Honor Play Review – Performance Phone at a Budget

With the boom in the world of mobiles, every tech company is racing to make the next big thing. Huawei is among the biggest smartphone manufacturers in the world and their Honor series is one of the more popular ones. One of the quirks of using a Huawei smartphone is that they do not use the standard Snapdragon processors but rather use Kirin processors for most of their smartphones.

The range of the smartphones starts from the budget phones and goes all the way up to the flagship devices that take the likes of the Samsung Note and S series to the stand. One of the most popular phones in the Huawei Honor series is the Honor Play and you can learn all about it below.

Huawei Honor Play Review: Everything You Need To Know

Quick Highlights

While the phone may not possess the all bezel-less design that you would hope from today’s smartphones, the Honor Play’s design is quite good considering the price slab that it is in. The phone provides a good value for its price considering the competition in the same range.

Huawei is a growing company and the sales are increasing primarily because of the well-built body and amazing features that provide it an edge over the other smartphones in the market.

The Huawei Honor Play comes with a Kirin 970 processor with a 6GB RAM that is rather unseen in the price range. There is another version with a 4GB RAM that is more commonly available and purchased since it is cheaper than the 6GB version.

Design and Display

Honor Play display and design

One of the features where the Honor Play stands out is the unibody aluminium body that makes the entire phone quite premium. The build quality is good and certainly seems to be out of the league of the competition. The phone is 7.5mm thick, which makes it one of the slimmest phones among the other smartphones in the same price range. When you hold the phone, you will notice that the back of the phone is rather smooth and sleek.

There is not much on the back of the Honor Play. There is a fingerprint sensor that is quite convenient to reach when you are holding the phone in your normal resting position. The people who have shorter hands will find out that the fingerprint sensor is a bit higher than they are used to on other phones. However, after a few tries, the people will get used to the higher mounted fingerprint sensor.

There is a dual camera setup that is cornered at the top and the flash is below it. The camera protrudes a bit and when the phone is resting on the table, there is a slight misalignment. However, this can be corrected by using a case that is thicker or equal to the width of the camera bump.

For the first time that you look at the Honor Play, you will feel that the phone bears quite a resemblance to its elder cousin, the Huawei P20 Pro. The front panel of the phone is all glass, which is quite the trend in the smartphones today. The bezels on the sides are small but there is quite a chin at the bottom that has ‘honor’ written on it.

There is a notch at the top, which is quite consistent with the other phones in the market. The notch can be hidden by going in the display settings and extending the black part of the display to the edges and bring in the notifications in the darkened edges.

When it comes to the display, you will find out that it is much better than the others that you will find in the same market. It packs a 6.3-inch IPS LCD display with a resolution of 2340×1080 and a pixel density of 409 ppi. The phone features an aspect ratio of 19.5:9 that makes the phone easy to use with a single hand. However, things can get a bit difficult if you have small hands since the one-handed usage is not as effective unless you have large hands.

When using the phone outdoors, you will find that the screen is reasonably bright but the LCD display reflects quite a lot outdoors. However, when you are using the phone indoors or under shade, the display becomes a whole lot more legible. The colors of the display are reasonably vibrant as well but if you prefer the colors to be natural, you can change it in the settings of the phone.

Whether it is for work or for entertainment, the Honor Play comes about quite good in terms of display. Everyday documents can be read with an ease on the eyes and you can enjoy the movies and TV series on the Honor Play in a more traditional aspect ratio of 16:9 by hiding the notch.

Battery Life And Camera

Honor Play battery life and camera

Another area where the Honor Play shines is its battery. Huawei has been quite progressive when it comes to the battery life of the phones. The prime example of the great battery life in the Huawei phones is the P30 Pro or the Mate 20. The legacy is continued by the Honor Play as well, with its massive 3750 mAh battery capacity.

On moderate to heavy usage, the smartphone will provide you with an easy a day and a half of usage time. On a PCMark 8 battery test, the Honor Play ran for 9 hours and 40 minutes with 20% of the juice still left in the phone.

A regular person uses their smartphone for music (over headphones and Bluetooth), gaming, social media, and phone calls and emails. Going through all this, the person would be able to squeeze out at least a day out of the Honor Play.

When it comes to the camera, you can not have any complaints for the price that you are paying for the phone. There is a dual camera setup at the rear of the Huawei Honor Play. It features a twin lens boasting of a 16+2 MP setup. Do not be worried about the small number at the second camera lens because it is present only to gather the depth information and provide the user with stunning portrait shots.

In all the essence, you would be using the primary camera as a single camera lens that is also able to perceive the depth better than most other smartphones. The 16 MP lens has an aperture of f/2.2 and it comes loaded with PDAF to help you with the focus on the rear.

At the front, you also get a 16 MP sensor with an f/2.0 aperture that allows for the user to take beautiful selfie shots. There are tons of AI features in the camera that allow for the detection of the scene, recognizing subjects of the picture, beautifying images, and a lot more. The one problem with the AI in the Honor Play’s camera is that it tends to oversaturate the colors of the pictures.

One of the most amazing features of the Honor play’s camera is the bokeh effect that it provides on its rear camera. Like the flagships from some of the top brands, the camera of the Honor Play allows you to control the amount of the bokeh effect that you want in your pictures. It also goes a step further to allow you to re-edit the amount of bokeh in your pictures after you have already taken your shot.

The one limiting part of the camera was the f/2.2 aperture on the lens. On a bright and sunny day or under efficient lighting, it would be no issue and the camera speeds would be appropriate. However, when you are in low light conditions or under the clouds, the camera shutter speed tends to slow down a bit. Clicking the pictures in low lights, it was very obvious that there was a camera shake.

However, the speeds can be fastened by turning off the AI features of the camera. This way, the lens has to gather in less information and the result is still grainy but workable. Another problem with the low light photos is that there is a softness to the pictures that is just unacceptable.

The same is the case with the front camera as well. Even though the shots during the day are pretty good, you cannot expect much from the lens at night or in low light conditions. Apart from that, things are on the positive side with the colors, contrasts, and saturation in the pictures. You can always use the flash option for the selfies in the low light conditions as well but do not expect any wonders from the Honor Play in this regard.

Hardware & Software

Honor Play hardware and software

Hardware Performance

A) Processor

There was a time when the Kirin 970 was the ruler of the Huawei lineup of phones. It is the same processor that was used in the company’s flagships and when Huawei decided to come up with a phone for the gaming user, it ensured that the best processor was lined up for the job.

Honor Play geekbench score

The phone was able to give high benchmark numbers, something that was unseen in a smartphone in its price range. It wasn’t far behind the OnePlus 6 in AnTuTu, scoring at 202639, and clocked out at 1901 and 6604 in Geekbench single core and multi-core tests, respectively.

B) GPU Turbo

One of the standing features of the Honor Play was the presence of the GPU Turbo in the phone. Since Huawei makes its own chips, it was able to configure the GPU Turbo to handle the render instructions as it wants. This allowed them to help optimize battery usage without compromising on performance.

Since there is no non-GPU Turbo variant of the Honor Play, there was no easy way to test this out. However, if you compare the Huawei Nova 3 with this phone, the specs relating to the processor, battery capacity, RAM, and storage are the same. The only difference is that the Nova 3 lacks said GPU Turbo.

The two phones competed against each other and it was found out that the Honor Play consumed less battery in 10 minutes of gameplay with GPU Turbo while the Huawei Nova 3 consumed more battery in just 9 minutes of the same gameplay, giving out identical performances and an average of 30 fps.

C) Gaming

The Honor Play held up quite good when under stress. Even when heavy games were played on the phone, there was no lag and it was able to handle rather smooth graphics. Granted that you will not be able to play the heaviest games like PUBG Mobile on it with the graphics set at Ultra High and get a smooth frame rate. However, when the graphics are optimized for the device, you get close to a high frame rate.

D) Non-Gaming Performance

Even when you are not playing games on the phone, it holds up to quite high standards. You can open multiple tabs on the browser and the phone will not show any signs of slowing down. This is rather rare in a budget smartphone but it seems like Huawei is in the ring to fight hard against its competitors.

The reason behind the smooth performance of the phone is attributed to the optimization of the software EMUI to match the hardware of the phone. The two of them work in cahoots to deliver a smooth performance that is rather unseen from a budget smartphone.

E) RAM And Storage

The Honor Play comes with a 6GB RAM which paves the way for a smooth multitasking experience and an overall high performance of the phone. Switching between applications is hassle-free and the phone does not show any sign of slowing down even with multiple applications open at the same time. Having a 6GB RAM in a phone in this price range is rare and Huawei has changed the game with the Honor Play. There is another variant available in the Honor Play which has a 4GB RAM.

When it comes to storage, the Huawei Honor Play boasts a total of 64GB internal memory. The internal memory is configured to UFS 2.1 storage in order to provide the user with the maximum read and write speeds within the device itself. However, you are not limited to the internal memory. There is an expandable card slot that allows you to add an additional microSD card with a storage capacity of up to 256GB.

However, this is not the only storage that you get with the device. Huawei offers its own cloud storage for its users. Granted that it is free to only a limited storage amount, you can avail more of the cloud storage if you choose to pay for it. Other than that, you also have the free 5GB Google Drive storage to help you with your storage needs.

F) Communications and Sensors

The Huawei Honor Play comes with a dual SIM card slot. Both the SIM slots support 4G VoLTE and you can expect crystal clear voice from the phone. When you spend much time with the phone, you will find out that there are only a few calls that will be dropped but the rest of them will go through as normal. You also get 3G, WCDMA, GSM, and 2G signals from the Honor Play. Other than this, the Huawei Honor Play also supports Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n/a/ac 2.4/5GHz), WiFi Direct, Bridge, and Hotspot.

Software Performance

Honor Play software EMUI

When the phone was launched, it came with the Android 8.1 Oreo on EMUI 8.0 but the latest models come with EMUI 9.0 based on Android Pie which is available through software updates. The EMUI allows the users to simplify their daily tasks through the use of AI features. There are new vibration feedbacks and pure sounds that help to increase the interactive nature of the phone’s hearing and touch experience.

There is an HI-Vision within the phone allows you to recognize and count the number of calories within the foods that you are eating. You can also use the Password Vault within the phone to remember all your passwords for you. The Honor Play will also track your phone’s usage and screen time in order to optimize the performance of the phone accordingly.

Other features that use the AI technology of the phone include the AI Gallery and AI Shopping. The AI Gallery allows for the photos and albums to be categorized on the basis of location, people, scenes, objects, food, etc. You can also search for the photos using keywords of what appears in the pictures.

There is a pre-installed movie maker in the phone that allows you to combine all the photos and videos to make music videos of your album. The AI Shopping feature allows you to automatically search for things on the shopping websites simply by pointing your camera at what you want.

Overall Verdict

Honor Play overall verdict

If you are looking to buy a smartphone that is within a reasonable price range but with great specs, you can go with the Huawei Honor Play. The GPU Turbo (now upgradable to GPU Turbo 2.0 via software update) is a special feature that will allow you to optimize the performance and battery of the Huawei Honor Play. The abundance of the AI features allows ease of access to the users who buy the phone.

Everyday tasks require reduced efforts and you can actually feel smart in your phone. Given its price, the Huawei Honor Play is a great value for its money. You will find the combination of the Kirin 970 SoC and 6GB RAM to be rare in this price range. The phone was designed to change the game for the other smartphones in this price range.

The performance specs of the Huawei Honor Play match some of the flagship smartphones from other companies and it is quite an amazing feat for the company to provide them at this price. You may skimp a bit on the frame rates in the games but you get low drainage of battery with the presence of the GPU Turbo.

While there may not be many games today that are compatible with the GPU Turbo, Huawei is the second largest manufacturer in the world and it is expected that more and more developers will bring the compatibility of GPU Turbo to their games to accommodate the likes of the Honor Play.

The one area where the Huawei Honor Play fails to match its competition is the camera. During the day or with adequate light, the camera does just okay and the bokeh effect is just amazing. However, when it comes to the low light conditions, you cannot expect the camera of the Honor Play to do wonders.

The Huawei Honor Play is a one-of-a-kind smartphone that allows for premium features and designs within the price range of a budget smartphone. If you do not use your smartphone to capture your everyday shots, then you should totally go with the Huawei Honor Play as it is the best you can buy.

However, if you want something that can capture the pictures just as well, you should try some of the other smartphones in the market.

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