However, unlike the company8217;s top-ranking predecessors 8211; which banked on solid specifications and standout finishes 8211; the Honor 10 doubles-down its aspirations. With an under-the-glass fingerprint scanner and an artificial intelligence camera (AI Camera), it notches up a number of high-flying new features to provide a taste of the future, now. But it also acquires a 8216;notch8217; 8211; the black-out section to the top of the screen 8211; which will no doubt divide opinion.
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After living with the Honor 10 as our day-to-day phone for a whole week ahead of the official UK launch, we8217;ve returned back to the handset following a major software update to bring a refreshed review. Is this still the affordable flagship to beat?
- 3D glass back, built from 15 layers of glass to reflect light with two-tone colour designs
- UK colours: Phantom Blue, Glacier Grey (TBC: Phantom Green and Midnight Black)
- Under-glass front-facing ultrasonic fingerprint scanner
- Built-in 3.5mm headphone jack
- 149.6 x 71.2 x 7.7mm; 153g
Another generation means another colour finish. This time, it8217;s Phantom Blue (called Mirage Blue in China), a 15-layer glass rear that reflects in a two-tone blue and purple fashion. It8217;s very snazzy indeed and will certainly grab people8217;s attention. There8217;s even a transparent case included in the box should you want to add extra protection.
As we8217;ve said of recent Honor devices, however, there8217;s still no staple, consistent finish that represents the brand. We8217;ve seen Sapphire Blue in the Honor 9, a more satin-like blue in the Honor 8 Pro, while the Honor 8 had a darker finish. We think the Honor 10 might be the most stand-out of the lot, but we8217;d like to see standardisation. Oh, there8217;s also a Glacier Grey option (Gray Gull in China) too, if you want something a little more subdued.
The flashy looks are complemented by a slim build, with trim bezel edges and a fingerprint scanner to the front that8217;s rather different to the norm. Look up close and you8217;ll see there8217;s no indent where this scanner lives; that8217;s because it8217;s a fully under-the-glass implementation, for a more seamless finish.
Which is a nod to the future, indeed, but its function is like taking a step into the past: simply put, this fingerprint scanner type doesn8217;t work as rapidly or consistently as the current run available in other flagship phones. We8217;ve seen other makers, such as Porsche Design, opt for under-the-screen scanners, also with sub-par results in operation.
All that said, however, Honor has tweaked the fingerprint scanner8217;s responsiveness in an early June 2018 software update. Is it better? A whisker, maybe, but this hardware implementation is never going to be the very best going 8211; although if you8217;re not comparing it to what else is on the market then, as an owner, you won8217;t know any different.
Fortunately, Honor has avoided the current flagship trend of ditching the headphone jack, with the 3.5mm opening clearly visible at the bottom of this phone. There8217;s no water- or dust-proofing IP designation though, but that8217;s not a huge loss at this price point. Just don8217;t drop it in the sea, eh!
- 5.84-inch IPS LCD screen
- Full HD+ resolution (1080 x 2280 pixels)
- 19:9 aspect ratio, 8216;notch8217; to top edge (can be software hidden)
The Honor 108217;s slender design also embodies the elongated form factor that8217;s an increasingly common sight in current flagship phones. The 5.84-inch screen might sound massive, but that8217;s down to the 19:9 aspect ratio. It8217;s certainly larger than the Honor 98217;s 5.15-inch screen, but the 10 is still comfortable to use with just one hand.
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The panel is an LCD, not OLED like its distant cousin, the Huawei P20 Pro. That8217;s not a major problem, as the Honor8217;s viewing angles are decent and colours pop when set in Vivid mode. However, LCD does have one knock-on effect relative to the notch at the top of the screen.
Yup, the elephant in the room: the Honor 10 has a black-out notch to the top of the screen where the front-facing camera and speaker are housed. That cuts into the image, but can be hidden via the software by simply hiding the notch. However, in sunlight, as LCD isn8217;t perfectly black, that hidden look isn8217;t 100 per cent perfect. It is mostly convincing, though.
The notch is going to divide opinion: some people hate the idea of one, others have come to embrace the added screen portion that8217;s provided as a result (and most apps are designed where smaller amounts of data exist to these corners anyway). Our view is that it8217;s not a bother: the idea of it doesn8217;t appeal, sure, but as we said of the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro, just a little use and the notch8217;s presence more-or-less vanishes from the mind.
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- HiSilicon Kirin 970 processor (4x 2.4GHz, 4x 1.8GHz), 4GB RAM
- 3,400mAh battery capacity, USB-C fast-charging
- 128GB storage (no microSD), dual SIM slots
- EMUI 8.1 re-skin over Android 8.1 Oreo
The UK version of the Honor 10 comes with 128GB storage, which is good news as there8217;s no microSD card slot. It is dual SIM, though, which is fairly unusual for a UK phone (and we8217;d prefer a microSD card really).
Power-wise, the Honor is almost as powerful as the top-ranked Huawei phone of 2018, the P20 Pro. However, the Honor8217;s use of 4GB RAM makes it the slightest bit different in use, with the occasional micro-second delay in starting an app by comparison. Nonetheless, for a sub-£400 phone the Honor 10 performs 95 per cent the flagship and is rather impressive. South Park: Phone Destroyer has presented no problems in running smoothly.
In the time we8217;ve been using the phone it8217;s not crashed, but we have had one or two Gmail non-responses, which has been a nuisance. The software experience is otherwise largely like Google8217;s Android (upon which EMUI runs), but with some additional quirks, some of which are useful: there8217;s the notch control, the ability to change the display colour temperature, control certain functions with knuckle-based touches, and more.
One new app for Honor is called Party Mode: it8217;s a way to share music between multiple devices via WLAN using NFC. The idea is great fun, the implementation is a disaster 8211; it just doesn8217;t work. We8217;ve tried it on a Huawei P20 Pro, a Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS and a Google Pixel XL 2 and it doesn8217;t work on any of them.
The software also handles battery longevity, which we8217;ve found to be a little inconsistent in the Honor 10. The 3,400mAh cell on board is rather large, which is great, but for the first few days we weren8217;t achieving the length of use per charge we were expecting. After a few days, however, and when selecting Smart Resolution (which auto-adjusts resolution depending on task) it settled down, translating to around 16 hours of use per charge (the battery8217;s claims that it8217;ll go for far longer are, with normal use, largely misguided 8211; it8217;s overly generous in its predictions). The software update from June 2018 looks to further improve this, or at least stabilise it.
When it8217;s time to top-up, the USB Type-C socket to the bottom (yay, no USB-B as per so many older Honor phones) means fast-charging. Handy if you8217;ve been gaming hard and want to cram some extra juice into the phone for those all-important extra hours of use.
- Dual rear cameras for standard and depth-effect Portrait photography
- Phase-detection autofocus for rear cameras
- 24MP monochrome sensor with f/1.8 aperture
- 16MP colour sensor with f/1.8 aperture
- 24MP front-facing camera with f/2.0 aperture
- 4K at 30fps video maximum
Almost every new phone comes with dual cameras, the Honor 10 being no different. Like many other competitors, the two cameras work in harmony to derive depth data and produce an enhanced blurred background effect 8211; in what8217;s typically called Portrait mode. It works ok here, just as it does elsewhere: on a small screen you might not spot the imperfect blurred edges, which are rather common, but it8217;s rather fun when it works well.
One of the biggest differences in the Honor setup compared to most is its use of one colour and one black and white (monochrome) sensor, in the same manner as Huawei flagship phones. This might sound barmy, but the cleaner data from the mono sensor can be 8220;painted8221; with the colour imagery from the lower-resolution sensor for detailed colour images. It8217;s rather clever.
Having used the Huawei P20 Pro for some weeks and been blown-away by its best-in-class images, it8217;s worth noting that the Honor 10 can8217;t quite live up to such heady heights. But its results are still rather good. And much of that comes down to what it calls AI Camera (which, unnecessarily, is emblazoned on the rear of the phone in white text).
The use of artificial intelligence is simple: the camera uses machine learning to corroborate what it8217;s looking at through the lenses and can then change the scene accordingly. It might be a portrait, a landscape, a food photo, a pet photo, and so forth. The Honor 108217;s camera will tell you it8217;s adjusting the mode by displaying a small symbol within the app (the software update means the phone now displays text and a brief description, before folding into a symbol only). It8217;s even possible to see the non-AI version of the image by simply hitting the software AI button within the app.
Typically the AI images add extra saturation and contrast to give images that extra pop. This looks great for the most part, but can be overkill and cause exaggerated banding and textured image artefacts (such as in blue skies, for example). For the average user, though, this is a perfect compromise overall, as the adjustment of auto exposure and colour will really aid in getting the best possible shots.
Sadly the Honor 10 doesn8217;t adopt the excellent Night Mode as found in the Huawei P20 Pro 8211; which makes for handheld long-exposures 8211; nor is the Honor the perfect low-light companion. It8217;s pretty good, though, with even shots taken in the dead of night by our holiday swimming pool, or at the dim-lit sushi bar chef counter, showing ample detail where it matters. It8217;s only the really dark areas that show a lack of detail overall.
All in all, the combined ease of use, automated features (and more if you want manual control), portrait mode and decent quality mark the Honor 108217;s camera as impressive at this price point. It8217;s doesn8217;t quite match Huawei8217;s P20 solution, but then it8217;s a far more affordable handset.
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