Honor just announced its latest batch of phones, dubbed the Honor 20 series, at an event in central London. The handsets debut under a new campaign entitled, "Capture Wonder" and that alone really tells you everything about what the company hopes will enable this trio of new devices – Honor Lite, Honor 20 and Honor 20 Pro – stand-out from its existing (pretty packed) portfolio of phones.
The cream of the crop, Honor 20 Pro, has a quadruple camera that offers 3x lossless optical zoom and 30x digital zoom, which is sharpened and tweaked via software. If that sounds at all familiar, it's because that's the same maximum zoom achieved with the Huawei P30. Given that Honor is a sub-brand of Huawei, although Honor refers to Huawei a sister brand, we can expect some of the same magic dust, which creates an almost lossless digital zoom, to be sprinkled in the mix here as well.
Let's start with that camera.
The quad-camera on the Honor 20 Pro consists of a 48MP main camera with f/1.4 aperture and Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS). This wide-angle sensor is coupled with a 8MP telephoto camera, a 16MP ultra-wide angle (capable of shooting pictures with a 117-degree field-of-view) and finally, a dedicated 2MP macro camera to improve any close-up shots of pets or nature.
Of course, there's also the aforementioned stellar zoom capabilities that we've become accustomed to from the latest and greatest flagship smartphone from parent company Huawei. And it seems to have really chimed with customers, forcing price-conscious rivals OnePlus and Oppo to mimic the feature in their latest efforts.
The 30x digital zoom is a nifty little trick and will undoubtedly come in handy at some point during the lifespan of the phone, but it's the 3x lossless optical zoom that will really make the difference day in, day out. This will improve your holiday photos, allowing you to capture details you would never have been able to snap otherwise.
Aside from the paparazzi-levels of zoom, this quadruple camera can also handle Portrait Mode shots with artificial bokeh-style blur behind the subject of the image. There's also Super Night Mode, which is designed to try and bring the same illuminating effect as the dedicated Night Mode on the P30 series or the catchily-named Night Sight on the Pixel 3 range.
Honor is clearly very chuffed with the camera system on its new flagship offering. So much so, it has submitted the Honor 20 Pro to the industry recognised assessment body DxOMark. While Huawei has submitted a number of handsets, this is the first time Honor packed a camera worthy of the attention of DxOMark.
The camera has scored a total of 111 points from DxOMark, catapulting the Honor 20 Pro into joint second place. According to the score, "Honor 20 Pro’s key strengths of exposure, noise, and zoom see it achieve slightly higher scores in those categories. It’s let down a little by its performance for detail, which is lower than we often see with top-end devices, and there are a couple of distracting artefacts, but overall it remains an excellent performer."
While the Honor 20 Pro has comfortably the best camera of the bunch, the standard Honor 20 still packs a pretty impressive array on its rear case. While it has the same 48MP main, 2MP macro camera, and 16MP ultra-wide offering, these are coupled with 2MP depth assist camera not seen on the Pro variant.
Like the 8MP telephoto camera on its costlier cousin, this is designed to improve the quality of your bokeh-boasting portrait shots.
Flipping over the Honor 20, you'll find a single 32MP front-facing camera nestled into the top left-hand corner of the display. This has enabled the company to achieve a pretty staggering 91.7% screen-to-body ratio.
Despite the 6.26-inch display, Honor is confident the footprint of the handset will remain small enough that it's manageable in one-hand. It says the Honor 20 and its sizeable screen have been squeezed into the same form-factor that you'd typically find on a smartphone with a 5.3-inch display with a 16:9 aspect ratio and bezels above and below the display.
Honor is using an LCD panel, not an OLED. So don't expect the same zingy colours and deep shades of black that you'll get on pricier flagships out there.
Camera aside, there's a number of other features and specs you'd typically only find on much pricier phones – like virtual 9.1 Surround Sound, which tunes the audio to mimic a cinema-like experience when playing games and watching movies. It's another first for Honor. According to the company, the effect can be experienced using the built-in speakers on the phone or any pair of wired or wireless headphones or earbuds. Unfortunately, external speakers don't play ball.
This is all very impressive. However, there are still a few clues that this is a more affordable handset and not the fully-fledged flagship that it aspires to be.
For example, Honor has followed in the footsteps of the OnePlus 7 Pro and not included an IP rating. It says adding the feature – as well as obtaining the certification – costs money, and it would rather just pass on its savings to its customers. That all sounds good, but if you're particularly prone to butter-fingers, it's probably best to avoid this one.
Honor 20 Pro runs Magic UI 2.1.0, which replaces the Huawei-branded EMUI skin that used to power the handsets. You could be forgiven for not knowing there has been a change in operating system on the latest handsets though as these look identical. Honor told us that changes are coming in the pipeline and we're likely to see more divergence between EMUI and Magic UI in the future.
The company was clearly talking about visual quirks and functionality when we spoke a few weeks ago, but it's difficult not to think of these comments in a new light following the revelation that Google will suspend all business with Honor's parent company Huawei in order to comply with the US government's blacklisting of the company. As such, Huawei will lose access to updates to Google's version of the Android operating system, including Android Q.
So, while the Honor 20 will ship with the latest operating system from Google, albeit with Huawei-designed user interface elements slapped on-top, it could be the last major Android OS update release it ever sees.
If you're the kind of person who looks jealously over friends' shoulders at the latest and greatest features, it might be worth giving this smartphone a miss and going with something from the likes of Samsung, LG, or Google. At least for the moment.
Powering the Honor 20 Pro is a 4,000mAh battery cell, which should be hefty enough to provide all-day battery life. But when the phone does drain, Honor supports 22.5W Honor SuperCharge which refills 50% of the battery capacity in just half an hour. That's not as fast as OnePlus 30W Warp Charge, but it's more than good enough.
You'll get the same charging speeds on the Honor 20, although it has a slightly smaller 3,750mAh battery cell inside. Both handsets are running the Kirin 980 system-on-a-chip, which is the same that fuels the powerhouse Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
This in-house silicon is coupled with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of in-built storage.
Honor 20 starts from £399, while the Honor 20 Pro starts from €599, that's £525 converted. UK pricing has yet to be confirmed, but we'll update this article as soon as it's announced. For comparison, the Huawei P30 starts from £699. Unfortunately, there's no word on the UK release date as yet, with Honor only teasing us at its launch event that the Honor 20 series will be "available soon".