Honor 20 review

A true mid-range powerhouse

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(Image: © Future)

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The Honor 20 is another beautifully balanced, excellent value phone from the Huawei sub-brand. It’s extremely fast, well-designed, has a vibrant display, exemplary battery life, and a very capable quad-lens camera.

At £400 (around $560, AU$810), it’s a bit of a steal. However, while the hardware news is nearly all positive, there’s some concern over the Honor 20’s software.

Even placing the uncertainty surrounding all Huawei-linked smartphones aside for a moment, Magic UI remains an ugly mess of bloatware and needless tinkering.

It’s quite possible to mold it into something more pleasant to use, and it’s never less than fast and reliable. But this is an inferior experience to the stock - or near-stock - Android experiences of other similarly-priced phones.

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Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

Who's this for?

The Honor 20 is for anyone who wants a fast, well-designed phone that offers the kind of hardware you’d expect to find on a flagship - but for less than half the price.

If the Google Pixel 3a’s camera and price tag appeal to you, but its dated design and mediocre performance don’t, the Honor 20 is well worth considering - providing you’re willing to take a bit of a gamble on future software support from Google.

Should you buy it?

Picking up an Honor 20 for the benefits it will bring you today and tomorrow is a no-brainer. It’s a highly capable smartphone with very few hardware flaws to speak of, and it’s very keenly priced.

It’s on the software side that doubts start to appear, and Huawei’s recent political troubles with the West should give you pause for thought. If that clears up, however, then the Honor 20 is an easy recommendation - as long as you’re willing to work its messy Magic UI into shape.

Check out these alternative options:

Google Pixel 3a

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Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

Google’s 'budget' phone offers a compelling package for the same price as the Honor 20. Its camera might be less flexible, with just a single lens to rely on, but the quality of its images beats most phones worth twice the money.

The presence of stock Android as Google intended it is another massive advantage for the Pixel, and one that the Honor 20 falls well short of with its custom UI. Google’s guaranteed ongoing support comes in stark contrast to Huawei’s woes, too.

However, Google has had to make compromises to bring the Pixel 3a in under budget, and it’s a less well-balanced phone than the Honor 20 as a result. It simply can’t match the Honor 20’s stellar performance, while its bezel-heavy design feels like a bit of a throwback by comparison.

Read our full Google Pixel 3a review

Nokia 9 PureView

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Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

At the time of writing, the Nokia 9 PureView could be had for just £50 (around $60, AU$90) more than the Honor 20 from several major retailers in the UK.

This price drop instantly makes it a more attractive proposition than our underwhelming review would suggest. It has even got its own photographic tricks courtesy of a five-camera array.

Elsewhere there’s decent (if inferior to the Honor 20) performance and a vibrant 5.99-inch OLED display. It’s an option in the sub-£500 category alright.

Read our full Nokia 9 PureView review

Xiaomi Mi 9

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Image credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

Initially retailing for £499 (roughly $630, AU$895) earlier this year, the Xiaomi Mi 9 has since had a customary price cut online, bringing it within range of the Honor 20.

At that price, it’s even more tempting. The Mi 9 boasts a similarly impressive camera array, a superior Super AMOLED display, and even more impressive performance courtesy of a Snapdragon 855 chipset.

MIUI is similar to Magic UI in its level of bloat and unwanted tinkering, but at least Xiaomi isn’t under quite the level of scrutiny that Huawei is right now.

If you can get the Xiaomi Mi 9 for a similar price, it might just be a better buy than the Honor 20.

Read our full Xiaomi Mi 9 review

First reviewed: July 2019