost we can see why that's the case.

On the battery front there's a 4,000mAh cell on board, which is similar to that in the Mate 20 Pro; it matches the Mate 10 Pro of last year exactly. Given how those Huawei phones perform, and based on our initial usage of the device, we suspect the View 20 is likely to deliver big when it comes to longevity. Plus there's a 5V fast-charge via USB-C for rapid top-ups (not the very fastest going, but still good to have present).

Cameras: 'Hole punch' front, dual rear

  • Rear dual cameras: 48MP, f/1.8, (1/2in size, 0.8µm pixels); TOF (time of flight) for depth detection
  • Front-facing camera: 25MP, f/2.0, 27mm (equivalent)

Cameras in smartphones have become a bigger and bigger deal with each year. We've been treated to some spectacular offerings too: from the Huawei P20 Pro and its triple camera solution.

The Honor View 20 goes all out in its own way too, with a 48-megapixel snapper on the rear, paired with a large sensor (well, large-is for a phone) and fast f/1.8 aperture. That's a lot of resolution - more than in any other phone at present. 

Honor View 20 review image 11

We've pointed out that the Honor View 20 is a dual camera phone to its rear, but the second camera isn't there to actually output images. Instead this lower-res 'TOF' camera - that's 'time of flight', if you're wondering - is solely there to detect depth, which can be applied to shots for things like blurred backgrounds in Portrait mode.

So how do the cameras perform? You'll have to wait until our full review for us to share findings, so watch this space.

First Impressions

The Honor View 20 continues the brand's forward march in the smartphone industry, offering a viable alternative to the OnePlus 6T and other flagship devices. We believe the price will be competitive too - but that's yet to be revealed.

With great design and build, a large edge-to-edge display (with nearly 92 per cent screen-to-body ratio), stacks of power and a capacious battery under the hood, the View 20 has the guts to take on top-end flagship devices.

It even goes one step further by ousting the notch in favour of a 'hole punch' front-facing camera - a really interesting idea that's largely (although not entirely) successful. But it sure is a talking point - the likes of which we'll be seeing in different forms throughout 2019. For Honor to get there first is part of the point: this fledgeling brand wants you to stand up and take notice. And notice you should, as it's getting a (ahem) hole lot right.

Honor View 20

Honor View 20 initial review: A hole new idea

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