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Honor 10 review: Flagship features at a mid-range price

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  • Editors' rating
    8.5 Excellent
  • $379.50

Pros

  • 128GB of internal storage
  • Two SIM slots
  • Good screen with reading mode
  • Good battery life
  • Firmware update gives speed boost
  • IR blaster

Cons

  • Iridescent glass back is slippy and a fingerprint magnet
  • No MicroSD slot
  • Awkwardly located fingerprint scanner

The 5.8-inch Honor 10 is the flagship Honor device for 2018. At £399 (inc. VAT) it's a relatively low-cost handset, in keeping with the company's value for money ethos. The Honor brand comes from the same stable as Huawei handsets, and there are often many similarities across the two product lines.

In this case, the opposite numbers are the Huawei P20 and Huawei P20 Pro, which are considerably more expensive at £499 and £799 respectively as I write (from Carphone Warehouse). So is the Honor 10 a good alternative if you want to save some money?

Honor handsets generally do a good job of delivering value for money. So much so, in fact, Huawei arguably shoots its premium brand in the foot. This year I've already been impressed by the Honor 9 Lite and the Honor View 10.

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The Honor 10's most striking feature is its curved glass back, constructed from 15 layers of 3D 'Aurora' glass.

Image: Honor

The Honor 10 takes things on a step.

The handset's back, sporting what Honor calls its Aurora Glass design, is a sight to behold. Reflective and one of the most voracious collectors of fingermarks I've come across, the back changes colour as it's moved around. Shades of blue and purple are prominent in our Phantom Blue review unit. It's undoubtedly a clever and eye-catching design feature, but might not meet all tastes.

The sides have a duller, matte finish and are much more functional. At the bottom there's a 3.5mm headset jack and a USB-C charge port as well as the speaker grille. Power and volume buttons are on the right, and the dual-SIM caddy on the left. There's no option to put a MicroSD card in the second SIM slot, but you do get a generous 128GB of internal storage, of which 115GB was free out of the box. The top edge houses an IR blaster -- ideal for controlling kit in the home, with the right app.

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There is a fingerprint scanner, but since it couldn't sully any of that glitzy glass back, it's embedded in a Home touch button beneath the screen. That's sensible from a design point of view, but irritating from a usability perspective: it's tricky to get a finger to the button when working one-handed, particularly if your hands are on the small side.

Even for those that can reach, the slippery back makes the Honor 10 decidedly droppable at the best of times -- and the danger of dropping is increased when a one-handed grip is compromised by trying to reach the fingerprint scanner. There's a clear protective case in the box, but of course fitting that will dull the impact of the iridescent back.

All in all, face unlock -- which worked perfectly for me -- is likely to be a better option.

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You can configure the native screen resolution to reduce to 1520 x 720 to conserve battery life (left), and opt to hide the default 'notch' display (right).

Images: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

There is a 'notch' at the top of the screen, after the current fashion, giving this handset a 19:9 aspect ratio. If you don't like the notch, you can turn this off in settings -- effectively levelling it off with black pixels.

The 5.8-inch, 2,280 by 1,080-resolution screen really impresses. The comparison table pitting the Honor 10 against Huawei's P20 and P20 Plus shows that this handset has the highest pixel density of all three (432ppi), although the margin is small and the calculation takes those notch pixels into account. It's a high-quality screen, and certainly more viewable than the curved, blue-tinged display on the Nokia 8 Sirocco.

It is great to see plenty of options for fiddling with the colour setup via a range of settings. Colour mode and temperature settings allow for various preset configurations, while Eye Comfort settings are available to reduce blue light -- making night-time use easier on the eyes, and proving useful for prolonged sessions of screen use, such as when reading ebooks. Eye Comfort can be set to kick in on a schedule or set manually, and can be toggled from the notification area.

There's even a setting to lower the screen resolution from 2,280 by 1,080 to 1,520 by 720 to save power -- either manually or automatically if battery capacity becomes critical.

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Colour mode and temperature settings (left) and Eye Comfort (reduced blue light) settings (right) are available.

Images: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

One of the obvious areas of compromise to keep costs down is the speaker. That 128GB of storage mentioned earlier is enough to hold my entire music collection and still leave plenty of free room. But this isn't a handset for speaker-based listening: top volume isn't particularly loud, and there's a generally tinny overtone.

There has been no cost-cutting on the processor front. The Honor 10 shares the same top-end Kirin 970 processor as the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro, with 4GB of RAM (as with the Huawei P20), rather than the 6GB found in the Huawei P20 Pro.

The handset runs Android 8.1 with Honor's EMUI 8.1 skin over the top. EMUI makes changes to the look of icons, adds settings features and makes some more noticeable changes such as to the camera app (see below). Most of what EMUI does is useful.

Benchmarking results for the Honor 10 were impressive. Our review unit delivered an average Geekbench 4 multi-core score of 6545 right out of the box. This is a pretty high rating, comparable with Samsung's Galaxy Note 8, and certainly notable for a handset at this price.

Huawei has recently announced GPU Turbo, an over-the-air update that should be rolling out from early August to a range of Honor handsets. GPU Turbo promises to improve graphics processing efficiency by 60 percent and at the same time reduce processor energy consumption by 30 percent. The obvious beneficiaries will be gamers looking for fast, flicker-free action. The update also delivers an enhancement to AIS (automatic image stabilisation), reducing the effects of camera shake.

Having applied this update, I reran Geekbench 4 and got a slightly higher average score of 6580. We also noticed a slight upturn in the OpenGL score from the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme benchmark: 2844 compared to 2811. The proof of the pudding will come in longer-term use, though, but it's gratifying to see Honor putting this kind of attention into handset support.

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Camera modes on the Honor 10.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The Honor 10 has dual 24MP and 16MP cameras at the rear and a 24MP front-facing selfie camera. Honor retains a similar AI feature to that found on Huawei handsets, where camera system takes a guess at what's being photographed and adjusts its settings accordingly.

This is not a feature Honor or Huawei has a monopoly on -- the last time I tried it was with the Asus ZenFone 5, a mid-range handset that's slightly more affordable than the Honor 10.

Honor's AI can identify 22 different categories in more than 500 'scenarios', and make adjustments to camera settings accordingly. It can even apparently take account of multiple objects in an image -- say a building in the foreground and scenery behind. During testing, I found that although images were good, they weren't outstanding in any way.

There are plenty of other camera features, including a range of animations and objects that can be added to selfies (think rabbit ears and cutesy cat features), the ability to choose background lighting effects for selfies, and bokeh (sharp subject, blurred background) on both the front and rear cameras.

The 3,400mAh battery should be able to get most users through a day between charges. I certainly found my usual daily workload of email, social media, web reading and about an hour of ebook reading was achievable off a full battery. However, if you play games, watch video, or listen to music for extended periods, you might find you need to provide a battery boost during the day.


Honor 10 Huawei P20 Huawei P20 Pro
Chipset HiSilicon Kirin 970 HiSilicon Kirin 970 HiSilicon Kirin 970
RAM 4GB 4GB 6GB
Internal storage 128GB 128GB 128GB
Screen 5.8 inches, 1,080 x 2280 pixels, 432ppi 5.8 inches, 1,080 x 2244 pixels, 429ppi 6.1 inches, 1,080 x 2240 pixels, 408ppi
Rear cameras 24MP + 16MP 20MP + 12MP 40MP + 20MP + 8MP
Front camera 24MP 24MP 24MP
Battery 3400mAh 3400mAh 4000mAh
Water resistance none IP53 IP67
Dimensions 149.6mm x 71.2mm x 7.7mm 149.1mm x 70.8mm x 7.65mm 155mm x 73.9mm x 7.8mm
Weight 153g 165g 180g
Price (inc. VAT) £399 £499 £799

Conclusions

The Honor 10 is an excellent mid-range handset. It has lots of features and certainly gives the Huawei P20 and P20 Plus a run for their money. There's plenty of competition in this price bracket though, and other mid-range handsets you might want to consider are the Moto G6 Plus and Asus ZenFone 5. If you're prepared a little bit more, the OnePlus 6 remains a great-value flagship-class handset.

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Specifications

Phone Features
Phone Functions Speakerphone, voice control, call timer, conference call, flight mode, voice dialing, vibrating alert
Sensors Ambient light sensor, digital compass, gyro sensor, hall sensor, gravity sensor
Security Devices Fingerprint reader, face recognition
Details
Integrated Components Front-facing camera, voice recorder, navigation, dual rear-facing camera, digital player
Body Color Phantom blue
Cellular
Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
Type smartphone (Android OS)
Integrated Components digital player, dual rear-facing camera, front-facing camera, navigation, voice recorder
Navigation A-GPS, BeiDou, GLONASS, GPS
Mobile Broadband Generation 4G
Phone Form Factor touch
Service Provider not specified
Operating System Family Android
Operating System Android 8.1 Oreo
User Interface HUAWEI Emotion UI 8.1
SIM Card Type nano SIM
SIM Card Slot Qty dual-SIM
Input Device Multi-touch, capacitive
Messaging & Internet
Messaging Services MMS, SMS
Supported Social Networks and Blogs Yes
Miscellaneous
Sensors ambient light sensor, digital compass, gravity sensor, gyro sensor, hall sensor
Communications
Data Transmission EDGE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSPA+, HSUPA, LTE
Wireless Interface Bluetooth 4.2, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, NFC
Display
Technology LTPS
Display Resolution 2280 x 1080 pixels
Color Depth 24-bit (16.7 million colors)
Display Format Full HD+
Pixel Density (ppi) 432
Diagonal Size 5.84 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 14.83 cm
Smartphone Diagonal Size 5.84 in
Aspect Ratio 19:9
Color Support color
Features Honor Full View Display
Processor
Clock Speed 2.36 GHz
Manufacturer Hisilicon
Processor Core Qty 8-core
64-bit Architecture Yes
Media Player
Supported Digital Video Standards MPEG-4, 3GP
Supported Digital Audio Standards WAV, AAC, MP3, FLAC, OGG, 3GA, MP4, MID
Battery
Fast Charging Technology Honor SuperCharge
Digital Camera
Special Effects HDR
Header
Brand Honor
Product Line Honor
Model 10
Packaged Quantity 1
CE Input Device
Type touch sensitive screen (multi-touch)
Touchscreen Technology capacitive
Features
Sensors ambient light sensor, digital compass, gravity sensor, gyro sensor, hall sensor
Phone Functions call timer, conference call, flight mode, speakerphone, vibrating alert, voice control, voice dialing
Security Devices face recognition, fingerprint reader
Digital Player (Recorder)
Supported Digital Audio Standards 3GA, AAC, FLAC, MID, MP3, MP4, OGG, WAV
Supported Digital Video Standards 3GP, MPEG-4
RAM
Installed Size 4 GB
Flash Memory
Internal Memory Capacity 64 GB
Front-facing Camera
Sensor Resolution 24 Megapixel

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Where To Buy

Huawei Honor 10 (black)

Part Number: COL-L29