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Home / Reviews / Smartphones / Honor Magic 6 Lite review: generation game

Honor Magic 6 Lite review: generation game

Stamina and styling in equal measure

Honor Magic 6 Lite review lead

Stuff Verdict

A beefy battery, capable main camera, and a body that could rival some flagships in the style stakes. The Honor Magic 6 Lite makes a compelling case if affordability is important.

Pros

  • Fantastic battery life
  • Looks and feels like a much pricier phone
  • Main camera packs in plenty of detail

Cons

  • Macro lens doesn’t add much value
  • Runs Android 13 and only due 2yrs of updates

Introduction

I’m used to smartphone brands bringing their A game right away, launching a flagship phone first then fleshing out the line-up with more affordable variants later. Samsung does it. Google does it too. But not Honor. The one-time budget handset specialist is kicking 2024 off with the Honor Magic 6 Lite, and will expand into more premium territory later.

That’s not to say the Magic 6 Lite isn’t worth getting excited about, though. It builds on last year’s very capable Magic 5 Lite with sharper styling, an even higher pixel count for its main rear camera, and one of the biggest batteries you’ll find for the cash. It’ll set you back just £350 (roughly $440, although Honor has yet to enter the US phone market, which is notoriously challenging if you aren’t called Apple or Samsung). That handily undercuts the $499/£449 Google Pixel 7a, and compares favourably with the ageing Nothing Phone 1.

The spec sheet suggests there’s an awful lot to like. Does that still ring true after a few weeks of testing?

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Design & build: one to watch

Honor has a knack for making its affordable phones look like much more expensive ones, and the Magic 6 Lite is no different. Curved edge glass, a slim build and a metal effect frame make quite a statement in Emerald Green and Midnight Black colours, but it’s my Sunrise Orange review unit (exclusive to the Honor website, at least for UK customers) that steals the show. The former two are made from polycarbonate, but the latter has vibrant vegan leather. The texture feels convincing enough under my fingertips, and adds a good amount of grip.

Not that a fall is necessarily the worst thing for this phone. Honor says it’s the first handset to get a five star rating from Swiss certification body SGS for drop protection. The glass is made of three layers that should be able to withstand a 1.5m impact from any angle and live to tell the tale. I didn’t fancy smashing my sample to test the theory, mind, and would always recommend you stick any smartphone in a case post-haste. IP53 dust and splash protection is reasonable for an affordable phone, too.

A punch-hole camera and under-display fingerprint sensor keep the front of the phone fuss-free. The camera can handle face unlocking, but my banking apps would only use the more secure finger scanner. It sits fairly close to the edge of the phone, but I could reach it comfortably enough and it was largely accurate at detecting my digits.

It’s the giant circular camera module around back that sees the most striking visual update. The fluted gold trim around the edge was apparently inspired by Rolex watches, and does a great job of catching the light. It might not be as distinctive as Google’s Pixel camera shelf, or Apple’s circle-gets-the-square arrangement, but I like the family resemblance it shares with the Magic 5 series.

Screen & sound: ahead of the curve

The Magic 6 Lite’s 6.78in screen isn’t a huge departure from what came before, but I still think Honor has improved it in all the right places. It’s 0.1in larger than the outgoing Magic 5 lite, with an accompanying bump in display resolution to keep pixel density nice and high.

Those curved edges are a little less pronounced here, which makes the phone a little easier to grip without worrying about accidental inputs. They help give the impression of skinnier bezels, too, although with a 93% screen-to-body ratio it’s not like there was much bezel to begin with.

The panel still uses AMOLED tech, meaning vibrant colours with superb contrast. Inky blacks give wonderful depth to photos and videos, and viewing angles are top notch as well. I thought the dynamic refresh rate was fast to bump up to 120Hz once there was any onscreen motion, and like there’s an option to just force it on 24/7 if you value fluid movement over the best battery life.

Honor still talks a big game about eye comfort, with 1920Hz PWM dimming to reduce screen flicker and a dedicated circadian night display. As the parent of a newborn I can’t say if it made a difference to my sleep or not, but it’s a welcome inclusion either way. I did notice the improved panel brightness, though; a peak 1200 nits is a third brighter than the outgoing Magic 5 Lite, and bright enough to see clearly outdoors – even if the UK in December isn’t a good indicator as to how it’ll hold up under blazing summer sunshine.

The Honor Magic 6 Lite behaves a lot more like an affordable phone on the sound front. It’s difficult to tell if the earpiece speaker is doing any work at all, with the down-firing main driver making up most of the volume. Vocals are clear enough, which makes it a fine phone for podcasts or YouTube clips, but there’s zero bass. Headphones are your best bet for even casual music listening.

Cameras: count me in

Honor has once again given its budget-minded phone a trio of rear cameras – and once again I wish it hadn’t. Finding room in the budget for a 2MP macro lens, only to then hide it in the shooting modes menu, makes it obvious lens count matters more than image quality. It’s a basic snapper at best, and one I never used once I’d tested it.

The ultrawide secondary snapper is also compromised, with a meagre 5MP pixel count. The 110-degree field of view does help fit more of a scene into frame, but I spotted plenty of image noise and a lack of fine detail, even in well-lit environments. Exposure and colour processing doesn’t always match the main sensor, and dynamic range isn’t all that great.

Honor Magic 6 Lite camera samples thamaesHonor Magic 6 Lite camera samples thames ultrawide

Happily the lead lens is much more deserving of your attention. It has a huge 108MP pixel count, f/1.8 aperture and phase-detect autofocus, which can produce some wonderfully detailed and vibrant shots. Feed it plenty of light and there’s great texture definition, with a fairly wide dynamic range and well-judged colours. I consider Honor’s colour treatment to be more realistic than some rivals, but it avoids leaving your photos looking drab or dull.

Pixel binning means photos are saved at 12MP. It’s not a particularly quick lens, so can struggle to capture moving subjects cleanly, but it does a great job with static shots. Cropping the sensor even allows for convincing 3x zoom shots, at least in good light. At night they’re merely OK, unless you remembered to pack a tripod.

With no optical image stabilisation, you’ll need a steady hand for sharp night time shooting in any mode. I struggled with cityscapes and distant subjects, but it fared better once I’d gotten closer, or found a little more light. There’s still a high level of image noise, even with the dedicated Night mode.

If you stick to the main sensor, and mainly snap during the day, the Honor Magic 6 Lite can happily keep pace with the affordable competition. But if you want more flexibility, you’ll have to save up for the more expensive Google Pixel 7a.

Software experience: a kind of magic

It’s a way removed from stock Android, but Honor’s icon-heavy UI is still easy enough to navigate. By default all your apps get dumped across multiple home screens, iPhone-style; I quickly swapped styles to the more familiar app drawer through the settings menus.

I liked the extensive widget selection for customising the home screen, but even after a week with the phone I hadn’t got the hang of swiping down from one side of the screen for notifications, and the other for the iOS-inspired Control Center. MagicOS 7.2 also has a floating menu that makes it a breeze to run two apps in split screen.

There’s no shortage of own-brand Honor apps pre-installed, along with a handful of third-party ones that can thankfully be uninstalled if you’re not a fan. They don’t eat up an awful lot of storage space, at least.

Discovering the Magic 6 Lite ran Android 13 out of the box was a surprise; it feels behind the times for a 2024 smartphone, even a budget-minded one. Even worse, Honor is only committing to two generational updates. One of those will be Android 14, which has been officially available on rival handsets since last October. At least three years of security updates are promised, but that’s still below average now that rivals are promising four or more.

Performance & battery life: just keeps going

Honor Magic 6 Lite review USB port

The Honor Magic 6 Lite was my first encounter with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 chipset. This lower-end silicon brings a modest performance boost over the previous generation, which is enough to have the Android homescreen running perfectly smoothly and apps opening without any noticeable delay. Spend more and you’ll easily find speedier hardware, but I wouldn’t be disappointed in the phone’s muscle given the asking price.

A healthy 8GB of RAM assists with multitasking, which is smooth for the most part. Honor also continues its run of offering more storage than just about any rival for the cash. The Magic 6 Lite has a substantial 256GB on-board, which is double what you’ll find in most rivals.

Most of the games I played ran fairly well, even if load times could be sluggish compared to a more premium handset. Some titles defaulted to lower graphical settings too, but frame rates were at least consistent. You’ll need to stump up more money if you want anything with more muscle.

More impressive to me was the Magic 6 Lite’s longevity. It has a huge 5300mAh battery, which is even bigger than last year’s effort and able to provide huge stints between top-ups. I also chalked this up to the lower-power CPU, which is more efficient than before. I comfortably lasted an entire weekend of typical use, with my usual mix of calls, camera, video streaming, web browsing and social scrolling. Games do drain it quicker, as will 4K video recording, but you should still see out a full day without needing a mid-afternoon recharge.

There’s no wireless charging here. It was rare to find the tech under £400 a year ago, and even though it’s becoming a little more common I don’t think the omission is a big deal. 35W wired charging is more than fast enough fora 50% top up in about half an hour. It is a slight reduction compared to last year’s 40W speeds, though.

Honor Magic 6 Lite verdict

Honor Magic 6 Lite review rear

The Magic 6 Lite isn’t an awful lot different from last year’s Magic 5 Lite – but seeing how that was quite the bargain, I don’t think that’s a bad thing in the slightest. Honor has refined what was already a rather sharp looking smartphone into something that could easily be mistaken for a much more expensive device. Battery life is exceptional for the cash, and that lead camera is impressively detailed.

However, not changing things up also means a few returning issues. I still don’t see the point in adding a macro camera, Honor’s software update commitments are basic, and gaming still isn’t a strong point, even among affordable phones. And are curved edge screens really still the status symbol they once were, now Google and Samsung have ditched them from their flagships?

That said, Honor has managed to avoid cost of living increases better than many rivals. The Magic 6 Lite is considerably cheaper than a Google Pixel 7a. That alone could still make it a great choice for anyone on a modest budget.

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

A beefy battery, capable main camera, and a body that could rival some flagships in the style stakes. The Honor Magic 6 Lite makes a compelling case if affordability is important.

Pros

Fantastic battery life

Looks and feels like a much pricier phone

Main camera packs in plenty of detail

Cons

Macro lens doesn’t add much value

Runs Android 13 and only due 2yrs of updates

Honor Magic 6 Lite technical specifications

Screen6.78in, 2652×1200 AMOLED w/ 120Hz
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 6 Gen 1
Memory8GB RAM
Cameras108MP, f/1.8 main w/ PDAF + 5MP, f/2.2 ultrawide + 2MP, f/2.4 macro rear
16MP, f/2.5 front
Storage256GB on-board
Operating systemAndroid 13 w/ MagicUI
Battery5300mAh w/ 35W wired charging
Dimensions164x76x8mm, 185g
Profile image of Tom Morgan-Freelander Tom Morgan-Freelander Deputy Editor

About

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

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