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HONOR Magic V hands-on: The mega-sized foldable you can't buy
HONOR first showed off the Magic V folding phone in full in January and we finally got our hands on one at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This book-style device features a large exterior display, a high-quality build, and a massive 7.9-inch internal main screen for boosting productivity and enhancing entertainment.
Despite the DNA it may have inherited from the company’s former owner, HUAWEI, the Magic V is HONOR’s first folding device. Samsung, conversely, is now on its third generation of Galaxy Z Fold devices while OPPO recently launched its first foldable, the Find N. Does HONOR have what it takes to make an impression in the burgeoning market for foldable phones?
See also: HONOR Magic 4 Pro hands-on
Let’s start with some basics. The HONOR Magic V was clearly born from the HUAWEI Mate X2. The devices share a lot of essential design characteristics and specs. In other words, HONOR didn’t exactly conjure up the Magic V all on its own.
There are some interesting and not-inconsequential differences when it comes to the size and the shape of the HONOR Magic V. Where Samsung decided to keep things tall and narrow when the phone is closed and OPPO went with a shorter, slightly wider design, HONOR has opted for a more typical smartphone shape. That means a large-sized rectangular brick of a phone when closed that at first glance looks almost like any other device, rather than a brand new form factor. This makes much more of a difference when it comes to using the external screen than it does the internal one. Yes, the HONOR Magic V’s interior display is larger than those of the Z Fold 3 and the Find N, but not in a real meaningful way.
The front face of the Magic V features a full-sized 6.45-inch OLED panel with FHD+ resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate. This screen is immediately more appealing and useful than the narrow-shaped outer screen of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. It has the width of a traditional phone screen, which is particularly helpful for writing text or entering emoji. Typing on the thin outer screen of the Z Fold 3 is tedious by comparison. This may sound like a small improvement, but it’s really quite huge. The Magic V’s outer display itself looked good in the time we spent with it. It would be nice to see a 120Hz refresh rate, though.
Our take: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review
HONOR encircled the two halves of the phone with a metal frame. We spent time with the Burnt Orange colorway, which has a frame with a pleasing golden hue. I like the overall feel of the frame and the slightly angled profile the rails take to help with hand fit. The front may be glass, but the rear is pleather-y in nature. The texture of the surface is good, but it was hard to tell if it’s plastic or leather. At this price point it should be clear, but generally the build is solid and of high quality.
The more traditional outer screen is immediately more appealing than the narrow-shaped one on the Galaxy Z Fold 3.
The Magic V’s hinge is eerily similar to that of the Z Fold 3’s. The spine is made of metal and the outer halves of the phone envelope it completely as the phone is opened. I’d call the basic action of the hinge strong. It didn’t feel weak, but it did feel a little grind-y. We’re not sure if some dirt got into the unit we sampled or if the mechanics of the hinge simply aren’t refined enough. Either way, the Magic V’s hinge is nowhere near as smooth as the Z Fold 3 and doesn’t inspire as much confidence. You can tell Samsung has been designing foldables for a bit longer than HONOR.
There’s a flip side to this coin, however, and it’s in HONOR’s favor. The Z Fold 3 has a noticeable gap within the crease of the inner screen when the phone is closed. You can quite easily see the angle created when the two halves of the phone are pressed together. HONOR’s phone is gap-free. There’s no space created where the hinge closes, it simply shuts tight as you would expect a book to close. This uniformity of the design doesn’t go unappreciated.
Check out: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs OPPO Find N
Speaking of the inner screen, HONOR brewed a pleasant one for the Magic V. It measures 7.9 inches across the diagonal, which is among the largest available of today’s folding phones. The inner OLED has a pixel-rich 2,272 x 1,984 resolution that looks more square in its ratio than competing foldables. The 120Hz refresh rate ensures you get a smooth experience. Much like the Find N, the most impressive thing about the inner screen is that there’s no real crease. You’ll see a slight one of you look very closely, but it’s not as obvious as the crease on the Z Fold 3. This is a nice upgrade in the overall experience of using the Magic V’s inner screen and is something I hope Samsung is eventually able to correct on its own line of folding phones.
The HONOR Magic V has some shortcomings. There’s no IP rating, for example, nor is there wireless charging — these are features Samsung offers. The Magic V is very heavy at about 290g, which is more than either the Z Fold 3 or the Find N. I also worry a bit that the 4,750mAh battery won’t be well matched to the large internal screen. The Magic V has the right processor in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, and the 50MP camera arrangement appears to be good on paper.
If there’s one aspect of folding phones that Samsung absolutely owns right now, it’s the software experience. Samsung has spent years, often working directly with Google, to build dedicated modes, features, and functions for the folding panels of its Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3. This dedication to UX design gives Samsung a huge advantage. It’s probably fair to say Samsung will maintain this lead for some time. HONOR couldn’t point out any specific software tweaks that it made to account for the larger internal screen. What we saw on the Magic V was a fairly clean build of Magic OS 6 on top of Android 12, but it didn’t look all that different from what’s on HONOR’s standard smartphones.
HONOR Magic V: Hot or not?
For now, this is all a bit moot. HONOR says the Magic V will be limited to sales in China only where it’ll retail for 9,999 yuan (~$1,569) for the 12GB/256GB model. The company has no plans to release the Magic V — as it is today — in the global market. If the company makes a second-generation Magic V, it’s possible, though far from assured, that this second device might see a wider global release.
Until then, we’re happy to see the state of folding phones advance with each successive new market entrant.