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$300 showdown: Honor Play vs Poco F1 vs the competition

At under $300, Honor's latest smartphone redefines what can be squeezed into a low-cost handset. But how does it stack up?
By
August 25, 2018
Backside of the Honor Play player edition

In traditional Honor fashion, the new Honor Play is another compelling budget choice. Somehow, it offers flagship tier hardware starting at 19,999 rupees (~$285).

It turns out plenty of great smartphones offer substantial bang for your buck these days, even at around $300, so we pulled out a few — the new Xiaomi Pocophone F1 and Oppo F9 Pro — for this comparison, as well as the Nokia 6.1 Plus, and the Moto G6 Plus.

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The back of the Pocophone F1 Armoured Edition.

Flagship performance without the price tag

There isn’t much to say about these phones’ displays. All of our comparison models boast very similar FHD+ resolution LCD panels with elongated aspect ratios. Instead, let’s dive into the processing package, as this has traditionally been a weak spot for low-cost phones.

The Honor Play boasts Huawei’s Kirin 970 SoC, which you’ll find in flagship products like the Huawei P20 Pro. The Xiaomi Pocophone’s newer Snapdragon 845 is a tad faster, but not by much, and you’ll have to pay a bit more for it. The specifications compare very favorably with phones like the OnePlus 6, although that model is a bit more expensive (over $500). It’s amazing this tier of processor is now readily available in the $300 – $400 price bracket.

Honor PlayXiaomi Pocophone F1Oppo F9 ProMoto G6 PlusNokia 6.1 Plus
Display
Honor Play
6.3-inch IPS LCD
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
19.5:9 aspect ratio
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
6.18-inch IPS LCD
2,246 x 1,080 resolution
18:9 aspect ratio
Oppo F9 Pro
6.3-inch IPS LCD
2,340 x 1080 resolution
19.5:9 aspect ratio
Moto G6 Plus
5.9-inch IPS LCD
2,160 x 1,080 resolution
18:9 aspect ratio
Nokia 6.1 Plus
5.8-inch IPS LCD
2280x1080 resolution
19:9 apsect ratio
CPU
Honor Play
HiSilicon Kirin 970
Octa-core Cortex-A73 + A53 up to 2.4GHz
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Octa-core Kryo 280 up to 2.8 GHz
Oppo F9 Pro
MediaTek Helio P60
Octa-core Cortex-A73 + A53 up to 2.0GHz
Moto G6 Plus
Qualcomm Snapdragon 630
Octa-core Cortex-A53 up to 2.2GHz
Nokia 6.1 Plus
Qualcomm Snapdragon 636
Octa-core Kryo 260 up to 1.8GHz
GPU
Honor Play
Mali-G72 MP12
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
Adreno 630
Oppo F9 Pro
Mali-G72 MP3
Moto G6 Plus
Adreno 508
Nokia 6.1 Plus
Adreno 509
RAM
Honor Play
4/6GB
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
6/8GB
Oppo F9 Pro
4/6GB
Moto G6 Plus
4/6GB
Nokia 6.1 Plus
4GB
Memory
Honor Play
64GB
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
64/128/256GB
Oppo F9 Pro
64GB
Moto G6 Plus
64/128GB
Nokia 6.1 Plus
64GB
MicroSD
Honor Play
Yes, up to 256GB
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
Yes, up to 256GB
Oppo F9 Pro
Yes, up to 256GB
Moto G6 Plus
Yes, up to 256GB
Nokia 6.1 Plus
Yes, up to 256GB
Battery
Honor Play
3,750mAh
Non-removable
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
4,000mAh
Non-removable
Oppo F9 Pro
3,500mAh
Non-removable
Moto G6 Plus
3,200mAh
Non-removable
Nokia 6.1 Plus
3060mAh
Non-removable
Flagship tier performance is now readily available in the $300 price bracket.

These two models offer flagship class performance at a fraction of the price. They handily surpass the capabilities of mid-tier chips like the Snapdragon 630 and MediaTek Helio P60, especially in the graphics department. The phone’s 4 or 6GB RAM configurations are a little behind the Pocophone, but neck and neck with other products in this tier. Again, this doesn’t produce a big difference in performance.

The Honor Play has more storage options than standard, with 64GB inside and microSD card support. The Moto G6 Plus and Xiaomi Pocophone offer larger storage options, should you need it for a large media collection.

When it comes to battery capacity, the Honor Play is right near the top of the pack, with a big 3,750mAh cell. Xiaomi’s latest just barely edges it out with a 4,000mAh battery. The Oppo F9 Pro is also very decent at 3,500mAh. While the Moto G6 Plus and Nokia 6.1 Plus have much smaller batteries, their low-power processors probably close this perceived gap somewhat.

Front upper side of the Honor Play with display turned on showing the clock and weather widget.

Cameras and extras

While the Honor Play and Pocophone’s performance may compete with flagship models, their cameras sadly don’t. You can take good pictures at this price point, but expect pretty hit or miss results with all of these phones. You won’t find extras like optical image stabilization or telephoto zoom here, although the Honor Play boasts some so-so “AI” camera capabilities.

All these phones feature dual camera setups with a low-resolution secondary depth sensor. This enables the popular bokeh effect, which can be adjusted post-capture. Primary resolutions are either 12 or 16MP, both of which preserve enough detail for posting online and printing.

The Moto G6 Plus offers the lowest resolution selfie camera at just 8 megapixels. Interestingly, the Pocophone F1’s selfie snapper boasts pixel binning capabilities, for better low light shots at the expense of resolution. Perhaps this technology would have been better served on the rear camera.

Honor PlayXiaomi Pocophone F1Oppo F9 ProMoto G6 PlusNokia 6.1 Plus
Camera
Honor Play
Rear: 16MP sensor with f/2.2 aperture, PDAF, EIS
+ 2MP depth sensor with f/2.4 aperture

Front: 16MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
Rear: 12MP sensor with f/1.9 aperture and PDAF
+ 5MP depth sensor with f/2.0 aperture

Front: 20MP sensor f/2.0 aperture and pixel binning
Oppo F9 Pro
Rear: 16MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture with PDAF
+ 2MP depth sensor with f/2.4 aperture

Front: 25MP sensor f/2.0 aperture
Moto G6 Plus
Rear: 12MP sensor with f/1.7 aperture
+ 5MP depth sensor with f/2.2 aperture

Front: 8MP sensor f/2.2 aperture
Nokia 6.1 Plus
Rear: 16MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture with PDAF
+ 5MP depth sensor with f/2.4 aperture

Front: 16MP sensor f/2.0 aperture
IP Rating
Honor Play
No
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
No
Oppo F9 Pro
No
Moto G6 Plus
No
Nokia 6.1 Plus
No
Audio
Honor Play
Bottom-firing speaker
3.5mm audio jack
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
Bottom-firing speaker
3.5mm audio jack
aptX HD
Oppo F9 Pro
Bottom-firing speaker
3.5mm audio jack
Moto G6 Plus
Bottom-firing speaker
3.5mm audio jack
Nokia 6.1 Plus
Bottom-firing speaker
3.5mm audio jack
Charging
Honor Play
Huawei SuperCharge
USB Type-C
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
USB Type-C
Oppo F9 Pro
VOOC Flash Charge
micro USB
Moto G6 Plus
Turbo Charge 15W
USB Type-C
Nokia 6.1 Plus
Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
USB Type-C
Software
Honor Play
Android 8.1 Oreo
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
Android 8.1 Oreo
Oppo F9 Pro
Android 8.1 Oreo
Moto G6 Plus
Android 8.0 Oreo
Nokia 6.1 Plus
Android 8.1 Oreo
Other Features
Honor Play
GPU Turbo, BT 4.2, AI Camera
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
FM Radio, BT 5.0
Oppo F9 Pro
FM Radio, BT 4.2
Moto G6 Plus
FM Radio, BT 5.0
Nokia 6.1 Plus
BT 5.0

At $300 – $400 there aren’t too many extras. Build quality is a notable step down from affordable flagship options like the OnePlus 6 and Honor View 10. The Oppo F9 is arguably the best looking of the bunch, with a colorful back and waterdrop notch. The Moto G6’s slick finish is also rather nice.

You won’t find any IP ratings for dust or water resistance in this price bracket either.

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Fast charging options are in place across the board, with Huawei and Oppo leading in speed. Almost all the phones come with a USB Type-C port — only the Oppo F9 sticks with microUSB. It’s nice to know your old cables will work with the F9, but it feels like a backward step none the less.

The 3.5mm headphone jack remains in place across all these models. They all also have a relatively new version of Android pre-installed. Android 8.1 Oreo is a common build across these products.

Wrap Up

It’s great to see how competitive the $300 price point has become. There are so many great options, tt feels almost impossible to go wrong — though the Pocophone F1 and Honor Play are the clear options if you’re looking for top-tier performance.

Other features are surprisingly similar across the board, so adding high-powered SoCs doesn’t appear to require any additional major sacrifices. That said, you might find slightly better camera options, software features, and build quality elsewhere.

What do you think about the Honor Play vs. the competition? Are we entering a golden age for cost-effective smartphones?