So you’ve decided that you want to get a top-end smartphone, but you don’t have a spare £800 down the back of the sofa. Well, the good news is that you do have a lot of options these days.
You have the likes of OnePlus and Xioami, alongside the older more recognised brands of Motorola and the (reborn) Nokia. However, another one of your criteria is for an all singing all dancing camera that can replace your compact camera. Mmmm… well, now things get a little bit more interesting. For in-between £600 and £800, you could, of course, go with the excellent OnePlus 7 Pro, which is a stunning device for the money and would probably tick most of your boxes, although it may lack on the camera front (disclaimer I have not tested the 7 Pro I am basing this on the performance of the 6T).
Where can you go to get the best camera money can buy. Well, there is, of course, the Huawei P30 Series – they are brilliant but to get the “Pro” (which is the one you really want) you are at the top end of a reasonable budget.
Before you skulk off to Samsung and get an S9 Plus or similar, why not have a gander at the Honor 20 Pro? This gives you about 90% of the features of Huawei’s P30 Pro but will only set you back £550.
Before we dive into the review proper though I would like to take this opportunity to recall my summary of the Honor 20 as that was a great phone and it may well suit your needs, especially as it is significantly cheaper at £399…
So here we have a very capable and nice phone that comes into the market with a very competitive price of £399. It will do pretty much anything that its more expensive stablemates will do, bar some of what I am going to refer to as the more “premium features”. These being things like Periscope Zoom, reverse wireless charging, wireless charging, under-screen fingerprint technology and AMOLED screen tech.
If you absolutely must have these “extras” then you will need to look elsewhere. if you are happy to live without these things and I have a feeling that most people will be (with the possible exception of the AMOLED screen), then the Honor 20 will make for a great phone. If you demand these “extras” then you will need to look elsewhere.
It is very much a case of getting what you pay for with the Honor 20 and that is a very good thing in this scenario. For me, I have grown accustomed to the flagship life and I will most likely continue down that road, however, I am open to the change that phones like the Honor 20 make possible. I would certainly consider it, perhaps in the guise of the Honor 20 Pro, as it does offer a little bit extra in terms of the camera and style. Hopefully, we will be able to put one through its paces soon.
Honor used to have this area of the market pretty much to themselves however the playing field has become a lot more populated recently with some other big players such as Xioami, OnePlus and Asus all wanting a piece of the pitch. Even Google has now realised that this mid-tier is an important area for them so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. I am confident that Honor will be either at the top or very near with the Honor 20. Only time will tell on that one and I for one am excited at the prospect of the ensuing battle of the mid-tier device that will no doubt continue to run for the rest of the year if not longer.
So what is the Pro version offering above and beyond the standard version?
The really big differences here are to be found in three key areas; Looks and design, internal hardware and camera. So it is time to have a bit of a video tour of the device and then we can delve into the difference between the two Honor 20 series devices a little bit further.
First thing up in terms of differences, is the design and how this phone looks. Whilst both of the devices are from the same family they are very different in terms of how they look. The Honor 20 looks sleek and refined but fairly sombre with its “standard” black finish. The Honor 20 Pro on the other looks like it was dragged out of a nightclub after having a few too many party sweets.
This phone is one that likes to make a statement and it does so very, very well. I adore the colour of the back and the lustre it gives of in terms of colour and depth. I have had a chance to see the other colours and it is equally stunning but for me, I am not a purple “liker” so I will stick with the blue one. There is, of course, a downside to having such a shiny and multi-tonal back and that is, of course, every phone designers pet peeve – fingerprints. This phone is a magnet for them so my top tip is to get a clear skin / case from somewhere to help stop this become a grotty mess. It will also help to stop another significant problem I had with the design. The phone is as slippy as a bar of wet soap. I honestly think the phone has a death wish as it seems determined to throw itself off any surface I place it down on. Again, adding a skin well help to stop this.
Now some of you more familiar with Honor devices may say, “why not use the case that it came within the box”? While that will certainly be an option to you if you buy it, as a review sample this one did not have that option, personally, if it were my phone I would still go with a skin, just my preference.
Another area where we notice a difference is that the 20 Pro has added another camera into the mix. Whilst it is not immediately noticeable at first glance, if you look at the lenses you can tell there is a difference. This lens is the 3 x Optical Zoom – more on this later though. This replaces the 2MP depth effect camera from the non-Pro phone.
Concerning hardware differences, we have already mentioned the biggest visible one – the phone has swapped a camera out from its forebear.
However, there has also been a minor bump in terms of the battery capacity – up from 3750mAh to 4000 mAh. Truth be told it does not make a big difference in terms of the longevity, but it is nice to have that bit more to reassure you. We have also got more in terms of RAM – up from 6GB to 8GB and storage from 128GB to 256GB. There is no provision for adding a memory card, this may be a big one for to pay attention to – especially if you like using your video camera in 4K mode!
Here is a little video talking through my thoughts about the phone and the hardware.
And a few more pics for your viewing pleasure…
Now that we have wrapped up the hardware section of the review it is time to talk about the software.
This is very simple, as the software is exactly the same as it was on the Honor 20 – which I have to say is not bad. Yes, you will have the familiar UI that any previous Huawei/Honor user will be familiar with, but it just seems to be a lot smoother than I have seen in the past on both Honor or Huawei devices. This makes me happy as it is an area that I have always had an issue with. Now I could spend the next two paragraphs going over the software with a fine-tooth comb but that is not what you are here for. Instead, I would encourage you to read the Honor 20 review or the Huawei P30 Pro review that are both on the site. These reviews will cover the software more succinctly for you.
There is one thing I wish they would just give up on and that is HiSearch. For those who are not familiar then here it is in a nutshell. The service will kick into action whenever you swipe down on the screen regardless of where you are in the UI. That is fine if you are doing something on the main menu but really really annoying when you want to see your notifications quickly.
Speaking of notification these are still not actionable from the lock screen which is another annoyance. However, this one is not so bad as it is somewhat negated by the swiftness of the fingerprint reader (this can be seen in the above video).
The camera has got a slightly tweaked UI over the Honor 20 as it needs to accommodate a longer zoom length but apart from that not much is new here either
Next up is the camera.
So what do the various zoom lengths look like in real use? Check out the galleries below to find out.
Here are some comparisons between the Huawei P30 Pro and the Honor 20 Pro
Next up some landscape shots on standard zoom
Lastly and I believe this to be the phones main party piece the aperture mode and why I find it hard to go back to any phone that doesn’t have it!
Just for thoroughness here is the obligatory selfie again from both phones. God, I hate taking selfies!!
So those are the pictures. On to the camera UI…
As you can see the layout is fairly par for the course. There’s various modes available on the slider on the right-hand side with some quick settings available on the left. The all-important zoom slider is on the bottom and can be slid across or tapped to obtain the level you wish to get. This UI is very easy to use and is quick when you need to get that all-important shot. Being able to switch between the various frequent used modes is a synch and, if you wish to get any more, then you can do so by swiping to more in the bar on the right. This gives a multitude of other options.
One thing that you will notice on the left is the AI icon, this is the switch for turning AI mode on or off. Doing this does allow a little bit more control over various aspects of the shot without needing to delve into Pro Mode. If of course, you wish to do so you will find plenty of control so you can tweak things to the heart’s content. I am much more of a point and shoot kind of guy so I tend to keep AI mode on and stay in Photo mode (which is Auto on other phones).
Here are a few of the images I was able to capture during my time that are not test shots as above.
So you have seen the pictures, you have seen the UI, now onto how it performs. I’ll be honest and say that I was impressed, however, I was left wanting a bit more. This is probably because I am very lucky to have had the P30 Pro for the last few months – that is the cream of the crop when it comes to camera smartphones. (Definitely check the review here).
There are a few issues that leave the camera wanting and the primary one is located within the software. It’s the zoom control mechanism for the optical setup. In my testing, I found that sometimes I would see the optical zoom working and at other times it was using digital zoom. sometimes this was resolved with a hard reboot and sometimes not. I have seen other reports of this happening to other bloggers mainly the guys over at MobileTechTalk.
So where does this leave us then?
The Honor 20 Pro is by no means a shrinking violet of a phone. It is, in fact, the exact opposite. It is bold it is brash and it knows it. It is a great phone and will be more than sufficient for most people wanting a ass-kicking all-round device. There is one very niche market that will not be fulfilled by this phone, and that is those who are after a camera replacement that can also be a phone. For this purpose, the Honor 20 pro will not tick the box as it is not one of the best out there.
Of bigger concern is the fact that Honor is being subjected to some serious competition from the like of Xiaomi and Nokia (HMD), Samsung and Motorola – the last three of which have got a bigger high street presence. This would be fine if it was not for the £549.95 price tag, as this is a very hotly contended area on the market right now. The real problem is that other manufacturers are putting in devices with competing specs and also in some cases better specs for the same level of money or less. I feel that for this reason the more sensible choice is the cheaper but by no means inferior Honor 20. The exception to that rule is if you need a high performing camera phone without the high price ticket, then you would be best served with the Honor 20 Pro.
You can buy the Honor 20 Pro here now for £549.95