Honor Magic 5 Pro hands-on review: super fast shooter?
Sorry Honor, but last year’s Magic 4 Pro was a shock to the system. The one-time budget brand was suddenly competing with the big boys – and in several respects beating them, courtesy of an excellent set of cameras and incredibly quick charging. Of both the wired and wireless varieties. The Honor Magic 5 Pro has a lot to live up to, then.
Things look good off the bat, with suitably high-end styling, top-tier internals and an overhauled trio of cameras that have a serious need for speed. But it arrives when the competition has never been hotter.
Can Honor make it two in a row? We went hands-on with the handset ahead of its official Mobile World Congress unveiling to find out.
Design & build: glass is always greener
To call the Magic 5 Pro another glass and metal sandwich would be doing Honor’s design team a disservice. Yes, it has the curved screen edges we’ve seen plenty of times already this year, but the polished aluminium and frosted finish of our Meadow Green demo unit look properly premium. The central frame is flatter than some rivals, giving your hand something substantial to grip onto.
The “eye of muse” rear camera bump is the biggest visual upgrade over the previous generation. The circular module holding the cameras is colour-matched to the phone now, and the glass rises up to meet it. Swoon.
While you can pick one up in basic black colours, it has a more glossy finish that picks up fingerprints a little too easily. The green version’s textured glass seems much easier to keep clean. Either way you’re looking at an IP68-rated handset that can survive a dunking or two.
You’ve got the choice of fingerprint unlocking using the in-display sensor, or face recognition via the dual-width punch-hole selfie camera. The latter is secure enough to use as biometric security for banking apps and the like.
That there’s no 3.5mm headphone port will hardly come as a surprise – but the IR blaster at the top might. It’s easily programmed using Honor’s smart remote app to control gadgets like your TV or air conditioner.
Screen & sound: aiming for the top
With skinny bezels and subtly curved edges, the Magic 5 Pro’s 6.81in AMOLED is easy on the eye before you even turn it on. Once you do, you’re treated to a pin-sharp 2838×1312 resolution panel that uses LTPO tech for 120Hz smoothness without the accompanying battery drain. Motion was always effortless, with no noticeable jelly scrolling.
This is a properly bright display, usually topping out at 1300 nits in regular use but able to hit a peak 1800 nits to properly give HDR videos proper punch. While we were stuck indoors for our demo session, it’s unlikely even bright sunshine will give you any trouble when it comes to seeing whats onscreen. Viewing angles were excellent, too.
Honor is particularly proud of its new Circadian night mode, which increasingly reduces blue light to match your sleeping patterns. Combined with rapid 2160Hz backlight dimming, you shouldn’t see any screen flickering once you head to bed and lower the screen brightness. We’ll have to wait for a full review to see what impact it has on our ability to snooze, but testing body TUV Rhineland has handed it a circadian friendly award – the first of it’s kind, no less.
There wasn’t any opportunity to crank the Magic 5 Pro’s stereo speakers (not without irking the other assembled journalists, anyway) so it’s not clear whether they’ll be fine for catching up on your YouTube subscriptions, or send you scurrying for a pair of headphones.
Cameras: sets the pace
While the rest of the high-end phone world seems fixated on pixel count (see Samsung’s 200MP Galaxy S23 Ultra) and sensor size (see the Xiaomi 13 Pro or Vivo X90 Pro), Honor has made speed a priority for its cameras.
Not that the Magic 5 Pro is especially lacking on the hardware front, with a trio of 50MP rear snappers. The lead lens has a 1/1.12in sensor, so should capture plenty of light, and optical image stabilisation to cut down on camera shake. It’s paired with a 122-degree ultrawide and a telephoto lens with 3.5x optical zoom, giving it a magnification advantage over rivals that make do with 2x cameras. It can also manage up to 100x digital zoom, just like Samsung’s pricier S23 Ultra.
The real highlight is the bespoke “Falcon capture” algorithm, which helps speed up focusing times using AI and should make a big difference when shooting fast-moving subjects. We had none for our demo, but Honor did show what happened when it used the phone to capture the highest ever between the legs basketball slam dunk. The player looks undeniably crisp, despite moving at speed. We’re hoping it’ll help us capture clean shots of our pets, which steadfastly refuse to sit still for pictures.
We also noticed that HDR is now baked into the camera app’s main mode, rather than being buried in a separate menu. That’s because a new processing system takes contrast and brightness calibration frames as well as multiple exposures, to deliver more impactful shots automatically.
How well it holds up against rival flagships remains to be seen, but first impressions are very positive.
Performance and software: pulls no punches
With a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and 12GB of RAM on board, it’ll come as no surprise that the Magic 5 Pro felt especially speedy during our taster session. Apps open in a flash, multitasking was smooth and no amount of media-heavy websites could slow it down. It should easily keep pace with the best 2023 has shown us so far. 256GB should be enough on-board storage for most, too.
We weren’t able to download any games, so can’t say for certain if it can deliver high enough frame rates to take advantage of the 120Hz display, but given the kind of GPU grunt we’ve seen from rival handsets using the same chip, it’s unlikely players will be disappointed here.
The phone runs the latest version of Honor’s MagicOS, sat on top of Android 13. It’s a more streamlined skin than before, with flatter icons, more widgets and big folders for greater home screen customisation. There was no shortage of pre-installed apps on our review unit, including a bespoke Honor app store, which is a little redundant on phones heading to the West given they’ll have the Google Play Store. That said, it was running non-final software so the version customers get might be a bit more stripped back.
We don’t know how the 5100mAh battery will cope in daily use just yet, but are expecting to see at least a day’s worth of juice between top-ups. The firm’s power management software worked wonders on the Magic 5 Lite we reviewed earlier this month, after all. 66W wired charging should provide a full recharge in about an hour, and it has the optional convenience of wireless charging too. With the right Qi pad it can manage a speedy 50W. Neither is quite as quick as last year’s model, however.
Also keep in mind Honor doesn’t include a power brick in the box any more, so you’ll need to provide your own.
Honor Magic 5 Pro initial verdict
If last year’s Magic 4 Pro was Honor testing the waters, the Magic 5 Pro is a confident cannonball into flagship territory. It’s got the looks to rub shoulders with the current crop of £1000-ish rivals (especially in Meadow Green), and on first inspection should have the performance to match.
Image quality from that rear camera trio remains an unknown right now, however impressive it appeared during our demo session, as is battery life. But with a stunner of a screen, big battery and fast charging, there’s very little not to like.
If Honor gets the price right, you may want to reconsider that Google Pixel 7 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S23+ purchase.
Honor Magic 5 Pro technical specifications
|Screen||6.8in, 2838×1312 AMOLED w/ LTPO, 120Hz, HDR10+|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 octa-core|
|Cameras||50MP + 50MP + 50MP rear, 32MP front|
|Operating system||Android 13 w/ MagicOS 7.1|
|Battery||5100mAh w/ 66W wired charging, 50W wireless + reverse wireless|