Honor 50 Review: A Smartphone Success

Honor 50 Review: A Smartphone Success

Honor 50 Review: A Smartphone Success

Honor 50 Review: A Smartphone Success

It’s uncommon that you have to get into geopolitics right at the start of a smartphone review, but with the Honor 50, it’s impossible to ignore. Since the brand’s separation from parent company Huawei last year, it’s the first Honor product to be released outside of China. Honor is now permitted to include Google’s apps and services on a new phone, despite Huawei’s continuous placement on the US entity list.

The Honor 50 is the first Honor phone in years to have a chance of being a feasible buy for users outside of China, thanks to access to these services, which include crucial aspects of the Android ecosystem like Google Play as well as apps like Google Maps and YouTube. It’s €529 (about $616) beginning price is also a plus.

While Honor’s departure from its previous parent firm has opened a Google-shaped window, it has also shut a Huawei-shaped door. Honor is suddenly on its own, without the support of one of the world’s most well-funded technological corporations. As a result, while the Honor 50 isn’t a horrible phone, it falls short of competing with other phones in its price bracket.

PROS

  • 120Hz OLED screen
  • Snappy performance
  • Good battery life

CONS

  • So-so camera
  • Lots of Honor bloatware
  • Not available everywhere

The Honor 50 starts at €529 (about $616) for 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage, which is the model I’ve been using, but you can upgrade to 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage for €599 (roughly $698). You receive the same Snapdragon 778G processor and a 4,300mAh battery that can be fast-charged at up to 66W regardless of which option you choose.

6 OR 8GB OF RAM

Honor phones have always featured bold designs, and the Honor 50 is no exception. My model was a gleaming white with the letters “HONOR” tiled across the back, but there’s also a garish sparkling silver color choice, as well as more traditional black and green. While I don’t care for the color selections, I think Honor deserves credit for the Honor 50’s dual-ring camera bump, which is far more intriguing than the basic rectangles found on the backs of most handsets (Huawei’s Nova 9 utilizes a very similar design, which Honor claims are due to the split).

The Honor 50 sports a 6.57-inch 1080p OLED display on the front, with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and a small hole-punch notch in the center for the phone’s 32-megapixel selfie camera, which moderately bends along the left and right corners of the phone. The screen’s deep blacks and bright colors are faultless, and the under-display fingerprint sensor is quick and responsive. If you don’t like curved displays, the Honor 50s isn’t for you, but it doesn’t have any palm-rejection concerns.

The Honor 50’s screen features a 120Hz refresh rate, making it feel speedy and pleasant to use, and the Snapdragon 778G CPU gladly keeps up, even when the screen is quickly scrolling through visually intensive apps like Twitter. During my time on the phone, I had no issues with performance.

NO IP-RATING AND NO WIRELESS CHARGING

The rest of the specifications are more straightforward. There’s no IP designation for dust and water resistance, no wireless charging, and the phone’s audio is delivered via a simple downward-firing speaker. It’s loud enough to listen to around the house, but in louder places, you’ll want to use headphones. The honor includes a pair of USB-C headphones in the packaging, which is uncommon these days and almost compensates for the absence of a headphone jack.

The Honor 50’s Magic UI software, which runs on top of Android 11, is largely unobtrusive. It does, however, have certain drawbacks and is set up in a way that I believe most people will want to change. For starters, it employs Microsoft’s SwiftKey keyboard rather than Google’s Gboard, which I believe most Android users are more familiar with. There is also a slew of standard Honor apps that I removed in my first few days with the phone, and I’m not a fan of the way Honor’s software defaults to an iOS-style home screen rather than Android’s traditional app drawer. It’s simple enough to fix with a few modifications, although it feels a little inconvenient.

The Honor 50’s battery life was excellent, with an average of just over seven hours of screen on time between charges. I never had to put the phone on charge when it was less than 40% charged at the end of the day. The Honor 50 has a built-in charger that provides 66W rapid charging and is marketed as Honor’s own “SuperCharge” charging standard, which isn’t compatible with third-party chargers. The accompanying charger, according to Honor, can charge the phone from zero to 100 percent in 45 minutes (unfortunately, my review sample came with an EU plug, so I was unable to verify this claim myself). A full charge in under an hour, on the other hand, is nothing to sneeze at.

CAMERA

At first glance, the Honor 50’s camera stats appear to be outstanding, but the devil is in the details. Although there is a 108-megapixel quad-camera array, there is no telephoto camera, and the three extra cameras are a low-resolution 8-megapixel ultra-wide angle, a 2-megapixel macro, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor.

The main camera on the Honor 50 doesn’t get off to a fantastic start. Even in daylight, its images can be lacking in clarity, as seen in the shot of the black cat above, which has little definition or texture in its fur. Colors are strong, but not to the point of being oversaturated, and faces are a little too bright and textureless. The white balance is at least natural, and I think selfies look OK overall, aided by the fact that there’s a quick shortcut to enable background blurring and a beauty mode slider (if that’s a feature you’re interested in).

The Honor 50’s low-light performance leaves a lot to be desired, with dark and murky images. The greater issue is that taking photos in low light takes far too long on the phone. The Honor 50 refused to take a photo of a group of people at a party for several agonizing moments, which is significantly longer than attendees at a party are prepared to wait for their photo to be taken.

The Honor 50 is a comfortable midrange device at its starting price. However, there are several capable smartphones available at similar pricing. The OnePlus Nord 2 (€499 for the step-up 12GB RAM / 256GB storage edition) and the iPhone SE (€539 for the 128GB storage model) are both superb phones that provide a far more rounded experience than the Honor 50. And if you’re thinking about the Honor 50 with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, you’re only €50 away from the Pixel 6 that was just launched.

It’s a crowded market, and merely having access to Google’s tools and services won’t help you stand out. Honor’s software is bloated at times, and its camera is slow and lacking in detail. The Honor 50’s 66W quick charging and smooth 120Hz display aren’t enough to hide the reality that it has significant flaws when compared to the best midrange cellphones on the market.

Honor could be a good buy given that it can use Google’s applications and services on its smartphones again. However, if it is to be truly competitive, it must put in more effort.

# Honor 50 Review

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