Honor 10 review: stunning and powerful, this red hot handset delivers on every level

Without doubt, the Honor 10 is one of the absolute best phones of 2018. Here's why…

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T3 Verdict

Man, does this phone have style. That backplate, especially in the new Phantom Blue and Phantom Green colourways, is simply stunning, and adds genuine wow-factor, while the brushed aluminium frame and tidy top notch look class. There's power to spare in the Honor 10, too, thanks to that flagship-grade processor, and the device's integration of AI across the phone impressive. Samsung, Apple et al should be worried.

Reasons to buy

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    New colourways are stunning

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    Colourful 19:9 Full HD+ screen

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    Lightning fast face unlock

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    Strong internal hardware

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    Smart AI-powered camera system

Reasons to avoid

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    No microSD card slot

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    Not waterproof

Honor 10 specs

Display: 5.84” Full HD+ (1,080 x 2,280), 3D glass, 432ppi)
Size: 149.6 x 71.2 x 7.7 mm
Weight: 153 g
Colours: Phantom Blue, Phantom Green, Phantom Grey, Midnight Black
CPU: Kirin 970, Octa-core

GPU: Mali-G72 MP12
Memory: 4GB
Storage: 128GB
Front Camera: 8MP, F/1.9
Rear Camera: Dual 16MP f/1.8 + 24MP f/1.8 B/W 

Battery: 3,400 mAh

Can you improve on the Honor 9? The phone that T3.com referred to as "the bargain of the decade" and proceeded to scoop the prestigious Best Mid-Range Phone prize at the T3 Awards 2017. Yes, apparently you can, and for that I have to tip my hat to Honor, as what the maker has achieved with the Honor 10 is superb.

The Honor 10 is premium in every way you can think and, in partnership with one of the most attractive smartphone designs I've come across, makes a mockery of the fact that it rings in for just £399.

Seriously, Samsung, Sony, Nokia and even Apple should be worried, as the overall package the Honor 10 delivers is flagship-level, but the price it retails for is very much not.

This has been coming, too.

The Honor View 10, released back in January, attacked the mid-range market and walked away as the new king, dethroning the highly rated OnePlus 5T and tucking a big fat 5 stars from T3 under its belt in the process.

Now, though, with a nonchalance and disregard for more established brands and considerably more expensive handsets, the Honor 10 is arguably going after the high-end of the market, too, questioning why you would spend close to double its price on a flagship from another maker when it is so stylish and powerful itself.

Can the Honor 10 really play with the big boys like the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium? Read on for the answer.

Honor 10 review: price, availability, and colours

The Honor 10 is available to buy SIM-free now from a variety of retailers, including Carphone Warehouse, Argos, Amazon, AO.com, Very.co.uk, and the Honor online store, too.

The Honor 10 costs £399 SIM-free.

The Honor 10 is available exclusively to the Three UK network on pay monthly advanced plans, which start at £31 per month for 4GB of data, or £40 per month for 30GB of data.

There are four colour schemes to choose from, including my favourite: the Phantom Green. It is sure to draw envious glances, giving the handset a seriously premium feel.

Multiple variants of the phone exist, with combinations of 4GB of RAM and 64GB/128GB of storage space. The model tested here, which is the lead model officially coming to the UK, pairs 4GB of RAM with 128GB of storage space.

 Honor 10 review: design and build quality

Honor 10 review

The lead colourway for the Honor 10 is Phantom Blue. It looks stunning.

Take the Honor 10 out of the box and the first thing that hits you is just what a good looking phone it is. This is largely thanks to the newly engineered "aurora gradient" backplate, which manages to be glossy, shiny, and metallic all at once, with light refracting off its 3D glass top and "ultrasonic under-glass" layer in sharp V-shaped streaks that catch the eye.

The dynamic aesthetic extends around the brushed aluminium frame, which feels almost soft and smooth in the hand, and continues into the Honor 10's Gorilla Glass-covered display that, neatly, also covers the phone's bottom-centre mounted fingerprint reader.

Light refracts off its 3D glass top and "ultrasonic under-glass" layer in sharp V-shaped streaks that catch the eye.

This isn't the much-wanted in-display fingerprint reader rumoured to be coming to the Samsung Galaxy S10, but it is under the screen and nicely compact, mirroring the shape of the phone's top-centre mounted notch.

In terms of buttons and ports, there is a power button and a volume rocker on the right hand side, SIM card slot on the left, and USB Type-C and 5mm audio jack on the bottom.

The Honor 10's front camera is located, as you would expect, in its notch, while its dual rear cameras are located on top left of the backplate, extending out a fraction (not flush).

Honor 10 review: hardware, screen, and performance

Honor 10 review

The Honor 10 uses the same CPU as found in the Huawei P20 Pro.

The Honor 10 comes packing the same flagship processor found in the recently released Huawei P20 Pro, which is the rapid Kirin 970 CPU. This octa-core processor (4x2.36GHz + 4x1.8GHz) is very, very capable and is right up there with the other major flagship processor at the moment, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845.

The Kirin 970 CPU is partnered with 4GB of RAM (a model with 6GB is reportedly coming to different territories), which while nothing to write home about, feels well matched here as, simply put, the Honor 10 runs very fast and smooth, both in terms of UI navigation, app loading and switching, as well as during gameplay or multimedia streaming.

GeekBench 4 benchmark

Single core: 1,900

Multi-core: 6,645

A single and multi-core GeekBench 4 score of 1,900 and 6,645 confirms this sharp performance, and when you compare it to the recently released Motorola Moto G6, which scored 756 and 3,978 respectively, you can see that despite the price sitting firmly at the bottom of the mid-range market, you get a processing power that is more at home in the high-range. 

Indeed, our stock comparison device, the current HTC flagship phone, the U11+, scores 1,937 on single core and 6651on multi core in GeekBench 4, which shows you just how far the Honor 10 pushes up against far more expensive phones.

The screen on the Honor 10 is a 5.84” Full HD+ display with a resolution of 2,280 x 1,080 and a 432ppi. Interestingly, the phone's aspect ratio rests at 19:9, not 18:9, which is a trend we are seeing more and more in 2018. This slight tweak in screen aspect ratio, despite the size remaining at 5.84", has been achieved by trimming down bezels.

The phone's aspect ratio rests at 19:9, which is a trend we are seeing more and more in 2018

My impression of the Honor 10's screen is good. Flatter colours traditionally have been a hallmark of cheaper phones, but here I a was perfectly happy with the colour depth, balance and contrast delivered by the phone through UI navigation, app use, game playing and multimedia content streaming. 

Watching the recently released TV series of Lost In Space on Netflix, for example, was pleasurable both in terms of the sharpness of image and the richness of colours. 

The screen isn't as bright as the 1,000 nit LG G7 ThinQ, and naturally the IPS LCD can't match the awesome vibrancy of the Super AMLOED equipped on the Samsung Galaxy S9, but it is very attractive nonetheless.

Honor 10 review: camera, battery, and software

Honor 10 review

You get a dual rear camera system (16MP f/1.8 + 24MP f/1.8 B/W) equipped on the Honor 10.

Outside of its hyper-modern aesthetic, the other edge-of-trend feature the Honor 10 chases is its integration of AI into its camera system. That camera system consists of a dual rear array (16MP f/1.8 + 24MP f/1.8 B/W) alongside a front facing 8MP, F/1.9 unit.

The AI manifests itself in a couple of core uses on the phone in terms of camera use. There's multi-scene recognition, smart portrait and event gallery categorisation, dynamic bokeh and multi-subject framing. 

These AI functions, far from being a gimmicky, are genuinely useful from my experience with the phone. The object / event / scene recognition was very fast, too.

And, I am happy to confirm that the Honor 10 is a great mobile camera. As you can see from the image gallery below, detail, colour and depth of image is strong, and the speed of capture fast, too. Firing off a series of quick snaps, and switching subjects as well, was seamless and very rarely did I find me operating in-advance of the hardware.

Check out the images below for a taste of the Honor 10's capabilities.

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The upgraded AI in the Honor 10 also helps out in terms of the phone's portrait mode, with more natural and precise bokeh (that lovely background blur) delivered. As you can see from the images below, you can see how the AI-enhanced portrait mode worked in reality, with a shot without bokeh on the left, and a shot with it on the right.

I was pleased with the result here as other phones I've used in portrait mode can often be a little overkill in terms of blur. Honor puts these quality shots down to the phone's AI, which breaks an image like this down not just into subject and background, but also into further parts that identify parts of the face, hair and sky. I felt this helped balance images I took, especially in situations where there was a large disparity between the darkest and lightest element of the photo.

Honor 10 review

As you would expect from a smartphone camera system in 2018, there are also plenty of shooting modes on Honor 10, as well as filters.

The Honor 10 comes equipped with a 3,400 mAh battery, which I feel is well-suited to the hardware spec and screen. It can also be recharged up to 50 per cent in just 25 minutes.

During my testing period the Honor 10 delivered a usage time in the day and a half range with medium levels of activity.


Lastly, the Honor 10 comes running Android 8.1 and Honor's own light EMUI 8.1 skin. As I have noted before, I like EMUI 8.1 due to its kid gloves approach to tweaking vanilla, and here on this device runs very smoothly.

Other noteworthy things include the ability to hide the phone's notch with a black bar if so desired, as well as quite comprehensive options in terms of device display, clean-up, and operation.

Honor 10 review: verdict

Honor 10 review

The Honor 10 delivers a fantastic all-round smartphone experience that feels bang on-trend in 2018.

The Honor 10 is a fantastic smartphone, partnering a young, hyper-modern, and eye-catching design with good hardware and an impressive suite of features, including some genuinely impressive AI functions.

The fact that this phone costs just £399 is absolutely nuts, too, especially when you take into account its hardware benchmarks that are right up there among those logged by much more expensive handsets.

The AI camera functionality is also really nicely integrated, and the camera system grants you serious flexibility and scope to take creative shots.

Overall, then, a great new phone from Honor that shows, more than anything, that the Chinese maker is going from strength to strength.