Honor View 20: Best way to kill the notch?

The notched display. Personally, I don’t think it’s a big deal but it’s clear that a lot of people hated it. In 2018, almost every manufacturer had released a smartphone with a notched display but now we are seeing all sorts of approaches to get rid of it.

We’ve seen sliders, pop-up cameras and even dual-displays but there’s actually another way to kill the notch without changing the way you use your phone. One way to do it is with a punch-hole display like the Honor View 20. The device is making its global debut very soon and I think it is probably the best way to solve the selfie camera conundrum. Here are my first impressions of the upcoming flagship smartphone.

Unlike other smartphones you’ve seen so far, the Honor View 20 has a hole on the display that’s placed on the top left corner for its 25MP selfie camera. There are working display pixels around the punch-hole which gives an impression that the camera is part of the display.

If you’re using the device in portrait mode, the first thing you’ll notice is that the top notification icons are now shifted slightly to the right. At 4.5mm in diameter, the camera occupies a space that’s slightly bigger than an icon.

When held in landscape mode, the display offers an immersive viewing experience especially when playing videos in a stretched full-screen setting. Since the camera is on the bottom left corner, the camera hole is less intrusive but there’s still a noticeable chin at the bottom of the phone. The View 20’s display is 6.4” in size and it uses an IPS panel that pushes a Full HD+ resolution of 2310×1080 pixels. To have a display with a hole like this is quite a feat and it is remarkable that Honor was the first to do it on a flagship smartphone instead of Huawei.

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Unlike the previous View 10 that has an understated metal unibody exterior, Honor has given the View 20 a flashy glass back that comes with a V-shape effect. The reflective elements are more noticeable in its blue variant. With its curved glass and smooth metal frame, the build reminds me of the HTC U11. It just feels solid in the hands and fortunately it doesn’t have that ugly camera bump from the View 10 that’s prone to dings and scratches.

Apart from the display, the View 20 also boasts a high-resolution 48MP camera that utilises Sony’s IMX586 sensor. By default, it shoots at 12MP out of the box, but you can switch this to 48MP under its resolution settings. The sensor itself is also capable of combining four nearby pixels to create a larger 1.6-micron pixel size. This is similar to the Mate 20 Pro’s 40MP shooter which helps to increase brightness while keeping noise levels low.

There’s also another 48MP AI Ultra-Clarity mode which takes multiple 48MP shots and then combines them for greater clarity. It takes a few seconds for a shot to complete and I think it works like Huawei’s Night Mode.

From our experience, the high-resolution 48MP images look pretty decent but it isn’t on par with the Mate 20 Pro. Although both devices are powered by the same NPU, we noticed that its AI-algorithm is different from Huawei. On top of that, the Honor View 20 can also recognise multiple scenes at the same time, for example, greenery, blue sky and buildings simultaneously. This multi-scene recognition was already enabled on last year’s Honor 10.

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It is also worth pointing out that Honor enables AI-mode right out of the box while Huawei has disabled it by default. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can check out our camera samples here but do note that these were taken before the device’s software was updated with Ultra-Clarity mode.

The View 20 also comes with a 3D ToF (Time of Flight) camera which provides a Microsoft Kinect-like application. The camera can better recognise objects and your environment which allows you to play motion sensing games or make your body look slimmer in video recording.

This aspect of the phone feels gimmicky for now and it all depends on the number of applications that can really utilise the ToF camera. For this to work properly, you’ll need a standing dock that connects to the big screen TV while the back of the phone is facing towards you. Essentially, this aims to be your pocketable Microsoft Xbox Kinect.

As a phone, the View 20 ticks most of the right boxes. It has the latest Kirin 980 processor and there will be two spec variants – a base 6GB RAM + 128GB storage model and a higher 8GB RAM + 256GB storage option.

Powering the device is a huge 4,000mAh battery and it also supports 22.5W SuperCharge via USB-C. Based on our experience with Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro, the View 20 should easily last a full day for most users thanks to its efficient Kirin 980 processor and software optimisation.

Honor has also included a couple of extras including dual-frequency (L1+L5) GPS, a triple WiFi antenna setup and Link Turbo mode (4G + WiFi downloads). According to the spec sheet, the View 20 runs on Magic UI 2.0 that’s based on Android 9.0 Pie but, it is pretty much the same experience as Huawei’s EMUI.

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Overall, the Honor View 20 offers a glimpse of what a notchless future would look like. Huawei had also announced a similar product with the Nova 4 but it runs on an older processor while having a triple-camera setup. Meanwhile, Samsung had already announced the Galaxy A8s that has an Infinity-O display and this trend will continue for the upcoming Galaxy S10 series.

We expect Honor to reveal more details especially the Malaysian pricing this evening. Last year’s Honor View 10 was priced at RM2,099 and we expect the newer model to be priced slightly higher given its upgraded specs. It’s worth mentioning that the price for the Huawei Mate 20 was recently slashed to RM2,399 which makes it a close contender for Honor’s new device.

The Honor View 20 will be going on sale in Malaysia this coming Saturday and they are having a roadshow at 1 Utama. Do follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates.

Alexander Wong