The Honor Play ₹ 19,999 has been launched in India by Huawei sub-brand Honor. It offers specifications such as a HiSilicon Kirin 970 SoC and a dual camera setup at a price of Rs. 19,999 for the 4GB RAM variant and Rs. 23,999 for the 6GB RAM configuration. The Honor Play is also the first smartphone in India to feature GPU Turbo, a technology that Huawei is touting to be the next big revolution in mobile gaming.
With a metal unibody, vertically aligned dual rear cameras, a 19.5:9 display, and Huawei’s current flagship SoC, the Honor Play looks promising on paper. Sporting a competitive starting price tag, the smartphone has been positioned as a mid-range flagship that takes on the likes of the Nokia 7 Plus (Review), Vivo V9 ₹ 16,624 (Review), Oppo F7 ₹ 18,500 (Review), as well as the Xiaomi Mi A2 ₹ 15,250 (Review). Is the Honor Play worth your money? Read on to find out.
Honor Play design
One of the biggest highlights of the Honor Play is its metal unibody, which is reminiscent of last year’s Honor View 10 ₹ 29,999 (Review). It is a departure from Huawei and Honor’s recent fascination with glass backs, which we have seen a lot of with recent premium offerings including the Honor 10 (Review), Huawei P20 Lite ₹ 14,999 (Review), and Huawei P20 Pro ₹ 117,119 (Review). While offering a classy and elegant look, glass cannot compete with metal in terms of durability and sturdiness. The Honor Play feels significantly less slippery than, say, the Honor 10, but definitely doesn’t look as premium. The tall display and thin body also make the phone feel a bit too large to hold comfortably in smaller hands.
The Honor Play borrows most of its design language from the Honor 10, with minimal borders to the sides of the screen. The notch on top is much bigger this time. The chin on the bottom is smaller, but still has an Honor logo. The Honor Play is not exactly comfortable to hold, although it is compact for a smartphone with a 6.3-inch display. In fact, this big screen fits into the form factor of a 5.5-inch phone such as the iPhone 7 Plus.
This smartphone is available in Navy Blue and Midnight Black in India. We reviewed the former, though we found both the colour options to be understated. They do not appear flashy, and some might consider them relatively dull. This is an attempt by the Huawei-owned brand to offer its customers a variety of design options to choose from.
Thanks to the minimal bezel and edge-to-edge design, the fingerprint sensor is on the back of the phone. The tall form factor, once again, makes the fingerprint sensor hard to reach. Users will have to hold the phone a certain way in order to naturally reach it.
The volume buttons and the power key are located on the right of the device; we would have appreciated a bit more travel or depth in the buttons. On the left is a hybrid dual-SIM tray that can accommodate two Nano-SIMs or one Nano-SIM and a microSD card to expand the phone’s 64GB of inbuilt storage by up to 256GB.
There is a USB Type-C port on the bottom, alongside a 3.5mm headphone jack, the primary microphone, and a disappointing loudspeaker. We tested the speaker with audio files, YouTube videos and games, and found the sound to be shrill and distorted at maximum volume. The phone has a thickness of about 7.5mm and weighs 176g.
Build quality is average and the Honor Play picked up a couple of nicks when it was accidentally dropped during our testing period.
Honor Play specifications and display
The Honor Play is powered by the company’s own flagship HiSilicon Kirin 970 processor, which has previously been used in several models including the Honor 10, Honor View 10, and Huawei P20 Pro. A refresh – called the Kirin 980 – is expected as soon as IFA 2018. As detailed previously, the Kirin 970 has a custom NPU (Neural Processing Unit) for AI processing, which is said to improve camera performance, battery life, and app optimisation. Huawei has claimed that AI computations happen locally on the device, without sending any data to the cloud.
An exciting new feature of this processor is GPU Turbo, a mobile gaming-focused optimisation that claims to offer 60 percent better performance and 30 percent better battery life during gaming sessions on the smartphone. More on this in the performance section of our review.
There are two variants of the phone, with 4GB and 6GB of LPDDR4X RAM, of which we tested the latter. It also has a non-removable 3,750mAh battery and 64GB of onboard UFS 2.1 storage. In terms of connectivity, the Honor Play features 4G VoLTE, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth v4.2 LE, GPS/ A-GPS, GLONASS, a USB Type-C port, and a 3.5mm audio jack. Sensors include an accelerometer, an ambient light sensor, an electronic compass, a gyroscope, and a proximity sensor. This phone supports dual SIMs (Nano) and both can latch onto 4G networks simultaneously.