During then briefing, Honor reps told us to "shoot the moon," which wasn't a reference to the documentary of the same name. Instead, the company promises that the quartet of lenses, and the AI magic contained therein, will let you actually shoot images of the moon. On a clear evening, I was able to try this, snapping our satellite with a pre-production Honor 20 Pro and an iPhone 8 Plus. Even though you're not going to be writing home about the result, the difference is staggering.
Bleeding-edge technology found in flagships may be great for bragging rights, but not everyone needs to show off how wealthy they are. A pricey 4K display on a phone is, for instance, a bit of a waste if the most you're doing is watching YouTube clips in the bathrooms at work. Here, Honor has opted for a 6.26-inch IPS LCD display (with a resolution of 2,340 x 1,080, which works out to 412PPI) with on-trend skinny bezels. In the top-left corner, there's a 4mm hole which accommodates the 32-megapixel selfie camera. That puts it a little ahead of the 25-megapixel lens found in the Honor View 20's hole punch, released earlier this year.
There's not much you can say about an LCD display at this point that hasn't been said a trillion times before. Colors are deep and rich, viewing angles are great and the holepunch is barely noticeable when playing video, full screen. And, from an aesthetic point of view, I find a 4mm hole way less distracting than a notch when you're watching movies on the go.
These days, rear-mounted fingerprint sensors have a whiff of cheapness about them, as they've already begun to look dated. After all, showier phones have whizzo face-scanning sensors or a below-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. Honor isn't asking its buyers to splash out that sort of cash, so it's opted for something both elegant and cheaper. It's added a fingerprint scanner on to the sleep/wake button, like so many Sony devices -- although it's only ideal if your index finger naturally falls on to the button if you hold it in your left hand.
The Honor 20 and 20 Pro both ship with Huawei's Kirin 980 CPU, which it says is comparable to the Snapdragon 845. On the 20 Pro, that's paired with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. On the Honor 20, you're getting the same Kirin 980 paired with 128GB storage and 6GB RAM.
The Honor 20 is packing slightly less battery life than its Pro sibling, with a 3,750mAh cell compared to the Pro's 4,000mAh. Both come with 22.5W Honor SuperCharge, which promises to get the battery charged to 50 percent in just 30 minutes. In my limited experience, and as an intensive phone user, I got down to 30 or 40 percent in a day with the Honor 20 Pro, with several hours of tweeting, YouTubeing and general internetting. When playing games, that number began to fall a bit faster, and I could easily eat 10 percent battery in 20 minutes of Fortnite.
Sadly, the phone's speakers are a little weedy, despite the promise of virtual 9.1 surround (both on device and connected over Bluetooth). In a one-on-one fight with my own iPhone, I found that the Honor 20 Pro couldn't match it for overall loudness. However, what the Pro lacked in volume, it made up for in subtlety, with richer sound overall. The bundled USB-C headphones were, as is tradition, awful.
If you're an Android purist, you'll be less delighted with Honor's Magic UI, which succeeds EMUI on its handsets. I've never really gotten the hate for the Huawei-made skin because I think it simplifies Android's often messy UI in a way that makes sense. Animations are smooth and the built-in themes are nice, but it's hardly as controversial as some folks may make out.
Honor phones are skewed toward younger folks with a focus on social media, photography and, crucially, gaming. Both the Honor 20 and 20 Pro ship with GPU Turbo 3.0, which it says "re-architects how games are processed at the system level." According to AnandTech, the company runs games with machine-learning tools monitoring the silicon's power levels. Then, when it has worked out the most efficient way of pushing energy to the GPU, it creates a profile that's pushed out to the devices. Honor wouldn't talk about what games have been tested for optimizations, but given that Fortnite installer is included on the homescreen, you can guess.
And given Fortnite's status as the worldwide darling, it made sense to try to play it on the handset with the settings turned up to max. Surprisingly, the game ran perfectly, albeit while the phone started to run pretty hot and with a significant drop in battery life.
Honor operates across the globe, including Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and China, and in those regions, the 20 series will go on sale soon. The 20 will be priced at €499 ($556), while the pro will set you back €599 ($670) -- in the UK, the 20 will cost £399.99, with a Honor Watch Magic thrown in for free, but there's no pricing on the Pro just yet. From what little time we've spent with these devices so far, it's safe to say that Honor has, once again, made a cheap phone not feel like one. This handset makes a mockery of the notion that the only good smartphones are ones that cost $1,500.
Of course, as a subsidiary of Huawei, this phone isn't likely to be making the journey to the US unless you import it. It looks like, for now, the Honor 20 will get out before Google withdraws Android support for Huawei devices. But, given the company's reputation and status as a target for ire within the US, be advised that you might get a hostile reception if you walk down the street with one.
If there's one issue, it's the question of whether Honor's imaging hardware can beat Google's imaging software. After all, the newly released Pixel 3a and 3a XL are priced at $400 and $480, respectively, and come with some pretty tasty cameras themselves. Regardless, if you're in the market for a decent phone without paying a premium, you've never had it so good.