Honor Play key specs
CPU: Kirin 970 (with AI NPU)
Screen: 6.3-inch FHD+
Battery: 3,750 mAh
Rear cameras: 16MP + 2MP
Front camera: 13MP
This phone is aimed, as hinted by the name, at mobile gaming enthusiasts and has Honor's GPU Turbo technology built in. Can the Honor Play do enough to enter T3's prestigious best gaming phone guide?
Here is my review of the Honor Play.
Honor Play review: release date, price and models
The price of the Honor Play is £299.
The Honor Play comes in two colour schemes in the UK, Midnight Black and Navy Blue (the model reviewed).
The global market has more colourways to choose from, though, including Player Edition Black, Player Edition Red, Midnight Black, Navy, and Ultra Violet.
The Honor Play is available to buy from Honor's official online store (opens in new tab).
Honor Play review: design and build quality
The Honor Play looks very similar to the Honor 10 in overall design, however, it has a matte metal finish backplate instead of a shiny, reflective one.
In terms of ports and buttons, you get USB Type-C for charging, a 3.5mm audio jack, as well as power and a volume rocker on the right hand side.
On the left hand side of the phone is a microSD card slot which can expand the Honor Play's storage capacity by up to 256GB.
The rear dual-camera array is positioned on a vertical orientation on the top-left of the phone, while its fingerprint reader is circular and is located dead-centre of the backplate.
Honor Play review: screen and hardware
The Honor Play has a large 6.3-inch screen with a notch, which I can confirm can be filled in with a solid black bar if you so desire.
The screen's resolution is FHD+ 2,340 x 1,080, which appears sharp. Brightness is good, if not LG G7 ThinQ levels, and the large amount of real estate is welcome when playing games or watching media.
The screen has an impressive 89 per cent screen to body ratio, too.
In terms of hardware, the Honor Play comes packing the fast and powerful Kirin 970 CPU as found in the Huawei P20 Pro. This is a flagship-grade CPU up there in terms of rapidity with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845.
Partnering the Kirin 970 is 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage space (expandable by a further 256GB via microSD card) and a 3,750 mAh battery,
Honor Play review: performance and gaming
Naturally, as a phone geared towards performance, I was keen to see what sort of scores the Honor Play posted in terms of a compute benchmark. The phone returned an overall score of 8,525 in GeekBench 4, and lodged a multi-core score of 6,561 and a single-core score of 1,888.
These scores compare very well to a variety of flagship Android phones, but ultimately fall short of the biggest scoring phones we've seen this year, the OnePlus 6, HTC U12+, and best Android phone in the world, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9.
And those competitive benchmark scores, in partnership with the the Honor Play's GPU Turbo tech, means that mobile gaming is, simply put, a no-compromise situation.
GeekBench 4 benchmark scores
I threw a number of modern, graphically intensive mobile games at the Honor Play, including Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, DBZ Legends, Asphalt Nitro, and Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition, and each one ran buttery smooth. I experienced no lag or low frame rates, and everything from downloading the installing the games, to navigating their in-game menus was fast and snappy.
Honor says that GPU Turbo means that a host of technical stuff is improved in the Honor Play, such as jitter rate, however I was simply pleased to see that the phone delivered on its core promise of running mobile games very well.
The Honor Play's Game Suite mode adds to this excellent core competency by delivering the ability to easily record gameplay, lock the phone's navigation keys and bars to prevent accidental usage, and mute incoming notifications, too.
Honor Play review: OS and camera
In terms of OS the the Honor Play comes running Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box with Honor's own EMUI 8.2 skin over the top. This UI remains fast, bold and light, however I feel it still lacks some of the refinement found in other skins on the market today.
Camera-wise you get a dual rear camera (16MP + 2MP) with Honor's neat AI features built in, such as scene and object recognition that includes 22 object categories and over 500 scenarios. The rear camera system also comes packing a bokeh-tastic portrait mode, as well as AIS for both images and videos.
Round the front of the phone you get a 16MP AI-toting selfie camera with 3D facial recognition (this isn't biometric) and 3D portrait lighting capabilities. Almost inevitably for a phone launched in 2018, the Honor Play also has a AR camera mode that allows you to superimpose a variety of madness on selfie shots or images in general.
Honor Play review: verdict
The Honor Play is a well-specced Android phone that has been tailored specifically to make playing mobile games a better experience. And, on that count, it definitely succeeds, adding in genuinely useful or performance-enhancing tech and features that make playing mobile games very enjoyable.
GPU Turbo is a neat piece of engineering and from my comparison testing with other devices does definitely add an extra level of gaming power, while the Honor Play's good audio credentials (7.1 Channel Histen audio, 3D gaming sound effects), as well as dedicated Game Suite mode help maintain immersion.
For me, though, the fact that the Honor Play - gaming aside - looks, feels and runs like a quality Android phone, delivering you a package that even if you weren't really into games should appeal, is the game changer.
Features like its big and sharp 6.3-inch FHD+ screen with a 89 per cent screen-to-body ratio, thin and light build with a iPhone-style aesthetic, and excellent selection of camera modes and options back this up. As too does its competitive battery life and, compared to other similarly specced phones, super affordable price point.
Overall, then, I feel the Honor Play is very easy to recommend if you are looking for a new Android phone and are shopping with a low mid-range budget, and especially so if you are gamer who enjoys playing mobile games on the go.