Honor View 20 review: A very solid choice in a cluttered smartphone space

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The V-pattern on the back of the Honor View 20 is stunning!

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The Honor View 20 isn’t a brand new phone by any means, but it is newer to the United States market. We finally got our first look at the device at CES 2019 and were impressed with the design and look of it.

It wasn’t until some weeks after returning from CES 2019 that Honor finally reached out to us with a review unit. We’ve been spending some time with this attractive smartphone and here are our thoughts on why it’s a very solid choice in the cluttered smartphone space.

Specifications

The Honor View 20 has the following features and specifications:

  • Display: 6.4-inch IPS LCD 1080 x 2310 and 398ppi
  • Processor: HiSilicon Kirin 980 (7 nm) Octa-core (2×2.6 GHz Cortex-A76 & 2×1.92 GHz Cortex-A76 & 4×1.8 GHz Cortex-A55)
  • Memory: 256 GB, 8 GB RAM or 128 GB, 6/8 GB RAM
  • Rear Camera: 48 MP, f/1.8, 1/2″, 0.8µm, PDAF TOF 3D stereo camera, Panorama, HDR, LED flash and gyro-EIS with secondary Time-of-Flight (ToF) 3D camera
  • Front Camera: 25 MP, f/2.0, 27mm (HDR)
  • Battery: 4,000 mAh with fast battery charging 5V/4.5A 22.5W (55% in 30 min)
  • Wireless & Location
    • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, WiFi Direct, hotspot
    • Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, aptX HD, LE
    • NFC
    • Infrared port
    • GPS dual-band A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO, QZSS
  • Sensors
    • Proximity Sensor
    • Gyroscope
    • Compass
    • Fingerprint Sensor
  • Ports: Type-C, USB 3.1 GEN1
  • OS: Android 9, Magic UI 2
  • Dimensions: 156.9 x 75.4 x 8.1 mm (6.18 x 2.97 x 0.32 in)
  • Weight: 180g (6.35oz)
  • Colors: Saphire Blue, Phantom Blue, Phantom Red, Midnight Black

What’s In The Box

  • Honor View 20
  • Wall charger
  • USB-C to USB-A cable
  • SIM removal tool
  • TPU case
  • Documentation and warranty
Honor View 20
That back panel is beautiful!

Design

I’m going to start off this part of the review by going directly to the Honor View 20 back glass panel design. It is, by far, the most distinctive part of this phone. The V-pattern dazzles the eye in such a way that you find yourself mesmerized and staring at it. It also attracts attention from those around you with the most common question being, “what phone are you using?”

The front and back glass are bound together by an aluminum frame which is a matte finish. I would have liked to see this frame with a polished finish to give it an even more premium look. The matte is fine, but it does take away just a little from the beauty of that back panel design.

Still, the build quality is here. The phone is rigid with little to no flex, and everything feels solid as far as the build is concerned. Premium glass, premium metals…this is pretty darn close to a flagship look and feel. The only things missing are a few small details like polished frames.

Along the right side of the Honor View 20, you’ll find the volume rocker as well as the power button. The power button is smaller and has a slight texture which helps you know which button is which without having to look. I appreciate the volume rocker and power button being on the same side, it makes for better one-hand operation for me.

Honor View 20
Volume rocker and textured power button

Along the left side of the Honor View 20 you’ll find nothing more than the SIM card slot. Along the bottom you’ll find the USB Type-C port, a microphone, and the speaker.

Moving on up to the top of the phone, there is a headphone jack, IR Blaster, and another microphone to help with noise reduction. Turning the Honor View 20 over you’ll find that amazing V pattern which we absolutely love. The 48MP camera and flash system are also on the back, more on the camera later. On the back is the fingerprint sensor as well, which works very fast and accurately.

Flipping the Honor View 20 over reveals that ample 6.4″ FHD IPS LCD display with hole punch and insanely thin bezels. More on the display in the next section.

Overall, the View 20 is really well designed and can easily compete with US$1,000 smartphones in the build quality and looks department. The only real problem I had with the design is the frame could have been polished to give off an even more premium look and vibe. Other than that, this is a really nice looking phone.

Display

The Honor View 20 is sporting an LCD display with FHD+ resolution of 1080 x 2310 and a 398ppi. While we prefer AMOLED displays over LCD displays, this particular LCD isn’t all that bad. The display is slightly smaller than other flagships at 6.4″ but given that there are nearly no bezels, it’s unnoticeable.

There is still a small chin at the bottom but it is razor thin so the entire front panel is pretty much the only thing you’re looking at. Of course, the Honor View 20 has the punch hole design instead of the notch. There’s plenty of debate over which people prefer and my own thoughts are that I actually prefer the punch hole over the notch.

The colors on the Honor View 20 are pretty punchy for an LCD display. They’re not as punchy as an AMOLED but they are pleasing to the eye and not too over saturated. The contrast is decent as well, again, not as black as AMOLED get but I am impressed with what Honor got out of this LCD panel. Whites are very clean, no yellowing or discoloration at all and text is pretty crisp with a 398ppi.

Honor View 20
6.4″ LCD display

Watching video is a great experience on this panel, especially when you zoom in to fill the whole screen. While the punch hole is there, it is not as noticeable as a notch. This means you feel a bit more immersed in the content you are watching.

Brightness is decent for an LCD display and the Honor View 20 performed fairly decent in even sunlit conditions. Overall, this is a very nice LCD display which is a credit to where technology has come. LCD’s are probably not going to perform as well as an AMOLED but they have improved a lot over the years. This panel should keep most users pretty happy.

Software

You will get Google’s latest Android 9 (Pie) out of the box, and on top of that sits Honor’s Magic UI 2. If you’re familiar with any of these Chinese made phones, you’ll know that their UI mimics the iPhone. So all of your apps will be on your homescreen. You can change this in settings where you can go to the traditional Android setup with an app drawer.

Magic UI 2 also allows you to theme the UI with Honor’s theme app, which is limited. Most users would be better served downloading something like Action Launcher 3 and some icon packs. Magic UI 2 is fine, but it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I do have to say I like how the menu systems look in Magic UI 2 but there is a ton to unpack there as well.

There are also a handful of Honor pieces of software like:

  • Storage Cleaner
  • Backup
  • Weather
  • Recorder
  • Mirror
  • Smart Remote
  • Phone Clone
  • SIM Toolkit
  • Huawei Wallet
  • Translator
  • Digital Balance

Digging deeper into the software you’ll find Smart Assistance where you can set motion controls, one-handed UI, and voice control. The Honor View 20 also offers face recognition, fingerprint ID, and lock screen password as security measures.

Honor View 20
Android 9 (Pie) with Magic UI 2

Overall, Android 9 Pie is great, fast, and smooth. Magic UI 2 is okay and I was able to use it without putting a third-party launcher on the phone. I really don’t think there’s much of a difference between what Samsung does with its software and what Honor does here. If you’re a “pure Android” person, you’re likely not reading this review anyway.

Performance

In the Android world it’s all about the Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. Many users have come to the point of snobbishness when it comes to the processor they prefer in their Android phone. While Qualcomm does make excellent chips, Huawei has also developed a great performer in the Kirin 980.

Our review unit came with 8GB of RAM, which is helpful, but you should get along fine with the lower 6GB of RAM as well. I had no issues running apps, not even in dual screen mode. I could easily watch a YouTube video in the smaller screen while replying to messages and emails in the other.

Find tickets and showtimes on Fandango.

Gaming is great on this phone, even intensive games like the Asphalt racing games play easily on this device. Multitasking is simple and fluid, you can’t even multitask that easily on the iPhone XS Max which costs almost twice as much.

Touch responsiveness is spot on, pinch-to-zoom and scrolling were also accurate and without lag or stutter. I did not see any dropped frames or lag in any of the games I played and streaming video was equally pleasant and enjoyable.

Overall, the Honor View 20 performs well enough to keep up with more expensive phones. The Kirin 980 paired with that 6/8GB or RAM powers this phone through everything you can throw at it.

Honor View 20
USB-C port and weak speaker

Speakers/Sound

In a word, the speakers are weak. The single speaker at the bottom is super weak and more often than not, you find yourself covering it up. At this price point, I think they could have added stereo speakers with another speaker in the ear piece. Overall, this isn’t your smartphone if you value speaker quality. On the other hand, a good pair of headphones solves the problem very easily.

Camera

The Honor View 20 has a 48MP sensor on the back with Honor’s “AI” technology. I’m not really convinced that AI tech does that much to improve picture quality, but I’m sure it helps slightly. The camera is not set to 48MP out of the box. You’ll need to jump into settings to toggle it over to 48MP, otherwise you’ll be shooting at 12MP.

Like most Chinese manufacturers, Honor thinks you need 1,000,000 different options in your camera app. There is probably way more inside this app than normal users will ever use. As a matter of fact, I’d bet that 99% of users will never open the settings and just shoot with the default settings.

That being said, in settings, you can:

  • Set the resolution
  • Add GPS tagging
  • Add the Honor watermark
  • Turn on a grid
  • Mute the microphone
  • Turn on timers
  • Toggle smile detection
  • Toggle AI 4D predictive focus
  • Toggle Ultra Snapshot
Honor View 20
Krispy Kreme is the devil!

On the camera side you have even more options:

  • AR Lens
  • Night Mode
  • Portrait Mode
  • Regular Photo Mode
  • Video Mode

Diving even deeper, you can get into Pro Mode which gives you full control over ISO, White Balance, and Aperture. There are other features which include:

  • Slow-Mo
  • Panorama
  • Light Painting
  • HDR Mode
  • Time-Lapse
  • Filters
  • 3D Panorama
  • Stickers
  • Artist Mode

There is a massive amount of options here, most of which I would never use. I did toggle the camera to 48MP and I also used Portrait Mode the most, but other than that I ran with the defaults.

Honor View 20
Obligatory Saab photo.

That all being said, I think the photos coming out of the Honor View 20 are really very good. I think they could even stand up to higher-end phones like the iPhone XS Max and the Google Pixel 3XL. I don’t think it does as well in low-light, even with Night Mode on. Don’t get me wrong, I think it does well enough, but the Pixel 3XL’s Night Mode is far superior to what Honor is doing here.

The photos coming from this sensor are clear and punchy and look especially amazing in the right lighting conditions. You will be very happy with anything you take in daylight or well lit rooms. Even in restaurants and places with slightly lower light, it does just fine.

Overall, this camera performs very well and produces some great images, especially in decent lighting conditions. It does fine in lower light conditions but doesn’t perform to the same degree as more expensive smartphone cameras. That’s not a bad thing, all of the photos coming out of this camera are acceptable. Also, given the lower price, compared to an iPhone, I think the images are more than acceptable.

Corel AfterShot 2

Reception/Call Quality

LTE, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi reception were excellent on the Honor View 20, no complaints at all here. Call quality was equally good, no issues here at all.

Battery Life

Absolutely no issues with 4,000mAh battery in the Honor View 20. It got me through the entire day with 30-40% still left in the tank. Of course, it also depended on what I was doing. Heavy gaming is going to drain just about any smartphone more quickly. Super Mario Run is a killer and so is Pokémon. Both are power intensive, so don’t expect to get a full day using apps like that.

Overall, after using the Honor View 20 in my normal day of email, social media, messaging, phone calls, YouTube, streaming music, and some gaming, I had plenty left at the end of the day.

Price/Value

The Honor View 20 is priced at US$759 which is right at the bottom end of flagship pricing. While it’s slightly cheaper than the big boys, I think the Honor View 20 offers plenty of value for the price that’s being asked for it.

Wrap Up

The Honor View 20 is a beautiful phone that could have been even more beautiful had the aluminum chassis been polished. That doesn’t make it unappealing, it’s just a design cue I think should have been addressed. The back of the phone is stunning with its V pattern in the glass.

The build quality is excellent and the display is beautiful for an LCD. It performs amazingly well and the camera is top notch, even though it has way too many options. Battery life is great, and I think the price is right giving you plenty of value. Overall, the Honor View 20 is a great device and, if you’re not wanting to dish out the higher price of a Samsung Galaxy S10+ or Google Pixel 3XL, then this is one to consider.

*We received a review unit of the Honor View 20 for the purposes of this review.

Honor View 20

US$759
9.2

Design

9.5/10

Display

9.5/10

Software

9.0/10

Performance

9.0/10

Speakers/Sound

8.0/10

Camera

9.0/10

Reception/Call Quality

9.5/10

Battery Life

9.5/10

Price/Value

9.5/10

Nailed it

  • Lovely design, the V pattern makes it pop
  • Good build quality, glass front and back
  • Great 6.4" display without a notch
  • Great performance
  • Produces good images a decent competitor
  • Battery life is respectable
  • Price point is fair

Needs work

  • Can be slippery
  • Speaker is weak
  • Only has EIS not OIS for camera stabilization
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