HONOR's best phones have, historically, been the least expensive ones the company offers. As a sub-brand of embattled Huawei, HONOR has been doing everything it can lately to distance itself from the Huawei name, and much of that is enveloped physically in the HONOR View20. A phone that looks altogether different from 2018's rather boring-looking View 10, the View20 is among the most eye-catching phones ever made, and it comes with a cutting-edge spec sheet too. While the LCD display on the front leaves a bit to be desired, the punch-hole camera improves the concept of the notch to the point where it's largely forgettable, taking up about half the surface area of any notch on the market, including the tiny water-drop notches of phones like the OnePlus 6T, OPPO R17 Pro, and Huawei Mate 20.
It sells for effectively the same price as the OnePlus 6T as well (£499\€569), all while offering a considerably better camera experience too. Touching on the design, it's hard to ignore what HONOR has crafted here. Our review unit features a striking array of colors that change from deep blue to teal, depending on the lighting, with a patterned column of chevrons running top to bottom. All four colors include this chevron pattern, which means that unlike other phones that feature unique patterns or textures, you're not stuck choosing one or two colors if you like the look. Choices are between Phantom Red, Midnight Black, Sapphire Blue, and our review unit, Phantom Blue.
HONOR sells the phone in two configurations: 6GB of RAM with 128GB of storage, or 8GB of RAM for 256GB of storage. Both should include plenty of storage for most users, which is good since there's no expandable storage support. The phone ships with HONOR's second-generation Magic UI 2, which is built upon Android 9 Pie and shares more than a passing glance similarity to Huawei's EMUI. Unlike EMUI 9, however, Magic UI 2 isn't a buggy mess and fixes nearly every issue we had with Huawei's latest OS in our Mate 20 review. It's also the fastest device we've seen from Huawei or HONOR to date, and represents some of the absolute best of Android that you'll find.
While multitasking remains slower than previous generations of Android because of the new design of the Overview/Recents menu, it's smoother and more reliable than what was found in EMUI 9's launch, including the gesture system, which allows users to do away with persistent navigation buttons and, instead, utilize a full-screen gesture system. It's got plenty of RAM and plenty of battery capacity too, 4000mAh to be exact, and will absolutely get every type of user through a full day, with most users easily making it near the end of the second day before requiring a top-up. The ultra-fast 22W charging means 30 minutes or less will get you through the rest of the day without having to wait very long too.
Huawei's work on AI-focused Neural Processing Units, or NPUs, can be found in the dual-NPU solution inside the powerful Kirin 980 SoC in the HONOR View20, the same one found in the more expensive Mate 20 series. These dual-NPUs are used in conjunction with the TOF camera to enable the phone to identify several objects, including detecting the object density of food to estimate caloric counts of identified foods. It's also used for gesture-based gaming on an external monitor, body shaping and general beautification of people in photos, and even augmented reality (AR) characters. The dual-NPU is also utilized for the cameras, powering the AI-processing of photos for richer colors, wider dynamic range, and other specialized processing methods for and videos. Even the AI Color effects from the Mate 20 make an appearance here, singling out human subjects in color while the remainder of the video is in black and white for a unique dramatic effect.
The latest generation Sony imaging sensors are also making their debut on the HONOR View20 with the Sony IMX 586, a giant ½-inch sensor with 48-megapixel resolution. This, combined with the TOF camera on back and the 25-megapixel camera up front means the View20 is an imaging powerhouse, with the ability to shoot incredible detail in every lighting condition, and even with support for the latest Night Mode features as well. This giant sensor is used in place of a telephoto lens, and the results speak for themselves. Despite not having the hardware optical zoom from other phones, the HONOR View20 regularly pulls in the same amount of detail as those phones when zooming in, which is incredibly impressive to say the least.
Much like the rest of the software, the camera app's bugs from the Mate 20 have all been fixed here, including the odd warping effects we saw from the Mate 20 family when recording in 4K resolution. Pro mode includes the unbelievable range of ISO and shutter from the Mate 20 Pro, with the ability to push ISO up to 102,400; a number nearly unheard of in the smartphone industry with the exception of the Mate 20 Pro. A 30-second shutter maximum also means that manual photography can be great, but those wanting manual focus will find themselves having a more difficult time than is probably needed as there's no focus peaking or other visual aide.
The phone doesn't have many downsides, but they're certainly worth noting. As said before, the IPS LCD display simply doesn't look anywhere near as good as an OLED panel and feels like an odd decision when paired with the punch-hole camera on the front. HONOR's sound output quality needs some serious work, as it's incredibly flat and dull sounding, especially from the 3.5mm audio port. It's also not IP-rated for water or dust resistance, and has no wireless charging, so if any of these things are of paramount importance to you, you may want to look at other options.
For the price, it's going to be hard to find much better than the HONOR View20. HONOR has outfitted the View20 with cutting-edge specs and performance, a cutting-edge camera experience with a brand new generation Sony sensor and more megapixels than you can shake a stick at, as well as an OS built upon Android 9 Pie that's got plenty of features for even the most demanding consumers. It's easily one of the best values on the market today and handily rivals even the excellent OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T in overall value and quality.