I must admit that I was ecstatic when I heard about Honor Play and its rumored legendary price. A few days later, when Honor finally revealed its SRP, I got hyped but at the same felt indifferent about the phone I was using, the Huawei P20 Pro. Don’t get me wrong; I love the P20 Pro to the core. Its camera and undeniably superior performance are some of the things we love about it, but it isn’t the most affordable smartphone around.
To pit the Honor Play against another flagship smartphone may be a silly idea for some or an entertaining feat for others. Honor Play retails way below the flagship rate, PhP15,990, but its hardware specifications can easily go head to head with phones such as the aforementioned Huawei P20 or even the ASUS Zenfone 5z.
Its major strength lies on its flagship SoC and its midrange price. The hype it has been getting is wild, so we thought that it’s best to put to the test the Gadget Pilipinas way. Is the Honor Play one of the most overhyped midrange smartphones this year? Or it just simply deserves the hype it is getting at the moment.
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Honor Play doesn’t dazzle the way other midrange smartphones do nowadays. It doesn’t have anything like the OPPO F9 and Huawei Nova 3i offer. It seems like a calculated compromise for Honor, and they seem to be rooting more on performance over aesthetics.
It doesn’t look bad though. For what it’s worth, Honor Play looks just like other smartphones, and the first step to appreciating its simplicity starts with turning its screen on.
Honor Play sports a 6.3-inch FHD+ with 19:9 screen ratio. Notch size is acceptable by my standards and may be hidden at will. More on this later. You will find its speaker grills, Type-C and 3.5mm headphone jack at the bottom of its chin.
Antenna lines wrap around the top and bottom portions of the back panel can be barely seen, which is a good thing if you want a clean looking smartphone. There are times that it seems to share the same look of the Samsung Galaxy J8 we reviewed a month ago, but Honor Play sports a sturdier build as it’s made of metal.
As a company that’s heavily linked to Huawei, the design of its back panel looks similar to Huawei Nova 3i. The logo, rear cameras, and flash are oriented vertically, and its fast fingerprint sensor is located just at the center.
Performance and Software
For a device that rocks a flagship-level SoC, my expectations were very high. Honor hyped Honor Play as a smartphone that can deliver a performance that can topple devices, which are significantly much expensive. Controversial as it may be, it yielded 203K via Antutu Benchmark, which is way more faster than its main competitors like Huawei Nova 3i, OPPO F9 and Vivo V11.
However, as we didn’t just settle with one benchmark app, we played several crowd-favorite games on Honor Play and used Gamebench to carefully inspected if it was truly powerful as it claimed to be.
Your perspective will answer if it’s an overstated hype!
Honor Play falls a little short to deliver flagship-level performance in our benchmarks. However, it performs definitely better than its midrange counterparts. This is based on the perspective of one’s budget, as it’s typical for most Filipino consumers to consider price of devices as main purchase determinants. We try to make the most of our budget.
Although, as some of our readers would insist, while Honor Play’s price sits below PhP20,000, it must also be pitted against similar-“specced” devices like OPPO Find X, Huawei Nova 3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9. The latter devices are obviously two extremes of flagship spectrum, but we’ll keep it as is for Science purposes.
While its performance compared to other flagship devices are almost too similar, it is good to note that Kirin 970 is an SoC that isn’t exactly made for gaming. It was only this half of the year when Huawei introduced GPU Turbo, a technology that harnesses the performance of Kirin-powered SoC to make it gaming-capable. It isn’t a futile attempt by Huawei – to be honest, as the performance of games are definitely better when GPU Turbo is turned on. Here’s a comparison of Honor Play with GPU Turbo and Huawei Nova 3 without GPU Turbo.
GPU Turbo, as a software feature that crunches the smartphone’s hardware to give its best, eats quite a hefty amount of resource, but it helps the device deliver the power and capability it needs to produce smooth gameplay experience. So, if you’re looking for a smartphone that’s meant for gaming with a significant sacrifice on battery consumption, play with Honor Play. Pun intended.
As for the other software features, Honor Play has everything you need for your workflow and entertainment to be more efficient and enjoying, respectively. You won’t find Easy Projection and EMUI Desktop here but such absences aren’t much of a deal breaker.
Honor Play, while not built for mobile photography, takes good photos with acceptable amount of default exposure and contrast. As an AI-powered smartphone, it assesses the subject and all the conditions in it before it suggests that right levels of photo qualities. The AI isn’t perfect, and so do some of the photos you will take.
Saturation level is usually the problem, and it is usually the case whenever subjects are in bad lighting conditions. Handheld/tripod-less night photography does not work as flawless as Huawei P20 and P20 Pro all the time, but it’s good enough compared to most midrange smartphones.
On the fun side, Honor Play does have camera tricks up its sleeve. There are plenty of 3D portrait effects available. Also, there are AR objects that you can interactively superimpose on your shots, to begin with; and there’s even 3D creator, which lets you make a 3D version of anyone you know. The latter’s quite imperfect, but it’s good enough replacement to Huawei Nova’s Qmoji, which are executed really well.
All the hype that was established by Honor leads us to this moment. Reason points to one thing, and that is to consider this smartphone at the top of your list. If you’ve got a sparse budget, but you want a good all-rounder smartphone, we cannot help but recommend this.