Honor Play Review: Top Specifications on a Budget Phone? Almost
Honor Play made its debut in the Italian market at IFA 2018. The sub-brand of Huawei, now the second largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, continues to be talked about thanks to the promises made: pure power for gaming and battery long duration. But there are also some backstories.
Honor has made good use of the events in Berlin to launch a couple of novelties that have certainly captured the attention of readers: first a mid-range smartphone dedicated to gaming that has been successful by outclassing its competitors, then the Chinese company has launched a surprise Honor Magic 2, two years after its predecessor.
READ ALSO: Honor Play named “Best of IFA 2018” by major international media
The packaging of Honor Play follows those of most of Honor’s products. Inside, in fact, you will find the device, a thin silicone cover, the USB type C cable and the 9V / 2A wall adapter.
Honor has decided to opt for metal as the main material of Honor Play and the choice seemed sensible to me: greater heat dissipation, fewer fingerprints scattered around, greater resistance to possible falls. Of course, personally I am a fan of the “shiny” glass devices, but I also appreciated the curves, the well-placed antennas and the general solidity that this Honor Play offers. The slender shape (we are talking about a 16: 9) allows you to handle the phone well with one hand even if you will hardly get to touch the upper side; after all, such a tall device distributes weight well (176g) which is not a problem. Beautiful vertical writings, now a standard on Huawei products, and the curved edges of the screen: all contribute to accentuate the feeling of handling a quality product, even if the thick edges remain.
On the front we find the 6.3 ″ IPS type display with Full HD + resolution for about 409 ppi. Also present is the 16Mpx front camera with f / 2.0: together with the speaker, the brightness sensor and the notification LED they are positioned in the notch: personally I’m not a fan of the stylistic choice, but here Honor has done a great job thanks to the possibility of mask its presence.
On the bottom side there is the USB Type C port, the very powerful albeit mono speaker and the first microphone. The second is placed at the top. Absent the IR sensor. Finally, it is pleasant to note the presence of the 3.5mm jack.
The right side is characterized by the volume rocker and the button for switching on and unlocking. On the left side there is only the slot for the Nano SIM.
Overall it is a phone that gives the feeling of solidity that is expected and thanks to the choice of a slender design, it proves to be manageable. The thickness is contained enough although, obviously, the two rear chambers unbalance the device if it is not equipped with a cover. There is no wireless charging (sorry folks…) and IP6X certifications.
Below is the complete technical sheet.
|Technology||GSM / CDMA / HSPA / LTE|
|Dimensions||157.9 x 74.3 x 7.5 mm (6.22 x 2.93 x 0.30 in)|
|Weight||176 g (6.21 oz)|
|SIM||Hybrid Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)|
|Guy||IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors|
|Dimension||6.3 inches, 97.4 cm2 (~ 83.0% screen-to-body ratio)|
|Resolution||1080 x 2340 pixels, 19.5: 9 ratio (~ 409 ppi density)|
|– EMUI 8.2|
|OS||Android 8.1 (Oreo)|
|Chipset||Hisilicon Kirin 970|
|CPU||Octa-core (4 × 2.4 GHz Cortex-A73 & 4 × 1.8 GHz Cortex-A53)|
|SD||microSD, up to 256 GB (uses SIM 2 slot)|
|Internal||64 GB, 4/6 GB RAM|
|Dual||16, f / 2.2, PDAF
2 MP, f / 2.4, depth sensor
|Video||2160p @ 30fps, 1080p @ 30fps|
|Single||16 MP, f / 2.0, 2.0µm|
|Video||1080p @ 30fps|
|Non-removable Li-Po 3750 mAh battery|
As mentioned, Honor Play has a 6.3-inch IPS display with Full HD + resolution which turns out to be very bright and with a lighting range that can reach very low (convenient at night where you can then also activate the now classic “Eye comfort” mode) but offers an unsatisfactory experience outdoors where it tends to reflect light a lot.
We report the vertical polarization and a good oleophobicity.
Honor Play mounts two rear cameras, one of 16Mpx and one of 2Mpx. By mounting a kirin 970 SoC, the device has the possibility of exploiting the internal NPU unit to implement some machine learning algorithm. This technology is accessible via the appropriate button within the camera application.
As usual, using AI will lead to photos excessively saturated for my taste, sometimes extremely fake and unusable. If you prefer more natural colors then it is a good idea to disable it (you can still remove the effect from the gallery later). There is only one LED, phase detection and, of course, auto-focus.
the OIS is missing, so if you want to take advantage of the stabilization on the software side you will have to enable the AI functionality (which implements what Honor calls AIS, Artificial Intelligence Stabilization). The reduced aperture of the sensor will make the camera waver in night shots, while in ideal lighting conditions, the photos will be rich in details and well balanced in colors (just the red seems exaggeratedly unbalanced).
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Good, for a phone of this price, the bokeh effect that proves to work in the case of “simple” subjects. Obviously the effect can also be controlled in post via software.
Good accuracy of the front camera which with its 16Mpx turns out to be excellent for selfies (eye to the beauty effect).
Speaking of video, however, 4K at 30fps without stabilization is supported which, however, is only present at 1080p at 30fps.
From a software point of view, however, the application is rich in modes and complete in settings (PRO mode is also present).
Software, AUDIO and performance
Honor Play comes with Android 8.1 Oreo on board, customized with Huawei’s proprietary user interface EMUI which reaches the version 8.2. The software runs really well, there are no slowdowns or jamming and it’s all very intuitive.
One of the novelties in this field is the facial unlocking which is really very fast and precise despite being 2D and using only the front camera without accessory sensors.
There are also some incompatibilities with Wear OS (a bit at times to tell the truth) and some problems with notifications that, despite being enabled, struggle to arrive on some apps.
Problem integration with Android Auto that does not seem to work well with Chinese software. Nothing to say in terms of performance where the Kirin 970 chip (the same as Huawei P20 Pro) manages to guarantee a very good usability. I regret a little the 6 / 8GB of RAM, able to give greater serenity during multitasking.
READ ALSO: Huawei P20 Pro: three is the perfect number | Review
As for connectivity, as usual the Honor devices do not cease to amaze me: no problem with the GPS which is lightning fast and precise, the call quality is just as good and NFC is also present. Bad the absence of 4G + and Bluetooth 5.0 but they had to remove something right?
Main speaker and audio capsule are equally good.
If we want to be picky, the USB type C does not support desktop mode being 2.0 and we will not even find fast charging on this Honor Play (which in any case recharges in a fairly short time). Finally, the device continues to arrive with pre-installed a disproportionate number of bloatware applications that we absolutely do not see the need for: they had put PUBG, one of the few games to support the turbo GPU mode, able to drastically increase the graphics processing capacity and the calculation efficiency.
3750 are the mAh that power the battery of Honor Play. Despite the choice to adopt an FHD + panel, the phone can easily take you to the end of the day with a good 10% of remaining battery. If you are not an avid smartphone user, you can easily make it a day and a half.
On balance, therefore, Honor Play turns out to be a phone that is beautiful and pleasant to use. The list price, about just over € 300, places it in a very competitive range where, however, it can easily stand out for the qualities related to the world of gaming and a very pleasant design. Don’t expect to buy a top of the range for half the price.