Honor Play comes at a time when Xiaomi has captured a major chunk of the mid-end market with the Redmi Note 5 and Note 5 Pro. Huawei’s sub-brand, however, hopes its Honor Play will create a new market segment of an affordable flagship that’s nonexistent at the moment.
To start with, you will find a 6.3-inch FHD+ notched display, a Kirin 970 octa-core processor, 4GB/6GB RAM, 64GB internal storage, dual cameras, and a rather capacious 3750 mAh battery. All this for less than Rs 20,000. The hardware configuration compares well with other top-tier smartphones on the market right now.
But the question remains whether Honor Play can live up the hype? We tried to live with the Honor Play for ten days, and here’s our final verdict.
Honor Play specifications: 6.3-inch FHD+ (2340 x 1080) display, 409ppi | HiSilicon Kirin 970 processor | 4GB/6GB RAM+64GB storage, microSD support | 16MP+2MP dual camera | 16MP front camera| 3,750mAh battery | 4G LTE | GPU Turbo technology
Honor Play price in India: Rs 19,999 onwards
Honor Play review: Design, display
Honor Play boasts an aluminum back, and frankly, the design language does remind you of the iPhone 6s Plus. You will notice the same the curved edges, the antenna lines, and the rounded rectangular shape. I don’t have any issues with the design. In fact, I am more than happy to see the Honor Play flaunt an aluminum back over the glass.
Available in black and blue colour options, Honor Play will get praise for its overall look. We got the blue one for review. It’s a subtle colour which goes in its favour. Overall the Honor Play has a classic appeal, but it is also slippery. Using the case might help, if you want your phone to get extra protection.
Honor Play’s 6.3-inch display follows the trend of 2018, with a notch and 19.5:9 aspect ratio. It has pixel size of 2340 x 1080p (FHD+) at a density of 409 pixels-per-inch (ppi). The 6.3-inch “FullView” display on the Honor Play is large, though the phone itself is not gigantic or bulky. Next to my old Asus ZenFone 3, for example, Honor Play offers more screen space; even bezels have all gone. Users who are Netflix addicts or someone who play games a lot will appreciate Honor Play’s display. It’s arguably one of the best display panels I have seen on a premium mid-end smartphone.
Honor Play review: Performance, battery
Honor Play does not come with a Qualcomm-made processor, instead, it uses Huawei’s own Kirin 970 silicon that’s also designed to handle artificial intelligence related tasks. The Chinese company debuted a Kirin 970 processor on the Mate 10 series last year. For the last months, though, the company has launched a number of its phones with the flagship chipset. The list includes Honor View10, Honor 10, Huawei P20 Pro, etc.
The 6GB RAM + 64GB variant kept things buttery smooth on the Honor Play. During my intensive testing, I did not encounter any lag when switching between apps, watching videos on YouTube or snapping photos all day. Though it’s difficult to say how the 4GB RAM variant, available at a lesser price, will perform in everyday use.
Huawei claims the Honor Play is designed for extreme gaming, though it refrains from calling it as a “gaming phone”. It neither has a 120Hz display like the Razer Phone nor does it offer a liquid cooling system like the Asus ROG Phone.
But what Honor Play does offer is the GPU Turbo technology, which essentially turns the phone into a gaming device. With the update, GPU performance increases by up to 60 per cent, while also seeing battery consumption drop by 30 per cent. That’s according to Honor.
I did try PUBG and Asphalt 9 on the Honor Play, and while I did notice noticeably better frame rates, I can’t say whether the performance has increased to up to 60 per cent. Plus, Honor Play has a 4D haptic engine, which increases the intensity of vibration when playing a game. Nevertheless, I believe the intention behind the GPU Turbo update is novel. For those wanting to try a gaming phone, Honor Play might be the best option as of today.
Honor Play’s 3750mAh battery is good enough to beat any smartphone in that price segment. For someone who uses his phone 24×7, I must say the Honor Play didn’t disappoint. Generally speaking, on an average, I got roughly one and a half day of juice. Of course, this is also dependent on how you use the phone. In short, the Honor Play is a phone you can use all day and still have some juice left over. Honor Play does support fast charging as well.
Honor Play review: Software, speakers, and fingerprint scanner
Honor Play runs on EMUI 8.2.0, based on Android 8.1 Oreo. This is not the best user interface but it’s not terrible either. The skin reminds you of iOS; beyond that, there are some small touches here and there. The fingerprint scanner, for instance, can be used for gestures, like swiping to view notifications or answering calls.
Speaking of the fingerprint scanner, it is responsive and unlocks the phone in microseconds. And in case, the sensor does not work properly users can rely on the facial recognition feature.
Call and data connectivity was excellent throughout, and yes, there’s a headphone jack, a second SIM slot, and microSD support. The single bottom-firing speaker is not great. It’s disappointing to see the Play has a single speaker and that too sounds bad.
Honor Play review: Camera
The Play comes with a 16MP + 2MP dual-camera setup on the back. The Honor Play camera isn’t quite at the flagship level, but it’s okay given the price. In good lighting, it can deliver good shots that I don’t mind sharing them on Instagram or Facebook.
In less-than-ideal lighting though, it has trouble picking details. That doesn’t mean the Honor Play is bad at taking pictures. In fact, I got some stunning shots in low-light using the Play, all thanks to AI camera. Though I observed that the AI camera was particularly bad with grass, turning it extra green. Thankfully, you can turn off the AI camera mode.
The front camera is a single fixed focus 16-megapixel unit, and it does the job well. There’s support for 4K video capture on the Honor Play, but optical image stabilization (OIS) is missing.
Honor Play review: Conclusion
Honor Play is an excellent smartphone that comes very close to matching a premium, flagship smartphone. Of course, it’s not perfect and has the not-so-fluid software. I still feel that Honor has done a great job in cramming a lot of features to make the Honor Play a desirable package.
The design is good, the screen is bright, performance and battery life are great, and the camera is reasonably fine if not the best. Honor Play can be considered as your daily driver. The phone starts at a price of Rs 19,999 and it goes up to Rs 23,999.