Honor Play Review: Not The Only Performance Phone On A Budget


I have been writing about technology and reviewing smartphones for over 10 years now. Over the years, I thought I had gotten used to the scary pace at which the mobile phones space evolved. However, what has transpired over the course of the past few months in the Indian smartphones space – especially the rate at which prices seem to fall has been quite astonishing – even for a (self-professed) industry veteran like me.

Honor Play (4GB)

Rs. 19,999

Design and Build Quality










Battery Life


Value for Money


What Is Good?

  • One of the best phones under Rs. 20k
  • Flagship-class performance
  • Great for gaming
  • Sturdy build quality
  • Long battery life

What Is Bad?

  • Stiff competition from the POCO F1
  • Low-light camera performance could have been better
  • Unattractive design

Things started off with ASUS making its intentions clear by undercutting Xiaomi in the affordable segment with its impressive Zenfone Max Pro (M1). This was followed by their assault on the affordable flagship segment with the brilliant pricing for the Zenfone 5Z. Not to be left behind, Huawei-owned Honor decided to jump onto the bandwagon and came up with the device we are reviewing today – the Honor Play. Xiaomi, however, had the last laugh after they announced a new phone (and along with it, a new sub-brand), the Poco F1 that I have started reviewing already. Anyway, let us now talk about the Honor Play in detail. I will start off by listing out the stuff you will get inside the retail box of the device.

Honor Play Review: In the Box

  1. Honor Play
  2. Transparent Rubber Case
  3. SIM Ejector Tool
  4. Huawei Fast Charger
  5. USB Type-C Cable
  6. Quick Start Guide/Documentation

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Honor Play Review: Design and Build

Honor Play Hands On

The Honor Play unit that we received for review was the standard black variant that honestly did not look very striking. In this colour, the handset looked very similar to older Honor devices like the Honor 7X and the Honor 9i. That being said, as far as dimensions and looks go, the Honor Play closely resembles the Nova 3i – minus the dazzling colour options. Anyway, I have talked in detail about the design and build quality aspects of the Nova 3 in another article. Please click the link below to read the same.

Honor Play Review: Display

Honor Play

The Honor Play, like most mid-range and high-end handsets that are on sale today, features a prominent notch at the top. The display used by the handset is identical to the one we saw on the Nova 3 and measured 6.3-inches across and has a resolution of 1080 x 2340 pixels in the 19.5:9 aspect ratio. As you might have already guessed, this happens to be an IPS LCD panel with good viewing angles and near accurate colours. In case you want to read in detail about the display, I have talked about the same in detail in a separate article. You can click the link below to read that article.

Honor Play Review: Software, Performance and Battery Life

Honor Play Gaming

The Honor Play is powered by Huawei’s flagship grade Kirin 970 chip that is also found doing duty on devices like the P20 Pro and the Nova 3. The phone is offered in two versions – a base 4GB RAM +64GB version that we had with us, and a pricier 6GB RAM + 64GB version. As for the software, like all Huawei and Honor devices, the phone runs EMUI 8.2 which is based on Android 8.1. Since I have been using Honor devices for a long time now, I am used to the UI and I am pretty sure you will get used to it as well in a couple of days.

During my time with the device, I did not notice any major issues with the performance aspects of the device. Thanks to the flagship grade chip, the gaming-centric Honor Play is more than capable of handling any game you throw at it. In fact, we also did a speed test of the Honor Play against the Mi A2 and the Honor Play fared pretty well. The phone also boasts of a much talked about GPU turbo mode that claims to improve gaming performance without adversely affecting battery life.

I have written in detail about these and other aspects of the device in a separate article that you can read by clicking the link below.

Honor Play Review: Camera and Imaging

While not targeted as a camera-centric, the Honor Play does tote surprisingly good cameras. The primary camera setup of the phone includes a 16-megapixel shooter mated to a 2-megapixel depth sensor. At the front, there is a 16-megapixel fixed focus shooter capable of decent selfies – albeit under good lighting conditions. The Honor Play also features several AI modes for the camera. These modes detect the ambient lighting and other conditions and fine-tune the image to suit that environment.

As far as video capabilities are concerned, the Honor Play is capable of recording 4K videos at 30fps in the highest settings. 1080p 60fps videos are also supported. The front camera, however, is restricted to videos in 720p resolution which I feel is a major drawback. Also, the slow-motion capabilities on the phone lags behind when you look at what the competition has on offer.

Read more about the imaging capabilities of the Honor Play in our detailed separate article. Click the link below.

Honor Play Review: Should You Buy It?

There is no doubt that the Honor Play is currently among the best smartphones you could buy in the Rs. 15,000 – Rs. 20,000 segment. Most users should choose the 4GB version of the device which in my opinion is capable of handling most things you throw at it.

The phone offers flagship performance at an unbelievable price and has a well-rounded feature-set that ticks almost all the right boxes. The performance is zippy, the camera is good – except for underwhelming low-light performance. Save for the underwhelming camera, there is hardly anything that I can think of that goes against the Honor Play. In fact, this would have been my recommendation in case you had a Rs. 15-16k budget for a smartphone and could increase it slightly.

However, there is a new contender in town that threatens even the highly capable Honor Play. This device is the Poco F1 from Xiaomi that offers better hardware for a slightly higher price tag for its base version. It is up to you, however, to decide if you are willing to pay the marginal Rs. 1,000 premium for this increase in performance. I would say your extra Rs. 1,000 will be totally worth it.

Honor Play Video Review