When we think of flagship phones, we usually think of the high-end, the best of the best, which generally comes at a cost. Samsung with their Galaxy S9+, Apple with the iPhone X, Huawei with the P20 Pro, for instance, all command premium pricing.
But the term flagship mostly refers to the best phone the company has to offer, but these brands also offer devices that can be just as good, which skimp on some features but aren’t necessarily pricey, and that’s exactly what the Honor series wants you to think. A sub-brand of Huawei, Honor’s current phone is the Honor 10, which aims to compete with the best of the best, while retaining its affordability.
The Honor 10 has placed a lot of effort into the design of the phone, and standing out immediately is its unique, vibrant glass back. It’s somewhat similar to the gradient effects on the Huawei P20, but a lot more dazzling.
As you turn it back and forth, different layers catch in the light to create an iridescence that is quite beautiful. This effect, called the “Aurora Design”, intends to recreate the dancing lights of the aurora borealis and is only done for the Phantom Blue and Phantom Green colours of the phone. But if it feels a little too bright, then using the clear phone case provided in the box is perfect, muting the reflectiveness and protecting the smooth glass from smudges.
It’s not just all looks and no substance for the phone. The build quality is excellent and the curved sides make it comfortable to hold. And as for its hardiness, I have dropped the phone a few times (I don’t mean to, I swear) and the protective case has done its job, leaving the glass back and screen unscathed.
Videos and colours look clear and crisp upon the screen, which is 5.84 inches, with a 19:9 aspect ratio and full HD+ (1080 x 2280 pixels) resolution. And yes, there is the notorious notch, but thankfully, it can be disabled in the settings for the option of a regular rectangular display.
When disabled, the notification bar symbols like battery indicator, wifi/data connection remain in the notch positions, just against black instead, which is actually quite an appealing arrangement that maximises use of the display space.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Honor 10 is the camera, with special emphasis on the AI Camera as it’s so proudly printed on the back. The camera megapixels are higher than average for a mid-range phone, sporting a dual 24MP + 16MP back camera and 24MP front camera.
The AI Camera, a mode that can be turned on and off, is said to be able to recognise over 500 scenarios in 22 categories and optimise the settings based on context. These range from people, scenery, text, and it even differentiates between dogs and cats.
In reality, the AI Camera is essentially a live-action filter, enhancing your photos with colours that are more punchy, and a healthy dose of bokeh and background blurring being applied if a subject is identified. The AI effects can be hit and miss – sometimes it’s gorgeous, other times it can be a bit of a mess.
This is especially so when tested with a cat, as we end up with splotchy edges where the AI ended up blurring the cat fur. In other cases, colours may end up unnaturally saturated with the AI mode.
Left – AI mode on / Right – AI mode off
Left – AI mode on / Right – AI mode off
Photos in low-light or night conditions also turn out decently bright, but there are still fuzzy details which make the Honor 10 camera no match to the premium Huawei P20 Pro.
But for a budget phone, the Honor 10’s camera still holds its own, with a slew of modes ranging from aperture and portrait to slow-mo (120fps), AR lens, and time lapse. On the other side, the front camera has beauty level sliders, bokeh and lighting options for clear, well-lit selfies.
The fingerprint sensor is housed on the front of the phone where the home button usually goes. It even looks like a button, outlined with dots, and its placement there means a thicker bottom bezel compared to phones with the sensor on the back or in the screen itself.
The fingerprint reader is consistent to a fault, reading my fingerprint and unlocking the screen with ease. While the phone is in use, it doubles as a home button with a slight vibration feedback when touched, a welcome function for a person like me transitioning from an older phone with a physical home button.
An equally reliable method of unlocking is facial recognition, as the Honor 10 unlocks using that in a snap, sometimes even working in darker environments just by the light from the screen.
The battery sits at a decent 3,400 mAh with USB-C charging, and rejoice as the 3.5mm headphone jack has been retained. One downside is that the phone is not waterproof, like more and more smartphones are becoming today, so the same care has to be taken to ensure no spillage occurs on the Honor 10 and its ports.
Honor 10 runs on Android 8.1 (Oreo) and the HiSilicon Kirin 970 processor – a powerful set of hardware exactly the same as the Huawei P20 series. Applications used on a daily basis run smoothly without a hitch, and games like Hearthstone load quickly and perform well. Storage is also generous at 128GB with 4GB of RAM.
Priced at a surprisingly affordable S$579, the Honor 10 gives you incredible value and is one of the brand’s strongest offerings yet. While its camera may pale in comparison to the Huawei P20, for its price, you’re getting a solid build and gorgeous design, impressive hardware, and a reliable phone that gives you a bang for your buck.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The Honor 10 is an impressive mid-range phone that punches way above its weight at its affordable price.
Aesthetics - 9/10
Build Quality - 9/10
Performance - 8/10
Value - 9/10
Geek Satisfaction - 8/10
User Review( votes)
Joyce is a language nerd whose idea of a good time includes speed-solving Rubik’s cubes and binging Netflix, all fuelled by drinking many, many mugs of tea.