Huawei sub-brand Honor today officially launched its latest View20 flagship globally.

The Chinese smartphone company presented the Honor View20 at a packed event in Paris, after first unveiling the device in early December ahead of its launch in China a couple of weeks later. The company confirmed today that the device will be available across Europe, the Middle East, Russia, India, and Southeast Asia, with “other markets” to follow soon.

While Honor began as a budget brand to make Huawei more competitive with price-conscious demographics and developing markets, Honor has been venturing into flagship territory, as many of the devices lean toward the higher end of the spectrum. The View20 is a case in point, shipping with Huawei’s very own Kirin 980 chipset — similar to other high-end smartphones in the Huawei range — which is designed for artificial intelligence (AI) acceleration.

Elsewhere, the View20 is available in 6GB/128GB and 8GB/256GB configurations, supports 3D motion-controlled gaming, and comes with a 4,000mAh battery that can be supercharged to more than 50 percent in around half an hour. And — drumroll, please — it has a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Design

The View20’s striking design was made possible by nano-lithography, a printing treatment used to etch a V-shaped moiré pattern into the phone’s reflective backplate. (Honor claims it was inspired by a Hellenistic sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike, though the resemblance is tenuous, at best.)

Its gradient finish glimmers in the light like few phones we’ve used before, which may not be a good thing if your taste skews toward the conventional. Still, it certainly stands out in a crowded field.

Honor View20

Above: Honor View20

Image Credit: Kyle Wiggers / VentureBeat

A less polarizing feature of note is the curved glass-and-metal body, which measures 8.1 millimeters at its thickest point and comes in four colors — blue, black, red, and “phantom blue.” It’s framed by an aluminum shell, conferring a solid feel that stands in pleasant contrast to lightweights like Google’s Pixel 3 XL. Unfortunately, this necessitated compromises: The Honor View20 doesn’t support wireless charging, and it isn’t waterproof.

Honor said that it is water-resistant to a point, but we’d hesitate to leave it poolside.

Above: Honor View20: Rear view

The View20’s straightforward button layout is some consolation. On the right-hand side, you’ll find the power button and volume rocker. The fingerprint sensor is around back, occupying the space between the dual camera modules and embossed Honor logo, and on top is the aforementioned 3.5mm audio jack. A USB-C port on the bottom, between the loudspeaker and one of several microphones, rounds out the I/O.

Above: Honor View20: Bottom view

Performance

The View20 has the distinction of being one of the first Honor-branded devices with Huawei’s HiSilicon Kirin 980, a 7-nanometer chip system-on-chip. Compared to the Honor View 10’s Kirin 970, Honor claims it’s up to 75 percent faster in single-core tasks, and that its integrated GPU — the Mali-G76 — improves graphics performance by a whopping 46 percent.

The Kirin 980 is also AI-forward, thanks to its dual-core neural processing unit (NPU) coprocessor. This NPU is able to recognize 4,500 images per minute; it drives the View20’s new object identification feature, HiVision, which can identify countless objects including hundreds of landmarks and thousands of paintings. This was also available in Huawei’s Mate 20 series of devices that were launched last year.

To segue briefly away from performance and into more details on HiVision, this feature is split into four key sections: QR code, translate, shopping, and identify. Simply by pointing your phone at an object you can shop for similar items related to it — for example, here we pointed the phone at a photo of the Eiffel Tower on a computer screen, and it served up links to buy professional prints and photos online.

Above: Honor View20: HiVision shopping search

But it could be any object really — such as a mug sitting by the side of your desk.

Above: Honor View20: HiVision shopping search

If you’re not looking to shop for items, then you can change the setting to “identify,” where it can spot anything from a famous landmark to a car or a bunch of flowers. HiVision then overlays the image with a little text box that tells you what it is, with a link to further information.

Above: Honor View20: HiVision identify objects

Alternatively, if you’re not looking to shop or identify, then you can translate texts between languages and scan QR codes with this same application.

Performance further benefits from GPU Turbo 2.0, a software feature that “optimizes” performance and “improves” touch controls in select titles including PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Arena of Valor, Rules of Survival, Mobile Legends, Bang Bang, Vainglory, and Asphalt 9: Legend.

The results of our preliminary benchmark tests line up with those claims, more or less. In Geekbench, the View20 achieved a single-core score of 3,292 and a multi-core score of 9,609, scoring roughly on par with the Huawei Mate 20 (3,390 single-core and 10,318 multi-core). The Antutu results were a little less encouraging — we saw scores of up to 274,349, which fall far short of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s 303,313 — but it managed to come ahead of flagships like the Google Pixel 3 (269,901) and Samsung Galaxy S9+ (266,871).

The Kirin 980’s advantages extend to power management, too. Honor says that the View 20 draws 58 percent less energy than its predecessor, thanks in part to the increased efficiency of the Kirin 980 and an “intelligent” scheduling mechanism that reduces processor load.

That remains to be seen, but in our limited testing, its 4,000 mAh battery — up from the View 10’s 3,750mAh battery — didn’t deplete terribly quickly day-to-day. With light usage — i.e., checking emails, browsing the web, and scrolling through social feeds — the View20 lasted a full day, and frequently a day and a quarter. When it does die, of course, it doesn’t take long to charge — as noted earlier, it should not take much longer than half an hour to give this around 55 percent charge.

Against Qualcomm’s current-gen Snapdragon 845 and Samsung’s Exynos 9810, the View20 and Kirin 980-packing handsets plainly hold their own. But it bears mentioning that we’re likely only weeks away from phones with Qualcomm’s 7-nanometer Snapdragon 855, which promise significant improvements in the areas of AI, per-core performance, power efficiency, and photography. That’s certainly something to factor into your buying decision.

Cameras and more

Among the main selling points of the View20, from a marketing USP at least, is the in-screen “pinhole” camera that is designed to maximize the display real estate — it doesn’t rely on chunky bezels or hideous cut-out “notches.”

As we noted a few weeks back, this kind of design is something we will see a lot more of throughout 2019 and beyond, and already there are a handful of other devices on the market with a similar design — these include the Samsung Galaxy A8S and Huawei’s Nova 4, both of which debuted in China last month.

With the View20, however, Huawei and Honor are pushing to sell the first mass-market device that sports the distinctive in-screen selfie lens. With a 6.4-inch 2,310p x 1,080p “all-view” display, only the 4.5mm front camera blemishes the screen — as a result of this, the phone offers a 91.8 percent body-to-screen ratio.

Honor View20: Screen-embedded camera

Above: Honor View20: Screen-embedded camera

Image Credit: Paul Sawers / VentureBeat

For people who like to watch a lot of movies and videos on their phone, this means that they can go pretty much full-screen — so long as they can tolerate the little black camera hole in the corner.

To go full-screen on a 16:9 video, you can enlarge the video a little to fill the display. Alternatively, a 21:9 ratio video will fill the screen by default.

Honor View20: Full-screen

Above: Honor View20: Full screen

Based on our tests, it is still a little bit distracting having that little pinhole blip on the display, but it is infinitely better than some of the oversized notches that exist on other phones.

Plus, if you really don’t like the little pinhole camera, you can go into the phone’s settings and get your darkened status bar back — all videos and pictures will only display up to this bar when the “hide notch” option is selected.

Above: Honor View20: Notch or no notch

Alongside in-screen selfie cameras, another trend that’s likely to emerge in 2019 flagship phones is super high-resolution rear cameras. Thanks to the Sony IMX586, a 48-megapixel camera sensor that debuted last year, Honor is the first company to launch a phone for the global masses with such a high megapixel count.

Aside from the main 48-megapixel shooter, the View20 also sports a time-of-flight (TOF) 3D camera and a flash. It’s also worth noting here that there is a fingerprint sensor on the rear — this bucks a recent trend that has seen companies (including Huawei) move the fingerprint scanner to the front inside the display.

Above: Honor View20: Rear view

In truth, most people will have very little need for such detail in their photos — unless they’re planning on having giant posters made from their snaps.

Compared to the photos taken on the triple-lens Huawei Mate 20 Pro (bottom), which has a 40-megapixel shooter, there really isn’t a great deal of benefit to be had from those additional pixels. And in these comparison shots taken below, I’d say that the Huawei Mate 20 Pro takes better photos.

Above: Outdoor photo taken with the Honor View20: 48-megapixels

Above: Outdoor photo taken with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro: 40-megapixels

In terms of low-light situations, again, the Honor View20 didn’t perform as well as the Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s photo (bottom). Indeed, the Mate 20 Pro low-light shot (bottom) looks as though it was taken during daylight.

Above: Honor View20: Dusk photo

Above: Huawei Mate 20 Pro: Dusk photo

With the Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro launches last year, users were able to utilize a neat color-isolation feature (“AI Color”) in their videos, similar to what they do in the movie Sin City.

AI Color: Color isolation in video

Above: AI Color: Color isolation in video

Image Credit: Paul Sawers / VentureBeat

Similarly, for the first time users were able to initiate a background blurring (“background blur”) effect in their videos, similar to the bokeh effect that has infiltrated still photography on smartphones.

Background blur in video

Above: Background blur in video

Image Credit: Paul Sawers / VentureBeat

Both of these nifty AI-infused features have also now made their way onto the Honor View20, which is a significant boon for prospective buyers.

Above: Honor View20: AI Color and background blur

Software

The View20 ships Honor’s Magic UI, which made its debut on the Honor Magic 2 late last year. It’s somewhat hyperbolically described in press materials as a “next-generation AI-powered system,” but in truth, it’s more or less a customized variant of Emotion UI (EMUI), Huawei’s Android skin that Honor previously shipped with its phones.

There’s a new color scheme, icons, and fonts, to be sure, plus features like real-time in-call voice translations. Also in tow is YoYo, an intelligent assistant that supports two-way speech translation in ten languages, lets you control DJI drones with voice commands (yes, really), and serves up smart suggestions in the View20’s keyboard based on what’s on screen. It also integrates with the HiVision feature inside the Honor View20’s camera app, enabling you to look up the calories of food, search for products online, and get dermatological advice informed by pictures of your skin.

For spec geeks, here’s a full list of the main specs.

Honor View20 specifications

Above: Honor View20 specifications

Availability and pricing

While we know that the Honor View20 will be made available across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, the company has yet to confirm specific country launches beyond the U.K., Russia, and India. We can also state with a high degree of confidence that the device won’t be made available to buy in the U.S., because Huawei has yet to officially launch any of its phones in the U.S.

At the time of writing Huawei has only confirmed how much the Honor View20 will cost in the U.K., but this will be indicative of its price in other markets. It will cost £499.99 ($650) for the 6GB / 128GB version, and £579.99 ($750) for the 8GB / 256GB handset. The phone is available to buy immediately.