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HONOR Magic 5 Pro hands-on: A sight to behold
After a slow breakaway, HONOR is firmly striking out on its own, branching out from its initial Chinese and mid-tier markets. Its second global flagship has just arrived at Mobile World Congress 2023 — the HONOR Magic 5 Pro. Boasting powerhouse specifications and more ambitious software plans, could this be your next flagship purchase?
HONOR Magic 5 Pro: Design and specs
Building on last year’s Magic 4 Pro, there’s an instantly familiar look and feel with the Magic 5 Pro. The “Eye of Muse” circular camera housing remains the centerpiece of HONOR’s flagship design language. Complete with a new Antoni Gaudí inspired glass curvature, it’s an eye-catching look, if not entirely unique. The glass back gradually sloping up to the camera lens is wonderful. It is, however, a complete fingerprint magnet. Color-wise, it comes in Meadow Green or Black, though HONOR has also shown off light blue, bright orange, and light purple colorways. We’re yet to hear about availability, however.
The Magic 5 Pro’s design also retains the intriguing “quad-curve” ergonomics. That means identical accentuated curves on the handset’s sides, both front and back, so there are no sharp corners here. HONOR says this makes the large 6.81-inch display easier to hold and use in one hand. That’s certainly true, but the trade-off is the edges of the display are somewhat awkward to use. We know many of you don’t care for curved displays, so this will be a contentious design decision. I don’t mind it overall; the phone has an undeniably premium feel in hand.
Speaking of the display, we’re looking at a 120Hz LTPO AMOLED panel here, though we don’t know exactly how low the variable refresh rate goes. The HONOR Magic 5 Pro also boasts 2,160Hz PWM dimming, 1,800-nits peak brightness for HDR content, SDR-HDR upscaling and 30-60fps motion blur reduction via a dedicated display processor, and an ultra-low DeltaE 0.27 for color accuracy. In other words, this is a decked-out display setup.
The Magic 5 Pro proves HONOR clearly has an eye for design.
Other specifications are equally flagship grade. There’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processing platform, 12GB RAM and 512GB storage, a large 5,100mAh cell for all-day battery life, an IP68 rating, and 66W wired and 50W wireless charging. However, HONOR cut the charging power levels from the Magic 4 Pro, which launched with blistering 100W wired and wireless power capabilities.
Still, this full-on flagship experience rivals the best Android phones, but it has a price tag to match at €1,199 (~$1,266). That’s the same price as the base Galaxy S22 Plus and a whopping €300 more than the Google Pixel 7 Pro. We’re yet to hear about specific regional availability, though HONOR has suggested the Magic 5 Pro will start retailing in Q2 2023.
What’s new with the camera?
Photography is where flagship handsets can make a name for themselves. The camera package boasts a triple 50MP sensor setup. There’s a large 1/1.12-inch f/1.6 main camera, 122-degree f/2.0 ultrawide, and a 90mm (3.5x) telephoto zoom with an f/3.0 aperture. There’s a 12MP selfie snapper and 3D depth camera on the front that lends itself to additional security for face unlocking.
Again, all very flagship-tier specifications and some notable upgrades over last year. The main sensor is larger, so it should capture more light, while the telephoto sensor has been upgraded to Sony’s IMX858. 4K 60fps HDR+ video capture support is here as well, though there’s still no extreme 8K resolution that you’ll find at some rival flagships. Still, for the serious videographer, the HONOR Magic 5 Pro supports 4K 60fps 10-bit log exporting.
HONOR's Falcon Capture, SuperHDR, and fusion zoom aim to level up the Magic 5 Pro's photography capabilities.
It’s not just hardware specifications that caught our attention; HONOR boasts a selection of impressive-sound photography software capabilities too. First, Falcon Capture aims to improve autofocus and shutter speed times, helping capture fast-moving objects with reduced motion blur. Meanwhile, Ultra-fusion optics combined image data from multiple lenses to enhance quality between optical zoom levels. It sounds quite a bit like the Google Pixel 7’s super-res zoom capabilities. Then there’s SuperHDR, which captures additional brightness and color calibration frames to improve dynamic range in tricky lighting conditions.
We’ll have to spend more time with the HONOR Magic 5 Pro to see if all these features combine to produce a compelling smartphone photography experience. But it certainly sounds like there’s plenty of potential here, especially as we were reasonably impressed with the previous model’s HDR and night capabilities.
HONOR’s software secret sauce
The Magic 5 Pro serves up Android 13 slathered in a rich MagicOS 7.1 coating. The pre-release version we saw (but can’t really talk about) still shares a somewhat familiar look and feel with the old EMUI days. Animations and icons may have been tweaked, but the OS’s history is still plain to see once you dive into the features and menus. Overall, MagicOS 7.1 is perfectly functional, if not a little busy. I’m not convinced that the tweaks and changes are all that useful compared to say, OneUI or ColorOS. A bigger break away from the old style is needed if HONOR is to stand out on software merits.
An improved update commitment isn't quite enough to catch the competition.
Instead, HONOR is banking on additional low-level functionality to set itself apart. There’s Magic Guard to enhance privacy and security, thanks to partnerships with Google at the OS level and Qualcomm at the chip level. Link Turbo X offers individual rather than shared Bluetooth and Wi-Fi antennas to increase throughput when using both radios simultaneously. Meanwhile, the oddly named Magic Ring allows HONOR products to connect easily and share tasks seamlessly. This is all subtle stuff that might not be immediately appreciable but offers something extra in certain circumstances.
HONOR has committed to three years of OS upgrades and five years of security patches for the Magic 5 Pro. That’s a notable improvement over previous years and matches that of Google’s latest Pixels. That said, it’s not quite as good as Samsung and OPPO/OnePlus, which all offer four years of OS for their new flagships. Still, HONOR’s latest and greatest will see the latest Android features until 2026 and security patches until 2028. Not bad at all.
HONOR Magic 5 Pro specs
|HONOR Magic 5 Pro
6.81-inch LTPO OLED curved display
2,848 x 1,312 resolution
120Hz adaptive refresh rate
1,800 nits peak brightness
Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
12GB RAM LPDDR5X
No microSD card expansion
Battery and charging
66W wired charging
50W wireless charging
- 50MP wide (ƒ/1.6, custom 1/1.2-inch sensor)
- 50MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.0, 122-degree FoV)
- 50MP periscope telephoto (ƒ/3.0, Sony IMX858, 3.5x optical zoom, 100X digital zoom)
- 12MP wide (ƒ/2.4)
4K HDR10+ at 60fps
Dual stereo speakers
Dual-SIM + eSIM
5G NR, 4G TDD-LTE / FDD-LTE, 3G WCDMA, 2G GSM
In-display fingerprint sensor
Magic OS 7.1
Dimensions and weight
162.9 x 76.7 x 8.77mm
Meadow Green, Black
HONOR Magic 5 Pro hands-on impressions: Conjuring greatness?
HONOR has its sights firmly set on the premium tier of the market. A focus on photography and cross-platform ecosystem features certainly points the Magic 5 Pro in the right direction. Combined with exquisite build quality, high-end performance, and powerful charging capabilities, HONOR certainly knows how to put a brilliant hardware package together. Even after a brief hands-on, these are clearly the key reasons to keep the Magic 5 Pro in mind for your next purchase.
We’re increasingly convinced by the software setup too. The update commitment is closing the gap on the best in the business, but the software experience is perhaps still struggling to move on from its previous relationship in terms of meaningful features. Although nothing is glaringly wrong with the OS, at least in our short time with the phone, MagicOS is unlikely to light up your smartphone experience either.
HONOR Magic 5 Pro: Hot or not?
There’s stiff competition for the Magic 5 Pro. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus ($999.99 at Samsung) and Apple iPhone 14 Pro ($799.99 at Amazon) are tough options to beat as a solid all-around purchase at this price point. Similarly, the more affordable Google Pixel 7 Pro ($589.98 at Amazon) is always a good bet for those looking for top-class camera features and a long-term investment. Still, there’s no denying that HONOR’s latest hardware package provides plenty to muse over.
If you’re after something a little more off the wall, the foldable HONOR Magic VS might be worth a look too, which also made its global launch at MWC.