The Honor View 10 Is Good, But It's No OnePlus Killer

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Inexpensive smartphones are a dime a dozen these days, but Honor likes to give you a little more for your money. The Huawei-owned brand, which has been a player in the U.S. for less than two years, has quickly developed a reputation for making premium features affordable.

After delivering one of the best sub-$200 handsets we've seen in the Honor 7X, the company has set its sights a bit higher, at flagship models. The Honor View 10 is a performance powerhouse that costs roughly half as much as an iPhone X or Galaxy Note 8, but on paper, it's tough to see why the price tag is so low. Honor's phone boasts copious amounts of RAM, a top-of-the-line processor and bezels so small, there's barely enough space for a fingerprint sensor.

If it were only that simple. The View 10 is an excellent value, but it's hampered by frustrating software, a forgettable design, and a display and cameras that are OK but don't match those of other phones.

Honor View 10 Specs

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OSAndroid 8.1 Oreo with EMUI 8.1
Screen Size (Resolution)6 inches (2160 x 1080) LCD
CPUHiSilicon Kirin 970
microSD Slot?Yes
Rear CameraDual 16 MP (f/1.8) and 20 MP
Front Camera13 MP (f/2.0)
Battery Size3,750 mAh
Battery Life (Hrs:Mins)11:12
Water ResistanceNo
Size6.18 x 2.95 x 0.28 inches
Weight6.1 ounces

Price and Availability

The View 10 is available unlocked directly from Honor for $499 and began shipping March 23. For that price, you get 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a choice between blue and black. There's a lower-end 4GB/64GB model, but that version will not be sold in the U.S.

Honor is running a few promotions alongside the release of the View 10, tossing in free cases for the first 1,000 customers and a free pair of headphones for the first 50 customers who order the phone each day. Additionally, View 10 owners are entitled to one free screen repair for any reason within three months from the date of purchase.

Like previous Honor phones, the View 10 only supports GSM carriers, including T-Mobile, AT&T, Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS. Customers of CDMA carriers such as Verizon and Sprint are out of luck.

Design: We've been here before

If you rattled off a list of characteristics of a premium smartphone released in 2018, you'd likely end up with a portrait of the Honor View 10.

That's not to say it's a bad-looking device at all, but merely that it won't turn any heads.

The View 10 follows the example of the Honor 7X by stacking glass at the phone's front over an aluminum enclosure at the rear. In fact, the View 10 looks so similar to the 7X that you'd only be able to tell them apart at a distance by the View 10's fingerprint sensor, which is packed tightly underneath that big, 6-inch, 18:9 display.

A word of advice to prospective View 10 buyers: Spring for the blue model.

Along the sides, the View 10's mirrored, chamfered edges add some flash to its silhouette. The backside is almost completely featureless except for the dual cameras, which sit in separate housings raised prominently off the surface of the chassis. The View 10 lacks water resistance, which isn't uncommon for a lower-priced phone.

A word of advice to prospective View 10 buyers: Spring for the blue model. Honor smartly preserved the color underneath the glass, which was a great call. It's a striking metallic shade of cobalt that ventures into lavender depending on the light, and really adds a bit of pop to the package.

Display: Average among LCDs

Props to Honor for refusing to skimp out on any of the ingredients buyers want and expect in a flagship phone, with one notable exception. There's no doubting the View 10's 6-inch 2160 x 1080 LCD display is crisp and generally accurate, but it doesn't compare to the OLED panel found on the OnePlus 5T.

In terms of numbers, the View 10's screen is perfectly acceptable among the LCD crowd. It reaches a peak full-screen brightness of 435 nits, which is in line with the 433-nit smartphone average. It also reproduces 141 percent of the sRGB color space, with a Delta-E accuracy rating of 0.35. (Numbers closer to zero are better.) That's not far off the mark from Sony's Xperia XZ1, which scored 158 percent and 0.36, respectively — and the XZ1's screen is one of the finest LCD panels in any smartphone.

The OnePlus 5T's OLED screen blew away the View 10's panel with perfect blacks — the kind even the best LCD tech can't deliver.

I watched a trailer for the latest Tomb Raider movie on the View 10, and the jungles of the lost kingdom of Yamatai looked satisfactorily lush and verdant. But Honor's flagship began to falter when I compared it to Sony's HDR-enabled handset, which could better illustrate fine gradations in contrast between the lightest and darkest parts of the scene. The colors popped more on the Xperia as well.

Things got worse for the View 10 when I pulled up the same frame on the OnePlus 5T. The OLED unit on the 5T blew away the View 10's panel with perfect blacks — the kind even the best LCD tech can't deliver. The only problem? OnePlus has announced that it recently ran out of stock of the 5T and has no intention of producing more. That means consumers have some trade-offs to consider if they're still looking for a $500 flagship and OnePlus' device isn't available.

Camera: Serviceable dual lenses

Honor is no stranger to dual-lens cameras, having given the $199 Honor 7X a pair of respectable shooters that held their own against those on the Moto G5S Plus. The View 10 ups the ante with a 16-megapixel, f/1.8 primary camera alongside a secondary 20-MP lens that captures only in gray scale.

The latter means you can snap true black-and-white images on Honor's phone. In addition, the View 10 gives you the usual gamut of features seen in most dual-camera setups, like enhanced 2x digital zoom and a shallow depth-of-field Portrait Mode.

MORE: Honor 7X Review: The Next Great Smartphone Value

I snapped an assortment of photos with the View 10 and the OnePlus 5T, to see how Honor's latest stacked up against one of our favorite budget cameras. The first example, an indoor shot of an artificial plant, demonstrated one of the View 10's exclusive tricks: the ability to recognize objects and tune exposure parameters based on the scene.

In this case, the View 10 opted for an almost imperceptibly warmer white balance and more saturated greens once it realized it was looking at a plant. The shot is a fair bit noisier than the same image from the OnePlus 5T, but the slight color boost worked well here. However, the 5T's brighter exposure did a better job of illuminating the shadows.

The next trial, a shot of baseball signage, produced a few interesting distinctions. The first thing you notice are the colors — the red, in particular, borders on orange in the View 10's shot, while the blue is darker than it should have been and thus lacks detail. The OnePlus 5T claims a more balanced image that is also noticeably crisper the more you zoom in. There's a haziness to the View 10's attempt, which is particularly evident in the texture of the wall and the block lettering.

Both of these phones advertise 2x zoom, but it's not the optical kind you find on phones with telephoto lenses, like the iPhone X and the Galaxy S9+. That's why the cameras on the View 10 and 5T tend to muddy the frame when you zoom in, though they switch to their higher-megapixel secondary lenses to cut down on the blurriness.

This scene of a pair of motorcycles in a garage demonstrates how each phone handles 2x zoom. Although the photos may appear quite similar at a glance, the OnePlus 5T slips ahead with better contrast, a nice blurring of the foreground that really emphasizes the placement of the focus, and deeper red in the frame of the black bike. The relative brightness of the View 10's photo is good; but it blows out too much of the scene in the process, and the zoom isn't as precise. Moreover, Honor's dual cameras didn't extend the focus to the wall of the garage, which hurts the composition.

For one last round of photos, I snapped a few selfies. The View 10 sports a 13-MP shooter on the front, while the 5T uses another 16-MP sensor. In a shot I took indoors while facing the light, the View 10 overexposed the right side of my face, and its megapixel deficit made for a portrait that was softer than the 5T's.

Performance: Unbeatable for the price

The View 10 gets its power from Huawei's in-house flagship system on a chip, the Kirin 970. It's the same chip inside the more expensive Huawei Mate 10 Pro. This processor's performance is about on a par with that of the Snapdragon 835, and Honor has paired it here with 6GB of RAM — impressive specs given the View 10's price.

That makes the View 10 again an excellent adversary for the OnePlus 5T, which employs the equivalent Qualcomm silicon, comes with the same amount of RAM as standard and — up until very recently — was available for $499.

It might have helped Honor to step away from the wall it spent an awfully long time hurling ideas at.

Honor has the advantage in terms of storage — the View 10 gives you 128GB in its single configuration as well as a microSD slot for even more space. The 5T came with 64GB that isn't expandable, and forced buyers to spend an extra $60 to double it. However, that more expensive model of the 5T added another 2GB of RAM.

Given their similar specs, it wasn't surprising to find Honor's latest phone perform as swiftly as OnePlus' flagship in testing, handling multitasking, app launching and gaming with ease.

When it came time for benchmarks, the View 10 fared well in Geekbench 4, which measures overall performance. It racked up a multicore score of 6,659, which is about even with the OnePlus 5T's 6,674. That's better than the score from the Google Pixel 2, which features a Snapdragon 835 chip and achieved 6,282, but inferior to Samsung's just-released Galaxy S9+ with Qualcomm's brand-new Snapdragon 845 chip that delivered a score of 8,295.

However, based on the results we've observed from the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and now the View 10, it seems the Kirin 970 is a bit outmatched where graphics are concerned. Honor's device delivered a score of just 2,958 in 3DMark's Sling Shot Extreme OpenGL ES 3.1 test, compared with 3,779 from the OnePlus 5T. For perspective, the Galaxy S9+ finished with 4,634, while the iPhone X led the smartphone pack with 4,994.

The View 10's Kirin 970 chip handled multitasking, app launching and gaming with ease.

Finally, there's the Neural Processing Unit (NPU), Huawei's A.I. co-processor that enables features like the aforementioned object recognition through the camera, as well as faster performance in an included Microsoft Translator app. The NPU allows you to run Translator fully on the device, without having to ping Microsoft's servers — a nice bonus.

That speaks to the power of the chip, but just as in the Mate 10 Pro, many of the NPU's benefits won't be particularly noticeable as you're using the phone.

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Honor says the NPU has been designed to intelligently negotiate system resources, which should keep the View 10 running just as flawlessly two years on as it does out of the box. It's also geared to conduct machine-learning tasks while consuming less power. But the tangible benefits of A.I. hardware all depend on how developers use it, and right now, Microsoft Translator is the only third-party app that really takes advantage of the NPU.

Battery: Long-lasting and fast-charging

The View 10 packs one of the larger batteries you'll find in high-end handsets — a 3,750-mAh unit that supports Huawei's SuperCharge technology. It delivered 11 hours and 12 minutes of longevity in our battery test, where we endlessly stream web pages over T-Mobile LTE.

That's a very good time — over an hour better than the 9:50 average for smartphones. For comparison's sake, the 5.8-inch Galaxy S9, with its 3,000-mAh battery, called it quits after 11 hours and 8 minutes.

The View 10 is no slouch when it comes time to charge it back up again. Using the supplied adapter, our device hit 26 percent in 15 minutes, 53 percent in 30 minutes and 86 percent after a full hour, which is eerily dead-on with the LG V30 — our second-fastest-charging phone behind the OnePlus 5T.

Software: Android 8.1, with a catch

It's a tale as old as time: You buy a brand-new Android phone, only to find that it's running a woefully out-of-date version of the operating system. Fortunately, Honor has done the unthinkable in launching the View 10 with Android Oreo. And this isn't just the 8.0 version that you'll find on Samsung's Galaxy S9, but the more recent Android Oreo 8.1. It's just the fifth phone to do this, after Google's Pixel devices, the Nokia 8 and the Essential Phone.

But those devices offer stock Android experiences; the View 10 employs Huawei's EMUI interface. And while there's nothing egregiously wrong with EMUI, it struggles to justify its own existence.

Honor has made yet another fine phone that is more remarkable for its price than any single feature.

You'll find a few handy features exclusive to EMUI, like Private Space, which lets you create a separate user account on your phone that can be accessed only with a specific fingerprint. Gaming Mode redirects system resources to get more performance out of your games and even allows you to set up profiles where notifications are automatically silenced depending on what you're playing.

Unfortunately, just as we encountered with the previous iteration of EMUI in the Mate 10 Pro, what useful additions there are have been cloaked in a dated skin that follows none of the design principles that make modern Android look as clean and fresh as it does on other phones.

There are little inconsistencies throughout, like rows upon rows of tiny icons for quick toggles above oversize notification cards, and navigation keys that sometimes don't change color to be visible when resting on a white background. Even the Calendar icon is almost illegible, sporting white numbers set against light gray.

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Truthfully, I wouldn't mind a few useful features here and there, but it might have helped Honor to step away from the wall it spent an awfully long time hurling ideas at. For example, you can turn on something called the Navigation Dock, which creates a movable software button to replace the Back, Home and Recent Apps row you know, love and understand how to use because it's on every other Android phone. But it's just too complicated for its own good, not to mention it doesn't function as a shortcut to Google Assistant as the normal home button does.

And then there's the bloatware — not third-party app bloat, mind you, but stock software that duplicates services Google already has covered, like Gallery, Music and Huawei Video alongside Google Photos and the Play media suite. There's even a decoy app that's really just a bookmark to Honor's web store, where owners can buy another View 10, a cheap pair of earbuds and not much else.

Bottom Line

On paper, the Honor View 10 should be one of the year's best devices. This is a phone with a top-of-the-line processor, a premium build, serviceable dual cameras and a wicked-fast-charging battery, and it costs less than $500. It's an undeniably compelling value.

The problem is, it's hard to point to one thing the View 10 does exceptionally well, or better than the crowd. It's powerful, but so is the Essential Phone and the soon-to-come Asus ZenFone 5Z — both of which cost the same $499. The View 10's cameras are good but not great and have a penchant for blurry, blown-out shots. The phone will go for a while on a charge but barely cracks our top 20 longest-lasting handsets. And although we love that it touts the latest version of Android, the EMUI software is more frustrating than helpful.

Up until recently, we'd recommend you opt for the OnePlus 5T instead, which beats the Honor View 10 in all the aforementioned areas. But with that device being put out to pasture to make way for the OnePlus 6 in April or May, the View 10 automatically becomes the best option at this price, at least for the time being.

Still, the View 10 finds itself in a dangerous spot. This is a phone that's more remarkable for its price than any single feature. That'll pass at the $200 level, where buyers are most concerned with getting the best bang for their buck. But at $500, you're expecting to be wowed, and the View 10, while a solid device, doesn't wow.

Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom's Guide

Adam Ismail is a staff writer at Jalopnik and previously worked on Tom's Guide covering smartphones, car tech and gaming. His love for all things mobile began with the original Motorola Droid; since then he’s owned a variety of Android and iOS-powered handsets, refusing to stay loyal to one platform. His work has also appeared on Digital Trends and GTPlanet. When he’s not fiddling with the latest devices, he’s at an indie pop show, recording a podcast or playing Sega Dreamcast.