Honor’s Play gaming phone is far from perfect for ‘PUBG’
It’s no accident I’ve referenced PUBG Mobile a few times already. The title is actually an official Honor Play partner, hence the 4D vibration feature being unique to this one game (for the time being). I’ve played a lot of PUBG and consider myself basically an expert at the rapidly paced arcade modes specifically, so naturally I’m a good test case. For reference, I’ve played on a number of Android phones, as PUBG has become my go-to benchmark for gaming performance. On a day-to-day basis, however, I tend to play on a 4.7-inch iPhone 8, which isn’t a device that was crafted with gaming as the main consideration.
You can’t physically see Honor’s GPU Turbo hardware and software optimization trickery at work, but obviously I immediatelycranked the PUBG graphics settings up to as high and demanding as they could get. (I also tightened up the controls so my thumbs didn’t have to roam very far, increased the look sensitivity, and turned off aim assistance.)
Honor says the average frame rate hovers around 40 fps, and I’m willing to believe that. It’s normal to experience stutter as you jump out of the plane at the beginning of the match and rush towards the ground as it’s still being rendered. Once you hit the dirt, though, the experience is super smooth and PUBG looks great on the big 6.3-inch display. As Honor promises, the frame rate remains high and stable, as long as there’s no connection lag.
I’ve noticed a few graphical glitches in the form of an occasionally strobing background tile, way off in the distance. The gremlins don’t have any impact on the foreground, though, so playability’s unaffected. I couldn’t tell you whether fault lies with the phone, the game or the often unreliable hotel and IFA WiFi networks. From a visual point of view, then, the Honor Play lives up to the hype of being a good gaming phone. Honor’s battery life claims around GPU Turbo, I’m not so convinced on. Playing for about 45 minutes on a high brightness setting (and just generally thumbing around the phone for another 20 to 30) eats up roughly 50 percent of the charge. That’s not extraordinary in my experience.
There’s no night-and-day difference when you enable the 3D surround sound feature, but I think that’s partly because the PUBG developers have done a good job with the standard stereo audio cues already. With 3D turned on, everything sounds a lot more distant, but this comes with a certain clarity that marginally improves your directional awareness. It won’t massively up your game, especially if you’re already sensitive and attentive to your immediate surroundings, but I would say it creates a more realistic atmosphere. The roomier sound profile gives you a better idea of distance, more than direction. It does lower the base volume, however, so perhaps not a setting you want on all the time if you’re contending with background noise and/or leaky headphones.
The 4D Smart Shock feature specific to PUBG is more impressive than it sounds. There is a vast difference between the vibration patterns you feel when you pull the trigger on a shotgun, for example, compared with the auto fire of an assault rifle. The vibrations themselves are quite subtle, too. The phone doesn’t jump around in your hand and the screen doesn’t shake, so it’s not a distraction. The vibrations won’t help you get any better at the game, but they definitely add another layer of immersion you probably take for granted when you’re playing something on a big screen with a console controller. This is the only feature I feel makes playing PUBG onthe Honor Play genuinely different from any other phone with equivalent specs. It adds a little more fun factor.
I’m not sure you’d want to have 4D Smart Shock turned on if you intend to play for hours, though. After a while, it can make your fingers a tad tingly and numb — a bit like Sony’s Dynamic Vibration feature — especially when you pull the trigger as often as you have to in the fact-paced arcade modes I prefer. It’s probably fine if you tend to stick to the longer, classic games. I actually had to Google how to turn it on, because it’s hidden in the settings for Honor’s Game Suite app rather than being anywhere more obvious.
While I won’t argue that some Honor Play features might be attractive to avid mobile gamers, especially PUBG addicts, the phone definitely wasn’t built from the ground up with this demographic in mind. It’s more branding than anything, because there are actually a bunch of features that are at odds with the whole gaming theme.