Honor View 10 hands-on: Budget winner?

It’s been three years since Chinese smartphone brand Honor first dipped its toes into the European waters. In that time, it’s topped online smartphone sales in its native China, released four flagship phones and even entered the wearables market.

Despite all that, it’s still a brand that’s battling to get noticed in the UK. One way to try and change that? Make like the Honor View 10 and cram a whole lot of flagship specs into a sub-£500/$665 smartphone, that’s what.

Labelled by Honor as “your first AI phone”, it takes cues from a lot of what’s great about Huawei’s Mate 10 but at a cheaper price, making it a very tempting proposition indeed.

The Honor View 10 is the latest smartphone to ditch the standard 16:9 screen ratio for a skinnier 18:9 one, allowing for a whopping 5.99in display in a compact, easy-to-hold body.

It’s not quite bezel-less, but the edges that frame the screen are very slender, reaching almost to the edge of the device on the left and right.

The edges to the top and bottom are slightly chunkier, but only thick enough to make way for the V10’s speakerphone and selfie cam at the top (there’s no ‘notch’ here) and a front-facing fingerprint scanner along the bottom.

In my short time with it, the scanner was fast and accurate – not to mention much better situated than the Galaxy Note 8’s awkwardly placed back-panel option. The scanner can also double up as a touchpad for navigational gestures too, so you can swipe left and right to browse through photos, or up and down when reading a website, for example.

The back panel on the View 10 is made from aluminium, with softly rounded edges meeting the very slightly curved 2.5D screen. There are colour coded antenna strips to ensure signal isn’t hampered by its metal casing, and a microSD card slot should you need to boost its 128GB of on board storage.

Being a unibody design, the View 10’s battery is fixed, but does offer a larger capacity than both the Galaxy Note 8 (3300mAh) and iPhone X (2617mAh) at 3750mAh. It also manages to do that in a slimmer body than the both of them at just 6.97mm (versus 8.6mm and 7.7mm respectively.

The screen on the View 10 is 2160 x 1080, which equates to a Full HD resolution in real money. While there was no video content to test on the demo device, it certainly looked to be a bright and sharp display in use, with some extra tweaking available in the settings too. This includes the ability to set your own colour balance, as well as the choice between standard and vivid picture modes.

 

The whole device runs off the back of the Kirin 970 processor, with an embedded neural processing unit for delivering built-in AI smarts (the same as the Mate 10), and 6GB RAM.

Elsewhere, you’ll get the trusty 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C charging with Honor’s SuperCharge tech (promising up to 50% battery in 30 minutes) and a dual SIM card slot.

The View 10 uses a dual-lens rear set up, consisting of a 20MP monochrome lens and a 16MP RGB lens, both with native f/1.8 apertures.

That said, there is a virtual wide aperture option that lets you shoot a range of f/0.9 to f/16 too, adjustable via a bar along the bottom of the screen.

There is also a portrait mode for an auto depth of field effect. Unlike the iPhone, this is available on both rear cameras, as well as the 13MP selfie cam.

Like the Mate 10, it’s in the camera app that a lot of the View 10’s AI smarts are currently focused too. This includes the phone recognising what it is shooting and adjusting the camera’s settings accordingly (an intelligent auto mode, ultimately), saving you the hassle of digging through stacks of pro settings.

I used two devices in my hands-on time with the View 10 – neither of which were running 100% finished software (Huawei’s EMUI 8.0 over the top of Android Oreo).

Both were still admirably fast in use, with next to no waiting around as we skipped between screens and menus. The second one I was given was running slightly more up-to-date software though, and showed noticeable improvements in the camera, with better picture sharpness, quicker intelligent scene selection and faster shutter speed.

Neither were running the View 10’s face recognition software as yet though, which promises security features, such as tracking your face for auto-rotate and hiding sensitive notifications unless it sees your face. Honor’s global president George Zhao struggled to get this feature to work under the bright lights of the View 10’s launch, so here’s hoping it’s honed to a better standard on the finished device.

The apps on the phone were very limited too. This meant we weren’t able to try out any of its AI knowhow outside of its camera smarts, such as its real-time language translation. That will be one for us to tackle in our full review.

First impressions

It’s clear the View 10 has some work left to do before its January 8 release date, but what I’ve seen in my brief time with it certainly looks promising for its £449/$597 price tag.

It’s fast, well-built and has some pretty impressive specs at this level. What remains to be seen is whether these specs all come together to produce the premium smartphone experience it is gunning for.