Entertainment One of the best Android phones of the year, and surprisingly cheap: our Honor 70 review
One of the best Android phones of the year, and surprisingly cheap: our Honor 70 review
We should begin this Honor 70 review with one very simple fact: it was hard to populate its ‘cons’ list. TechRadar’s house style dictates that we need to provide three and it was a challenge to even come up with one.
That’s not to say that the Honor 70 is perfect, but it does all you expect and more for the price. Could it have a telephoto lens, wireless charging, or even a higher-res display? Sure, but at the price, none of those are things you’d really expect.
So, the Honor 70 is a competitive mid-range phone, in fact, it feels a lot more like a flagship phone than most other handsets we see at this price. And that premiumness – whether deserved or otherwise – can’t help but endear you to the device.
The phone has an eye-catching design, with a back that boasts both a reflective diamond pattern and a sparkly effect. Some, particularly those who like their nondescript black phones, might find this a little gauche, but the sheer number of compliments it received while we were testing is hard to ignore.
It also has a curved-edge display, something you rarely see in non-premium phones. That gives the phone both another premium element and also makes it comfortable to hold in the hand.
The screen is just as attractive as the design of the phone – it’s bright and bold, and you’ll be happy watching TV shows or playing games on it.
We also want to highlight the device’s impressive battery life. If anything, this is the trait that flags the Honor 70 as a mid-range phone instead of a premium one, as we’re so used to seeing pricey phones with disappointing battery lives. The fact that the Honor 70 waltzes through a day of use signposts it as a mid-ranger, but we’re happy with that distinction.
We do need to point out one thing that some could consider an elephant in the room, though we don’t. On paper, the Honor 70 doesn’t seem too different from its predecessor, the Honor 50. (What happened to the 60? No idea.)
The new phone’s chipset is only the ‘Plus’ version of the older one’s, while the 70’s main camera is lower-res than the 50’s, and the charging speed, screen resolution and front camera are the same on both.
However, the specs list doesn’t actually do justice to the user experience, and the Honor 70 feels like a step up in all departments. The cameras are noticeably better, and the phone feels faster than its older relative.
Despite the fact that the new phone costs more and has a specs list that seems similar to the Honor 50, trust us, the Honor 70 is a worthy step up, and it makes the phone a lot more tempting compared to the stagnant-feeling mid-range market in 2022. The rough edges of the 50 have been sanded down, resulting in one of the best Android phones this year.
Honor 70 price and release date
The Honor 70 costs £479 in the UK, which is a slight increase from the £449 starting price of the Honor 50. That’s for 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, though the predecessor had 6GB RAM, so the price increase may be justified.
That starting price converts to $570 or AU$810, but Honor hasn’t confirmed if the phone will be sold in those regions. In the case of the US, it seems unlikely, as Honor doesn’t sell its gadgets there.
There’s also a version for £529, which gets you 256GB storage instead of 128GB, and that’s the exact same price as the Honor 50’s 256GB storage option.
The phone was formally launched at the annual tech show IFA 2022 in early September, though it was announced in China earlier in the year, and was actually put on sale in late August just days before Honor’s IFA show.
Honor 70 design
The Honor 70 feels like a premium phone, both to look at and to hold, which is a breath of fresh air in a year when most expensive phones don’t even feel very premium.
The back is the most eye-catching aspect, and while we imagine it’ll prove divisive, everyone who saw the phone during our testing period remarked on its appearance. The back has a reflective diamond appearance and a glittery finish that sparkles – both elements reflect the light in different ways, making for a phone that’s clearly designed to attract attention.
This design doesn’t show up well in photographs, but take our word for it, it’s impressive, and something you should really see in person if you can. Well, that’s the case for the silver version of the phone that we tested, but we can’t comment on the appearance of the black or green versions, since we haven’t seen those in person yet.
The back of the phone is broken up by the camera bumps, two circular knolls that protrude quite a bit from the back of the device. This means the handset doesn’t quite sit flat on surfaces without there being a little wobble when you tap on the device.
Another aspect of the phone that we’re fans of but that may prove divisive is the curved-edge screen. This design feature, which used to be all the rage in top-end smartphones but that’s losing popularity, makes the handset feel comfortable to hold in the hand. However, it also means a drop is more likely to shatter the thing, and some curved-edge screens are also prone to accidental touches.
For what it’s worth, not once did we have an accidental touch incident with the Honor 70 – the phone felt comfortable to hold, nestling nicely in the palm. The fact that it weighs only 178g helps here too.
The handset has a USB-C port, as well as a power button and volume rocker on the right edge, both of which are easy to reach one-handed. There’s no 3.5mm headphone jack, which may put off certain customers, and the fingerprint scanner is embedded in the display. This worked perfectly in our testing, being easy to reach and reliably unlocking the phone when we tapped it.
Honor 70 display
The Honor 70 has a slightly bigger display than its predecessor – a 6.67-inch panel over the 6.57-inch one we saw last year.
As we’ve said, it’s a curved-edge screen, broken up by a ‘punch-hole’ cut-out for the front camera at the center-top of the screen. The bezels around it are very slim.
The screen has a resolution of 1080 x 2400, or FHD+, which is the same as the vast majority of smartphones on the market right now. The refresh rate is 120Hz, meaning the image is updated 120 times per second, another thing that’s become the standard on most devices.
For what it’s worth, the screen is attractive, as it gets nice and bright, with good contrast and rich colors. Whether you like playing games, streaming videos, or just browsing Instagram, you’ll find the device provides a pleasant viewing experience.
Honor 70 cameras
A surprising selling point for this mid-range phone is that it marks the debut of a new camera sensor made by Sony, the IMX800. This is a 54MP sensor that the Honor 70 uses in its main camera.
The perk of this sensor is that it’s quite large, letting more light in for photos, which results in snaps that are brighter and more colorful. Honor’s AI processing doesn’t hurt to this end either.
Photos taken on the Honor 70, then, are good-looking – it’s a surprisingly noticeable upgrade on the 108MP snapper that the Honor 50 used. The snaps are vibrant, bold and bright, especially in well-lit conditions, but surprisingly so in dark ones too.
At times, the AI engine seems to be working a little too hard to saturate images, as you’ll probably be able to see in the camera samples below. But this wasn’t always noticeable – and anyway, that kind of snap is exactly what Instagram demands.
Joining this main camera is a 50MP f/2.2 ultra-wide one, which doubles as a macro camera – yes, Honor made the wise decision of dropping the 2MP auxiliary one that it used last year.
This camera doesn’t quite compare to the main one, with pictures looking noticeably dimmer and less colorful. Snaps aren’t terrible but we’d advise on using the main camera when you can, because pictures taken on that look fantastic.
There’s a third camera, but it’s a 2MP depth sensor that doesn’t seem to add much. Honor managed to drop one of these appendages from its last phone but unfortunately didn’t think to lose the other.
Due to the lack of a telephoto lens, there’s no optical zoom here, which is both a shame and a sign of the price tag. You can optically zoom up to 10x, but pictures taken at this range are rather grainy.
Honor offers quite a few extra camera modes to give you some versatility. There’s Portrait, Macro, Pro and Night, which most phones get, as well as Aperture, which lets you manually tweak the focus.
On the front of the camera you’ve got a 32MP main camera, which is seemingly unchanged from last year’s phone. Pictures on this largely look good, as they’re sharp and the AI optimization plays its part to balance colors, but we did find one small issue – background light blew out images way more than normal. This is something you can easily tweak by simply tapping on the light, which tells the phone to balance the image a bit, but doing this for most photos is a hassle.
In terms of video, the handset records at up to 4K on the rear camera and 1080p on the front one – again there are quite a few modes for this, like Multi-Video, which records on multiple cameras at once, and the new Solo Cut.
Solo Cut is designed for Vloggers, as it lets you focus on one person in a group, with the phone automatically tracking just that person. Honestly, we can think of very few use cases where this would be even remotely useful, but, hey, it’s here.
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Honor 70 performance and specs
The processor powering the Honor 70 is the Snapdragon 788G Plus – that’s a slightly improved version of the model used on the Honor 50, and it’s a chipset we’ve seen in a fair few mid-range phones.
As mid-range chipsets go, though, it’s one of the most powerful processors you can get without splurging on a phone with a top-end one. We never had any issue with 700-series ones, and that’s the case here.
We found the phone snappy for navigating, and there weren’t any app crashes or stutters. When playing intensive games, the phone performed well, with no noticeable lag or glitching. Why pay loads for a top-end phone when devices like this work flawlessly?
The phone is paired with 8GB RAM, and either 128GB or 256GB storage, though we imagine most users can probably stick with the former variant.
It’s a 5G phone, so you can connect to these networks if you live in an area that supports them (and have such a contract).
Honor 70 software
Unlike those of its ex-parent-company Huawei, Honor’s phones come with Google apps. For a while, Honor’s phones were included in the ban, but now you can access the Play Store, Maps, Gmail and more.
The phone runs Android 12, with Honor’s MagicUI laid over the top – this is largely a graphical change, with a bright (though arguably babyish) appearance, though there are some design tweaks too.
Given how competitive some companies are to bring improvements and unique features to their Android forks, Honor’s software feels a little restrictive in comparison. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, but MagicUI doesn’t have as many stand-out features as Xiaomi’s MIUI or Samsung’s One UI.
Still, if you’ve used an Android phone in the past, there really won’t be any surprises here.
Honor 70 battery life
Honor has brought a big battery capacity upgrade to this phone – one that’s more than proportional with the upgrade in screen size, processor, or any other feature that might be demanding for battery charge.
The power pack is now 4,800mAh big, which is pretty large given the size of the phone, and it shows – the device will confidently last a day of use, in all but the most demanding use cases.
Our normal daily use is arguably a little more demanding than most people’s, given that we’re meant to be testing out these phones, and the handset always made it from morning to bedtime – though sometimes it didn’t have much charge left at the end, so this isn’t a two-day phone.
The charging speed is 66W, which is nice and quick without being so fast that battery health could be jeopardized. Expect charging to take about 40 minutes, as long as you’re using a compatible charger (like the in-box one).
There’s no wireless charging, but what did you expect for the price?
Honor 70 score card
|Design||While the patterened rear could be divisive, the Honor 70 is light and feels great in the hand.||4/5|
|Display||The Honor 70’s display specs are what you’d expect for the price, and images look good.||4/5|
|Performance||The Honor’s chip is good enough to cover intensive use cases, including gaming and video recording.||4/5|
|Camera||The main camera performs well, though it’s a shame that there’s no zoom lens here.||4/5|
|Battery||The Honor has a big battery and super-fast charging.||4/5|
|Software||Honor’s software isn’t the most unique Android skin we’ve seen, but it’s fine.||3.5/5|
|Value||The Honor 70 is priced lower than you’d expect given how premium the user experience is.||4.5/5|
Should I buy the Honor 70?
Buy it if…
Don’t buy it if…
- First reviewed August 2022