Where does Honor go after the Honor View 20, which I described as the best device it has ever made? The answer is the Honor 20 Pro, which takes what made the View 20 great, and then improves upon it by adding more camera lenses and shrinking the size. The result is a compact smartphone with very desirable photographic skills that pushes past the controversy surrounding the brand at the time of its launch.

It’s not perfect, though. Chief among the issues is a lack of identity. The View 20 is recognizable and individual, mainly due to the outrageous styling on the back. While the View range has found itself, the Honor 20 series is still rather lost. The back of the phone recalls the Huawei P30 Pro with its side-mounted camera array, and although the purple color seen here is attractive, it doesn’t shout out that this is an Honor phone.

Honor has compounded this identity crisis by added further confusion with the Pro suffix. It’s the first time it has slapped a Pro name on this range, and it’s simply not needed. Yes, Huawei does it, but that doesn’t mean Honor has to as well. This has also meant that Honor has diluted the range with several lesser models, including a regular Honor 20. Why isn’t the Pro just the Honor 20? Why do we need a 20, and even a Lite version?

Honor’s answer is that “one phone is not enough to meet the demands of everyone.” The truth is that we don’t need them — the Honor 20 Pro is more than enough smartphone for most.

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Honor 20 Pro
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Design

This is a good-looking phone — it’s just not instantly recognizable. The glass rear panel is a complex item to make, with three layers — glass, color, and depth — composited together to create that holographic design, which is more durable than simply using three separate layers. Only 20 out of every 100 panels are selected for use on an Honor 20 Pro, highlighting not only Honor’s standards, but also how tough the finish is to get right. It’s a success. Calling it “deep,” isn’t just marketing. The color weaves, shifts, and flows what seems like inches under the surface, like a restless spirit is trapped inside.

The phone’s color weaves, shifts, and flows what seems like inches under the surface.

There’s no fingerprint sensor on the back, and it’s not under the screen either. It’s set inside an oversize power button on the side of the phone, much like the Samsung Galaxy S10e. It’s recessed into the body and set directly below a standard volume rocker, and I often find myself pressing the volume down rather than locating the fingerprint sensor. This will cure itself after a period of adjustment, but it can be frustrating at first. It is refreshing to not have to battle with a substandard security method, and unlocking the phone takes only 0.5 seconds.

Flip the phone over to see a 6.26-inch LCD screen with a hole-punch camera — no notch here, just a great design — and a 91.6% screen-to-body ratio. It’s colorful and pretty, but I miss the always-on display when using an LCD phone over an AMOLED phone. It also lacks that visual punch — deeper blacks, better contrast — that makes an AMOLED panel so special. The hole-punch is a winner though, avoiding the notch and a mechanical pop-up camera in a slick and modern way.

If you’re lusting after a compact flagship-spec phone, the Honor 20 Pro will impress.

The bezels are noticeable, but mainly because they blend into the curvy, highly rounded sides of the body. Despite the size of the screen, the Honor 20 Pro is very compact. After using the OnePlus 7 Pro, the Honor 20 Pro feels very small indeed. Honor says the body’s dimensions, if the screen had a now-outdated 16:9 aspect ratio, is equivalent to it housing a 5.3-inch screen. I can close my hand around the entire phone, so my finger and thumb easily touch, at which time I noticed the phone’s relative thickness, along with how the body is grippy and won’t slip out of your hand easily.

I’ve enjoyed using a phone that feels small but actually isn’t small at all. If you’re lusting after a compact flagship-spec phone, the Honor 20 Pro will impress.

Camera

Sounds nice, right? For the most part it is, until your fingers reach the gigantic camera bump. If the Honor 20 Pro’s holographic finish on the back looks deep enough to sail the Titanic through, then the camera bump is the iceberg huge enough to sink it. Long and standing proud of the body by several millimeters, it’s marred further by sharp edges. Aesthetics aren’t the only problem. It comes into direct contact with every surface you put the phone on, risking scratches on the lens or worse, plus the phone wobbles about when face-up, and there’s no case included in the box to offer any protection. At least the Honor 20 Pro’s camera hides some serious technology, justifying the bump’s size.

A 48-megapixel camera lens, the same IMX586 sensor seen on the View 20, takes center stage, and it’s joined by a 16-megapixel wide-angle, a 2-megapixel depth sensor, and a 2-megapixel macro lens. The 1/2-inch main sensor has an astonishing f/1.4 aperture, optical image stabilization (OIS), and artificial intelligence stabilization (AIS), plus the array provides features including a 3x optical zoom, a macro mode, Super Night Mode, 4K video, and A.I. scene recognition.

The Honor 20 Pro’s camera is wonderfully versatile. The combination of a wide-angle lens, a high-megapixel lowlight-sensitive main lens, and a 3x zoom is excellent. You’ll always feel like the camera will be capable of capturing the photo you want, regardless of the environment or situation. Sometimes, the camera astounds. You’ll get stunning colors, great nighttime shots filled with detail and atmosphere, and easily manipulated bokeh shots. Other times, it overexposes slightly, and washes out bright environments.

Night performance is excellent, especially as it operates in wide-angle mode too, giving you more creative opportunity. I found it was easier to maintain atmosphere — rather than making night shots too bright — on the Honor 20 Pro than the Huawei P30 Pro, which is perhaps too effective in low light. The Honor 20 Pro’s Macro Mode isn’t very good, producing low-quality pictures when it does eventually focus on its subject,  Even then, it’s hit-or-miss as to whether it captures what you want.

Andy Boxall
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The selfie camera is hidden inside the hole-punch screen on the front, in the top left corner, and it has stayed concealed by Honor’s fun parrot wallpaper since I started using the phone. It has 32-megapixels, but it doesn’t handle bright situations very well, and although there is plenty of detail, skin tones are much lighter than reality. The Portrait mode did not always operate on our early review version, which is likely a software issue.

Overall, despite the few software problems and some spotty features, the Honor 20 Pro has been a great camera sidekick, taking the photo we wanted to capture quickly and without fuss, and often really impressing with the results.

Software and performance

Honor has chosen the Kirin 980 processor — Huawei’s top chip from the P30 Pro and the View 20 too — and 8GB of RAM to power the Honor 20 Pro, with up to 256GB of storage space. It’s driven by a 4,000mAh battery with 22.5W fast charging to deliver 50% in 30 minutes. On screen is Magic UI 2.0 over Android 9 Pie. Despite the different name, it’s essentially exactly the same as Huawei’s EMUI user interface.

Two new pre-installed apps join an ever-growing list. Joining a shortcut to install Epic Games’ Fortnite is Amazon Alexa, which offers up an alternative to Google Assistant. There are many other alternatives onboard, actually — a browser, both Huawei’s and Honor’s store apps, an email app, and a weather app, plus a collection of tools and services including file manager, a voice recorder, and a tips app. None are really needed, and most can be uninstalled.

Honor 20 Pro
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Over a few days use, the Honor 20 Pro has proved to be reliable, and I have not experienced any major software problems. At the time of writing, Huawei and Honor are in the news due to concerns over the future of their Android software update, and relationship with Google. The company has issued a statement saying, “Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products,” but it’s not clear if this does or does not include the Honor 20 Pro, or how it will deliver these updates.

The 4000mAh battery is very welcome and has lasted two full days with careful use and Airplane mode turned on overnight. You will easily get a full day of hard use, and have some left over for the second day with the Honor 20 Pro. It also has a 22.5W fast charge system to take the battery to 50% in just 30 minutes. However, there’s no wireless charging.

Conclusion

Well-proportioned with a strong processor, a massive battery, and a camera that we trust to take brilliant photos, the Honor 20 Pro is an accomplished, capable, and mature smartphone that you’ll be happy to slip into your pocket. It’s a shame Honor hasn’t found a way to give it a personality in the same way it has with the V Series, and that its launch is in danger of being overshadowed by concerns about the firm’s future relationship with Google and Android, because Honor phones continue to be wise, recommendable purchases.

The one thing we don’t know is the price. Honor has not provided this important detail at the time of writing, and it will affect how we eventually rate the phone in our review. We’ll update when we know more.



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