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Honor 50 Review

Verdict

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The Honor 50 announces the return of Google Mobile Services to the formerly beleaguered brand, but that’s not all: the screen is a joy, the battery is very reliable, and the main camera sensor is strong too. It’s only really let down by the poorer quality secondary cameras and the lack of some practical touches such as an IP rating, headphone jack, and SD card slot.

Pros

  • Great screen
  • Strong main camera
  • Reliable battery life
  • Good performance

Cons

  • Poor secondary cameras
  • No IP rating
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack or SD card slot

Availability

  • UKRRP: £379.99
  • EuropeRRP: €529.99

Key Features

  • 108-megapixel main cameraThe lead snapper from the quad camera system boasts an impressive resolution
  • 120Hz variable refresh rateThe display has a premium level of smoothness, but it can automatically adjust to save battery when necessary
  • 5G connectivityYou’ll get access to the latest generation of mobile data thanks to the Snapdragon 778G’s modem

Introduction

Following a couple of years in the wilderness with Google Mobile Services missing from its smartphones, Honor is back with a bang with the Honor 50.

A solid mid-ranger retailing for £379.99, for that money you get a 108-megapixel camera sensor, a 120Hz display, and a Snapdragon 778 5G chipset among other fairly impressive specs. Here, we examine whether the Honor 50 recaptures the modestly priced magic that had previously made this brand such a success.

Design and Screen

  • Attractive design
  • No IP rating
  • Very good screen

The Honor 50 has a relatively subtle but attractive design. The back panel is glossy, so, on the one hand it looks more premium than a matte finish; but after using it you’ll find it also picks up fingerprints with more ease than a diligent detective.

Of course, whether or not it appeals will be down to personal preference, although at least in this instance there’s a clear plastic case provided in the box to protect the device’s surface from smears.

The handset is available in four colours: Midnight Black, Frost Crystal, Emerald Green, and ‘Code’. The latter has the brand name plastered all over it, so I was happy to be in receipt of the Emerald Green option instead, with its muted green metallic sheen.

The Honor 50’s rear – housed in the provided clear plastic case

It’s the camera module that’s most likely to catch your eye on the rear, where two large dark circles house camera clusters within the one unit – a little like an enlarged version of the iPhone X. There’s a reflective ring around the main 108-megapixel sensor to draw further attention to this key selling point.

As for the practicalities, the phone measures 160 x 73.8 x 7.8mm and weighs 175g. Regrettably, it offers neither an SD card slot nor a 3.5mm headphone port. Some USB-C earphones are included in the box, but they’re of rather poor quality. Another point on sound is that there are dual speakers along the bottom edge of the phone, but nothing at the other end, leaving you short of a stereo experience when playing audio out loud. Nonetheless, the quality is fairly good.

More worrying is the fact that the device doesn’t have an official IP rating, meaning that we have no idea how it would cope if caught out in a rain shower or dropped in water.

The screen is curved, drawing fans and critics in equal measure – but no matter where you stand in this regard, you’ll certainly appreciate the quality of the display in question. At least in my experience, no accidental touches were registered from handling the sides of this screen. You can unlock it with the in-display fingerprint sensor or with face unlock, both of which functioned efficiently during my time with the device.

Netflix on the Honor 50

The 6.57-inch OLED display has a sharp 1080 x 2340p resolution, displaying 1 billion colours for excellent accuracy. Brightness can be increased to retina-scorching levels should you so choose, although I didn’t experience any problems with the automatic mode.

In addition, the screen also boasts a dynamic 120Hz display refresh rate. This means it delivers a super-smooth experience when using visually demanding apps, but it can also reduce the rate when undertaking less cumbersome tasks in order to save on battery. What’s more, the 300Hz touch sampling rate means that it’s very responsive when gaming.

Using the device, the screen is probably the Honor 50’s single greatest feature: it’s big, sharp, smooth, and delivers basically everything you could hope for at this price point.

Camera

  • Impressive main 108-megapixel camera
  • The other snappers are rather disappointing

I mentioned previously that the design draws attention to the 108-megapixel camera, and having used it, I can hardly begrudge its boastfulness. This sensor is super-strong, performing well in a variety of different lighting conditions and delivering good levels of detail.

Taken with the Honor 50’s main camera sensor
Taken with the Honor 50’s main camera sensor
Taken with the Honor 50’s main camera sensor

Shooting in low-light settings, you really need to use the Honor 50’s Night mode setting for the best results. Compare the two images below taken in Trafalgar Square, with and without the feature in play. In the first, there’s a severe lack of detail and blown-out lighting, whereas with Night mode in the mix, such issues have been addressed relatively well.

Taken with the Honor 50’s main camera sensor, without Night mode enabled
Taken with the Honor 50’s main camera sensor, with Night mode enabled

Along with the main sensor, Honor also includes an ultra-wide lens for added versatility. While it’s good to have, allowing you to capture far more with its 120-degree field view, it’s a significant downgrade in terms of resolution (at just 8 megapixels) – and I also experienced notable shutter lag with this lens.

Taken with the Honor 50’s ultra-wide sensor

For further comparison, here are three images taken of the British Museum: the first with the main sensor without Night mode; the second with Night mode applied; and the third taken with the ultra-wide sensor without Night mode engaged. Sadly, in such conditions the image from the ultra-wide camera is frankly unusable.

Taken with the Honor 50’s main camera sensor, without Night mode enabled
Taken with the Honor 50’s main camera sensor, Night mode enabled
Taken with the Honor 50’s ultra-wide sensor

There’s also a 2-megapixel macro sensor on board. While it doesn’t do too bad a job of extreme close-up photography (the ideal distance from the subject being just 4cm), it will rarely be useful on a day-to-day basis.

Taken with the Honor 50’s macro sensor

Flip over the phone to the front and you’ll find a 32-megapixel selfie snapper. In the main this camera worked well; however, as you can see, in Portrait mode with the ‘bokeh effect’ applied there are some imperfections – for example, it has blurred the top of my badly brushed barnet. This is to be expected when relying on software tricks rather than a dual lens system, though.

Taken with the Honor 50’s selfie camera

Overall, you’ll find that the main camera sensor is strong and reliable in most contexts, but you may well be disappointed by the quality of the auxiliary sensors.

Performance

  • Google Mobile Services are back
  • Some pre-installed bloatware
  • 5G connectivity
  • Good performance

The main reason this smartphone is a big deal isn’t down to any of its impressive hardware specs, but rather the return of Google Mobile Services.

Since May 2019, Huawei and its then-sub-brand Honor had been prevented by order of the US government from accessing the Google apps that Android users are reliant on in their everyday lives, from Maps to YouTube to the Docs suite – and, most importantly of all, the Play Store itself. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that this action damaged the brand in one fell swoop (at least in the West), and it’s only now, with Honor no longer belonging to Huawei, that it can get back to the Google goodness.

Honor 50: Google apps and services are available on an Honor smartphone for the first time since mid-2019

The return of these apps is a night-and-day difference, once again making Honor’s products a viable option rather than a curiosity best avoided.

Skinned on top of the Android 11 operating system in the Magic 4.2 UI, which is unique to Honor. While it does come pre-installed with apps I’m unlikely to ever use, they don’t make a significant enough dent in the 128GB storage to be of real concern; nor did I find this proprietary software to be all that intrusive.

When it was time for the Snapdragon 778G to strut its stuff, I wasn’t left disappointed. Daily tasks, from playing videos and music to browsing various social media apps, were carried out without any lag whatsoever, and the Honor 50 also seemed to cope very well with playing mobile games. What’s more, you’ll also get 5G mobile data where available, which is far from a guarantee with devices at this price point.

Test TypeGeekbench 5 Single CoreGeekbench 5 Multi-Core3DMark Sling Shot3DMark Wild Life
Score786292064032494
The Honor 50’s performance scores

Battery Life

  • Good battery life
  • The jury’s out on 66W fast-charging

Even though the Honor 50 handset packs a considerable 4300mAh battery, it features a demanding screen, so I had my doubts over how it would hold up compared to the devices in this field. However, I needn’t have worried.

One hour of watching Netflix at default brightness consumed just 3% of the battery (with it taking approximately 40 minutes to dip down from 100% over that time period). For another point of reference, the battery went down from 92% to 88% after one hour of streaming music to my Bluetooth headphones.

In my experience, the Honor 50 easily lasted a day of use – even with the 120Hz enabled at all times rather than having selected the dynamic option.

A key selling point of the device has been the 66W fast-charging, with the manufacturer claiming that it can charge up to 70% in 20 minutes, and the full 100% in 45 minutes. Unfortunately, our review sample was bundled with a two-prong European charger, so I couldn’t verify this information; on a bog standard 3-pin charger, it took me one hour to get from zero to 60%.

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Should you buy it?

If you’re looking for a good all-round mid-range phone with a stand-out screen, the Honor 50 is a good choice.

If a versatile camera is your top priority, there are better alternatives around.

Final Thoughts

The Honor 50 announces the return of Google Mobile Services to the formerly beleaguered brand, but that’s not all: the screen is a joy, the battery is very reliable, and the main camera sensor is strong too. It’s only really let down by the poorer quality secondary cameras and the lack of some practical touches such as an IP rating, headphone jack, and SD card slot.

Trusted Score
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How we test

We test every mobile phone we review thoroughly. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly and we use the phone as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.

Used the phone for one week

Tested with multiple camera modes

FAQs

What’s the IP rating?

An IP rating gives an official score to a product based on how well it resists water and particulate ingress. This device does not have an IP rating, so we’re not sure how it would cope if exposed to water or dust.

Has it got 5G?

Yes, you’ll have access to 5G connectivity with this phone as long as you’ve got a compatible SIM card and network coverage

Which colours options are available?

The Honor 50 is available in four different shades: Midnight Black, Emerald Green, Code, and Frost Crystal

Has it got Google Mobile Services?

Yes, you can access all the Google apps that you’re familiar with on this phone as standard

Trusted Reviews test data

1 hour music streaming (online)
1 hour video playback (Netflix, HDR)
Time from 0-50% charge
Geekbench 5 multi core
Geekbench 5 single core
3D Mark – Wild Life
3D Mark – Sling Shot
3D Mark – Sling Shot Extreme
3D Mark – Wild Life Stress Test

Full specs

UK RRP
EU RRP
Manufacturer
Screen Size
Storage Capacity
Rear Camera
Front Camera
IP rating
Battery
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
Release Date
Resolution
Refresh Rate
Ports
Chipset
RAM
Colours

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