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Home / Reviews / Smartphones / Honor 90 review: pixel packed

Honor 90 review: pixel packed

Does a triple-digit pixel count camera make this a must buy?

Honor 90 in hand back

Honor has been making regular appearances at the business end of best mid-range phone lists for years, but recently started branching out into more flagship territory – and even experimented with foldables for the first time. Does that mean the firm has forgotten how to deliver serious bang for buck? The Honor 90 aims to prove otherwise.

This modestly-priced mobile goes big on design, packs a huge pixel count camera, delivers loads of storage and promises charging that’s whip-crack quick. There’s no shortage of killer competition out there for around $499/£450, though: the brilliantly well-rounded Google Pixel 7a is the phone to beat, while Samsung and Nothing each prove tempting in their own way. You can even get an iPhone for similar cash – as long as you’re OK with a tiddly screen and styling that’s effectively six years old. Does the Honor 90 do enough to impress?

Design & build: keeping up appearances

Technically this is the successor to the Honor 80, which launched in China late last year but didn’t really do the rounds in the West. You can trace the design back further, though, to the Honor 70. Aside from a lightly streamlined polycarbonate frame, the two phones look very similar – but that’s no bad thing in our eyes.

There’s a four-sided curved display up front, two prominent camera bumps at the back, and the fame is polished to match one of four colour choices. The frosted effect rear of our Emerald Green review unit does a great impression of glass (it’s actually made from plastic) and provides plenty of grip, but the Peacock Blue and Diamond Silver are proper head-turners. The former has a diamond-grid texture and the latter glints in the light like an opal gemstone. It can (almost) hold court with phones that cost twice as much.

With a 6.7in screen this is a sizeable phone, but rounded edges and a svelte 7.8mm/0.31in thickness means it’s pretty comfortable to hold one-handed. It feels reassuringly hefty at 183g/6.46oz, but with no IP rating for water or dust resistance and no reinforced glass, it might be a good idea to use the bundled case.

You get a choice of fingerprint and face recognition for unlocking the phone, but only the former is secure enough for banking apps and the like. The under-display sensor is placed pretty close to the bottom edge of the phone, which can make one-handed unlocking a little precarious, but we had no qualms with its speed or accuracy.

There’s no IR blaster (still a staple on Honor’s pricier models) and sound is piped through a single mono speaker on the bottom edge, next to the USB-C port and SIM tray. It’ll take two SIM cards, but doesn’t support microSD external storage.

Screen & sound: brightens up your day

Four-sided curved edge glass and an AMOLED panel might sound similar to last year’s Honor 70, but the Honor 90’s display is slightly larger at 6.7in. It also squeezes in more pixels per inch courtesy of a 2664×1080 resolution. That makes it wonderfully sharp from any distance, and helps give the impression of seriously skinny screen bezels. We had no issues with palm rejection or phantom inputs, either.

It’s also a whole lot brighter this time around, peaking at a lofty 1600 nits. That’s approaching flagship-grade amounts of intensity, and means we had no issues using the phone outside on sunny days. It also helps give HDR content oodles of depth, with highlights really making an impression against deep, dark shadows.

Colours and contrast are leagues ahead of the more entry-level Honor 90 Lite, which uses LCD panel tech. Everything looks pleasingly natural, with vibrant yet restrained hues – although you can hop into the Settings menus and tweak the colour temperature all you like.

The 120Hz refresh rate defaults to a dynamic mode, which dials things up or down depending on what’s showing onscreen. It responds quickly to fast swipes, so we didn’t feel the need to force it on all the time, but there are options for permanent 120Hz and 60Hz modes. There’s also a 90Hz middle ground, which doesn’t use quite as much battery life but still gives a smoothness boost over plain old 60Hz.

We weren’t quite so enamoured with the single down-firing speaker, which is a little too easy to muffle with your mitts while playing games or watching videos. Still, it gets loud enough for a mid-range phone, doesn’t distort when you properly crank the volume, and has decent mid-range clarity.

Performance & software: won’t leave you waiting

A Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 CPU might put the Honor 90 firmly in mid-range territory, but it runs at a slightly faster 2.5GHz – a welcome boost over the usual 2.4GHz seen on other phones with the same silicon. It’s paired with a sizeable 12GB of RAM, plus you can borrow a load more from storage to use as virtual memory. This is a pretty potent combo for daily duties, loading apps quickly enough and keeping others in memory for seamless swapping. Scrolling and swiping never felt sluggish to us, and animations were mostly smooth. On paper it’s bested by the Tensor G2 inside the Google Pixel 7a, but you’d need a stopwatch to spot the difference.

Particularly intensive games can still make it sweat a little, but be realistic with the graphics settings and it’ll cope just fine. Rainbow Six Mobile comfortably ran without needing to massively cut back on the details.

Honor’s familiar, icon-heavy interface might look a little removed from stock Android, but it’s easy enough to navigate even if you’re new to the brand,. There’s no app drawer by default, in favour of iPhone-style multiple home screens, but you can swap styles easily enough. Customisation options are plentiful, and Honor has a bunch of custom widgets to pick from too.

As well as the usual scattering of third-party apps (which can thankfully be uninstalled), there’s a whole bunch of Honor’s own offerings – which we still feel are superfluous for Western audiences that are all-in on Google. They don’t east massively into the phone’s built-in storage, at least, especially if you spring for the version with 512GB of storage. Few rivals offer such a large capacity.

Battery & charging: long lifer

Honor 90 USB-C port

Honor phones have always managed to extract plenty of juice from their batteries and the Honor 90 is no different. Its 5000mAh cell already has a size advantage over many mid-range rivals, which make do with 4500mAh or less, and the sensible CPU largely sips power. This is absolutely an all-day phone.

We could go from morning until late night without dipping into the red, or changing our usage habits. Avoid gaming, recording videos or bingeing HDR content and it should stretch comfortably into a second day before you’ll need to add extra power.

When that time comes you shouldn’t be tethered to the mains for too long – at 66W the Honor 90 only needs around an hour to fully refuel. That’s more than twice as fast as a Pixel 7a or Galaxy A54. Just keep in mind you’ll also need to supply the power brick, as Honor has decided to ditch it from the box in order to cut down on e-waste.

It’s a shame that wireless charging doesn’t make the cut, though. Google and Nothing have managed to bring the tech to the mid-range, even if only at modest speeds, and the latter can even reverse charge your other tech.

Cameras: 200 not out

A 200MP rear camera might be the Honor 90’s headline act, but the firm has paid almost as much attention to the selfie cam up front. It’s packing a 50MP sensor, which can take detailed and well-exposed snaps with natural-looking colours. We love that Honor asks you whether to enable beauty mode when you first go to take a selfie, rather than force it on you by default, and its digital depth blur effects are largely convincing.

Performance from the lead camera was consistently great during daylight hours. It’s a physically bigger sensor than last year’s effort, as well as having a lot more pixels, so can take in plenty of detail – which isn’t lost when the phone downsamples your shots to 12MP. After the Magic 5 Pro baked HDR into its main camera mode we expected all Honor phones to follow suit, but there’s still a separate mode here. The regular mode uses HDR anyway – and can go a little overboard on sky detail, at the expense of shadows. But for the most part you get a natural-looking presentation with well-balanced colours and consistent exposure.

By cropping the sensor, it can also pull off impressively sharp zoom shots. The camera app only has a toggle for 2x zoom, but you can pinch to zoom in up to 10x; we reckon anything up to 5x is perfectly usable during the day.

With no optical image stabilisation, you’ll need steady hands to get the sharpest possible low-light snaps from the Honor 90. The firm’s image processing does a good job with slow shutter speeds, and noise is kept under control, but it works best with stationary subjects. Colours do stay very lifelike, though, even when your subject is lit by harsh artificial lighting.

There’s less to write home about on the secondary rear snappers. A 2MP depth cam only helps out with portrait shots, and doesn’t boss bokeh any better than rivals that rely entirely on software – we’d be perfectly happy to see Honor ditch this sensor for future phones, or swap it for a macro lens a three-lens setup is essential.

The 12MP ultrawide is also a backwards step from the Honor 70’s 50MP unit on pure pixel count, but it at least keeps the autofocus abilities that let it double as a macro shooter. That’s something the Pixel 7a can’t match, and even though focus distance isn’t super-close, you can still get some fun (if a little soft) shots. Once you’ve dug the super-macro mode out of the shooting modes menu, anyway.

Honor 90 camera samples 1xHonor 90 camera samples ultrawide

Image quality isn’t a world away from the main sensor, with very similar colour and exposure treatments, although finer details aren’t quite as well defined. It still strikes a fine balance between shadows and highlights, and lens correction doesn’t soften the edges of the frame too much. It’s a worthy inclusion that deserves to see plenty of use.

Honor 90 verdict

Honor 90 homescreen

In isolation, the Honor 90 is a fantastic mid-range blower. It looks the business, has a gorgeous screen and that 200MP main camera is capable of impressive detail in a range of lighting conditions. We have no complaints about performance given the asking price, and battery life is superb. 66W rapid charging is among the fastest you’ll find for this kind of cash, and a 512GB storage option is unheard of at the mid-range.

There’s no shortage of similarly-priced rivals around, though – and they each bring something different to the table. The Nothing Phone 1 isn’t quite as speedy, but has wireless charging and distinctive glyph lighting; the Pixel 7a doesn’t last as long, but sets the bar for mid-tier phone cameras; the Galaxy A54 has IP67 water resistance and expandable storage support.

If longevity, storage space and charging speeds are higher on your wish list than any of those features, the Honor 90 is a great buy – but it’s far from the only game in town.

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

A very capable mid-ranger that looks and feels like a much pricier phone. It’s fast and takes a pleasing picture, but faces increasingly strong competition.

Good Stuff

Sharp looks and quality build

OLED screen a joy for gaming and watching videos

Main camera packs in plenty of detail

Bad Stuff

Depth camera not a worthwhile inclusion

Image processing can be OTT at times

Missing features found in similarly-priced rivals

Honor 90 technical specifications

Screen6.7in. 2664×1200 AMOLED w/ 120Hz, HDR10+
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 7 Gen 1
Cameras200MP, f/1.9 main + 12MP, f/2.2 ultrawide + 2MP, f/2.4 depth rear
50MP front
Operating systemAndroid 13
Battery5000mAh w/ 66W wired charging
Dimensions162x74x7.8mm, 183g / 6.38×2.91×0.31in, 6.46oz
Profile image of Tom Morgan-Freelander Tom Morgan-Freelander Deputy Editor


A tech addict from about the age of three (seriously, he's got the VHS tapes to prove it), Tom's been writing about gadgets, games and everything in between for the past decade, with a slight diversion into the world of automotive in between. As Deputy Editor, Tom keeps the website ticking along, jam-packed with the hottest gadget news and reviews.  When he's not on the road attending launch events, you can usually find him scouring the web for the latest news, to feed Stuff readers' insatiable appetite for tech.

Areas of expertise

Smartphones/tablets/computing, cameras, home cinema, automotive, virtual reality, gaming