Honor 10 review

Although expensive flagship phones will continue to steal the headlines, it's the mainstream segment that's going to be extremely competitive this year. 

With the Honor 10, Honor continues the tradition of bringing top hardware and cutting-edge design into an affordable product. But with the likes of the Nokia 7 Plus and the Moto G6, this space is getting harder to compete in.

We've been testing the Honor 10 for the past couple of weeks and have been impressed. Powered by the Kirin 970 processor and AI cameras, you can look at it as a super beefed up version of the Huawei Nova 3e or a lighter version of the Huawei P20 which isn't surprising considering that Honor is a sub-brand of Huawei. And yes, it has a notch.

Honor 10 price and release date

  • The Honor 10 price is set at AED 1,699
  • Available in the UAE on May 22

The Honor 10 is priced at AED 1,699 (around US$460) and is going to be available on the 22nd of May. 

The Middle East variant of the phone will come with 4GB RAM and 128GB storage, though different parts of the world may get a 6GB RAM option as well as a 64GB storage option.

Design and display

  • Unconventional shiny effect on the rear
  • Beautiful Full HD+ display with notch at the top
  • 3.5mm headphone jack and infrared sensor

Honor is putting a lot of focus on the design of the Honor 10, and there’s no denying this is a beautiful-looking device.

It inherits a similar look to the Twilight gradient-effect Huawei P20, but it’s slightly different here, giving you a different shade and look depending on what angle you view the back of the device from.

We’ve found it to be a bold look, which we love, although it's a look that's likely to prove divisive as it's fairly unconventional.

This shade is called Phantom Blue, while there’s also a Phantom Green option that we haven’t seen in real life but which, in press images, looks remarkably similar to the Blue.

Despite having a much larger screen the Honor 10 isn’t much bigger overall than the Honor 9, and it sits comfortably in the hand. This isn’t a huge phone, and it’s the perfect option for someone who wants a large screen but can’t comfortably get their mitts around a device like the iPhone 8 Plus.

The rear’s glass is the other big highlight design-wise as it uses 15 layers of glass to get a striking effect where light beams bounce across it. According to Honor, it takes twice as long to make as the Honor 9 did. The extra effort is well worth it though, as the rear of the phone looks and feels premium.

There's a metal trim along the edges of the Honor 10, which adds to the premium look and feel, with a 3.5mm headphone jack and USB-C port on the bottom and the volume rocker / power button on the right-hand side.

Honor is going for a minimalist look here, and the device feels good in the hand for that. Contributing to this is the redesigned fingerprint scanner, which, instead of being on the rear or indented on the front of the phone, now sits in the lower bezel but under the glass, so it’s flush with the display.

This isn’t like in-display scanners we’ve seen on some phones, like the Porsche Design Mate RS, but it does mean the sensor doesn’t interrupt the clean lines of the Honor 10.

There’s a subtle lozenge-shaped outline so you know where to place your finger to hit the scanner, and we found it to work accurately and fast, though it does require a bit more pressure than conventional sensors. 

The Honor 10 also has face-unlock technology, which identifies you quickly after you press the power button. We found this to work reasonably well, identifying our face from different angles and it wouldn’t unlock for other people. 

It didn't always work when wearing sunglasses or in lower lit conditions though, so this isn't as impressive as the scanner on the iPhone X or as fast the Huawei P20 Pro.

The display itself is very different to the one on the Honor 9, instead it's similar to phones we’ve seen this year and to last year’s iPhone X. It’s a 5.84-inch 19:9 display, with a notch at the top to house the front-facing camera and face-scanning tech.

The resolution of the screen is Full HD+, which essentially means you’ll get a Full HD resolution plus a few bonus pixels, as the screen is longer than previous Honor devices.

Honor’s screen here is bright, clear, and nice and vibrant, and the maximum resolution is particularly impressive.

There’s relatively little bezel around the device (apart from at the bottom, but that’s still trim) and the notch is small considering what we’ve seen on some other flagship devices. If you don’t like the notch look, you can hide it by having a black bar on either side, which will slightly reduce your screen real estate.

You won’t waste the space if you do this, as those bars still house the clock, notifications and more. There’s a lot to like about the screen.

Battery life

  • Average battery life that lasts around a day
  • Fast-charging features are included, but no wireless charging

Honor has increased the battery size on the Honor 10 over the Honor 9, from 3,200mAh to 3,400mAh. While that may look like an improvement, however, it’s worth noting that the screen is bigger here, so there are more pixels to power.

That said, as with the Honor 9, we’ve found the phone will generally last a full day on a single charge. We used the device for two weeks, and in that time we only found a couple of occasions where, with extensive usage, the phone wouldn't last through till the end of the day.

We ran our normal battery test on the Honor 10 where we play a Full HD video at full brightness for 90 minutes, and the phone had 84% battery left at the end of it. That's an OK score, but isn't fantastic.

It's a bit of an improvement over the Honor 9, which came out with 83% battery left over so that's likely down to the optimization improvements in the new chipset.

The Honor 10 does come with fast-charging though, and we found this could fully charge the phone in under two hours. This is particularly useful if you need to just pump up your phone with a few hours of charge in half an hour or so.

There’s no wireless charging on the Honor 10, but that’s an extra feature we wouldn’t always expect to see on this kind of cheaper flagship device. You don't even get that on the Huawei P20, but it is something we've seen on the Galaxy S9 and iPhone X.

Camera

  • Dual sensor rear camera with 24MP and 16MP sensors
  • Comes with 22 automatic camera modes for different scenarios

Like previous Huawei and Honor phones, the Honor 10 comes with a dual rear camera. One sensor is a 24MP monochrome shooter while the other is a 16MP color one.

When you take a photo on the rear camera in auto mode, the camera will take the same shot with both sensors, and combine the images for a photo with more detail than you’d get from a single lens.

The quality here is pretty good, and while the Honor 10’s camera may not have as many features as the camera on the Huawei P20 it still does a great job in auto mode.

Honor’s processing tech will use artificial intelligence to automatically improve the shots you’ve taken. That means the camera software will use algorithms to brighten areas of a shot, or change the focus, to create what it believes will be the best result.

Honor says the phone can identify 22 different scenes, including greenery or pets, so the phone will detect what you’re shooting and work out how to improve the shot. 

This feature worked well in our testing, and usefully you can press a button and see what the photo looks like without the AI enhancements. If the phone hasn’t enhanced the photo to your liking, you can then revert to the original.

Below you'll see a photo taken with AI turned off, and then one with AI turned on in dog mode.

There are also lots of pro mode features, so if you want to more control over the settings for the best results with different subjects you can deep-dive and play around with these.

Our experience with shooting video on the Honor 10 has been limited so far, but the footage we have captured looks fine – it’s smooth, and both the image quality and audio quality are high.

On the front of the phone there's a powerful 24MP selfie camera capable of taking high-quality shots that are more than good enough for social media use.

One new feature of the portrait mode is that you can set the lighting effect for your selfies- very much like the iPhone X. This is something you can also do with the rear camera, but it’s particularly useful for selfies. There are five different options: soft lighting, butterfly lighting, split lighting, stage lighting and classic lighting.

The final two modes will focus just on your face. The classic lighting will give you a black and white filter, while the stage lighting is a dramatic, brighter effect that cuts out the background and focuses just on your face.

Selfies without these lighting modes also look good, but in poor lighting the first two modes in particular will help you capture a better-quality selfie, while the final two effects look to be pretty much unique to the Honor 10.

The other useful element is that you can fiddle with the lighting after you’ve taken the photo.

This is all done through the Portrait mode within the camera app, which also offers a bokeh effect, allowing you to automatically blur the background behind your shots, like on the rear camera.

It also includes a beauty effect with ten different levels, so you can smooth out imperfections on your skin.

Camera samples

Interface and reliability

  • Comes running Android 8 Oreo software, but disguised with Emotion UI
  • Looks different to most other modern Android smartphones
  • No app drawer by default, but you can activate one in the Settings

The Honor 10 comes with the latest Android 8.1 Oreo software on board, but it’s hidden behind Huawei’s own custom overlay, Emotion UI 8.1.

That means the interface will look quite different to what you’ve seen on other phones (unless you’ve had a Huawei or Honor in the past) and it may take some getting used to.

For example, by default there isn’t an app drawer on the Honor 10. Instead you have to scroll through the main screens to organize your apps. 

You can tinker with the settings to add an app drawer, but it takes some know-how to find and enable the option.

Emotion UI 8.1 looks much better than it did on Honor devices a few years ago, and there are plenty of customization options, so you can make it look how you want it to by changing your background, theme and more.

Movies, music and gaming

  • Crisp display offers an enjoyable video watching experience
  • 3.5mm headphone jack means you can use wired headphones
  • Impressive gaming performance and load times

The crisp display on the Honor 10 makes watching video an enjoyable experience, but we’ve found that a lot of apps don’t make use of the full display.

The notch doesn’t get in the way of the action, but the areas of screen either side of the notch at the top of the display (or the side, depending on how you’re holding it) are blacked out when you’re watching video, so are effectively wasted.

Video looks good thanks to the bright and clear screen, and the viewing angles are particularly impressive, which is useful if you’re watch a video with someone else.

You can connect a Bluetooth headset to listen to audio, but a welcome feature of the Honor 10 is that there’s still a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom of the phone. A lot of flagship devices are losing that tech now, but if you have a wired headset you’ll be pleased to know that it’ll work here without an adapter.

There’s a single speaker at the bottom of the phone, and that means it’s quiet easy to cover it when you’re holding the device. The speaker delivers sufficient volume and the audio quality is okay.

Injustice 2 running on the Honor 10

We’ve done a little gaming on the phone and found that Injustice 2, which is a very graphically intensive fighting game ran very well. The graphics looked great and levels loaded quickly, so this will suit you if you want to play the odd mobile game.

Performance and benchmarks

  • Same Hisilicon Kirin 970 chipset as Huawei P20
  • 4GB RAM
  • 128GB of storage

The latest and greatest chipset from Huawei is inside the Honor 10. It’s called the Hisilicon Kirin 970, and it is the powerhouse processor we saw inside the Huawei P20 when that was released earlier this year.

We’ve found that it provides plenty of grunt here too, with the Honor 10 doing everything we’ve asked of it. We haven’t had any noticeable performance issues with the phone and we haven’t had any noticeable performance issues in our time with the phone.

Honor has announced the phone with either 4GB or RAM or 6GB for markets around the world. The Middle East gets the 4GB version and we did not experience any issues, and we don’t expect you’ll find any either if you buy this phone.

Running benchmarks on the Honor 10, we found it scored an average of 6608 multi-core in Geekbench 4 which is on par with what we saw on the Honor 9 last year (even though that was the higher 6GB RAM version).

We particularly like that the standard version of the Honor 10 comes with 128GB of storage onboard. This is great because there’s no microSD support, so there’s no way of increasing your phone’s storage if you go for the smaller version.

The phone can accept dual nano SIM cards like previous Honor phones and supports Dual SIM 4G with LTE support of both the cards.

Verdict

The Honor 10 is an iterative update to the Honor 9. It doesn't do anything groundbreaking, so if you already own that phone it's unlikely you'll be rushing to buy this one.

That said, if you own a phone from a few years ago or a cheaper device there's a lot to love about the Honor 10.

Who's this for?

If you're after a taste of flagship phone specs and the features that are popular in 2018, but you don't want to break the bank by buying the Huawei P20 Pro or a Samsung Galaxy S9, this will be perfect for you.

The Honor 10 is essentially a repackaging of the HUAWEI nova 3e, but with a faster processor, more features and a more powerful camera. While the camera isn't up to the level of flagship phones, we've largely been impressed by what it can do, especially in the automatic mode with AI features. 

For those looking for a unique looking device that stands out, the Honor 10 could be it. The reflective rear design isn't for everyone, but if you want a bold look that makes people question what phone you have, the bright color options will be able to do that.

The Phantom colors don't just look bold, but also feels premium and you probably won't know that this phone is cheaper than most other flagships when you hold it in your palm.

Should you buy it?

There's a lot to love about the Honor 10, and if you're looking for an affordable phone than offers many features only found in flagship devices, this is going to be the perfect match for you.

The Honor 10 has a powerful chipset that can run all of your favorite apps and games, there's a ton of storage onboard and there's all the latest features of Android Oreo software too.

Battery life isn't exceptional, but it's around the industry standard and normal usage will last you a full day. For the scenarios when you're using it more, there's always the fast-charging features.

The camera offers a lot of fun features to play around with and a great automatic mode that uses artificial intelligence features to the best effect we've seen on a phone at this price.

That being said, the recently launched Nokia 7 Plus is AED 400 cheaper and has comparable specs, so there could be some stiff competition for the Honor 10. We won't know until we've finished up our full review of the Nokia 7 Plus though.

In short, the Honor 10 isn't going to replace the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus as the best phone in the world right now, but considering it's around half the price of that phone it's getting very close.

First reviewed: May 2018

Category: 

Date: 

Monday, May 21, 2018 - 01:43

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