Competition in the middle tier of the smartphone world is insane. So how does the Honor 20 Pro hold its own in a saturated marketplace consisting of quality 2019 mid-range phones and 2018 flagships?
Honor 20 Pro – Design
The Honor brand has been experimenting with fancy, iridescent and shimmering finishes for its devices for a couple of generations now. But with the Honor 20 Pro, available in “Phantom Blue and “Phantom Black”, they’ve finally struck the right balance between eye-catching and desirable. Unlike the Honor View 20’s gaudy all-glass chevron-patterned finish, the Honor 20 Pro avoids the gimmicks. My review unit was in Phantom Black, it’s still shiny – with a hint of purple – but without any quirky patterns it looks more grown-up and premium.
The Honor 20 Pro has a 6.26-inch FullHD+ LCD panel, with a punch-hole for the camera. Opting for a cut-out/hole-punched front-facing camera means there’s a lot of screen real estate. And we’re happy that Honor placed it in the top left corner of the device, it’s the most sensible place for it Samsung! Placing the camera there means the hole is mostly covered up while playing games and still allows videos to feel immersive.
Bucking the trend for under screen fingerprint scanners, Honor has opted for a similar fingerprint sensor/power button unlocking method, to the one popularised in the Sony Xperia range and used recently by Samsung for the S10. It’s quick and consistent, the same can’t be said for a number of phones that went the under-screen scanner route. The device can be unlocked at a touch, without the need for pressing the power button, it’s a nice touch (pun intended).
To hold, the Honor 20 Pro feels reassuringly substantial. It’s got a good weight to it, without being hefty. This is partly due to the fact that it doesn’t have in vogue curved glass front or back, but also because it’s housing a 4,000mAh battery. There’s no headphone jack, but there is still an IR-blaster at the top of the device, one of the only devices this year still retaining the feature. Some may be disappointed to learn that the Honor 20 Pro doesn’t have wireless charging capabilities, especially since Huawei pioneered reverse wireless charging. But costs have to be saved somewhere.
Honor 20 Pro – In Use
There are no surprises under the hood of this device. The Honor 20 Pro uses the proven Kirin 980 processor with ARM-developed Mali-G76 GPU. It also has 8GB RAM and 256GB on board storage. This setup allows the Honor 20 Pro to keep up with Snapdragon 845-based devices and deliver great gaming performance, as well as multitasking with ease. People in the market for a phone in this price-bracket are fortunate that powerful chips are filtering down from flagships quicker than ever, so this year’s mid-range is pretty much last year’s flagship. If you don’t need the latest top specs, which will only deliver marginal performance benefits anyway, you’ll be more than happy with the Honor 20 Pro.
There’s not too much in the way of bloatware, just standard Huawei apps and Android alternatives for File Manager, Calculator, Calendar etc. Although, Huawei is stepping up its efforts in the app store and ecosystem departments to future proof its devices against US sanctions. For now, Google services are fully compatible and available for the Honor 20 Pro, so this is a device you should be able to buy with confidence that it will retain Android updates and support in the coming years. The same may not be able to be said for next year’s Honour 30 Pro.
Honor 20 Pro – Camera
On paper, the camera of the Honor 20 Pro is impressive. It has a quad-camera setup, comprised of the 48-megapixel Sony-produced IMX 586 sensor, which is 1/2-inch in size, larger than the average phone sensor size. This gives it more light gathering capability. The main 48MP camera has an f1.4 OIS lens, and is joined by an 8MP sensor with 3x optical zoom telephoto lens; a 16MP sensor with 117° wide-angle lens and a 2MP macro camera for close-ups. In PRO mode, it can also capture images in RAW for greater editing flexibility. It’s a versatile arrangement and it does well in most situations, particularly with travel scenes, such as buildings, pictures of people on sunny days, streets and beaches. But it struggles with high contrast situations and performs a little better than average in lower light scenarios, unless in its Super Night Mode.
Huawei has pretty much pioneered Night Mode photography and they’ve done a great job here too. If you can keep your hands steady and aren’t shooting a moving subject, Super Night Mode will give you super clean shots of night scenes. Aside from its high res sensor, the Honor 20 Pro’s most stand out feature is its ability to zoom up to 30x digitally. In good light and with steady hands (again) the digital 30x zoom will get you some surprisingly good shots of distant subjects. Selfie takers will appreciate the 32MP front-facing camera of the Honor 20 Pro, which is in-screen so no need to worry about fragile mechanical pop-up selfie camera issues. It has beautify, but you can dial it in, which is good. If taking pictures of your own face is important to you, this phone takes some of the best selfies of any device currently available, irrespective of phone tier. It’s also used to deliver quick and consistent face unlocking.
Even with its neat tricks considered, the Honor 20 Pro faces stiff competition when pitched against the Pixel 3a, but it still has one of the best camera setups in this phone category.
Honor 20 Pro – Conclusion
One of the best things about the Honor 20 Pro? It’s staying power. The battery efficiency of this device is so good, you will find yourself forgetting that you haven’t checked it. Because you so rarely need to. It’s not uncommon to return home after a full and busy day of using the device, to find you’ve still got a solid 30-40% of battery life remaining. It also has 22.5W fast charging. Wireless charging is missed but this device gets so many other things right that we can’t hold a grudge on this front.
There’s a lot to like about this device, it’s slickly designed, performs well, and delivers true full-day battery performance. If you cherish reliability and performance but don’t want to spend top dollar, the Honor 20 Pro is one of the best phones under £600, if not the best.
Also consider its nearest rivals: Last year’s OnePlus 6, Honor View 20 and the Google Pixel 3a.