The brand new Honor View 20 is a mid-tier smartphone that promises top-tier gaming performance, due to the fact that it shares the same chipset (Kirin 980) as flagship phones. As a consumer, it's easy to accept this type of marketing logic ("fast chip = fast phone"), especially when other manufacturers like OnePlus and Xiaomi have repeated it so often. But real-world testing shows that it's not always so simple: thermals, drivers, APIs, game engines and various software optimisations can be at least as important as the chipset when it comes to gaming, so real game benchmarks are essential. Read on to see what they reveal about the Honor View 20...
Games and Devices
Honor, along with its parent company Huawei, is a GameBench client that uses our tool for internal game testing -- as do many other smartphone manufacturers. Honor's marketing department loaned us a pre-release handset with enough time to thoroughly test three popular, eSports-grade titles: Arena of Valor (known in China as Honor of Kings) from Tencent and Timi Studio; PUBG Mobile, from Tencent and Bluehole; plus Modern Combat 5 from Gameloft. Each of these games boasts over 100 million downloads, so they're a good start -- but we'll get benchmarks for further games as soon as we're able to purchase a regular UK market device.
To find out whether the View 20 can truly claim flagship performance, we're including two expensive devices on the market in our benchmarks: the iPhone Xs Max and Samsung Galaxy Note9. These phones aren't primarily marketed as gaming phones -- the stylus-equipped Note9 is arguably pitched as a productivity device. However, it's reasonable to expect phones that launch at the $1,000+ price point to be good at everything, including games.
Full Verified Results
Please note that this article is a top-level summary of our ratings. If you'd like to receive the full verified results, including our frame rate variability metrics and updates on new results as they come in, please register below and we'll send these to you by email.
We chose to benchmark PUBG not only because it's so popular, but also because it's an extremely competitive PvP game in which even the shortest frame rate glitch can create a disadvantage during gun battles. We ran our tests at the lowest graphical quality setting ("Smooth") because this allowed us to unlock the highest frame rate setting ("Extreme"), which in turn delivers the most smooth and responsive experience -- so long as the device you're using can handle it.
To make the game less of a burden, PUBG's developers force resolution to downscale by one third on all our test devices and then offer anti-aliasing to hide the pixelation. The iPhone Xs Max is left with a slight resolution advantage (which we estimate at 828p instead of 720p) due to its natively higher-res display, but all the image processing makes these extra pixels barely noticeable -- the game looks good but a bit soft on all three phones.
The Honor View 20 may not have had the highest resolution, but it did have the highest frame rates: averaging 60fps and never dropping below 55fps even during a 30-minute battle. The other two phones showed more severe and more noticeable drops below our threshold of 54fps (i.e. more than 10 percent of frames missed in one second), causing them to just miss out on an Ultra badge:
Arena of Valor
No PvP benchmark analysis would be complete without Arena of Valor, which is the Western representative of one of the biggest mobile games (Honor of Kings) and one of the biggest mobile game genres (the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, or MOBA).
Arena of Valor is not computationally heavy when left on default settings. But venturing into the options menu allows you to unlock both 60fps and high-definition graphics, which boosts the experience and the workload considerably. When tested at these settings, both the Honor View 20 and the iPhone Xs Max were able to play the game at 1080p with Ultra smoothness -- and the View 20 had a slight lead. The Galaxy Note9 also showed brilliant frame rates, but for some reason it down-scaled the game to 720p -- a noticeable drop in image quality compared to the others, especially without good anti-aliasing to make up for it, and this ruled out an Ultra rating.
Modern Combat 5
When playing PvP at maximum graphics settings, Modern Combat 5 is so immersive and console-like that it's possible to forget that you're using a smartphone. Call of Duty-style first-person shooters like this really benefit from 60fps, and the experience on the View 20 easily deserved our Ultra badge: the device never dropped below 58fps and came out at the top of our chart. The iPhone Xs Max also got Ultra, with only a few drops down to 54fps. By contrast, the Note9 was unable to maintain 60fps -- despite the fact that it was the only phone to slightly down-scale resolution.
A full analysis of power consumption is beyond our scope for now. However, we did keep an eye on power during our tests, using OS-reported battery depletion as well as Android FuelGauge readings. This showed that expected gameplay time for the Honor View 20 was similar to that of the iPhone Xs Max and never below four hours -- the minimum threshold below which we'd do further investigation and, if corroborated, rule out an Ultra badge.
There's a limit to how much we can extrapolate from three sets of game benchmarks, especially when we're testing a pre-release phone which not behave in exactly the same way as the retail version. However, these initial results suggest that the View 20's claim to flagship gaming performance is more than just marketing; so far, the numbers back it up. Like the Huawei Mate 20 X, which also contains the Kirin 980 chipset, the View 20 is able to keep up with, and even slightly exceed, pricier phones like the iPhone Xs Max and Galaxy Note9.
What's more, the games we've tested here are so massively popular that even if the View 20 has been optimised for these and no others (which remains a possibility, given that Honor and Huawei take a game-by-game approach to optimisation), this will likely still mean something to millions of gamers who love MOBAs and shooters.
Now that the Mate 20 X is officially available in the UK, and the View 20 should get here soon, our next step will be to test a wider range of eSports games across a wider range of devices, including Snapdragon 845-based phones like the OnePlus 6T and Xiaomi Pocophone F1. If you're interested in hearing about our results as soon as they're ready, please register your interest using the form at the top of this article.