Honor 70 review: An elegant mid-ranger, with substance to match the style

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Pros

  • Great 120Hz OLED screen
  • Smart-looking design
  • Greyscale screen mode
  • 66W charger

Cons

  • Mediocre mono speaker
  • No telephoto camera
  • No MicroSD card slot
  • No IP rating for dust/water resistance

Honor is establishing itself as an independent handset maker, following its departure from the Huawei stable in November 2020. Last year the Honor 50 made a good showing as the company’s first post-Huawei-split handset to offer the full array Google Mobile Services. This year’s high-end Magic 4 Pro packed in the features and impressed particularly with its 100W charging, good cameras, IR blaster and monochrome e-book reading mode.  

The new Honor 70 is in many ways an update of the Honor 50. It’s currently available in the UK with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage for £479.99, or £499.99 with 256GB of storage. It is a worthy successor to the earlier model? 

Honor 70

Honor 70: 6.67-inch 120Hz OLED screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G Plus chipset, 8GB of RAM, 128GB or 256GB of storage, 54MP wide angle, 50MP ultra-wide angle and 2MP depth rear cameras.

Images: Sandra Vogel / ZDNET

The Honor 70 comes in three colourways – Midnight Black, Emerald Green and Crystal Silver. I was sent the latter to review and unlike the other two it has a light refracting back with a diamond-cut pattern, underneath which is a stippled finish. The appearance varies depending on how it catches the light. It’s rather appealing, if a little bright for some tastes.  

Twin circles in the top left of the back hold the various camera components, and these protrude significantly from the backplate, causing the handset to move about on a desk when the screen is tapped on its left side. Honor provides a transparent bumper case that levels off this protrusion while having a minimal effect on the appearance of the backplate, so the usual trade-off between a bumper and getting the full backplate design experience is not an issue here. 

The bumper also solves a potential backplate issue — slipperiness, which can cause it to slide around on the soft arm of a chair and fall to the ground, and difficult to grip for one-handed use.   

Slipperiness aside, the Honor 70 is quite stylish, and its slim profile and curved long screen edges make it look more ‘premium’ than it is. It measures 161.4mm tall, and at just 7.91mm thick and 73.3mm wide it sat quite nicely in my small palm. 

Honor 70: bottom

The bottom of the Honor 70 carries a speaker grille, a USB-C port and a SIM tray (which accommodates two Nano SIMs).

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNET

The power button and volume rocker are on the right side, while the bottom houses the caddy for dual 5G Nano-SIMs and a speaker grille. Honor does not provide a 3.5mm headset jack, nor does this handset have an IP rating indicating dust and water resistance. There is only a single speaker, and its quality is one of this handset’s disappointments. There is a distinct lack of bass, so that spoken word and talk radio is reasonable, but music suffers badly. Also, at top volume, there is noticeable distortion. 

This is a shame, because the 6.67-inch OLED screen is rather good, with a 20:9 aspect ratio that accommodates 2,400 by 1,080 pixels (395ppi). The screen’s long edges curve into the body giving a zero-bezel appearance, while top and bottom bezels are so small as to be insignificant. We calculated the screen-to-body ratio to be an impressive 90.72%. 

The OLED panel can display 1.07 billion colours and supports 100% of the DCI-P3 gamut, while the refresh rate can be set to 120Hz all the time, 60Hz all the time, or to dynamically switch between the two. This setup isn’t as advanced as LTPO-based switching, which will go right down to 1Hz to conserve battery life, but for a handset at this price point the setup is more than adequate. The in-screen fingerprint sensor worked perfectly for me, and face unlock is also available. 

There is a range of display settings that includes colour mode and temperature settings, eye comfort, which can be scheduled or toggled manually, and an e-book mode that turns the screen to greyscale. I’m a big fan of this mode, and when it’s available on review handset I use it not only for e-books but also a fair bit of the time for general use. 

The Snapdragon 778G Plus chipset is quite widely used – I last saw it in Motorola’s Moto Edge 30 where, paired with 8GB of RAM, it delivered Geekbench 5 CPU scores of 819 (single core) and 2843 (multi core). With the same RAM complement, the Honor 70 turned in scores of 812 (single core) and 2875 (multi core). In all cases I do three benchmark runs and take the average. For comparison, leading Geekbench 5 CPU scores are around 1100 (single core) and 3500 (multi core). 

My review handset had 256GB of storage, of which 22GB was used out of the box, leaving 234GB. There is no MicroSD slot, so if the alternative 128GB model isn’t capacious enough, this could be the better choice. 

Honor 70: Multi-Window mode

Multi-Window modes in Magic UI 6.1: floating (left), sidebar (middle), split screen (right).

Screenshots: Sandra Vogel / ZDNET

The Honor 70 runs Android 12 with Honor’s Magic UI 6.1 overlay on top. This provides a number of settings tweaks, including the aforementioned e-book mode and Multi-Window, a tool that allows users to open a floating app window, split the screen or enable a pop-out sidebar. The tallness of the screen here makes this viable for some tasks. There are also plenty of third-party apps including social media, streaming and purchasing. All seem to be removable. 

The main rear camera is 54MP f/1.9 wide angle unit with a Sony IMX800 sensor. This is accompanied by a 50MP f/2.2 ultra-wide angle (122˚) camera and a 2MP f/2.4 depth camera. You can shoot 4K video at 30 frames per second (fps) and there is 10x digital zoom, but no optical telephoto capability. The front camera is a punch-hole 32MP f/2.4 unit that’s limited to 1080p video shooting at 30fps. Some users may appreciate the ability to capture video from the front and rear cameras at the same time. 

I found photographs to be bright, sharp and clear, although maxing out digital zoom created some grainy imagery. If point-and-shoot is all you need, the Honor 70 should be fine. 

My battery life tests were completed with the 120Hz refresh rate option set to always on, so if owners of this phone select dynamic switching between this and 60Hz they might get a bit more life out of the 4800mAh battery. The PCMark for Android Work 3.0 battery life test ran for 11 hours 33 minutes from a full charge. Recharging the battery to 100% and playing YouTube video for three hours resulted in a drop of just 12%. 

Honor provides a 66W charger and claims this will take just 20 minutes to charge the battery to 60%. This seems to be achievable: on one occasion when the battery was at 17% it took 10 minutes to reach 50%, 20 minutes to reach 78% and 30 minutes to get to 96%. 

Conclusions 

The Honor 70, in the Crystal Silver colourway that I reviewed, is a great-looking handset with a quirky backplate design that isn’t spoiled by the provided bumper. The 6.67-inch 120Hz OLED screen is superb, and the greyscale mode may have wide appeal. Fast charging is almost a necessity these days, and it’s good to see 66W supported here.  

Downsides include a distinctly average mono speaker and lack of certification for dust/water resistance, while the camera system, beyond the competent 54MP wide-angle main camera, could offer more. 


Honor 70 specifications

OS Android 12 + Magic UI 6.1
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G Plus
RAM 8GB
Storage 128GB
MicroSD card slot no
Display 6.67-inch FHD+ (2400 x 1080, 395ppi) OLED
– Aspect ratio 20:9
– Refresh rate up to 120Hz
– Colours 1.07 billion
– Colour gamut 100% DCI-P3
– Screen to body ratio 90.72% (calculated)
Networks 2G GSM • 3G WCDMA • 4G LTE • 5G NR
SIM slots 2x Nano SIM
Wi-Fi Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
Bluetooth 520.00%
NFC yes
Location GPS • AGPS • GLONASS • BeiDou • Galileo
Sensors gravity • fingerprint (under display) • compass • ambient light • proximity
Rear cameras 54MP f/1.9 wide angle • 50MP f/2.2 ultra-wide angle (122˚) & macro • 2MP f/2.4 depth
Front camera 32MP f/2.4 wide angle
Battery capacity 4800mAh
Battery charging 66W (60% in 20 minutes, claimed) • 5W reverse charging
Audio 1x speaker
3.5mm headset jack no
Dimensions 73.3mm x 161.4mm x 7.91mm (2.89in. x 6.35in. x 0.31in.)
Weight 178g (6.28oz)
In the box Honor 70 • quick-start guide • Honor SuperCharge • USB-C cable • SIM eject tool • TPU protective cover • TP protective film
Price £479.99 (8GB/128GB) • £499.99 (8GB/256GB)

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