Honor Magic4 Pro review: This is the (Hua)way | Digital Trends
“The Honor Magic4 Pro is a beautifully made, high quality smartphone with great software, fast charging, and a camera with a lot of promise.”
- Versatile camera
- MagicUI is fast and attractive
- Very fast battery charging
- Ergonomic design
- Loud, clear speakers
- Screen can’t match the competition
- No software update commitment
- Average battery life
The Honor Magic4 Pro is a welcome return to the global flagship phone space from the newly-single brand, but even after its recent divorce from Huawei, the Magic4 Pro still manages to feel every bit like the Google-equipped, camera-focused smartphone we’ve been denied from Huawei over the past few years. I’ve used the Magic4 Pro for a week now, and in that time, it has felt a lot like the spiritual successor to the fabulous Huawei P30 Pro.
It makes the Magic4 Pro somewhat nostalgic to use but in the absolute best way possible.
The Magic4 Pro is well made, feels incredibly substantial, has a distinctive look, and comes in several pretty colors. To the newcomer, it will be reassuring, but to those who’ve handled Huawei phones in the past, it will also feel familiar. It’s definitely reminiscent of a top-spec Huawei phone, and evidence of how far Honor has come since the mid-to-high level devices it was known for releasing before.
For some context, in case you’re not very familiar with either brand, Honor was once part of Huawei until it was sold in the aftermath of restrictions that have changed Huawei as a company. It was a move made to ensure Honor’s survival. It now operates as an independent brand, apparently with no ties to Huawei. This means Honor continues to work with Google and other U.S. companies, unlike Huawei.
Let’s talk about the bold design. You may have noticed the Honor Magic4 Pro’s camera module. It’s the defining design aspect of the phone, and while I don’t think it’s ugly, it’s definitely not something that can be missed. Thankfully it’s set centrally and the cameras are placed symmetrically, softening its impact. The module’s size makes the Magic4 Pro a little top-heavy, and there’s no getting away from the phone’s 215-gram weight and 9.1mm thickness. It really is a chunky thing, and you won’t forget it’s in your pocket.
Aside from the slightly top-heavy nature when holding it, the phone is very comfortable to hold most of the time and reminds me of the superb ergonomics of phones like the Huawei P30 Pro. The screen is curved on all sides (a trick that made the Huawei P40 Pro so comfortable to hold), and the corners of the metal chassis curl around neatly to nestle in your palm, so it feels modern and high quality. The width of the device is just right for one-handed use, but this is curtailed by the overall weight of the phone.
My review model is in a very pretty cyan color, which has a beautiful ceramic-like sheen and a deep, glossy shine to it, which shifts between shades of blue and silver. Despite the smoothness, there’s still plenty of grip, but I appreciated the inclusion of a transparent TPU case in the box because the phone gets covered in smudges and fingerprints very quickly.
Equipped with a 50-megapixel main camera, a 50MP 122-degree field-of-view wide-angle camera, and a 64MP periscope zoom for a 3.5x optical zoom, the Magic4 Pro’s camera has a great on-paper specification. It also comes with a laser time-of-flight sensor, an anti-flicker sensor, optical image stabilization (OIS), 4K video recording at 60 fps, and Honor’s AI software capabilities too. The awkwardly large pill-shaped cutout in the screen contains a 12MP camera and a 3D depth camera.
I’m only a week into using the Magic4 Pro’s camera and it has impressed so far, but it’s clear the software does still need a tweak. The main camera is looking very good indeed, with sharp, detailed, and very colorful results. It has just the right amount of AI and HDR alterations to expose shadow and balance colors, giving photos a beautiful natural look, but with that all-important pop to make them shareable. The wide-angle camera is fairly consistent with these results too, which is great news.
The Magic4 Pro doesn’t always deliver great photos though, and when it gets them wrong, it’s seemingly for no reason. It’s why I want to use the camera more and understand if this happens on a regular basis. The selfie camera is also inconsistent and reacts poorly in difficult lighting, and Portrait mode is the same. Night mode is blighted by some aggressive smoothing but does show potential.
It’s unfortunate the periscope zoom doesn’t extend to 10x optical zoom, but the digital 10x zoom can take some good photos, and there are various video modes to experiment with, including a Movie mode. This switches to a cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio and comes with a wide selection of special “LUT” filters to help you make some really eye-catching video. The stabilization is excellent, and you can shoot in 4K in this mode too.
There are plenty of still and video modes to play around with in the Magic4 Pro’s camera, plus the effective optical and digital zoom features make it fun and versatile. It does seem the software would benefit from a few tweaks though, and it’s worth pointing out I am using the phone ahead of release.
Software, screen, and performance
This is a top-spec phone with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage space, Wi-Fi 6, and 5G connectivity. Google’s Android 12 with Google Mobile Services is installed, so it has Google Play and all the other expected apps, and Honor has applied its own Magic UI 6.0 software to give it a unique look. You look at a 6.81-inch OLED screen with a 2848 x 1312 pixel resolution, and it’s capable of showing up to 1.07 billion colors.
The software is excellent, and after being endlessly subjected to barely-any-different versions of Oppo’s Color OS on OnePlus, Realme, and Oppo phones recently, along with the buggy disappointment of Xiaomi’s MIUI 13, Honor’s Magic UI is a breath of fresh air. It’s attractively designed, extremely smooth and fast, not overly intrusive, customizable if you want, and so far completely reliable. All I really want from phone software is for it to run all my apps, to have Google Discover to the left of my Home screen, a cohesive and logical design, and enough customization that it feels like my own phone. MagicUI 6 delivers all this, and plenty more.
There are a lot of pre-installed apps though, but it’s the keyboard that has been the biggest disappointment. It comes with Microsoft’s SwiftKey as the default option, which I find obnoxious and annoying, so I switch to Google’s Gboard instead. However, it’s set right at the bottom of the screen, making it quite hard to type or swipe-type accurately on. I still haven’t fully adjusted to it even after a week.
The screen itself isn’t quite as bright or as vibrant as some others. Video looks good, but it never elevates itself to the same level as the OnePlus 10 Pro or the iPhone 13 Pro, with the contrast often appearing slightly “off,” compared to them. I also noticed when using the Dynamic setting for the screen refresh rate it wouldn’t switch to 120Hz when using apps like Twitter, or scrolling through comments on YouTube. Manually force the 120Hz mode and it becomes noticeably smoother, which I suspect is caused by aggressive power management. It’s possible a software update may improve these aspects, but for now, the screen can’t quite match the competition.
The Honor Magic4 Pro is very pleasant to use each day.
There’s nothing wrong with the phone’s overall performance though. It’s super-fast, and most of the time incredibly smooth as well. I’ve had no problems with call quality or network connection either. From the software and general phone and app use to the impressive game performance — Asphalt 9: Legends flies — the Honor Magic4 Pro is very pleasant to use each day.
Special mention should be made for the speakers. Set on the flat ends of the phone, they project sound superbly, giving a wide soundstage for a smartphone. While the bass isn’t strong there is plenty of volume and minimal distortion, plus there’s AptX codec support for wireless headphones too.
Battery and charging
The 4,500mAh battery inside the Honor Magic4 Pro has a smaller capacity than many of its rivals and depending on your daily use, it’s not going to impress much. With general social networking, some calls, and some camera work the Magic 4 Pro has lasted about two working days, but only just. Add in video, games, and up to four hours of screen time per day and you’ll need to charge it every night.
It recharges using a proprietary fast-charging system called SuperCharge, and the included charger is rated at 100W. In 15 minutes it reached 70% and went on to a full charge in a total of just 25 minutes. Temperature is well controlled, and the phone did not get hot at all during rapid charging. It’s a big selling point.
Price and availability
In the U.K. the Magic4 Pro costs 950 British pounds, or around $1,170. It will be released on May 27 with pre-orders from May 13, and be sold through Honor’s online store, the Three network, Amazon, and Argos and Carphone Warehouse retail stores. In Europe, the Magic4 Pro costs 1,099 euros. It will likely not be officially released in the U.S. but could be imported.
I’ve missed seeing a new Huawei smartphone with Google Mobile Services installed, but when I use the Honor Magic4 Pro, that feeling goes away. From the outstanding ergonomics to its promising camera and super-fast software, the Magic4 Pro is very much how I imagine a 2022 Google-equipped Huawei phone operating. This isn’t a knock against it, it’s actually a very big compliment.
Ignore the Huawei-like positive aspects and there are some negatives, with the uninspiring battery life and slightly disappointing screen performance lessening its appeal against the competition. This is a particular problem when you consider the high price. But neither has taken away from how much I’ve enjoyed using the Magic4 Pro. It has slipped into my life without incident, proving to be reliable and easy to use, plus the camera is shaping up to be a winner.
Is there a better alternative?
Compared with phones that cost between $1,000 and $1,300, the Honor Magic4 Pro has some serious competition. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and the Apple iPhone 13 Pro are both excellent all-rounders, and well worth your money. It’s comparable in price to the OnePlus 10 Pro, and while the cameras on both are excellent, I prefer Honor’s software. For less money, you can buy the Google Pixel 6 Pro, which has an excellent camera and reliable, attractive software.
How long will it last?
The Honor Magic4 Pro has an IP68 water resistance rating and comes with a basic case in the box so it should prove to be durable. However, the body is made from glass and quite heavy, so a fall without a case will probably result in it breaking. Honor is unfortunately staying quiet about the software update situation. We have checked with the company, but have received no firm answer at the time of writing. The specification of the phone means it should have the required performance to remain capable for at least two years.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The Honor Magic4 Pro delivers strong performance in almost all areas but would benefit from a post-launch software update to solve some of the small issues.