Honor Play Review: Crazy Fast And Tons Of Swag

Honor Play Rear

Honor has been upping the game here in India and they have brought a whole flurry of devices for various segments in the past few months. The market seems to like them a lot. Their latest offering is the Honor Play – a flagship grade phone with a lot of muscle for gaming. I spent time using the phone and here is my review of this device.

The minute you look at this phone, you let out a gasp of relief. This one is not having a glass back and that is brilliant. For phones that don’t support wireless charging, a glass back tends make life slippery or smudgy and Honor has done well to go with a metal unibody finish here. A refreshing change from a slew of glass phones.

It comes with  a FHD+ display with extremely thin bezels on sides and a notch. The notch of the device has the earpiece grill and the front camera. The backside of the phone has a vertically mounted dual camera setup with an LED flash and a message that says AI camera. The circular-fingerprint scanner sits at the center of the device. The volume rocker and the power button are in the right side of the phone, the left has the hybrid-SIM card slot. That’s right, you have to decide if you want extra storage or to use two SIMs. I wish Honor had a dedicated slot for memory expansion. That would have been great given the target audience for this phone.

Honor Play


Honor Play is equipped with 16.0cm FullView HD + (1080×2340 pixels) with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio bezel-less Notch display that 89% screen-to-body ratio. Additionally, the split screen function for multitasking will allow users to do much more with screen time. The display really packs a whole lot of screen in relatively less real estate and the immersive gaming experience that is on offer is well complimented by the display. The screen is quite legible even in sunlight and playing games or videos with it is really very nice to the eye and I did not have to strain myself. Video watching or streaming on the screen is very crisp and enjoyable. So are high end graphics and gaming scenarios.

The phone comes with GPU Turbo, GPU Turbo is able to accelerate performance by optimizing the software and hardware resources. With GPU Turbo, graphics processing efficiency is improved by up to 60 percent while overall SoC power consumption is saved by 30 percent. This is beneficial since graphically demanding operations typically consume battery quickly.

  • Play harder: GPU efficiency is increased by 60%, and the single frame SoC energy consumption is reduced by 30% – a remarkable improvement over other performance and gaming phones.
  • Play smoother: GPU Turbo reduces the jitter rate by maintaining the optimum FPS of the mobile device for a smoother, more comfortable performance

Honor Play Side

What this means to the average gaming user or the heavy gamer is that the phone can smartly understand which part of the scene is changing and which is not when you are playing a game and have things resident in memory or render them crazy fast so that your experience is smooth as butter. You can actually see the difference on a wide range of games from the basic temple run to the top end PUBG or Asphalt 9. I gave it to my teenage son for a week to try out gaming and it became a huge challenge getting it back from him. I tried gaming with the Honor Play and the OnePlus 6 and I must say that the Honor Play came up trumps. There were absolutely no frame drops or lag or stutter. The device also runs cold and does not heat up much during gaming. This is a good plus. Overall, the phone doe superlatively well in the gaming department. Full marks to Honor there.

The gaming experience is AI-enabled for total immersion. This 4D gaming experience includes not only graphics and 3D audio effects, but AI vibration customized games and matched to in-game objects and scenarios.  Honor Play is one of the smartest mid-range phones on the market, offering an exceptional performance for work or play. Casual users will get just as much fun from this device as gamers, thanks to the Kirin 970 NPU.

Honor Play Front

The presence of the NPU has enabled very deep and extremely useful AI integration right across the spectrum of usage scenarios for this phone.  The AI real-time image and audio recognition is enabled for 30 different scenario 10 different vibrations, according to the direction of approaching enemies or gunfire, and users will even feel the kickback as you pull the trigger.  AI-supported Histen 3D audio technology offers an ultra-wide 3D sound field for users. This virtual surround sound offers a cinematic experience with four modes: near, front, wide and grand. This is supported by both wire earphones and headphones with 3D stereo effect. This is a very nifty thing given that the phone is targeted at young and fast users who want to maximize their usage to the fullest.

The Honor Play is equipped with 16MP+2MP Dual rear camera backed with AI technology to convert regular photos in professional photography. The “Smart technology” can auto-identify scene types and adjust the camera settings accordingly. To give a perfect image Honor’s AI Camera technology adjusts the exposure and color accordingly, the technology recognizes 22 objects real time and 500+ scenarios in real time, and the AI motion detection makes snapshots easier with better stability. Moreover, the AI Motion Detection, EIS and the AI Image Stabilization function enables you to capture every moment as you please.

Honor Play Top

The enhanced smart gallery intelligently identifies the characters and scenes in your photos and creates a tag for each group. You can also search for photos using keywords. Photos in the smart gallery can be grouped and generated into music videos with pre-installed music, and you can even add AR gestures, make-up and backgrounds to your photos from a range of applications. The front camera detects the user’s face instantly, whether you hold your phone in landscape, portrait or at any angle.

The camera was able to deliver quality images very consistently under varied scenes and lighting conditions. Honor has been producing great cameras that do well in low light conditions and this one is no exception. There is a notable departure from the usual trend and the 2 MP secondary camera is essentially there for depth sensing. The earlier Honor phones had a mono and a color camera combo. The Honor Play does not follow that trend. The colors in the images were very well fleshed out and the AI assist to the camera stood in good stead. I do not consider myself and expert photographer and yet, with the AI assist, I was able to take pretty neat pictures. Here are a few sample pictures that I took with this phone.

Cutting-edge technology often affects the phone’s efficiency or drain its battery. However, Honor Play is the exception to the rule. The huge 3,750mAh battery allows for heavy gaming and entertainment use, and gives a usage of 1.5 days. The Ultra Power Saving Mode brought by Honor’s power saving technology allows users to enjoy a full season of their favorite TV series on just one charge. The battery was able to run a solid day on a single charge even with above average gaming and streaming. The call quality was excellent and the speakers also serve the phone well.

Honor Play Bottom

The Honor Play comes with EMUI 8.2 based on Android 8.1 to help boost and optimize processing power and reduce any disruptions due to rendering and lagging. Smart optimization and file management features prevent the degradation of Android performance over time.  Having said that, EMUI is one area where Huawei and Honor have a lot of work to do if they have to compete and eventually beat Oxygen OS that is so popular now. That apart, I have no complaints here at all when it comes to software and performance.

The Honor Play with GPU Turbo and AI technology is available at a price of INR 19,999 for 4GB RAM & 64GB ROM variant, the 6GB RAM & 64GB ROM variant available at a price of INR 23,999


This phone is equal to most flagships on the strength of it’s brilliant hardware and optimizations. The GPU Turbo gives it a big edge in the gaming department and that is something that the young users will appreciate a lot. In short, the phone is crazy fast and has tons of swag. Very compelling option with great specs at a brilliant price.

About Shakthi

I am a Tech Blogger, Disability Activist, Keynote Speaker, Startup Mentor and Digital Branding Consultant. Also a McKinsey Executive Panel Member. Also known as @v_shakthi on twitter. Been around Tech for two decades now.

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