Honor 20 Pro Review

Honor 20 Pro Review
Overall Score4.5
  • The Honor 20 Pro offers a lot of camera for £550, getting you closer to the action and with a greater versatility than some phones that cost twice as much.

The best camera in the mid-range market, backed by good performance and long battery life


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This article titled “Honor 20 Pro review: it’s all about the camera” was written by Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor, for theguardian.com on Friday 16th August 2019 06.00 UTC

The Honor 20 Pro is the new flagship phone for Huawei’s cheaper offshoot, offering some of what made the Chinese firm the camera master but at £550 it is a little overpriced.

The Honor 20 Pro is essentially the same phone as the £400 Honor 20 with a better camera on the back, a slightly larger battery and more storage. It was meant to be released alongside its cheaper sibling, but Donald Trump’s Huawei blockade caused it to be delayed.

From the outside the phones are practically identical. The Honor 20 Pro is 0.5mm thicker, 0.3mm taller and 8g heavier than the Honor 20, not that you’d notice. It has the same 6.26in LCD screen, which looks good but can’t match the OLED screens on rivals.

honor 20 pro review
The selfie camera pokes through a small hole in the screen. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The same 32MP selfie camera pokes through the same-sized hole-punch notch in the top left of the display. The body has the same metal sides and glass back. The Honor 20 Pro has a nicer light-reflecting finish under the glass, but it’ll probably spend most of its life in a case anyway.

The side-mounted fingerprint scanner, which doubles as the power button, is equally great for right-handed users, but less so for those who primarily use their phone in their left. There’s no headphone socket either.

Overall the Honor 20 Pro is a good-looking, well-made phone that has a large screen, but isn’t quite as massive as some of the monsters available in 2019.

Specifications

  • Screen: 6.26in FHD+ LCD (412ppi)
  • Processor: octa-core Huawei Kirin 980
  • RAM: 8GB of RAM
  • Storage: 256GB
  • Operating system: Magic UI 2.1 based on Android 9 Pie
  • Camera: rear 48MP wide, 16MP ultra-wide, 8MP telephoto and 2MP macro, 32MP selfie
  • Connectivity: USB-C (2.0), LTE, wifi, NFC, Bluetooth 5 and GPS (dual-sim available in some regions)
  • Dimensions: 154.6 x 74 x 8.4 mm
  • Weight: 182g

Reliable performance and battery life

Honor 20 Pro phone
The USB-C port in the bottom handles power as well as wired audio, as there’s no headphone socket. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Under the hood is the same Kirin 980 chip as the Honor 20, but the 20 Pro has 2GB more RAM (8GB total) and twice as much storage at 256GB. Unsurprisingly it performs exactly the same. I couldn’t appreciate the greater amount of RAM in day-to-day usage.

That means you get a good performing all-rounder, which feels slick in operation, but not quite as fast and smooth as the OnePlus 7 or 7 Pro. The battery also lasts a long time, managing over 36 hours between charges, enough to see me from 7am on day one to 7pm on day two – four hours longer than the Honor 20.

There’s no wireless charging on the Honor 20 Pro. Cable charging reaches 75% in an hour and a full power in less than 90 minutes.

Magic UI 2.1

honor 20 pro review
Magic UI’s gesture controls are in line with Google’s incoming changes to Android Q with swipes in from the side replicating the back button. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Honor 20 Pro runs the exact same Android 9 Pie-based Magic UI 2.1 software as the Honor 20. It works well most of the time, is good on battery and is fairly customisable. Some might not like the look of it out of the box, but you can change most of it with themes.

It’s not as good as OxygenOS on a OnePlus nor Google’s Pixel phones, but it’s getting better with each software release.

Under normal circumstances you could expect bi-monthly software updates for two to three years from release. But there’s a question mark still hanging over Huawei and therefore Honor’s ability to work with US companies such as Google, due to Trump’s actions. Honor says it is “confident” that it can update the 20 Pro with Android Q.

Camera

Honor 20 Pro phone
The camera app on the Honor 20 Pro is easy to use, while its AI system does a solid job most of the time, tweaking colour and settings automatically.
Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Honor 20 Pro has the same great 48MP standard camera, with added optical image stabilisation here, fun 16MP ultra-wide angle camera and disappointing 2MP macro camera as the Honor 20. New for the Honor 20 Pro is an 8MP telephoto camera with a 3x optical zoom.

That means you get some really good images from the main camera, well balanced with good colour and dynamic range. While overall detail is good, images look a little smooth on a highly textured surface on full crop, something most will probably never do.

Low-light performance was also good, although not quite as game-changing as Huawei’s P30 Pro. The ultra-wide angle camera is clearly inferior in less than ideal lighting conditions, but works really well in good lighting and gives you another perspective to use in your photography.

The 8MP telephoto camera produces a 3x optical, 5x hybrid and then up to 30x digital zoom. The 3x and 5x zooms produce really good, usable images in even average light levels, getting you far closer to the action than 2x optical zooms. The Honor 20 Pro has the best zoom short of the Huawei P30 Pro, which has 5x optical zoom, 10x hybrid and 50x digital.

Performance in video was similar to flagship rivals, although it caps out at 4K at 30 frames per second (not 60fps). While the camera app is generally easy to use, it still hives off HDR to a dedicated mode, rather than being built straight into the main photo mode. The front-facing 32MP camera pokes through a hole in the screen and is good, capturing detail-rich selfies even in fairly challenging lighting conditions.

Observations

honor 20 pro review
The side-mounted fingerprint scanner is fast and easy to reach with your right thumb, but less so with your left index finger. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
  • The phone is pretty slippery so you’ll need a case to keep it from dropping out of shallow pockets when you sit down.
  • The vibration motor is not as good as rivals in 2019, feeling baggy and imprecise.
  • The frame of the phone traps hairs and fluff.
  • Call quality was good, but the speaker is fairly small and needs a bit of attention to get the correct alignment with your ear.

Price

The Honor 20 Pro costs £550 in either phantom black (purple) or phantom blue (green).

For comparison, the Honor 20 costs £400, Honor View20 costs £350, the OnePlus 7 costs £499, the Huawei P30 Pro costs £899, the Samsung Galaxy S10e costs £669 and the Apple iPhone XR costs £749.

Verdict

The Honor 20 Pro offers a lot of camera for £550, getting you closer to the action and with a greater versatility than some phones that cost twice as much.

The rest of the phone is good too. It’s slick, isn’t enormous, has top performance and long battery life. The software is solid too, but there’s still the Trump-China trade war lingering over things that could cause issues with Android security and version updates should it escalate.

The two biggest problems with the Honor 20 Pro are its price and the existence of its non-Pro sibling. You get the same experience minus the camera zoom with the vanilla Honor 20 for £150 less, which also undercuts the best of the competition: namely the £499 OnePlus 7. I would argue the Honor 20 Pro is therefore £50 too expensive.

So the question is whether the Honor 20 Pro’s optical zoom is worth the extra money. If you’re after one of the most capable and adaptable camera systems on your phone for less than £600 then yes. If not there is better value to be had elsewhere.

Pros: hole-punch notch, snappy performance, good battery life, cracking camera, good screen, dual-sim, fast fingerprint sensor.

Cons: Magic UI not to everyone’s taste, slow updates, Trump, no expandable storage, no water resistance, no wireless charging, no headphone socket, right-side fingerprint sensor not for left-handed.

honor 20 pro review
The glass back has multiple shades of purple that change depending on the reflected light pattern. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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