The mid-range flagship market has been a heated place in the last few years, with OnePlus coming out on top and filling the void that was left by the Nexus phones (6 excluded). While it may be no shocker to anyone why this is, it also shouldn't be a surprise to see some of the big players in the world take notice of OnePlus' success in this space. Cue Hua-, er, Honor with the View10, a device aimed squarely at the 5T.
Until now, the View10 (also called the V10) was sold outside of the U.S. and therefore not really relevant in a competitive sense to us here in the States. However, with Huawei's announcement at CES that the View10 would be coming here, I (and many others) became very interested in the phone. Comparatively, it packs a serious punch for what it costs, especially considering that other than a few differences (notably in looks), the View10 is sister to Huawei's premium Mate 10 Pro. U.S. pricing and availability are an unknown at the time that I wrote this review, but I'm willing to bet that Huawei will be very aggressive to beat out the OnePlus 5T in America (similar to the company's U.S. pricing for the 7X).
Without spoiling too much of this review, I have to say that I actually like this phone, a feeling that both Scott and I share. Not only is the View10 well-built and designed (for the most part), but EMUI 8 is even less intrusive than v5.1 was — not to mention that this phone comes with Oreo and Project Treble out of the box. In the interest of full disclosure, I've been using the international/EU 128GB/6GB model that Huawei gave me, so there might be some slight differences (e.g. storage, RAM, NFC) when this phone hits stateside, especially to keep the price competitive.
|Display||5.99" 2160x1080 FHD+ IPS LCD|
|Software||Android 8.0 Oreo; EMUI 8|
|Cameras||16MP (RGB)+20MP (monochrome) f/1.8 rear, 13MP f/2.0 front|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band; LTE bands 1/3/5/7/8/20/38/40/41 (international; U.S. bands may differ)|
|Misc||USB Type-C, fingerprint sensor, 3.5mm headphone jack, Bluetooth 4.2|
|Measurements||157 x 75 x 7 mm; 172 g|
|Hardware||Huawei knows how to build solid devices, and the View10 is no different. It's a phone that feels nice in the hand and looks amazing in blue.|
|Camera||While perhaps not quite up to snuff with its more expensive sibling, the View10 still performs very admirably in the camera department.|
|Fingerprint sensor||Damn, this thing is fast and accurate, as I've come to expect from Huawei. Easily on par with the OP5T, even if it is a bit small for my thumbs (and on the front).|
|Battery life||Like the fingerprint sensor, I've come to expect excellent performance here and the View10 delivers. Standby is absolutely ridiculous.|
|Software||Hey, a phone that ships with Oreo and Project Treble.|
|Software again||EMUI 8 continues the track record of getting better than its predecessors... but it's still EMUI with all of its quirks, including a lot of pre-installed apps. It's cluttered and busy, which will not appeal to everyone.|
|Camera again||No OIS, which is a bummer. Also, the phone is 7mm thick, meaning that there's a serious camera hump for both lenses.|
|Durability||The View10 does not have any sort of water-resistance rating, which is a disappointment for some.|
Design and display
Huawei gave me the blue model, which I think looks absolutely amazing. I have a fondness for this part of the color spectrum, and it lends itself well to making this phone stand out. Huawei is no stranger to weird colors on its phones (anyone remember the green P10 from last year?) and I like that the company does something different every now and again — you can only look at black and white rectangles for so long.
This isn't a unibody design, since you can see a tiny split between the frame and the back of the phone, not to mention that the antenna lines don't always line up. This decision does not make the View10 feel cheap, nor have I noticed any creaking or abnormal flex. Like I said, Huawei knows how to build solid devices. The matte blue back and frame blend nicely into the glossy front, creating a subtle yet striking impression. Although the shoddy pre-installed screen protector ruins the effect slightly, the shiny face adds a bit more pizazz when looking at the phone.
Blanket statements are rarely wise, but Huawei usually follows the latest design trends in its mobile devices, especially when it tries to make a strong impression with them (and move plenty of units). The 7X was the best recent example of this, providing a phone with "flagship design" that cost merely $199 USD. The View10 follows suit, sporting a 5.99" 18:9 display and dual cameras — i.e., all the rage in late 2017. There is a quirk here, as Huawei/Honor is often prone to: the fingerprint sensor placement.
In order to fit on the bottom bezel under an 18:9 display, Huawei had to really smush it down (replacing the Honor logo present beneath the 7X's screen), such that I was dubious of its efficacy initially. I definitely prefer rear-mounted sensors, mostly because the placement feels more natural (especially on these tall phones) and I have better consistency and accuracy with my index finger than I do with my thumb. Front-mounted readers distract me when I use a phone and I find reaching my thumb down to them to unlock or authenticate in an app to be more cumbersome than simply lifting my index finger to reach the sensor on the back. Many of us Android fans are split on fingerprint reader placement, as we are on soft keys versus capacitive, so I will leave this point be for now. What I think most of us can agree on, however, is that this sensor is quite small.
That being said, the speed and accuracy with which this thing reads a fingerprint is just what one might expect from Huawei; that is, it is incredibly fast and it easily matches the OnePlus 5T in these regards, which itself has an amazingly fast sensor.
At 7mm, the View10 is a very slim and flat, lacking any sort of rounding on the back (though the frame does meet the front and back nicely without being squared off). I have big hands, so that does not bother me in a device this size, but I find that I prefer the subtle curve on something like the 5T or Galaxy S8. However, the problem with the View10 being so slim is the camera humps — boy, do they stick out. Sometimes, a phone's lens protrusions are not so obvious at cursory glance, but View10's remain noticeable however I look at them and I could not unsee them. I find myself setting the phone down carefully and picking it up just as gently, ensuring that I do not scrape the humps more than necessary. Honestly, I would much prefer that the View10, and others like it, be thicker to avoid the camera bumps and to accommodate a larger battery.
Like many phones these days, the right side of the frame is home to the power button and volume rocker. Both feel solid, providing a strong, tactile feel when pressed. Neither feels loose at any point, even during the button travel. I still do not like the rocker being above the power key, but whatever. At least they do not feel cheap. Another thing I was glad to see was the headphone jack — my car only has an aux input and I have a bad habit of letting my Bluetooth headsets die.
Other than the color options, the View10 by no means bears the most exciting design, but it works extremely well. Pretty phones are nice and all, but they all seem so fragile to me (Galaxy S8, Mi Mix 2, Essential Phone, etc). Even better, the View10 is not as slippery as some other all-metal devices; the chamfers around the edges and the finish on the aluminum offer better grip than some others, though the phone will still fall out of a pocket or hand if some modicum of caution is not applied.
For the View10, Huawei used a 5.99" IPS LCD panel with vibrant colors, great brightness, and superb viewing angles. Overall, the default color profile is a bit on the cool side, which might be a bonus for some (like me). Auto-brightness is quick to adjust, though the display feels a bit too bright in the dark, even at the lowest setting — this is something I notice on most of the LCD phones that I have lying around, especially from Xiaomi.
Like some others, I noticed a bit of light bleed around the edges, especially the lower left and right corners on the unit I received, which is another thing I find on some LCD panels. Over the past few years, I have come to prefer OLED screens for the deeper blacks and better ambient options, though the color saturation is not typically my favorite (hurray for sRGB). The View10's color reproduction, though, is very good. All in all, this is a very nice display.
All the hype lately, it seems, has been dual cameras on phones. I was doubtful of this with the HTC One M8 back in 2014 (doesn't that make you feel old) and I'm still not convinced — often, I would rather just have a single shooter, which would hopefully save on manufacturing costs and save all of us money when we go to buy these phones. To date, I have only found LG's implementation to be truly useful; I like the wide-angle lens for certain situations. Huawei's recent modus operandi is to run one lens in RGB and the other in monochrome. The theory with this is that the latter will not only produce true black and white photos, but the detail it captures will enhance whatever the RGB sensor grabs.
Whether this actually works or not is up for debate. I have noticed that some photos from a Huawei phone running this setup do come out a bit sharper in a few cases, but the difference is usually negligible unless you capture just the right scene with the proper lighting, i.e. not all that often. This is not to say that the RGB+monochrome system puts out bad pictures, I just have not seen enough evidence to be convinced that it is truly effective. Contrast this with the noticeable utility of a wide-angle lens, like in the LG G6, and my opinion on this might be a bit more obvious.
Getting back to the topic at hand, let's discuss the View10's cameras for a bit. While the Leica co-branding is noticeably absent, the 16MP RGB and 20MP monochrome setup does a very fine job with photographs. An element that many will forget, but is worth noting nonetheless, is the NPU and its involvement with photography. The Neural Processing Unit is a part of the Kirin 970 SoC and it adds hardware-level AI to the View10. For photography, it can identify thirteen different types of objects or scenes and automatically adjust the camera settings to best suit whatever it identified. For the person who has never used the manual mode on his or her phone, this could be a very useful feature.
All of that fancy talk, hardware, and such lead to some impressive photos. Both the level of detail and the dynamic range are surprisingly good, not to mention the options to play with. I was rarely disappointed with my shots with the View10 in daylight, finding a much more consistent output than I was expecting. However, there is always a catch and in this case, it's low-light.
Lacking OIS, the View10 struggled for me in low-light, especially indoors at night. Many pictures came out noisy, with a sharp drop-off in dynamic range and sharpness. The AI and monochrome sensor supposedly help to mitigate the low-light weakness, so I suppose that the phone has that going for it.
Moving around to the front, the 13MP selfie camera is another surprise. It produces photos with plenty of detail and reasonably sharp focus, though I found it struggled with over-exposure in bright light, such as while sitting out in the sun. Beauty mode is enabled by default and it annoys me as much as it always does, so it was the first setting I messed with when I initially opened the camera.
EMUI 8 kept the same basic camera UI as we saw in v5.1. All of the shooting modes are just a swipe from the left away, while the settings lie just beyond the right edge of the main viewfinder. The top bar still has the flash, aperture, beauty, motion photo, and camera switch options. This UI is on the verge of feeling too busy, but Huawei continued to keep itself in check with the presentation.
Performance and battery life
The View10 presented me with my first chance to test the Kirin 970 SoC. In my time with this phone, I have found the performance to be extremely impressive. It flies through launching apps, multi-tasking, downloading and moving big files, and playing graphically-intensive games. In terms of raw power, it has easily kept pace with my OnePlus 5T – a high bar to meet – even if the latter still feels smoother and zippier, but that might be a placebo. Regardless, the View10 is very powerful and extremely fast.
Again, I received the 6GB version of the phone, which is a very healthy amount of RAM (overkill, some might say). I did not come across any signs of overly-aggressive RAM management, either... not even a single instance of home screen redraw.
Huawei packed in a 3,750mAh cell into this phone, which, when combined with the power-efficient Kirin 970 and EMUI's strong balance of power and longevity, equals impressively long battery life. On MetroPCS, I was able to get close to a day and half with heavy use, and several days on standby.
Your mileage may vary, but "heavy use" for me means plenty of SMS, Telegram, Slack, emails from five synced accounts, Facebook, YouTube, and playing some of the pre-installed games. The quick charger that came with my unit was, unfortunately, a Europe plug so I couldn't test Huawei's Super Charge, but plugging the phone into a QC 3.0 or USB-PD block worked just fine.
No matter what I did, the View10 stomped the OnePlus 5T in terms of battery life, hands down.
The Honor View10 ships with Oreo and EMUI 8.0, which is fantastic to see. The 7X arrived on my doorstep with Nougat and is still sitting on that at the time of writing, so kudos to Huawei for outdoing... itself. All of the Oreo features are present, like the notification changes and so on. This new version of EMUI, like what we saw with the Mate 10 Pro, keeps a lot of what was good about v5.1, like improving background process management and app notifications — on older EMUI iterations, you would often have to go into an app to get alerts for anything incoming (something that still plagues Xiaomi's MIUI 9). When looking at Chinese ROMs, I typically use EMUI as the gold standard on how to take user feedback and improve.
Plenty of customization options remain to be had, such as choosing which app style you want for the stock launcher (though it defaults to no app drawer), tweaking the status bar a bit, and adjusting the screen resolution to save on power (though I doubt anyone would need to, honestly). Two things that carried over from v5.1 bug me, though: the extremely cluttered Quick Settings and notifications disappearing from the lockscreen following a re-lock, even if they were not acted upon. The former is easily addressed, but defaulting to fifteen toggles could be overwhelming to a new user. The way I see it, Huawei could include an option during setup to show UI hints, and one of those could be how to add new QS items (which would be fewer in number to start).
I cannot fathom the reason for the lockscreen not displaying notifications after the user unlocks the phone, then re-locks it. I often leave items untouched to deal with later and if they are not on my lockscreen, I will forget about them until I get back into the phone and see the icon in the status bar. Better yet, EMUI does not allow for expanding the notification shade from the lockscreen, exacerbating this annoyance. On a side note, media notifications stay put across unlocks, which was thankfully changed between v8 and v5.1.
One negative change from v5.1 to v8 is the different settings menu. In the former, it was laid out similarly to stock Android with the different sections which made it easy to find that one option to fix or adjust something. Now in EMUI 8, the settings menu is a cluttered, claustrophobic mess. There are distinct submenus, like Display and so on, but they are not divided into different sections; they are all lumped together.
The stock launcher has seen a nice upgrade, including a swipe-up to open the app drawer and Google Feed pane on the left — not to mention the app shortcuts, grid size options, and custom screen transitions. I typically install Action Launcher immediately upon getting a device, but I did take some time to play with what Huawei offers. Like Ryan noted in the Mate 10 Pro review, the stock launcher does have two issues: a terrible widget picker and a noticeable drop in framerate when sliding over to the Feed pane. I was disappointed to see both of these on the View10, but perhaps a future software update will patch things up.
Like the Mate 10 Pro and Honor 7X, Huawei includes an option to force apps to scale to the 18:9 display. Those that do not behave, like some of the benchmarking apps, get a black bar beneath them (which fills the remaining empty space) with the option to force them to fullscreen. It's really just a zoom and crop, but it works pretty well. Huawei also included an option in the settings to tell EMUI which apps to launch in fullscreen mode at launch.
If Huawei's typical cramped soft keys don't appeal to you, the fingerprint sensor can act as a one-stop shop for getting around the UI, like what Meizu does with its phones. I am not a fan of this, especially since the fingerprint sensor is small and cramped in on the bottom bezel. Like I said above, this positioning makes it awkward to reach and therefore more difficult than using the back, home, and recents keys. Fortunately, this is just an option, though Huawei pesters you to try it out with an undismissable notification that appears shortly after getting through setup.
At this point, you, dear reader, might be surprised that my only problems with EMUI 8 have thus far been minor annoyances in the grand scheme of things, which is relative praise. However, Huawei still has a problem with its software choices; EMUI remains packed full of unnecessary, pre-installed apps. Some of these are Samsung-syndrome, that is, creating alternatives to what Google already provides (I get that this is because of China, but there could at least be an international ROM that cuts down on the duplicates). On top of those, which I only used once to see what they were about, the View10 includes the following:
- Booking.com (83.49MB)
- Huawei Health (158MB)
- HiCare (5.87MB)
- Quik (139MB)
- Microsoft Translator (5.78MB)
- Asphalt Nitro
- Assassin's Creed Unity: Arno's Chronicles
- Dragon Mania
- Disney Kingdoms
- Puzzle Pets
- Spider-Man: Ultimate Power
Each of those games are few megabytes to start, but most of them download extra data in the background after you open them and agree to the EULA. The apps sit at their full install size, even though a couple are quite small. All of these add up, however, and while they barely equal a couple of gigabytes, that's still less space available to the user.
The gist that I got from Honor's CES event and the press materials is that this phone is partially aimed at mobile gamers, thus all the pre-installed titles. The View10 handles every game I threw it at very well, as well as any other high-end smartphone, but making those six uninstallable is not the best choice; let the user play or uninstall them at his or her leisure.
Part of the big buzz around the View10, like its sister, is AI, specifically the NPU on the Kirin 970. We already discussed the camera function earlier, but some of the other areas include call quality, battery life improvements, and deep learning to improve the user experience via intelligent resource allocation. It is basically the same stuff that I have heard before, which is why I am irritated that there is no way to disable any element of the AI stuff so that I can test to see what difference (if any) is made. Again, like with the Mate 10 Pro, I find that the AI features are not that obvious to the user unless someone (like Huawei) tells him or her.
Another feature that Huawei pushes with the View10 is the partnership with Microsoft for offline translation. In all honesty, I found it difficult to see the reason for all the excitement surrounding this partnership. MS Translate is neither faster nor more accurate than Google Translate in my experience, i.e. it is a decent starting place when dealing with text or speech in a foreign language. I was skeptical at first, and remained so even after Huawei's attempts to market the concept (both in presentation and conversation). By no means is this a bad feature, but it certainly is not a highlight for the View10.
Frankly, I think the concept of the NPU is a neat one and I find myself quite curious to see further, possibly third-party, applications of the hardware. For now, I cannot safely say it adds anything to EMUI 8, but it does not harm the experience in the least.
Minor annoyances aside, EMUI 8 kind of grew on me over time. It takes a bit of getting used to for stock/OxygenOS/Motorola users, but Huawei has managed to create a "skin" that does not bog the phone down, do anything too superfluous, or cause more problems than it allegedly fixes. Some may find it too busy and cluttered, though.
An important piece to understand with Huawei phones going forward is that most, if not all, will come with support for Project Treble, including the View10. This will hopefully alleviate some of the understandable update anxiety that I have noticed in the Android community toward these devices, especially since Huawei tends to have a difficult time keeping their devices updated. With Treble, however, I think that we will see an improvement.
While I was wrapping up this review, Huawei pushed out an OTA to the View10 which added Face Unlock, the January security patch, smart notifications, pick up the phone to wake, and the equivalent of Samsung Smart Stay. The biggest thing is, of course, Face Unlock, which Honor talked about at its CES event. All I need to say is that it is ridiculously fast, especially when combined with the pick-up-to-wake feature. It has a harder time recognizing me in hats or headphones than the OnePlus 5T, but that probably means that it is a bit more secure.
Smart notifications takes the face identification data and hides notifications on the lockscreen unless it detects the user's face. For the privacy conscious, I could see this being handy. Huawei also took a page out of Samsung's old book with the equivalent of Smart Stay. In case you do not remember, this was the feature on the Galaxy S3 of the blissful past which kept the screen on as long as the phone detected that you are looking at it (via the front camera). I guess some people will like this addition to EMUI.
When it comes down to it, the Honor View10 is a great phone and definitely holds its own against the OnePlus 5T (and outdoes it in some regards). The real test yet to perform is cost comparison and, unfortunately, I do not know how much the View10 will be in the U.S right now. At £449/€499, it sits right in OnePlus' territory of "affordable flagships," so we are likely to see similar pricing in the States (probably $449-$499, but that is just my uneducated guess). Huawei is serious about making a name for itself, mostly through Honor, here in America, so aggressive and competitive pricing would come as no surprise.
For now, the question of which you should buy, the View10 or 5T, is difficult to answer for the American audience. For all of you folks outside, I think you need to ask yourself which is more important to you. The 5T offers a "stock+" experience that is quite good, with stellar performance, a great fingerprint sensor, a very decent FHD+ AMOLED display, and a so-so camera; the View10 offers much the same, but with better camera performance, an IPS LCD panel, amazing battery life, and all of the extra features in EMUI 8. Personally, I prefer the spartan stock Android experience and I like the little tweaks that OnePlus adds (give me back wave to wake ambient display, though... seriously, one of my favorite things about the OP3). I realize that some of you will be very vocal in the comments about how much you disagree with me and that is fine. You do you.
The answer to the question "OnePlus 5T or Honor View10" is a boring, anticlimactic "it depends." Take what I said about what each phone offers you into consideration, even though, on paper and in practice, I think the View10 wins out. It offers more than the 5T does at the same cost, which frankly amazed me, and shows that Huawei is serious about competing. For my money, I still would prefer the "stock+" experience to a superior camera, since mobile photography is not as important to me as having my phone's software stay out the way. If that does not sound like you, then the View10 should be at the top of your list for consideration.
With this phone, Honor offers its customers a spectacular, if flawed, experience. When I reviewed the P10 last year, I saw it as the start of something promising for Huawei. The View10 – and to a similar extent, the Mate 10 Pro – is almost the fulfillment of that vision, though there is still a little way to go. I see a legitimate interest in growth and improvement with the View10, from the featureset to the changes made in EMUI 8 to shipping with Oreo.
I doubt Huawei will listen to all user feedback, but I am glad that it paid attention to the important things — except the bloatware and missing notifications from the lockscreen issues. Seriously, Huawei, please address these soon.
Right now, if I was forced to live with EMUI 8, I would not be as irritated as I would be with older versions or other skins like MIUI. The cluttered, very busy nature of Huawei's software is overwhelming at first, but I think that could be easily remedied. I adjusted fairly quickly to the UX, and I am sure most of you who read this review would, too, but not everyone is like you and me. Some of the people I let demo the View10 quickly mentioned the busy Quick Settings and claustrophobic settings menu, a sentiment that I imagine will not be that uncommon. It has been said before, but EMUI is definitely not for everyone.
2018 has not started off well for Huawei, so I cannot say what we in the U.S. will see from the company going forward this year. However, if the View10 is the harbinger of what's to come from Huawei/Honor in 2018, then consider me very interested.