Honor has been quite aggressive with its phone launches since last November. We had already seen devices such as the Honor View 10, the Honor 9 Lite, the Honor 7X and more. After a hiatus of a couple of months, Honor is back with the Honor 10, which could be considered the spiritual successor to the Honor 8 Pro. This was something that the Honor V10 was supposed to be, but didn’t end up becoming, thanks to its below average camera performance.
With the Honor 10, the only formidable competition that comes to mind is the OnePlus 6. The other impressive device, which is priced almost Rs 7,000 lower than the Honor 10 is the Nokia 7 Plus, which is the reigning king in the sub Rs 30,000 price bracket at the moment. To cut a long story short, the Honor 10 is a capable device. Its specifications, overall performance and the AI focussed camera, tend to justify the price point to some extent. We say to some extent because the OS skin is something that not many would like, and with just an additional Rs 2,000, you can have the OnePlus 6, which has delivered the goods on all fronts. For a lot of buyers, this could be a deal breaker.
So does the Honor 10 have what it takes to edge out the competition? Let us find out in this in-depth review.
Build and Design: 8.5/10
The Honor 10 takes off from where the Honor 9 / 9 Lite left off. In terms of design language, Honor 10 has added some finesse to the design, which I was impressed with on the Honor 9 Lite. The Honor 10 is available in two colours, namely Phantom Blue and Midnight Black. Honor has used what it calls "Aurora Glass design elements" with the phone, where even though the Midnight Black colour looks like any other glossy back phone. The Phantom Blue variant has a sort of dual-tone design aesthetic. When seen from different angles, the device looks like it has a purple or blue colours, and that looks really cool. See the image on the left to check this out. The glass back also means that the Honor 10 will be a smudge and dust magnet. I found myself constantly cleaning the back, so that's something you'll have to get used to.
The glass back is complemented with an aluminium frame, which is glossy on the Midnight Black phone, and matte on the Phantom Blue variant. The glass back curves nicely around the edges such that the transition from glass (on the back) to metal to glass (on the front) is smooth. The dual rear cameras are arranged horizontally on the top left-hand corner and they tend to protrude out. This means wobbly behaviour if your phone is flat on a table and you want to type. An LED flash unit is present beside the camera module and towards the right you see the AI Camera branding followed by the Honor branding towards the bottom of the rear side.
On the front, you get a 5.84-inch FHD+ display. There's a notch up top and a chin down below. In the centre of the chin, you have a marked area for a fingerprint sensor. It's not a separate button but a perforated rectangular demarcation that is flush with the entire chin. Honor calls it 'under the glass' fingerprint scanner. The volume rocker and power buttons are on the right hand side and the dual SIM tray is on the left. The base houses the speaker grille, a USB Type C port for charging and data transfer and a 3.5 mm audio jack. There's also an infrared port at the top edge, in case you want to control your home appliances.
The Honor 10 is really well built and feels solid in the hand. Thanks to the glossy back, it is a tad bit slippery.
The Honor 10 comes with a 5.84-inch FHD+ display with a resolution of 2280 x 1080 pixels, which translates to a pixel density of 432 PPI. Honor has gone with the trusty HiSilicon Kirin 970 chipset, which is the flagship SoC from Huawei, on the Honor 10. The Kirin 970 SoC comprises a quad-core Cortex A73-based cluster clocked at 2.36 GHz and another Cortex A53-based quad-core cluster clocked at 1.8 GHz. This is the fourth device that we are seeing housing the Kirin 970 SoC. The Mali G72 MP12 takes care of the graphics-related workload. It is paired with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB of onboard storage. There is no microSD card support on the Honor 10.
Honor 10 comes with a dual camera on the rear, featuring a 24 MP + 16 MP combination. The front boasts of a 24 MP selfie camera. Both the rear cameras come with an f/1.8 aperture. I will discuss this in depth in the Camera section, but suffice it to say that Honor 10 puts the neural processing unit on the Kirin 970 SoC to good use with its cameras. It runs on Android 8.1 with Huawei’s custom Emotion UI or EMUI 8.1 skin atop it.
In terms of the battery, you get a 3,400 mAh battery on board the Honor 10. The bundled charger supports fast charging as well. On the connectivity front, you get Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX, LE and A2DP support, GPS with A-GPS and GLONASS, BDS and there is support for both NFC and an infrared port. There is no FM radio support and the USB Type C charging port supports only up to USB 2.0 standard speeds.
Honor 10 comes with a 5.84-inch tall display in the 19:9 aspect ratio which gives it a good pixel density of 432 PPI. Thanks to such pixel densities, it is rare to find any sort of pixelation on the display. Colours appeared with a slight bluish tinge when I first powered on the Honor 10, but under the Display settings, you will notice the option to select between Normal and Vivid modes, and still further, you can adjust the colour temperature to your liking. I kept it on the Vivid mode with the default colour temperature.
The display section in settings will also show you a list of apps that have not been optimised for the notch, so that you get a heads up and can make a decision on whether you want to force the full screen display on these apps or not. It was surprising to spot Netflix in this list. Other times, apps such as Instagram were not totally optimised. For instance, when I turned off the notch display, I could not see the names of the Instagram accounts when viewing their Stories. Also, since this is an LCD display, when you hide the notch, you will not see the black bar covering the free space around the notch. The iPhone X and several other Android phones like the OnePlus 6 offer an AMOLED display, which is much better at hiding the notch.
My suggestion is that you get used to the notch. It's here to stay.
There’s an option to choose "smart resolutions", which will adjust the display resolution from FHD+ to HD+ (1520 x 720 pixels) to conserve battery life by reducing the load on the system.
The LCD display was good under most use cases. Text was sharp, except when I went to the lowest possible text size — which tended to show some dithering while rendering some alphabets. Colours were pleasing, although sometimes I felt like the AI mode in the camera rendered images a bit too vividly for my liking. The sunlight legibility is good, but there were instances when shooting in bright daylight when I had to cover the display from the top to actually be able to see my frame properly. The image above shows how dim the display looks in its surroundings, despite maximum brightness settings.
Viewing angles are great. I did binge on a few shows on the Honor 10 display and it was pleasant on most occasions. The dark scenes would make the display almost behave like a mirror. Gaming looked good as well.
Overall, the Honor 10 display ticks off all the right boxes, but I just wish its brightness was a tad bit higher to tackle brightly-lit outdoor situations.
Software and OS: 7.5/10
Just like it’s high-end sibling — the Huawei P20 Pro — the Honor 10 also runs on Android 8.1 along with the Emotion UI 8.1 skin atop it and it comes with the 1 April 2018 security patch. It's terrible to have an April security patch in June, and that's an indication of how often Honor updates the software. The software works just like it did with the Honor 9 Lite as well as with the Huawei P20 Pro. There are minor animation freezes while using the device. You can read our complete feature lowdown on the EMUI 8.1 in the Huawei P20 Pro as well as in the Honor 9 Lite review. The EMUI software has some thoughtful additions, but I'm still not convinced that it's better than a stock Android version or even Xiaomi's fluid MIUI skin.
EMUI is definitely not the best skin out there, but it gets the work done and does include some welcome refinements.
The animations are not the fastest, and this is particularly noticeable when you are browsing through the image gallery. There is a slight delay from when you swipe through the images and when they actually move on and settle down.
While the face unlock is quick, the fingerprint sensor is slow and it took me at least a couple of tries in most instances to unlock the device with just my fingerprint. But one good this is that it works with wet fingers as well. The slow response time to register the fingerprint is something that needs to be addressed first in upcoming updates, however. Scrolling on Twitter, Chrome and Instagram was quick and stutter free, so clearly, the stuttering issues are of Huawei's own making. The bundled SwiftKey keyboard will also take some getting used to, especially if you are coming from a stock Google keyboard. It's also best to disable the vibration mode for the keyboard, as it's ridiculously sensitive.
If you are coming from a non-Honor device, it will take some time getting used to the EMUI skin. It does have a lot of options for you to customise the device according to your preferences. And then again, there's that option to use a third-party launcher such as Nova.
The Honor 10 houses a Kirin 970 SoC along with 6 GB of RAM, which ensures that that device is capable of running everything you throw at it. One thing that stood out was the fact that the phone tends to get noticeably warm on the rear side when you are playing a game or using some of the special modes in the camera. While the rear side does get warm, at no point did I notice app shutdowns due to overheating. The thermal-management algorithms definitely need some looking into as the heating issue isn't that prominent on most flagships these days.
Call quality is good, with the earpiece speaker capable of producing clear audio. The mono speaker is a bit of downer, and is quite tinny to hear. I struggled to hear YouTube videos even with the volume set to maximum. You are better off using a set of headphones, and thankfully, the Honor 10 has a 3.5 mm audio jack.
As mentioned earlier, the fingerprint scanner is slow and there is definitely scope for improvement, lest Honor 10 wants it to remain a gimmick. Face Unlock, though fast, is not the most secure means to locking the device, as unlike Face ID on the iPhone X, there is no 3D face map that is made here. I found myself using the pattern lock the most. The next software update had better take care of the slow speed of the fingerprint scanner.
Gaming is fun on the Honor 10, but thanks to the placement of the mono speaker, your audio gets muffled and that affects the overall experience. The only way out is to use Bluetooth earphones. In terms of frame rates, I did not experience any major stutter while playing heavy games such as Asphalt Xtreme, Modern Combat 5 and so on.
The drawbacks I mentioned above, while not affecting the overall performance to a great extent, do stick out like a sore thumb with this "flagship" device.
As has been the case with the last few Honor smartphones we have seen, the camera is the highlight of the Honor 10.
It sports a horizontal dual camera system which offer a 24 MP (secondary monochrome sensor) and 16 MP (primary colour sensor) sensor, along with an LED flash unit. Both the sensors have f/1.8 lenses and support PDAF. On the front, we see that the phone has a 24 MP sensor which has a large, 1.8 micron pixel size. The front camera also supports 3D portrait lighting. Honor is touting the AI chops of the cameras on the Honor 10, and during my testing, the AI, although good, tends to oversaturate things, in daylight at least. There’s definitely an audience for such photographs, but that audience doesn't include myself.
Thankfully, there's a quick way to disable it while reviewing photos, which is something I really love.
The daylight image quality on the Honor 10 was on point. Images were packed with details and tricky lighting situations were handled very well. The AI was quick to recognise scenes and apply the necessary settings. Focussing was quick as well. In fact, I have barely any complaints during daylight photography. I also liked the monochrome mode. Now while the user interface is the same as seen on the Huawei P20 Pro, there is no Leica magic here.
I liked the fact that it has a dedicated aperture mode in addition to a Pro mode. Portrait mode was a hit and a miss, and it offers 3D lighting (which I found to be gimmicky) and beautification mode I’d keep extremely low as otherwise skin tones would end up looking rather unreal.
The AI mode makes things pop out, which looks nice on most occasions, till you enter a garden that is. I noticed that the processing would go crazy with the green colour, making it almost bleed. I would disable the AI mode when in a garden or when clicking photos having a lot of sky in it. On other occasions, it worked fine.
The low light photography is decent, not too bad, but nothing too great either. It does not have the P20 Pro like Night mode which lets you take a series of photographs and then merges them. Noise is noticeable when the sun goes down, and the OnePlus 6 has an edge over it thanks to larger pixel size. On pixel peeping, you do notice areas which are oversharpened and details on faces in a crowd are lost. So it’s definitely not as good as the daylight camera. And no image stabilisation means, that images tend to get a little blurry at times. So, if you want to use a feature such as Light Painting, you will need a tripod.
The Honor 10 is also capable of shooting in 4K at 30 fps, FHD in an 18:9 aspect ratio at 60 fps and 30 fps and it saves the videos in the more compact H.265 format as well, which will help save some space on your device.
Video footage was average at best. The lack of image stabilisation makes the footage shaky if you are walking and shooting. The daylight footage is good so long as you are not panning vigorously, the microphones capture sound well.
If you are not very particular about the video quality while using the selfie camera, I would say that the daylight footage was impressive. This could be a great device for vloggers on a budget to create some content. Yes, I liked the fact that it was able to showcase the background well when shooting videos in selfie mode. For casual Snapchatting and video calls it is great.
The 24 MP selfie camera captures good photographs in daylight, but you would want to keep the beauty mode low as it tends to be very aggressive with the processing. As the light levels drop, noise levels increase noticeably. The portrait mode on the selfie camera is strictly OK.
On the whole, the Honor 10 offers an able camera which gets a lot of things right. There is a scope for improvement with low light photographs, however.
In every sense of the word, it is the successor to the Honor 8 Pro, which had impressed us with its camera performance, and it’s way better than the Honor V10.
Battery Life: 8/10
The Honor 10 comes with a 3,400 mAh non-removable battery which supports the Super Charge feature. I used the Honor 10 as my daily driver and found the battery to be quite sufficient for a day’s usage. With three email accounts, constantly buzzing WhatsApp, Telegram and Slack apps, 20-30 photos and videos per day, streaming audio or podcasts for a couple of hours, an hour of watching YouTube videos or Netflix and around 20-30 mins of gaming, I was still left with around 15 percent battery by the end of the work day. I got a screen on time of around 3-3.5 hours. With the ultra power mode turned on, I could stretch the usage time to close to 1.5 days. But thanks to the Super Charge feature, it does not take long to charge the device. Of course, it is not as fast as the Dash Charge seen on the OnePlus 6, but it gets the work done. Thanks to the FHD+ display and the option to adjust it to HD+, you should be able to eke out even more battery life.
Verdict and Price in India
Honor continues its battle with OnePlus with an offering that is both well-rounded and impressive. While I was super impressed with the value for money proposition offered by the OnePlus 6, not to mention its overall performance, I don’t think it takes anything away from the Honor 10 either. A lot depends on what you are looking for in your device.
The Honor 10 is a well-rounded device which offers great real-life performance, a really good camera with a lot of options to play around with, gorgeous design language — the Phantom Blue especially is a stunner, and all coming at a Rs 32,999 price point. The Emotion UI skin on the Honor is something that could be a deal breaker for many over. OxygenOS on the OnePlus 6 is closer to stock Android, runs more smoothly and is updated far more frequently.
The Kirin 970 SoC has started to show its age, and it is certainly no match for the beast that is the Snapdragon 845. Having said that, in real-world usage, there isn’t that noticeable a performance drop. Things like a slow fingerprint sensor, slow animations, do matter, however, and end up bringing down the overall experience.
Is the Honor 10 worthy of the Rs 32,999 price tag? Absolutely. Is it better than the OnePlus 6? Not really. Is the OnePlus 6 significantly better than the Honor 10? Again, not really. Both of these are great devices at the prices they are selling at and just make other flagships from Apple, Samsung, Google and HTC seem unnecessarily overpriced.
The OnePlus 6 starts at Rs 34,999 and offers a 6 GB RAM and 64 GB storage option whereas the Honor 10 offers 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage at Rs 32,999. If you are fine with less storage, I’d recommend the OnePlus 6 at Rs 34,999. But if you really want that 128 GB storage, a relatively compact form factor, and that punch in every image you capture, then the Honor 10 will not disappoint at Rs 32,999. If you want a near stock Android experience, go for the OnePlus 6. For me, The OS experience really does make the OnePlus 6 far more attractive, that and the Snapdragon 845 SoC.