- Sleek design
- Powerful hardware
- Good value
- EMUI Android skin is bloated
- Some performance bugs
- Review Price: £449/$611
- 5.84-inch 2280p x 1080p FHD+ display
- Kirin 970 CPU
- 4GB RAM
- 128GB storage
- Android Oreo with EMUI
What is the Honor 10?
If you liked the look of Huawei’s uber-swish, triple-camera-packing P20 Pro, but didn’t fancy the £600-plus price tag, then the Honor 10 may well be the phone you’re after.
The Honor 10 is a baby Huawei P20 aimed at the £400-500 mid-range phone market. It follows the same tried and tested pattern as the Honor 9, stripping the more expensive aspects of Huawei’s current flagship, while retaining its core design features and hardware to offer a great-value smartphone.
The strategy worked a treat on the Honor 9, which was one of 2017’s best mid-range phones – and it generally still works out for the Honor 10. This phone has a pretty, albeit slightly flashy, mixed metal and glass design, a top-end Kirin CPU and solid battery life.
The only real downside is its slightly buggy EMUI software. However, that’s forgivable given the Honor 10’s cost – you’ll still struggle to do better for the money.
Honor 10 – Design
Honor made a huge deal about the 10’s design during its London launch. Specifically it claims to have achieved the super-polished, ridiculously blue finish by stacking more than 15 layers of glass over each other.
But outside of the ultra-bright colouring, the Honor 10 has a similar mixed metal and glass design to pretty much every other flagship to arrive this year. The phone has metal sides and a shiny 2.5D glass back; were it not for the Honor branding, it could easily be mistaken for a Zenfone 5 or LG G7 ThinQ.
It also has the same ‘notch’ that’s become increasingly common since Apple launched its iPhone X. This is a consequence of the phone’s near-bezel-free design. The notch is a rectangular bump breaking up the top of the screen, where the phone’s front camera is housed.
Android P is set to support using the screen around the notch, but as it stands Honor’s set it to display incoming notifications as well as battery life and network availability. Those who wish to can also turn it off in the phone’s settings leaving a plain black bar.
The only minor difference to those other notched phones is the appearance of a 3.5mm socket, and the absence of a rear-facing fingerprint scanner. Instead Honor’s baked the scanner into the home button just under the screen.
Lack of originality aside, the design is solid and ticks all the right boxes when it comes to functionality. It gives the phone a much more premium feel than your average £400/$544 handset.
Build quality is excellent. The glass back has zero give and a seamless, slightly curved join to the metal sides that makes it comfortable to hold. The bottom fingerprint scanner is also wonderfully reactive, though take Honor’s claims of it being an in-screen scanner with a pinch of salt. The scanner sits at the phone’s bottom, in the same location as the home button. The only difference between it and past handsets is that it’s actually under the glass. It’s also a less essential addition since the Honor 10 has a reliable face unlock feature, which lets you open the phone simply by looking at it after registering your identity to it.
My first issue with the phone’s design is that, like all glass-backed phones, it’s an outright smudge magnet. Within minutes of taking the phone out of the box it was covered in marks. I’m also nervous about dropping it. Though it feels solid, I don’t trust any glass-backed phone to survive even a minor accidental drop scratch- or crack-free without a case.
The more serious issue I have with the design is its slightly lacklustre speaker. This sits on the phone’s bottom and, like most standalone units, is at best functional and a far cry from the boombastic dual-driver setups you’ll find on things like the Razer Phone.
It’s just about good and loud enough for watching the odd YouTube clip and playing a round of PUBG. But max volumes are noticeably lower than on most competing handsets. The low end is also fairly weedy.
Going beyond skin-deep, the 128GB of internal storage will be more than enough for most users.
Honor 10 – Display
The Honor 10’s 5.8-inch IPS display is one of the best you’ll find at this price. Blacks aren’t as deep as on competing AMOLED screens, but colours are nicely calibrated and whites are pristinely clean. Holding it next to the Pixel 2, the Google phone’s whites were horribly yellow by comparison.
Those who prefer cooler or warmer colours can also tweak the colour temperature and contrast in the phone’s settings, though by default I kept it in the out-of-the-box Vivid mode.
Max brightness levels don’t match the quoted 1000 nits brightness of LG’s flagship G7 ThinQ and the Honor 10 isn’t Mobile HDR certified. However, at this price you’ll struggle find a handset that does either, and the screen is more than bright enough. On a sunny day in the park the screen remained legible in everything but direct, very bright sunlight.
Thẻ HD+ 2280 x 1080 resolution isn’t noticeably higher than regular FHD, as it’s mainly a move to accommodate the phone’s longer 19:9 aspect ratio. You can get higher-resolution phones at this price point, but I never had any issues with it. Text and icons uniformly look sharp and are readable and in general I had no issues with the Honor 10’s display.
I’m a little less enamoured with the software, however, which I cover in detail on the next page of this Honor 10 review.
Honor 10 – Software
Honor phones use the same EMUI skin as parent company Huawei. In the past EMUI has been a key contributor stopping Honor and Huawei phones from achieving top marks on Trusted Reviews for a variety of reasons.
The first is the sheer number of pointless UI changes and duplicate applications it adds to Android. Key offenses here include removing the app tray and rejigging where certain options sit in the settings menu to the point even seasoned Android users can’t find them straight away.
Being fair to both, the skin has gotten a lot better in recent years and makes it easy for you to do simple things such as re-add the app tray. The settings menu has also been cleared up so it’s now fairly easy to find most options. But the fact is that EMUI is still nowhere near as clean or pleasant to use as vanilla Android.
The UI’s full of duplicate apps for things like music, calendar and email. The company’s also ditched the OS Material Design, replacing the app icons with fairly childish looking equivalents. Since Android Nougat the OS design has been pretty nice and I really wish companies would stop feeling the need to make needless changes like this.
Honor 10 – Performance
EMUI also had a terrible track record for impacting phones’ performance. Early Huawei phones running it were terribly buggy and suffered from serious performance degradation over time, in part because of the Android Skin.
Huawei and Honor have done excellent work addressing these issues over the years, but the Honor 10 does still seem to have a few issues. In general the phone is smooth to use, wonderfully reactive and plays even the most demanding of 3D video games, like PUBG, with zero effort.
But it can on occasion still feel a little buggy. At least once a day I notice a very, very minor chug swapping between menu screens or have an application inexplicably crash. The events aren’t anywhere near frequent enough to be deal breakers, but considering the Honor 10’s powerhouse Huawei Kirin 970, octa-core and more than adequate 4GB RAM, they shouldn’t be happening at all after a week’s use. The CPU is the same one seen in Huawei’s premier P20 and P20 Pro phones.
The Honor 10’s synthetic benchmark scores back up my findings, showing the device is, outside of its minor bugs, a powerhouse performer. You can see how it compares to the P20 and Galaxy S9 in the table below.
|Huawei P20 Pro||1921||6837||TBC|
Honor 10 – Camera
The other benefit of the Kirin chipset is its AI camera features. These work pretty much the same way as on Huawei’s latest P20 phones. Specifically, the features mean the cameras can intelligently optimise their settings to capture “500+ scenarios in 22 categories” in real time.
These features aren’t at all unique to Honor or Huawei. Qualcomm’s been making a similar move via its latest line of Snapdragon CPUs, and you’ll struggle to find a mid-to-top-tier handset that’s not boasting something similar. Even the (expected to be) more affordable Asus Zenfone 5, has a similar camera feature set.
The only differentiator is the addition of Huawei’s “Semantic Image Segmentation technology”, which apparently lets Kirin 970 phones recognise more than one object in photos. I’m not sure I’ve seen a radical improvement in recognition over other Snapdragon AI cameras I’ve tested, but the tech works just fine on the Honor 10’s dual lens rear camera.
The only downside I’ve noticed is that, for people eyeing the Honor 10 as an affordable alternative to Huawei’s P20 Pro, the camera hardware doesn’t match its more expensive sibling on specs. The Honor 10 is completely free of Leica branding and features a regular 24-megapixel and 16-megapixel, f/1.8 dual-camera setup which is a far cry from the insane triple setup you’ll find on the P20 Pro.
Image quality, particularly in low, or awkward mixed lighting conditions isn’t as good as a result. But compared to other £400 the rear camera is pretty darned good.
The AI mode does add a little bit of processing time, but for the most part it does a decent job fixing blemishes, improving contrast and adding minor bokeh effects to photos. If it’s not to your taste the camera also automatically saves a non-optimised version of the photo that you can check just by tapping the top AI icon on the top right of the camera app UI.
This is important as in very bright conditions, I have noticed the AI camera can oversaturate photos’ colours, though being fair, a lot of people I showed the before and afters to actually prefered the optimised version.
You can see sample photos taken on the Honor 10 below.
The only real issue I’ve noticed with the AI cam is that, when viewing photos blown up on the big screen, it is sometimes possible to spot mistakes in the processing. These are generally basic things, like areas where pixels have been sloppily cloned or the fake bokeh has accidentally blurred a section it shouldn’t have. I only noticed the issues when viewing the images on a 55-inch TV but it is something to be aware of.
Low-light performance isn’t best in class, but it’s still a cut above what you’d find on most £400 phones. Noise can creep in and there’s definitely some pixelation when you look at photos blown up on a big screen, but they’re usually usable for social media.
Video works well enough, though the lack of any form of stabilisation means you’ll want to invest in a tripod before shooting to avoid unwanted wobbling. The only downside is that the mic feels underpowered, so captured sound quality is fairly poor.
For the more vain amongst us, the 24-megapixel is more than good enough for selfies. Image quality is generally more than good enough for sharing on social media, and the addition of lighting and an AI Portrait mode mean you can take a usable selfie, even when shooting in a dingy bar.
Honor 10 – Battery
The Honor 10’s 3400mAh isn’t the biggest around for a phone this size, but after a week with it, I’ve found it’s more than good enough.
Using the Honor 10 as my main work and personal smartphone, the handset usually lasts between one to two days on a single charge. Regular use entails listening to music on my morning and evening commute, regularly checking my social media and email feeds, playing the odd round of PUBG, constantly browsing the internet and streaming some video to my Chromecast during the evening.
More intensive tasks put a more serious drain on the battery, but overall life still held up well on the Honor 10. Looping streaming video the Honor 10 lost an average of 8-12% of its charge per hour, which is solid for a phone this size.
Playing demanding 3D games, like PUBG and Riptide GP2, the phone lost a heftier 15-22%, but again this is a decent result. Other handsets I’ve tested have lost as much as a quarter of their charge per hour running the same processes.
The only downside is that, during prolonged gaming sessions the Honor 10 did heat up, though not to the point I noticed any CPU throttling.
Why buy the Honor 10?
If you liked the look of the Huawei P20 Pro, but didn’t fancy the price, then the Honor 10 is a solid alternative. It packs the same Kirin CPU as the P20, has an excellent FHD+ screen and a premium design that makes it look and feel way more expensive than it is. Though it’s not got three sensors, the rear dual camera is also a cut above what you’d regularly find at this price.
The only downside is that, thanks to the use of Huawei’s EMUI Android Skin, the phone is a little buggy and could suffer from slow-down issues down the line – though I can’t confirm this until I’ve had the phone at least a month or two.
The Honor 10’s time in the sun could also be fairly short, as competing handsets, like the Asus Zenfone 5 and fabled OnePlus 6, are expected to arrive in the UK in the very near future. The Zenfone 5 offers near-equivalent features, and is expected to retail for slightly less than £400/. Details about the OnePlus 6 are scarce, but the company’s ruled the upper-mid-range phone market for the last two years, so we’re expecting big things.
The Honor 10 is one of the best £400/$544 phones you’ll find – for now.