Honor Magic 5 Pro Review: As others shy away, the Honor can stay and play!
Honor Magic 5 Pro£949, before promotions
- Incredibly fast and dynamic cameras, with excellent night performance
- Almost insanely bright screen, with incredible colour and detail
- Large capacity battery with fast charging options (and PSU in box!)
- Flagship performance from Snapdragon 8 gen 2 SoC
- Slower charging than Magic 4 Pro (but offset by much larger battery)
- Magic OS lacks some of the frills of other custom skins, but many will relish a more vanilla experience
With the way things are going, Honor might soon be the only serious competitor to Apple and Samsung – and boy does the Magic 5 Pro punch hard…
There’s always a fierce battle at the top-end, but something has changed so far this year. We’ve seen the likes of Xiaomi raise its prices considerably as it tries to establish itself as a more premium player, while Oppo is currently not intending to bring its new flagship smartphones to Europe at all. And of course you have Samsung, which doesn’t rock the boat too much these days, but still enjoys the largest slice of the pie when it comes to sales numbers.
While the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is due to arrive later in the year, likely well in excess of the Xiaomi 13 Pro’s £1,099 price tag, Honor’s top-end Magic 5 Pro is retailing for £949, with further discounts for early birds that could get you a further £80 or £100 off (and if you miss these pre-order discounts, it’s almost certain these deals will be repeated again) and a bunch of freebies, like a wireless charger, earbuds and more.
I should add that Honor does have a higher model in its range, the Magic 5 Ultimate, but it’s essentially identical to the Pro but with a different design and finish – so the key camera features are the same.
Does Honor have what it takes to take on the reducing competition? Well, let’s start by pointing out that until DXOMark rated the not-coming-to-the-UK Find X6 Pro, the Magic 5 Pro was rated top smartphone camera in the world.
The Oppo beats the Honor by a single point, but you can’t actually get it anyway. Nor can you get the Vivo X90 Pro+ in the UK.
Update: At the time of publication, there were reports that the Xiaomi 13 Ultra may not be destined to come to the UK either, even though it will arrive in other European markets.
Design & Build
Compared to last year’s Magic 4 Pro, Honor has reduced the level of curvature on the edges of the display to give a flatter feel with less distortion on the edges, but still not entirely being a completely flat design. The screen is also considerably brighter, with a peak brightness of 1,800 nits – something that really shows outdoors in the sun.
The screen ratio is also slightly different to much of its competition, with a 20:9 ratio (1312×2848 pixels) that makes it a tiny bit wider than its counterparts. The 6.81-inch AMOLED panel also comes with a variable refresh rate from 1 to 120Hz, as well as the expected HDR10+ support, offering over one billion colours. You can adjust the standard resolution to save power (between 2848×1312 / 2492×1148 / 2136×984), but during my review time I kept it on smart resolution mode.
It’s a beautiful screen, and the phone display is complemented by loud stereo sound with plenty of bass. With support for up to 2160Hz PWM dimming, the display should be easier on the eyes to users who are sensitive to the ‘strobing’ effect of other displays.
On to the build of the phone itself, the phone is a a rock solid mix of metal and glass, with a very pronounced circular camera protrusion on the back that Honor calls the ‘Eye of Muse’ design.
This will divide opinion, and the design stands out more on the meadow green model than the black, but what is certain is that everyone who sees the back will know you own something unique and different.
Other features include an in-glass fingerprint sensor, positioned pretty low down on the display, two volume keys on the right-hand side, an Infrared port at the top to control devices, three microphones for stereo audio capture, plus a high-speed USB-C port that also offers video out, with a desktop mode that can be used in conjunction with a wireless keyboard or mouse – or similar using the phone as a trackpad and virtual keyboard.
The pill shaped cut-out on the display might seem rather outdated, but the 3D depth camera enables a very quick and secure face unlock feature to accompany the fingerprint sensor, and in most cases a simple double tap of the screen with my face in view of the cameras allowed an instant unlock. Chances are you won’t use fingerprint sensor much at all.
As ever on a high-end device, the camera is where the competition is most ferocious right now. Any vendor can go to Qualcomm or MediaTek and buy the latest SoC, but its not just choosing equivalent high-end camera components, but getting the whole package right and working in harmony – including the camera application itself, and the increasingly important hardware that processes the images quickly so you can grab the next shot without delay.
Here, Honor has chosen the following:
- 50MP wide (f/1.6 with OIS)
- 50MP ultra wide (f/2.0)
- 50MP telephoto x3.5 (f/3.0 with OIS and 100x enhanced with AI digital zoom)
- 12MP front facing camera and 3D depth camera
With its three rear cameras, you have a great deal of flexibility, with the ultra-wide camera also doubling up as a powerful macro camera.
A unique feature of the phone is the AI Motion Sensing Capture, or ‘Falcon Capture’, which will take photos when the phone chooses it to be the best moment, such as someone leaping up in the air.
I tried this with mixed results, but it was great fun to try out and it’s designed to work not only with people but also pets.
As I take more pictures, I hope to experiment more and see how it performs in different lighting conditions and environments.
Night performance is also stunning, which is hardly surprising given the underlying software (now supported with a dedicated image processing chip) is based on Huawei’s legendary camera software that was included since the classic devices like the P20 and P30 Pro, the latter phone which recently fooled people into thinking its images were taken with a current-day phone.
If you’ve ever owned a Huawei in the past and loved the camera experience, the Honor Magic 5 Pro will make you feel right at home. I absolutely loved the P30 Pro!
Video maxes out at 4K, as well as being limited to 15 minutes, which is clearly a decision that Honor has done for a reason, because the hardware could easily allow 8K and no time limit.
Perhaps 8K is considered too niche (and frankly, its never really going to be a thing for the average consumer) or Honor wanted to avoid any thermal issues with longer video recording at 4K, but one thing I have not noticed as being a problem is heat.
Indeed, while Sony still struggles to release a phone that doesn’t give temperature warnings after taking photos on even fairly mild days, the Magic 5 Pro barely works up a sweat and remains cool under load.
With a variety of camera modes and features, its easy to see how the phone got its DXOMark rating of 152.
Suffice to say, the best way to show off the camera is to post examples, so please enjoy the gallery below – along with the photos already posted in my first impressions piece.
As you can see from the 100x shot above, the phone uses AI to upscale an obviously lower quality image. It isn’t as clear as a true optical zoom by any stretch of the imagination, but it still does a respectable job and I was particularly impressed with the ability to track a fast moving object at all. 100x is not a level of zoom you’re likely to use often.
Performance & Software
The Magic 5 Pro is fitted with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 gen 2 SoC, which is ready for Wi-Fi 7, ensuring the Magic 5 Pro is at the very peak of available performance. As users of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra have discovered, this is a very power efficient chipset that doesn’t run too hot under load, and offers incredible performance and battery life.
The biggest Cortex-X3 core is clocked slightly lower than the Samsung (3.2GHz instead of 3.36GHz on the Samsung), but all of the other cores are the same, including the GPU.
This increased efficiency also made it possible to get in excess of six hours of screen on time in the standard power mode (you can also choose a no-holds-barred performance mode, or a power saving mode that restricts background operations, and drops the frame rate etc).
This is fantastic for a phone that just begs you to keep the screen on bright to best enjoy the vivid colours of HDR video content, playing immersive games, or simply viewing the photos you’ve captured.
The phone has 512GB of internal storage, as well as 12GB of RAM and 7GB of ‘virtual memory’. Frankly, Honor could have gone with just 256GB and I’d have still been arguing that this was more than enough. Having twice as much is the icing on the cake.
The AnTuTu benchmark (see right) is interesting in that it shows just how well controlled the temperatures are, including an actual drop in temperature as the tests continued. Of course benchmarks don’t tell the whole story, but phone operation is buttery smooth at all times. App-switching is instant, thanks to the LPDDR5X RAM and UFS 4.0 storage.
I personally think that this is the most responsive phone I’ve used in some considerable time, if not ever.
In early tests with different SIM cards, the phone also performs very well both on 4G and 5G, with speeds in excess of 1Gbps on Three – and equally amazing 4G performances on Vodafone and EE.
The phone also supports a wide range of bands, such as supporting 1500MHz on Three. Many other Chinese devices can lack key bands, or not fully support carrier aggregation.
Wi-Fi performance, using Wi-Fi 6 with a FTTP 910Mbps connection, also performed brilliantly, with transfer speeds almost maxing out despite the overheads of a wireless connection.
Once again, this means the Magic 5 Pro stands out as a good choice for anyone wanting a good degree of future proofing connectivity wise.
Magic OS 7.1
Honor’s UI is very much a continuation of Huawei’s near vanilla Android OS look, which some people will love and others will feel leaves the phone looking rather dull and outdated compared to the likes of One UI, MIUI or ColorOS. In reality, the phone still has all the essential features (although for some reason no quick launch feature for the camera) like theming and power management.
You can change fonts, customised always-on displays and icons. With a huge library of wallpapers, icons and fonts to choose from, you can very quickly make this phone truly unique, to match your own taste.
Since Google started to heavily customise its own Pixel phones, a lot of companies have started to alter the look and feel of their skins to match. It’s fair to say that the Pixel is no longer anything like vanilla Android, leaving Honor to offer a more subtle design that more resembles AOSP Android, but of course with access to the full suite of Google mobile services (GMS).
The phone ships with Android 13, and it’s not clear when Android 14 will be made available after Google launches it officially later in the year (Pixel users can already try the first beta right now). Honor hasn’t been known to be particularly quick with OS updates so it may well be the end of 2023 or even early 2024 to get the next big update, but so far the security patches have been coming through in a timely manner.
Honor will commit to at least two more OS updates, so this should keep you up to date into 2025. Security updates will continue beyond that.
The battery on the Magic 5 Pro is worth talking more about in its own right because this where there’s a big difference over both the Magic 4 Pro, as well as the Chinese variant.
The Magic 4 Pro came with a smaller 4,600mAh battery, but 100W wired and wireless charging. This time around, the Magic 5 Pro in the UK comes with a 5,100mAh battery – but only 66W wired, and 50W wireless charging. The charger is included in the box too.
The trade-off is acceptable though because you won’t need to charge as often, not only because of the larger battery capacity, but also because of the efficiency gains from the Qualcomm chip. All of this is even more impressive when you consider an extra bright display being one of the more considerable causes of power drain in any smartphone.
The Chinese model actually comes with a different battery type, silicon carbon, that boosts the battery capacity up to 5,450mAh with no gain in size. Unfortunately global models lose out on this, presumably due to regulatory issues (needing special type approval testing or similar), but this is something to perhaps look forward to in future releases.
For now, 5,100mAh is still class-leading for a flagship device and adds to a list of award-winning achievements on this phone.
The phone also supports any Huawei/Honor SuperCharge power adapters from previous models, including the 40W adapter that came with the P30 Pro, to the 40W 12,000mAh power bank. If you still have any of these, you’ll now have some secondary charging options to go with supplied 66W adapter.
You can also use USB-PD power supplies to fast charge, which means any power adapter for a laptop can also be used without topping out at just 18W.
Having other flagship phones not going on sale in the UK clearly gives Honor an advantage, but even if every other phone was lined up alongside the Magic 5 Pro, it will stand out from the crowd in many ways – not least for its value proposition.
It competes well with the Samsung S23 Ultra for having extra features like a wired or wireless desktop mode, albeit lacking support for a digital pen, as well as a large battery that will give you that extra level of confidence when away from a power source for any length of time.
This makes the Magic 5 Pro appealing for business users who can be more productive than with some of the rival devices, and the wireless connectivity performance helps even more too.
The overall package offered is quite incredible, and even better are the discounts and bundles available to anyone that orders before its official on-sale date of April 28th.
If you’re reading this review after this date, Honor regularly offers discounts and promotions throughout the year – although even at its full price of £949, it still represents excellent value for money.
Honor has really hit it out of the park with the Magic 5 Pro.
|Honor Magic 5 Pro|
|Size/Weight||162.9 x 76.7 x 8.8mm|
1312 x 2848 pixels
1-120Hz refresh rate (LTPO)
|Chipset||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (4nm)|
Octo-core, Max freq 3.2GHz
Adreno 740 GPU
|RAM||12GB LPDDR5X Quad-Channel|
(with 7GB of virtual memory to total 19GB)
|Storage||512GB UFS 4.0|
|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/1.6) Laser AF & OIS|
Zoom: 50MP (f/3.0) 90mm (x3.5 native, up to 100x digital) with OIS
Ultra-wide: 50MP (f/2.0) 122 degree FoV
Video: 4K/60 (15 minute limit at 4K)
|Connectivity||Dual band Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be)|
5G NR (SA & NSA) Sub 6
4G+ with VoLTE, ViLTE and VoWiFi
66W fast-charging wired or 50W wireless (with optional wireless charging base)
Compatible with Huawei SuperCharge power adapters, power banks etc, as well as USB Power Delivery (USB-PD)
|Other||Protective case (clear)|
Factory fitted screen protector
Dual SIM (Dual Standby)
66W Power Supply in box
Pricing & Availability
The Honor Magic 5 Pro is available with 12GB of RAM an 512GB storage, in a choice of Meadow Green or Black.
It retails at £949, but from April 19th to April 27th 2023 you can get £80 or £100 off depending on the voucher code used, along with a number of free items; Honor Earbuds 3 Pro, Premium case, SuperCharge Wireless Charging stand, plus a one-time screen protection service.
Further discounts can be had on the Honor Pad X8 or various Honor smartwatches, with the tablet costing just £49.99 if purchased at the same time (usually retailing for £179.99).
Users can use the early bird voucher code AM5PRO80 for £80 off, and also pay in three instalments interest free. Check Honor’s Twitter account as they occasional post a code for £100 off!