Honor View 20 Review: a true OnePlus contender


Let’s be honest, there’s typically little be excited about when a new Honor smartphone is unveiled. The story is typically the same, a low-end or mid-range device at a decent price point, but there’s usually a compromise or two that you’ll have to live with. With the Honor View 20, the story is a bit different.

What you’re looking at here is a true flagship smartphone with all the bells and whistles. It has more power than most devices from 2018, enough RAM to satisfy the heaviest multitaskers, a jaw-dropping design, respectable cameras and an unmistakable hole cut out of its display for its front-facing camera instead of those pesky notches that were pushed on us last year. And the best part of all of that is the price. In most markets, this phone is roughly the same price as the OnePlus 6T.


But we know that most of you are most interested in that hole in the View 20’s display since the hole-punch looks like it will be replacing the notch in 2019. The hole punch cutout for the front-facing camera is looking to solve the same problem as the notch did, finding a way to maximize screen to body ratio while still keeping the front-facing camera. To do this, Honor has cut a 4.5mm hole into the LCD panel which translates into a 91.8% screen-to-body ratio.

As you might imagine, the notification icons at the top are pushed over to make room for the camera cutout, but that’s really the extent of the obtrusion. The hole essentially disappears below your thumb when playing games in full-screen mode and it’s barely noticeable when watching video. In the software, honor is taking the same approach has most manufacturers have with the notch, allowing you to black-out the notification bar so that the hole essentially disappear.

I’m not sure yet if the hole-punch in the display is any better than the water-drop notch of the OnePlus 6T, but it is more aesthetically pleasing and its placement is slightly better.

The phone’s unique design features aren’t just limited to the hole in the display. Flipping the View 20 over to the back reveals an impressive glass finish. Using nano-optical lithography, the Honor View 20 has a one of a kind chevron pattern which shifts with the light. We’ve seen similar color shifting glass backed smartphones before from HTC, but the View 20 definitely takes things to the next level.

The 2.5D glass on the front and back of the phone seamlessly fade into the metal frame of the device which gives the View 20 a premium feel, unlike many phones offered at the same price point.

On paper, the Honor View 20 is just as good as most 2018 flagship devices that sell in the $850 to $1,000 range, but it’s honestly the OnePlus 6T competitor that we’ve been so desperately waiting for since the View 20 and the latest device from OnePlus can basically be purchased for the same price.


As for its specs, the Honor View 20 is packed to the gills. You get a 6.4-inch 1080 x 2310 edge-to-edge display, a Kirin 980 which is Huawei’s 7nm chip. 6 or 8GB of RAM and 128/256GB of storage, a 48MP camera on the back which is paired with a true 3D camera sensor which actually calculates the how long it takes for light from objects to bounce back and reach the sensor, a 25MP selfies camera up front, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, a massive 4,000 mAh battery, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. And topping things off, there’s also an IR sensor so you can use the phone as a remote for your TV or other devices.


While the spec sheet is impressive, we all know that there’s a lot more to a device than its physical components. Software plays a key role and may actually be the Honor View 20’s only weak point. Like all of Huawei’s devices, this phone is running a heavily skinned version of Android called Magic UI 2.0. It’s essentially the same as EMUI 9 running on Android 9.0 with the January security patch installed. Out of the box, you don’t get an app drawer and the icons are pretty reminiscent of iOS, but you can dive into the settings and customize things to your liking. It’s an easy fix to enable the app drawer to hide the apps you don’t use often, but Honor has restrictions on using third-party launchers on the phone. It’s impossible to get the Pixel launcher to work, but with a bit of luck, you should be able to get Nova Launcher up and running. Like many other devices, Honor gives you the option to use gestures to navigate the UI, but I recommend sticking to the standard on-screen buttons since the gestures are slow and finicky.

On the plus side, Magic UI does have a lot of hidden features and functionality baked in. You can hide the hole-punch cutout in the same way as you would a notch on most other devices, you can move around the status icons at the top of the display, tweak the app icons with the default launcher and Honor even throws in the Google feed to the left of the home screen, something I’d come to rely on the past few years.


But the main reason to buy the Honor View 20 is for its amazing performance. The Kirini 980 inside this thing is the same chip which made the Huawei P20 Pro the most powerful Android device of 2018. From when we’ve seen, the Honor View 20 is a beast, ripping through Android games as if it were nothing. Honor has even optimized performance for Fortnite so that it can run at 60 fps with absolutely no issues. This Kirin 980 has a lot to do with the incredible performance, but the phone also includes an s-shaped heat pipe, a copper alloy shield and a graphene heat sync which keep the phone quite cool under heavy load.

Having 8GB of RAM is a must-have option for heavy multitaskers. On our tests, the View 20’s RAM management is among the best we’ve seen from an Android device in a long time, even outperforming the OnePlus 6T McLaren edition which has an extra 2GB of RAM. One the View 20, you can switch between apps on the fly, pulling up applications that you haven’t used in hours without waiting for them to reload. It even works with games, allowing you to pick things off exactly where you left off before getting a phone call or answering an urgent message from a friend.

This phone truly offers the same performance as what you got on Huawei’s more expensive Mate 20 Pro.


The other standout feature of the Honor View 20 is its 48MP main camera. Paired with a time of flight sensor, the phone is able to capture true depth information which can be sure to deliver portrait style selfies or better calorie estimates since it can measure the size of the portion in addition to identifying the type of food you’re eating. It can even be used

The sensor used for the main camera is the new Sony IMX586 which is a half inch in size. It enables 960 FPS super slow motion video capture in 720p, and an AI Ultra Clarity mode which captures multiple 48MP exposures to create a brighter, crisper image. Capturing images in the default 12MP setting will be good enough for most and the images are pretty spectacular with great color reproduction, clarity and white balance that’s almost spot on in most situations. The phone even has a Night Mode which stitches multiple shots together just like the Google Pixel. It takes a bit longer, but the end result is an image that’s dramatically brighter and clearer than what you’d typically get in low-light conditions from most smartphones.

Video capture from the phone is pretty good as well with impressive results in low light conditions. The front-facing 25MP camera isn’t anything to write home about. The results are in line with what you get on most devices. It’s good, but a far cry front the front-facing camera of the Pixel 3.


Rounding out the Honor View 20’s experience is phenomenal battery life which is made possible by its 4,000 mAh battery. It’s nearly impossible to drain this phone in a single day, even if you consider yourself a heavy gamer. After a full 14 hours of use in a day with 4-5 hours of screen on time, the View 20 typically has 35 to 40% charge left. If you do manage to run the phone down to zero, the included supercharger will deliver a 55% charge in 30 minutes or a full charge in 90.


I’ll be honest. I wasn’t really impressed with the Honor View 20 when it was unveiled. It seemed like another me too product form Huawei’s sub-brand simply trying to gain attention as being one of the first devices with a hole-punch display, but this phone is definitely a lot more than that. It delivers impeccable performance, outstanding battery life and a well-rounded camera experience all neatly wrapped up in a glitzy body. The best compliment that I can offer is that the Honor View 20 is the first smartphone to truly challenge OnePlus and its flagship devices.

Honor View 20 Rating: star_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_half (4.4 / 5)

The Good

  • Amazingly powerful
  • Great battery life
  • Unique design
  • Good cameras

The Bad

  • Poor software experience
  • No third-part launcher support
  • Not available in North America

The Bottom Line

The honor View 20 is nearly impeccable, offering amazing value, positionling itself as a great alternative to flagship devices from OnePlus.

Nick Gray
I'm a life-long tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC. After writing about tech for more than a decade, I jumped at the opportunity to take on the role of Editor in Chief at Phandroid. Please contact me at [email protected].

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