Honor 10 Review: The Ultimate Affordable Flagship

Honor has done it again, providing a powerful smartphone that looks beautiful at a low price. 

The Huawei P20 lineup brought in quite a few features that everyone seemed to love, including a color-changing back, even better cameras with artificial intelligence baked in, and much more. But the P20 and P20 Pro are pretty expensive, closing in on €1000 ($1,100). That's where Huawei's sister company, Honor comes in, with the Honor 10. It is essentially the Huawei P20, but at a much lower price tag. It's actually €399 in Europe right now, which is a big difference, but is it worth it? Is it a phone to buy if you want the P20, but can't stomach that high of a price? Let's find out.

Specs

The Honor 10 is packing a 5.84-inch 19:9 display with a resolution of 2280 x 1080, meaning it is still a full HD panel here, with a notch on the top. Now under-the-hood, Honor is packing the Kirin 970 chipset with 4GB or 6GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of storage (our unit has 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage). There is Android 8.1 Oreo on-board with EMIUI v8.1 as well, along with a 3400mAh capacity battery to keep the Honor 10 going all day long.

As is always the case with Honor smartphones, the company has added two cameras to the back. This time around, there is a 16-megapixel main sensor with an aperture of f/1.8 and a 24-megapixel black and white sensor as well. This allows you to get better pictures, as the phone is able to combine both pictures into one. The front-facing camera is a 24-megapixel sensor with a f/2.0 aperture, and both the front and rear cameras do support Portrait Mode. The Honor 10 does also support WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 and uses a USB-C port for charging the device. There is a fingerprint sensor that is located under the glass on the front of the device - more on that a bit later - and of course there is facial recognition available here.

In the Box

Honor has packed the usual goodies in the Honor 10's box here. That includes the phone being right on top, with a fast charging wall adapter, a USB-C to USB-A cable, and some paperwork. Though Honor has also included a jelly case for the Honor 10, so you can keep the phone nice and clean and protected right out of the box. This is something that not a lot of smartphone makers are doing these days but definitely appreciated.

Hardware

Honor and its sister-company, Huawei, have been making beautiful hardware for years. Though recently, Huawei did also switch to using glass on its smartphones. Something that Honor had been doing with some of its higher-end devices, like the Honor 8, a few years ago. There are some similarities with the Honor 8, here on the Honor 10, and that's with the back panel. With the Honor 8, the company did some experimenting with light-refracting glass, which meant that depending on how the light was hitting the back, the color would change. That's also true on the Honor 10, but instead of changing from different colors of blue or black, this time it changes from blue to purple depending on how the light hits it. This is because we have the Phantom Blue color here, which Honor also does with the Phantom Green color. It looks very similar to the Huawei P20 Pro's backside, but instead of changing from top to bottom, it does it from left to right. This is thanks to Honor using 15 layers of glass, and a nano-scale optical coating, which makes the Honor 10 absolutely incredible to look at.

The backside is using 2.5D glass once again, a trend that appears to be going away on many smartphones. So that the left and right sides curve in very slightly. This actually makes the Honor 10 feel much nicer and more comfortable in the hand. The glass back does mean that it picks up fingerprints pretty easily, and that is true here on the Honor 10 - which is why it's good that Honor includes a clear case in the box, so you can still show off the changing colored back, without getting fingerprints all over it. The frame is aluminum, which is the case with most smartphones these days, offering a glass sandwich with aluminum in the middle. This makes the frame a bit more sturdy and keeps it from bending. Speaking of the frame, Honor has the USB-C port, speaker and headphone jack on the bottom, with the volume rocker and power button on the right side, and you'll find the SIM card slot on the left. The top actually houses an IR blaster, something that many smartphone makers are starting to move away from.

On the front of the Honor 10, you'll notice that it looks pretty familiar. And that is because it is virtually all display. Honor claims that it is about 79.9-percent display on the front, with a pretty small chin, small side bezels and then a notch up at the top. Now typically, if you have a notch, that's because there's no chin, but that's not the case with the Honor 10. And that's because the fingerprint sensor is below the display. It's actually an under-glass fingerprint sensor. So it's not quite the same as what Vivo has been doing with its smartphones like the Apex, where it's actually under the display, but instead, it's under the glass here. So it looks really clean. The notch at the top houses the front-facing camera and the earpiece and that's about it.

The build quality on the Honor 10 does definitely scream premium, and it's one of those phones that you could just look at all day long because of how beautiful it is. It's really a great-looking device from Honor, and while it does have that notch that many people won't be fond of, and the camera bump that others won't be fond of either, it does look incredible.

Display

While Honor did not use an OLED display on the Honor 10 here, it is opting to use an LCD panel, it actually still looks pretty nice. With the notch here, having an OLED panel would have definitely been preferred, especially with the hiding the notch settings here, turning the notification bar black, it would blend in a bit better. But for an LCD panel, it's actually not bad. It does get pretty bright when outside, although it's not quite as bright as an OLED could get, but bright enough. The color temperature on the Honor 10's display seems to be a bit on the cool side. It's nothing that's too terrible - and it can be adjusted in the settings - but for those that notice those things, it's there.

Honor did not include an Always On Display feature on the Honor 10. And that is likely because this is using an LCD panel over an OLED panel. That might be a deal breaker for some, as the Always On Display has really become a popular feature in the past couple of years. But you can set the display to wake up when you do get a new notification, so it's not all bad.

Performance

Honor is using the Kirin 970 chipset here to run the show, which is a processor that has already performed really well in other smartphones like the P20 and P20 Pro. So it's no surprise to see the Kirin 970 running really well inside the Honor 10. Even though our unit has 4GB of RAM here, it still absolutely flies. Obviously, it's a better idea to get the 6GB of RAM model, so that it's a bit more future-proof, 4GB is still plenty here. The Honor 10 did slow down a few times when there were plenty of apps open, and some were not responding. But that is part of having only 4GB under-the-hood here.

When it comes to gaming, the Honor 10 does fall short a tiny bit. And it's not because of the processor, as we know the processor is top-notch. It's because of the amount of RAM available here. So if you do buy the 4GB model, it's a good idea to clear out your recent apps before starting up any games, to get the best experience. While many will feel that 4GB is plenty of RAM for most smartphones, it's always a good idea to get a little bit more, because phones do slow down over time, and that is going to be the case here with the Honor 10 in the next six months to a year.

Security

2018 has brought one new security feature to virtually every smartphone, and that's Face Unlock. Honor has added it here on the Honor 10, so you can opt to unlock your phone using your face, or simply use the fingerprint sensor. Face Unlock actually works really well, though it is not as secure as using your fingerprint, as always. So if you are looking to use Face Unlock to secure your device, you will still want to use your fingerprint as well. As soon as you lift the phone, it'll start looking for your face and verify it's you, then unlock. It's pretty quick. Now in dark conditions, say at night when you want to check your phone in bed, it actually brightens the screen enough to recognize you and still unlocks pretty quickly. That is something we've seen with other smartphones, but it actually works better and faster on the Honor 10, which is impressive.

Now let's talk about that fingerprint sensor. The sensor looks pretty cool, since it's under the glass and has a dotted ring surrounding it, so you can easily place your finger there and unlock it. But as it turns out, your finger is used to having an actual button or ridge there to help you align your finger properly on the sensor. And where this is just glass, with no ridge, it makes it tougher to unlock the phone. There have been many times where it didn't recognize my finger because it was just a tad out of place on the sensor. That is actually a bit surprising here, considering Huawei and Honor have always had really good fingerprint sensors that were very accurate and fast. This one is still accurate, as long as you put your finger down in the right place. Now, since it also acts as a home button, you have to be careful and not press down, otherwise it'll go home. And if you are using your fingerprint to authenticate yourself within an app, that can become annoying, real quick.

Audio Quality

Honor did keep the headphone jack here, so you can still plug your headphones into the Honor 10 without needing an adapter. Which is a very good thing, as many smartphones have opted to get rid of the headphone jack. That means you can use wired and Bluetooth headphones with the Honor 10. Of course, you'll get some better audio quality out of wired headphones, and that was the case in our review period. The audio quality will differ depending on the headphones you plug in, but for the most part, it's pretty much on par with the speaker that's on the bottom of the phone.

Speaking of the single speaker on the Honor 10, it's not as loud as it should be. It seems to be pretty quiet, compared to other smartphones, even those with a single speaker. It can sometimes be difficult to hear the Honor 10's speaker here, even when it is turned all the way up. So you definitely don't want to cover that speaker - which is very likely to happen when playing games. If you are wanting to watch YouTube on the Honor 10, the best way to do so would be with headphones.

Benchmarks

With the Honor 10, we ran AnTuTu, 3D Mark and Geekbench benchmarks on the device, to see just how well it would perform. On AnTuTu, it picked up an overall score of 202,347. Over on 3D Mark, it grabbed a score of 2,930 in the Sling Shot Extreme - OpenGL ES 3.1 test and a 3,159 in the Sling Shot Extreme - Vulkan test. Over on Geekbench 4, it picked up single-core scores of 1885 and multi-core scores of 6386. That puts it right around where it should be, given these specs. You can see the full results of the benchmarking tests in the gallery below.

Battery Life

Honor has a 3400mAh capacity battery inside the Honor 10, which should allow it to run all day without any issues, and that was the case for us. In fact, it was difficult to kill the battery in a single day, which is impressive. Typically, you can get around five to six hours of on-screen time on the Honor 10, in our usage. Of course, that is going to vary for everyone, depending on what they are actually doing with the phone. So keep that in mind. But it should last you all day, and in some cases, maybe even two days. Standby time on the Honor 10 is also pretty good, as it does go into deep sleep rather quickly, allowing it to use very little juice when it's not in use.

Now, of course, battery usage is just one side of battery life on any smartphone. You also need to see how quickly you can charge the phone, especially as these phones are getting bigger and bigger batteries. The Honor 10 has a 3400mAh capacity battery, which isn't that big, but it would still take nearly three hours to charge on a standard charger. Luckily with the included fast charger, you can charge it in almost half that time. Now the included charger is an EU charger, so it's not going to work for everyone without an adapter, but any 2.4A charger will work just fine, and still fully charge it in around two hours or so. Now, unfortunately, Honor has not included wireless charging here, despite it having a glass back. Honor has decided to focus more on faster charging, rather than wireless charging. Which makes plenty of sense, as most users would rather charge faster than have wireless charging.

Software

Honor is shipping the Honor 10 with Android 8.1.0 Oreo and EMUI 8.1.0 on-board. So you're getting the latest versions of both Android and Huawei/Honor's proprietary software, EMUI. That's pretty good, and not too surprising, since Honor's higher-end devices do usually get the latest version of Android at launch. It's typically the cheaper stuff - like the Honor 7X - that come out with an older version of Android and later get updated. EMUI has been paired back a bit more on the Honor 10, something that the company has been doing more of in recent years, after getting many complaints about its software.

One of the bigger changes here in the Honor 10 is gestures. Now we didn't use gestures during the entire review process, and that's because they just aren't fully baked. The gestures still leave a space at the bottom of the phone (so you're not really getting more screen real estate), and they sometimes don't work. Now that will likely be fixed in a future software update, but at launch, they could definitely use some work. Luckily, they are not enabled out of the box, so you have the ability to go ahead and use the standard navigation softkeys on the Honor 10. Which is likely what most people are going to go ahead and do.

Another change here is the status bar, and this is due to the notch. Now we talked about the notch settings in the display section already, it's a bit strange that Honor didn't offer more notch hiding settings like LG has with the LG G7 ThinQ, but it's something that most people probably won't be doing. Because of the notch, the cellular connection and WiFi icons are now on the left-hand side of the notification shade, along with your notifications. And as you'd expect, that means there is less space for notification icons there. It's something you'll have to get used too, as there just isn't enough room on the right-hand side to add the data icons there.

Otherwise, EMUI 8.1.0 is largely unchanged from other Honor and Huawei smartphones that have already been released. Which includes there not being an app drawer out of the box, that can be changed in the settings, or you can install a third-party launcher from the Google Play Store. EMUI still does not play to nicely with a lot of Google apps. In fact, with Hangouts, there were times where the notifications wouldn't come through for hours, and it would send notifications of unread Hangouts messages after they've been read. This has been an issue with EMUI and Google apps for quite a few years. Huawei and Honor have done a lot of work to get them to work nicer together, but there are still some issues here. Hopefully, those are fixed in the next update to EMUI.

The software on the Honor 10 is actually pretty good. Everything is pretty fast and fluid, there's not a lot to complain about - other than the issues with Google apps. There are plenty of useful features within EMUI, that are not available in stock Android Oreo, but are coming in Android P - like the gestures. Hopefully, Honor will continue to update the Honor 10 in a timely manner, and it is supposed to get Android P. Though, as usual, Honor has not said when exactly - of course, it also has not had the stable version pushed out yet.

Camera

Honor, while not using Leica-branded cameras like its parent-company Huawei, does use dual-cameras on almost all of its smartphones. Even the "budget" devices like the Honor 7X. And that's no different here on the Honor 10. The company is using a main sensor that is a 16-megapixel affair with a f/1.8 aperture. While the secondary camera is a monochrome 24-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/1.8. This should mean some pretty stunning photos from the Honor 10, and it does. But the company has also included some artificial intelligence into the camera, allowing you to get even better images without needing to use manual mode. With AI Camera on, the camera is able to recognize up to 500 scenarios across about 22 different categories. This includes all of the usual stuff like flowers, landscapes, clouds, etc. With AI Camera on, the camera will adjust the settings to get the right shot. You can think of it as "Auto on steroids". AI Camera does work pretty well on the Honor 10, but it's really just an auto mode for the phone's camera. Unfortunately, it does not work in other modes like Portrait or Aperture.

AI isn't the only trick the Honor 10's camera has up its sleeve. It is also jam-packed with a slew of other features and modes. Starting off with Monochrome. Honor allows you to take photos in black and white, but it doesn't stop there. You can also use Portrait and Aperture modes in monochrome. So you can get some really good looking Portrait photos in black and white here, which look stunning. We did take a few, which are in the Flickr gallery below. Honor has also included some artistic features - like what you'd see in apps like Prisma - here, and it works on both the front and rear cameras, which is another nice touch. With Aperture mode, you can adjust the depth of field in the picture, going all the way up to f/0.96. Now, since the sensor only does f/1.8, part of this is done with software, which can become a bit messy, but that's not the case with the Honor 10. It actually looks really good.

The pictures taken with the Honor 10 are actually pretty impressive. Now the Honor 10 still can't surpass the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL cameras - though no smartphone has been able to yet. But it is a great smartphone to pick up for the camera. Not only can you take some incredible images with it, but you can also get some great looking portrait mode shots on both the front and rear cameras here.

The Good

Display size

Cameras

Battery life

Headphone jack

Color-changing back

Incredible performance

The Bad

LCD instead of an OLED Display

Not yet available in the US

Not waterproof (it is splash-proof, but has no IP rating)

No micro SD Card slot

Wrap-Up

Is the Honor 10 perfect? No. But no phone is perfect, and there's a reason for that. But the Honor 10 is a great smartphone to pick up, especially for its price. It might actually be the new "Affordable Smartphone" King here, since many other smartphones with similar specs are far more expensive. Not only has Honor packed in some impressive hardware here, but it has also given the Honor 10 a pretty impressive design with a backside that changes color depending on how the light hits it. There's a lot to like about the Honor 10 here, and at its price, it's definitely worth a look.

Should I Buy the Honor 10?

If you're in Europe or Asia - where the Honor 10 is currently being sold - you should definitely pick it up. With up to 6GB of RAM and up to 128GB of storage, this is a great smartphone choice. It is recommended that you grab the 6GB RAM model over the 4GB one, that way it'll be a bit more future-proof compared to the 4GB variant that is sold at €399.

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About the Author
2018/11/alex-2.jpg

Alexander Maxham

Section Editor
Alex has written for Androidheadlines since 2012 as Editor of the site and traveled the World to many of the biggest Smartphone and Technology events. Alex has a background in Technology and IT and Deep Passion for Everything Android and Google. His specialties lay in Smartphones of all budgets, Accessories, Home Automation and more. Contact him at [email protected]
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