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Honor Magic 2 review: A phone full of new tricks
Honor Magic 2
What we like
What we don't like
The Honor Magic 2 is an exclusive smartphone to China markets, but it’s a very compelling device and could pave the way for future smartphones. It has a slider design, six cameras, an in-screen fingerprint sensor, and a notch-free bezel-less display.
Is the experience as magical as it sounds or is this phone simply just smoke and mirrors? Find out in our Honor Magic 2 review.
On the outside, the Honor Magic 2 looks like your average flagship smartphone. It’s constructed of glass panels on the front and rear with a metal frame holding it all together. The build quality is exceptional. The entire phone makes heavy use of rounded corners, sides, and tapered edges for a sleek appearance that’s more comfortable.
The slider form factor allows Honor to achieve a nearly bezel-less screen with no notch and have the front facing cameras hidden.
What makes the Honor Magic 2’s design unique is its slider mechanism. This is similar to the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 and will give you feelings of nostalgia if you ever used old school slider phones from yesteryears. The slider form factor allows Honor to achieve a nearly bezel-less screen with no notch and have the front facing cameras hidden. Sliding the screen downwards will reveal the three front-facing cameras.
Having a moving part on a smartphone undoubtedly raises concerns over hardware failure but I don’t see this slider failing anytime soon. The slider mechanism feels sturdy, durable, and solidly holds the front and back half of the phone into place whether the phone is opened or closed. The slider mechanism does, however, prevent the phone from being water and dust resistant. Dust actually collects quite easily in the areas exposed when the slider is open. So far this hasn’t negatively affected the Magic 2 in any way, but do your best to keep these areas clean all the same.
The Honor Magic 2 features a large 6.39-inch full-view 2,340 x 1,080 AMOLED display with incredibly thin bezels surrounding all sides. As mentioned earlier, there is no notch, so you get a fullscreen experience with no cutout. The display looks gorgeous. Colors are vibrant, viewing angles are fantastic, and the screen is sharp and crisp. Viewing content on this display is enjoyable and text and graphics are easy to read. Outdoor visibility on the Magic 2’s display also posed no issues, it gets plenty bright to comfortably see in direct sunlight.
The Honor Magic 2 is no slouch in performance. The Magic 2 has the same horsepower as the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, with a Kirin 980 SoC and 6GB or 8GB of RAM. The Kirin 980 is one of the most powerful chipsets on the market so it’s no surprise that the Magic 2 performs very well in benchmarks and real-world use. The phone is extremely fast to launch applications, multitask, and navigating through the UI is a silky smooth experience. Gaming is also great. High-end titles from the Google Play Store such as Shadowgun Legends runs smoothly with great graphics and consistent frame rates.
Battery life performance is equally impressive. Although the 3,400mAh battery is not as large as those of Huawei’s P series and Mate series, it’s been more than adequate for the Honor Magic 2. With a good mixture of reading emails, text messages, browsing social media, playing games, and watching YouTube, Magic 2 easily lasted me through a full day. Screen-on time consistently reached the five-hour mark which should be more than enough for most users. The Honor Magic 2 also features a 40W fast charger in the box that gets you a 50 percent charge in only 15 minutes.
Hardware on the Honor Magic 2 is fairly run of the mill. There’s a single USB Type-C port at the bottom accompanied by a single speaker. You won’t find a headphone jack anywhere on the device. There’s also no wireless charging or microSD expansion but the Magic 2 offers plenty of internal storage with 128 and 256-gigabyte options.
It isn't frustratingly awful to use but it's not as good as a standard fingerprint sensor.
The Honor Magic 2 has an in-display fingerprint sensor, similar to the Oppo R17 Pro and the OnePlus 6T. A small area of the display is illuminated with a fingerprint graphic to show you where to place your finger to properly unlock the device. One thing all in-display fingerprint sensors currently have in common is their slowness and inconsistency — the Magic 2 is no different. It isn’t frustratingly awful to use but it’s not as good as a standard fingerprint sensor. This technology will get considerably better over time but we probably won’t get to that point until next year.
Another truly unique feature of the Honor Magic 2 is the camera setup, because it has six sensors — three on the rear and three on the front. The main camera on the rear is a 16-megapixel f/1.8 lens, accompanied by a 16-megapixel wide angle and a 24-megapixel monochrome sensor. The monochrome sensor is used for capturing black and white photos and portrait mode photography.
The main front-facing camera is also 16MP, flanked by two additional 2MP cameras. The main sensor is the only one for taking photos, while the 2MP sensors are meant for 3D facial unlocking, portrait mode, and portrait mode lighting effects. The 3D facial unlock works very well and is extremely fast. Slide the phone open to reveal the camera, and the phone unlocks before you know it. This is a much more secure option for unlocking the Magic 2, and it’s much faster and more reliable than the fingerprint sensor.
Both the front and rear cameras take advantage of the Kirin 980’s NPU, incorporating AI scene recognition. This means the camera can recognize scenes and objects like food, plants, urban landscapes, pets, and more, and adjust the image accordingly for the best results. While having the AI scene recognition enabled makes a difference in the way the images look, it isn’t easily noticeable in every scene. In some situations, you might even prefer your photos without the AI enhancements and it’s probably better to keep it turned off if you prefer to tweak your images manually.
General image quality from the rear camera is quite impressive and I found very little to complain about with the Magic 2 as my daily smartphone camera. The camera produces sharp images with accurate colors and excellent contrast. Dynamic range on the Honor Magic 2’s cameras provides great shadow and highlight detail and high contrast situations were handled very well. The camera also performs well in low light. Details are still very crisp and sharp, images are still full of color, and there is very little noise. Highlights in low light situations are handled very well thanks to the camera’s excellent dynamic range. There’s no blooming or overexposure which helps retain plenty of detail.
We’ve included a gallery below for easy viewing but you can see the full resolution images by clicking here.
If you don't like EMUI, the Magic 2 won't do much to change your opinion.
The Honor Magic 2 ships with the latest Android 9.0 Pie with Magic UI 2.0 on top. Magic UI is essentially the same interface as EMUI found on other Honor or Huawei devices, but it’s been rebranded for the Magic 2. If you’ve used EMUI before and enjoy the experience, you’ll feel right at home on the Magic 2. If you don’t like EMUI, the Magic 2 won’t do much to change your opinion. I prefer a more stock-like experience so EMUI’s colorful and cartoonish aesthetics aren’t exactly my cup of tea.
With Magic UI 2.0, Honor has implemented its own AI assistant called “YOYO.” This virtual assistant is machine-learning capable and supposed to have mind-reading capabilities, which sounds strange to say the least. Unfortunately, I was unable to test this feature, as it currently only understands Mandarin. This makes sense considering the Honor Magic 2 is only marketed in China. Because this is a device for China markets, you’ll also find many Chinese applications pre-installed. Should this device ever come to other markets these apps will most likely not be installed but it’s something to be aware of should you decide to import the Magic 2.
|Honor Magic 2|
2340 x 1080
Huawei Kirin 980
Octa-core CPU (2 @ 2.6GHz, 2 @ 1.92GHz, 4 @ 1.8GHz)
Arm Mali-G76 MP10
Main: 16MP f/1.8 sensor
Second: 16MP f/2.2 ultra wide angle sensor
Third: 24MP f/1.8 monochrome sensor
Main: 16MP f/2.0 sensor
Second: 2MP f/2.4 sensor
Third: 2MP f/2.4 sensor
No headphone jack
40 watt SuperCharge
Front 3D camera
Wi-FI 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4Ghz/5Ghz
Dual frequency GPS
Magic UI 2.0 or EMUI 9.0
Android 9.0 Pie
Dimensions and weight
157.32 x 75.13 x 8.3mm
Black, Blue, Red
Full Specifications: Honor Magic 2 specs: The most feature-packed slider phone you’ve ever seen?
Honor Magic 2 pricing & final thoughts
The Honor Magic 2 costs 3,799 yuan (~$545) for the base model with 6GB RAM and 128GB of storage, 4,299 yuan (~$615) for 8GB RAM and 128GB model, and 4,799 yuan (~$690) for the 8GB RAM version with 256GB of storage. Pricing is very competitive compared to many other flagship smartphones.
Considering how feature packed and powerful the Magic 2 is, it’s a great deal. The notch free display, six cameras, and slider design offer a wonderful and unique hardware experience. The unfortunate part is you’ll most likely pay a lot more to import it, as Honor has no plans to release it elsewhere. If you want a similar slider phone experience, the more widely available Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 might be a better option.