This budget handset borrows plenty from last year’s flagship to deliver a familiar and strong-performing smartphone.
- Lightweight, familiar design
- Premium 6.67-inch 120Hz AMOLED display
- Solid all-day battery life
- Great performance from the main rear camera
- Secondary cameras are underwhelming
- Chipset isn’t that powerful
- Stuck on Android 12
- Premium, snappy displayHonor impresses with the Magic 5 Lite’s 6.67-inch OLED display. It features a 120Hz refresh rate, FHD+ resolution and a 395ppi pixel density. On top of this, it’ll display up to a billion colours and crank up to 800 nits of brightness.
- Impressive battery lifeThe Honor Magic 5 Lite packs a massive 5,100mAh battery inside. You’ll easily fly through everyday use, streaming, and gaming without breaking a battery-related sweat.
- Picture-perfect main cameraWhile Honor packs three cameras into the rear of the Magic 5 Lite, the 64MP main sensor is the one to write home about. It produces vibrant and colourful shots that you’d expect from a more impressive handset.
While primarily focusing on Asian markets, Honor is a popular Android brand among international users as well.
While the brand pumps out its fair share of flagship devices, it’s perhaps most well-known for its budget offerings – with plenty of affordable handsets available under the £300 price tag. And Honor’s latest smartphone is no exception. The Magic 5 Lite is a familiar device, taking inspiration from last year’s flagship. While scaling back the price, it goes full-steam-ahead on features for a capable budget offering.
Up-front, the Magic 5 Lite greets with an impressive 6.67-inch OLED display, featuring a 120Hz refresh rate. Inside the smartphone, you’ll find a massive 5,100mAh battery that easily gets you through the day. And round back, there’s a capable triple camera array fronted by a 64MP main sensor.
Throw all of these into one budget-friendly device, and you’re left looking at a seriously capable bit of kit. But how does the Honor Magic 5 Lite fare out in the real world?
Design & screen
- Familiar and lightweight design
- 6.67-inch OLED 120Hz display
- Built-in fingerprint scanner
If the Honor Magic 5 Lite looks a little familiar to you, you’re not alone. The smartphone brand has taken inspiration from last year’s flagship Magic 4 Pro. Rather than your usual rectangular shape, the Magic 5 Lite embraces curves both on the body and the screen itself. Not only does this look more aesthetic than sharp corners, but it also feels better while you’re holding the device.
When I first got my mitts on this device, the slimline design really impressed me. It’s only 7.9mm thick, while the tapered edges emphasise just how slim this device is. Plus, the polished polycarbonate frame helps out the “Lite” in Magic 5 Lite, with the device weighing in at just 175g.
Turn over to the rear, and you’ll find Honor’s signature circular camera bump. As far as camera bumps go, this one is fairly inoffensive – not raising the device too much. With three cameras packed inside, it takes up plenty of room on the rear. Below this, you’ll find some Honor branding, and that’s pretty much it. The Magic 5 Lite embraces its polished colour design. My unit is Emerald Green, but Titanium Silver and Midnight Black are also available.
While the polycarbonate back panel doesn’t feel the most premium, it helps to keep the price down. You may want to whack a case on the back, though, for added protection.
Bring your attention to the Magic 5 Lite’s display and you’ll find an impressive screen looking back at you. The smartphone aims high with a 6.67-inch AMOLED panel, featuring a 2400 x 1080 FHD+ resolution. Colours are vibrant while watching content on this smartphone, featuring the rich blacks that AMOLED panels are known for.
On top of this already impressive display, you’ll find some additional premium features. Honor includes a 120Hz refresh rate on the device for crispy and smooth navigation on the device. It boasts a handy always-on display, showing you the time and notifications at a glance.
The Magic 5 Lite can crank up to around 800 nits of brightness inside, which is pretty ample for everyday viewing. However, you may find that this budget device begins to struggle once you head outside or into other bright environments. Up top, there’s a hole punch selfie snapper at the very top of the display.
Under the display is an optical fingerprint reader. In my experience, this was snappy and accurate to unlock with the touch of a finger.
While not unusual for a budget-focused Android device, you won’t find any official water or dust proofing on the Magic 5 Lite. It’s not IP-certified, but Honor still reckons it should be splash resistant. The brand has taken steps to try to keep water out, such as a rubber gasket around the SIM tray. I’d probably still err on the side of caution and try to keep this phone dry.
Thanks to an impressive display, thin and lightweight form factor, and familiar, flagship-esque design, the Magic 5 Lite is quite the looker. Design-wise, it doesn’t feel like you’re using a budget smartphone, which I can only commend Honor for.
- Impressive 64MP main snapper
- Additional cameras aren’t quite as powerful
- Some camera features aren’t up to scratch
Since the Magic 5 Lite is a budget smartphone, don’t expect flagship-level camera performance. However, the 64MP main sensor’s images are definitely worth writing home about for a device at this price. Unfortunately, the additional cameras and some features let down what would otherwise be a very solid smartphone camera setup.
Starting with the main 64MP snapper, you’ll find the device produces sharp and well-exposed images. Colours are bright, accurate, and true to life – leaning to more realistic colours rather than focusing on vibrancy. Pictures get pretty bright, too, thanks to the f/1.8 aperture, which can let a lot of light in.
You’ll notice a lack of detail when you zoom into an image, however. Images become a lot less sharp, with somewhat grainy and noisy images. You can opt for the higher-resolution mode to retain extra detail, but these shots are still a far cry from flagship results.
You’ll get some realistic portrait shots from the camera itself, which can tackle close-ups rather well. Head into Portrait Mode, and you’ll find equally accurate edge detection. However, Honor’s blur can leave pictures looking a little unrealistic.
Despite the f/1.8 aperture, the Magic 5 Lite can struggle to take photos in low-light environments. You’ll notice high levels of noise, a lack of detail and a noticeable yellow hue. The phone’s dedicated Night Mode lets in more light by keeping the shutter open for longer, but still produces sub-par shots.
Ready to fire up some video? Unfortunately, the rear camera only records in 1080p at 30fps. It’s a far cry from the 4K shooting you’ll find on most smartphones these days, including other budget options such as the Poco X5.
The other two cameras in this triple camera array are a 5MP ultrawide and 2MP macro lens. Since the ultrawide snapper is only 5MP, it can’t capture nearly as much detail as the main sensor – which already struggles. The result is noisy and grainy shots, which you’ll also notice tend to be a lot darker. Colours are more-or-less as accurate as the main camera, but the lack of detail really lets it down.
And the 2MP macro lens is really quite poor. The actual Macro mode isn’t easy to find in the Camera app. And when you do try to take some super close-up shots, you’ll be left with largely unusable images. There’s noticeable distortion, noise, and colours don’t look anywhere near as vibrant. It’s a common trend for budget smartphones to include a low-res macro lens as a third camera, but it doesn’t make it any less disappointing.
Turn over to the front selfie snapper, and the Magic 5 Lite can take a social media-worthy snap. The hole punch camera is a 16MP sensor, with a fairly narrow f/2.5 aperture. Images are detailed, colour-rich, and bright enough despite the lack of HDR. One redeeming feature is that Honor included a wide lens here, which allows you to fill the frame with plenty of people – ideal for group selfies.
As for front-facing video, the camera can shoot in 1080p at 30fps, just like the rear sensor. While impressive for front-facing video, it only makes the main recording on this device more disappointing.
- Can handle everyday use well
- Can struggle with more performance-heavy tasks
- Ships with Android 12
Powering the Magic 5 Lite is the Snapdragon 695 chipset coupled with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It’s an octa-core CPU, with an onboard Adreno 619 GPU for graphics. As is the norm for budget smartphones these days, it also supports 5G connectivity.
While Snapdragon 695 can handle everyday usage well, it’s designed for light tasks like messaging and browsing the web, and this becomes noticeable with more demanding tasks like 3D gaming. It matches the chipset used in the similarly-priced Poco X5 and OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite, and is slightly less powerful than the MediaTek Dimensity 930 found in the Moto G73 5G.
With all this said, the Magic 5 Lite is capable of handling most everyday tasks without much issue. Web browsing, checking emails, or scrolling through social apps won’t stress out the device. Even when playing some lighter games, the smartphone can hold its own.
However, even the simpler side of more complex tasks made the Magic 5 Lite sweat. Multi-tasking graphics-heavy apps (such as Netflix or games) caused some serious lag. It’s here that you can really feel the smartphone begin to struggle.
Putting the Magic 5 Lite through some benchmarking tests, produced some expected, but definitely middle-of-the-road results. Running a Geekbench 6 benchmark test on the phone, I got a single-core score of 828 and a 2070 multi-core score. Even with the same processor inside, the Poco X5 couldn’t quite break 700 on the single-core score, and only just passed 2000 on the multi-core. So between the two devices, Honor’s offering is the better option.
Disappointingly, the Magic 5 Lite ships with Android 12. That’s now two Android versions behind, so users miss out on the latest features, stability, and performance that the operating system can deliver.
At least things feel familiar compared to other Honor smartphones, if you’re coming from a previous device. MagicUI 6.1 is intuitive – easy to get around, features similar navigation, and offers a well-designed UI.
There’s a fair bit of bloatware on the Magic 5 Lite, which is disappointing. Everything from Netflix, Booking.com, and some games come pre-installed, with some Honor-branded apps alongside existing Google offerings. It’s easy enough to disable, but I’d rather they weren’t there to begin with.
Connectivity-wise, the Magic 5 Lite packs everything you’d expect from a smartphone, even for its budget price. Alongside 5G, there’s also support for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.1, and NFC. There’s a USB-C port for charging at the bottom, which can also be used for data transfer.
- Enough power to last all-day
- Efficient battery management
- 40W fast charging capabilities
Honor has packed a huge 5,100mAh battery inside the Magic 5 Lite – even bigger than the cell used in the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
It’s safe to say you’ll have no trouble breezing through the day on this battery. The Magic 5 Lite’s spec trade-offs actually help out with battery life. While the chipset struggles to multi-task, it uses much less power, leaving you with extra charge. All-day battery life is an easy feat on this budget offering, and I’ve been tempted to brave two days on a single charge.
After an hour of watching HDR content on Netflix, the Magic 5 Lite lost just 4% of its charge. Half an hour of gaming burned through an identically reasonable 4%.
The Magic 5 Lite doesn’t include flagship-level charging speeds, but it does still include fast charging at 40W via the USB-C port. It’s fairly standard these days, but will comfortably juice up the device in not much time at all.
Impressively, the Magic 5 Lite took just 26 minutes to charge from 0% to 50%, though it took just under 2 hours to go all the way to 100%. Notably, there’s no wireless charging on Honor’s latest budget device, but this is something else that’s fairly common on budget smartphones.
Should you buy it?
You want a good-looking budget phone: measuring in at 7.9mm thick and 178g, the Honor Magic 5 Lite is one of the best-looking budget phones around in 2023.
You need great performance: The Snapdragon 695 chipset is fine for messaging and browsing the web, but serious mobile gamers will be left wanting more.
Despite some notable letdowns in the camera, software, and performance departments, the Magic 5 Lite is a solid budget Android smartphone.
What it lacks in secondary cameras, the device makes up for with an impressive display. Bloated and old software alongside a stuttery chipset are largely forgotten thanks to a battery that just keeps going. The trade-offs here are worth it, in my opinion.
It might not be flagship-standard but the budget device packs in plenty of features for its £250 price tag. It outperforms more expensive mid-range options in the areas that really count. And all of that is enclosed in a good-looking, reliable design. There’s not much more you could ask for. The Magic 5 Lite certainly won’t disappoint, and I have no qualms recommending it to the budget-focused consumer.
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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.
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Used as a main phone for the review period
Thorough camera testing in a variety of conditions
Tested and benchmarked using respected industry tests and real-world data
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Trusted Reviews test data
mAhAn abbreviation for milliampere-hour and a way to express the capacity of batteries, especially smaller ones in phones. In most cases the higher the mAh, the longer the battery will last but this isn’t always the case.
The brightness level of a display. 300 nits is regarded as the minimum target for high-end screens.