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Honor 10 review: Honor’s flagship gains a notch

Christopher Minasians
17 Jul 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
399
inc VAT

Honor’s latest phone brings significant camera upgrades and looks stunning, too

Pros 
Impressive rear-facing AI camera
Absolutely stunning design
Excellent 24-megapixel selfie camera
Cons 
Mediocre battery life
No waterproofing
Comparatively slow fingerprint reader
Recent revocation of Android licence means future is uncertain
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UPDATE: As an offshoot of Huawei, Honor is currently in the firing line, at risk of the same disruption that its parent company faces at the hands of the US government. As a result, we do not recommend purchasing an Honor handset at this time, no matter how awesome we think they might be.

The original article continues below.

Oh, what’s that, another Honor phone? The Chinese smartphone manufacturer is back at it with another new device, the Honor 10, which is (if you’ve been keeping count) the company’s sixth launch in the past six months.

The Honor 10 follows the 7a, 7c, View 10 and 9 Lite onto the field of play and, like those smartphones, it looks to be a highly competent, top-value phone. The question is, with a price that sits right at the top of the scale – at least for an Honor device – is it good enough to stand out.

READ NEXT: Honor View 10 review: The OnePlus 5T rival now has face unlock

Honor 10 review: What you need to know

So what’s new? In terms of Honor’s family of smartphones you’re getting new set of cameras, a smaller form factor and a notched screen. Oh, and a design that’s reminiscent of the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro. That’s not a bad combo.

It’s almost as if the Honor 10 is an ensemble of three phones: itself, the P20 and the View 10. It has a Kirin 970 processor, 128GB of storage space and runs on Android 8.1 Oreo. But it’s far from perfect as it doesn’t have any waterproofing and lacks a microSD card expansion slot.

READ NEXT: Huawei P20 review: Don’t believe the camera hype

Honor 10 review: Price and competition

The Honor 10 will be available from the official Hihonor store for £399. At this price, the phone faces a lot of competition. First from its sibling, the Honor View 10 at £420. Its parent company is also in the frame with the Huawei P20, which costs £500.

If that’s not enough choice, there’s also the incredibly impressive 64GB OnePlus 6 at £469 (£519 for 128GB), the Samsung Galaxy S8 at £440 and the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus at £525.

READ NEXT: Honor 9 review: A reasonably priced alternative to the OnePlus 5

Honor 10 review: Design and build quality

Honor has really stepped up the design of its phones in recent times and the Honor 10 is as attractive as any of 2019’s flagships. Much like the Huawei P20, the Honor 10 has a stunning pearlescent glossy glass back that bounces the light back at you in all sorts of lovely ways.

Alongside the P20, the Honor 10 is easily one of the best-looking smartphones I’ve seen. At launch, the phone will be available in two colours, “Phantom” blue (pictured) and “Glacier” grey’.

As for its size, the phone is slightly slimmer and lighter than the Honor View 10 and that’s due to a couple of factors. First, its screen is smaller at 5.84in compared with the View 10’s 5.99in. Second, the screen fills more of the front of the phone, thanks to the use of a notch-endowed display. From the get-go I’ve never liked the notch: it seems pointless, but you can at least disable that portion of the screen through the phone’s display settings.

Much like the View 10, the fingerprint sensor resides at the front of the Honor 10, below the phone’s display. However, this time around it’s flush with the surface of the glass. The manufacturer claims it now works with wet fingers, too, but it didn’t work when I tested it. Only when I removed most of the moisture from my finger did the phone unlock. As for its unlocking speed, there’s more bad news as the phone is slower than its competitors, in particular the View 10.

On the plus side, the Honor 10 has a 3.5mm headphone jack and has a USB Type-C port, allowing for fast charging. There’s also NFC here, dual 4G SIM slots and 128GB of built-in storage. However, the phone does not have microSD storage expansion or any kind of IP-rated dust and water resistance.

READ NEXT: Best smartphones of 2018 – our pick of the best

Honor 10 review: Display

The Honor 10 has a notched 5.84in FHD+ (1,080 x 2,280) display with an aspect ratio of 19:9. The phone’s display is no match for the Samsung Galaxy S8’s 1,440 x 2,960 resolution, but unless you use your phone for VR you’ll struggle to tell the two apart.

The display can be set to one of two modes: Standard or Vivid. Standard mode is calibrated to the sRGB colour gamut and achieves 95.7% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut. In this mode, the screen is relatively accurate with an impressive average Delta E of 1.66 (below 2 is generally considered excellent).

The downside of Standard mode is that both contrast and peak brightness are lower than in the less accurate Vivid mode. The former rises from 1,294:1 to 1,444:1 when you go into Vivid, while peak brightness sees a rise from 388cd/m² to 437cd/m². If you want to be able to read your messages and emails in bright, sunny conditions, you’ll need to stick with Vivid, then, which is a bit of a shame.

READ NEXT: Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro review: Huawei's fantastic phablet is a winner

Honor 10 review: Performance

Housed inside the Honor 10 is the now-familiar Kirin 970 chip, the same that features in the View 10, both the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro, and the Huawei Mate 10 devices.

It’s a top-end chip that provides performance on a similar level to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, with four cores clocked at 2.4GHz and the rest at 1.8GHz. Honor also includes 4GB of RAM, which is plenty enough for most smartphone users.

^Geekbench 4 benchmark

For £400 this is excellent performance and, in real-world scenarios, the phone is able to cope with everything you throw at it. I also had no issues playing the latest, most intensive games, such as Gear.Club or less graphically intense games such as Pokemon Go.

^GFXBench benchmark

Its battery life is somewhat mediocre, however, and in the Expert Reviews video-rundown test its 3,400mAh battery lasted a mere 12hrs 3mins. That’s three hours behind the View 10 and a fair bit behind the Samsung Galaxy S8’s near-17-hour performance.

^Battery life

Honor 10 review: Software

The Honor 10 ships with the latest version of Google’s mobile OS, Android 8.1 Oreo, overlaid with the EMUI 8.1 launcher. This is pretty usable, doesn’t affect fluidity, and provides you with a few additional features not found on stock Android phones. For example, gesture and motion control.

There are a few preinstalled apps, including Instagram, Booking.com, and Asphalt Nitro but all of these can be uninstalled.

Arguably the most interesting aspect of EMUI 8.1 is face unlock which works ridiculously quickly here. It’s a great way to access your phone, especially with its raise to wake feature, and unlike the iPhone X you don’t have to press another button or swipe again to get to the homepage. Just pick up the phone and your homescreen is right there in front of you, pretty much instantly.

Honor 10 review: Camera

Aside from the phone’s design, Honor has really stepped up its camera game, too. You get 16- and 24-megapixel cameras each with an aperture of f/1.8 and, as with all current Honor and Huawei dual-camera smartphones, the second, 24-megapixel camera is for Black and White (monochrome) photography and adding extra detail to regular colour shots.

There’s a LED flash, too, but the big difference between comes through the phone’s “AI” chip. The camera analyses the image and attempts to bring out the most out of your images based on what it thinks is in the photo. And, from my test shots below, you’ll see the results are quite impressive.

^ Honor 10 in AI mode

^ Honor 10 HDR, AI OFF.

The difference between the images above is remarkable, almost as if they were taken with two completely different phones. Technically, the second image, shot in HDR mode is more colour accurate, however, the first one is more eye-catching and the one I’d pick for sharing on social media.

^ Honor 10 AI vs HDR mode

The same verdict can be drawn when comparing the Honor 10 used in AI mode with the OnePlus 5T.

^ Honor 10 in AI mode vs OnePlus 5T with HDR enabled

^ Honor 10 vs OnePlus 5T with HDR enabled

There is a flipside to this. In low light, I found the AI mode ruined images with oversaturation. Skin tones look unnatural and colours are over zealous. As you’ll be able to see from the images below, the stuffed bear takes on an unattractive orange appearance, the colour on the paint tray are way over the top and the pen-lids are similarly oversaturated. On the plus side, AI mode does marginally reduce image noise.

^ Honor 10 low-light with AI mode

^ Honor 10 low-light

The Honor 10’s front-facing camera is among one of the highest specified sensors on the market and the results reflect that. It’s light years ahead of its sub-£450 rivals.

^Honor 10 selfie

^Honor 10 selfie with bokeh mode enabled

As for video, the phone is capable of shooting 4K (3,840 x 2,160) at 24fps, FHD+ (2,160 x 1,064) 18:9 at 30fps, and Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) at 60fps. A tad more interesting is the fact that the phone can record in using the H.265 (or HEVC) codec, which means files are much smaller than they would be if saved using H.264.

Overall, the camera is impressive but it’s still no match for the Huawei P20 Pro, Pixel 2 or the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S9. Those phones are in a different league both in daylight and low-light conditions.

READ NEXT: OnePlus 6 review: OnePlus’ most impressive smartphone yet

Honor 10 review: Verdict

Honor has built up quite a reputation for itself in the budget market in recent times. Although Honor 10 is anything but a budget phone, it’s an excellent device that should be considered alongside the very best.

The reason it doesn’t quite swing a five-star review is that it misses the mark in a few key areas: battery life isn’t stellar, it lacks waterproofing and there’s no microSD storage expansion. Here, I’d pick the Samsung Galaxy S8, though you might also want to look at the OnePlus 6 as it bodes an impressive upgrade over its predecessor, the OnePlus 5T.

Hardware
Processor2.4GHz octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 970
RAM4GB
Screen size5.84in
Screen resolution1,080 x 2,280
Screen typeIPS
Rear camera16+24-megapixel
Front camera24-megapixel
FlashLED
GPSYes
Compassyes
Storage (free)128GB
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD (256GB)
Wi-FiDual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth4.2
NFCYes
Wireless data4G
Dimensions149.6 x 71.2 x 7.7mm
Weight153g
Features
Operating systemAndroid 8.1
Battery size3,400mAh
Buying information
Warranty1 year RTB
Price SIM-free (inc VAT)£399

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