honor 10 review: The dazzling flagship

honor's best tried and tested
honor 10 review
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Due to ever-increasing prices, many of us can only dream to own a flagship smartphone. Even without the 6% GST, prices can still be exorbitant. Of course, people will still drool over them regardless, as these are devices that pack the latest and greatest tech a smartphone maker has to offer.

Lately though, more and more manufacturers are trickling aspects of their flagships into their mid-range or “sub-flagship” offerings so that consumers have more affordable options. One of the champions in this aspect is none other than Huawei’s sub-brand, honor, and what has to be their best offering to date, the honor 10. I had the honour of spending some time with the flagship device recently.

Is the honor 10 a perfect 10 or just a flash in the pan?

honor 10
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Design & Build

The two words that instantly came to my mind when I first took the honor 10 out of its box was shiny and dazzling. It’s a little too ostentatious for my tastes to be honest but for those of you who have been complaining about smartphones looking too similar, then the honor 10 was designed for you.

To just get this out of the way, yes, the honor 10 does come with a notch and a dual camera setup that looks like the iPhone 8 Plus. That’s pretty much where the similarities end, as no one will think this is an iPhone or any other Android smartphone for that matter due to its colour shifting rear.

honor has dubbed it “Aurora Glass” design and it’s very clear that the inspiration comes from the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. The review unit I have with me is the Phantom Blue variant, which looks very blue when you’re staring directly at it, whereas from the side it actually shifts to a metallic purple. Other colours available here are the equally flashy Phantom Green or the more subdued Grey and Black.

Again, while it may not be my style, I still have to give kudos to honor for giving their devices a distinct style and design. This is one of those phones where I’m sure many of you will be having a hard time deciding if you want to protect it using a case because the back is made of glass or leave it au naturel to show off the shifting colours. Word of advice though, if you plan on keeping your device “naked” you’ll want a cleaning cloth near you at all times as it attracts fingerprints and smudges very easily.

In terms of handling and comfort, I would say that the honor 10 is a very comfortable device to hold and use one-handed due to the 19:9 aspect ratio. Despite the 5.84-inch display, the device is actually taller and not wider which, makes it very easy for someone with smaller hands like me to reach from one side of the display to the other. The rounded edges also make holding the phone extremely comfortable. However, similar to most glass backed phones, it does get a little slippery.

In a bid to maintain that stunning looking back and to keep it uncluttered, honor placed the fingerprint scanner below the display. What’s interesting is that the fingerprint scanner is actually located below the glass, which gives it a little bit of protection. About 90 percent of the time, it works without a hiccup and is quick to recognise my fingerprint. However, the other 10 percent of the time, it just fails to work as it should even when my hands were dry. On top of that, I’ve also noticed that when I was streaming from Spotify, it would take about half a minute to register my fingerprint. Bug?

Other than that, the honor 10 is pretty similar to most other devices. At the bottom of the device, there’s the USB Type-C port flanked by the 3.5mm headphone jack and speaker grille. A noise-cancelling microphone up on the top right next to the IR blaster, the clicky and tactile volume rockers and power/lock button on the right and the dual SIM tray on the left. On the back, it’s just the dual camera setup and single LED flash on the top left.

It’s easy to see the influence of the Huawei P20 series in the honor 10, it shares that same small notch and also the iridescent Aurora Glass rear, which makes the devices very unique in terms of looks.

[nextpage title=”Hardware, Software, In the Box”]

What’s in the box

  • honor 10 unit
  • USB Type-C cable
  • Headphones with mic
  • SuperCharge charger
  • TPU protective cover
  • TP screen protector
  • Quick start guide
  • SIM insertion tool

Hardware

For a supposed mid-range device, the honor 10 actually packs hardware that is used in Huawei’s current and previous gen of flagships such as the P20, Mate 10 and honor View10. Yes, the octa-core Hisilicon Kirin 970 CPU is almost a year old but it still performs like a charm especially since the honor 10 also has 4GB of RAM and the Mali-G72 MP12 GPU.

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On a side note, the Kirin 970 is also Huawei’s CPU that features a built-in Neural Processing Unit (NPU), which is a fancier way of saying it’s AI-enabled.

As for storage, the honor 10 comes with 128GB of internal storage with about 115GB usable. There’s no support for expandable storage but with 115GB, I’m sure you won’t really need any extra, unless you’re one of those people who stores 1080p TV shows or movies on your device to watch while you’re on-the-go.

Speaking of watching videos on the device, the honor 10’s 5.84-inch display uses an IPS LCD panel and has a Full HD+ resolution of 2280×1080. The display is actually really good as it produces vivid and accurate colours that pop and I found text to be very crisp with no artefacts or bleeding. While the display does get quite bright, I still found it not bright enough as there were times I found it a little hard to see when I was under direct sunlight.

Now that I’ve covered visuals, I should talk about audio. Like most mid-range devices, the honor 10’s single bottom-firing speaker gets very loud on maximum volume but as always, there’s quite a fair bit of distortion and muffling. Also, the most common problem would be the fact that when held in landscape mode, the speaker easily gets blocked, which is a shame as that’s how most of us watch videos and play games. Unfortunately, with the way the device is design, there was no way honor could have fit stereo front-facing speakers on the device.

When it comes to cameras, the honor 10 sports a 24MP selfie shooter with an f/2.0 aperture. No selfie flash here as there’s really no space for it on the notch. Then on the rear there’s the 16MP RGB shooter with an f/1.8 aperture and a 24MP monochrome shooter also with an f/1.8 aperture. Frankly speaking, the cameras offered on the honor 10 is a lot more attractive than the ones found on the Huawei nova 3e (P20 lite).

Keeping everything juiced up is a 3,400mAh battery that supports Huawei/honor’s SuperCharge and thankfully, honor has actually bundled a SuperCharger with the device. It’s said that the SuperCharger is able get the battery from 0 percent to 50 percent in 25 minutes, which I found to be quite accurate as I clocked in at about 30 minutes.

Finally, the honor 10 supports Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4/5GHz Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, NFC, GPS, A-GPS and GLONASS.

Software

Being a sub-brand of Huawei, the honor 10 also uses the company’s Emotion UI or more commonly known as EMUI layered over Android 8.1 Oreo. I know some people who like/love EMUI but I personally am not a fan of it. The reason being the bloatware and also some of questionable and very cartoony UI design. Previous versions would also noticeably start to slow down and lag after about 3 months or so.

The latest version of EMUI however is a little more palatable and more customisable. However, I still noticed a slight lag when opening apps or the app drawer and while I was navigating around but this was actually due to the animations of the UI.

Bloatware on the other hand is still rampant. Not only will you have to deal with Huawei’s very own suite of apps, which range from mildly useful such as the compass, Game Suite to the pointless such as the mirror app and Huawei AppGallery. Then there’s also other apps such as Booking.com and various Gameloft games that really don’t need to be pre-installed.

It seems like Huawei is actively making improvements to EMUI but it’s still a little undercooked for my taste and I’m one of those users who immediately installs Nova Launcher so I can customise it with icon packs and give it a more vanilla Android look and feel.

[nextpage title=”Performance, Pros, Cons, Verdict”]

Performance

While the honor 10 does use a more “dated” CPU, the device produced commendable scores in the standard suite of synthetic benchmarks I use to review smartphones.

Day-to-day performance was actually a mixed bag for me. I don’t want to flog a dead horse but it’s really the animations and aggressive power saving that causes the phone to jerk and lag especially when I had about 10 apps running in the background.

When I had less apps running, it would perform quite smoothly and snappily. This of course affected the experience of multitasking, again, with multiple apps running in the background, slightly laggy but with less apps, I could jump around from one app to another quickly with no delays whatsoever.

Gaming wise, the honor 10 surprisingly holds up very nicely. It ran graphics intensive games like Dead Trigger 2, Asphalt 8, WWE: Immortals and Darkness Rises with no problems whatsoever. Those games were responsive and fluid. Interestingly enough though, I found Into the Dead 2 quite laggy and while Injustice 2 ran with less problems than the other phones I tested previously, it was by no means playable. By the way, the recent GPU Turbo update for the honor 10 boosts performance even further.

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For a light-medium user like myself, the battery life on the honor 10 was actually quite satisfactory easily lasting me a full day on a slightly busier day and close to a day and a half on less busy periods such as weekends.

On a busy day where I used the phone to stream music on Spotify through my car stereo via Bluetooth, navigation through Waze, a lot of chatting via Whatsapp and Telegram, scrolling through Instagram, taking a few photos and playing games the honor 10 still clocked in 13 hours of use with about 20 percent of battery left. On days where I didn’t use the phone as much, maybe just a few phone calls, occasional messages and going through social media, I’d still have about 50-60 percent of juice left at the end of the day.

As far as camera performance goes, the honor 10 actually surprised me with the photos it was able to produce. The rear dual camera setup works by taking photos using both RGB and monochrome sensors and then combines to give you more details in the photos.

Photos taken in well-lit conditions even without the AI feature turned on looked great as the colours were accurate, with fairly decent contrast and details were nicely retained. Without Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) however, the same issues in low-light still rear its ugly head such as motion blur, grain and lacking details.

honor 10 sample shot
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With AI

Speaking of the AI feature, I found it to be both a blessing and a curse. When enabled, it detects scenes and objects really quickly and tunes the shot so that it makes it the “best” shot. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t always the case as I found most photos taken with AI on had the saturation bumped up to the point where colours overly vivid and fake.

[twenty20 img1=”48372″ img2=”48371″ offset=”0.5″ before=”Without AI” after=”With AI”]

[twenty20 img1=”48370″ img2=”48369″ offset=”0.5″ before=”Without AI” after=”With AI”]

It does however help during low-light conditions. It won’t totally eliminate motion blur from movement or shaky hands but it does at least make the photos more pleasing. It does however, still bump up the saturation. The good thing is, when you shoot with the AI turned on, you can actually select whether you want the shot with AI enhancements or not.

Overall, photos produced using the rear cameras are very good for a device at this price. The shooting experience was also enjoyable as it was fast to focus and capture ensuring that you would rarely miss a shot.

If you’re a fan of selfies, the 24MP selfie shooter on the front is really no slouch either as it is able to take some nice shots with good detail. While there is no selfie flash, the camera is still able to take pretty decent low-light shots. It also comes with five lighting effects which is supposed to help, but which I find a little gimmicky.

honor 10 sample shot
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Very beautified boys.

One thing I don’t like about the front-facing camera is that the beautification is incredibly over the top and at times would smoothen skin to the point where it looks like a bad wax figure you find at cheap fun fairs.

Finally, when it comes to videos, the honor 10 is able to shoot in 1080p at 60fps or 4K at 30fps. This is pretty much standard fare these days and while Electronic Image Stabilisation does help minimise jitters and shivers, it is by no means OIS-level of stable.

Pros

  • Good value for money
  • Jaw-dropping design
  • Near flagship grade performance
  • Good battery life
  • 128GB internal storage
  • Good cameras
  • Dual-SIM support

Cons

  • Slippery and smudge prone glass rear
  • No microSD support
  • No Optical Image Stabilisation
  • Camera AI is a mixed bag
  • EMUI and bloat
  • Fingerprint scanner finicky

Pricing and availability

The honor 10 retails for MYR1,599 and is available for purchase from all Huawei Experience Stores, Vmall and authorised resellers.

Buy the honor 10 from Shopee or Lazada.

Verdict

Honestly, for its asking price, the honor 10 does quite a lot right. It looks great, performs better than expected and does photography quite well. I would even go so far as to say that this should have been the Huawei nova 3e (P20 lite) as it more closely resembles the P20 and P20 Pro compared to the aforementioned phone.

The only other problem at this juncture is the fact that there are two devices out there that cost close to half of the honor 10 yet still provide users with very excellent features and performance, which means to say that the honor 10 really has its work cut out for it. However, if you don’t mind splurging a little more for a device that looks unique and performs well, the honor 10 is a good buy.

[nextpage title=”Sample Photos”]All shots are straight from camera, unedited aside from watermarking. Click on image for a bigger view.

[twenty20 img1=”48376″ img2=”48377″ offset=”0.5″ before=”Without AI” after=”With AI”]

Scenery

honor 10 sample shot
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Food shots

honor 10 sample shot
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honor 10 sample shot
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Low-light shots

honor 10 sample shot
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honor 10 sample shot
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honor 10 sample shot
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Portraits

honor 10 sample shot
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honor 10 sample shot
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General shots (with and without depth-of-field)

Selfie & AR

honor 10 sample shot
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IA - TIME

SUMMARY & RESULTS

If you don't mind splurging a little more for a device that looks unique and performs well, the honor 10 really is a no-brainer.

3.9

The honor 10 looks simply amazing. It isn't just all looks though, it also has the brains and performance to boot.

Review

  • Design & Build

  • Hardware

  • Software

  • Performance

  • Pricing & Value for Money

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