“Our take on Honor’s latest flagship – the Honor 20”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must have heard about Huawei’s woes with the US government. If not, here’s what you need to know to get up to speed. President Donald Trump blacklisted several entities (including Huawei) and imposed a trade ban which barred said entities from conducting business with US-based companies. Shortly after, Google rescinded Huawei’s Android license, which meant Huawei phones launched down the road will not come with support for Google Play services.
But, how does that relate to Honor’s latest affordable flagship, the Honor 20 (first impressions)? Well, since Honor is a subsidiary of Huawei, the trade ban also casts a shadow over the Honor 20. And that’s quite a shame, because the Honor 20 is a class-leading affordable flagship. To know why I think so and whether you should still buy one, read on.
Specs at a glance
|Resolution||1080 x 2340 pixels|
|CPU||Dual core, 2.6 GHz + Dual core, 1.92 GHz, HiSilicon Kirin|
|Internal memory||128 GB|
|Capacity||3750 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable|
|Talktime||Up to 26 Hours (3G)|
|Primary camera||48 MP|
|Secondary camera||32 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 9.0 Pie|
Design and Display
Here’s the thing – you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bad-looking Android handset anymore. Most, if not all Android phones feature stunning designs these days, but smartphones from Honor’s stables always take it to the next level. Case in point, the Honor 20, which has been constructed using a mix of glass and metal and it looks downright gorgeous. I mean, just look at some of the design shots of the phone and tell me if it doesn’t get your blood pumping.
The Honor 20’s back is beautiful. Much like most other devices from the company, the handset features a gradient design which exhibits different shades of blue depending on how you hold the phone. Head-on, the smartphone’s back appears somewhat black but tilt it on either side and you’ll notice the blue colour pop out of nowhere. It’s not the first time I’ve seen a device with a gradient patterned finish but it still doesn’t cease to amaze me or even my colleagues for that matter.
Unfortunately, glass back phones are prone to smudges and the Honor 20 is no exception. So, if you do end up buying the phone, make sure to wipe it down before you show off its design to your friends. I’d also recommend you invest in a case because the Honor 20 is quite possibly, the most slippery device I’ve ever held in my hand. So much so that the phone automatically slides off the table after buzzing for a while.
Despite its slippery, smudgy back, I can’t help but appreciate the phone’s overall form factor. Much like the Samsung Galaxy S10e, the Honor 20 feels quite compact, making it an ideal choice for those who rely on one-handed usage. Moreover, thanks to its sleek girth, I could comfortably slip the phone in the pocket of my jeans and move around without feeling an awkward bulge in my pants. It’s these little things which I’ll miss once I remove my SIM from the phone.
I was also immensely impressed with the fingerprint sensor placement on the phone. Akin to older Sony Xperia phones and the Galaxy S10e (review), the Honor 20 ships with a side-mounted fingerprint sensor which aligned to my thumb perfectly. And, being a capacitive sensor, it is extremely quick and accurate, meaning I never had to tap it twice to unlock the phone. The face unlock feature is quite reliable too, and the phone even offers a ‘pick to wake’ function which when enabled, wakes up the phone’s display and scans your face automatically when you pick up the device. Cool stuff, really.
Despite its pint-sized form factor, the Honor 20 packs a 6.26-inch, full HD+, IPS LCD panel which canvases over 84-percent of the handset’s frame. To do so, the company has furnished the phone with a hole-punch notch, the likes of which you might’ve seen on the brand’s View 20 flagship. Interestingly enough, despite using an LCD screen, I’ve always found the colour saturation and punchiness of Honor’s displays on par with competing devices sporting AMOLED screens. That said, I did miss the deep, dark blacks from an AMOLED display such as the one on the OnePlus 7 which coincidentally, can also play HDR content.
Regardless, the Honor 20’s display is no slouch and since the phone comes with Widevine L1 certification, you will be able to enjoy HD content from various streaming services like Netflix too. It also helps that the display gets quite bright, allowing buyers to use it comfortably when the sun’s out.
The Honor 20 ships with an earpiece on the top of the display which relayed calls clearly to my ears. I tested the handset’s data capabilities in Taiwan using a local SIM as well as in Delhi through my carrier provider Airtel and faced no issues whatsoever. Unfortunately, the handset doesn’t ship with a headphone jack so you’ll have to use a dongle to connect a pair of 3.5mm headphones to the phone. I’d also like to point out that the vibration motor in the phone is horribly mushy, forcing me to turn off the haptic feedback whilst texting.
On the bright side, the smartphone features an LED notification, which somewhat makes up for the lack of an always-on display on the phone.
The Honor 20 is a beast of a camera phone and the device features a quad camera setup at the back comprising a 48MP Sony IMX 586 sensor with f/1.4 aperture, a 16MP wide-angle lens with f/2.2 aperture, a 2MP, f/2.4 aperture super macro shooter and a 2MP f/2.4 aperture depth sensor. Now, while the cameras click excellent photos during the day, it’s the smartphone’s lowlight photography prowess that has me in awe.
As I mentioned previously, I used the Honor 20 intensively when I was in Taiwan to click photos and…well, let’s just let the photos do the talking, shall we?
While the Honor 20 clicks incredibly detailed photos during the day, at night, the phone is a different beast altogether. I don’t know exactly how the phone manages to squeeze out details from the darkest of alleys and breathe light into shots where other phones fail so spectacularly, but it somehow does. Take for instance, the picture of me standing near a ledge. Upon zooming in, you’ll notice that my skin tone is quite soft, but would you believe that the photo was taken at night, with the only source of light being the lamp post behind me?
Honestly, even with the teensiest of light bouncing around, the Honor 20 can output a photo at night which looks phenomenal. And, that’s with a lens with an f/1.8 aperture, mind you. I can only imagine how well the Honor 20 Pro’s class-leading f/1.4 aperture would perform after the sun has set.
The smartphone clicks outstanding photos during the day too. Thanks to the device’s built-in AI engine, the shots I took during the day looked spectacularly vibrant and vivid. The colours popped out from the scene, and the images had plenty of details too. Consequently, if you like a part of a photo, then you can easily crop it without introducing grain or noise in the image.
I was sold on the cameras dynamic range too. As luck would have it, I experienced stormy weather during my stay in Taiwan which allowed me to click some stunning photos with a thunderous sky in the backdrop. Suffice it to say, if you’ve a penchant for landscape photography, then the Honor 20 will serve you well. Now, the phone can output a 48MP photo as well, but the difference in the details between a 12MP shot and a 48MP shot isn’t night and day. Plus, with the handset’s 48MP AI clarity mode enabled, you miss out on features like HDR, which is why I didn’t play with it all that much.
The Honor 20 lets you get really close to a subject or pan out and paint the picture on a wider canvas with its macro and wide-angle lenses. I was quite satisfied with the shots I took with the wide-angle lens, as the images captured more of the scene and there was little to no warping towards the edges of the photos. The macro lens, on the other hand, didn’t appeal to me as much. Reason being, in the Super Macro mode, the camera doesn’t autofocus on the subject, which makes it extremely difficult to click a picture of a moving object such as a flower swaying in gusting wind.
That said, provided you’re clicking images of a static object, you can get some unique shots. Take for instance, the picture I’ve attached of a smartphone’s display where you can actually see the individual pixels upon zooming in.
As for selfies, Honor makes some of the best selfie phones in the market and the Honor 20 is no different. Be it day or night, the smartphone’s 32MP shooter captured stunning, Instagram-worthy photos consistently. Rest assured, if you’re a selfie aficionado, you’ll love the front-facing camera on the Honor 20.
Performance, Software and Battery life
The Honor 20 is backed by the latest silicon from Huawei in the form of Kirin 980 which works alongside 6GB of RAM and 128GB of built-in, non-expandable storage. Now, the Kirin 980 is an extremely capable chip and therefore, you shouldn’t find any issues with the Honor 20’s performance. That said, when compared to the OnePlus 7, the Honor 20 did take a little longer to load heavy games and certain apps which can be accredited to the faster UFS 3.0 storage standard used on OnePlus’ latest flagships. The difference isn’t night and day, and only discerning power users will notice it, but it’s worth mentioning that the Honor 20 isn’t the fastest budget flagship.
Regardless, during my stint with the device, I must’ve blazed through a dozen or so classic matches of PUBG. The graphics, when set to the highest possible preset, looked stunning on the smartphone’s panel. And thankfully, even when the gun fights got intense, the smartphone held its own and didn’t throw any dropped frames my way. Similarly, during day to day usage, I could comfortably jump from one app to the other without experiencing any jarring animations or having to sit on my hands, waiting for an app to reload. The smartphone did everything I expected it to, and then some so no complaints here.
On the software side of things, the Honor 20 boots the company’s Magic UI v2.1.0 on top of Android Pie. For the uninitiated, Magic UI is basically a rehashed version of Huawei’s EMUI skin albeit without one core feature – a system-wide dark mode. Hopefully, in the days to come, the company will announce the feature for the Honor 20 but for now, you’ll want to keep the brightness level at check at night or risk blasting your retinas off. Other than that, the software on the Honor 20 is a pretty standard affair and if you’d like to get familiar with it, I’d recommend you check out our full review of the Honor View 20 (review).
The Honor 20 ships with a 3,750mAh cell which comfortably saw me through the end of workdays on heavy usage. During my time with the phone, I averaged close to five hours of screen on time every day, with my usage comprising shooting a ton of photos, browsing through social media feeds, listening to music over Bluetooth and playing a few games of Alto’s Odyssey. What’s more, despite pushing the phone to its limits, the temperature of the device’s chassis rarely spiked to uncomfortable levels. Kudos to Honor for managing thermals so well.
The Honor 20 faces stiff competition from the OnePlus 7 (review), which offers slightly faster performance and a cleaner software to boot. That said, the Honor 20 offers much better cameras, so it’s a toss-up between the two handsets.
Buyers should also watch out for the upcoming ASUS 6Z (first impressions), which ships with an articulating camera mechanism and the latest Silicon from Qualcomm. Our initial impressions of the handset were quite positive, so you might want to wait for our full review of the phone before adding any device to your cart.
I’ve spent over two weeks with the Honor 20 in my pockets and for the first time in a while, the most used app on my phone has been the camera application. What’s even more fascinating is that unlike the Google Pixel 3a – which too is a fantastic camera phone – Honor didn’t cut any corners in the performance or the design department to make the Honor 20 affordable.
Suffice it to say, the Honor 20 is a phenomenal flagship and I cannot recommend it enough. Unfortunately, owing to its parent company’s ongoing dispute with the US Government, some buyers might sway away from the phone, and who can blame them? That said, things could change for the better just in case the ban is rescinded in the near future.
If it’s any consolation, the Honor 20 has been certified by Google and therefore, while the device might not get the Android Q update, it will get regular security patches and full support for Google Play services. If you can look past the brand’s ongoing conflicts, then at a starting price of Rs 32,999, the Honor 20 is a no-brainer.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Good-looking design
- Fantastic cameras
- Reliable performance
- No headphone jack
- Macro lens doesn’t autofocus on subject
- Might not get Android Q update