Honor 10 -- still a high performance phone that offers exceptional value one-year after launch.
Honor 10 — great performance, impressive feature set and a drop in price deliver outstanding value a year after this capable handset’s launch.

If you’re not familiar with Honor, it is a smartphone brand owned by Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, offering a range of smartphones that share many of it’s more familiar sister brand’s features and tech, but at a substantially lower price point. That makes Honor phones a great value proposition for users looking for power and performance on a budget.


NB. Since starting this review, Honor, as a sub-brand of Huawei, has been hit with the same crazy restrictions as it’s Chinese parent company due to inclusion on the USA’s “Entity list” as part of President Donald Trump’s escalating trade war with China. This review is written based on the current performance and feature set of the Honor 10, including access to the Google Play Store, Google Apps and Google Services. Fingers crossed, the situation between the USA and China will be resolved quickly by the respective governments, allowing Google to work with Huawei companies again for the consumer smartphone market. However, you do need to bear in mind the potential impact of the current situation when making any purchasing decision.


The Honor 10 is a year old now and was superseded at the top of the Honor lineup by the Honor View 20 and the recently launched Honor 20 series (Lite, Pro and standard versions launched on 21 May 2019). While the tech in the Honor 10 isn’t quite “cutting edge” any more it still offers a host of flagship-like features, excellent performance, a very capable dual camera, and, at current prices (GB£279.00 on Amazon.co.uk at the time of writing), superb value for money.

Pros: Excellent specs and performance for the money, eye-catching premium glass design, 128GB storage on board, high-quality dual-camera with Huawei’s AI technology, convenient size for one-handed use.

Cons: All-glass design attracts fingerprints, but does seem resistant to sratching and a clear protective case is bundled in the box, lack of SD Card support may be an issue for some, but with 128 GB on board you won’t run out of space in a hurry, one generation old (but that’s why it’s such good value), EMUI is improving but not to everyone’s tastes. US Ban and its affect on Google Services means uncertainty re. future updates and service availability

Price: GB£279.00 (c. €320) on Amazon

Rating: Highly Recommended

Image quality and overall performance from the dual 24/16-megapixel front cameras and the 24-megapixel selfie camera are decent too, although as you’d expect at this price point they fall short of the best on the market.

Read more about the Honor 10 on the Honor website here.

Buy the Honor 10 on Amazon

Honor 10 Full Review

While the Honor 10 has been around for a while, it isn’t really showing its age, thanks largely to the cool contemporary design and high-specs it sported at launch. It’s a phone that still has a lot to offer, and more than holds its own with other handsets at this price range and even some substantially more expensive offerings.

The Huawei Kirin 970 processor that powers the Honor 10 has been superseded by the Kirin 980 processor in recent top-tier Huawei and Honor models, but the 970 is still a sleek performer, and rocks the Honor 10 along in zippy enough fashion, with no noticeable lag or slow-down even during intensive use of power-hungry apps.

Performance & Overall User Experience

I bought the Honor 10 in April 2019 after looking around for a great value smartphone to replace my mid-range Motorola that was starting to show its age. At around €300 sim-free and unlocked from Amazon, the UK model sports 4GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage, and for the price is an absolute steal, giving you performance and features not far behind phones costing two or even three times as much.

I’ve been using the Honor 10 as my everyday device for more than 6 weeks now, and I have to say I’ve been very impressed. While a few of the idiosyncrasies of EMUI 9.0 (the phone ships with EMUI/Android 8.1 but upgraded itself to EMUI/Android 9 immediately) took a little getting used to, but a little diving around in the menu system and playing around with UI customisations soon had things working to my liking. It’s been plain sailing ever since.

Transitions and scrolling are smooth and fluid, apps open quickly and the 4GB RAM seems to be ample for pretty much any task. The capacious 128GB of onboard storage offers plenty of space for all your digital bits and bobs, and I have to say it’s a welcome change from using a microSD card as internal storage — which has never worked that well for me on Android in the past. It’s a shame that there’s no microSD Card option for storing additional media, but for most people, the built in 128GB should be more than enough.

Overall the experience of using the Honor 10 day-to-day has been a pleasure… slick performance, sleek looks and superb build quality make this feel every bit as premium as a flagship phone. There are compromises at this price, of course — it’s last year’s phone, so it’s not quite as spritely as the latest devices, it also sports an IPS LCD display rather than the slicker AMOLED found in more premium handsets, and eschews more niche premium features like wireless charging to keep costs down.

To be honest these are not features you’re going to miss, or even notice during everyday use. For the most part, the Honor 10 just gets the job done quickly, efficiently and with oodles of style. This is the first mobile I’ve ever owned that has prompted strangers to ask “what phone is that?” — which is testament to the Honor 10’s striking good looks.

Design

The striking, multi-hued back of the Phantom Blue Honor 10

There are no two ways about it, the Honor 10 is a great looking phone. It’s all glass chassis, minuscule bezels and the mesmerising play of colours across the back when it catches the light, all combine to make this look and feel every inch a premium smartphone. The smooth glassy surfaces are a little slippery — so you’ll want to take care if handling the “naked” phone — and they are prone to fingerprints and smudges, although in my experience so far they seem pretty resistant to scuffs and scratches. Luckily there’s a clear TPU case included in the box, and the screen comes with a factory-fitted screen protector pre-installed — which is a nice touch.

Size wise, the Honor 10 is eminently pocketable: a touch smaller than many contemporary smartphones with its 5.84″ display. The 19:9 aspect ratio also makes this a comparatively narrow phone, all of which means that, unlike some of the flagship behemoths out there, this svelte little beauty is easy to use one-handed. However, if you’re struggling there’s a handy “one-handed” mode available in EMUI that shrinks the screen to the bottom left or right corner with a simple gesture, making one-handed use of all features and apps a breeze.

Screen

LCD IPS FHD+ Screen looks great

The screen on the Honor 10 is a 5.84-inch 19:9 LCD IPS display, with a small central notch on the top edge, where you’ll find the front-facing camera. Love them or loathe them, notches and cutouts have become commonplace on higher-end devices as manufacturers strive to maximise screen real estate. The notch on the Honor 10 isn’t particularly intrusive, and I had no problem with it. Status information and notifications sit neatly either side of the notch and it works well — however, if you don’t like the notch, there’s a simple toggle in the menu to blacken a strip at the top of the screen, effectively hiding the notch, effectively adding a narrow top-bezel.

This is a Full HD+ 2280 x 1080 pixel display (FHD+ because of the 19:9 ratio: you get some extra pixels to play with compared to the FHD standard) that spans almost edge to edge along three sides, with the exception of the aforementioned notch and a narrow chin at the bottom that houses the fingerprint sensor The sensor is ultrasonic and sits hidden beneath the glass front. It is quick, accurate and works well, even if there’s a bit of rain on the glass/you have wet fingers (something that causes problems for standard fingerprint sensors).

Visually the screen packs a decent punch, delivering rich, vivid colours; great viewing angles and vibrant high-contrast images. You can, of course, dive into the settings and tweak the colour output to your liking. While you don’t get the deep blacks and stunning contrast you get with a high-end OLED display, this is a very good LCD IPS display that delivers a fabulous HD viewing experience that’s plenty bright enough, and perfectly usable outdoors in bright sunlight. You’re only going to notice a difference if you compare it side-by-side with a top-spec OLED display viewing the same content. Day to day that’s unlikely to be an issue.

Camera

On the back of the Honor 10 you’ll find 2 cameras using a pretty unique setup — there’s a 16MP full-colour camera, and a 24MP monochrome f1.8 camera that work in tandem to deliver stunningly detailed 24MP images — I’m not sure how the technical jiggery-pokery behind the scenes works, but it works well to deliver excellent image quality for a phone in this price range.

Spoilt for choice with camera modes

On the back of the Honor 10 you’ll find 2 cameras using a pretty unique setup — there’s a 16MP full-colour camera, and a 24MP monochrome f1.8 camera that work in tandem to deliver stunningly detailed 24MP images — I’m not sure how the technical jiggery-pokery behind the scenes works, but it works well to deliver excellent image quality for a phone in this price range.

Is it a match for the Google Pixel 3s, Huawei P30 Pros or Galaxy S10s of this world — no, but then you can’t really expect it to be. Line it up with phones in the same, price bracket and the Honor 10 delivers superb results. It also incorporates Huawei’s much vaunted “AI” photo tech — which means the camera intelligently analyses the scene in front of it, and optimises different elements of the photo to improve exposure, colour saturation, contrast and dynamic range. In practice it works very well, and delivers very striking, if sometimes slightly over-saturated and artificial-looking images. You can, of course, turn the AI off (either while shooting, or retrospectively while browsing your images in the Gallery app) — which is handy where you want to capture more natural-looking scenes.

The camera app is pretty good, and offers the usual assortment of modes, including Portrait, Aperture, HDR, Panorama and Pro modes (that lets you manually set everything) along with numerous others. Unfortunately, some of those I’d probably use most often (like HDR/Panorama/Pro) are hidden behind a “more” option on the main camera scree — making them awkward to select quickly when you launch the app.

That said for the most part the AI camera smarts do a great job of automatically applying the appropriate settings to deliver optimum image quality in a given situation — so unless you’re getting creative, or are photographing a particularly challenging scene, there’s little need to alter modes. See sample images below.

The camera is no slouch on the video front either, capable of shooting 4K video at 30p, 1080p Full HD video at 60p.

The front facing camera/selfie camera is a 24MP affair that delivers superbly detailed selfies — so if you’re an instagram-maniac you’ll love this phone.

It’s this front camera that also provides the impressively fast and accurate face unlock feature — which is quick and easy to set up, and incredibly convenient. It works almost instantly (slowing a little in poor light — but even works in a dark room from the glow of the lock-screen, just takes a moment longer). It recognises your face from various angles and viewpoints and doesn’t unlock for anybody else — which is, of course, the whole point.

Sunglasses can fool it sometimes — as can a baseball cap, depending on the angle of view — but by and large it’s very impressive, and for those times when it fails to work you always have the fingerprint sensor and/or the good old-fashioned PIN/Pattern unlock to fall back on.

Battery Life and Charging

Honor’s “Super-charge” is blazing fast.

The Honor 10 has a 3400mAh battery that delivers plenty of juice to get through a full day of semi-intensive use with a good 25% of battery capacity left when you hit the hay. Particularly heavy use (lots of high-performance gaming, for example) might see the 20% battery warning pop up towards the end of the day — but it’s rare to see. Even that’s not generally a problem if you can find a plug: the Honor 10 supports Huawei’s fast-charging “Turbo Charge” technology. Use the included fast charger and high-capacity USB C cable and the Honor 10 will add a whopping 50% of power to the battery in just 25 minutes, and a full charge from empty takes less than two hours — which is mighty impressive.

Conclusion

The Honor 10 is getting on a bit at just over a year since launch, but with an impressive spec sheet and feature set still capable of delivering a near-flagship experience it’s still worth considering. With prices significantly reduced following the introduction of 2019 models, the Honor 10 could be one of the smartphone bargains of the year.

Of course, recent developments between the USA and China, and subsequent uncertainty regarding the ongoing relationship between Huawei and Google raise questions about how sensible purchasing an Honor phone might be — but based purely on the current experience this is a whole lot of phone for the money.

Buy the Honor 10 on Amazon