Honor makes a strong case to be considered a genuine flagship contender with the Magic 5 Pro
- Truly excellent display
- Terrific triple-camera set-up
- 3D facial authentication system
- Magic OS is ugly and cluttered
- Some software stutters
- Charging has gotten slower
Honor took its first steps into the global flagship smartphone business last year with the Honor Magic 4 Pro. It was executed with such poise and confidence, that it was almost as if the company (or elements of it at least) had done this sort of thing before.
You can argue about the extent to which this is true, but the Honor Magic 4 Pro certainly felt like the kind of phone that former parent company Huawei would have made had it not been hit with all those US sanctions.
Now the Honor Magic 5 Pro is here, and it’s a similarly assured follow up. It’s big, bold, and powerful, and it’s here to steal some thunder from the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus, the iPhone 14 Plus, and the Xiaomi 13 Pro.
Honor Magic 5 Pro review: What you need to know
The Honor Magic 5 Pro has come equipped for a scrap with some of the best phones on the market. It’s fronted by a large, sharp 6.81in 120Hz OLED display, and it’s powered by the Android flagship chip du jour, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2.
Photography is a major focus here, with a triple 50MP setup led by a new, larger 1/1.12in sensor. As with last year’s model, the Honor Magic 5 Pro’s selfie camera is accompanied by a dedicated TOF 3D sensor, which supplies an iPhone-level facial authentication system. Such a provision is an extreme rarity on Android these days, so it really makes the phone stand-out from the crowd.
Another standout feature is the large 5,100 mAh battery, which is backed by 66W wired charging and 50W wireless charging.
Honor Magic 5 Pro review: Price and competition
This also serves to help the Honor Magic 5 Pro undercut rivals such as the £1,099 Xiaomi 13 Pro and the £1,049 Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus. It’s exactly the same price as the iPhone 14 Plus, despite offering a number of superior specifications.
I wouldn’t dare call the Honor Magic 5 Pro a cheap phone, but it certainly feels like good value given its flagship specs. Just about the only handset out there that trumps it in the flagship bangs-for-bucks stake is the Google Pixel 7 Pro, which more than holds its own in this company for just £849.
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Honor Magic 5 Pro review: Design and key features
The Honor Magic 5 Pro doesn’t exhibit quite as much bling as the Honor Magic 4 Pro, with none of the latter’s hyper-reflective, rainbow-tinted splendour. The signature colour here is a more reserved and tasteful Meadow Green, with a textured finish that slightly sparkles in the light. You can also get the phone in plain old Black.
It’s a mature design that seems to speak to Honor’s growing confidence as a flagship player. This is a genuinely smart-looking phone that can stand up to the flagship Samsungs, Apples, and Xiaomi phones of this world.
The rear camera module is still big and round, but it seems better integrated into the body of the handset than before, with the rear panel curving gently up to partially encompass it, and a colour that matches rather than contrasts with the rest of the phone.
The front isn’t afraid to throw a few shapes, mind you. It curves away along all four edges, though most prominently on the longer left and right sides. Even then, it’s not a radical drop off, so I didn’t particularly struggle with false palm presses or overtly distracting reflections when viewing landscape video content.
Your eye will probably be drawn to something else, however, in the shape of an extended lozenge of a selfie camera. Honor is the rare Android manufacturer to adopt a Face ID-like notch. Sure, it’s a little unsightly, and it squishes up the information in the notification bar. But the payoff is a more secure and reliable facial authentication system.
Indeed, you get the best of both worlds here, with a speedy in-display fingerprint sensor also in the mix.
Measuring 163 x 77 x 8.8mm, and with a weight of 219g, the Honor Magic 5 Pro is as similarly chunky as its predecessor, as well as the Xiaomi 13 Pro. You’ll always know when you’re carrying it around in your pocket, that’s for sure.
An IP68 certification is competitive with the rest of the flagship crowd, which is expected by this point. Less expected for those who’ve never used an Honor, Huawei, or Xiaomi phone before, is an IR blaster on the top edge. Using the pre-installed Smart Remote app, this lets you take control of your TV and hi-fi setup from the comfort of your phone.
You get a set of stereo speakers here, as you’d expect from any flagship phone worth its salt. They’re clear enough, but they lack a little depth and low-end oomph compared to some flagship rivals. Both speakers are mounted on the extreme edges of the phone, too, so they’re prone to being blocked when held in landscape.
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Honor Magic 5 Pro review: Display
Honor has supplied one of the very best – and best-calibrated – displays yet for the Magic 5 Pro. It’s another 6.81in 120Hz LTPO OLED number, with the same peculiar (for Android) 2,848 x 1,312 resolution as before.
This isn’t as sharp as the QHD+ standard of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and the Pixel 7 Pro, but it’s still well above the FHD+ of the Samsung Galaxy S23 and the Pixel 7. Not coincidentally, it offers exactly the same 460ppi pixel density as the iPhone 14 Pro. As anyone who’s used one of Apple’s recent phones will tell you, it’s plenty sharp enough.
Where the Honor Magic 5 Pro really excels is in its brightness and colour accuracy. On the former point, Honor claims that it can hit a peak brightness of 1,800cd/m², which is very impressive, and well beyond the Honor Magic 4 Pro before it. Even in normal conditions, with autobrightness turned off, I was able to record a top measured luminance of 760cd/m² using a colorimeter. That’s exceptionally bright.
Colour accuracy, too, is right up there on the flagship phone charts, with a gamut coverage of 98.1% against a gamut volume of 99.9%. This is using the Normal colour profile, which automatically applies the sRGB or P3 colour space according to the displayed content. I recorded an outstanding average Delta E reading of 0.8.
It’s not so easy to measure the effects of the Magic 5 Pro’s 2,160Hz High-Frequency PWM Dimming, which promises to help with eye comfort, but I’m glad it’s there.
Honor Magic 5 Pro review: Performance and battery life
Honor has given the Magic 5 Pro a straight generational bump when it comes to performance, which means that it runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. We’re getting used to the high level of performance that this provides by now, as it powers most of the 2023 flagship Android crowd.
Backing this up is a plentiful 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, which is more than what most people will need. It would have been nice to have more storage options in this global model, perhaps giving us a 256GB version at a Pixel 7 Pro-troubling price, but at least the sole model we’ve been given is well equipped.
Sure enough, the Honor Magic 5 Pro is a solid runner, playing high-end games like Wreckfest smoothly at top settings. However, it doesn’t appear to be running quite as fast as some of its rivals, at least according to a few of my benchmark tests.
In CPU terms, the Magic 5 Pro falls a little short of rivals like the Xiaomi 13 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus in Geekbench 5, and quite a bit shorter in Geekbench 6. This could be a technical glitch with the Geekbench app itself, of course, but it could also reflect a chip that isn’t tuned quite as well as its competitors.
GPU benchmarks are generally of a piece with other Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 phones, which means they’re very good indeed. With that said, I did find some of the results to be somewhat variable across multiple runs.
One thing to note in the Honor’s favour is the advantage it has in certain on-screen-specific GPU benchmark tests when compared to its rivals. As with the Honor Magic 4 Pro, that can likely be put down to the use of a slightly lower-resolution display, which means that the GPU is under a slightly lesser load.
A much bigger and more significant improvement, however, is the battery. Honor has fitted the Magic 5 Pro with a 5,100mAh cell, which is slightly bigger than its 5,000mAh competitors and way better than the 4,600mAh Magic 4 Pro. Combined with that lower-resolution display, it bodes well for the Magic 5 Pro’s stamina.
In practice, I was able to get through a full day of moderate usage (three hours of screen-on time) with way over 50% left in the tank. This was with the display forced to full-res and 120Hz. That’s an impressive result.
The news isn’t all glowing, however. When exposing the phone to our usual looping video test, the Honor Magic 5 Pro lasted 19hrs 52mins. That’s far from terrible, and is 43 minutes better than the Honor Magic 4 Pro. However, it’s also roughly the same margin worse than the Xiaomi 13 Pro, and falls a good seven hours behind the range-topping Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus.
Like with performance, Honor could perhaps do with tweaking and optimising the Magic 5 Pro’s power handling just a little better, at least when it comes to handling media.
The Magic 5 Pro’s charging offering is adequate rather than spectacular, with a 66W charger bundled in. That falls well short of the 120W charger included with the Xiaomi 13 Pro, and represents an unwelcome step back from the Magic 4 Pro’s 100W, though it still beats the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus and its 45W ceiling. It’ll get you from 0 to 30% in 15 minutes, up to 58% in 30 minutes, and on to 100% in just a few minutes short of an hour.
Wireless charging has also gotten slower compared to the Magic 4 Pro, though 50W remains one of the better provisions out there. You’ll still need to buy a specialist charger to make the most of such speeds, mind.
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Honor Magic 5 Pro review: Software
In terms of software, Honor’s phones suffer from a similar plight to Xiaomi’s. Both manufacturers load heavy, bloated UIs with way too many additional apps onto Google’s Android OS.
In this case it’s MagicOS 7.1 layered on top of Android 13. MagicOS is essentially the name Honor has given to Huawei’s EMUI, though of course you get full access to Google Play Services and Google’s Play Store here.
Even so, MagicOS simply doesn’t offer as clean and compelling an experience as stock Android on the Pixel series, or the stockish UI of the Motorola Edge 40. I also picked up on some glitches here, such as frequent stuttering in the YouTube app. I was tempted to place this complaint in the Performance section, but it’s clearly a software issue.
In general, however, MagicOS is simply a case of a number of irritating touches, like the lack of an option to set the default calendar app in the Settings menu, so you keep getting duplicate reminders unless you dive into the Notification settings. Then there are the unwanted preinstalled apps like TrainPal, Trip.com, and Booking.com, or Honor’s own App Market.
Again, this is an annoyance the company shares with rival Xiaomi, but that doesn’t make it less of a negative point. Not when Google and Motorola have been getting their flagship game in order of late.
On a slightly more positive note, Honor has promised three years of major Android updates and five years of security updates. That’s one of the better guarantees out there. Do I have faith that Honor will be offering a more fluid custom UI by the time Android 16 rolls around? It’s a matter of hope rather than expectation.
Honor Magic 5 Pro review: Cameras
Honor has returned with another mighty triple-camera system in the Magic 5 Pro, but the company hasn’t stood still since last year’s impressive Honor Magic 4 Pro. There’s a larger 1/1.12in 50MP main sensor this time around, with a wider f/1.6 aperture.
Assisted by OIS (a curious omission from the Magic 4 Pro) and a TOF 3D depth sensor, it produces some of the clearest, richest shots of any smartphone camera I’ve used this year, with a sharply defined subject and nice creamy bokeh. It does tend to pump up the vibrancy of colours a little too much for my taste, offering extremely green grass and deep blue skies, but it’s a stylistic choice that many other manufacturers tend to make, so a lot of people obviously like it.
The Honor Magic 5 Pro is a strong performer in low-light conditions, especially that large main sensor. It can capture bright shots in less than perfect lighting without activating Night mode, but when you do need to extend those shutter times it’ll give you crisp shots with minimal noise whilst maintaining a good sense of the scene. In other words, it doesn’t make things look unnaturally bright.
The 50MP ultrawide is also strong, capturing plenty of detail and a colour tone that’s in keeping with the main sensor. Indeed, the general tone and balance across the three sensors is nice and even, which is vital to actually wanting to use them all in day-to-day life.
That applies to the 3.5x periscope camera, too, which drops from 64MP to a nice rounded 50MP this time around. It’s supported by OIS, like the main sensor, which helps keep things steady when the light drops. Hybrid zoom enables up to 100x shots, but I’d recommend keeping it to the 10x that the camera UI implicitly suggests.
The selfie camera is a surprisingly flexible tool. Honor offers three zoom lengths – the main 1x, plus two wider angles of 0.8 and 0.7x. This feels like overkill given that there’s only one actual image sensor (alongside that facial recognition-enabling TOF sensor), but it’s nice to have the option for group and landscape selfies.
Honor Magic 5 Pro review: Verdict
Honor has followed up its flagship debut with a strong, if generally iterative second effort. The Honor Magic 5 Pro keeps a lot of what we liked in the Honor Magic 4 Pro – a big and impeccably balanced display, proper facial authentication – while fixing some of the minor issues we had such as underwhelming battery life and no main camera OIS.
Indeed, the camera system here is a highlight, yielding bright, vibrant, well-balanced shots across all three main sensors.
It’s a shame to see wired charging speeds take a backward step, however, and MagicOS remains truly hard to love. Google Play Services support has lost its novelty value with this former Huawei sub-brand, so we’re just left with the clunkiness of the software experience.
All in all, it leaves the Honor Magic 5 Pro in a similar position to its predecessor. It’s a high class, thoroughly viable yet somewhat left-field alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus, the iPhone 14 Plus, and the Xiaomi 13 Pro.