Honor 50 Review : We tested the new Honor brand smartphone

The Honor 50 is the first global launch of Huawei’s old sub-brand since it became independent, and also the first to include full compatibility with Google applications.

Honor 50 Review: We tested the new Honor brand smartphone

Everything is change for Honor at this time. The brand, once part of Huawei, became its own company last year to escape the worst impact of a restrictive US trade ban. It has been a long time to come, but the Honor 50 is the first phone the company has launched on the world market since it became independent.

This means that the Honor 50 is the first Honor phone in some time to hit the market with full support for Google mobile services, but it is also one of the first Honor phones to use a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset and to be powered by a software developed, at least in part, without support from Huawei.

The good news is that Honor has taken a turn at the helm with a phone that fits into its old game plan: flagship design, near-flagship performance, non-flagship price.

If you want to know more about other models of the brand, do not miss our guide with the best Honor phones.

Honor 50
Honor 50 Review : We tested the new Honor brand smartphone

Design and build

Colorful finishes
Curved screen and body
Double ring chamber
It is not waterproof

In many ways, it’s a pretty classic modern phone with familiar touches like a curved screen, slim bezels, and a reflective back, all of which help make the phone feel premium, but also decidedly Honor.

I have tried the “emerald green” finish on the phone, but you will also find it in “frosted glass”, “midnight black” and “honor code”. I like the balance the green model strikes between discretion and pizzazz, but it’s a scary fingerprint magnet so you might want to put a cover on it anyway.

Thanks to its large screen, it is not a small phone, but Honor has kept it light (175g) and thin (7.8mm), making it appear much less bulky than many of its rivals. With the help of the curved screen, it actually feels quite slim, so it should be a great option for anyone who likes small phones in theory, but can’t resist the allure of a large screen.

The camera module is obviously the other point of interest. Honor says the double-ring design is inspired by dual-lens reflex cameras, and also hauntingly compares it to a pair of eyes. I can’t say that I love the design, but at least it’s memorable and it helps make the Honor 50 stand out.

However, it only stands out so far, as there is another phone with the same design. It appears that Honor is still working on launching phones that were designed when Huawei was still paying the bills, as the Honor 50 is the spitting image of the Huawei Nova 9, which will also launch in Europe this fall.

The phones have a lot in common beyond their design, although ultimately they are different, especially since the Nova 9 cannot access Google applications, including the Play Store, which gives the Honor 50 a distinct advantage. In terms of design, there is nothing that differentiates them, so keep that in mind if what you are interested in is aesthetics.

Display and audio

Large 6.57-inch screen
120 Hz OLED with great color coverage
Non-stereo speakers

Mid-range phones have better displays than ever, and thankfully Honor has managed to not only keep up, but to stand out compared to most phones at this price point.

The 6.57-inch panel meets a ton of requirements: curved, OLED, Full HD + resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, 300Hz touch sample rate, 100% DCI-P3 color gamut, and support for more than one billion colors.

In fact, it would be quicker to list the main specifications that this display does not have: there is no LTPO technology to dynamically alter the refresh rate (you can only jump between 60Hz and 120Hz); it does not reach Quad HD + or 4K resolution.

Assuming you can live without those two things – and really most people should be able to – there’s no reason not to be happy with the panel, which is bright, vivid, and colorful no matter what you throw at it.

The screen also contains the fingerprint reader under the phone screen, which is as fast and reliable as you can imagine. Face unlock is also available if you prefer, although it is the relatively insecure kind powered by the lone selfie camera that sits in a central hole.

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As with most flagship phones today, you won’t find a 3.5mm headphone jack anywhere. Instead, you’ll have to settle for a USB-C or Bluetooth headset, or settle for respectable speaker phone sound, although there’s no stereo support.

Specifications and performance

Mid-range but powerful Snapdragon 778G chip
Up to 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage
5G and Wi-Fi 6

Another of the Honor 50’s small compromises is in the chipset. Here you will not find a Qualcomm chip from the 8 series, the flagship, but the mid-range Snapdragon 778G.

I call it a commitment, but the truth is that you are not giving up much. Even with just 6GB of RAM on the model I tested, which comes with 128GB of storage, performance was rock solid for the entire time I spent with the phone and will probably be even better on the 8 + 256GB version. of the telephone.

In our artificial benchmarks, the Honor 50 scored similar to the Realme GT Master Edition – which uses the same chipset – and in CPU benchmarks it came fairly close to some flagship devices with Snapdragon 888. In GFXBench benchmarks, focused on the GPU, these tend to distance themselves further, but the Honor 50 continues to perform well and play games well.

Honor 50 Review
Honor 50 Review

Honor 50 benchmarks

Infogram

This is one of the first Honor phones to use Qualcomm’s silicon, having primarily used Huawei’s Kirin chips, and the company has undoubtedly faced the initial problems of working with the new hardware.

It says technologies like its GPU Turbo X graphics acceleration have already been adapted to Snapdragon, but it seems plausible – if not guaranteed – that performance here will only improve as Honor engineers have more time to optimize the new hardware.

When it comes to connectivity, the Snapdragon 778G does measure up. In addition to 5G compatibility, it has NFC, Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6.

In short, although it is not the most powerful phone on the market, it is not far behind. Considering the price, the performance here feels really competitive, with only the likes of the regular Realme GT and a handful of gaming phones offering more for your money.

Cameras

Impressive 108Mp main camera
Unforgettable additional lenses
Strong in selfies

When it comes to the camera, the Honor 50 is a mix of two things. It has some undeniable strengths, and for most people, the capable main camera and selfie shooter will be enough to satisfy, but the lack of versatility can frustrate others.

The strong point is the main lens of 108 MP, which occupies half of the rear camera set. This is partly due to a large sensor, which helps the lens capture more light for better results in almost all lighting conditions, but especially in the dark.

This camera is undeniably capable, and I captured a few beautiful photos in my week of using the Honor 50. As you would expect from such a high-resolution camera, it is rich in sharp detail and, in good lighting, produces vivid and powerful colors.

I’ve been a bit more disappointed in low-light performance. Not only are details lost, but photos often look gray and washed-out, suggesting that Honor has to make some adjustments here, although the lack of Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) also plays a role.

The recent trend is to incorporate more and more night mode features into the default shooting mode when low light is detected, but there aren’t many indications of that here. That means you will have to remember to switch to night mode in the dark, which produces dramatically improved results. Check out my comparison of two identical photos of London’s Leicester Square, one with night mode and one without.

The selfie camera tells a similar story. The 32MP sensor is capable of taking very rich and detailed photos, but the quality drops even in low light conditions. Portrait mode produces attractive bokeh, but was a bit aggressive in blurring my hair. The hardware used here is capable enough that it suggests some algorithmic tweaks are necessary to get the most out of it.

There are three more cameras on the rear to watch out for, but don’t get too excited – as with many mid-range phones, they seem to have been added mostly to make up the numbers.

The 8Mp ultrawide is a real disappointment, with a gulf in quality between it and the main sensor. If you really need to shoot wide landscapes, it’s an option, but you don’t want to depend on it.

The 2Mp depth sensor will help with portrait mode but is not used otherwise, and the 2Mp macro camera is not the worst I have tried, but like many dedicated macro lenses it seems superfluous – Apple has shown with the iPhone 13 that a strong ultra-wide camera with a macro mode is a more effective solution.

Another area Honor has put its mind to is the phone’s video capabilities, in an open attempt to woo bloggers. In addition to the normal video recording modes, there is a “multi-video” option that allows you to record split-screen video or picture-in-picture using a combination of the main, ultra-wide and selfie lenses.

In itself, this is nothing new, but Honor has worked hard to develop an interface that makes it impressively easy to switch between camera options (even while shooting, albeit with a blurry, one-second-long transition) and capture still images simultaneously.

However, there are two major drawbacks. First of all, the aforementioned lack of OIS means that you will be able to record more stable videos elsewhere. Second, while the main rear camera can record 4K @ 30fps , the front camera is limited to 1080p despite being tall enough to handle 4K. So while the ease of use is top-notch, there are some strict limitations on the final quality.

Battery and charging

Good battery life
Super fast charging by 66W cable
No wireless charging

The Honor 50 offers impressive battery life, although it’s not likely to set any records. Like many mid-range Android phones, the 4300mAh battery will easily last a full day without breaking a sweat, even with the 120Hz refresh rate and always-on display – two of the biggest battery drains.

Getting to the end of the second day is more difficult, but with light use the phone will do it. This is of course a brand new test sample, so battery life will deteriorate a bit over time, but unless you are a very picky user, I don’t think there is anything to worry about.

The phone also takes what is becoming a common stance on mid-range Android phones: to offer ultra-fast wired charging speeds by completely dispensing with wireless charging.

The 66W corded charger – which is included in the box, don’t worry – brought the phone up to 52% in just 15 minutes in my tests, reaching 83% within half an hour. It takes well under an hour to get a full charge.

It’s a shame not having any wireless charging options now that we’re seeing it work on other mid-range options like the OnePlus 9 and Pixel 6. Still, those are the exceptions rather than the norm, and the Honor 50 is still more. cheap than either of them, which justifies the omission a bit.

Software and updates

Full compatibility with Google
MagicUI 4.2 on Android 11
No promise of upgrade

The great novelty of the Honor 50 is not really anything that has to do with the Honor itself, nor with the phone: it is the fact that it includes a complete and updated version of Android with full support for Google Mobile Services.

For the past two years, Honor phones have been subject to the same trade restrictions that crippled Huawei, preventing the company from licensing Google smartphone software. Now that Honor is an independent company, that is no longer the case.

Yes, this one runs Android 11 instead of the latest Android 12, but it came out a bit earlier to give Honor time to roll out that update. Plus, it’s worth it just for booting up an Honor device and seeing all the pre-installed standard Google apps, including the Play Store to access the entire Android ecosystem.

Honor’s own user interface, Magic UI, runs on Android and hasn’t changed much. The interface will be quite familiar to anyone who has used a Huawei or Honor phone before, with a clean white and blue color palette; I’ll be curious to see how it evolves now that Honor is free to design its own software.

The main area where Honor has already made its mark is in the new always-on display options. There are a few outlandish clocks and text options out there, but the highlight is the new abstract “art designs.” These echo the “Material You” design language of the new Pixel software, allowing you to extract three colors from a photo (or simply use the preset options) to create custom designs.

As I have mentioned, the Honor 50 does not ship with Android 12, and it is not yet clear when the new version of the operating system will arrive at the terminal. Furthermore, Honor has yet to promise a set number of years in which it will provide software and security updates to the device, so it’s difficult to know what kind of long-term software support you should expect – a definite downside if you expect a phone that will last you a few years.

Price and availability

The Honor 50 will launch globally in the European, Middle Eastern and Asian markets, although there are currently no plans to launch it in North America. In most markets, pre-orders are already available.

It is available in two versions with different RAM and storage:

6 + 128GB: € 529
8 + 256GB: € 599

That price puts it right in the middle of what we consider a mid-range phone, with recent competition including the OnePlus 9, Pixel 6, and Realme GT. All of them cost a bit more than the Honor 50, although it also has to take on our current favorite mid-ranger, the even cheaper OnePlus Nord 2.

It’s pretty tough competition for Honor, and while I’m a fan of the Honor 50, I’ll admit that you could probably find a better camera on the Pixel 6, more power on the Realme GT, and smoother software on any of the OnePlus phones. Still, this is a capable all-rounder, and depending on your tastes it could easily be your favorite of the lot when it comes to display design and quality.

Verdict

The Honor 50 is a welcome return of Honor to the global market, although it hasn’t done enough to stand out from the competition, yet.

The design is the standout feature, as while the aesthetic is a bit generic – giant camera circles aside – the slim build and premium finish make it feel a bit more expensive than most other phones around it. price, helped by a screen that’s hard to beat.

Battery life, charging, and processor performance impress, though none stand out. The same goes for the camera: the primary lens is very powerful, but the secondary lenses are not as good as the competition.

In short, the Honor 50 is good, but not all that good, although if the aesthetics are attractive, the phone probably won’t disappoint.

Plus, it finally has Google, and that’s enough to make it the best Honor phone in years, and a good sign of what’s to come in the company’s return. With the flagship Honor Magic 3 about to go on sale worldwide, let’s hope this is just the beginning.

Original article published on our sister website TechAdvisor UK.

Tags: Smartphones

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