Honor Play Review: Can there really be a budget gaming phone?

Usually when we say gaming, we know were going to see really high specs but is it possible to achieve gaming prowess on a budget phone? Honor seems to have answered this question.


When you hear the word gaming attached to any product, you immediately think edgy designs, an overuse of red, RGB lighting and a hefty price tag. Huawei decided that none of these things were all that important when it released the Honor Play. While it may look like a classy smartphone akin to the iPhone X, this Dh1299 smartphone is in fact a gaming powerhouse.

We got a chance to play around with the Honor Play. Here’s what we think of the new gaming smartphone.

Honor Play – Body and Feel

The Honor Play comes with a very simple metal unibody, ditching the popular glass design trend seen in many of this year’s flagships for a more matte finish. It is reasonably large as well, rocking a 6.3-inch display with a little notch, something we’ll get to later. The rear houses a vertically mounted dual camera and flash setup, along with an AI camera badge. The circular fingerprint sensor is on the rear side as well, a standard with most Honor devices.


Along the sides you have a pretty standard volume rocker and power button on the right. The SIM card tray is on the left edge as well. However, one quick look at the edges makes you realise that the Honor Play is in fact quite a slim phone. The Honor Play has a type-C USB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Build quality is great, and the phone is comfortable to hold. The overall size of the phone does not make any issues while holding it, and in turn contributes to a more comfortable gaming session.

Honor Play- Specs and Features


The first thing that will grab your attention on the Honor Play, apart from the blue body, is its magnificent display. The 6.3-inch FHD+ display is a treat to the eyes and its almost bezel-less design makes gaming and watching videos even more entertaining. We also get a small notch at the top, similar to the iPhone X. However, you can tweak the settings to make the notch less visible by darkening the surrounding area. Viewing angles are great and the visibility under sunlight is excellent.


The camera on the Honor Play is quite impressive as well. The phone offers a surprisingly good 16MP + 2MP dual lens camera, which is complemented by an AI system that optimises settings for every shot. We tested it out and the AI recognised plants, flowers and even cars, adjusting settings accordingly.

However, the camera did struggle a bit when it came to night shots. While turning off the AI correction can help in a more realistic photo, night-time shots suffer because the camera struggles to track a subject. The AI offers some assistance in this, but some photographers may find the results unsatisfactory.

For the front-facing selfie camera, you get another 16MP snapper, which also takes impressive shots. The different light settings also help in getting that perfect selfie. Also, for you Instagram users, the camera also houses a wide range of stickers and backgrounds.

Processing Power and GPU Turbo

Under the hood, we get the powerful Kirin 970 NPU along with 4GB or 6GB of RAM to support it. For storage we get 64GB, expandable to 256GB via microSD. The Honor Play is also powered with Mali-G72 MP12 graphics chip, which is further complemented by GPU Turbo Technology. One of the first few devices to come with this feature out of the box, the GPU Turbo Technology boosts the phone’s operating systems, creating an acceleration in graphics processing while still extending battery usage. This is what makes it perfect for gaming sessions.


On the software front, the Honor Play comes with Android 8.1 with EMUI 8.2 slapped on top of it. Usually, I am a fan of stock Android, but EMUI 8.2 kept it pretty much simple, and included some additional features. While bloatware is not really my favourite feature in a phone, the free apps on this phone are bearable, since they are more focused on system management. You also get a Party Mode software installed, which lets you sync music playback across different devices, provided all devices are in the same network. Nifty.


To account for such levels of performance and long runs of gaming, the Honor Play packs a pretty large fuel tank in the shape of the massive 3,750mAh battery. On a full charge, the Honor Play can take moderate usage, along with gaming, web browsing and photography, and still wrap up the day with a little over 20 per cent battery.

What makes it even better is that the phone comes with Quick Charge, so you don’t really have to plug the phone in for extended charging sessions.

Honor Play – Game Play

The Honor Play has been advertised as a gaming phone, and a gaming phone it sure is. Thanks to its powerful specs and GPU Turbo, gaming on the Honor Play is simply amazing. We played PUBG, Asphalt 9: Legends, ZF3D and many more games just to push the Honor Play to its limits, and it performed quite well. Battery life was well maintained, and there was almost no stutter in gameplay. However, the phone did start to heat up a little on the back, which could be a problem in longer sessions of gaming.

While GPU Turbo Technology might not mean much to a casual player, it does help to enhance gameplay performance. However, the reason why I mention this again, is because the Honor Play achieves what flagship devices deliver, but at half the price, which is quite impressive.


And finally…

At Dh1299, the Honor Play is a great phone. Its performance as an everyday use smartphone is pretty impressive, but the true power of the phone reveals itself only during gaming sessions. So gamers, if you are looking for a gaming phone that won’t break the bank, and at the same time look pretty much like an iPhone X, then the Honor Play is the way to go.


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