Technophile

Honor says let’s Play

Mirza Mohammed Ali Khan | Updated on August 22, 2018 Published on August 22, 2018

This gaming-focussed phone from Huawei’s sub-brand is a very compelling prospect in the mid-range

From Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja to the likes of PUBG and Fortnite, mobile gaming has come a long way. In fact, it’s witnessing quite the boom now with mainstream titles coming up with their mobile versions. But playing games on a smartphone or even a non-smartphone isn’t anything new. Remember the iconic Nokia Ngage mobile? Shaped like a hand-held gaming device, this phone brought dedicated mobile gaming to users and became quite the rage; so much so that it’s still the first phone to come to my mind when I think of mobile gaming.

Smartphone-makers have always tried to lure customers with boasts of performance that can handle hardcore mobile gaming. But apart from the Razer Phone and Asus’ ROG gaming mobile, which are in a league of their own really, a smartphone that was built to be a gaming device and yet packaged like a regular-use smartphone was missing.

Then came along the Honor Play, from Huawei’s sub-brand. Honor has consistently been growing in the budget and mid-range smartphone categories, putting up a good fight against the likes of Xiaomi. With the Honor Play, the brand is bringing flagship features in the sub-₹20,000 range. Here’s how the 4 GB version of the Honor Play (the other is a 6 GB version) was to use.

Metal (is) back

The first thing that struck me on unboxing the Honor Play was its metal back. A good departure from the crack- and scratch-prone glass backs that Huawei and Honor mid-range phones were throwing at us for no reason (without wireless charging, there’s little they do, apart from adding fragile cosmetic appeal). The fingerprint sensor and the vertical dual-camera assembly make up the predictable layout on the back.

The front gets an almost-full-screen display, with the now ubiquitous notch on top and a ‘chin’ below, which bears the Honor branding. The Hybrid dual SIM tray is on the left and the volume rockers and power button are on the right. The Play retains the 3.5 mm jack on the bottom, which is beside the USB Type-C port and the loudspeaker grille. The design is sleek and looks classy and Honor has provided a transparent case in the box.

The Honor Play is powered by Huawei’s own Kirin 970 chipset, which continues to be the company’s flagship processor (there’s a new one in the works, reportedly). The 970 powers high-end devices from Huawei like the P20 and is a very capable processor with defined AI prowess as well. It can handle heavy duty use and that’s evident in the way the Honor Play behaves. Apps load in a breeze, multi-tasking is easy, and there are hardly any lags or snags. The 4 GB RAM variant itself did so well that I’m left wondering how much better the 6 GB variant can perform. Internal memory is 64 GB, which can be expanded to 256 GB if you sacrifice the use of a second SIM.

Hardware

The display is good for a phone in this price range. Thanks to the notch, it’s a tall display at 6.3 inches with a 19.5:9 ratio. Video watching is very pleasant, with the bars on either side of the notch automatically blacking out (the same thing happens during gaming). The colours are vibrant and easy on the eye and sunlight legibility is better than on most other phones in this range. Colourful wallpapers and lock screen images look especially gorgeous, thanks to the full screen and the 1080x2340 p resolution. The 3,750 mAh battery lasted me almost a day with quite a bit of gaming, and about a day-and-a-half without it, and that’s very good. There’s also a fast charger in the box.

The phone runs on Android 8.1 with Huawei’s own EMUI 8.2 skin on top. It retains some stock Android features, like the SMS app and most of Google’s app suite being present on the phone. There are some pre-loaded apps like Facebook, Instagram, GoPro’s Quik video editor, etc, that can be disabled.

Cameras

The primary dual camera set-up (16 MP and 2 MP) has AI capabilities, as is the fad these days. The AI mode on the rear camera enhances colours and makes them brighter and more saturated — ready to be shared on social media, in other words. And depending on your personal peeves, you will either like it or not. I, for example, enjoyed the AI mode when clicking pictures indoors because the colours are a little more lively. But outdoors, especially in daylight, the AI mode makes them look over-saturated and artificial. Then again, it can be turned off easily, even after the picture is clicked, so people can suit themselves. The depth effect is okay and returns good portrait shots under well-lit conditions. Low-light photography isn’t bad, but could be better. Then again, that’s a regular refrain you hear when talking about cameras in this price range. Videos have EIS capability and there’s an AI update coming soon, according to Honor, that can stabilise videos in low light. The front 16 MP camera churns out ready-to-share selfies, and there’s not much to complain about.

Ready to game?

The mainstay of the Honor Play is its gaming capability. Honor has brought GPU Turbo, gaming-dedicated, to the Honor Play first and it is supposed to increase performance by 60 per cent. What I did experience was that the GPU Turbo does indeed optimise battery performance and this showed itself as I kept checking the battery bar when playing PUBG (one of the few games currently available that supports GPU Turbo). GPU Turbo also lets games run at a higher frame rate to enhance the overall experience. Honor has promised other updates to the gaming experience. One of them that I’m personally looking forward to is one that brings haptic feedback (vibrations during explosions, gunshots, etc) to the experience. Other games like Asphalt 9 run like a breeze and this exemplifies the gaming focus of the Honor Play.

A peculiar thing I noticed when using the phone was that the loudspeaker performed well only when gaming and is quite meek, otherwise.

At this price, the Honor Play is a full package with a gaming mainstay. If only the cameras and loudspeaker were a little better, this could have well been an out-and-out flagship killer.

Price: ₹19,999 (4 GB) and ₹23,999 (6 GB)

Pros: Great for gaming, flagship specs, nice display

Cons: Weak loudspeaker, average low-light camera performance

Published on August 22, 2018
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