REVIEW: Honor 20 Pro
The Honor 20 is a very reasonable choice.
Dubai - With its generous, top-line specs, would you call this a mid-ranger?
The lines between high-end devices and those below it continue to blur even blurrier (if ever there is such a description), thanks to manufacturers continuously slapping up top-tier features to the latter category. And you can always bet Honor will be at the forefront of this charge.
That brings us to the Honor 20 Pro, the company's latest flagship. And the 'Pro' in there speaks volumes about what you can expect from this smartphone.
The 'Pro' name itself distinguishes this one from another device launched just this June, the Honor 20. As a matter of fact, they're both part of that '20' line-up, including the 20 Lite. We shall compare this to its apparent predecessor, the Honor 10 from last year - though that did not have a Pro version. Also, I have this really great feeling that the Honor 20 Pro could be, to a certain extent, also compared to Huawei's most recent flagship, the P30 Pro.
And since we love all of you, we're stacking all those four for convenience's sake (and forgive us, especially you mobile users, if you need to zoom in to this rather long table):
TALE OF THE TAPE
Whew; took me a while to put all those together. But, clearly, you can see why we put in the P30 Pro for reference - it shares some traits, key ones among them, with the 20 Pro, including the chipset and cameras (though both quad-lens, there are some differences).
The Honor 20, meanwhile, was announced, but, as we write, not officially launched in the UAE. If you try to buy it online on the Honor website, you'll be presented with a list of countries where it's available:
There, for the sceptics
Anyway, the Honor 20 Pro has a 6.26-inch screen, which you'd pretty much consider as standard fare nowadays. It's got a nice display that also boasts of a chin thin enough to make it look like a true edge-to-edge display. There's a little punch-hole front camera on the upper-left portion; it's blessed with face-unlocking tech that holds up really well even in darkness.
Honor also decided to go a way Sony Mobile made popular - along with the Honor 7i in 2015 - when it comes to fingerprint scanning, placing this biometric feature on the side, embedded in the power button. This is a hit-or-miss; personally, when I hold my phone, I use my fingers to support it from below, not from that side. This could be good though for right-handed users, since the natural positioning of their thumb will be right on that spot. Anyway, above that is the volume rocker; on the other side is the dual SIM tray and below is the USB-C port.
No 3.5mm audio jack, so that will be an issue for some. And here's an even bigger issue: There are no headphones included in the box (oh come on!). Consolation: You do get an audio-jack-to-USB-C adaptor. Oh, well.
Ready to snap?
Right behind is not three, but four lenses that altogether power its AI quad-camera. While we have the standard wide (48MP), super-wide (16MP) and telephoto (8MP) lenses, Honor slapped in an additional 2MP lens dedicated for macro shots. The biggest difference this has to the similarly quad-camera-armed Huawei P30 Pro (which, for some reason, we weren't able to review) is that the P30 Pro's fourth lens is a time-of-flight (ToF) camera; to not make things complicated, ToF tech basically means giving more depth to a snapper, thereby more options to control depth of field.
Anyway, before we get geekier, results speak for themselves. The camera system has a laser autofocus feature that's supposed to zero in on your subject while giving that needed background effect, so shots should be really balanced and crisp. If you zoom in - the 20 Pro has 3x optical zoom and a distant 30x digital zoom - the results will vary, particularly because of lighting conditions; the lower the light gets, the grainier and smudgier it'll get.
I didn't know we had a 'garden'
Those shots above were taken late in the afternoon on a really hazy day; the camera was able to capture it as it was naturally. So you'll have a pretty good idea how it works out when Mr Sun is out in all its glory (we'll leave that up to you).
The shots at the lower row were taken with the super-wide lens setting; it's pretty much what was also seen in the past flagships of Huawei and Honor that allows you take get in more into your snap.
Next, an against-the-light shot versus the other way around, plus a zoom-in:
Our very own garden-grown fresh dates will be ready soon!
Here's some crisp shots; the middle and lower shots were taken using 3x and 5x zoom, respectively:
Flowers are always a nice sight
When-the-sun-is-down time shots are also decent; its night time mode will be able to solve some glare and smudge issues - but not all of it. Check the following using the same subjects above; those on the right or below were taken using night mode:
Hey, our dates will be ready soon!
You can make out that the one on the right is brighter - though with a first, quick glance you may not readily notice it. It's borderline overexposed to me, and it's as if you've just used a ginormous flash to capture it.
Trees really look bored without wind
That one was a bit trickier to spot; subjects afar seem to look the same whether you use night mode or not.
Those bushes, meanwhile, were in a poorly-lit area, but see what happened:
I haven't had dinner yet so far
Night mode does sharpen up stuff. Those snaps on the right column, meanwhile, are zooms of those flowers at the centre at 3x and 5x, respectively. You. Need. A. Steady. Hand. To. Shoot. In. This. Mode.
That's because night mode will force you to wait for six seconds after you pull the trigger while it's fixing up the photo, plus an additional couple seconds more to finalise things. That's a long wait; not ideal if you're in a hurry to capture something. My hands moved when I took that 3x zoom shot above.
Again, night mode sharpens up things real good. But I did notice that there were times - like that grass picture above that's on top - the regular shooting mode seemed to be confused in focusing on scenes. (By the way, those trees above? When I snapped it with the regular mode, it detected it as 'fireworks'; using night mode, meanwhile, judged it as 'greenery'. Interesting.)
In any case, premier camera ratings site DxO Mark gave this snapper system a score of 111 - good for third place overall, just right behind the Huawei P30 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and - the new champion - the Samsung Galaxy Note10+. (In the print edition of this review, the Note10+ wasn't rated yet.)
Over to the generously-specced 32MP front camera, I discovered that - to my pleasant surprise - it doesn't 'beautify' you compared to other smartphones that sometimes make you look like you're covered in foundation. But when taking a shot with this snapper you'd have to move it a bit to the right, since the camera is at the extreme far-left atop:
Ladies and gentlemen, meet my (pretty) foil at work
The one on the right was taken in a poorly-lit room, and it turned out pretty alright still.
Battery life is good, but really not among the best. In our standard one-hour YouTube-at-full-brightness test, it lost 13 per cent of juice; for comparison, the Honor View 20, which was launched earlier this year, clocked in at 14 per cent.
Of note: We're all aware of the issues Huawei and Honor are facing with the US, as well as the news that their devices may stop running on Google's Android OS. The 20 Pro, as it's officially listed on its website, runs on Honor's "Magic UI 2.1 (compatible with Android 9)". In other words, it's still an Android phone; it was, anyway, added to the Google Play Certified Devices list back in June. Even more to look forward to is that Honor has confirmed that this smartphone will receive the upcoming Android Q update. I do feel, however, that the Magic UI is too simple, as if doesn't jive with the strong offerings this device brings to the table.
Want more good stuff? It's also big on the memory side, having 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, though the latter's non-expandable. That's 2GB more of RAM and double the storage compared to the Honor 20.
It's an all-rounder topped off with some of the best specs. The Honor 20 Pro - in fact, practically all of Honor's devices - is challenging the notion that the best doesn't need to come expensive. The battle Honor has probably started isn't just targeted at its peers anymore - it's also a clear signal to those even at the highest tiers that surprises like this at this range can indeed be pulled off.
GOODIES - Generous memory, excellent camera, crisp screen
GOOFIES - No headphones included, no IP rating, non-expandable memory
EDITOR RATING - 4.5/5