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HONOR Magic 5 Pro hero standing back 2
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
aa2020 editors choice

HONOR Magic 5 Pro review: Muscling in on the competition

HONOR threw absolutely everything at its latest smartphone and came away with a winner.
By
April 11, 2023
aa2020 editors choice

HONOR Magic 5 Pro

Best-in-class hardware and a thorough polish make the HONOR Magic 5 Pro impossible to ignore. Whether you're after fast charging, great performance, or a solid camera experience, HONOR wants you to take note.

What we like

A true technological powerhouse
Great camera package
Fast wired and wireless charging
Top-notch biometrics
All-day battery life and more

What we don't like

MagicOS 7.1 feels a bit dated
Display refresh rate could be smoother
No Gorilla Glass protection
Missing ultrawide video capture
aa2020 editors choice

HONOR Magic 5 Pro

Best-in-class hardware and a thorough polish make the HONOR Magic 5 Pro impossible to ignore. Whether you're after fast charging, great performance, or a solid camera experience, HONOR wants you to take note.

Looking for the best smartphone money can buy? Well, you’re spoilt for choice, with brands catering to specific features and sometimes even niche use cases that might matter most to you. HONOR’s latest Magic 5 Pro flagship boasts a hardware package that looks like it can do it all. But can it? Find out in Android Authority’s HONOR Magic 5 Pro review.

About this HONOR Magic 5 Pro review: I tested the HONOR Magic 5 Pro over a period of five days. It was running MagicOS 7.1 (7.1.0.124) on the February 2023 security patch. The unit was provided by HONOR for this review.

What you need to know about the HONOR Magic 5 Pro

HONOR Magic 5 Pro homescreen on table
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
  • HONOR Magic 5 Pro (12GB/512GB): £949 / €1,199 (~$1,266)

The successor to 2022’s HONOR Magic 4 Pro, the Magic 5 Pro arrives on store shelves in early April 2023. HONOR is banking on an all-inclusive hardware package to persuade global customers that it can take on the best in the business. Like most Chinese brands, though, you won’t find the Magic 5 Pro destined for US shores.

The Magic 5 Pro builds on the look of the Magic 4 Pro with a symmetrical camera configuration housed in a circular design; HONOR’s “Eye of Muse.” This is accompanied by smooth curved leading up from the back and equally rounded edges on both the front and rear of the handset. A “quad-curve,” if you will. It’s quite a sight to behold in two available colorways in global markets — either glass Black or matte Meadow Green (both pictured). The design is rounded off by an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance, but there’s no Corning Gorilla Glass or any other protection noted on the spec sheet; that’s a slight concern for overall durability. When asked for more detail, HONOR explained that, “the [Magic 5 Pro’s] display passed HONOR lab’s rigorous quality tests, ensuring user never worry about damaging their device.”

Turning to internals, the Magic 5 Pro is powered by a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, 8/12/16GB of RAM, and 256 or 512GB storage options. However, there’s only one model for global consumers; the 12GB/512GB variety. Equally flagship specifications can be found across the rest of the handset, from the 120Hz 6.81-inch QHD+ display and large 5,100mAh battery with 45W fast charging, through to the 50MP triple rear camera setup. You’ll also find Wi-Fi 7, Bluetooth 5.2, eSIM, NFC, and 5G sub-6GHz connectivity capabilities onboard. The dual stereo speakers aren’t bad sounding either.

On the software side, HONOR’s MagicOS 7.1 (based on Android 13) serves up a familiar-looking UI, complete with proprietary features, like Magic Ring connectivity and HONOR Notes, to tie the brand’s computer ecosystem together. The company backs this up with three OS and five years of security patches. That’s not the absolute best update policy you’ll find, but it’s a very good level of support for a phone at this price tier.

What’s good?

HONOR Magic 5 Pro HONOR apps
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

If the design hasn’t already caught your eye, the HONOR Magic 5 Pro’s spec sheet certainly should. There’s a simply awesome array of cutting-edge technology packed in here, so let’s start where you’ll look first; with the display.

As you’d expect at this price, colors and contrast for video content, including 1,800 nits peak brightness for HDR, look simply stunning. HONOR boasts 2,160Hz PWM dimming to avoid low-brightness flicker for night viewing, an e-book mode that is essentially a black-and-white display, and optional video and image upscaling options. I can tell you from many hours with this phone browsing the web, streaming video, and playing games, that this is one very nice smartphone display.

The HONOR Magic 5 Pro is a specs powerhouse.

The Magic 5 Pro offers two robust biometric security options; face unlock and an in-display fingerprint reader. The former uses infrared depth data, making it secure enough for mobile payments and ultra-snappy to open your phone. All I had to do was pick it up, and it unlocked; it was brilliant. The fingerprint scanner is equally fast, but I found that it is placed far too low on the screen to use comfortably in one hand.

HONOR Magic 5 Pro fingerprint scanner placement
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

All this technology is powered by a 5,100mAh battery that easily took me through a day of heavy use and pushed two days of lighter interaction. Once we look at the performance metrics, it’s clear how this is accomplished. HONOR’s implementation of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is fairly conservative. The phone limits CPU performance compared to most of its flagship rivals and falls a little behind in benchmarks compared to some of the very best Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 phones, though it’s not as aggressive as Xiaomi in this regard. Still, the phone performs well in everyday tasks and mixed workloads (as shown by the PCMark test). The slight peak performance trade-offs are worth the additional battery life, and those who need the extra grunt can toggle the Magic 5 Pro’s performance mode on.

The HONOR Magic 5 Pro performs OK in a stress test workload, too. It sustains maximum performance longer than Samsung’s souped-up Snapdragon for Galaxy chipset in the Galaxy S23 series, but the phone’s cooling system isn’t as robust as, say, OnePlus or OPPO’s. Does this affect gaming? During a 30-minute playthrough of PUBG Mobile, frame rates were locked close to a solid 60fps with HDR+ graphics enabled. The experience isn’t as jank-free as a dedicated gaming phone, but we don’t have to worry about excessive heat here for all but the most demanding titles and extended play sessions.

If you need a speedy top-up, HONOR packs a 66W SuperCharge plug in the box with the Magic 5 Pro. The company thankfully seems to have backed down on last year’s 100W marketing silliness. We clocked the Magic 5 Pro pulling up to 44W from the wall, hitting 25% capacity in under eight minutes, 50% in around 16 minutes, 75% in ~27 minutes, and full in ~43 minutes. That’s pretty speedy. The phone also supports up to 50W wireless charging, allowing for almost equally fast charging over the air, though you’ll need a proprietary pad to get the fastest charge times. HONOR’s wireless charger retails for £84.99 at the time of this writing, though the Magic 5 Pro does support slower Qi wireless charging as a backup too.

HONOR’s plug is, sadly, USB-A rather than USB-C, and it won’t fast charge other USB Power Delivery gadgets, such as your laptop. However, the HONOR Magic 5 Pro does work with third-party USB PD chargers and has a USB-C port. We clocked a slightly lower 25W into the phone with a USB PD charger, taking ~12 minutes to 25%, ~27 minutes to 50%, ~40 minutes to 75%, and around an hour to full. Slower than SuperCharge, then, but not too bad overall if you forget your HONOR adapter.

Great performance, display, battery life, and charging. The Magic 5 Pro has it all.

On the software side, 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 devices — the Magic 4 Pro was promised a meager two years for both Android versions and security patches — and matches what Google offers for its Pixel series. It’s probably enough to see most users through the lifespan of their purchase, even if you won’t receive the latest Android features right at the very end.

However, regarding value, the Google Pixel 7 Pro costs just €899 ($899), not €1,199 (~$1,266). If you’re looking to spend top dollar, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus costs the same as HONOR’s latest but comes with an extra year of OS updates. HONOR’s pledge is very good then, but not the best when spending this kind of money.

What’s not so good?

HONOR Magic 5 Pro design side profile on stand
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

As great as the display is to look at, it’s not quite as brilliant to interact with. With a variable refresh LTPO AMOLED panel at its heart, we clocked the display switching between 60, 90, and 120Hz modes in the default Dynamic mode. The phone spends most of its time at 90Hz when navigating the home screen but just 60Hz when using most apps. The exception is the odd HONOR app, settings menu, and benchmarks that kicked the panel up to 120Hz. We had the same complaint about the stingy dynamic refresh rate with the Magic 4 Pro, and the result is another phone with an otherwise good display that perhaps doesn’t offer the silkiest smoothness on the market. Still, this all plays into some exceptional battery life. If you want a smoother experience, you can force locked 120Hz and 90Hz modes at the expense of battery life.

Curved glass isn’t everyone’s thing, but it helps that the large 6.81-inch display feels easier to use. Even so, I found the phone quite wide and a little top-heavy to use in one hand. The handset is undeniably well-built; the curved glass is exquisite, for example. But we’re stuck with a design language that clings to the tail end of the HONOR/HUAWEI days rather than a truly new look for HONOR as a standalone brand. While lapsed HUAWEI fans won’t mind the similarities, there are obvious leftovers such as the circular camera array, left-aligned front camera pill, and much more once you dive into the UI, but more on that in a minute.

Speaking of design, we’re not entirely unconvinced by the two colorways HONOR offers. The glass Black version is stunning but is an absolute fingerprint magnet, while the Meadow Green model looks quite like grey unless the light catches it head-on. The latter is rather uninspiring, then, which begs the question; why don’t global markets see the Blue, Purple, and Orange colorways available to buyers in China?

HONOR Magic 5 Pro settings menu
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Returning to software. While we loathe making the comparison, the HUAWEI hangover is still very much evident in HONOR’s MagicOS 7.1 (but with the benefit of Google Play support via Google Mobile Services). Quick settings, deeper menus, and even the layout of apps, such as the camera, are still eerily similar. You can connect your phone to HONOR’s laptops to open up shared mobile/PC functionality. That’s not strictly a negative, MagicOS 7.1 is perfectly functional after all, but I struggle to find a reason to want to return to the software. Why should you pick HONOR’s Android skin over, say, the simplicity of Google’s Pixel UI, the feature-richness of Samsung’s One UI, or the customizability of OPPO’s ColorOS? It’s hard to say.

Great hardware? Check. But we're still missing a solid software identity.

MagicOS 7.1 has a few tricks tucked up its sleeve. YOYO assistant recommends app suggestions based on user habit, Magic Text extracts text and offers contextual actions from images, and Circadian Night Display can schedule a blue light filter for you at night. But none of those are exactly unique or truly compelling reasons to pick this phone over any other. Instead, we have new names for otherwise pretty common features.

HONOR’s Magic Ring is more interesting; it integrates your phone with a notebook, enabling file drag and drop, opening up to three Android apps on your laptop, and even seamless picture printing. This is MagicOS’ most compelling feature and is useful for business environments, but it requires you to embed yourself into HONOR’s laptop ecosystem and beyond to really benefit.

Along with the apparent lack of the latest Gorilla Glass protection, it’s clear there are a few minor gripes to be had overall. Still, the HONOR Magic 5 Pro certainly gets a lot more right than it gets wrong. But what about the camera?

HONOR Magic 5 Pro camera review

HONOR Magic 5 Pro camera app
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

HONOR has big shoes to fill when it comes to flagship photography, and the company is certainly talking a good game this year as it looks to outmuscle the best camera phones. The Magic 5 Pro boasts a triple 50MP camera setup, comprising a large 1/1.2-inch f/1.6 main sensor, 122-degree f/2.0 ultrawide, and a 3.5x zoom f/3.0 periscope camera based on a Sony IMX358. Impressive-looking hardware is paired with a selection of HONOR software innovations, including Falcon Capture, Ultra-fusion Computational Optics, and Super HDR technology.

Let’s get into some snaps, then. You can find the full-resolution image samples in this Google Drive folder.

Broadly speaking, there’s a fair amount of color pop here, and the contrast curve is pushed up slightly for extra punch. That produces a nice look most of the time, but that can mean that highlights and colors are sometimes pushed into clipping (see the white flowers in the shop, for example). This gives the pictures more oomph at the expense of some accuracy, but at least the camera doesn’t suffer from out-and-out oversaturation. All but the pickiest photographers will be very pleased by the look and consistency of the Magic 5 Pro’s main camera.

HONOR’s Super HDR technology is a particular highlight, extracting highlight and shadow detail even with the trickiest backlighting. However, HDR shots focus on scene-wide rather than subject-specific exposure. This tries to avoid clipping but can result in underexposed subjects when there’s strong backlighting. You can get around this using the Pro mode’s spot metering.

The Magic 5 Pro’s ultrawide camera is equally adept. The 122-degree field of view produces a noticeable step back from the main lens while still producing comparable colors, exposure, and a mostly consistent white balance. The dynamic range is not quite as brilliant as the big main sensor, but it’s still very good.

The ultrawide lens isn’t completely flawless, though. You will spot chromatic aberration when shooting in bright light, but it’s mostly kept under control. There’s also a noticeable loss of detail at the frame edges, and the sharpening pass is quite harsh. This isn’t uncommon and certainly isn’t bad enough to detract from the overall experience, but it’s a minor blemish when blowing pictures up.

Turning to zoom, there are similar pros and minor cons. The HONOR Magic 5 Pro boasts multi-lens image fusion capabilities that blend data from multiple cameras to fill in for optical zoom gaps. The results are generally outstanding, with a high level of detail on offer between 1x and 3.5x. Colors and exposure are spot on in this range. You can, however, sometimes spot unfocused details if you’re close to your subject when you move beyond 2x, but again we’re nitpicking.

Beyond 3.5x, the phone only has a single telephoto camera to work with, which has some obvious limitations. 5x and even 7x snaps are, impressively, perfectly serviceable, even if details do lose a fair bit of sharpness and dynamic range starts to fall off. 10x pushes the limits of the phone’s hardware but can come away with pretty decent results in good lighting. Closer inspection reveals a lack of detail, but it’s still a pretty solid effort, given the single periscope lens. We wouldn’t recommend pushing the phone any further, and forget talk of 100x zoom. It’s not usable.

Camera performance is less consistent across lenses in low light. The main camera handles dim conditions very well without the aid of night mode. Similarly, the 3.5x periscope zoom does reasonably well, too, managing to capture decent details and colors, albeit with a bit less exposure than the main camera.

However, the ultrawide struggles here. Pictures take a long time to capture, hinting at the use of night mode behind closed doors, so don’t bank on capturing moving subjects with it. The end result is too bright in the example above, and there’s a high noise level and a heavy dose of contrast. It’s not terrible, but not great either.

Thankfully, the selfie snapper is more consistent, with excellent HDR capabilities, punchy colors, and skin textures. Skin tones can be a little off with indoor lighting, and the look remains a little contrast heavy, but the results speak for themselves.

Unfortunately, HONOR’s portrait mode is not as nice looking. Although the added level of exposure, color, and pop looks nice on a small screen, blow the images up and you’ll notice unsightly oversharpening. I might not have porcelain skin, but the standard 2x zoom option looks much more flattering and natural. You can always ramp up the beautification slider, but that introduces its own issues. On the plus side, bokeh blur and edge detection look pretty great, and the dedicated aperture mode lets you take even more control over the look.

HONOR Magic 5 Pro video capabilities top out at 4K 60fps but only allows shooting from the main and periscope zoom cameras. This does mean you benefit from rock-solid image stabilization on both lenses, but miss out on ultrawide capture. Colors and exposure are as bright and vivid as the camera’s photos, but there is some grain in low light. I also managed to trigger a constant swapping of the main and telephoto lenses when the phone couldn’t quite figure out the best one for the lighting conditions. There is a super night mode for nighttime video at 1080p 24fps exclusively from the main lens, as well as beautification filters that continue to work when shooting at 1080p. If you want additional cinematic bokeh blur in your footage, you’re covered here too. The quality and accuracy of the software bokeh blur are good, minus the usual stray hairs. However, the 24fps frame rate looks a little janky at times to my eye, and the effect can miss faster-moving objects.

Overall, HONOR has clearly stepped up its camera game this year, particularly in the photography department. The Magic 4 Pro was good, but results from the Magic 5 Pro are now really competitive with the best phones from Apple, Google, and Samsung. It’s not flawless, particularly in the portrait and zoom arenas, but this is one of the few smartphones that provides a compelling and consistent camera experience across all lenses.

HONOR Magic 5 Pro specs

HONOR Magic 5 Pro
Display
6.81-inch LTPO OLED curved display
2,848 x 1,312 resolution
461 ppi
120Hz adaptive refresh rate
HDR10+
1,800 nits peak brightness

Processor
Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
RAM
12GB RAM LPDDR5X
Storage
512GB internal
UFS 4.0
No microSD card expansion
Battery and charging
5,100mAh
66W wired charging
50W wireless charging
Cameras
Rear:
- 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)

Front:
- 12MP wide (ƒ/2.4)
Video
4K HDR10+ at 60fps
Audio
Dual stereo speakers
Bluetooth 5.2
Durability
IP68-rated
Connectivity
Bluetooth 5.2
Wi-Fi 7
NFC support
Dual-SIM + eSIM
5G NR, 4G TDD-LTE / FDD-LTE, 3G WCDMA, 2G GSM
Biometrics
In-display fingerprint sensor
Software
Magic OS 7.1
Android 13
Dimensions and weight
162.9 x 76.7 x 8.77mm
219g
Colors
Meadow Green, Black

HONOR Magic 5 Pro review: The verdict

HONOR Magic 5 Pro hero standing back 1
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

HONOR is finally breaking out of its shell with the Magic 5 Pro, sanding away previously rough edges to produce an exceptional, polished smartphone experience. The powerhouse hardware package is as good, if not better than you’ll find anywhere else. Including the all-important photography domain, which has come on leaps and bounds since the Magic 4 Pro launched just a year prior.

A stunning (if a bit sluggish) display, solid battery, brilliant biometrics, well-rounded cameras, and great performance provide everything you need on the day-to-day. The next step we’d really like to see is a little more unique identity in software department, though that’s not to say that MagicOS 7.1 won’t serve you perfectly well, especially now HONOR has improved its update policy.

The Magic 5 Pro is an exceptional smartphone from a resurgent HONOR.

The big question is, should you buy it? Priced at £949 in the UK, HONOR has waded into the same arena as the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus ($999.99 at Samsung) and the Apple iPhone 14 Pro ($799.99 at Amazon), but undercuts both. It has the edge on Apple’s hardware and does come with more storage than Samsung’s equivalently priced model. However, these rivals retain advantages regarding long-term software support and broader ecosystem plays. It’s still a little way off the value flagship king, the Google Pixel 7 Pro ($589.98 at Amazon), though it’s more affordable than the excellent Xiaomi 13 Pro (£1099.99 at Amazon).

Outside of the UK, €1,199 certainly isn’t unjustifiable for a phone of this quality, even if an asking price closer to €1,099 would have made the Magic 5 Pro a slam-dunk. As it stands, you have to be willing to leave the safety net of the big players to take a chance on HONOR. With that in mind, the Magic 5 Pro is a great pick if you’re looking for something different yet still incredibly competent, and I definitely recommend you consider it.

Honor Magic5 Pro 5GHonor Magic5 Pro 5G
AA Editors Choice
Honor Magic5 Pro 5G
A true technological powerhouse • Great camera package • Fast wired and wireless charging
MSRP: $998.98
HONOR's best gets even better
The Magic 5 Pro is an exceptional smartphone from former HUAWEI sub-brand, HONOR. It boasts a stunning display, solid battery, brilliant biometrics, well-rounded cameras, and great performance to provide everything you need on the day-to-day.

Top HONOR Magic 5 Pro questions and answers

Yes, the HONOR Magic 5 Pro is IP68 rated for dust and water resistance.

Yes, like other recent HONOR smartphones following its split with HUAWEI, the HONOR Magic 5 Pro has access to Google’s Play Store and other popular Android apps and services, including Google Assistant and Google Pay.

You should buy the HONOR Magic 5 Pro if you’re looking for powerhouse hardware and a robust camera package. Give the handset a miss if you’re after a more affordable smartphone, an ultra-slick display, and the longest software support available.

The HONOR Magic 5 Pro supports sub-6GHz 5G.

HONOR sells a dual-SIM version of the Magic 5 Pro in selected regions and a Nano-SIM + eSIM in others, availability will depend on your country and carrier.