Honor Play Review
Honor recently launched in the Philippines their GPU Turbo-powered Honor Play smartphone. It’s a game-focused device that packs a Kirin 970 chipset, 4GB RAM, and dual-rear cameras. We already have an idea how well it performs, now it’s time to take a look at the other things it has to offer.
Design and Construction
The Honor Play has a design that is similar to the Nova 3i but with a less premium look. It has a notch at the top which houses the camera, earpiece, and sensors, while down below on the chin is the Honor branding.
On the right are the firm yet clicky volume and power/lock buttons, while on the left is the hybrid SIM tray.
Up top is the secondary microphone, while down below are the 3.5mm audio port, USB Type-C port, main microphone, and the loudspeaker.
At the back are the protruding dual rear cameras, the LED flash, and the fingerprint scanner. Also, visible here are the antenna lines but they provide a cool effect to an otherwise bland rear.
When it comes to its quality, the Honor Play the metallic frame feels well-made and has this matte finish that repels fingerprints and smudges well. The 6.3-inch display is quite large but the narrow frame and rounded sides make it easy to grip.
Display and Multimedia
The Honor Play comes with a 6.3-inch screen Full HD+ display, 2340 x 1080 resolution, and a pixel density of 409ppi. Users have the option to manually lower it to HD+ (1560 x 720) or enable Smart resolution to let the device automatically lower the screen resolution to help save power. Other screen features include the ability to hide the notch and adjust color modes and temperature.
Display quality is okay as it is sharp with accurate colors. Viewing angles are decent but tend to look dimmer when viewed from the top. It’s not a serious issue though as we never encountered any problems when operating the phone normally, watching videos, or playing games.
When it comes to multimedia, the Honor Play features a Music Party mode that is found in other Honor devices. If you’re unfamiliar with the feature, it basically connects multiple Honor devices in the same WiFi network and streams the same music. This gives users a louder and more immersive music compared to when playing solo.
OS, UI, and Apps
The Honor Play runs on EMUI 8.2 based on Android 8.1 Oreo. If you have handled the Honor 10 or Huawei Nova 3i, the experience is very similar. It uses multiple home screens to house the apps and uses the leftmost home screen for Smart Care which is like a hub for relevant information as well as shortcuts.
Google’s own apps are present as well as a few from Honor like the AppGallery which is like Huawei’s own app store, the Honor app, HiCare, and Party Mode which was mentioned earlier. What we don’t like though is the number of pre-installed apps. There’s 13 in total, 7 of them are games. These can be uninstalled though if you’re not going to use them.
When it comes to storage, the Honor Play has 64GB which is a good starting point for mid-range devices like this. There’s 51.84GB of usable space which can be further expanded the microSD card slot. Although you’re going to lose dual-SIM functionality due to its hybrid setup.
The Honor Play is equipped with 16MP + 2MP rear cameras, and a 16MP front camera. It’s loaded with features like Night mode, HDR, 3D Panorama, 3D Creator, Slow-mo, Light painting, Pro mode, Panorama, and Time-Lapse, to name a few.
Like with other Honor devices, it has an AI mode which improves the quality of the photo, Portrait mode with Beauty effects, and AR Lens for fun stickers and backgrounds. So far, quality is good, especially in bright light. It can handle dim conditions but expect to see some noise and lack of details. Check out the samples below.
For video recording, it can shoot at a maximum of 4K resolution at 30 fps in MP4 format. Watch the sample below.
Performance and Benchmarks
The main feature of the Honor Play is the Kirin 970 chipset which is the same chip that is powering Huawei and Honor’s flagship devices namely the Honor P20 series, Huawei Mate 10 series, and the Honor 10. So it’s impressive to see this chip in a device priced under Php16K. Other specs include a Mali-G72 MP12 GPU, and 4GB RAM, which should be enough for heavy users including mobile gamers.
We have already tested the Honor Play’s GPU Turbo in its Beta software and compared it with the Honor 10 and Huawei Mate 10 Pro without GPU Turbo. You can check the links provided for the details. For this review, our unit is running the retail software with GPU Turbo.
We noticed something odd about the performance of our unit, specifically its thermals. When we ran AnTuTu, it became too hot that we got a screen notification that the device is overheating. We stopped the benchmarks, cleared the memory from background tasks, restarted the device, then ran AnTuTu again. The heating still persisted, but this time it never got to the point of overheating. It’s weird since we never experienced this during beta testing, so this could be an isolated case.
Check out the benchmarks scores below:
• AnTuTu – 204,703
• Geekbench – 1,887 (Single-Core), 6,508 (Multi-Core), 7,976 (RenderScript)
• 3D Mark – 2,999 (SSE – OpenGL ES 3.1), 3,323 (SSE – Vulkan)
• PC Mark – 7,426 (Work 2.0)
• AndroBench – 898.88 MB/s (Read), 185.63 MB/s (Write)
There was a slight dip in the new AnTuTu score compared to the original which can be attributed to the heating. When playing games like PUBG Mobile, Mobile Legends, and Asphalt 9, it’s also warmer than usual but we still get the smooth performance we experienced in our tests. However, the heat can affect overall performance after prolonged use. The battery life also suffers as we get a 16% drop in power levels after just playing 30 minutes of PUBG. We’re hoping that the thermal issue is an isolated case or something that can be fixed with a software update.
Connectivity and Battery Life
The Honor Play comes with your usual connectivity features like 4G LTE, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, and GPS. It’s also nice to see a 3.5mm audio port and USB Type-C for a phone with this kind of asking price. So far, the features work well as advertised as calls are loud and clear, mobile data is fast, while location-based apps are accurate and responsive.
Providing juice to the Honor Play is a 3,750mAh battery which is the same as the Huawei Nova 3 but larger than the 3,400mAh found on the Huawei P20 and Honor 10. PC Mark’s battery benchmark rated it at 8 hours and 40 minutes which is weird as it is in the same range as the P20 (8 hours, 49 mins) and Honor 10 (8 hours, 37 mins). Our video loop test, on the other hand, got us 12 hours and 30 minutes of playback.
The package comes with a 9V/2A charger and capable of replenishing the battery in under 3 hours. However, unlike the Honor 10, the Honor Play doesn’t support Huawei’s SuperCharge technology.
The Honor Play is that kind of smartphone that punches like a heavyweight but fights in the middleweight class. It’s got a nice display, flagship-grade Kirin 970 with GPU Turbo, large RAM and storage, decent cameras, and above average battery capacity. There are some issues like its thermals but we believe it’s something that can be fixed with a software update.
What makes it very appealing though, is its price. At Php15,990, the Honor Play becomes one of the most affordable Kirin 970-powered smartphones in the market. So if you’re on a budget, but want to get the best gaming performance possible, this device is the way to go.
Honor Play Specifications
|Display||6.3-inch 2340 x 1080 display, 409ppi|
|CPU||HiSilicon Kirin 970 2.36GHz octa-core|
|Storage||64GB internal storage|
|Expandable Storage||expandable via microSD up to 256GB (SIM Slot 2)|
|Rear Camera||16MP + 2MP rear cameras, LED flash|
|Front Camera||16MP front camera|
|SIM||Dual SIM (nano)|
|Wi-Fi||WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 4.2, BLE, aptX, aptX HD, HWA|
|GPS||GPS, A-GPS, Beidou, GLONASS|
|USB||USB 2.0 Type-C|
|Audio Port||3.5mm audio port|
|OS||EMUI 8.2 (Android 8.1 Oreo)|
|Battery||3,750mAh battery (Fast Charge 9V/2A)|
|Dimension||157.91 x 74.27 x 7.48 mm|
What we liked about it:
• Nice display
• Good build
• Good performance
• Large RAM and storage
• Above average battery capacity
• Very competitive price
What we didn’t:
• Thermal issues
• No SuperCharge
• Some preinstalled apps