With the Magic Vs, Honor raises the bar on the foldable form factor with a confident design that’s a joy to use. Issues with app compatibility, MagicOS and the overall cost of the device hold it back somewhat, but anyone looking to hop on the foldable train will find a lot to like here.
- Gapless fold
- Gorgeous eye-catching finish
- Big battery
- Only 90Hz refresh rate on internal display
- App support still an issue
- Not the latest Qualcomm chipset
- Gapless folding mechanismThe Honor Magic Vs folds completely closed with no noticeable gap, protecting the inner display from dust and other debris.
- Capable camerasThe combination of a 54MP main, 50MP ultrawide and 8MP 3x telephoto look to give the Magic Vs the edge compared to most book-style foldables in 2023.
- Big batteryThe 5,000mAh battery of the Honor Magic Vs should help it last all day long and then some.
With its sights set on taking down the Galaxy Z Fold 4, Honor has taken the plunge into the global foldable space with the Honor Magic Vs.
Even though its competition is expanding, Samsung has enjoyed an extended period of dominance over the foldables market. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 have become the go-to reference points when talking about the tech, not in the least because of Samsung’s continued advertising efforts and the fact that the company was one of the first to market with the concept.
Of the two devices, the Z Flip has easily seen the most competition at its doorstep from the likes of the Oppo Find N2 Flip and the Motorola Razr (2022), but the Z Fold has remained relatively unmoved from its perch. Honor is looking to change this with the Magic Vs, which not only undercuts the Z Fold in price, but also offers a spec sheet that leaves a large amount of Samsung’s feature-set in the dust – on paper anyway.
So has Honor actually made the phone to dethrone the Galaxy Z Fold 4? Here’s our verdict.
Design and screens
- The hinge can fold at different angles
- Without a case, the device is slippery
- Some inconsistency between screen refresh rates
Before handing the Magic Vs over for testing, one of the first things Honor was keen to point out was that unlike the Galaxy Z Fold 4, the Vs folds completely flat when the inner screen is not in use. To its credit, the Magic Vs does look more confident in its form factor than the Fold 4, something that Honor has managed to achieve with a redesigned hinge that has whittled the interior mechanisms down to just four components.
From a design standpoint alone, it’s an impressive piece of tech and the flatter crease does allow the Magic Vs to sit more easily in your pocket than the competition (even though it’s still a fairly weighty 267g). The crease itself is still visible from an angle, but if you’re looking at the phone dead-on then it disappears completely. I only wish that there was a groove on the edges of the phone to make it a little easier to open and close.
As a forewarning to anyone looking to buy the Honor Magic Vs, allow me to issue a PSA by imploring that you immediately attach the case that’s bundled with the phone. The Vs’ glass build means that there’s very little to grip on to, and before I attached the case the device constantly felt at risk of slipping out of my hands.
That’s only a minor gripe however as the phone itself feels like a truly premium product, and the folding mechanism doesn’t feel flimsy in the slightest, with the ability to be propped up at a 90-degree angle, much like a laptop.
Aside from being able to fold flat, the Honor Magic Vs also has another obvious step up from the Fold 4 in that boasts larger outer and inner displays than its competitor. When closed, you can make use of a slender 6.45-inch display but opening up the device presents you with an impressive 7.9-inch display (the Z Fold 4 has a 6.2-inch outer display and a 7.6-inch inner display by comparison).
With AMOLED tech that’s HDR10+ ready, both displays on the Magic Vs look incredible, but I surprised myself with just how much use I got out of the inner display. From typing to reading documents, everything is so much easier with the added real estate, and that’s before mentioning the obvious benefits when it comes to watching content. Even with films that use a letterbox format, the blank space around the video can be used for subtitles, which is such a great use of the design.
Part of my preference for the inner display also comes from the fact that I find the outer display to be just a bit too slim for my liking. Typos became a more regular occurrence and it’s simply too tall to be used comfortably one-handed. As a side note, the two displays aren’t consistent when it comes to refresh rates, with 120Hz being the ceiling for the outer display, while the inner is capped at 90Hz.
This might sound like cause for alarm on paper, and I’m sure that some display purists may still baulk at the idea, but this inconsistency never caused me any issues during the testing period and unless I really honed in on the differences, they went completely unnoticed during everyday use.
- Reliable generable performance
- Teriffic in low-light scenes
- x3 zoom is a little disjointed
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 made some notable improvements to its camera system after a somewhat lacklustre approach from its predecessor, so I was intrigued to see how Honor would compete on this front. Samsung phones are known for taking solid and colourful shots but Honor has started to make a name for itself in the world of smartphone photography (just see how the Honor Magic 5 Pro has been marketed).
For starters, the Magic Vs has a decent camera set-up on paper with a 54MP main sensor, a 50MP ultra-wide and an 8MP telephoto lens. In reality, the camera experience is hampered by a few quirks but on the whole, the Magic Vs is capable of pumping out some great-looking shots in both daytime and low-light scenes.
In almost all scenarios, I found the main sensor to be incredibly reliable and when running through the crowded halls of MWC in Barcelona, the camera more than held its own when I needed to take a couple of product shots. The camera presents a natural bokeh, as seen in the shot below, and there’s plenty of colour to be found too.
The same could be said for shots taken after the sun has gone down. After I returned to the UK, the Magic Vs kept up with the change in weather and I found myself quite surprised at just how much colour it was able to dissect from scenes that I know would have tripped up a lot of other smartphone cameras. There’s still some noise present in the sky from the shot below, but the camera picked up the red of the tarp far better than I could when looking at the same scene in the moment.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said when swapping to the x3 optical zoom to capture something in the distance. Compared to the experience I’ve had with the likes of the iPhone Pro range, moving to x3 capture changes the colour profile to such a degree that I found myself avoiding the feature entirely more often than not. There’s also a x10 digital zoom that’s handy in a pinch but not detailed enough to the point where it could be genuinely recommended for use.
The phone does handle itself quite well in the realm of macro photography. When given the chance, the Honor Vs can capture a decent amount of detail on an impressively small level, but I only wish that this mode could be toggled manually – at present it only kicks in when you move close enough to an object and there’s no way to stop that from happening.
When you have people as your subject, the Magic Vs more than holds its own with portrait photography. Even without portrait mode enabled, there’s a nice amount of natural bokeh to be found but when you do toggle the artificial bokeh, the separation between the subject and the background is reliable. The same can be said when using the 16MP selfie camera – even on a cloudy day, the front-facing sensor was able to capture a surprising amount of colour from my admittedly pale face (which I’m grateful for).
Video performance is pretty solid too, capturing a similar degree of colour vibrancy in ideal settings. What really impressed me however is the stabilisation, which is definitely creeping up on the iPhone’s ability to deliver smooth video when out and about.
- Last-gen chipset
- Solid overall performance
- App compatibility needs some work
As with any foldable phone, the sell is in what the form factor can do that a typical smartphone can’t and to that end, the Magic Vs makes a great case for itself. However, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done on the software side. Apps like YouTube and Google Chrome already make great use of the design with the ability to watch videos in ‘laptop mode’ and to break off into multiple windows respectively, but plenty of popular apps like Instagram lack support for the boxy aspect ratio.
Similar to multitasking on the iPad, a simple tap of the top of the screen reveals the multitasking bar which lets you delve into split-screen viewing or having one app float in a window while another app is running. To give one example of practical use here, I jotted down points in Evernote while having Slack float in a window above so that I could stay in touch with my colleagues without jumping from one app to another.
In moments of productivity like this, the foldable form factor definitely has its merits. If you’re the type of person who’s constantly on the move then I reckon you’ll get a lot of use out of it. The downside is that the software isn’t quite at the same level as the hardware, and the Magic Vs will almost always prompt you to relaunch an app whenever you unfold the device.
Some apps, like the streaming service Now, will simply shut down if you try to fold or unfold the phone. It’s not ideal by any means, but not enough to ruin the experience completely and I have hope that as foldables become more popular, developers will optimise their apps in turn.
Running the show inside the Magic Vs is the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 which is a bit outdated now that the Gen 2 has already made an appearance in a few handsets, but I never felt as if the overall performance was hampered by this. On the contrary, the Honor Magic Vs is a speedy phone and I never encountered any noticeable slowdown.
The fingerprint reader (found within the power button) is very speedy and never gave me any grief, and gaming performance wasn’t an issue either – Stardew Valley runs an absolute treat and really benefits from the larger inner display. Running the phone through Geekbench 6, it came back with a very respectable 996 single-core score and 3866 multi-core score in the CPU benchmark, as well as an OpenCL score of 6434.
One of the issues holding back the Magic Vs is undoubtedly Honor’s MagicOS. Even though it’s built upon Android 13, MagicOS includes a few quirks that are somewhat difficult to live with. For instance, there’s no app tray to speak of on the Magic Vs, at least for the time being. I’ve been told by Honor reps that an app tray will be made available in the future, but what’s made the experience more frustrating is that you can’t delete Honor’s own-brand apps from the phone, forcing me to move them around the homescreen.
To its credit, some of Honor’s apps are surprisingly good – the Notes app feels eerily similar to Apple’s version which helped with the jump from iOS to Android – but I don’t appreciate the way in which they’re forced upon the user and it’s something I would like to see changed in the future.
Speaking of the future, Honor has taken note from the likes of Apple, Samsung and Google by promising no less than three years of OS updates and five years of security updates to give the Honor Vs a decent amount of longevity. It’s great to see this becoming the norm but in the Magic Vs’ case, it’s a welcome piece of news given just how much the device costs.
To pick up the Honor Magic Vs brand new, you’ll be expected to part with €1599. UK and US pricing has yet to be announced, but it roughly translates to £1400 and $1700 respectively. That’s no small change, and it dashes any hopes of the Magic Vs being the first truly affordable foldable in the face of the market’s current sky-high prices.
The one upside is that there’s only one version of the Magic Vs for sale and it comes with a massive 512GB of storage and 12GB RAM to boot. For similar specs, the top-tier version of the Galaxy Z Fold 4 costs around €1919 which is a sizeable price difference in comparison.
- Outstanding battery life
- You can get up to two days of use
- 66w wired fast charging available
Given that there are twice as many screens to contend with, there’s always a slight worry about the battery life of foldable phones but luckily, Honor hasn’t skimped out here.
There’s a 5000mAh battery housed inside the Honor Magic Vs and from my testing, it does a fantastic job at keeping the phone going throughout the day, even when subjected to a fair amount of strain.
On a standard day that involved a bit of social media, messaging and listening to audiobooks during my commute, I managed to get from roughly 8am to 11pm with 65% left in the tank, with a registered two hours and 13 minutes of screen-on time. In these scenarios, I see no reason why you wouldn’t be able to get roughly two days of use out of the Magic Vs.
When put under a bit more strain with several hours of streaming and a total screen-on time of five hours and 14 minutes, I managed to make it to about midnight from 9am with 40% of the battery remaining.
There’s also 66W fast charging to boot with the Magic Vs, although the charging brick I was provided was built to suit an EU electrical socket, which prevented any detailed testing on that front. Using a standard charger however, I was able to get from a flat battery to 100% in two hours and 15 minutes which, given how unlikely it is to even reach 0% without intentionally attempting to do so, isn’t the worst thing.
Should you buy it?
You want to go all in on foldables: With a fantastic design, larger screens than the Fold 4 and high-end specs to boot, the Magic Vs does a great job of showing why foldables are worthy investing in.
You want a phone for content creation: The Magic Vs’ form factor doesn’t lend itself to content creation in the same way that flip phones and standard handsets can, plus you can get incredible footage and shots from phones that are half the price.
Any scepticism I had about the future of foldables has well and truly dissolved after using the Honor Magic Vs. The phone’s premium build never left me with any worries where durability is concerned, and I’ve come to appreciate having the larger screen to hand when I want to dabble in a bit of work or catch up on the latest must-watch TV show.
Even though the Magic Vs is reasonably priced against the competition, particularly for the specs you get, it still requires a serious investment and unless you envision making the most of its design, it’s difficult to recommend to the majority of people over a traditional handset. There’s also room for improvement where software is concerned, but this feels like more of an issue facing the foldable market at large.
Still, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Honor Magic Vs, and if you’re looking to take the plunge into the world of foldable phones then Honor’s handset is a great place to start.
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Used as a main phone for the review period
Thorough camera testing in a variety of conditions
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Yes, the Magic Vs is capable of folding at a 90-degree angle, much like a laptop.
Honor has promised three years of software updates for the Magic Vs, and five years of security updates.
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