Honor 10 Review

Huawei’s sub-brand Honor has recently launched the Honor 10 in India. Artificial intelligence is the hottest marketing buzzword right now, and Honor claims to have incorporated AI features into almost every aspect of the Honor 10 – from intelligent scene detection and face recognition in the camera app, to user interface enhancements in its custom skin, EMUI 8.1.

With a glass and metal body, the latest version of Android out of the box, dual rear cameras, a 19:9 display, and a processor with dedicated AI hardware, the Honor 10 sounds incredibly promising on paper. Priced at Rs. 32,999, this smartphone also slightly undercuts the much-hyped OnePlus 6 (Review) in terms of price. Is the Honor 10 worth buying? We found out in our full review.

 

Honor 10 design

The Honor 10 has a 2.5D curved glass back and a highly polished metal mid-frame for rigidity, making it bear some resemblance to the iPhone X (Review). The glossy glass back looks and feels premium but is slippery and gets smudged very easily. Despite having a glass back, there is no wireless charging, which seems like a missed opportunity.

The Honor 10 has minimal screen borders and an impressive 86.2 percent screen-to-body ratio. As a result, it looks sleek and is quite compact and pocketable. It is also easy to hold in one hand thanks to the curved glass back, rounded corners, and curved edges.

The notch is fast becoming one of the most polarising elements of smartphone design. The Honor 10 embraces this trend head-on and has a notch at the top of the display. Thankfully, it’s is quite small and can be masked via an option in the settings menu.

This smartphone is available in two colours in India, Midnight Back, and Phantom Blue. The Blue variant looks quite snazzy and has a glass back that reflects light when you turn it in your hand. This option definitely has a lot of design flair, but we reviewed the black variant which looks much more understated.

In order to accommodate minimal screen borders and edge-to-edge displays, most smartphone manufacturers have had to shift the fingerprint sensor to the back panel. The Honor 10’s fingerprint sensor however is still below the screen, but embedded into the glass panel itself. Honor has used Qualcomm’s ultrasonic fingerprint technology for biometric authentication. The sensor looks quite futuristic but is hard to reach with one hand, and is also slow and inaccurate. The setup process also took far longer than we are used to.

The power and volume buttons are located on the right of the device and are a tad too small for our liking. The left edge is barren save for the SIM tray which has two Nano-SIM slots. The Honor 10 has a USB Type-C port at the bottom flanked by a 3.5mm headphone jack and a speaker which is loud but distorts at full volume.

Build quality is impressive, and the phone feels solid and capable of taking a drop or two in its stride. We dropped the phone several times during our review period and apart from a few scratches here and there, it was unscathed. At 7.7mm, the Honor 10 is not the thinnest around, but it weighs a reasonable 153g.

Honor 10 specifications and display

The Honor 10 is powered by Huawei’s own HiSilicon Kirin 970 processor, which has been used in several premium models in the recent past, such as the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, Huawei P20 Pro (Review), and Honor View 10 (Review). The Kirin 970 has a dedicated subsystem, dubbed the Neural Processing Unit, to handle artificial intelligence computations. This promises better privacy and performance as AI computations can happen on the phone itself and data doesn’t need to be uploaded to the cloud.

The Honor 10 has 6GB of RAM, a non-removable 3,400mAh battery, and 128GB of storage which cannot be expanded. Connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, GLONASS, NFC, 4G VoLTE, a USB Type-C port (USB 2.0 speed), and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The smartphone also has a digital compass, ambient light sensor, gravity sensor, gyroscope, and Hall sensor. It supports dual SIMs but only one at a time can run at 4G speed – the other is limited to 3G.

The Honor 10 features a 5.84-inch full-HD+ IPS LCD with an aspect ratio of 19:9 and a pixel density of 432ppi. You can choose between FHD+ and HD+ in the settings menu in order to save battery life, or set it to auto and let the phone decide for itself.

As with most Honor smartphones of late, the display is bright, vivid and punchy, and has excellent viewing angles. It is a bit too reflective though, which makes outdoor legibility a bit of a problem. A Quad-HD display would have rounded off the package nicely, but the lower resolution can’t really be discerned in day-to-day use.

In our experience, most first-party applications ran fine on the smartphone’s display, with the area around the notch being used to display the time, battery level, signal strength, and other status icons. The 19:9 aspect ratio lends itself well to gaming and multimedia consumption.

Honor 10 performance, software, and battery life

Performance was stellar – the phone handled everything we threw at it with ease, be it heavy games such as Asphalt 8, basic day-to-day tasks, or intensive workloads. Calls were clear and crisp, and 4G reception was solid, even in areas known to have sketchy connectivity. On a negative note, the smartphone got very hot, to the point of it becoming uncomfortable to hold, when pushed.

Benchmark scores were impressive, putting the Kirin 970 in the same league as last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, but behind the latest generation of processors. The phone achieved 204,439 points in AnTuTu, 23fps in GFX Bench Car Chase, 38fps in GFX Bench Manhattan 3.1, and 1,894 and 6,678 respectively in Geekbench’s single- and multi-core tests.

The Honor 10 runs Honor’s EMUI 8.1 skin atop Android 8.1 Oreo. EMUI has matured a lot in the last few years and is now a slick and feature-laden software package. Huawei claims that EMUI 8.1 uses machine learning to intelligently analyse user behaviour and allocate resources accordingly, While a few weeks of use is not enough to thoroughly test this, EMUI did run smoothly during our review period – animations were snappy and navigating throughout the interface was a frustration-free affair.

What compromises the experience somewhat is the amount of bloatware. The phone comes with five game demos from Gameloft and a bunch of third-party apps including UC Browser, TrueCaller and Quik preinstalled. Thankfully, most of these can be uninstalled. Additionally, a few areas of the interface such as the Settings app and the quick settings panel still look cluttered and need simplification.

EMUI has a multitude of nifty features such as a one-handed mode, knuckle gestures, an intelligent messages app that filters out spam, and the ability to automatically switch between Wi-Fi and mobile data depending on which connection is stronger.

The Honor 10 also supports face recognition, using the 24-megapixel front camera, and this works quite well when there’s enough light. In unfavourable conditions, the phone increases the screen brightness so as to illuminate your face before attempting to scan it, and this helps to a degree.

We were slightly disappointed with the Honor 10’s battery life. The smartphone managed to last just 9 hours and 18 minutes in our HD video loop battery test. In terms of real-world performance, we found ourselves reaching for the charger by around 10-11pm each day, which is less than what we’ve seen on many smartphones recently. Our usage included WhatsApp and Twitter, playing games such as Asphalt 8 and Subway Surfers, navigating around town using GPS, and taking a few pictures.

While the included charger has the words ‘quick charge’ emblazoned on it, it takes more than two hours to charge the Honor 10 fully. In our experience, a 50 percent charge took around 55 minutes.

Honor 10 cameras

At the back, the Honor 10 features a dual-camera module comprised of a 16-megapixel RGB camera with an aperture of f/1.8, alongside a 24-megapixel monochrome sensor. At the front, the Honor 10 has a 24-megapixel snapper with 1.8-micron pixels. The camera app offers a 3D Portrait lighting mode similar to the one found on the iPhone X.

The Honor 10 can recognise the object or scene being shot and optimise image settings accordingly. At the moment, the smartphone can detect 22 different types of objects and over 500 types of scenes. Thanks to the Neural Processing Unit, the Honor 10 is smart enough to automatically select relevant camera settings depending on the situation. Point it at a person, for instance, and the smartphone switches to portrait mode.

 

Huawei’s camera app is easy to use and has a fully featured Pro mode, which allows you to alter the shutter speed, ISO, exposure, aperture, and white balance.

We were impressed with the overall camera performance of the Honor 10, but the AI enhancements are a bit of a mixed bag. While the intelligent scene detection did help in certain instances such as taking pictures of plants and animals, most photos shot with AI mode turned on were overexposed and had oversaturated colours. Thankfully, there is a toggle to turn the AI enhancements off, and after doing this, our photos improved. The rear camera has good dynamic range and images shot in favourable light are crisp and detailed. With the AI mode switched off, the colour accuracy is also spot-on.

While the Huawei P20 Pro’s excellent Night Mode has not made its way to the Honor 10, the monochrome+RGB camera combination helps capture a lot of detail in low light. As a result, images shot in low light have a good amount of detail. The phone does over-sharpen images at times, leading to a watercolour-like effect.

All photos taken with AI disabled. Tap to see full-sized Honor 10 Lite camera samples.

 

Both the rear and front cameras are capable of capturing bokeh shots. The resultant images are above average with good edge detection. For blurring the background in bokeh selfies, the camera app uses software algorithms. AR stickers are implemented quite well and can be used with both the front and the rear cameras.

The 24-megapixel selfie shooter captures a good amount of detail in well-lit situations. Noise creeps in in low light, but the level of detail is satisfactory. The 3D Portrait lighting mode is a good way to impress friends, but this feature needs a lot of work at the moment. The resultant shots are flashy, but edge detection is poor.

Video recording maxes out at 1080p for the front camera, while the rear module is capable of 4K video recording. The lack of optical image stabilisation is unfortunately apparent when shooting videos, but the level of detail and colour accuracy are impressive. 4K videos have a 10-minute time limit, and even electronic stabilisation is not available at this resolution.


Honor 10 in pictures

Verdict
The Honor 10 is undoubtedly the most capable smartphone that Huawei’s sub-brand Honor has ever released in India. It has a sleek and compact design, a bright and punchy display, and heaps of power on board. While the AI enhancements are gimmicky, the camera hardware is excellent and capable of taking great photos.

The under-the-glass fingerprint sensor, which might at first come across as futuristic, is a pain to use. Battery life is also disappointing, and the phone tends to overheat quite a bit when pushed. However, despite these issues, it is hard to ignore the value for money that the Honor 10 offers. At Rs. 32,999, the smartphone presents itself as a solid but less powerful alternative to the pricier OnePlus 6.

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