Review: Full Honours for the Honor View20
By Chong Jinn Xiung January 23, 2019
- First implementation of hole punch camera looks promising
- Powerful processor paired with highly detailed 48-Megapixel camera
WHEN it comes to smartphones there is only so much one can expect in terms of innovation. Sure, phones now have bigger displays but this has resulted in the unfortunate trend of 2018, the dreaded notch.
Coming into 2019, it looks like phone manufacturers like Honor, the sub-brand of Huawei, have come up with a solution to keep the front camera without the need of any fancy sliders or motorised pop-ups. Indeed, Honor’s View20 has beaten everyone to the punch (pun, intended) and ushered in 2019’s first smartphone with a hole punch camera.
As Honor’s flagship smartphone, the View20 spares no expense in packing as many features as it can, bringing the top-end features of Huawei’s flagships down to a price that is all the more tempting for consumers looking to upgrade their existing phones. So is the View20 worthy of your attention? Let’s find out.
At first touch, it is evident that this is a very premium looking and feeling phone with glass on the front and back sandwiching a metal frame that seamlessly blends with the rest of the phone.
The star of the show is definitely the View20’s extra large 6.4-inch LCD display in front. It is phablet-sized but is very easy on the hands thanks to the bezel-less display that stretches to the very edges of the phone. The quality is nowhere close to an OLED but the image quality is still very sharp and clear.
As mentioned earlier, this is in large part due to the hole punch camera on the upper left corner of the phone, with a camera hole that is just 4.5mm in diameter. While some may take issue with the chin on the bottom of the phone, I honestly think it looks fine as it is.
Spin the View20 around and I was utterly gobsmacked by the shimmery V pattern that adorns the glass back.
Admittedly, the layout of the camera and fingerprint reader in the centre are nothing new but the stunning pattern that hides just beneath the surface is. This is a really cool-looking design that I recommend you check out if you are interested in buying one.
Apart from that, everything else is quite standard with the View20. The volume rocker is located on the same side as the power button on the right, leaving the left side devoid of any buttons.
To the left, you will find the SIM card tray that has two slots for accepting nano-SIM cards. There is no microSD card slot however, so you will need to be content with the available storage on the phone. Whether you have the base 128GB or larger 256GB, both should be sufficient.
Honor has wisely chosen to keep the good old 3.5mm headphone jack on top so you don’t have to leave your old wired headphones behind or shell out extra cash for a pair of wireless ones. There is also an Infrared blaster on top, which can come in handy if you lose the remote control for your TV, fan or air conditioning unit.
There is not much to be said about the bottom as it sports a USB Type-C port which is a given as it is a flagship device. There is also a single speaker.
It should be noted that while the single speaker by itself is quite loud and clear, I do wish that Honor had turned the front-facing earpiece into a second speaker to give it stereo sound. As it is a great device to watch videos on the go, a stereo speaker setup would have greatly enhanced the viewing experience.
Taking a peak inside, the View20 rocks Huawei’s top of the line Kirin 980 processor and is supplemented by 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. There is also another variant sporting 8GB of RAM and a larger 256GB of storage.
So yes, it is the very same processor found on Huawei’s large screen Mate 20 series of phones and one would guess that the performance will be as buttery smooth and responsive as that other flagship model.
Looking at the benchmark results, the View20 is certainly on par with other flagships. Across the board, the scores are respectively high with a few rare occasions when a high-end gaming smartphone will outperform it. However, I wouldn’t put so much weight solely on benchmark scores as to be truthful, these scores can be manipulated.
What really matters is its day-to-day performance, which I have to say was fantastic throughout my two weeks of testing it prior to its global launch. Apps launched instantly and switching between Chrome, Facebook and Twitter or any other regular app was seamless.
I can’t say that I am a big fan of Honor’s Magic 2.0.1 user interface, to be honest. It is almost virtually the same as Huawei’s EMUI 9. I also didn’t like the fact that Honor had several pre-installed apps in the View20 out of the box such as HiCare, Huawei AppGallery and Huawei Health. But at the very least, these apps don’t occupy lots of space and are easily removed, so it is not a deal breaker.
But in terms of functionality, I do appreciate that the interface offers a high degree of customisation. For example, Chinese launchers typically exclude the app drawer but you can choose to add one in or if the hole punch camera is too annoying, you can overlay a black bar on the top to hide it completely.
I also liked the implementation of gesture controls to fully maximise the full-view screen. In fact, I dare say Honor’s method is better than the standard Android Pie as it not only allows you to swipe the edge the screen to go back but the motion to swipe up to go to the Home screen or browse recently opened apps was smooth and intuitive.
Apart from that, I have to say the software experience with the hole punch camera is rather pleasant. It certainly occupies less real estate than a notch and it is less distracting when watching videos or playing games as it is usually on the bottom left corner.
Speaking of games, I don’t usually have time for games but when I do manage to squeeze some time, I play Asphalt 9 and Into the Dead 2. Both games ran very smoothly on the View20 as racing as I raced at exhilarating speeds and shot at zombies.
Much like other Huawei flagship phones, the View20 has as a handy desktop mode that allows it to be used as a mini computer when you hook it up to a monitor via a USB Type-C adapter or via wireless projection.
The setup process was very easy and I was able to connect to my living room TV, a Samsung no less, within 30 seconds.
As you may expect, there is a slight delay at times when using wireless mode but otherwise you get a full desktop experience running multiple windows. You can even multitask by having a video playing on one screen while you browse the web on your phone. As great as it is to run apps on a big screen, fast-paced action games were not playable though it is possible to play slower-paced Role Playing Games with some patience.
Admittedly, it is a nice and cool feature to have but not one that I foresee using frequently.
The View20 packs a rather large 4,000mAh battery that provides more than ample power to last over the course of 30 hours which is more than two days of use. Mind you this wasn’t even with the power-saving mode turned on. Turning that on adds at least another 10 hours of operating time which is astounding.
During a typical work day, I found it surprisingly long-lasting during moderate to heavy use. This includes social media, web browsing and video watching. The only way I managed to drain the battery faster was by playing graphic-intensive games, but that is very rare in my case.
Needless to say, I was highly impressed with the View20’s battery stamina and could rely on it to keep going even if I didn’t manage to charge it in the middle of the day. Definitely, a phone to keep around if you do lots of travelling.
The View20 may only have two rear cameras but only one is really used as the primary 48-Megapixel (f/1.8) camera while the other is a 3D Time-of-Flight (ToF) sensor that basically helps it better capture depth of field. Not forgetting there is a 25-Megapixel selfie camera on the front.
Now, Megapixels don’t really matter a whole lot when it comes to smartphones as the sensors tend to be very small so more does not necessarily mean better. That being said, having more pixels does mean the View20 captures more detail compared to the standard 12-Megapixel cameras that most flagships carry.
In terms of performance, the camera was good at capturing images in a variety of situations. Of course, daytime shooting was the best and it isn’t too bad in low-light situations either thanks to the Night Mode that employs long exposure to capture more light.
In my experience using the View20, my only complaint is that there seems to be a slight half a second delay whenever I hit the shutter button. This sometimes results in me missing a shot. I can’t tell if this is a software problem at the time I tested the phone but hopefully, it will be fixed with a patch.
Then comes video-shooting capabilities and the View20 does not disappoint as it comes with the ability to record up to 4K UHD in quality. I found most videos captured to look pretty good for a smartphone camera and the audio pick is clear. It definitely is more than enough for your needs and the Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS) helps smoothen shaky footage.
Honor is certainly wasting no time in 2019 to take command of the world stage, launching the View20 well before other brands announce their flagship devices in the first quarter. While it is safe to say that the uniqueness of its hole punch camera will slowly fade as more phones feature it, the View20 is a very solid smartphone that packs very strong features into a single package.
Quite honestly I liked the phone’s implementation of a full bezel-less display without a notch. It also helps that the Kirin 980 processor was fast and snappy but I was most excited about the long-lasting battery. Also, being a photography buff, I appreciated the excellent image quality offered by the 48-Megapixel camera.
The omission of a second speaker for stereo sound or waterproof build quality may irk some who are expecting a full flagship experience, but these are small compromises that don’t matter much to me.
To sum it up, the View20 is an easy recommendation if you want a powerful phone with lots of features packed within. At US$485 (RM1,999) for the base model, it is a very compelling buy if you want a flagship device. However, the higher-end US$607 (RM2,499) model is on the expensive side and is only reserved for those who want more RAM and storage.