Honor Magic 4 Pro Review: Meet the spiritual successor to the Huawei P30 Pro
Honor Magic 4 Pro£949.99
- Excellent display and audio makes this ideal for content consumption
- A top-quality mix of cameras and other sensors to improve photography and provide secure unlocking
- Fast charging via wired or wireless, including fast portable charging via high-capacity power bank
- Will appeal to long-standing Huawei and Honor fans
- Wi-Fi performance was disappointing
- Some software issues that need to be fixed to improve the user experience
- Rear design looks a little dated compared to what rivals are doing
It’s great to see Honor back in the UK, and even better to see it aiming big with a flagship phone like the Magic 4 Pro.
The company told me earlier this year that it has a three year plan to re-establish itself in the global market, starting slow and not flooding the market with devices. That means you won’t see a barrage of similarly specified handsets selling for just a few pounds difference between each other.
The Magic 4 Pro is a flagship with a very large display, a powerful processor, excellent charging speeds, and a great camera specification that serves as a reminder that Honor was once a sub-brand of Huawei, the leaders of smartphone photography right up until the US ban that effectively killed off Huawei’s phone business outside of China.
We all know the background, so I won’t repeat it all again here. We are where we are, and the Magic 4 Pro builds on Huawei’s tech, but with the freedom to include the full Google Mobile Services suite – which, frankly, makes all the difference in making it a phone that the average consumer would actually consider buying.
Is the phone any good though?
During its absence, rivals like BBK (Realme, Oppo, OnePlus etc) and Xiaomi (including Redmi) have worked hard to fill the gap in the market created by Huawei’s virtual withdrawal. They’ve had time to build a following of their own, and develop their own custom communities, and they’ve done pretty well by all accounts.
So the issue now is that Honor needs to encourage people back to a brand that was once so popular with savvy buyers, who chose Huawei and Honor over Samsung and Apple, knowing they could get better features for less money.
Design & Build
The Magic 4 Pro is not a unique or very modern design, but reminiscent of Huawei’s popular Mate-series line of smartphones. That means a huge display (with a large pill-shaped notch that hides two cameras) with a high resolution, and plenty of other high-end features.
The 6.81-inch display comes with HDR10+ support and a variable (LTPO) refresh rate from 1Hz to 120Hz, as you’d expect from a flagship phone.
The screen is heavily curved too, which may not appeal to all, but certainly adding to its unique styling that any Huawei fan will instantly love (these curves have been present since the release of the Mate 30). The centrally mounted camera array may look a little ‘out there’, but with five sensors to fit in – including a periscope zoom lens – it could be argued it makes the most sense than trying to fit them all into a corner.
The phone also has stereo sound, with the screen itself acting as a speaker (a feature first seen on the Huawei P30 Pro). This allows the phone to offer a privacy mode that eliminates sound leakage in quiet environments, so you’ll be able to speak to someone without anyone around you hearing the other side of the call.
All the creature comforts
There’s a screen-embedded ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, a 3D ToF sensor (that can be used as a highly secure face unlocking system), plus two volume keys and power button on the right hand side – leaving the left edge completely clear and smooth.
You don’t get a 3.5mm headphone socket, but there is an Infrared transmitter at the top to let you use the phone as a remote control with compatible appliances, TVs, air conditioners etc. There’s no memory expandability either, but the phone is IP68 rated for dust and water resistance.
Some people will wish Honor had come up with something a bit more creative to compete with the likes of the OnePlus 10 Pro, or the Oppo Find X5 Pro, but if you’re just going to throw the phone into a protective case then it likely won’t be a dealbreaker. Oh, and Honor has included a case in the box.
Honor says it will have more unique designs as time goes on, but as you’ll be looking at the phone from the front side most of time anyway, does it matter too much? There’s also another thing to consider; a lot of people may like the design exactly as it is! It is a purely subjective thing after all.
I’ve reviewed quite a lot of phones of late that have not been terrible for smartphone photography by any means, but have been compromised in various areas. It seems for a lot of phones, a decent telephoto zoom lens has almost become a distant memory. Take Oppo’s decision to get rid of the periscope zoom from the Find X2 Pro in favour of a more modest 2x optical zoom instead.
Honor has retained the periscope zoom, a feature that P30 Pro users absolutely loved, but opted for a 3.5x zoom level. Not as high as you might have expected, but Honor believes this is a more useful zoom distance for most purposes. Far stronger than a 2x zoom, yet not a massive leap from 1x.
Another annoying feature of some phones is the decision to include a low-resolution macro camera, from 5-megapixels down to a paltry 2-megapixels. Thankfully, Honor has not done this here, with every image sensor being very respectable and serving a very important purpose to give users the most flexibility possible.
Thanks to Honor’s image processing software wizardry, you can go on to 5x, 10x and right up to 100x if you really do need the highest level of flexibility. Sure, 100x is not good for much more than a bit of fun (even 50x is pushing things) but with a very high-resolution image sensor and OIS to keep things steady, you can effectively use the phone for a range of between 0.6x (ultra-wide) to 20x without compromising on image quality.
The main and ultra-wide cameras don’t get OIS, but this won’t matter too much as the phone can quickly capture detail in all but the darkest lighting conditions. What’s fantastic about Honor’s AI mode is the HDR mode will combine multiple shots to create a stunning high dynamic range photo – far nicer than a lot of other phones I’ve tested.
It takes a little while to create the image, so if you immediately view the photo after taking it you’ll first be shown a rather washed out image as it does its calculations.
Don’t keep me in the dark
Low-light performance is a little less impressive, with images in near-dark conditions being devoid of detail almost to a point of embarrassment. The Oppo Find X5 Pro is significantly better at retaining detail (but being darker overall), but taking photos in almost total darkness is probably not something you’ll do in day-to-day life. A lot of people may forget that there’s an LED flash if you want to take photos in total darkness.
In the real world, you will still get good photos in low-light. Huawei was first to allow for solid low-light photos without the need for a tripod, and Honor has still managed to capture the essence of this, but other phones have caught up and it does feel a little slow by today’s standards.
Video capturing is great, and the phone also comes with an excellent built-in video editor that allows you to do basic edits, add or replace a soundtrack and export in a variety of formats. There’s a dedicated Movie mode that gives exceptional levels of control over the video image – and you can also save high-resolution stills at any time with a press of a (on-screen) button.
You can record with HDR, or LOG mode if you want to grade your colour profile later. Audio recording is great too, making this a great phone for bloggers or amateur filmmakers. The only thing to be aware of is there’s a limit of 15 minutes when recording in 4K, which is something I cannot remember being a thing on another phone for some time.
- You can view the photos at 100% from within the gallery view.
Low light comparison
The photos below are extreme cases, of a room with no illumination besides that of a HP printer giving off a blue glow. It shows just how sensitive modern image sensors can be, but the Honor struggles to capture any meaningful detail – even if it is slightly brighter overall.
Video recording is strong, although if you attempt to zoom in or out during recording there are noticeable jumps when switching from one sensor to another. The colour accuracy from one sensor to another is good, and with some practice you’ll be able to master all of the different modes.
A dual video recording feature is also ideal for bloggers, allowing you to capture from the selfie camera at the same time – ideal for giving a commentary on what you’re recording.
Performance & Battery
The Magic 4 Pro comes with Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 8 gen 1 SoC. Despite packing such a powerful chip, the phone has excellent thermal management to keep the temperature down – and its performance on AnTuTu was impressive with a score of 819,724.
Honor’s Magic UI is a take on Huawei’s original EMUI (Emotion UI) and does look a bit dated when compared with the competition. While you have many features like an always-on-display, customisable themes and even different fonts, there is still a feeling that you have less control of the general look and feel of the device than a phone from another manufacturer.
Even the launcher is pretty basic, with no ability to long-hold on an app to enter the app settings, or other shortcuts that might now have become so used to that you have come to assume it’s the same for all Android phones.
That said, you can use NFC to quickly tap on compatible hardware (such as Huawei or Honor laptops) to quickly sync data or see/control your phone from a PC.
There were a few areas of concern with my Magic 4 Pro though, one of which is likely fixable in software, and another that might be a hardware issue.
First up is an issue with using VPN software, which caused me various issues when running in the background. Even when manually setting the software to run in the background without being shut down, I experienced many issues with both the Surfshark and AdGuard apps. This meant the VPN software froze and became unresponsive, causing websites not to load – and requiring a force stop and restart.
If you don’t use a VPN, you’ll probably be fine – but as a feature of Android, it really should ‘just work’ as it does on every other phone I review.
The second, perhaps bigger, problem was the Wi-Fi performance. For years, I’ve always considered Huawei and Honor phones as being the best-in-class when it comes to connectivity, and the Magic 4 Pro performs excellently on the mobile side (with the ability to have two SIM cards, or one SIM and one eSIM).
It’s Wi-Fi that lets things down, with the phone struggling to sync at around half the speed of other phones.
Now, let me give some context. I have a FTTP connection with 900Mbps down and 110Mbps up, which is served throughout my home via an Asus XT8 mesh network (two mesh nodes) with a 5GHz Wi-Fi 6 80MHz connection (sync rate: 1200Mbps).
Every phone I’ve used that supports Wi-Fi 6 will sync at 1200Mbps in any room of the house because of the strong coverage, yet the Magic 4 Pro will drop to below 500Mbps, and not even reach top speed when almost next to a node.
Such speeds are still good of course, but if the signal quality is compromised here, think of the implications when using public Wi-Fi hotspots and the like. Also, if you wish to transfer files over Wi-Fi (e.g. storing files on a NAS drive) then the higher the speed the better.
At 4,600mAh, the battery isn’t as big as I think it should be for something with a display that’s almost 7-inches, but Honor has included support for 100W wired and wireless charging. The 100W charger is included in the box, but the optional wireless charger will need a higher powered one to give the full 100W wireless charging speed. If you use the adapter bundled with the phone, it tops out at (a still impressive) 80W.
The phone also supports legacy Huawei Super Charge protocols, which means if you’ve owned an earlier phone you may have chargers (and even power banks) that can top the phone up at 40W. That could mean using an older charger in an office, or another room of your home.
I did experience some disappointing battery drain issues, but I put this down to my above mentioned issues with VPN software. Disabling them pretty much eliminated the problem, and I was able to get over six hours of screen-on-time.
Clearly Honor needs to roll out a software update to fix some foibles, and at the time of publishing this review it must be noted that the last update on my review device was April 2022.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the Magic 4 Pro feels a bit old-school in a sea of brightly coloured rivals, each competing to use different materials and designs in order to stand out. The pictured orange colour Magic 4 Pro is not yet available in the UK, which is a shame.
However, the Mate-like look could be a good thing for some as it brings familiarity to Huawei and Honor customers of the past. It is however important to appeal to a new generation of customer, including those who have since moved to other manufacturers, so I think it’s time for Honor to develop a new design language of its own.
As it stands, the phone excels in many areas – but there are those software issues that really need to be fixed. If I get an update, I’ll edit this review to explain the differences/fixes as appropriate.
If you’ve been looking for a high-end for a phone that can offer the biggest display, crazy-fast charging, a camera with a decent zoom, plenty of performance, and isn’t a Samsung; the Magic 4 Pro is a great choice and definitely a more affordable flagship.
Pricing and Availability
At £949.99, the Magic 4 Pro undercut its similarly specified rivals by a decent amount – especially if you can snag the phone with a gift pack worth over £300 in value. [This offer currently runs until July 31st 2022 and includes a Honor Watch GS 3 Ocean Blue, Earbuds 2 Lite, and PU Case]
UK customers get a 8GB+256GB model, in a choice of black or cyan, which is a the ideal configuration for most users.
|Honor Magic 4 Pro|
|Size/Weight||163.6 x 74.7 x 9.1mm|
1312 x 2848 pixels
120Hz refresh rate (LTPO)
|Chipset||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1|
Octo-core, Max freq 3.0GHz
Adreno 730 GPU
|RAM||8-12GB LPDDR5 Quad-Channel|
|Storage||128-256GB UFS 3.1|
|Camera (front)||Punch-hole 12MP Fixed Focus Ultra-wide|
3D Time-of-Flight (ToF) Camera
Video: 1080p & 4K 30fps with EIS
|Camera (rear)||Primary: 50MP (f/1.8)|
Zoom: 64MP (f/3.5) 90mm (x3.5 native, up to 100x digital) with OIS
Ultra-wide: 50MP (f/2.2) 122 degree FoV
3D Time-of-Flight (ToF) Camera
Video: 4K/60 Primary Camera
Video: 1080p/30 Ultra-Wide Camera
|Connectivity||Dual band Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)|
5G NR (SA & NSA) Sub 6
4G+ with VoLTE, ViLTE and VoWiFi
100W fast-charging wired or wireless (with optional wireless charging base)
Factory fitted screen protector
Dual SIM (Dual Standby)
100W Power Supply in box
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