Honor 50 initial review: Guess who’s back, back again…

(Pocket-lint) – It’s been a minute since we’ve seen an Honor phone land in the UK with Google Services sitting pride of place. But that’s exactly what the Honor 50 represents: a return to international form after the company’s separation from Huawei, with full access to Google Play Store and all your usual apps.

It’s perhaps a little bit odd, then, that the Honor 50 looks a whole lot like Huawei’s P50, which was announced mid-2021. Maybe we should call it a ‘conscious uncoupling’ between the two. Then again that’s how divorces tend to work: half goes one way, half the other, without total razing of the past.

But back to the actual device. The Honor 50 houses a now-unusual waterfall display, with curved edges to both sides, along with a dual circular-shaped rear camera arrangement. Are these the kind of standout features people will be looking for? And, indeed, is the trust in Honor cemented enough for an attempt rekindle to make sense?

Design & Display

  • Finishes: Frost Crystal, Amber Red, Emerald Green, Midnight Black
  • 6.57-inch OLED panel, 1080 x 2340 resolution, 120Hz refresh
  • Dimensions: 160 x 73.8 x 7.8mm / Weight: 175g
  • Under display fingerprint scanner

There was a moment in time where curved-edge displays were all the rage. The more curved the more impressive. That’s not so much the case anymore: bigger curves tend to mean more accidental touches, more frequently. Therefore more subtle curved edge to help hide bezel without having excessive practical implications has been the way to go. Except Honor didn’t get that memo.

Pocket-lintHonor 50 review photo 15

We can see the appeal in a visual sense: the significant way the screen of this phone slides away gives it distinction; there’s the appearance of the side bezel being far less than you’ll see on some phones. But it’s just a visual thing as, we suspect, there will be more irksome unintentional touches, apps being triggered, and whatnot.

From a technological standpoint the Honor 50’s screen has some impressive specification: it’s high resolution and has a dynamic refresh rate option where the panel can refresh up to 120 times per second. But on the other hand we find the colour balance to just be a bit peculiar – strange, as it’s got the full DCI-P3 colour gamut at its fingertips – but there are multiple ways to tweak the balance to your personal preference, which has been our way to undo the cooler default balance.

Pocket-lintHonor 50 review photo 2

From a build perspective the rear of the device looks a lot like glass, but it’s actually plastic – a ‘knock’ on its surface reveals a hollow kind of sound. At least it won’t crack if you drop it. It is very fond of fingerprints though, so you’ll be wiping it clean a lot to maintain its best visual.

The positioning of the buttons to the side – volume up/down and power on/off – are well proportioned, while an under-display scanner beneath the screen is used for rapid login. All good on this front.

Pocket-lintHonor 50 review photo 8

In terms of scale, we like that the Honor 50 hasn’t opted for a massive battery capacity. It means the handset is a smidgen slimmer than many flagships with larger batteries have been of late, which gives it a more svelte feel – further enhanced, of course, by that screen’s substantial curvature.

Hardware & Software

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G 5G platform, 6GB/8GB RAM
  • Android 11, Magic UI 4.2, Google Play Services
  • 4300mAh battery, 66W fast-charging

We’ve not yet had a long time to play around with the Honor 50, but at least we actually can – it will install Google Services and, therefore, you can download apps as usual from Google Play. Well, in theory: we found it impossible to copy an old device over to this handset, but were able to commence manual Play Store downloads after to get all of our favourites into position.

Pocket-lintHonor 50 review photo 7

The software is built around Google’s Android 11, except here it’s Honor’s Magic UI 4.1. In previous versions of Honor’s software this would bring additional benefits, such as App Twin, to create dual versions of certain apps. However, that feature is no longer present. As such the user interface feels largely like Google’s own default. There’s an app drawer. Swipe-down notifications function just as Google intends (no left/right split like with Xiaomi’s latest MIUI software). It’s familiar. And familiar is good.

Beneath the surface running everything is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778 platform, paired in our review device with 6GB RAM (8GB variants may be available in some regions). It runs smooth, it runs no issues, but the 778 isn’t the very top-tier Snapdragon chipset. Thing is, Qualcomm’s hardware has got so advanced of late that we don’t think that’s a problem: you can still play games with decent loading times and frame rates; the handset doesn’t overheat or drain battery as quickly as a higher-end setup otherwise might.

Pocket-lintHonor 50 review photo 13

That choice of chipset sounds right in tandem with the 4300mAh battery. We’re yet to test how long this lasts in daily use, but a more powerful, less heat efficient chipset would probably pull too much demand from such a cell. As we said further up, the pay off in having a slightly less than maximum battery capacity is a more svelte handset – which is better for both pocket and hand in our view. Besides, the 66W fast-charger can achieve 70 per cent charging in just 20 minutes at the plug. There’s no wireless charging.

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Cameras

  • Quad rear camera:
    • Main: 108-megapixel, f/1.9 aperture, 0.7µm pixel size, phase-detection autofocus (PDAF)
    • Ultrawide (120-degrees): 8MP, f/2.2
    • Macro: 2MP, f/2.4
    • Depth: 2MP, f/2.4
  • Front-facing camera: 32-megapixel, f/2.2 aperture

With the dual-disc camera setup on the rear looking so different to what else we’ve seen on the market, we were expecting it to be a standout setup. But Honor has fallen into that trap of thinking “more is better” and has included a pointless 2-megapixel macro sensor and 2-megapixel depth senor – both of which you could do away with and not even notice.

Pocket-lintHonor 50 review photo 4

Fortunately the main camera, at 108-megapixels, puts a little more thought into its presence. It uses a nine-in-one processing method to deliver 11.4-megapixel results (in 4:3 aspect), which is an increasingly typical way for smartphone cameras to operate. It often pays off, too, with increased detail, colour and dynamic range.

The wide-angle camera, at 8-megapixels, is a little low in resolution, but we’re glad such a shooting option is here. We would, however, have ditched the macro and depth to allow this wide-angle to be an improved offering overall.

First Impressions

Guess who’s back, back again? Honor’s back, tell your friends.

So is it a welcome return? Well, we’re super pleased that the phone has Google Services on board and, therefore, there’s access to all your favourite apps via Google Play. The software, Magic UI 4.2, runs smoothly and doesn’t feel too far removes from default Android. That familiarity is a good starting point.

The familiarity between the Honor 50 and Huawei P50, however, is undeniable. And this kind of familiarity isn’t necessarily such a good point. In the past we’ve loved Huawei phones, such as the P30 Pro. But with the step-change in consumer confidence in that brand, Honor still being seeming so closely attached may not send out the right kind of message.

Then there’s the Honor 50’s screen. It’s curved to the point of excess, really, which is visually impressive – but not especially practical. The rear cameras are also overbilled – stick to the main one rather thinking of it as a true quad setup.

Overall the Honor 50 has some attractive specification points wrapped into a package that, if the price is right, may hold appeal. But from here on out the brand is going to have to cut its own distinctive line to really rekindle consumer appeal. Here’s hoping.

Writing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on .



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