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Honor 10 Review: Best Budget Flagship So Far?

We take the Honor 10 for a spin!

Huawei sub-brand Honor has officially returned to the Philippines and with it a selection of high-spec, low-priced phones that’s making even Xiaomi loyalists take notice. The latest phone to land in our country is the Honor 10, a phone that has more than a passing resemblance hardware-wise to the more premium (and more expensive) Huawei P20.

With a similar set of specs, dual-cameras and design DNA as its mother brand, the Honor 10 is yet another solid offering for people looking for a budget flagship phone. But does the Honor 10 really deliver the goods or is it just another pretty face?

What is it?

The Honor 10 is the latest flagship phone from Huawei’s sub-brand, Honor. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry – you’re not out of the loop. Honor is a relatively niche smartphone brand that’s prevalent in Huawei’s home country in China that offers competitively priced smartphones for very little money, established to compete against Xiaomi using the same online-only model. Nowaday’s they’ve also branched into physical retail stores, again, like their rival Xiaomi.

What does the phone look and feel like?

Pretty darn good actually, considering how much it is. The phone takes after the P20, retaining that same curved design and back made out of glass.

And while the P20 Pro has that fancy Twilight color option, the Honor 10 also has its own unique color palette. There’s a black color option as well, but why would you pick that boring color?

Our own review unit came in Phantom Blue, and while it’s not as stunning as the Twilight color option (major P20 Pro deja vu here) it’s still pretty nice to look at in person. Angle the phone the right way and the blue coloration gives way to stunning purple. The phone’s glass back flows into the aluminum chassis nicely, making the phone feel more compact and ergonomic compared to say, Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 2s.

The dual cameras on the rear of the Honor 10 are stacked horizontally, placed on the upper left side. There’s no Leica branding here which is one of the reasons why this phone is so affordable. Instead, the words AI Camera is emblazoned on the upper right side, across the camera module.

The controls are where you’d expect them to be, with the power and volume rocker on the left side of the phone, and the SIM/microSD card slot on the left. There’s an IR blaster on the top, oddly enough. The 3.5mm jack, USB Type-C port and speaker grille are all on the bottom of the phone.

The fingerprint scanner is on the front, embedded in the chin. It’s the same layout for Huawei’s P20 and P20 Pro for what it’s worth.

For what Honor is asking for this phone, the Honor 10 feels surprisingly solid and premium. The only issue we have with the design is that a) it’s a literal smudge magnet and b) the glass body will attract scratches like there’s no tomorrow. You can opt to put the phone in the included silicone case but that makes it a little wider and uglier, to be honest.

Is there a notch on the screen?

There sure is. But just like the P20 and the P20 Pro (anyone noticing a pattern here) you can put in black bars via software on either side of the notch to make it disappear. We’re never going to fully embrace it, but at this point, we’re used to it by now.

As far as the actual display quality goes, the 5.84-inch 2280 x 1080 full HD+ IPS LCD display is surprisingly good for what it is. It doesn’t approach the vividness and saturation of an AMOLED display of course, but the colors are surprisingly accurate.

The display scales well and integrates fully into apps like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, and doesn’t block out important information or icons accidentally.

Is it fast?

It’s as fast as Huawei’s P20 and P20 Pro, which isn’t surprising since the Honor 10 uses the same hardware as its more expensive cousins. Specifically, Huawei’s own Kirin 970 processor, paired with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of non-expandable storage.

That means the Honor 10 has the same number-crunching power as Huawei’s current crop of flagships, plus lots and lots of storage.

The Kirin 970 processor is almost as good as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845, providing enough oomph to power both mundane and graphically intense tasks like Android games.

How about the rest of the phone?

The fingerprint scanner’s placement is a little odd considering other brands put theirs on the rear, but after using the Honor 10 for a few hours we sorta got used to it. As far as unlocking speed goes, the Honor 10’s fingerprint scanner is hella quick, as fast as the ones on the P20 and P20 Pro.

There’s also face unlock on the Honor 10 if you want to use it, which is pretty fast as well. You will have to swipe up on the screen to completely unlock the phone as the final step as unlocking it via your face doesn’t bring you to the home screen.

The bottom firing speaker is good, but don’t count it filling a noisy room.

The phone runs EMUI, the same user interface that’s on the phones of Huawei built on top of whatever Android version is in vogue. In the Honor 10’s case, it’s Android 8.1 Oreo. EMUI, or honestly any software UI added by any company to change the look of Android is usually a polarizing debate. EMUI takes away the material design of Google and replaces it with Huawei’s own take, though you still have the ability to put the app drawer back in if you so choose.

How’s the dual camera?

They’re good for what they are and the price of the Honor 10. The phone sports a 16-megapixel color camera and a 24-megapixel monochrome camera, both equipped with f/1.8 lenses. It’s the same camera setup as their mother brand, though obviously Honor phones don’t carry the prestigious Leica branding.

The Honor 10 does have AI smarts, which can recognize what you’re shooting at and bump exposure, saturation and color accordingly.

Photos of plants and landscape, for example, get the greens pumped up for maximum effect, making the vegetation pop more in photos. Surprisingly enough the Honor 10 recognizes more scenes than the P20 that was shooting with it.

Low light performance isn’t top class, and the Honor 10 doesn’t get that magical AI-stabilization tech that’s present on the P20 and P20 Pro. There will be noise creeping in your photos, but rest assured images taken with the phone in low light is good enough for social media.

How long does it last?

The Kirin 970 chipset isn’t a particularly power hungry one, so we weren’t surprised at all to see the Honor 10 hold its charge despite our busy days in Vietnam.

With moderate use that involves plenty of Googling, navigation via Google maps and taking photos, the Honor 10 lasted us around a day and a half before needing to be charged.

Speaking of charging, the Honor 10 has Huawei’s Super Charge, and the phone gets from 0 to 65% in around 30 minutes, but obviously you’ll need the proprietary charger and cable to get that.

Should you buy it?

Absolutely. The phone’s flagship internals, gorgeous color options, and impressive camera output should put the Honor 10 in the top of anyone’s budget flagship shopping list.

While it falls short of Huawei’s headline P20 flagship, the Honor 10 still manages to deliver top-tier performance for very little money.

At Php 23,990 there are very few phones in the market right now that can match it in pure value for money.

Honor 10 Specs

  • HiSilicon Kirin 970 octa-core processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 5.84-inch Full HD+ display, 2160×1080 resolution
  • 128GB of expandable storage (up to 128GB)
  • 16-megapixel f/1.8 RGB and 24-megapixel f/1.8 monochrome rear cameras with PDAF, Dual Tone LED flash, and AI Camera
  • 24-megapixel f/2.0 front camera
  • Dual SIM (Hybrid Tray)
  • 4G, LTE, VoLTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC
  • GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • USB Type-C
  • 3400mAh battery
  • Android 8.1 Oreo (EMUI 8.0)

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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