This is the third article in a series of articles around Honor’s new budget handset the Honor Play. The device is offered in two versions here in India that helps it straddle the budget segment and the mid-range segment. What makes things more interesting is the fact that both these versions get a flagship class processor that is also found doing duty on the much more expensive Huawei P20 Pro. Let’s delve a bit deeper now, shall we?

Honor Play: The Hardware

Honor Play Hardware Specifications

As mentioned earlier, the Honor Play is sold in two versions here in India, a base 4GB RAM version and a pricier 6GB RAM version. Both these variants get 64GB of storage and the option to expand the memory further using a microSD card. Note that my review unit was the base 4GB RAM variant. Powering the Honor Play is Huawei’s powerful HiSilicon Kirin 970 chipset. This is a flagship-grade chipset that is almost on par with the Snapdragon 845 from Qualcomm. The last time we had a flagship class processor on a sub Rs.20k device was when Xiaomi launched the Mi3 in India back in 2014. The Honor Play gets a hybrid SIM slot that lets you use dual SIM cards in case you are happy with the inbuilt 64GB storage.

Gamers on a budget, rejoice!

Honor Play Antutu Benchmark Header

I ran the usual set of benchmarks on the Honor Play starting with AnTuTu in which the phone ended up with a score of 207880 points. We also ran Geekbench 4 in which the Honor Play ended up with a Single-core score of 1896 points and a Multi-Core score of 6633 points. Since the Honor Play is targeted at gamers on a budget, I also ran the Sling Shot Extreme test on 3DMark and ended up with 2948 points (OpenGL ES 3.1) and 3336 points (Vulcan). The phone ended up with a slightly lower AnTuTu score when I tested it again later.

While not an avid gamer, for the sake of this review, I installed a couple of games on the Honor Play. The first game that I installed was Asphalt 9 Legends which played flawlessly on the device. I did notice the rear panel of the phone warm up a bit during gameplay. In fact, I compared the load times for the game against the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and the Honor Play did not lag far behind. Like the Nova 3, the Honor Play also supports Huawei’s GPU Turbo feature that claims to reduce battery drain during gameplay. However, the key thing to note here is that support for GPU Turbo is also dependent on whether the game developer has enabled support for the feature. Another much talked about feature on the Honor Play was known as the AI 4D Smart Shock technology that will enable haptic feedback during gameplay. This feature, however, is yet to officially arrive for the device.

Honor Play: Software, Performance and Battery Life

Honor Play Gaming

The Honor Play like all other Huawei and Honor devices runs the company’s own custom UI called EMUI. The Honor Play runs EMUI 8.2 which is based on Android 8.1. In case you are a first-time EMUI user, it might take you a while before you find your way through the OS. The UI was generally pretty quick and I did not face any major lag or sluggishness during my time with the device. There was an occasional stutter in the app drawer at times. This, however, was an intermittent issue and did not bother me much. EMUI 8.2 is pretty feature packed when you compare it to stock Android and includes features like App Twin, App Lock, Private Space and File Safe.

Thanks to the flagship class processor and ample 4GB of RAM, the Honor Play feels fast and is genuinely quick. At no point in time did the handset feel sluggish to use. Multi-tasking was a breeze and I am sure the 6GB version would only be faster. As far as battery life is concerned, thanks to the large 3750 mAh battery, the phone will easily last a day of moderate to heavy usage. I managed to eke out more than 8 hours of screen on time during my time with the handset which I must add, is brilliant for a device with near-flagship grade specs.

In Conclusion

The 4GB version of the Honor Play is one of the best handsets that you can buy today under for under Rs.20,000. In case you are a gamer, I am pretty sure this is currently the best budget gaming smartphone. The above lines were my conclusion when I wrote this just a few days ago. However, since then Xiaomi’s Poco F1 has arrived on the scene which has radically altered the situation. Anyway, we will compare these to competitors in a separate article. In our next article on the Honor Play, we will take a detailed look at its camera.

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Having spent the better part of the last decade writing about technology, Rahul is among the most experienced tech journalists in India. His writing career began back to 2006 when he started off as a member of the Microsoft PYPC (Protect Your PC) team. At Microsoft, most of his time was spent on creating and updating Microsoft’s Knowledge Base articles. In 2008, thanks to his proclivity for consumer technology, he joined Techtree, then India’s most popular consumer tech website. In his decade-long career, Rahul has contributed to several Indian and International publications including GQ Magazine, Onlygizmos, iPhoneHacks, and The Inquisitr.