Honor View 10 Review: A solid offering from Huawei that doesn't yet capitalise on its AI-focused internals
Does the View 10 really hold up to last year's ideal while managing to fend off stiff competition from the likes of OnePlus, Motorola, Xiaomi and Vivo?
Honor India announced the launch of two new smartphones in the market, the Honor View 10 and the Honor 7x, back in December last year. The View 10, the more expensive device, was slated for a 5 January release, though that date has since been pushed to 8 January.
The View 10 is supposed to be the successor to the impressive Huawei Honor 8 Pro that was launched in July last year. The 8 Pro was a great offering by the company and it had a lot of things going for it. As a comprehensive package, the device could give stiff competition to the OnePlus 5 that was launched just a day before the launch of the Honor 8 Pro in the Indian market. We've also reviewed the 7X and found out that it could go head-to-head against the Xiaomi Mi A1.
Following up on a stellar offering such as the Honor 8 Pro is a difficult task for any smartphone maker in this price segment as it was our top pick for the best smartphone in the mid-range smartphone segment. However, if there is one smartphone that is most likely to surpass the 8 Pro, then that has to be Huawei's Honor View 10. But does it really hold up to last year's ideal while managing to fend off stiff competition from the likes of OnePlus, Motorola, Xiaomi and Vivo?
Build and Design: 7/10
The View 10 turns out to be a solid device from the moment you hold the device. It boasts of an ‘all metal’ body and feels good in the hand. The device looks solid and does not feel like it is a cheap product.
The design isn't going to extort 'oohs' and 'aahs' from passersby, but Huawei has at least done a decent job of keeping the design up to date with the defining smartphone trends of 2017, including that taller display.
The display is a 'FullView' display in an 18:9 aspect ratio and a near-bezel-less design that will be the norm going forward.
Of course, you can't have a smartphone today without a dual-camera setup, and that's exactly what Huawei have gone with.
Of the changes done to the device, some changes are actually good, such as the new layout for the antenna bands on the rear of the device, while other changes are not really preferred such, as the now raised camera bump.
The lack of a camera bump in its predecessor was one of the key things that we appreciated about the 8 Pro's design. Now, the prominently placed dual-camera bumps are oddly placed and look like the eyes of a minion as it stares into your soul.
Moving towards the placement of buttons and other components on the smartphone, users will find the proximity sensor, speaker grill and the 13 MP front camera module on the top of the device. With the View 10, Huawei made the ergonomically sound decision of placing the fingerprint sensor on the front of the device, a feature not seen in most phones with tall screens.
The sensor also works like a home button with haptic feedback, but it is not a physical button and the button-like shape will throws you off the first time you try it.
The bottom of the device packs the reversible Type-C USB port along with a 3.5-mm headphone jack on the left and a speaker grill on the right. It is a great feeling to see that 3.5-mm jack alive and kicking in this segment, even with that ‘Full-View Display’.
The left side of the Honor View 10 comes with the nano-SIM and microSD card slot tray towards the top while you will find the volume rocker and power button on the right side. Huawei has also added an IR blaster on the top of the device along with a microphone. The dual camera setup is located towards the top left side on the back of the View 10, alongside the LED flash that sits on the right of the camera module. Last but not the least, users will find an Honor logo in the middle of the back side.
Huawei has packed the View 10 up to the brim with great internal specifications. The first thing that you will find is that 5.9-inch FHD+ LTPS IPS LCD ‘FullView’ display panel that packs in a curved 2.5D aluminosilicate glass on the front to give it a flushed look. Another key highlight of the device is that it packs in Huawei’s HiSilicon Kirin 970 SoC, which was developed in-house and featuring an octa-core CPU with 4x Cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.36 GHz and 4x Cortex A53 cores clocked at 1.8 GHz, along with a Mali G72 MP12 GPU for all graphics-related tasks.
The Kirin 970 also feature a Neural-network Processing Unit (NPU) that is designed to "learn" your habits, app preferences, etc. and boost the performance of preferred apps while suggesting actions according to your habits. I’ll talk about it in more detail in the software section.
Honor View 10 packs 6 GB RAM along with a 128 GB internal storage and users can expand the storage by up to 256 GB via a microSD card placed in the second, hybrid SIM slot.
The phone is equipped with a 16 MP camera with an f/1.8 aperture and a 20 MP unit with the f/1.8 aperture in a dual camera configuration on the back of the device.
The company has packed in a considerably larger lithium-polymer battery with 3,750 mAh capacity and ‘SuperCharge’ support.
Huawei has also included its Android 8.0 Oreo-based skin, EMUI 8.0, in the device, along with a host of Honor apps.
The View 10 comes with support for GPS, NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Infrared, Bluetooth v4.2 with A2DP, LE and aptX HD for wireless audio, reversible Type-C USB port, Dual nano-SIM slots and a 3.5-mm headphone jack as connectivity options. Honor announced that the smartphone will be available in Midnight Black and Navy Blue colour variants in the market.
The Huawei Honor View 10 packs in an impressive 5.9-inch FHD+ LTPS LCD ‘FullView’ display that features an 18:9 aspect ratio, 403 PPI pixel density and a 78.6 percent screen-to-body ratio. The reason for terming it as impressive is because it looks great with excellent colour reproduction and great viewing angles. The brightness takes a hit when viewed from extreme angles, but that is to be expected. The 2.5D glass gives the display a much more premium finish because of the tapered ends.
The contents of the screen are readable in broad daylight. However, one thing to note here is that due to the highly reflective nature of the display, the phone trying to use the device under bright lighting or direct sunlight can be a challenge. The Display section in Settings offers the option to change colour temperature and home screen style in addition to the usual brightness control and text-size control.
EMUI also includes an option for changing the screen resolution of the device to improve battery life. The display can be operated in two modes, normal and vivid. The latter cranks up the saturation of the colours. It also makes the screen look cooler than in the Normal mode. You can also activate an ‘Eye comfort’ option, which is present as a reading mode or night mode in other skins of Android
EMUI 8.0 turns out to be a much better skin than in its previous iterations. Even though it may look like a heavily skinned interface, it's not all flashy and does indeed function without any problem. I did not encounter any lag, crashes or any other issues while using the software.
With underlying Android 8.0 Oreo-base, it is one of the few smartphones in the market that packs Oreo-out of the box. This is especially impressive considering that the Android version had to be skinned while ensuring that everything works. The device packs the 6 November 2017 Android security patch level, which is good, but I was hoping to see the December patch.
Apart from the optimisations and a lot of additional features that are not available on stock Android, the experience is good except a few problems that are not really specific to the operating system. The first issue that I have is with the bloatware that Huawei has packed into the smartphone.
The number of in-house apps and games takes one entire screen to populate and even then, many more apps are nested in folders on that screen. Apps like Microsoft Translator (This is important, and I'll explain why later), Phone Manager, Themes, Health, Honor, Hi Honor, Honor Community, Game Suite, Tips, Torch (Really?), Hi Care, Compass, Backup, Phone Clone, and SOS Emergency are all pre-installed. Why does one need so many apps? The first thing any concerned user will do is dedicate some time to deleting all the cruft and freeing up some storage space.
Most of these apps are not optimised to take the advantage of the quick shortcuts that Android Oreo brings to the table, making EMUI feel almost like its based on Android Nougat. Some of the apps are not optimised for the 18:9 aspect ratio either, so it's not like these are prime picks.
The list of pre-installed apps also includes Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, UC News, Asphalt Nitro, Bubble Bash 3, Danger Dash, Modern Combat 4 Zero Hour, and Spider-Man: Ultimate Power. What is more surprising is that two folders with the names ‘Top Apps’, and ‘Games’ have a toggle called ‘More’ inside them, which recommends even more apps to users. This is literally a system-level advertising engine for apps that's built into the phone.
The second problem is the fact that the Kirin 970 is being touted as the device that packs an NPU to bring the magic of machine learning and artificial intelligence to users. This puts an immense responsibility on the shoulders of Huawei and its sub-brand Honor to teach everyone else what AI is, how it works and what the benefits are for the customers if they opt to invest in a Kirin 970-powered smartphone, in this case, the View 10. I expected Huawei to add more experiences in the software that could demonstrate to users the power of AI.
Sadly, the only AI-powered experience here is the pre-installed Microsoft Translate app that Huawei developed in partnership with Microsoft to showcase what machine learning could do. It allows Optical Character Recognition from images or transcribing text from audio, where it can detect the language and then translate it into any supported language. This is a convenient tool for communicating with speakers in their native tongue to be sure.
However, the real problem I have with Huawei's "AI" work is that the same functionality is available on Android via Google Translate and other such apps. Worse still, Qualcomm's flagship platforms already supported a whole host of machine learning frameworks like Tensor Flow and Caffe2. In other words, developers can easily develop AI-enabled experiences for Qualcomm's platform. Huawei hasn't even hinted at such support.
Even if we take Huawei's word for the fact that the NPU speeds up certain tasks like voice and face recognition, what would be the point if experiences are to be limited to niche use-cases and Huawei-designed apps? Even Apple has ARKit and other such tools.
Some other additional features that are part of EMUI include ‘MirrorShare’ for casting the device screen, ‘App twin’ that allows users to use two versions of the same app, an‘Ultra power saving mode’ in addition to the regular ‘Power saving mode’, etc. The software packs in a ‘Storage cleaner’ as well and adds a ‘Face Unlock’ feature which is not exactly what you think it is.
Unlike Apple's FaceID, Huawei's implementation isn't as secure. But, rather than use an unsecure method to unlock your phone, Huawei does allow you to use its 'Face Unlock' feature to unlock the contents of notifications on your lock screen.
I tried this feature and it worked most of the time, except when I was in dimly-lit environments. Sometimes, I had to turn off the screen of the device using the power button and again press the power button to turn on the screen for the smartphone to successfully recognise my face.
EMUI comes with ‘One-handed UI’ mode which allows you to use fingerprint gestures to navigate through the entire system. It was surprisingly efficient but turning it on meant the system turned off the on-screen navigation buttons. The device also packs a ‘Touch-disable mode’ to ensure that the device does not register unwanted fingerprints in the pocket along with a ‘Gloves mode’. Other modes include ‘Motion control’ and ‘Voice control’.
The software features are too vast to get into in any review, but I think I've covered the most important ones here. If you do buy this phone, dig around. You're sure to stumble across some new and interesting, if sometimes gimmicky feature.
The Honor View 10 performs extremely well in normal day-to-day usage. EMUI 8.0 compliments that Kirin 970 and 6 GB RAM. There was no stuttering or freezing while navigating the system. However, despite the Kirin 970 and its NPU, the device had some trouble when it comes to gaming. Similar to the 8 Pro, the View 10 can’t match the Snapdragon 835 that is in the OnePlus 5T. You can check the benchmark results in the comparison graph below:
For the most part, the View 10 ran intensive games like Breakneck, Modern Combat 5, and Dead Trigger 2 without any major hiccups. But, it did stutter and lag in intense scenes which required more GPU power to render those effects and scenes in the game.
The device also heated up when it came to extended gaming sessions. However, unlike the Moto X4 or some other devices, the heat was not concentrated to one spot. Instead, it was evenly spread on the back of the device. The temperature on the back was about 39 degree Celsius and 41 degree Celsius on the front of the device. The metal back also helped the device cool down quickly.
There was no issue while placing cellular or internet calls using the View 10 as the connectivity and voice clarity was spot on.
One thing I need to mention is that the device ‘over-heated’ twice during the length of my review. This happened when I was trying to run the GFXBench GL benchmark to test the graphics capability of the device. Both the times the View10 dimmed the screen and shot down the GFXBench GL while throwing up a warning about overheating. It is likely that it is limited to that particular app as I did not encounter it anywhere.
An interesting data point here is the compute scores, which are a simplistic determinant of the machine learning capabilities of the device. The 970 proved to be the best in class, beating out even the Snapdragon 835 by a small margin. Clearly, the computing power is available to tap into.
Editor's Note: Huawei pointed out that they will be rolling out a massive update for its camera on 5 January. This update will apparently improve camera quality by a fair margin. This camera section only discusses the camera quality pre-patch. We will rework this section once we test the new update.
I was expecting the View 10 to impress me with its camera. With 'view' in the model name, this is to be expected. Imagine my disappointment when the camera turned out to be the weakest feature of the smartphone.
The rear camera is a dual camera unit with a 16 MP and 20 MP sensor. Both feature f/1.8 lenses. With such a configuration, it was surprising to see how ordinary the images turned out to be because Huawei's other dual-camera phones have been more than impressive.
Quality aside, the camera software is packed with features. It has a number of modes ranging from Photo, Pro photo (where you can control the shutter speed, exposure compensation, exposure, white balance, focus, metering, and ISO of the image), Video, Pro Video (here the software gives the option to control metering, exposure value, focus and white balance’ of the video), Monochrome, HDR, Night shot, Panorama, Light painting, Time-lapse, and Slow-motion. Other modes include AR lens (which places filters on the face of a person similar to Snapchat), 3D panorama, Artist mode (Prisma-like filters in live preview), Filter, Watermark, Document Scan and more.
The problem with the images is that there are no details or texture in the shots even in broad daylight. The images here are shot in auto mode as most people would want to see how they turn out without tinkering with all the options that Honor has given them in the software. All the images look like paintings, lacking sharpness or detail. The included selfie camera includes Huawei's now familiar "beauty mode" feature, which has a default ‘Beauty Level’ of 5, making your skin look unnaturally smooth and white. Even after pushing it down to level 0, the images don’t look natural.
The front and back cameras gives you an option to enable portrait mode and the edge-detection and feathering is good but could be improved with an update. Moving away from the images in daylight conditions, the low-light condition images are not up to the mark. The images lack any focus, details or texture and are a mess when shot at night.
Hopefully, all of these issues will be addressed in the upcoming update.
Battery life on the View 10 is good and it easily lasts a working day for me with moderate to heavy usage. A typical usage for me include gaming for an hour or one and a half hours, two email accounts syncing, constant emailing, WhatsApp messages, 10-20 photos and listening to music for 30-45 minutes at a stretch. The device lasted about 7 hours and 43 minutes on the PCMark Work 2.0 battery life benchmark with the screen constantly turned on for that duration. It is not what I expected but the daily usage is still good enough, however.
One hiccup that I encountered regarding the battery of the device was the fact that it took too long to charge even with ‘Fast Charging’. It took more than three hours to charge the device on average, which is surprising considering that it packs a 2A charger.
Another problem is that the international version of the device comes with a 4A charger and I think it would have been better if they included that in the package or given the option for users to choose the higher Ampere charger to charge that 3,750 mAh lithium polymer battery.
If you really need to charge the device quickly, I would suggest that you turn off the device and charge it. When powered off, the phone went from 50 percent to 90 percent in about 40 minutes.
Verdict and Price in India: Rs 29,999
Huawei Honor has priced the View 10 at Rs 29,999 which is the same launch price as that of the Honor 8 Pro last year. The company tries to accomplish a lot of things with the ambitious View 10 but does not quite deliver. The View 10 falls short in selling the AI dream to the masses and Honor needs to craft ‘oh wow’ experiences around AI to make it more apparent for its customers that there is a benefit to choosing a 970-powered device.
The performance of the View 10 is good but needs improvement in the gaming section in addition to the much-needed improvements in the camera section. The Honor View 10 is a good device, but at a price tag of Rs 29,999, a user is not looking for an ordinary camera or a stuttering gaming experience. The design of the device is also not as impressive and it is similar to that of the Honor 7X, which is selling for almost half the price of the View 10.
As an alternative, you can look at the Moto X4 if you want a more premium looking device and to save money on the deal. If you are looking for better selfies, then you can look at the Vivo V5 Plus or Oppo F3 Plus. If you don’t want to compromise on any aspect of a great device and have some money to spare, then you can look at the OnePlus 5T with 64 GB internal storage for Rs 32,999. Another surprising offering that you can look forward to is the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2, which received a price cut, bringing it down to a very competitive Rs 32,999.
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