Honor 10 review: The most powerful phone under £400
You’d be forgiven for struggling to keep up with all the new phones Honor has released over recent months. Following on from the 7a, 7c, View 10 and 9 Lite, the Honor 10 is now the manufacturer’s fifth new handset since last December, and the third in just two months.
At £399, its main competition comes from the brand new 64gb OnePlus 6 at £469, the Samsung Galaxy S8 at £440 and the Huawei P20, which costs £500. Its sibling, the Honor View 10 is also only a little more expensive at only £420. The question is what does the Honor 10 offer that its rivals don’t, and can it do enough to stand out in the already jam-packed market for mid-range handsets?
Honor 10 review: Design and build quality
The most obvious appeal of the Honor 10 is instantly apparent: its appearance. It’s as eye-catching as any of 2018’s flagships thanks to its stunning pearlescent glass back and, like the iPhone X, it has a notch and a tall-thin aspect ratio. We were sent the “Phantom” blue version to test (it also comes in “Glacier” grey), which although not well suited to those with conservative tastes is one of the most striking looking phones we’ve seen this year.
[gallery:6]In terms size and heft, it’s lighter, shorter and not quite as wide as the Honor View 10. This is largely because it has a smaller 5.8in screen, which also occupies more of the front of the phone thanks to the aforementioned notch. Perhaps the best thing about its 19:9 aspect ratio and, indeed, narrower chassis, though, is that it makes the phone much easier to use one-handed. Indeed, reaching over to the other side of a screen with your thumb when typing is much less of a challenge than with last year’s OnePlus 5, a phone with a more traditional 16:9 aspect ratio display.
Just like the Honor View 10, the fingerprint sensor on the Honor 10 is on the front of the phone below display but here it’s flush with the surface of the glass. It looks slick but, sadly, we weren’t overly impressed with its performance. Unlocking speed was noticeably slower than its competitors and it doesn’t work well with wet fingers, despite Honor’s claims to the contrary.[gallery:10]
As far as other features are concerned, the Honor 10 has a 3.5mm headphone jack (thank goodness!), a USB Type-C port for fast charging and NFC for contactless payments. There’s dual 4G SIM support too but no option to expand storage via microSD. Disappointingly, the Honor 10 also lacks any kind of IP-rated dust- and water-resistance.
Honor 10 review: Display
The Honor 10’s 5.8in notched IPS display has an FHD+ resolution of 1,080 x 2,280. While that’s no match for the Samsung Galaxy S8’s AMOLED screen, which has a resolution of 1,440 x 2,960 resolution, most people would struggle to tell the two apart in everyday use.[gallery:8]
When set to Standard mode, the display has excellent colour reproduction, achieving 95.7% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut. The downside is that both contrast and peak brightness are lower in this mode than when the display is set to Vivid, meaning you’ll probably need to leave it in the latter should you need to use your phone in bright, sunny conditions.
Honor 10 review: Performance
Inside, the Honor 10 is powered by the same Kirin 970 chip that behind the View 10, Huawei P20, Huawei P20 Pro, and Huawei Mate 10. As you can see from the benchmark scores below, it’s a quick and provides comparable performance to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 that powers the OnePlus 5T. The chip is backed by 6GB of RAM which is plenty enough memory for smartphone-based multitasking operations.
In terms of graphics performance, the Honor 10 is also very impressive. Its onscreen benchmark scores are on par with the Samsung Galaxy S8, which means that the phone can cope with the most intensive games you can throw at it. Perhaps more significantly its scores make it the most powerful phone you can buy for under £400.
Unfortunately, one caveat is that the Honor 10’s battery life is distinctly average. Lasting only 12hrs 3mins in our video rundown test, the phone’s stamina was some three hours behind the View 10 and even further behind the OnePlus 5T, which lasted more than 20 hours between charges.
Honor 10 review: Camera
Fortunately, Honor goes some way to making up for this shortcoming with the 10’s camera performance. It’s a dual camera setup that has both a 16- and 24-megapixel sensor, each with an f/1.8 aperture. As with all current Honor and Huawei dual-cameras, the second, 24-megapixel camera is predominantly for monochrome photography and is also used to add extra detail to full-colour shots.
[gallery:3]There’s a LED flash, too, but what Honor is hanging its hat on is the phone’s “AI” camera software, which can identify various different types of scenes and objects and optimise your camera settings appropriately.
The results when using this mode were impressive, if excessively unnatural. As you can see from our test shots below, the software brightened the dark areas far more than the HDR mode, and also boosted saturation and contrast to a point the scene resembles a computer game than real life. If you want to upload eye-catching snaps instantly to social media, that’s great, but most of what it does can be achieved with a few tap and swipes in any good photo-editing app.
^ Honor 10 in AI mode
^ Honor 10 HDR, AI OFF.
^ Honor 10 AI vs HDR mode
The same verdict can be drawn when comparing the Honor 10 in AI mode with the OnePlus 5T.
^ Honor 10 in AI mode vs OnePlus 5T with HDR enabled
^ Honor 10 vs OnePlus 5T with HDR enabled
In low-light, the Honor 10 still seemed to bump up the saturation too much, causing skin tones to look unnatural. As you’ll see from the images below, the stuffed bear in our still life scene takes on orange appearance that simply doesn’t match what your eye sees. The silver lining is that the AI did manage to eliminate some noise.
^ Honor 10 low-light with AI mode
^ Honor 10 low-light
In terms of video, the phone will shoot 4K (3,840 x 2,160) at 24fps, FHD+ (2,160 x 1,064) 18:9 at 30fps, and Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) at 60fps. Conveniently, it can also record using the H.265 (or HEVC) codec, which produces much smaller files than H.264.
Overall, the camera is excellent considering the Honor 10’s £399 price tag, but it’s still no match for the Huawei P20 Pro, Pixel 2 or the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S9. All of these phones are in a different league, especially in low-light conditions. If a camera is your main priority, then you’re better off with the Samsung S8, it’s as simple as that.
Honor 10 review: Verdict
Honor is known for producing excellent value smartphones and the Honor 10 is no different. As our benchmark tests show, it’s the most powerful phone you can buy for under £400, and it looks and feels great, too.
However, there are one or two important limitations that stop it from gaining my wholehearted recommendation. First, its battery life is significantly worse than competitors. Its camera is also good but it does have weaknesses, plus there’s no waterproofing. For those reasons, I’d be inclined to recommend spending a little more on Samsung Galaxy S8, even if it is significantly older or even the OnePlus 6.
|Honor 10 specifications|
|Processor||2.4GHz octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 970|
|Screen resolution||1,080 x 2,280|
|Memory card slot (supplied)||microSD (256GB)|
|Dimensions||149.6 x 71.2 x 7.7mm|
|Operating system||Android 8.1|
|Warranty||1 year RTB|
|Price SIM-free (inc VAT)||£399|