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HONOR 20 Pro review: Everyday luxury
HONOR 20 Pro, the latest “affordable flagship” option from the Huawei offshoot, is here. With its strong specs and flashy design, the HONOR 20 Pro may pique your interest if you’re after a modern phone that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Competition is stiff, however, and the HONOR 20 Pro isn’t flawless. And, as crazy as it sounds, geopolitical tensions have also thrown a spanner in the works. Should you make HONOR 20 Pro your new phone?
Here’s Android Authority’s HONOR 20 Pro review.
HONOR 20 Pro review: The big picture
HONOR tends to put out incremental devices that run the gamut from budget to upper mid-range. The HONOR 20 Pro is the most premium option in the new HONOR 20 series, which also includes the HONOR 20 Lite (budget-oriented) and HONOR 20 (similar to HONOR 20 Pro, but with a smaller battery and a less capable camera).
As a sub-brand of HUAWEI, HONOR uses a lot of the technologies that previously debuted on HUAWEI’s flagship Mate and P series. If you’re a fan of HUAWEI’s tech, but can’t afford the high price tag, the HONOR 20 Pro is a good alternative.
What’s in the box
The HONOR 20 Pro ships with only the basics: a flimsy-looking 3.5mm-to-USB-C adapter, a charger, and a cable. You don’t get bundled headphones or a basic case, like you do if you pick an expensive HUAWEI. The charger is a 22.5W SuperCharger from HUAWEI.
- 6 x 73.97 x 8.44mm
- Fingerprint sensor in the power button
- Glass back
Say what you like about HONOR, the company gets industrial design. HONOR phones are rarely trailblazers, but they’re always on-trend. The HONOR 20 Pro continues this tradition.
The front of the phone is almost entirely screen. The bezels are not the smallest we’ve seen — especially the bottom one — but they’re pretty close. The punch-hole camera in the top-left corner gives the phone a little futuristic flair, without hindering the viewing experience. It’s only 4.5mm in diameter. A discreet earpiece is embedded in the top bezel.
The only thing that stands out on the rounded sides is the power button, which sits in its own little notch. This is not just for looks, as the button houses the fingerprint sensor. It’s a very fast and easy-to-use sensor, and I am pretty glad to see HONOR eschewing the in-display fingerprint sensor trend for it. You can unlock your phone in a split-second by touching the sensor with your finger, or you can set it to require an actual button press. The touch-to-unlock method is highly convenient, but it can result in accidental unlocks. Not a big deal though.
The fast camera-based face unlock feature is a nice complement to the fingerprint scanner. The HONOR 20 Pro is probably the easiest to unlock of any phone I’ve used. Seamless security is the best kind of security, so kudos to HONOR for its work here.
The HONOR 20 Pro comes in two trendy color versions: Phantom Black and Phantom Blue. I got to review the Phantom Black and, let me tell you, this is no boring old black. It shifts from black, to purple, to blue, and it’s fancy.
We’re all used to big camera bumps by now, but the bump on the HONOR 20 Pro protrudes a couple of millimeters from the body of the phone, and it’s quite large. The bump is home to three of the phone’s four rear cameras, plus a sensor for the laser-based autofocus. Aesthetics aside, the protruding camera will take the brunt of wear and tear, so buy a case that protects it – I already have a couple of scuffs on it after a week of use.
The HONOR 20 Pro is not super slippery in the hand, but it does tend to slip off tabletops and out of pockets. My unit fell to the ground five times in a week, which is five drops more than I typically aim for.
- 6.26 inches
- 2340 x 1080 Full HD+
Some phones in the $400-$500 price range (see: Pixel 3a) have switched to OLED, but unfortunately the more expensive HONOR 20 Pro hasn’t followed suit. There’s nothing wrong with the Full HD+ LCD you get, but it’s no OLED; hence, no inky blacks, no battery-saving dark UI mode, and no always-on display either. The lack of dark mode is baffling, as many users prefer it subjectively, even if it doesn’t bring battery savings like when using an OLED screen.
Colors and viewing angles are on point. The display gets plenty bright for normal indoor use, but quality deteriorates in bright sunlight. Again, this is an inherent shortcoming of LCD technology, rather than an issue with the HONOR 20 Pro. Still, HONOR did choose LCD over OLED.
- Kirin 980
- 8GB of RAM
- 256GB of storage
- No microSD
HONOR didn’t skimp when it comes to raw specs. The processor, RAM, and storage are flagship-level, no qualifier necessary. It may not be the very best on the market right now — the Snapdragon 855 holds that title — but the processor is the same as the Mate 20 Pro and P30 Pro. It’s also way ahead of the Snapdragon 600 series or 700 series you get from some HONOR 20 Pro competitors.
Performance in the real world is lag-free, and gaming is silky smooth.
Performance in the real world is lag-free, and gaming is silky smooth. I ran into no performance issues playing PUBG Mobile.
I can’t provide any benchmark scores because my HONOR 20 Pro review unit didn’t allow me to install benchmark apps. Scores are likely to be very similar to the P30 Pro’s though. Expect something in the vicinity of 1m:45s in SpeedTestG and 290,000 points in AnTuTu.
The included 256GB of storage should be enough for almost everybody, but if you do need more, the HONOR 20 Pro isn’t for you as it doesn’t have a memory slot.
Like on HUAWEI’s flagships, you can choose to enable Performance Mode on the HONOR 20 Pro in order to get peak performance. That sounds like a good idea, but it really isn’t. The marginal performance gain comes at the expense of shorter battery life.
- 22.5W fast charging
The 2019 gold standard for super premium phone batteries is 4,000mAh. The HONOR 20 Pro is not a super premium phone, but once again, it punches above its weight.
That said, battery life was shorter than I had expected, based on the size of the battery. I got around six hours of screen-on time with my medium-light usage. For reference, the Mate 20 Pro and P30 Pro (both featuring 4,200mAh units) could easily hit eight hours of screen-on time. The LCD screen likely plays a big role in this discrepancy.
You get fast charging with the bundled 22.5W charger. Filling up the battery to 50 percent will take around 30 minutes. That’s a very good figure, though not as good as the P30 Pro’s and Mate 20 Pro’s 75 percent in 30 minutes performance. The HONOR 20 Pro trumps the Google Pixel 3a and ZenFone 6 in this metric, but not the OnePlus 7 Pro.
The HONOR 20 Pro does not feature wireless charging. Bummer.
- 48MP main, f/1.4, OIS, laser autofocus
- 16MP super wide, f/2.2, 117-degree FoV
- 8MP telephoto, f/2.4, 3X lossless, 5X hybrid, OIS
- 2MP macro, f/2.4
Forget the hype. One camera is, in fact, enough to take amazing photos. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at the current crop of Android flagships, or even ambitious second-tier premium phones like the HONOR 20 Pro.
There are four cameras on the back of the phone. The main one features Sony’s seemingly ubiquitous IMX586 48MP sensor (also seen on OnePlus 7 Pro, ASUS ZenFone 6, and realme X). In the default shooting mode, the camera churns out pixel-binned 12MP images. Image quality is usually solid, though I did end up with some blurry shots in situations where I wasn’t anticipating any issues.
You can switch to full-resolution 48MP images, but in most cases, you’ll want to stick to the default setting. You do get larger and more detailed images, but the 48MP and 12MP shots look very similar, even when viewed on a large computer screen. The 48MP AI Ultra Clarity function is supposed to add even more detail to the pic, at the expense of a 3- to 5-second exposure and processing time. The results didn’t make me go “wow!”
The wide-angle lens does what the name says. It’s perfect for large families and sweeping vistas.
The telephoto shooter gives you 3X lossless optical zoom, and 5X hybrid zoom, meaning it combines optical zoom with electronic processing. In the real world, you’ll be able to bring the subject closer and frame your shots in ways that wouldn’t be possible without a telephoto camera.
The HONOR 20 Pro is the first phone with a dedicated macro lens. It’s debatable how useful this specialized tool is for most users, but it’s there for all your ant-sized photographic necessities. If you’re nerdy like me, you’ll find it pretty cool. Check out this photo of a stag beetle I shot with the HONOR 20 Pro — you can almost see my reflection in the bug’s eye! Too bad the resolution is only 2MP.
Another AI-supported feature is the AI Super Night mode — it’s your typical night mode feature, as seen on multiple phones this year. It adds more light and detail to low-light scenes, but it won’t save you if light is really low.
Selfies taken with the HONOR 20 Pro’s 32MP user-facing camera are generally great, though a little on the soft side.
Overall, the HONOR 20 Pro is a capable and versatile shooter. Image quality can be inconsistent, especially once light goes down. But the multiple lenses are a boon for anyone who enjoys playing with the camera settings, rather than just pointing and shooting.
Full-size images taken with the HONOR 20 Pro are available in this Google Drive folder.
- EMUI 2.1.0
- Android 9 Pie
Honor’s Magic UI is very similar to Huawei’s EMUI and the version running on the HONOR 20 Pro is based on Android 9 Pie. This isn’t the most polished or clutter-free Android skin out there, but it’s definitely not the worst. Magic UI gets all the basics right and offers plenty of customization options. I wish HONOR would’ve included a dark mode option; perhaps the arrival of Android Q towards the end of the year will solve this deficiency. I disliked the default icon set, but there’s limited support for changing them from the themes section.
One weird issue I ran into was that you can’t long-press on the home screen to bring up the settings, change the wallpaper, or even add a widget.
By default, the HONOR 20 Pro uses a classic three-button navigation menu, but I strongly suggest you try the gestures. Swiping from the edges takes you back in the interface, while a long swipe from the bottom opens the recent apps menu. It quickly becomes second nature.
It’s unclear if the HONOR 20 Pro will receive security updates.
While we were reviewing the HONOR 20 Pro, the U.S. government banned American companies — including Google — from conducting business with HUAWEI and its affiliates. The ban was then restricted to hardware components, allowing Google to provide security updates to existing HUAWEI and HONOR phones. As of this writing, it’s unclear if the HONOR 20 Pro will receive security updates. If security is high on your list of priorities, you should probably look into other options. We’ll update this section of our HONOR 20 Pro review as the situation changes.
- No headphone jack
- Single speaker
The HONOR 20 Pro lacks a 3.5mm audio jack. Here’s a bunch of arguments why that’s bad idea. It’s especially odd considering some of the phone’s direct competitors tend to have a 3.5mm port, and even HUAWEI’s own P30 has the feature. The phone ships with a 3.5mm-to-USB-C adapter, but these adapters tend to be riddled with compatibility issues.
Sound coming out of the phone’s bottom-firing speaker is reasonably clear and loud. However, the tiny grille holes make it too easy to cover the speaker with your hand and muffle it. I don’t normally find it an issue, but in this case, it’s quite annoying.
HONOR 20 Pro specs
|HONOR 20 Pro|
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
HiSilicon Kirin 980
2.6GHz + 1.92GHz + 1.8GHz octa-core
22.5W HONOR SuperCharge
No wireless charging
Primary: 48MP Sony IMX586, f/1.4 aperture, AI Ultra Clarity mode, 4-in-1 Light Fusion (1.6μm pixels), AI Image Stabilization, optical image stabilization, electronic image stabilization, phase detection auto-focus, AIS Super Night mode
Wide angle: 16MP sensor, f/2.2 aperture, 117-degree super wide angle, supported by distortion correction
Telephoto: 8MP sensor, f/2.4 aperture, 3x lossless optical zoom, 5x hybrid zoom, 30x digital zoom, optical image stabilization, phase detection auto-focus, laser auto-focus
Macro: 2MP sensor, f/2.4 aperture, 4cm macro photography
32MP sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 3D Portrait Lighting
Ambient light sensor
Wi-Fi 2.4GHz: 802.11b/g/n, MIMO
Wi-Fi 5GHz: 802.11a/n/ac
4G LTE TDD: B38/B40/B41 (2545 - 2655MHz)
4G LTE FDD: B1/B2/B3/B4/B5/B7/B8/B18/B19/B20/B26/B28
3G WCDMA: B1/B2/B4/B5/B6/B8/B19
2G GSM: B2/B3/B5/B8
Side-mounted fingerprint sensor
Android 9 Pie
Magic UI 2.1
Dimensions and weight
154.6 x 73.97 x 8.44mm
Phantom Black, Phantom Blue
Value for the money
- HONOR 20 Pro with 8GB RAM and 256GB of storage — 599 euros
At 599 euros, the HONOR 20 Pro targets an increasingly popular niche made up of devices that offer top-of-the-line specs at a lower cost than super-premium phones. Of course, there are some trade-offs to be made, and on the HONOR 20 Pro that takes the form of missing features. For example, you don’t get an OLED screen, wireless charging, water resistance, a headphone jack, expandable storage, or super-fast charging. Still the specs, camera, and design are excellent and that makes the HONOR 20 Pro great value for money.
Considering the specs and price, the main alternatives to the HONOR 20 Pro are phones like the OnePlus 7 Pro and the ZenFone 6. If you want to spend a little less but still get a great camera, the Pixel 3a XL is a great option too. If you want to spring up and enter true super premium territory, you could also check out Samsung’s Galaxy S10e or the HUAWEI P30.
The standard HONOR 20 is a great alternative to the beefed-up HONOR 20 Pro. It has less memory, the battery is 250mAh smaller, and the camera drops the telephoto lens in favor of a depth sensor. But you get a very similar experience and it’s 100 euros cheaper.
If you decide to buy the phone, it’s worth considering that the confusion around future updates could bring the HONOR 20 Pro’s resale price down. If you tend to use phones for just a few months before flipping them, that’s something to keep in mind.
The HONOR 20 Pro, alongside the HONOR 20, goes on sale in India later this month. The phone is priced at 39,999 rupees (~$575) for the 8GB/256GB version while the regular HONOR 20 will be available for the 32,999 rupees (~$475). This puts the phones in direct competition with the OnePlus 7 line up. Given the uncertainty around the future of updates and support, it can be a bit hard to recommend the phone. However, if you don’t particularly care about long term support and want some great hardware at an excellent price, the HONOR 20 series is definitely worth a look.
The best performance, a great camera, and a modern design, without breaking the bank.
HONOR 20 Pro review: The verdict
Overall, the HONOR 20 Pro is a great choice for anyone who wants the best performance, a great camera, and a modern design, without breaking the bank. It’s not an instant recommendation because of the potential implications of an Android ban, and the fact that it has strong competition. However, definitely give it a shot if you’ve found yourself tempted by HUAWEI, but can’t really justify paying $900-$1000 for the brand name.
That wraps up our HONOR 20 Pro review. Will you buy this phone?