Honor 10 Review - Flagship Of Shininess
The Honor 10 is Honor’s shiny flagship for 2018, following in the path Huawei’s sub brand set with the Honor 8 and Honor 9. The Honor 10 also benefits from some of the features and components you see in Huawei’s 2018 flagship P20, such as the chipset, while retaining a courage port (also known as the 3.5mm audio jack).
Right, before we go any further let us go through the specification sheet:
Body: Aluminium frame with glass back (also known as a glass sandwich)
Screen: 5.84" 2280x1080px (19:9) IPS LCD, 432ppi with a notch
Chipset: HiSilicon Kirin 970, Octa-core (4x2.4 GHz Cortex-A73 & 4x1.8 GHz Cortex-A53), Mali-G72 MP12 GPU
Memory: 4GB RAM and 128GB of storage (no microSD expansion slot)
Camera: Dual: 16MP colour (f/1.8) + 24 MP black and white, phase detection autofocus, 2160p @ 30fps video with “AI Camera”
Front facing camera: 24MP (f/2.0), 1080p video
OS: Android 8.1 Oreo with Huawei EMUI 8.1 + AI features
Battery: 3,400 mAh non-removable with Huawei Super Charger (5V@4.5A)
Connectivity: Dual Nano-SIM; USB-C (USB 2.0), NFC, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, GLONASS
Misc: IR Blaster, single bottom-firing loudspeaker, front-mounted ultrasonic fingerprint sensor with gesture navigation
The Honor 10 is a smaller device than most of the other current flagships which sit at or just above the 6” diagonal (with an 18:9 or 19:9 aspect ratio). At 5.84”, with a 19:9 aspect ratio screen the Honor 10 is definitely a more manageable size and fits in some pockets much better.
The Honor 10 screen has a notch, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing: the notch can be masked thanks to EMUI’s software feature to be minimally intrusive and surrounded by black while still useful displaying notifications. Notches are a bit of a marmite design feature at the moment (you either love them or hate them), and the EMUI notch handling is graceful. I like to think of it as putting a little bit of marmite on your toast and then covering your toast with a whole jar of Nutella: you may get a little bit of aftertaste, probably because you know it is there, but the glaring issue is hidden away.
The glass sandwich design with an aluminium frame is sleek and quite slippery. The back of the Honor 10 is made of 15 layers of glass with something called “nano-scale optical coating”. That means that the colours can shift and fade from blue or green to purple depending on how light hits the back. The review device we have at Tech Travel Geeks is a Phantom Blue model and the effect is breathtaking. I often find myself taking the device out of a case just to look at the shiny “Aurora Glass”. Speaking of cases, the Honor 10 comes with a plastic Honor case in the retail packaging. Those of you with excellent taste will be happy to know that quite a selection of cases in different materials are available on Amazon and AliExpress. Yes, of course mockodile is an option. And if you thought the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 depleted the world’s supplies of fake stitching, pleather phone case makers in China would like to correct your assumptions. Plenty of pleather cases with fake stitching are available as well.
The screen is sharp, clear and bright. Even in the unusually sunny and bright summer we are having in Scotland it is perfectly usable in direct sunlight. The pre-applied screen protector which the device comes with is good, though does not cover the whole screen. I’ve been using the device as a primary one for over a month and haven’t had any problems with it.
EMUI offers quite a range of display customisation options, including screen resolution scaling, which reduces the resolution to HD+ (1520x720) to save battery. There is also a smart resolution mode which will automatically lower screen resolution to help save battery life.
I’ve found myself comfortable with EMUI’s “Smart Rotate” as well: the screen will only autorotate to follow my face orientation. This is really handy while lying on my side and using the device.
Chipset & Performance
The Honor 10 is powered by HiSilicon's latest 10nm chipset, the Kirin 970. As in the Honor View 10, the Huawei P20 series and the Huawei Mate 10, the Kirin 970 paired with 4GB of RAM delivers a snappy and reliable user experience while being relatively power efficient. Compared to my Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 and 845 devices, in day to day use I have encountered no noticeable slowdowns or performance differences.
The Kirin 970 chipset also includes a dedicated NPU, which allows for machine learning or “AI” to be performed locally on the device. The benefit of that is in managing resources, but more noticeably and shouted out about more by Honor this enables the camera “AI” to be a stand out feature on the Honor 10.
The Honor 10 Cameras are an interesting setup. On the back you have a dual 16MP colour sensor and a 24MP black and white sensor both behind f/1.8 lenses. Autofocus is handled with Phase Detection Autofocus (no lasers here). There is also no optical image stabilisation, and the flash is a single LED bulb, not a dual-LED setup as is quite common nowadays.
When using the dual camera setup the 16MP sensor takes the main shot and then the information from the black and white 20MP sensor is overlayed to deliver detail. The outcome is clear and sharp pictures with plenty of dynamic range. The usual modes we expect from Honor and Huawei, including photo (with AI), portrait, Aperture, video and AR lense as well as Pro (manual mode), slow motion, night shot, panorama, monochrome, light painting, HDR, time-lapse, filter, 3d panorama, document scan, artist mode, 3d creator and good food.
The standard photo mode has a colourful “AI” toggle which will, using EMUI software and the dedicate NPU of the Kirin 970 chipset, detect subjects and/or scenery and lighting to tune settings accordingly. With the Honor 10 a new “Panda Mode” was introduced. This “AI” works quite well, and often gets things spot on. My two cats, Vala and Rodney, are mostly recognised as cats and “Cat Mode” kicks in, but sometimes the Honor 10 AI recognises them as dogs. In the specific case of Rodney, a white and black rescue moggy, “Panda Mode” sometimes kicks in to my amusement.
The camera “AI” on the Honor 10 AI camera (which you are reminded of with “AI camera” logo on the shiny back) is pretty good, and I have ended up as leaving it on by default. The results are usually impressive and very instagrammable. You are likely to see some of my shots on instagram with the hashtag #ShotOnHonor10.
As the Honor 10 cameras don’t have optical image stabilisation, low light shots suffer a bit, but if you invest in an inexpensive and cheerful tripod or gorillapod nightshot mode can produce some stunning snaps.
The 24MP selfie camera performs well. I’m no selfie expert, but beauty mode makes me look prettier than I really am, and some of the overlays or Augmented Reality (AR) features are fun to mess around with.
The 3400 mAh battery on the Honor 10, paired with the Kirin 970 chipset and EMUI’s software optimisations delivers a day’s use quite comfortably for me. This usually involves streaming music over bluetooth, some light goat related gaming, social media, messaging and plenty of photography.
Fingerprint Sensor and Face Unlock
The fingerprint sensor on the Honor 10 is placed at the front of the device in the bottom bezel. There is no clear delineation or tactile reminder that the fingerprint sensor is there, and it isn’t the fastest fingerprint sensor on the market, but works well and seems pretty reliable to me. The added value this brings is that it is an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor: that means that you can use it even when your hands are damp or wet. Sadly the Honor 10 has no IP rating so it isn’t too suited to being used in the bath, the pool or a Scottish winter.
You also have Face Unlock for unlocking your device just by pointing the device selfie camera at your face. This works for me using a baseball cap, but not with glasses on. I’m quite used to using it now and would say I use Face Unlock more often than I use the fingerprint reader nowadays.
The Honor 10 is an excellent device which delivers very good value for money at the £399 price point. While other brands have upped pricing to keep up with being closer to big brand flagships, Honor have managed to deliver a great smartphone while making some key trade offs which have not affected the overall flagship smartphone experience much. If you are looking for a solid camera, good battery life, snappy smartphone with drop dead gorgeous looks the Honor 10 is recommended by Tech Travel Geeks. Having a dual-SIM card slot is also one of the biggest decision tippers for travellers too.