Honor 20 and 20 Pro hands-on review

Introduction

For the first time, Honor departs from its usual flagship releasing scheme by launching not one but two devices at once. And as per tradition in the Android world, it’s a Pro and non-Pro version. Unlike most OEMs, Honor decided to make the size of both handsets identical, with the Pro taking an edge over the vanilla Honor 20 with better under-the-hood features. In this hands-on review, we will be looking at both.

Honor 20 Pro Hands On review

And as it turns out, the Honor 20 Pro is the first in the industry in more than one way. Design-wise, the phone comes with a unique back glass design that Honor likes to call Dynamic Holographic glass back. It consists of several layers achieving that 3D depth effect when viewed from an angle. It does look pretty cool in person and it’s a step up from the gradient color designs gaining popularity lately.

Honor 20 Pro

  • Body: 154.6 x 79.97 x 8.44 mm, 182 grams, glass front and back, metal side frame.
  • Screen: 6.26″ All-view IPS LCD, 1080 x 2340px resolution; ~412 ppi.
  • Chipset: HiSilicon Kirin 980 CPU; (2×2.6 GHz Cortex-A76 & 2×1.92 GHz Cortex-A76 & 4×1.8 GHz Cortex-A55); Mali-G76 MP10.
  • Memory: 8GB RAM, 256GB built-in storage.
  • OS: Magic 2.1 UI based on Android 9.0 Pie.
  • Rear camera: Main: 48MP, f/1.4, PDAF, EIS, OIS, AIS; Ultra-wide: 16MP, f/2.2, 117° FOV, no AF; Telephoto: 8MP, f/2.4, OIS, 3x optical lossless, 5x hybrid; Macro: 2MP, f/2.4, 4cm fixed focus; LED flash; Laser autofocus; [email protected] video recording with all cameras except for the macro.
  • Front camera: 32MP, f/2.0; [email protected] video recording.
  • Battery: 4,000 mAh, 22.5W SuperCharge fast charging.
  • Misc: IR blaster, side-mounted fingerprint reader, punch-hole camera design, Vitual 9.1 Surround Sound (with headphones only), Dynamic Holographic back design coming in Phantom Blue and Phantom Black.

Honor 20 Pro Hands On review

In addition to the ever-changing holographic glass back, the Honor 20 Pro incorporates the industry’s first camera with f/1.4 aperture. Moreover, the lens is coupled with a large 48MP stabilized Sony IMX586 sensor capable of taking great nighttime shots.

Honor 20

  • Body: 154.25 x 79.97 x 7.87 mm, 174 grams, glass front and back, metal side frame.
  • Screen: 6.26″ All-view IPS LCD, 1080 x 2340px resolution; ~412 ppi.
  • Chipset: HiSilicon Kirin 980 CPU; (2×2.6 GHz Cortex-A76 & 2×1.92 GHz Cortex-A76 & 4×1.8 GHz Cortex-A55); Mali-G76 MP10.
  • Memory: 6GB RAM, 128GB built-in storage.
  • OS: Magic 2.1 UI based on Android 9.0 Pie.
  • Rear camera: Main: 48MP, f/1.8, PDAF, EIS, AIS; Ultra-wide: 16MP, f/2.2, 117° FOV, no AF; Macro: 2MP, f/2.4, 4cm fixed focus; 2MP depth sensor; LED flash; [email protected] video recording with all cameras except for the macro.
  • Front camera: 32MP, f/2.0; [email protected] video recording.
  • Battery: 3,750 mAh, 22.5W SuperCharge fast charging.
  • Misc: IR blaster, side-mounted fingerprint reader, punch-hole camera design, Vitual 9.1 Surround Sound (with headphones only), Dynamic Holographic back design coming in Midnight Black, Sapphire Blue and Icelandic White.

The standard Honor 20, on the other hand, misses on some of the features. Although very minor, some differences could be very impactful to the overall user experience. For instance, the main sensor is still 48MP but with a narrower aperture – f/1.8 and lacks OIS. The telephoto camera is not on the menu as well and is missing the laser autofocus system. The minor difference in battery capacity (4,000 vs 3,750 mAh) will probably go unnoticed.

This is Honor’s first European flagship launch and it’s betting big on its top-shelf duo. Before, China was the first one to get Honor’s latest and greatest and the Honor View series are historically better equipped. This year, Honor is doing things the other way around so let’s see if it will pay off.

Design and hardware

First, let’s discuss the Dynamic Holographic design on the Honor 20 Pro and the proper Honor 20. It’s quite mesmerizing and the designers at Honor definitely achieved what they were going for. The 3D effect is quite prominent under the right lighting conditions.

Honor 20 Pro Hands On review

Honor is really proud of the holographic design and it achieved it by stacking three layers – one color layer, one regular glass panel and a so-called depth layer. The latter consists of millions of tiny prisms that look like diamonds and when the light hits one of them, it also passes through each prism creating that depth effect.

One of the chief designers say that producing this 3D mesh back design is really hard. Most of the panels produced are discarded and only a few of them make it to the final units. The yield is considerably low.

Honor 20 Pro Hands On review

The company also says it has improved the overall grip of the device with the slightly curved glass panel but we can’t really say it’s better than any other glass sandwich phone. It’s still pretty slippery and also feels heavier in the hand than you’d actually expect from a 6.26-inch device. And no wonder – it weighs approximately 182g. That weight, however, gives the impression of a well put together and sturdy handset.

The front panel, though, is a mixed bag. The LCD itself is pretty good – punchy and vibrant colors, good contrast and minimal reflections. But make no mistake, it’s still an IPS LCD panel while almost all of today’s flagships have moved over to OLED already.

This is probably the reason why the punch-hole camera is a bit too big to our taste. The OLED panels are more easily shaped and cut to fit a smaller hole on the screen. It measures 4.5mm in diameter – identical to the Honor View 20’s. A small detail that we almost missed is the LED notification light hiding beneath the earpiece grille. It’s really subtle but kudos for Honor finding a way to include it.

Honor 20 Pro Hands On review

And on contrary to most phones, the Honor 20 Pro and the regular 20 go for the side-mounted fingerprint reader, which in our opinion is excellent. The power button doubles as the fingerprint scanner and sits in its own recess. The best thing about it is the ideal positioning. It’s super easy to reach, it’s lightning fast and it’s accurate.

The funny thing is that both phones aren’t all that different from the outside. The Honor 20 and the 20 Pro share the same footprint, glass and metal chassis as well as screens. The market segmentation is rather too subtle. On the other hand, you get the same well-built handset no matter which one of the two you choose.

Features and software

On the software front – there’s nothing we haven’t seen before. The phone runs on the company’s latest Magic UI 2.0 based on Android 9.0. We saw it first on the Honor View 20 so we know what to expect.

Honor 20 Pro Hands On review

Of course, all is powered by Huawei’s latest and greatest Kirin 980 chipset so expect top-notch performance. And to sustain the high performance of the SoC, Honor has incorporated a thin graphene film to help with the heat dissipation. To remind you, the Huawei P30 Pro has the same layer inside.

To make the multimedia experience complete, the Honor 20 and 20 Pro have the virtual 9.1 surround sound only available with headphones.

Battery capacity is slightly different on both devices – the non-Pro settles for a 3,750 mAh while the Pro model accommodates a 4,000 mAh unit. Both support 22.5W fast charging over the USB-C 3.0 connector, though. And it also has more memory – 8GB/256GB available only on the Honor 20 Pro while the vanilla Honor 20 caps at 6GB/256GB.

Camera setup

The Honor 20 Pro comes with an impressive – at least on paper – quad-camera setup. The 48MP main sensor gets a lens with industry’s first f/1.4 aperture and OIS, EIS and AIS. You can also snap shots in native 48MP mode. The ultra wide-angle camera is 16MP with f/2.2 and 117-degree field of view. The telephoto unit is 8MP with f/2.4 aperture capable of 3x lossless optical zoom and it’s stabilized as well. The dedicated macro lens, on the other hand, is limited with a 4cm fixed focus and just 2MP resolution. All is aided by a laser autofocus.

Honor 20 Pro Hands On review

Honor says the dedicated macro sensor is used in more than just the macro mode. It could very well serve as a depth sensor but we are not entirely sure and Honor didn’t go into details.

The Honor 20 gets all of the above but swaps out the lens of the main camera with an f/1.8 aperture, loses the telephoto camera and lacks the laser autofocus.

Some software features that are worth mentioning are the AIS Super Night Mode, which stands for less shaky photos thanks to the OIS + AIS combo and better overall image quality as this is something like Night Mode v2.0. Also, 4K video recording is made possible with all cameras and while the ultra wide-angle lens doesn’t offer any kind of stabilization, the videos turn out to be less shaky than expected. At least that’s what we could see from the viewfinder.

We had the chance to take a couple of shots with the standard 12MP and the 48MP Ultra Clarity modes.

Normal 12MP mode - f/1.4, ISO 50, 1/5682s - Honor 20 Pro Normal 12MP mode - f/1.4, ISO 50, 1/4831s - Honor 20 Pro ^(https://www.appmarsh.com/honor_20_pro_hands_on-review-1934.php#)
Honor 20 Pro Normal 12MP mode

Normal vs 48MP Ultra Clarity mode: 48MP - f/1.4, ISO 50, 1/105s - Honor 20 Pro
^(https://www.appmarsh.com/honor_20_pro_hands_on-review-1934.php#) Normal vs 48MP Ultra Clarity mode: 48MP - f/1.4, ISO 50, 1/4630s - Honor 20 Pro
Honor 20 Pro normal vs 48MP Ultra Clarity mode: Normal • 48MP • Normal • 48MP

We also tried out the telephoto with its 3x lossless zoom and 5x hybrid zoom.

^(https://www.appmarsh.com/honor_20_pro_hands_on-review-1934.php#) Telephoto: 5x zoom - f/2.4, ISO 50, 1/1176s - Honor 20 Pro
^(https://www.appmarsh.com/honor_20_pro_hands_on-review-1934.php#) Telephoto: 5x zoom - f/2.4, ISO 50, 1/2242s - Honor 20 Pro
Honor 20 Pro telephoto: 3x zoom • 5x zoom • 3x zoom • 5x zoom

Preliminary testing shows that the ultra-wide angle shoots nice stills as opposed to most ultra-wides on the market.

^(https://www.appmarsh.com/honor_20_pro_hands_on-review-1934.php#) Ultra wide-angle camera - f/2.2, ISO 50, 1/1890s - Honor 20 Pro Ultra wide-angle camera - f/2.2, ISO 50, 1/1931s - Honor 20 Pro ^(https://www.appmarsh.com/honor_20_pro_hands_on-review-1934.php#)
Honor 20 Pro ultra wide-angle camera

We took the 2MP macro lens for a spin too. It has it’s own Super Macro mode in the camera menu.

Super Macro mode - Honor 20 Pro
Honor 20 Pro Super Macro mode

Early verdict

As always, Honor is offering good value flagship and also a bit more affordable version as well – the regular Honor 20. Both come equipped with plenty of flagship-worthy hardware while keeping up with the recent trends of unique gradient color options, punch-hole camera design and multiple cameras all of which are useful, by the way.

Honor 20 Pro Hands On review

All cameras are capable of taking nice shots but further testing and different scenarios are needed for full assessment. We are particularly interested to try out the new AIS Super Night Mode.

However, some corners appear to have been cut. For instance, both handsets settle for IPS LCD panels instead of OLED ones. Sure, at first glance they do look nice but they are no OLED quality for sure. Our lab tests will check how good they really are.

One thing that bothers us, though, is the inadequate market segmentation of both phones. The Honor 20 Pro and the standard Honor 20 have identical screens, offer roughly the same camera experience and come with almost identical hardware. Maybe different sizes and more hardware differences would have been more adequate. Regardless of this fact, the Honor 20 Pro seems like a pretty good alternative to the considerably more expensive Huawei P30-series. Stay tuned for our review.

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Author: Marshmallow

Marshmallow Android is BT Ireland’s Head of Sales for Republic of Ireland domestic multi-site companies, indigenous MNCs and public sector accounts. He is responsible for the direction and control of all sales activity in the region. He has over 10 years management experience from high growth start-ups to more established businesses. He’s led teams in Ireland, India and China across various industries (ICT, On-Line Recruitment, Corporate Training and International Education).