I was a great fan of the previous generation flagships that came out of the great behemoth that was Huawei of old when it still had a smaller scale sibling of Honor under its wing. Those days are gone and the likes of the Huawei P30 Pro got left behind in the wake of the Huawei/Google Mobile Services ban instigated by the Luminous president of yore. Well, thankfully we have moved on from those days and we now have Honor as a fully independent brand from Huawei, which brings a new spark to the company and the ability to use GMS again. we had an inkling of what Honor can do as a standalone brand in the form of the Honor 50 5G which I reviewed recently here for Coolsmartphone.
What we have here is what they can do when they are not restricted by the limitations of trying to build a mid-range phone. We have the Honor Magic 4 Pro and it harks back to the previous pro series device that I had soft spot for from my day using Huawei devices like the P30 Pro. I loved that phone and it brought some true flagship specs to the table and an awesome camera. Can the Honor Magic 4 Pro give the same feel as a flagship or is it just a fluster with its oversized camera module and fancy colour. Well, I hope to find that out over the course of this review.
So as is customary in a review let’s start by having a tour of the device.
We will start at the top edge of the phone which has a Speaker grill for one of the two loudspeakers. This is tucked up in between two of the numerous Antenna break lines as the signal needs to get in and out of the device somehow! to the right of the top section are a microphone hole and a feature that is not often included in phones the IR transmitter. This is predominantly used for the Smart Remote app that is bundled with the phone, not something I played with if i am being honest as it is not a feature I need.
Moving around to the right-hand side of the phone is where we will find the volume rocker and just below is the power key. These are again in between more antenna lines. The power key can be set up to either have a long press bring up a Google assistant should you want with a longer press still allowing you to turn the phone off or restart the device. the buttons have positive feedback but feel that Honor missed a trick by not including any texturing on the buttons.
Moving down to the bottom edge. is where we will find the second loudspeaker, another microphone and the dual sim tray. Hiding amongst these components is the new SuperCharge 100W charging port that is also capable of supporting display output. It takes the form of USB type C and when plugged into a display gives you the option to use a desktop-style interface along with a keyboard and mouse if you wish to. It is not as good as the offering from Samsung’s DEX offering but it is a nice feature to have on board.
As we move around to the left-hand side we have nothing really to speak of apart from more of the ever-prominent antenna lines. As a right-handed user, this is fine for me but left-handed users may find it a bit annoying at first.
Next up we will take a trip to the front and the display. Which is a glorious panel measuring in at 6.81″ with a variable refresh rate of between 1Hz to 120Hz LTPO Display. It also features 1920Hz PWM Dimming for those who are sensitive to this. It makes viewing the 2848 x 1312 resolution display very enjoyable and it is a joy to interact with no noticeable lag or false inputs being found in my usage so far.
Up in the top left-hand corner is a camera cut-out that is not the smallest in the world, it does however need to be this size in order to allow for the 2 cameras that reside in it to have enough space. Under the screen, we have got a 12MP camera with f/2.4 aperture and a 100° smart wide-angle selfie. It is capable of capturing some great stills thanks to its Portrait mode and AI anti-distortion. In addition to these features, the camera will also be able to record up to 4K video. So that is the camera but there is also another sensor here which is the 3D Depth Camera which is used primarily for facial recognition with its 3D depth face unlock technology. This is nice to see after coming from a Pixel 6 Pro which has no face unlock something that I missed more than I thought I would.
While we are talking about unlocking the front of the phone also hides the fingerprint reader which is of the Ultrasonic under-display variety and I am very happy to say works like a charm as id plenty fast for quick access to your home screen from unlocked. it features Qualcomm’s 3D Sonic Sensor which is one of the many ways in which the Qualcomm chipset has raised the game with this phone.
I suppose i cannot avoid it any longer but it is time to talk about that rear. the rear is dominated by the “Eye of Muse” camera module which houses a massive 5 camera sensors of various varieties shapes and sizes.
- 50MP Wide Camera (f/1.8)
- 50MP Ultra Wide Camera (f/2.2)
- 64MP Periscope Telephoto Camera (f/3.5, 3.5x Optical Zoom, 100x Digital Zoom, OIS)
- Flicker sensor
- 8×8 dTOF Laser Focusing System
The 64MP Periscope Telephoto Camera is capable of a massive 100x zoom which promises to provide some very interesting shooting options.. Especially when you combine them with the other two 50MP cameras one of which will allow for a Wide Angle and the other a more Normal shooting mode. The camera will use Optical Zoom for up to 3.5x magnification and then it lets the Ultra Fusion engine take care of the rest. I will go into the camera features and how it performs later on in the review.
Apart from that massive camera array that nearly takes up the top third of the phone we have not got anything else particularly notable back here.
That culminates the design tour and now it is time to talk about some of the hardware of this flagship monster!
The Honor Magic 4 Pro is a hardware nerds wet dream when it comes to flagships at the moment. I have to admit that even I got a bit excited by the prospect of this specilicous treat. There is so much goodness in this phone that it is hard to know where to start so I am just going to do a list of the specs and take it from there.
|NAME||Honor Magic 4 Pro|
Weight 215 grams
|DISPLAY PARAMETERS||Size: 6.81 inches|
Resolution: 1312 x 2848 PPI 460
Aspect Ratio: 20:9
Refresh Rate: Variable between 1Hz to 120Hz
Type: OLED Curved Display
|PERFORMANCE||Operating System: Magic UI 6.0 based on Android 12|
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen1
|MAIN CAMERA – REAR||50 MP, f/1.8, 23mm (wide), 1/1.56″, 1.0µm, multi-directional PDAF, Laser AF|
|ULTRA WIDE CAMERA -REAR||50 MP, f/2.2, 122˚ (ultrawide), 1/2.5″, AF|
|PERISCOPE TELEPHOTO CAMERA -REAR||64 MP, f/3.5, 90mm (periscope telephoto), 1/2.0″, 0.7µm, PDAF, OIS, 3.5x optical zoom|
|FLICKER CAMERA – REAR||2 MP|
|DEPTH OF FIELD – REAR||8×8 dTOF Laser|
|FLASH||Single LED Flash|
|ZOOM||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot|
|VIDEO||4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60fps, gyro-EIS, HDR10, 10-bit video|
|FEATURES||AI photography, Super Wide Angle, Aperture, Multi-Video, Night shot, Portrait mode, Photo, Pro mode, Video, Panorama, Filter, Watermark,|
Documents, HIGH-RES, Super Macro, Capture smiles, Time-lapse, Timer, Movie, Slow-MO, Story
|FRONT CAMERA||12MP Front Camera + 3D Depth Camera|
|FEATURES||3D face unlock, Portrait, Filter, Watermark, Capture smiles, Mirror reflection, Timer, Night, Gesture control|
|CONNECTIVITY BAND||2G Bands|
GSM: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
HSDPA 800 / 850 / 900 / 1700(AWS) / 1900 / 2100 CDMA2000 1xEV-DO
4G Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 26, 28, 34, 38, 39, 40, 41 – China5G Bands 1, 3, 5, 8, 28, 38, 41, 77, 78, 79 SA/NSA – China
Speed HSPA 42.2/5.76 Mbps, LTE-A, 5G
|WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot|
|BLUETOOTH||A-GPS. Up to tri-band: GLONASS (1), BDS (3), GALILEO (2)|
|SENSORS||Fingerprint (under display, ultrasonic), Face ID, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, color spectrum|
|PORTS||USB 2.0, Type-C, USB On the Go|
Dual nano-SIM slot
|BUTTONS||Gestures and on-screen navigation support |
|AUDIO||Dual stereo speaker|
Noise cancellation support
So as you can see from the impressive specs list above the phone has got a lot to take in but I want to focus on a few of what I think are the key selling point for this phone. Processor and GPU, Battery life and charging speed and niceties (it will become clear later).
So first up the Processor and GPU.
The Honor Magic 4 Pro is powered by the very power-dense 4NM Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor with the support of MEMC chip that helps to generate the best viewing experience that the phone can. That is not all though as the phone also supports GPU Turbo X which promises to increase the speed across the entire UI with an extra boost for Gaming needs. So do the high-end headline-grabbing components actually make a difference. For the most part yes they do I did not find the phone was slow in any task. There was barely a stutter in normal use and even when I put the phone under significant pressure. I even tried to run the built-in Desktop UI when plugged into my USB Dock that was hooked up to my monitor, which was using two displays at 1080p and being controlled by a Bluetooth keyboard and a mouse running on a 2.4ghz dongle. This was me trying to push the phone to its limits and I couldn’t get it to glitch.
The only time the phone was showing any stress was when using the Camera to record 4K Video as the phone did get a bit warm but this is more than normal for flagships at the moment as we are asking for so much in terms of computational assisted photography these days.
The other area that really did impress me was the Graphics processing on the phone as it was great and watching the video, streaming content and playing games were all pulled if really well. I was able to easily play my staple games of Grand Mountain and Alto’s Oddest with no dropped frames and very good quality images. All this without the battery being nuked and draining in mere seconds. I have watched many hours of YouTube on the phone and it always remains comfortable to hold when binging on the latest Radio Controlled trucks videos (yeah it’s an issue I know).
I mentioned the MEMC assistant chip earlier and this is on board to allow the phone to dynamically adjust the frame rate when using the phone for video playback. This converts Standard Definition video to High Definition video on the fly during the playback of the aforementioned content. The MEMC will work on YouTube Netflix and Prime Video. . That is not all that the MEMC will do as it also has a Frame rate booster that will work on the video’s Frame rate in the same way as the video enhancer function. I can report that it does make a small but noticeable difference
The only area that did let me down in terms of performance was when using Android Auto, but I feel this may be more a software-based issue, however. The only reason I mention it in this section is that there may be a hardware element involved as I have had the same Android Auto version on lower specced phones and not had any issue. Oddly enough I seem to recall this being an issue on Honor 50 as well so maybe some legs to this theory.
That about concludes the Performance and GPU area, next up the battery and charging.
I actually want to mix this one up a bit and talk about the charging first as Honor has brought out the big guns to get the Honor Magic 4 Pro powered up fast and safely. The battery will charge at extremely fast speeds depending on which method of charging you go for. If you use the. Wired Supercharger that comes in the box with the phone you will get up to 100W of charging speed. This will allow a full 0 to 100% charge in under 30 mins. If you choose to use the Wireless 100W Supercharger then you will allow you to charge at 80W when using the in-box charger and will allow you to recharge 0 to 100% in just under an hour. If you wish to obtain the full 100W capability then you can use the optional 135W charger from the Honor Laptop range as this will give the higher amount of juice required, for the quicker charge.
One thing that is important to note is that I mentioned that you can recharge quickly and safely. When you are talking about rapidly charging batteries then there are a few areas of concern that can become relevant. The enemies of super-fast charging are heat build-up and battery health over time. This is something that Honor is aware of and they have put in various procedures to avoid these potential pitfalls. So how do they counter these issues, well they use two different methods. the charger in the box utilises Honor’s in-house developed Supercharging Technology to allow the heat build-up to be largely concentrated in the charging brick without passing it down the cable to the phone. The second is in the way that the charger and phone monitor charging rates to provide the optimum power usage minimising wasted energy that would normally be kicked out in terms of heat. The last thing that Honor has also realised is that you don’t need your phone to always charge at super fast speeds. So you can set it up to allow the phone to the only fast charge in certain scenarios as you dictate.
A brilliant example of this is when using the Wireless Supercharger. I tended to put my phone in this when I went to bed at night to ensure I had a fully charged phone by the morning. Now when I normally did this during the day the phone charged rapidly causing there to be some heat build up which normally occurs during Wireless charging. This in turn caused the fan on the charger to spin up which was pretty noisy.
However when it was charging it overnight I didn’t hear any noise from the fan on the charger and my phone would charge a bit slower, which isn’t a problem as I am going to sleep. now as far as I am aware I didn’t actually configure anything specific to do this apart from setting a “bedtime mode” within Digital Wellbeing. I am not sure if this influenced the charging behaviour or not but if it did then brilliant. It is also possible that this is set up from the stock software config in which case kudos to Honor for doing so as it is one less thing you the user need to worry about configuring.
Here is a sound bite from the Wireless Supercharger during a charging session. It is not the best quality as it was recorded from my phone but it will give you an idea of how loud it is,
In terms of the speed to complete a full Charge here is an image of a test I conducted below on the wireless charger with 80W of power being delivered to the charger unit.
The phone was able to receive a full charge in under 1 hr which is mightly impressive and I was pleased to see this I didn’t do a test on just the cable charging as i ah the use of the Supercharger so didn’t see there is much reason to test this out.
That concludes the battery and charging section. The next thing I want to cover for hardware is what I am going to refer to as “niceties”. So these are not essential to the way the phone performs but they do make for a much nicer and more comforting user experience.
First up is the fact that the charger has been made to conform with an IP rating of IP68 which should mean that it is protected from drops in shallow water i.e. your sink or toilet. It can be safely used in the rain without you needing to huddle for a shelter somewhere. On very much the flip side of this is another feature that is good to have and that is a high brightness screen as we have been seeing some very bright and sunny weather recently and using the phone in daylight has not presented any real issues. Next up is the reverse wireless charging which will allow me to charge my Apple AirBuds 3 and in the extreme a friend’s phone if I am feeling generous. I liked that if it detects no activity it will turn the feature off automatically as well, therefore, you will not be using excess power when you don’t need to.
Now, this next one will potentially cause some raised eyebrows but I like the heft and the feel of the phone. I normally daily drive a Pixel 6 Pro which is very similar in terms of weight and dimensions. During the closing days of the review though I had another phone in to start testing so I switched over to that while I was setting it up and it felt dramatically lighter despite being very similar in size. The main reason for this was the lack of the glass back and wireless charging components I guess. The heft afforded by Honor Magic 4 Pro gave it a reassuring air of quality in both the materials on the outside and the internal build quality of the phone. A lot of other reviewers have called it unwieldy but for me, I didn’t find this to be a problem at all.
The last nice to have is the Honor Desktop mode as it gives the phone some more flexibility and was nice to use. Dont get me wrong this is not as good as what Samsung offer in terms of DEX but it is at least an ability that not a lot of other brands and phone offer at this time.
Connectivity and Calling
Connectivity and calls were flawless in most of the areas I used the phone and I got a very good and strong signal thanks to the multitude of antennas strewn around the device. I did not have any issues with Wi-Fi connectivity or dropped calls due to a weak signal. This did actually perform better in terms of the phone signal i received when using it at home as there have been scenarios when I have been on a call on my Pixel and I have had to move outside to get better reception. This was not the case with the Honor Magic 4 Pro which was flawless in this regard.
The audio experience was also excellent in part due to the use of AI Privacy Call and the Piezoelectric glass of the display which will actually use vibration to create the sounds you hear whilst on a call. This minimises the amount of sound that can be heard from the display by others near you. When you are wanting the sound to come from the phone then the Stereo speakers do provide a nice and comfortable sound stage and this is supported by the screen as well so all three “speakers” play their part.
The next big thing about this phone is so big it even got its own marketing slogan “Eye of Muse”!
I am of course referring to the cameras on both the front and the back. Let’s tick off the front camera first. The front camera is as mentioned above composed of two distinct elements. The 3d DEpth camera for Face Unlock which has the 12MP f/2.4 Aperture 100° wide angle lens nestled in beside it. Now would I have preferred this to have been better hidden of course I would but honestly after a few hours of use iI didn’t even notice it was there until I needed to take a picture of myself (a rarity thankfully). I strangely found it only as noticeable as the one on my Pixel, which only has a small pinhole. I was however impressed with the quality of images it was able to produce.
The above image was from the Jubilee torch lighting and it has come out pretty well for a spur-of-the-moment selfie. If you zoom into it though you do start to see some issues appear and it doesn’t take much t notice that the edges are not that well defined. However, it has captured the memory well enough for a family album which is fine for me.
The 3D camera for Face unlock was great though and it had no issue in recognising my face in pretty much any conditions either with or without glasses, which other 3D Scanning cameras do sometimes have problems with. I would not suggest using it as your only security access method though as the fingerprint reader is much more secure than the facial recognition. It does however go further than the cheaper and easier to implement 2D facial recognition tech so it isn’t too bad and cannot be fooled as easily.
Moving around the back there is a lot to take in in terms of what these cameras can deliver but I want to concentrate on what I see as the headline feature for me at least. The first is Ultra Fusion Photography. This uses all three of the main camera units to allow you to get a photo from a variety of different zoom levels and widths.
Using the above engine you can start with a nice wide-angle shot and then after various zoom stages end up with a 100x zoomed image. I have tried to recreate this below for you.
So as you can see there is a fair bit to discuss in these images. The image starts out being quite a bright shot with the colours of the clouds and the red car coming through nicely. As we then go to the 1x Zoom things start to change as we have a distinct shift in the colour between the two lenses as that is in reality what has happened. The 1 xZoom is using the primary camera and colours are being changed quite dramatically as we move to the 3.5 x Zoom we can see that there is not as much of a shift when we switch to the periscope camera but it is sadly at this point that we say goodbye to optical zoom and enter the muddy waters of digital zoom.
Before I go through the next 3 zoom stages I just want to quickly say this. Digital Zoom when done well can be great as can be seen with the Pixel Line up including the current crop of Pixel 6 devices. These devices use Computational photography and this is an area where Google really do excel. Unfortunately, Honor still has work to do!
Let’s continue onto the 10x Zoom this in all fairness is a pretty good shot and the colours are still good and things are not getting too distorted. Given that we are now using computation to crop the section of the image I am not that disappointed by this image. However, this is where it starts to go wrong in my eyes. at 50x and 100x we start to lose colour levels and clarity altogether.
I have included another few shots that were taken in wide and within this 50x to 100x zoom range and this shows what I mean.
So in terms of the Ultra Fusion Photpgraphy which according to Honor will allow you “you to capture more detail no matter how far you are” I think that the engine does need some tweaking. I do have to say that to be fair to the phone all of these images were taken from the hand and I assume that if I was to have used a tripod then the images would have been better as there will be some motion blur in these shots
Moving the other important feature of any phone camera is the point-and-shoot ability. Here I was a bit more impressed with it as I was able to get quick capture and nice-looking images without too much fuss and faff and a lot of this comes down to the AI assist that is built into the phone thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and Snapdragon Sight which is their 18 Bit triple ISP technology that is available to the phone’s software to work with. Here are some quickly snapped shots below of some small-scale RC Trucks in their natural habitat.
Next up is what the camera can do on close-up subject which will utilise the Depth of field sensor in combination with the AI to allow for that ultimate macro shot it works pretty well as can be seen below.
I like the detail that is pulled through in these shots and the macro AI is working very well in these images as we have good clear and crisp shots very impressed!
And before we get into the darker hours and a direct comparison with another phone we have the Bokeh effect via Aperture mode which like to play with when i am feeling arty!
Again the AI functions well here along with the natural aperture levels afforded by the 7-element lens of the main 50MP camera sensor. You can see that the glass bird is brought nicely into the foreground of the shot with the background fading away as the picture gets deeper.
So moving into the night.
i tried to capture some night shots and tried to compare this directly against my Pixel 6 Pro to give you an idea of what Night shot is capable of. I will let you be the judge here first up are the shots from the Pixel 6 Pro
Next is the Honor Magic 4 Pro
As you can see for yourself a fairly dramatic difference there These were taken at the same zoom level of 4x and i have to say that I am let down by the Honor in this scenario again. What surprised me is that I have used night mode on some of the predecessors (when Honor and Huawei were one and the same) of the Honor Magic 4 Pro and I have been very impressed by them but this example above just disappoints.
In summary, this is a good camera if you get the correct conditions and keep the zoom levels under control. However when you start pushing it to the extreme of Zoom and lighting then you start to see weaknesses. The good news is that the camera hardware is great as can be seen but the gallery showing the RC truck’s but it just needs some software tweaks to bring the computational side of things up to scratch. I hope that Honor takes the time to do this as this phone’s camera system could be great.
Video, I have to admit I did not have the opportunity to test the video side of the phone as generally don’t use it so I cannot fairly report on this but I am sure you will be able to find this from much more accomplished videographers than me. What I will say is that I have seen the video that was captured on the phone and I was impressed by it.
This short film was shot on the Honor Magic 4 Pro by some professionals and it shows the capabilities when you know what you are doing which I don’t! It is a bit weird but showcase’s what video can be created when in the right hands!
That wraps the camera section
Lets now cover the other big one Software
In the past, I have been very critical of the software that is used to skin Honor and Huawei devices with my biggest annoyance being that the UI scaling is too big. I have come to accept that it is just the way things are now so will not delve into this area of personal annoyance any further in this review.
The software is Android 12 with the Magic UI 6 Skin and for the most part, this is a good implementation and i have not really got any major complaints about things. I was able to set up my home screen pretty much the way I have on all my devices complete with multiple instances of the same widget. I had very few issues with daily use. I found that all the standard things you would expect to find in Android 12 were present and correct, Importantly they were relatively easy to find.
The two main complaints have are to do with Android Auto and to a much lesser extent the failure of a direct dial widget to stay as a persistent icon on my home screen. These however are very minor issues in what is otherwise very good. I didn’t really utilise any of the Magic UI 6 unique features at least not that I was aware of (see above regarding Supercharging settings). If I am being completely honest most of these extra features are just duplications of what can already be done by what I see as a launcher the way Google intend it to be which is the Pixel UI.
Whilst taking a look at the software one thing I am sure I was able to do in the past but couldn’t do on the Honor Magic 4 Pro was download custom themes and Apps from the Honor App store. Now while I am glad that the latter no longer exists as an option I am not completely averse to the option of having Themes as downloadable options as it is another way to get that extra bit of customisation and for me was a way of evading the icon size issue that I have. In terms of the ability to customize the existing themes, there is not much that you can do and I did miss the adaptive icon colour that was made possible via the Material You update to Android 12. I am not sure if I was just missing something but it didn’t seem to allow these nuances to be picked up within the launcher.
These are just very minor pet peeves and on the whole, the Honor Magic 4 Pro’s software is sufficient as long as you don’t mind skimming all the usual duplicate guff that is to be found on any phone that has been developed for the Asian market. I was happy enough to use this as my daily driver for the last 3 weeks.
So should you go out and splash the £949.99 that Honor is asking for the Magic 4 Pro?
if you want an all-singing and dancing flagship with excellent raw specs, power, stupidly fast charging and a serviceable camera then yes go for it but be aware of the minor weaknesses in the camera and the software. The flagship-grade phone is being sold at a fraction of what its current competitors can offer and is genuinely a good device which I was happy to carry around.
If on the other hand, you are wanting this for the camera then you may wish to try it before you buy it as this is the phone’s biggest area of weakness but one that can be resolved with some care and attention from Honor.
It is defiantly one that is worth consideration and some thought. I am happy that Honor is back in the Flagship game and I cant wait to see what they do next.
You can buy the Honor Magic 4 Pro now for £949.99 from Honor, as a special fathers day deal you will get the Honor Watch 3GS 3 Ocean Glass smartwatch Earbuds 2 Lite and a black PU case thrown in for free!