This is one exceptionally sleek A.I. driven powerhouse punching well above its weight
Honor’s View 10 is a capable flagship that that comes at a price more comparable to the mid-range and which most would expect to be closer to that tier since the company is actually owned by Huawei. That’s especially true since Huawei has flagships of its own and one would expect that device to automatically be better. However, as subjective as the term “better” can be, this handset stands very well on its own. In fact, it won several awards at CES 2018 in the best in show category and may just be the smartphone everybody needs to watch out for this year. In terms of pricing and specifications, there is almost certainly no better value on the market and that value, in this case, does not equate to a lesser experience. Barring one or two minor caveats, it may even be safe to say that this is the best smartphone Honor has ever created and among the very best that 2018 is going to produce.
With an MSRP of just $499, most may not be expecting a device that bears the monstrous specs found inside of the Honor View 10. But this is a device that seems purpose-built to disrupt and destroy expectations. To begin with, and despite its 5.99-inch FHD+ (1080 x 2160) display with an 18:9 ratio, this is not a big handset. It tips the scales at just 172g and measures just 157.00mm x 74.98mm x 6.97mm. Packed into the frame, alongside the array of sensors that one expects from a flagship smartphone, are a dual-camera main sensor and single selfie-sensor. The primary cameras are rated at 20-megapixels for the monochrome sensor and 16-megapixels for the color lens. The f/1.8 aperture and the A.I. chip that assists those ensure that every shot is as clean as possible. That’s backed up by an LED flash. Meanwhile, the front sensor rests just next to the LED notification light and earpiece and is rated at 13-megapixels. It also features A.I.-driven solutions of its own, including a dedicated portrait mode. A single bottom-firing speaker, USB Type-C port, microphone, and 3.5mm headphone jack are embedded along the bottom of the device, while a fingerprint sensor takes up almost all available vertical space on the bottom bezel. The top edge also has its own microphone, placed next to an IR blaster.
Starting in on the internals of this handset, the Honor View 10 does support a dual-SIM card setup. However, that’s not unusual for any modern handset. What really sets it apart is the inclusion of its HiSilicon Kirin 970 SoC. That’s comprised of four ARM Cortex A73 cores, clocked at 2.36GHz, and four more Cortex A53 cores, clocked at 2.36GHz. If that just doesn’t feel like enough power, this chipset is, as mentioned above, A.I.-empowered to optimize, overclock, underclock, and manage that SoC in real-time. That's all automatic and for nearly every aspect of this smartphone. In fact, there really aren’t any options for most A.I.-based features on the user-side. Supporting that powerhouse is 6GB RAM and 128GB of micro SD card-expandable storage. That powers Huawei’s EMUI 8, based on Android 8. Behind all of that is a 3,750mAh battery designed to provide plenty of power to get through the day. All of that, with the exception of pricing, pins this handset squarely in the flagship category.
In the Box
Given how much effort is put into the Honor View 10 itself, in conjunction with the price, it may not be altogether surprising that the contents it ships with are rather sparse. There isn’t even a user manual included - or at least not with our test unit. Instead, it ships with a wall adapter for charging which is rated at an output of 5V/4.5A for rapid charging. The standard USB to USB Type-C cable included in the box only measures around 3-feet and a few inches, so it isn’t anywhere near the longest cable to arrive with a smartphone. A SIM drawer pin tool is included as well but, aside from the flexible TPU protective case, that’s all buyers can expect to find inside.
Hardware and Design
Taking the Honor View 10 out of its box is immediately satisfying. The device is designed to look and feel as thin as possible, without feeling delicate. Meanwhile, the continuity of the all-metal and glass frame is only broken by two camera bumps, a fingerprint scanner, and two hardware buttons. The volume rocker and power buttons are aligned on the right-hand edge, while the scanner is on the chin for this handset. Those buttons are very clicky, while all plugs are snug - giving the impression that they’ll last for as long as any user wants to keep using this smartphone. Among those ports is a 3.5mm headphone jack that is bound to be a highlight for many users since other OEMs are dropping that in favor of either Bluetooth or USB Type-C adapter. A single bottom firing speaker sits next to a USB 2.0 port outfitted with USB Type-C plug, each tucked cleanly with no sharp edges. An IR blaster at the top provides users with another way to control a wide range of remote-controlled appliances and electronics.
The View 10 may not be the thinnest handset ever made but it would be easy to think that, even after placing it in the included protective case. Of course, it's worth pointing out that its overall design and shape are very reminiscent of an iPhone. That may or may not be a drawback, depending on the buyer but it does have a very solid build. It might not turn too many heads, but it's going to feel at least as premium as its internals are. One area of concern, on the other hand, is the camera bumps. While most manufacturers attempt to include a smooth gradient from the edge to the lenses, these cameras are jutting straight out of the back in the top-left corner. That makes them feel exposed and like they could be a weak point in terms of likeliness to be damaged in either a drop or from day to day use. Unfortunately, Honor's View 10 also doesn't advertise the use of Gorilla Glass or an IP rating for water and dust protection. So this could turn out to be a poor choice for those who need added ruggedization.
On the display front, as mentioned above, the View 10 ships with a 5.99-inch FHD+ display set at a ratio of 18:9. That means it fills a substantial portion of the device's face and bezels are at a bare minimum. However, it is also exceptional in terms of viewability and responsiveness. Brightness is high enough that it should be usable in nearly any circumstance and there are no visible pixels to be found. The result is a crisp and smooth experience that isn't at all hindered by the rest of the hardware - which is to be expected with consideration for the makeup of those components.
There are plenty of screen-specific special features to be found here as well. Automatic brightness adjustment appears much more comprehensive and consistent, thanks to the A.I. management of the Kirin 970 chipset. At the same time, although we didn't test the effectiveness of the tool, screen resolution can be adjusted manually or by A.I. for even more battery savings. The standard resolution is at 1080 x 2160 but that option allows it to be pulled back to 720 x 1080 for those apps that just don't need to be shown at higher resolutions. That way, high-demand applications such as games can be shown in all of their high-definition glory, while a word processing app, for example, won't drain the battery quite so much. The software seems to manage that adaptivity with no hiccups at all, so users don't need to worry about a drop in performance elsewhere when they switch things up.
Performance and Battery Life
Huawei-owned HiSilicon created the Kirin 970 chipset in a bid to bolster functionality, features, battery, and more with intelligent machine learning. In the Honor View 10, that equates to exceptional performance that doesn’t necessarily hinder the battery life too much and an experience that will get better over time instead of worse. From a performance perspective, the octa-core SoC delivers beautifully. Users shouldn’t experience any lag at all in any of the software available from the Play Store. In fact, coupled with the above-outlined screen technology and the smart management of resources, playing games or using apps is almost certainly going to be better than with nearly any handset on the market. This is, after all, the chipset that managed to beat out the Snapdragon 845 by more than a few percentage points - at least on paper. That claim is certainly believable and the benchmarks we performed on our test unit seem to back that up. 6GB of RAM and further A.I. management options available in settings, in the meantime, means that won't change regardless of how many applications may be running in the background.
Meanwhile, the battery features - leaving alone the generous 3,750mAh power pack inside - ensure that this device should last at least one full day. In fact, our experiences were consistent with this handset's advertised battery life. That means gaming with performance boosting features enabled, just one of many software suites included to customize the experience and make this handset better, still allows for 5.5-hours of screen-on time. Our benchmark backed that up, with the hardware being pushed to over 90-percent capacity and still allowing for that. Turning on any of the other included specialty software options for battery enhancement should improve that further and standby time goes for up to at least 4 days with some usage. A full day of use, for the average user, should be not only easy to attain but almost impossible not to achieve. It's important to note that none of our tests or usage was done with any battery saving features turned on at all. Charging is quick, as well, taking just short of 2 hours.
The included game suite software actually takes things a bit further than that, too. When set to favor performance, it will also boost network throughput for online games and silence pop-up notifications for messages, emails, and more. Alternatively, users can set it to be more balanced or to focus on saving battery life. Each will affect performance differently but none results in any kind of lag or noticeable delay. That is, in and of itself, an achievement of its own and a testament to the amount of work that's been put into the chipset and optimization suite. Battery saving software takes many forms and includes an A.I.-centric tool for automatically managing background applications.
Connectivity and Audio
Connectivity options with this handset are exactly what might be expected from such a high-performing handset. The Honor View 10 includes support for standard profiles, such as Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac on both 2GHz and 5GHz networks, and GPS, AGPS, and GLONASS for location services. Beyond even that, connectivity options also include Wi-Fi Direct, Huawei Share, dual LTE support, and dual-VoLTE support. Each radio involved here seems to work flawlessly. We tested this handset on Straight Talk's AT&T network bands and the connection was stable in each category where a network connection was available. Call quality was as good as was expected from a premium flagship, with the microphone and earpiece performing very well. It goes without saying that this won't necessarily work with every U.S. carrier, but the bands supported - shown below - do seem to indicate that it will work in most areas of the world.
The audio experience is actually quite a bit better than expected for a device in the View 10’s price range. In fact, we couldn’t really find any issues with it at all. The bottom-firing speaker could stand to have a bit more push on the bass-end of the spectrum. It’s actually still much better than many other devices we have used and it is also very loud without losing any of the subtleties in the music. However, plugging in headphones offers up an experience that could have only been made better by in-depth audio controls. Thankfully, those were included with a huge variety of options, bass-boosting, custom equalizer, various depth settings for 3D immersion, and more. Only the most finicky of audiophiles are going to be disappointed when plugging in via the 3.5mm jack but, even then, it won’t be by much. The range is great and detail output appears to be nearly lossless. Perhaps best of all, this smartphone can be charged while listening to audio if that’s really needed since it doesn’t rely on the charging port for that output.
2G GSM: Bands 2, 3, 5, and 8
3G WCDMA: Bands 1, 2, 4, and 5
4G FDD-LTE (Only in SIM Slot 1): Bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, and 17
On the software front, there really is too much packed in here to include in any depth in a single article. However, everything is based in EMUI 8 - built on top of Android 8.1. That means that all of the latest features from Android are included here but that Honor went above and beyond those. Casting, screen-recording, and more are included in the notification tray. The overall look of that notification tray remains the same as most users will be accustomed too but with brighter blues and darker blacks for more contrast and personality. Meanwhile, Huawei's customer care software, backup tool, health suite, video editing, and additional mirroring options are baked in too. A.I. drives the specialty translator utility and a stock Smart Remote program allows users to get the most out of the handset's IR blaster.
Aside from the usual app settings in the settings app, additional permissions, app controls, and security are featured here. Each appears to have top-notch functionality that simply isn't available from other flagships. For example, an "App permissions" setting allows users to see exactly how many apps are using which permissions and to control those by permission category. On the other hand, app cloning is actually included as well via the "App twin" tool. So users with more than one social media or messaging account can log in with both at any given time rather than having to log out and log back in with a different user. Similar tools exist in display settings that allow for blue-light levels to be managed automatically, alongside other more typical controls for the screen. One feature in that category that stands out is the smart rotate option, which allows the device's screen rotation to be linked to the position of the face relative to the display. That means it won't go into landscape mode just because a user has laid down if they are still holding it toward their face in a portrait mode orientation, respectively.
Privacy and security software options are equally abundant. Fingerprint, facial recognition, and passwords, patterns, or pins can be used in conjunction with one another with each performing nearly to perfection. Simultaneously, a designated "PrivateSpace" fingerprint can be used to access a secured home screen, documents, and more as long as the device is already unlocked when that finger is used. There are also extra measures in place to secure applications and files, the latter via added encryption. As a result, this is likely one of the most secure devices available. The one exception to that is that the Android Security Patch level is only at February 5, 2018, instead of March.
On the other hand, the "Smart assistance" section of the settings allows for scheduled powering down or turning on, gloves mode, voice and motion controls, and one-handed mode. That's in addition to the usual accessibility options. Tied in with that is the ability to navigate the device with or without an app drawer and with or without on-screen navigation controls. In fact, the touchpad can be used for navigation or the dock, opening a slew of options for those that want to use their handset in a different way. Last but not least on the usability software front, the option is available in system settings to enable "simple mode." That functions similarly to Samsung's version with oversized minimal layouts and icons that should make the handset much more intuitive for less experienced or tech-savvy users. For those that are more tech-savvy, theming options from icons to layout and more are available via a dedicated theming app.
In terms of cameras, this is yet another area where A.I.-enhancements shine and the Honor View 10 features great hardware, to begin with, as outlined in the specs section of this review. The hardware in many cameras within the price range is, on paper, on par with this handset. However, the Kirin 970 SoC is capable of analyzing what the lenses are looking at and combining that with input from other sensors to determine the best settings for snapping an image or shooting a video. That doesn't mean this will be the best camera by any stretch of the imagination but it does go a long way toward putting it in the realm of other flagships.
That's aided further by the many machine-learning options and standard options that a user has access to. For starters, there are a ton of modes to choose from manually, including an action camera mode for motion-detected captures and a smart portrait mode for selfies. Those are tied in with a ton of more professional photography options. But bokeh, autofocus, lighting, and image stabilization are great right out of the box, even without adjusting those. This could feasibly be used by most consumers without ever swiping left or right for more advanced features. Doing just that, though, will show a plethora of tools. Pro modes exist for both video and photo, 3D or normal panoramas can be shot, HDR is available, and there are even filters. Extending beyond that even further, there are modes for night shooting, light painting, time-lapses, slow-motion capture, artist modes, watermark additions, and document scanning. There just doesn't seem to be a whole lot this camera software won't do to help even the most inexperienced photographer capture shots worthy of remembering.
Compared to other flagships, the price is absolutely a bargain
The included software push this device to be capable of just about anything
The SoC is absolutely top-of-the-line and nothing should slow this down
Battery life is admirable and should be plenty for even more heavy users
Sleek and slim form factor provides exceptional in-hand-feel
Cameras perform very well, even when zoomed in
Every aspect of the handset has some variance of A.I. management that helps functionality go far beyond what is expected
No IP rating for ruggedization against water or dust damage
Camera bumps may not be well thought out and may be easily damaged
There’s a definitive learning curve to the many software enhancements and features
Charging cable is somewhat short
Every year, smartphone makers around the world bring their finest examples of technological mastery to bear to create the next generation of high-end flagship handsets. That leaves consumers scrambling to try and figure out which one will be best from a huge variety of angles, whether its aesthetics, cameras, cost, or performance. This year, Honor put its A-game into the View 10 and those efforts show. At just $499 MSRP, it's difficult to even imagine that this device could be a flagship but it goes further than that to take the title of flagship killer. The Honor View 10 should, in fact, outperform just about every other flagship on the market despite its low cost. With consideration for its included features and specs that go far beyond what most users will ever even need, that isn't just a bargain. It's something that nobody who is serious about wanting the best smartphone available should look past without a second glance.