Honor View 10 Mini-Review: Taking AI to a New Level
In 2017, Honor shipped impressively high-end smartphones at bargain prices. The Honor 9, Honor 8 Pro, and Honor 7x solidified its reputation as one of the best value brands around, and the newest Honor flagship is in keeping with that tradition. To kick off 2018, Honor took the wraps off the Honor View 10, an ambitious phone that combines the best elements of previous Honor devices with killer new software features, a dedicated neural network processing unit (NPU), and a camera that’s largely unmatched in the View 10’s price bracket.
|Device Name:||Honor View 10||Release Date/Price||TBD|
|Android Version||Android 8.0 Oreo, EMUI 8||Display||5.99 inch 1080 x 2160 LCD (~403 ppi)|
|Chipset||HiSilicon Kirin 970 Octa-core 4×2.4GHz A73 + 4×1.8GHz A53, MaliG72 MP12||Battery||3,750mAh|
|RAM||6GB LPDDR4||Sensors||Fingerprint (front), Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Proximity, Ambient Light, Electronic Compass|
|Storage||128GB (expandable via microSD)||Connectivity||USB 2.0 Type C, Dual nano-SIM slot, 3.5mm audio jack|
|Dimensions||15.7 x 7.5 x 0.7cm||Rear Camera||16MP + 20MP Dual Setup, PDAF, f/1.8|
|Weight||172g||Front Camera||13MP f/2.0|
“The Huawei Kirin 970 chipset brings you a faster, stronger, and seamless smartphone experience. Its built-in NPU (neural-network processing unit) enables deep learning based on user behavior, ensuring your honor View 10 truly understands you.”
Kirin 970 NPU
The Honor View 10 features the Kirin 970’s NPU, which drives the phone’s machine learning-powered features and applications. Honor’s positioned it as a selling point, and it doesn’t take long to see why — you’ll quickly find that the NPU appreciably improves the user experience.
The Kirin 970’s “Neural Processing Unit” (NPU) is the system-on-chip tasked with carrying out neural network inference tasks. Unlike run-of-the-mill smartphone processors, the NPU isn’t designed to handle the sort of branching instructions on which most apps and software run. And while it’s narrowly focused on computations like the kind graphics chips crunch, it differs in that it’s highly optimized for the vector math that’s at the core of machine learning.
Not all AI tasks require special hardware, of course, and some of the NPU’s matrix multiplication workloads can be shifted to the View 10’s GPU or CPU. However, dedicated silicon like the Kirin 970’s NPU, Qualcomm’s Hexagon DSP, or Apple’s Neural Engine greatly accelerate these tasks. Huawei says that the View 10’s NPU’s 150 million transistors — a small fraction of the Kirin 970’s 5.5 billion transistor total — both speeds up the predictions of neural networks and cuts down on power consumption. It can process more than 2,000 images per minute, compared to 97 images per minute on Kirin processors without using the NPU. And in software specially optimized to take advantage of the NPU such as Microsoft Translator, Huawei’s measured performance gains in excess of 500 percent.
Beyond the dedicated Kirin AI API, the NPU can be accessed through Android’s Neural Networks API (NNAPI), and it supports many popular machine learning platforms such as Facebook’s Caffe2 and Google’s TensorFlow and TensorFlow Lite. In other words, apps with AI-powered features can make the most of the View 10’s hardware.
Suggested Reading: Interview with Qualcomm’s Gary Brotman on Machine Learning and Development
The potential of the NPU goes far beyond what’s baked into the View 10. Developers have incredibly powerful AI resources at their fingertips, and Microsoft’s live translation feature on the View 10 only hints at what’s possible on the new hardware.
The View 10’s LCD comes in at just under 6 inches with an edge-to-edge 18:9 (2:1) aspect ratio. It’s impressively compact, measuring roughly same width as a 5.5-inch screens with 16:9 aspect ratio, though a bit taller, giving it a slightly larger effective screen area. It’s the first time we’ve seen Honor use rounded corners on one of its phones, and it looks good — we were especially pleased to see that the rounded corners don’t encroach on the phone’s app or software interfaces.
The View 10’s FHD+ resolution (1080 x 2160) and 403 pixel density (PPI) makes icons, text, images, and videos look crisp and sharp. And despite the fact that the View 10’s display is LCD rather than AMOLED, it renders colors accurately, with high contrast and deep blacks.
The View 10’s dual camera setup consists of two sensors, a 16MP sensor and a 20MP sensor, the former of which has a f/1.8 aperture and phase detection autofocus and support for video recording up to 4K. It uses the NPU to its fullest — all of the camera modes from previous Honor phones make an appearance in the View 10, along with some new ones made possible by the Kirin 970’s NPU (shown below). The NPU means you’ll spend less time adjusting your camera settings and makes it easier to take perfect shots.
Here’s how: The NPU helps the phone to identify the type of scene and object you’re shooting and adjust camera settings accordingly. In a future article, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the ways in which the NPU makes the View 10 camera better, but for now, check out these sample photos captured in a variety of shooting conditions.
In addition to the NPU, the View 10’s HiSilicon Kirin 970 consists of four ARM Cortex-A73 cores paired with four ARM Cortex-A53 cores, and an ARM Mali-G72 (12 core variant). Then, 6GB of RAM makes switching between multiple apps a breeze, and Honor says the NPU uses AI to learn your usage habits and improve the phone’s performance over time. It’ll be interesting to see how well that works after five or six months of use.
In any case, the View 10 is easily the fastest Honor phone we’ve tested so far. While gaming, you’ll notice shorter load times and better frame rates than on past Honor flagships. Even the camera’s significantly faster, with quick post-processing and shutter lag near-zero.
You’d expect a powerful phone like the View 10 to have a large battery, and you’d be right. It’s powered by a 3,750mAh cell that supports Honor’s Super Charge fast charging technology (22.5W), which means it’s able to charge from 0 to 50 percent in half an hour. Huawei says it’ll last “all day” on a charge, a claim we’ll have to put to the test once we spend more time with this device.
With the Honor 8 Pro and the Honor 7X we saw a new design from honor that we really like. The smooth unibody design is now back with the Honor View 10. The back has a shiny metallic look and feel that creates a very premium aesthetic. The buttons have a very satisfying click to them. The camera lens only adds a slight bump to the back of the phone, but otherwise the phone is perfectly flat.
Honor View 10 vs. the Competition
|Honor View 10||OnePlus 5T||Essential Phone|
|Hisilicon Kirin 970||Snapdragon 835||Snapdragon 835|
|6GB RAM||6/8GB RAM||4GB RAM|
|128GB ROM||128GB ROM||128GB ROM|
|16MP+20MP Camera||16MP+20MP Camera||13MP+13MP Camera|
|1080 x 2160 pixels||1080 x 2160 pixels||1312 x 2560 pixels|
|3,750 mAh battery||3,300 mAh battery||3,040 mAh battery|
Even at the high end of that price range, the Honor View 10 is a stellar flagship that offers a better camera, AI chip, and software than much more expensive devices. (The picture quality alone might just be worth the price of admission.) And while the Kirin 970’s NPU and AI platform is still in its infancy, the framework’s in place for machine learning-enabled applications beyond what we’ve seen in Honor’s smartphones so far — especially as we begin to see wider adoption of platforms like TensorFlow and Android NN.
Visit the Honor View 10 forums Find out more about the Honor View 10 here