Huawei India is preparing to make a big splash this Diwali. Right from the onset of festival season, the company has been churning out competitive options under both Honor and Huawei banners and the latest to join the fray is the Honor Play.
The Honor Play has been designed to take on the upcoming and much awaited Xiaomi Mi A2 (First Impression). Which is also why Huawei is marketing some serious performance chops for the new Play. This is the first time Huawei is offering its flagship chipset, Kirin 970, for under Rs. 20,000. And for further performance assurances, Huawei also threw its new ‘GPU turbo’ technology in the mix.
So, is the Honor Play a viable MI A2 alternative? Let’s discuss in our Honor Play Quick Review.
Honor Play Design and Build
All Huawei phones launched in India this year have brandished glass or glass-finish bodies. The Honor Play, with its metal back, feels like a step back. The touch and feel are reminiscent of yesteryear phones like Honor 7X and 9i, but that’s just one aspect of the design.
On the front, there is an agreeable 6.3-inch display with a broad notch at the top and a sizeable chin at the bottom. The choice of 19.5:9 aspect ratio, high screen-to-body ratio, coupled with Play’s slim profile make it reasonably comfortable to wield and to operate.
The Huawei Honor Play checks all the modern design trends, but if design ranks high on your priority list, the recently launched Huawei Nova 3i rings as a better choice. Of course, the metal back won’t put it at a disadvantage against its arch nemesis, the Mi A2.
- The metal back is neat and minimal. There are U-shaped antenna bands at the top and bottom.
- Use of metal makes the Play feel more solid, but Huawei’s glass body phones look prettier.
- The Audio jack, USB Type-C port, and speaker grill are present at the bottom.
- The fingerprint sensor is mounted a little too close to the top.
- The microSD card slot used is hybrid.
Honor Play Display
Huawei is using a Full HD+ resolution IPS LCD panel on Honor Play. The display is a tad reflective, but colors and viewing angles appeared fine. The default white balance also felt right in the brief period that we examined it. Either way, the EMUI 8.2 gives you enough leeway to tune color saturation and white balance according to your individual preference.
The display could be another advantage Honor Play has over Mi A2. Compared to Mi A2, the Honor Play has a notch, which could be the practical way forward or the necessary evil depending on how you feel about the trending notch phenomenon. After cycling through numerous notch-display devices, we are quite accustomed to it by now.
- The 6.3-inch screen looks fine. Viewing angles are wide and colors are vivid (a bit oversaturated).
- You can turn the notch off from display settings. The option to Zoom and fill youtube videos is present.
- Huawei doesn’t mention what sort of ion-strengthened glass is present on the screen.
Performance and Software
The performance is the core area of focus with Honor Play. This time, Huawei offers Kirin 970 at a price point where it generally uses Kirin 659 (the Nova 3i has the upgraded Kirin 710, though).
By now, we are quite familiar with the Kirin 970. The performance shouldn’t be a problem with the Honor Play. To further improve on things, Huawei has added GPU Turbo technology that improves performance and reduces power consumption.
The performance advantages should make more sense when GPU Turbo update hits Kirin 659 devices like Honor 9N, but the power conservation while gaming is something we are excited about. There is one caveat, though. For GPU turbo to work, the developers have to enable the code in their respective apps.
The software on the phone is Huawei’s EMUI 8.2 based on Android 8.1 Oreo. Huawei’s custom skin includes all features and options available in the book and that makes it feel kind of overwhelming. Huawei has, however, consistently improved the software over the years.
Some gimmicky recent additions include Party mode that can be used to connect 7 Huawei or Honor phones together and the Hi-Touch shopping app that lets you image-search objects on Amazon (or Huawei’s version of Samsung Mall).
- Performance shouldn’t be an issue. Kirin 970 is powerful enough for heavy gaming.
- GPU turbo further brings in performance and battery enhancements.
- App developers will have to enable GPU turbo in their apps for the technology to work. Which is to say, it won’t work on all popular games from the very start.
- The EMUI8.2 software on the phone is based on Android 8.1 Oreo
- The Honor Play has a 3750mAh battery. Huawei’s Super-Fast Charge isn’t supported, though.
The Honor Play has two sensors on the rear (16MP and 2MP) of which you will only be using the one more often than not. The additional 2MP shooter is for depth sensing and adding background blur to images. On the front, there is a 16MP selfie camera.
These are AI-powered cameras. Which is to say, that when AI mode is on, the phone can detect certain objects in the viewfinder (Floors, food, pets, etc.) and tweak image settings accordingly. While this may sound helpful on paper, we often find ourselves turning the AI mode off because of its sheer inconsistency and penchant for oversaturated color tones. There is no reason to expect anything different of the AI on the Honor Play.
Other than AI, the camera app and camera hardware look quite promising on paper. Unfortunately, we have no way of telling how the practical experience may turn out to be. We’ll share more after a full review, perhaps.
Honor Play Quick Review: Is it better than Mi A2?
Undoubtedly the Honor Play packs some serious value for money. You get the current-best Huawei chipset, a full-view display, big battery – all in a neat and slim metal body. Between the Mi A2 and Honor Play, it will narrow down to the software (which is what Mi A2 is all about) and camera.
The EMUI isn’t a bad skin but we’d expect people to be inclined towards lighter stock Android. However, the scale could swing back in Honor Play’s favor if its camera outperforms that of Mi A2.
Other than that, if you aren’t much into gaming, the comparatively priced Huawei Nova 3i with Kirin 710 chipset should serve you better.