Honor Play review

A brand new mid-range phone for Honor

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Interface and reliability

The Honor Play comes with Android 8.1 Oreo software onboard – but it doesn’t look exactly how Google intended, and it won’t behave as it does on the Google Pixel 2 or other phones with the stock software onboard.

Instead it comes with parent company Huawei’s Emotion UI 8.2 software – it’s based on the Oreo update from Google, but it looks totally different.

There’s by app drawer by default – instead your apps will sit over the pages of your home screen, in a similar way to how they do in iOS.

You’ll either love or hate the look of Emotion UI, but it's improved a lot in its recent iterations, and once you’re used to the design and extra features it offers you’ll find it an easy-to-use interface.

We found it to be reliable, with apps opening quickly, while you can run through the home pages on your phone smoothly, and we didn’t find any apps crashing. This is reliable software, and the Honor Play is capable of everything you’d expect from a mid-range phone in 2018.

We'd expect Honor to update its software in the future to support the new Android Pie update that you can already find running on some other phones, but this has yet to be confirmed.

Movies, music and gaming

Watching video on the Honor Play is an enjoyable experience thanks to its generous 6.3-inch screen. There aren't many phones that have a screen this size, especially in such a compact form factor.

As mentioned, the resolution isn't the best we've seen, but with 409 pixels per inch it's unlikely you'll be disappointed by the picture quality here. The viewing angles are good enough that you can watch video with a friend, but sometimes you may have to turn the screen up to full brightness for the optimum viewing experience.

We found listening to music over Bluetooth connection to be a seamless experience. The audio quality won't blow you away, but this isn't a phone built for audio prowess – and there's a 3.5mm headphone jack too if you're looking for a device that can still be used with wired headsets.

If you're planning to watch film and video without a headset, though, you may struggle, as it's easy to cover the single speaker at the bottom of the Honor Play with your hand. We found ourselves regularly doing this, and like us you may find it irritating.

It can also be annoying when you're playing games with music or sound effects – however that's one of the few issues we encountered when it comes to playing games on the Honor Play.

Injustice 2 running on the Honor Play

Injustice 2 running on the Honor Play

It could handle all the top-end titles we played, and graphically they looked as good as they do on some of the best phones on the market right now.

Honor has managed to pack plenty of high-end tech into this phone, and we didn't experience any slowdown when playing games, with new levels loading as fast as we'd expect on a high-end handset.

Honor's mysterious GPU Turbo update is running here – we say mysterious because we've yet to learn what this actually does. The company says the update will enable Asphalt, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Mobile Legends to perform slightly better, but it's currently limited to those games, and we won't see the benefits coming to other games for some time.

Performance and benchmarking

Inside the Honor Play is a HiSilicon Kirin 970 chipset – Kirin chips are made by Huawei, and power both its and sister brand Honor's phones, and that’s the same chipset that powers the Huawei Mate 10 series and the excellent Huawei P20 Pro.

It's a powerful chipset that almost rivals Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845, which is running in a selection of top-end phones, and it ensures a smooth experience when opening up multiple apps on the phone and speedily completing tasks.

The Honor Play is available with either 4GB or 6GB of RAM, although some markets are only getting one variant – in the UK you can only buy the 4GB of RAM version with 64GB of storage on board.

Our benchmarking tests saw the Honor Play achieving similar scores to both the Honor 10 and Huawei P20 Pro. In fact, the phone’s score of 6,602 beat the Honor 10’s 6,570 and was just a little behind the P20 Pro’s score of 6,775.

That makes the Honor Play a top-end phone for performance in terms of benchmarking, and it justifies the phone being aimed at those who want to play Fortnite, PUBG and other intensive gaming titles.

James Peckham

James is the Editor-in-Chief at Android Police. Previously, he was Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He once fell over.