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Honor 20 Pro review: Remarkable camera performance

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £550
inc VAT

The Honor 20 Pro has four rear-facing cameras, an in-display selfie camera, a blistering processor and it undercuts rivals by some margin


  • Excellent camera performance
  • Blistering performance
  • Takes good selfies


  • Comparatively poor IPS display
  • Not as pretty as the Honor View 20
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack

Huawei might be taking all the negative headline hits courtesy of Donald Trump’s trade blacklist, but it’s worth remembering that it’s not the only brand affected by the ban. Huawei’s sub-brand Honor is also affected, a fact that puts its latest smartphone, the Honor 20 Pro, in a bit of a tricky place.

That’s all a bit of a shame because the Honor 20 Pro represents the pinnacle of what Honor has come to represent over the past few years. It has the world’s first 48-megapixel with an f/1.4 aperture and throws in a few other mouthwatering specifications, yet it undercuts the likes of Samsung, Apple and Huawei on price.

READ NEXT: Honor View 20 review

Honor 20 Pro review: What you need to know

You can’t entirely ignore the political situation, but it’s impossible to escape the fact that the Honor 20 Pro is an impressive-looking phone on paper. The manufacturer’s flagship handset not only has an impressive primary shooter but also houses three additional rear-facing cameras to snap wide, zoom and macro shots.

The fun doesn’t stop there: there’s a 32-megapixel hole-punch selfie camera at the front (like the one in the Samsung Galaxy S10), a blisteringly fast Kirin 980 processor backed with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage as standard.

READ NEXT: Huawei P30 Pro review – a formidable flagship filled with features

Honor 20 Pro review: UK release date, price and competition

The Honor 20 Pro costs £550. It’s among the company’s most expensive handsets at launch, levelling with the eight-month-old Honor Magic 2. There are a few alternatives you might consider at this price: the OnePlus 7 Pro at £699; the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro for £550 and £899 respectively; the Google Pixel 3 at £739; the Samsung Galaxy S10 at £799; the Xiaomi Mi 9 at £499; and the top-spec Honor View 20 at £449.

Suffice to say, its rivals look good on paper, too. From 48-megapixel cameras to flagship chipsets, they’re among the best Android smartphones you can buy in the UK.

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Honor 20 Pro review: Design and build quality

Honor’s commitment to making great-looking phones is commendable and I feel the company’s design peaked with the View 20. For me, it’s still the best-looking smartphone around.

A tough act to follow, but the Chinese manufacturer has had a fair crack at matching it with the Honor 20 Pro. The phone is available in two colours – “Phantom Black” and “Phantom Blue” – and both have a fancy, chrome-like finish. If you’re familiar with Yianni’s Supercar Customiser show on Dave, you’ll notice a resemblance between phone and car. However, the all-glass finish doesn’t work as well here as on a custom-wrapped Lamborghini Aventador S. It attracts fingerprints rather too easily and, in my opinion, doesn’t look as good as the laser-etched View 20.

Around the back, there’s a cluster of cameras that protrude slightly from the chassis. This housing not only attracts dust particles around the edges of the module but, as the module doesn’t sit in the middle, it also means the phone rocks when you place it on a flat surface. The Huawei P30 Pro is similarly afflicted, but with a smaller camera bump it doesn’t rock quite as badly.

Honor has also ditched the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor in favour of a Samsung-esque side-mounted sensor, which doubles up as a power button. I’d argue that a front- or rear-mounted reader would be more convenient and I really liked that, on the View 20, the fingerprint reader could also be used to answer calls, dismiss alarms, swipe through photos and for expanding the notification panel. These are all lost with the Honor 20 Pro.

Just above the fingerprint sensor, there’s a volume rocker and, on the opposite edge, there’s a dual nano-SIM tray. For storage, the Honor 20 Pro ships with 256GB of internal storage, which should be big enough for most, and there’s no microSD slot for expansion.

There are some negatives and the biggest is that there’s no 3.5mm headphone port, which is disappointing given that Honor has so far resisted the trend in most of its previous phones. There’s also no support for wireless charging and no official IP rating for dust and water. Elsewhere, it’s business as usual. The phone employs USB Type-C for charging – you can get a 50% charge in just 30 minutes – and there’s dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5 and NFC.

On a more positive note, the hole-punch selfie camera in the top-left-hand corner of the screen looks great and leaves the display occupying the full expanse of the front panel, with no annoying notch to eat into the top edge.

READ NEXT: Honor Magic 2 review – a nostalgic sliding phone with ultra-modern internals and no notch

Honor 20 Pro review: Display

The display measures 6.26in across the diagonal and has Full HD+ (1,080 x 2,340) resolution. To me, it’s a more elegant solution than a notch. However, for a modern-day flagship, I’m somewhat surprised to see non-curved edges and the use of IPS LCD technology rather than the more versatile Super AMOLED.

Sadly the Honor 20 Pro’s display isn’t the best example of the technology, either. Normally, IPS displays compensate for a lack of ultra deep black level through superior brightness levels. Not here. The display achieves only 443cd/m² in “Normal” mode and 477cd/m² in “Vivid” mode. By comparison, the 6.1in Dynamic AMOLED display on the Samsung Galaxy S10 reaches peaks approaching 1,200cd/m², which are much needed if you’re hitting the ski slopes or watching HDR+ content.

Contrast ratio isn’t much better at 922:1 and 979:1 in each mode. Again, the Honor 20 Pro is outclassed here by the AMOLED displays of the Huawei P30, P30 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S10, which all offer effectively perfect contrast.

As for vibrancy, Normal mode is tuned to match the sRGB standard covering 95.5% of the colour space, while Vivid mode is aimed at movie fans, reaching 92.9% DCI P3 coverage.

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Honor 20 Pro review: Performance

While the display is middling, performance is much more impressive. The Honor 20 Pro uses a Kirin 980 chipset and couples this with 8GB of RAM. In other phones, this has proved to be a formidable combination and it should be the same story here.

I say “should” because, unfortunately, both the benchmarking apps we use were blocked when we received our review unit, with Geekbench 4 and GFXBench unable to run. Past experience with other phones housing the same processor suggest it should be a top performer. To visualise where the Honor 20 Pro would sit, I’ve substituted the View 20’s benchmark results in the graphs below:

Synthetic benchmarks might be blocked but real-world gaming isn’t. I put the phone through its paces with a series of real-world games and monitored the frame rate using GameBench. Here, the Mali-G76 MP10 GPU outputs a consistent 40fps on PUBG Mobile, which is the maximum the game permits in its higher quality modes. It also averaged 59fps on the highest quality setting on Shadowgun Legends. This is an impressive set of results that puts it on par with other flagships.

^Honor 20 Pro PUBG Mobile

^Honor 20 Pro Shadowgun Legends

Battery life is good, too. In Expert Reviews’ video-rundown test, the phone lasted 16hrs 51mins, which is superior to the 14hrs 51mins achieved by the View 20. Both, however, are outclassed by the Huawei P30 Pro at 21hrs 21mins and the Xiaomi Mi 9 at 22hrs 54mins.

^Honor 20 Pro battery life

As for software, despite what Honor says about its own Magic UI being different from Huawei’s EMUI Android overlay, they’re still identical. Specifically, the phone uses Magic UI 2.1, which adds a skin on top of Android 9 Pie, and brings a few improvements over the previous version, namely GPU Turbo 3, which aims to boost performance in games.

In my real-world tests with PUBG Mobile, a game that has been supported since version 2.0, I failed to notice any notable differences with the technology enabled. Whether you choose to use it or not is your prerogative.

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Honor 20 Pro review: Camera

Honor is attempting to pull out all the stops with its camera. At the rear are four cameras: a 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 1/2in sensor with an aperture of f/1.4 and optical image stabilisation (OIS); a 16-megapixel f/2.2 wide-angle camera; an 8-megapixel f/2.4 telephoto camera that offers 3x lossless optical zoom (plus 5x hybrid zoom and 30x digital zoom); and a small, 2-megapixel f/2.4 macro camera that sits above the dual-tone LED flash module.

It all comes together to bring one of the best camera performances I’ve seen from a smartphone; rivalling, if not beating the Huawei P30 Pro – a device that’s widely considered as the best camera smartphone. In the image below, you’ll see a four-way comparison: at the top left, the Honor 20 Pro in 48-megapixel mode and with ultra clarity turned on; to the right of that with the mode disabled; under it, the Honor phone is dialled down to 12-megapixel; while on the bottom left is the Huawei P30 Pro in 40-megapixel mode.

As you’ll see (click to expand the image), with Ultra Clarity mode enabled there simply is no contest: it’s the best smartphone camera performance to date. The foliage has plenty of detail, the contrast between the glass structure in the background and the white building in the foreground is excellent, and the very fine details around the cranes at the top right of the image are distinguishable. That’s astonishingly good.

With Ultra Clarity mode disabled, the output is somewhat disappointing; here the phone struggles to maintain a clear image and derails image quality. This can only be described as a painting-like effect, which is what I found when I originally reviewed the phone back in May 2019. The image below demonstrates the issue I faced in the past, and it would seem that Honor hasn’t completely eliminated the issue. Nonetheless, the issue doesn’t seem to be as persistent this time around – you’ll still get good results no matter what mode you select.

Before moving onto the telephoto lens analysis, I’d like to clear something up. Despite the fact that the zoom camera is an 8-megapixel affair, the images it produces wind up being 12 megapixels in size (4,000 x 3,000). This is because the main and telephoto cameras work together, with images captured at 8 megapixels then upscaled to 12 megapixels using detail added from the 48-megapixel sensor. It’s also worth noting that to use the telephoto camera, you have to switch out of 48-megapixel mode, just like you do with the OnePlus 7 Pro and the Huawei P30 flagships.

In the image above, you’ll see that the Honor 20 Pro delivers impressive results. Here, the 8-megapixel telephoto camera in either 5x hybrid zoom or 10x digital zoom almost matches the 5- and 10-megapixel zoom of the Huawei P30 Pro. There is, however, more zoom available on the latter device, with the Huawei reaching up to 50x digital zoom, as opposed to the Honor 20 Pro’s 30.

As we move things indoors and reduce the light levels, the Honor device holds its own: with flash disabled, the 20 Pro and P30 Pro suppress image noise to a minimum, while with flash toggled on shadows are eliminated. Better still, the image doesn’t lose its colour temperature – fantastic.

The 16-megapixel wide-angle camera is competent, too. Although the differences are small, The HOnor 20 Pro doesn’t quite match the Huawei P30 Pro’s 20-megapixel wide-angle camera, which outputs slightly more detailed images.

As for the 2-megapixel macro lens, it helps with 4cm macro photography. You’ll be limited to a 2-megapixel image but, if you’re really looking to get that close up on a flower, the dedicated macro mode is the way forward.

The 32-megapixel hole-punch selfie camera is extremely impressive. It captures plenty of detail and creates convincing portrait images with nicely blurred backgrounds, holding its own against the Huawei P30 Pro, which uses a near-identical 32-megapixel camera. In the comparison shot below, you’ll notice the background is blurred more convincingly on the Honor device, while facial details are more refined on the Huawei phone – both snap excellent selfies.

READ NEXT: OnePlus 7 Pro review

Honor 20 Pro review: Verdict

On the whole, the Honor 20 Pro is a flagship phone that you should seriously consider. At £550, it pits itself against far pricer smartphones, such as the Huawei P30 Pro, which costs a cool £899. Consider this: you’re getting near-identical camera performance to the P30 Pro, a flagship processor and 256GB of internal storage at a fraction of the price. That, to me, seems like an incredible deal.

It is, however, not without its flaws: it omits the fabled 3.5mm headphone jack, has a sub-par IPS display, no dust or water resistance, doesn’t support wireless charging, and lacks the wow factor of its predecessor, the Honor View 20. To add to all of this, Honor and Huawei are still under fire from Trump’s administration – a factor that makes the Xiaomi Mi 9 and the Samsung Galaxy S10e safer bets.

All things considered, I still deem it as one of the best smartphones money can buy, especially for its price.

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