Features once reserved for high-end Android smartphones have made their way to more affordable models. It’s good news for shoppers who don’t want to buy this week’s new flagship phone, sure to wow you with features, but also quick to drain your checking account. The Honor 20 Pro—on sale in most countries, but not the United States, due to ongoing issues with Honor’s parent company Huawei—comes in at £550 in London where we tested it (approximately $ 666) and includes a quad-camera array, a serious upgrade to the Honor 20. You can get the Honor 20 for about $ 150 less, so it’s up to you if the camera features, along with a bit more memory, are worth it. But compared with handsets that cost much more, the Honor 20 Pro looks like a serious value.
Design, Display, and Durability
The Honor 20 and Honor 20 Pro differ slightly in specs, but not in build quality. The Pro is a fraction of an inch larger (6.09 by 2.90 by 0.33 inches) and a little heavier (6.42 ounces instead of 6.14 ounces), but there’s little difference when you’re holding them. Both feel balanced in the hand, with a glass back that looks great, as long as you can keep it free of fingerprints.
Much like the regular Honor 20, the Pro has a fingerprint scanner on the side rather than the back that works well if you’re right-handed, but is a little fiddlier for southpaws. Many models put the fingerprint scanner on the back, so you can get at it with either hand, or have moved on to facial recognition.
The screen on the Pro is the same 6.26-inch, 2,340-by-1,080-pixel panel as you get on the standard Honor 20. It has a hole punch notch in the top left corner for the selfie camera. Like the standard model, colors aren’t as vibrant and skin tones don’t show as true when compared with displays on Apple and Samsung flagships.
In order to keep the price down, some features have to be cut. To that end, you won’t find any wireless charging on the 20 Pro, the phone isn’t waterproof, and there’s no headphone jack. The former I can live with, though the latter is a shame. You might want to put some of the savings you get from buying the phone into a good set of wireless headphones.
Performance and Software
The 20 Pro offers 8GB of RAM and a Kirin 980 chipset, similar to the one found in Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro and P30 Pro. On paper it should compete with the Samsung Galaxy S10 (8GB of RAM), though we’ve not had a chance to perform formal benchmarks.
Sure enough, the 20 Pro is snappy to load apps and can handle high-intensity video games like Injustice 2 with ease—the standard Honor 20 lagged slightly performing the same task due to its lower memory. There’s 256GB of storage; if that’s not enough for you, keep in mind there’s no memory card available.
The battery is 4,000mAh, which is good enough for about two days of typical use between charges. If you’re addicted to your phone, you’ll still want to charge it every night.
There’s little to say about the operation of the device that hasn’t been said before. Honor’s Magic UI overlay on Android 9 is more intuitive than competing skins from the likes of OnePlus, but it still trips over its feet when it comes to bloatware including Tips, Optimizer, Mirror, Facebook, and Booking.com. Once again, nothing beats the stock Android offered by Google.
Magic UI also doesn’t feel as personal as competing options from OnePlus. I like the home screen on the OnePlus 7 Pro better—it displays recent apps, contact, widgets, and even offers a personalized greeting. Magic UI has a standard Android discover card at its forefront, which just feels hollow in comparison.
The camera is the main change between the 20 and the 20 Pro, and it is undoubtedly a significant one. The Honor 20 Pro has a four-lens setup, which includes the same 48MP f/1.8 main sensor, one 16MP f/2.2 wide-angle sensor, and the 2MP f/2.4 macro found on the standard Honor 20. The Pro removes a depth sensor found on the standard phone, and replaces it with an 8MP f/2.4 lens with a 3x telephoto angle of view. In addition to bringing subjects into clearer view with optics, the fourth lens adds a 30x digital zoom feature.
This means that the Honor 20 Pro is much more adept at taking detailed photos, especially for distant subjects. There’s an immediate clarity and a greater sense of texture that comes from the Pro that you don’t get with the standard version; zooming in, it’s clear that the Pro is able to more sophisticatedly capture contrast, too. The diffusion of sunlight—bright in the middle, faded on the edges—as it falls on the monument to the Great Fire of London is undoubtedly clearer here than it is on other smartphones.
While you can’t infer overall color accuracy from a single test shot, we were happy with what the 20 Pro’s Leica-branded camera managed to do under artificial lighting. The 20 Pro shows better texture and more faithful color tones than the OnePlus 7 Pro, which skew a little yellow, and the Huawei P30, which shows colors with a little less vibrance.
For the avid photographer, the go-to Android smartphone is Google’s Pixel 3, either the standard size or the bigger Pixel 3 XL. But with new iterations around the corner, it’s not a bad idea to wait and see what the forthcoming Pixel 4 will bring, especially if photography is your top priority.
It’s not all roses and champagne, however. The choice to keep the macro lens instead of the depth sensor is, in my mind, the wrong one. And most people don’t stray into the More section of the camera app, which is where you’ll find the professional modes that unlock the more advanced camera features. It’d be nice if the camera could automatically detect macro subjects and switch to the appropriate lens, especially when the company bills its photographic engine as intelligent.
As with all Honor and Huawei devices, there’s also an AI mode. It is supposed to enhance the main aspects of a photo like the green of a leaf or how fluffy a cloud looks. Much like Honor’s other devices, the results can be a little overblown.
On the front, through the hole punch, is a 32MP selfie camera. It works fine, and your front-facing photos will look adequately detailed.
A Midrange Standout
Shoppers turned off by premium handset prices, but who don’t want to get stuck with a phone with a bum camera, should take a look at the Honor 20 Pro. Assuming, of course, you can buy one. An ongoing feud between Honor’s parent company Huawei and the United States federal government means that you don’t have the option to do so if you live in the states.
We like the quad-camera array, especially the improved zoom power offered by the 3x lens. Performance is more than adequate for most folks, and with smooth frame rates for mobile games, and battery life that can power the phone all day and night.
There are some drawbacks, of course. Honor skips out on wireless charging and doesn’t include a headphone jack. And there’s no protection from spills, so you’ll have to buy a new phone if you drop the 20 Pro in the bath.
But you can’t expect every top-end feature in a midrange device. We like what we see from the Honor 20 Pro, especially given how much it costs. The brand may not offer the same cachet of Google, Samsung, or even popular upstart OnePlus. But it’s a good value, and one that shouldn’t be written off lightly.