The Honor 10 is the latest in Honor’s “X” lineup. It’s a line of devices with a mid-range price and specs that usually trickle down from the flagships. As such, you’ll find some of the best specs on the market with some compromises.
The Honor 10 follows its previous iterations design language, with glass both front and back surrounded by an aluminum frame. The rear glass is the star of the show, with 15 layers and a special coating giving you that beautiful color shift. The “phantom” colors are a color shift between two colors, like purple and blue, while the black has a deep color with white shine. Moving the phone around gives you a spectacular light show no matter the color you choose. The phantom colors shift between wildly different colors, but usually show as a light color shift rather than the multiple colors of the press images.
Head on, the phantom blue is a brilliant teal, turning darker and more purple with angle.
The aluminum frame is what you’d expect, though the black model has gloss black paint over the aluminum. With every phone having an aluminum frame, the gloss is a great feeling.
On the front you’ll find a 5.84-inch LCD panel with rounded corners top and bottom and a resolution of 1080×2280, giving it a 19:9 ratio. Here you’ll find the ever so popular notch which contains the earpiece, camera and various sensors. The display is vibrant and sharp, though it lacks a bit in brightness. Nonetheless it’s a very good display panel. The size is perfect for single-handed use.
Underneath the display is a fingerprint sensor. Unlike others, this one is embedded under the glass and is only recognized by the faint line surrounding it under the glass. It works just like any sensor, with the benefit of working on wet and greasy fingers. Unfortunately, it’s one of the slowest fingerprint sensors on the market. You can tap it without turning the screen on, but sometimes it’ll take over a second to unlock. If you get this device, program the fingerprint sideways and it’ll work reliably.
Inside are some fairly high-end specs: The Honor 10 is powered by a Kirin 970 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB of storage (sadly, no microSD slot), a USB Type-C port, Android 8.1 Oreo with EMUI 8.1 on top, and the magical headphone jack. Yes, a headphone jack! Revolutionary.
The earpiece is a bit quiet but average overall. The loudspeaker is tinny and doesn’t sound good, but it’s a reasonably loud volume and will work in a pinch. You won’t be listening to music through it though. The vibration motor is pretty below average as well, being more buzzy than sharp. This is disappointing, as a vibration motor makes a huge difference in day to day use for those of us who like haptic feedback.
Build quality has long been the highlight of this series of Honor phones, and the Honor 10 is no different. The glass back and aluminum frame give it a flagship feel. The rounded edges mean it feels fantastic in the hand. Every button is clicky and well made.
There are no gaps, creaks, or flexes with this device. It’s as solid as can be and has build quality befitting of any flagship.
The Honor 10 runs Android 8.1 Oreo, currently Google’s latest version of Android. On top of this is Huawei’s EMUI 8.1 interface. EMUI isn’t the lightest interface, and stock Android fanboys may care for it. But it’s a well made skin and isn’t too intrusive for the most part. Huawei even stopped including its own messaging app, instead opting for Android Messages.
The launcher has been modified from the standard EMUI one as well. The new app opening animations are very similar to those from the Android P beta and they’re very fluid and pretty. It makes the phone feel more polished in everyday use.
EMUI does cause some major problems. The battery optimizations are heavy-handed and will be touched on in the battery section. These optimizations also keep Google Timeline from working properly, which is something I use for work and gets really annoying since it’s entirely nonfunctional at times. You also shouldn’t expect timely security updates from Honor.
Huawei’s additions to the software are very useful. One is face unlock, which is becoming popular on Android phones. The Honor 10′s version quick and very convenient. Raise the phone and it’ll almost instantly unlock without the push of a button or the swipe of the screen. You can also make it require a swipe and even hide your notifications until it detects your face. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near as secure as Apple’s implementation as it’s just using a standard front-facing camera. You sacrifice security for convenience. Nonetheless, it’s a great feature to use.
Another great feature is the ability to lock rotation to your face using the front-facing camera’s face detection. This isn’t new to the Android world but it’s very useful when laying in bed.
You can also customize your navigation. You can have a standard (but configurable) nav bar, an iPhone X-like bean at the bottom (which is pretty useless as it takes up the same space as a nav bar but is less useful), a movable dot, or full fingerprint sensor navigation. That last one is useful, or it would be if the swipe for recent tasks worked reliably. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. I think that’s the price of the newfangled under-glass fingerprint sensor.
Lastly, you can hide the notch. Yes, if you don’t like the notch, you can “disable” it. This will turn the status bar black, making the notch nearly invisible. That screen real estate won’t be lost though, as all the standard icons will remain there. It just won’t be in your face anymore.
The Honor 10 has been relatively bug-free in my testing. I get an occasional double click of the nav buttons but it’s not often. “Histen,” the built in audio customization, is also buggy. Even when disabled, it’ll enable itself every time you plug headphones in. Go into the settings for it and it’ll instantly turn off, and the toggle remains off. I hope they fix this as using headphones for music can be annoying this way. But at least we have a headphone jack! Otherwise it’s been smooth sailing.
With the latest processor from Huawei’s in-house chip manufacturer Kirin, the Honor 10 is blazing fast. Everything loads quickly and smoothly. Every animation is surprisingly smooth and tends to best even the Huawei Mate 10 Pro in fluidity.
Playing games like PUBG Mobile is not a problem. The game defaults to high settings and is just as smooth as it is on any other phone (which isn’t perfectly smooth, but hey it’s PUBG). Touch controls are smooth and lack any multitouch issues.
Boot time is also super fast, quicker than most phones on the market and quicker than Huawei’s other offerings.
Honor always puts some serious effort into the cameras on its devices and they’re usually the defining factor of this series. The Honor 10 is no different, featuring a dual camera system with a 16MP color sensor and a 24MP black and white sensor, both with an aperture of f/1.8. Unfortunately, there’s no OIS here.
Honor’s focus on the camera seems to be its AI features, courtesy of the Kirin 970′s built in AI core. It recognizes 22 different scenarios and changes the image settings accordingly. Unlike a basic template, this can change each parameter to perfect a photo.
This feature works great for the most part. When enabled, it genuinely improves photos without making them look overly edited or unnatural. I’m really impressed by how good the AI software is and usually keep the AI features on. Unfortunately, they tend to disable themselves every time you exit the app which is a huge annoyance. The app needs to be updated to remember the toggle’s position.
Overall image quality is fantastic. There is plenty of sharpness and detail in each 16MP photo taken. Even when using the 2x hybrid zoom (not optical zoom, mind you) the details remain fairly good. There is a little bit of oversharpening at times but this has been a characteristic of Honor phones for some time.
At night, the lack of OIS really shows but the phone manages to perform well anyway. If you keep the device relatively still, photos are decently detailed and lacking in noise. OIS would have been nice alongside the EIS (electronic image stabilization) as blur tends to set in very quickly, but photos come out good without it, albeit quite soft.
Aperture mode (known as portrait mode on other devices) remains one of Honor’s strong suits, and most portrait photos come out fairly natural. It usually catches glass properly, which is good for taking photos of your drinks. Portrait mode is specifically made for faces and works great as well. Portrait lighting, a knockoff of Apple’s feature, doesn’t work great though.
As always, the Honor 10 includes a pro mode for those who want to tinker. There are also plenty of other modes in the camera app, like monochrome mode, document scan mode, and more. The night mode is especially impressive, taking up to 32 second exposures to create some incredible images. You do need a tripod for this though.
Unfortunately, the Honor 10 can’t shoot 4K in 60 FPS. This is a limitation most phones have, and it’s definitely understandable considering the Honor 10 is more of a mid-range offering, but it’s sad nonetheless.
Overall my experience with this camera has been phenomenal. Considering it’s not a flagship-tier device, photos come out consistently beautiful and detailed and it was an amazing companion during my travels in London.
The Honor 10 houses a well-sized 3,400mAh battery which, paired with EMUI’s notoriously strict battery optimization, results in some fantastic battery life. I got a few two-day sprints from this phone with average use. That’s not something most devices will manage. Even with heavy use, the battery life excelled and I could rarely kill it before bedtime.
Unfortunately, EMUI’s battery optimization gets in the way of daily use. This has to be finely tuned. By default, the OS tends to fully kill apps and you may miss notifications. You can individually allow apps to run in the background with the Phone Manager app, but it’s a pain to set up properly. For regular people, this isn’t a great idea considering how many third-party app notifications they may miss without proper setup.
The Honor 10 is a fantastic device for a mid-range price. Yes the software can be funky, but the hardware is on point and the camera and battery life (two of the most important things in a phone) are great. It’s easy to use with one hand, it has an attractive design, and it’s sure to be a hit.
For those of us who love stock Android, it may not be ideal (especially since Huawei has reversed its stance on unlockable bootloaders) but the software is fairly well made and not too heavy.
If you’re looking for a phone on a budget, this is one of the best.