After being officially released in Asia and recently on display at GamesCom, the Honor Play was finally officially unveiled at the IFA 2018 in Berlin. With this new device, the Chinese manufacturer is targeting a gamer audience. The device relies on a large screen, 3D surround sound and a GPU-Turbo system. This gamer smartphone has a lot to offer, and not just for gamers. You can read all about our first impressions in this hands-on!
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An affordable gaming smartphone
With its first gamer smartphone, Honor is staying true to its aggressive pricing rule: the Play will be marketed at 329 euros in Europe and 279 pounds in the UK (around 365 dollars) and will land in shops starting today. You can choose between several colors: midnight black, navy blue and ultra violet.. Honor also offers the special “Play Edition Black” and “Play Edition Red” variants with a new pattern on the back.
With this new smartphone, Honor is trying to attract a new audience. The brand wants to lure in the generation of gamers with a product that meets their expectations. Some changes have been made in comparison to other smartphones in the Honor range, both in terms of hardware and software.
The Honor Play has a large display format , similar to the Honor 7X and the View 10. From an aesthetic point of view, the device is made of metal with rounded edges that are quite stylish, but aren’t especially original. Only the versions with patterns on the back really stand out.
The smartphone can seem quite imposing, and you’ll need two hands to operate it most of the time. You can, however, hold it well in your hand. Despite its large screen, the frame is thin and the glass on the edges is slightly curved and aligned with the aluminum body. This means that the ergonomics of the device are perfect for gaming. There’s also a mini-jack port at the bottom along with a second speaker. If you don’t want to use the microSD card slot, be aware that you can insert a second Nano SIM Card.
From our quick look at the device, it seems to exude quality (the finishing is perfect for this price point). The rear in polished aluminum is classy and houses the fingerprint reader. The camera lens unfortunately wasn't implemented especially gracefully.
Comes with the notch and Android Oreo
A big display is ideal for gaming and Honor is well aware of it. The result is a 6.3-inch LTPS with full HD+ resolution (1080 x 2340 pixels), a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and a notch. The notch is quite crucial and isn’t particularly discreet and leaves little room for icons on the screen. The notch houses the loudspeaker, the front camera and the light sensor.
The Honor Play screen can accurately reproduce colors and provides balance contrast. It doesn’t have an AMOLED screen, but the luminosity seemed pretty good to me. The screen was easily readable indoors. I didn’t get the chance to test the screen outdoors.
Unsurprisingly, there’s no trace of Android Pie, the latest Android update. Instead, it comes with Android 8.1.0 Oreo with the manufacturer’s EMUI 8.2.0 skin. Honor didn’t specify when the smartphone will receive the update, so you’ll have to wait a few months for the update. The interface doesn’t come with any big surprises that we haven’t seen before on the Honor range. When I was getting started, I found the smartphone very responsive and fun to use.
Big promises for gamers
A smartphone for gamers means a powerful smartphone. Under the hood, the Honor Play comes with the Kirin 970 processor (presented at last year’s IFA) and 4GB of RAM. Honor also promises a 4D gaming experience with artificial intelligence. The smartphone features a “Game on” mode that delivers nearly full frame rate videos and a better user experience for demanding games.
The system performance is optimized for games with the GPU-Turbo system, but the everyday performance should also be improved and reduce power consumption.
Of course, it’s also important to have quality sound and Honor Play offers 3D surround sound. This will provide a cinematic experience from several directions, allowing gamers to play more accurately. On PUBG MOBILE, the AI 4D Smart Shock feature is also activated for 30 different vibration scenarios, and will react in different ways depending on the direction of an approaching enemy or fire. You’ll also feel a recoil when you fire. During the presentation, I couldn’t concretely verify all the details, but we’ll be eager to test this out for our final review.
Three cameras and a big battery
Of course, although the device is primarily for games, the Honor Play still has a 16 megapixel selfie camera and a dual camera with 16 and 2 megapixel lenses. The battery has a capacity of 3750 mAh (without wireless charging). Honor promises at least 4.5 hours of gaming time without recharging and a day and a half with intensive use. We’ll check this out once the device arrives in our editorial office.
Early verdict: adapted for gamers
Honor is returning to its first love with the Play. The brand is directly addressing a young and playful target audience. The manufacturer has developed an attractive device for games that is affordable and solid in terms of technical characteristics. The smartphone is also equipped with some special features, including its GPU and sound. At first glance, it seems like a success, but we’ll have to wait and see whether Honor keeps all of its promises in our final test.