Honor 70 review: featherweight and fine-looking
A slender midrange camera champ
For those on the hunt for for a slim, sleek smartphone, the Honor 70 is a standout new entry. It’ll set you back £480, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a top-end option at first glance. Curved glass and a lithe profile make it feel seriously special, and the AMOLED screen looks striking.
The follow-up to last year’s Honor 50 (a good phone with a mediocre camera), Honor has upped the photo and video ante this time around with a new 54MP Sony camera sensor. It’s paired with a 50MP ultra-wide camera which doubles up as a high-res macro camera for some added versatility.
Glance at the Honor 70’s specs, though, and you may notice some missing features. There’s no wireless charging, which can be had on the cheaper Nothing Phone (1). Water resistance is also AWOL, which the Pixel 6a packs, and there’s no OIS on its shiny new main camera – something you’ll find on the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G. More noteworthy, those three phones cost £399 – £80 less than the Honor’s starting price.
Does the Honor 70 have anything other than good looks going for it, or is it a classic case of all style and no substance?
Design and build: poised
The Honor 70 makes a great first impression with its lightweight, slimline, and rich-looking design. It’s thin, with a 7.91mm profile, but thanks to the curved front and rear glass, the sides of the phone taper to make it feel even sleeker. The two camera rings around the back are also tastefully placed.
The frame might look like metal, but it’s actually plastic. That helps it undercut most rivals on the scales, at 178g despite its big screen. Coming from an iPhone 13 Pro Max, which clocks in at 240g, Honor’s entry feels like a skinny waif. It also looks more premium than most other options under £500.
Our Emerald Green review unit diffuses light beautifully. You can also pick the phone up in a Crystal Silver option, which is semi-frosted with a diamond pattern around the back, or a shiny Midnight Black. We’d go for either the green or silver, as they’re better at fending off fingerprints. That said, all three ship with a case in the box to keep your Honor 70 sans smudges.
As for ports and buttons, Honor keeps it simple with a mono speaker at the base, as well as a USB-C port and a SIM card slot, and all the buttons on the right side. There’s no IP rating though, so you’ll want to keep them well clear of water.
Screen: colourful curves
The Honor 70’s screen looks top-tier on first impression, with its curves, 6.7in size, HDR10 credentials and that smooth 120Hz dynamic refresh rate. Some rivals like the Oppo Reno 8 Pro have high-refresh-rate tech, but don’t dynamically switch between 60 and 120Hz to save power. It’s good to see Honor include the feature on its fancy midranger.
That AMOLED panel pops nicely, and it gets bright, capping out at roughly 900 nits in direct sunlight with auto brightness active, or 400 nits when manual brightness is fired up. This isn’t class-leading, but should still deliver a good enough viewing experience in all but the sunniest situations. Meanwhile, when viewing indoors, colours pop, there’s pleasing depth and contrast, and Honor also makes the screen experience customisable in the settings.
A Full HD resolution means the Honor 70 isn’t as sharp as some flagship phones, but it sits pretty with its midrange competition. The 2400×1080 resolution results in a pixel density of 395 pixel-per-inch.
Along with the design and screen, the Honor 70’s cameras are a high point. The main snapper is powered by a brand new Sony IMX800 sensor. This is the first time we’ve seen it in any phone, and it’s well specced compared to similarly-priced rivals with a 1/1.49in size and 54MP resolution. That said, there’s no optical image stabilisation, which could hurt the phone’s lowlight performance.
The ultra-wide camera is also high resolution, pairing a 50MP sensor with an autofocusing f/2.2 lens that includes macro functionality. Finally, there’s a 2MP depth camera, which helps with portrait photos and video.
The Honor 70 is also the first midrange phone to benefit from HONOR Image Engine, the firm’s proprietary computational photography software that helped make the Honor Magic 4 Pro so good.
All this camera tech adds up to good-looking photos in most conditions. The Honor 70’s pictures pack a fine amount of detail and natural contrast, with decent dynamic range and colour accuracy. One of the better camera phone systems available for the price, we like the fact the ultra-wide doesn’t drop the ball, with its snaps not faring much worse than the main camera. Pinch into pictures and they don’t look too over-processed, giving you wiggle room for edits.
With no telephoto camera, though, zooming more than two or three times isn’t realistic if you want to cling onto quality. Nighttime photos also miss out on a bit of detail, especially when photographing moving subjects. Noise handling is still impressive, and stationary subjects captured at night look great.
The Honor 70 is also a decent video camera. It records at up to 4K resolution (at 30fps), and footage looks steady and clean. The new Solo Cut mode is also fun for Instagram and TikTok users, capturing a tall portrait video and a wide landscape video simultaneously. It’s able to track a subject, keeping them in frame for the tall video. Neat.
Fans of selfies also get a healthy 32MP resolution front camera to play with, with portrait snaps look balanced and detailed (once you turn off beauty mode).
Performance & software: satisfactory
With a Snapdragon 778G Plus inside, the Honor 70 has the same 5G, 6nm chip seen in the Nothing Phone (1). Given that the 778G Plus didn’t pose any performance problems in past testing, things are respectable when it comes to gaming and day-to-day speed.
You can pick up mightier gaming phones like the Blackshark 5 for around the same price, not to mention the Poco F4, with its slightly more powerful Snapdragon 870. For gaming, we’d recommend another phone that prioritises grunt, but for casual smartphone users the Honor 70 shouldn’t throw up any slowdown.
You can also pick up the phone in two variants: 8GB RAM and 128GB storage (£480) or 8GB RAM and 256GB storage (£530). It misses out on an SD card slot, so if you’re an app or file hoarder, or like shooting large 4K videos, the higher-capacity option might make more sense.
Our least favourite thing about the Honor 70 is its interface. Magic UI 6 runs on top of Android 12 but is loaded up with bloatware out of the gate – both Honor apps and third-party ones. It also looks and feels like a dated Huawei phone, being virtually identical to Huawei’s EMUI. While we love the fact Honor gives us access to the Google Play Store out of the box, unlike Huawei, we’re looking forward to the brand carving out its own UI-identity in Magic UI 7 – teased at IFA 2022. On the plus, the interface is stable and smooth, so it doesn’t deliver a bad experience by any means – it could just be better.
Battery life: Qi-free but day-long
Despite the fact most phones these days have large 5000mAh batteries, the Honor 70’s slightly smaller 4800mAh cell doesn’t hold it back. Yes, the phone has a large, power-hungry screen, but the dynamic refresh rate and relatively modest processor means it can still make it through a comfortable day.
Thanks to 66W fast wired charging (and a fast charger shipping with the phone), the Honor 70 charges to around 50% in 20 minutes, and you can get a full charge in under an hour. There’s no wireless charging here, which is a bit of a letdown given it’s appearing in more midrange phones. That said, given how thin the Honor 70 is, a wireless charging module could have compromised one of its key selling points – that sleek, slender profile.
Honor 70 verdict
The Honor 70 unapologetically prioritises slim, lightweight styling, screen quality and camera performance above all else. It’s a very good smartphone in those areas, and we’d go so far as to say it’s best-in-class for anyone after a slender, rich-looking phone to watch content on at under £500. That the phone’s battery and performance impress only add to its appeal, and with a good camera in most situations, it definitely covers the basics.
When you look to the nice-to-haves (features like wireless charging, water resistance, stereo speakers and optical image stabilisation) that’s where the Honor 70’s compromises are. Still, most people can live without any of those. Plus, no phone at the price packs all of them, and any alternatives that feature one or two aren’t as sleek as the Honor 70.
All this means Honor’s made one of the best midrange smartphones out now, despite its shortcomings.
Despite missing out on some flagship flourishes, anyone looking for a slender, sleek, big-screened smartphone with a powerful camera, the Honor 70 should fit the bill.
A quality display
No stereo speakers
No IP rating
Honor 70 tech specs
|Screen||6.7in, 2400×1080 OLED w/ 120Hz refresh rate|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G Plus|
|Cameras||54MP + 50MP + 2MP rear|
|Operating system||Android 12 w/ Magic UI|