While not the most powerful phone in its price range, the Honor Magic 5 Lite is still a strong all-round contender
- Stupendous battery life
- Vibrant, curved display
- Slim and stylish design
- Mediocre low-light photography
- Performance is good, but not great
- No microSD card slot
The Honor Magic 5 Lite is launching alongside the flagship Magic 5 Pro and the folding Magic VS, and aims to be an affordable alternative for those whose budgets don’t stretch as far as that premium pair. Rather than a mere afterthought, the Magic 5 Lite is a well-rounded mid-range phone, with a stylish design, practically unbeatable battery life and an attractive, curved display.
It’s not all razzle dazzle, of course: performance, while competent, won’t blow you away, and you’ll likely struggle to capture award-winning photos after dark. Concessions are to be expected at this price, but the question is, does the Honor Magic 5 Lite make them in the right places?
Honor Magic 5 Lite review: What you need to know
Like the recent Honor 70, the Magic 5 Lite is a deceptively stylish mid-range phone, with a gorgeous, 120Hz OLED display that curves gracefully around the edges. On the back, you’ll find the triple camera array, which consists of a 64MP main lens, a 5MP ultrawide shutter and a 2MP macro camera.
Inside the Honor Magic 5 Lite is a Snapdragon 695 processor, paired with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage. Power comes courtesy of a massive 5,100mAh battery, which supports 40W fast charging.
The software runs on Android 12, with Honor’s own Magic UI 6.1 pasted over the top. While not as clean an installation as a Google or Motorola phone, this is far from the worst custom Android OS on the market. The menus can be a bit over the top, and there’s more pre-installed bloatware than I’d like, but overall it’s fast and easy enough to navigate that it shouldn’t matter too much.
Honor Magic 5 Lite review: Price and competition
At £330, the Honor Magic 5 Lite is a smidge too pricey to be considered a budget handset, settling instead into the lower end of the market’s mid-range bracket. Our favourite here has long been the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G (£299), which hits all the right notes in the display, performance and battery life credentials. Brightness doesn’t reach the same heights as the Magic 5 Lite, and there’s no official IP waterproof rating, but otherwise the Nord is a very strong contender.
Also in this price range sit the Motorola Edge 30 Neo (£300) and Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro (£319). Both phones use the same processor as the Magic 5 Lite, albeit paired with 8GB of RAM instead of 6GB, and both have 128GB of base storage. The Xiaomi gains an edge with a microSD slot, allowing you to expand storage up to 1TB, but it lacks 4K video recording and suffers from a gaudy UI. The Motorola has speedier 67W fast charging, but failed to impress with its camera selection.
READ MORE: The best smartphones to buy
Honor Magic 5 Lite review: Design and key features
There are three colours on offer here: Midnight Black, Titanium Silver and Emerald Green. The phone has a remarkably slim profile, measuring 162 x 74 x 7.9mm, and it’s nice and light at just 175g. The glass rear panel has a mirror finish, which looks pristine and premium for precisely two seconds, before your grubby fingerprints get all over it. Keep a cloth handy with this one – you’re going to be wiping it down frequently.
While circular camera modules aren’t new ground for Honor phones, the 5 Lite switches things up slightly, trading in the block circle used by the 4 series for a slender ring. In a sea of camera array hegemony, a new design is always appreciated, and the end result looks suitably slick. The cameras are located on compass points around the ring, with the main lens to the east, the macro and ultrawide shutters on north and west respectively, and the LED flash situated on the south.
The corresponding 16MP selfie camera is set centrally along the top bezel, beneath the display. An optical fingerprint sensor sits underneath the display as well, with face unlocking also supported. Around the edges, you’ll find the power and volume buttons, the USB-C charging port and the dual SIM tray. There’s no room here for a microSD card, so you’ll have to make do with the 128GB of onboard storage.
Honor Magic 5 Lite review: Display
As is often the case in this corner of the market, the Honor Magic 5 Lite puts a hefty portion of its resources into the display, with spectacular results. The 6.67in OLED panel has a crisp 2,400 x 1,080 resolution and a breezy 120Hz refresh rate, so general scrolling and app usage feel smooth and look terrific. Befitting an OLED panel, the black level and contrast are as close to perfect as it gets, and the peak brightness of 518cd/m² is high enough for use in direct sunlight.
That peak brightness was recorded on the Vivid colour setting, which produces a generally more vibrant palette, which is great for streaming movies and TV with plenty of pop. If you want a more natural look, the appropriately named Natural setting offers a much more accurate reproduction across the spectrum. On this setting, I recorded an sRGB gamut coverage of 94.8% and a volume of 95.9%, which is excellent for this price.
Honor Magic 5 Lite review: Performance and battery life
While magic would be the logical source of power, the 5 Lite actually runs on an octa-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 chipset. This is a solid, if unremarkable, processor that we’ve seen recently in devices such as the Motorola Edge 30 Neo and Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G. All three scored similarly in the single-core CPU tests, though the Xiaomi pushed the hardware a little further for a lead of around 8% in the Geekbench 5 multicore test.
Even better was the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G, with multicore scores roughly 14% ahead of the Honor Magic 5 Lite. While these cheaper models pulling ahead may not paint the 5 Lite in the best light, it’s still a very nippy handset to use. General scrolling is pleasingly fluid, helped along by the 120Hz refresh rate, while running and jumping between multiple apps never resulted in any significant slowdown.
On the GPU front, the Honor Magic 5 Lite again sits shoulder to shoulder with the Edge 30 Neo and Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G, with scores that won’t get you the best frame rates on Call of Duty Mobile, but are more than enough to smoothly play lighter games such as Candy Crush. If you want more gaming prowess, the Nord CE 2 5G once again pulls ahead of the pack, reiterating that it’s still the best performer in this price bracket.
The Honor Magic 5 Lite is the first phone that I’ve personally tested that uses a 5,100mAh battery, and that extra capacity does not disappoint. In our standard video rundown test, the 5 Lite lasted for an incredible 28 hours and 45 minutes, which comfortably lands it near the very top of our best phone battery life list.
You can push the stamina even further with the Smart Resolution mode, which is on as standard. With this on, the phone ran for over 32 hours before tapping out, which should easily see you through a second day of moderate use. Even with Smart Resolution off and the refresh rate set to high, the battery lasted for over 24 hours. Whichever way you slice it, this phone has some seriously impressive stamina.
When that epic battery life eventually depletes, the Honor Magic 5 Lite supports 40W fast charging, allowing you to juice it back up quickly. Unfortunately, there isn’t a fast charger included in the box, but if you’ve already got a compatible plug, this is a handy extra.
Honor Magic 5 Lite review: Cameras
The Magic 5 Lite’s rear camera array is spearheaded by a 64MP (f/1.8) main lens, and the photos it produces are generally pretty good. The colours are nice and bright, with plenty of detail and contrast bringing out the depth. These early springtime daffodils really pop against the muted winter sky, but don’t dip over into excessive saturation.
After dark, things were less impressive. This nautical scene is brightened up effectively enough, but it comes with more noise than I’d like and a comically large lens flare.
The supporting duo of a 5MP (f/2.2) ultrawide lens and 2MP (f/2.4) macro camera are regular fixtures in this price range. The results can vary wildly from phone to phone, but what we get here is at the better end of things.
The ultrawide lens took this wintry sun scene and expanded the scope without completely washing away the colour. Brightness managed to stay pretty consistent with the main lens, although the detail in the trees leaves a lot to be desired.
The macro also performed well, capturing plenty of the small details in this fence hole. There’s not a lot of background to judge it by, but what small sliver we do see is blurred well and reasonably free of excess noise.
Video recording is capped at 1080p at 30fps, which isn’t the best, but is understandable at this price. Stabilisation is only electronic, so you may still see the odd camera shake, but otherwise the footage is decent enough.
Honor Magic 5 Lite review: Verdict
With only a brief stumble in the camera department, the Honor Magic 5 Lite emerges as a fairly well-rounded, affordable phone. The display and battery life are both fantastic, with the only snag on the latter being that there’s no fast charging plug included in the box.
Given that it’s stuck at 128GB a microSD slot wouldn’t go amiss, but otherwise, the Honor Magic 5 Lite hits the most important points in this price range. It takes decent photos, lasts a long time on a single charge, and looks great doing it.