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Honor Magic Vs review: A full-sized foldable bargain

Our Rating :
£1,399.00 from
Price when reviewed : 1,400
inc VAT

Honor is offering an intriguing alternative to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, with a broadly similar experience for hundreds less

Pros

  • Much more affordable than rivals
  • Gapless design makes for a thin foldable
  • Surprisingly balanced, colour-accurate displays

Cons

  • No IP rating
  • No wireless charging
  • Poor software

You have to suspect that there are three major things standing between full-sized foldable phones and mainstream acceptance. The Honor Magic Vs seeks to address one of them in particular.

It’s no less bulky than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, and its camera setup isn’t any more impressive either. Crucially, however, the Honor Magic Vs is significantly cheaper than any other flagship foldable we’ve seen to date.

Could this attempt to undercut Samsung, Google, Oppo and others provide the breakthrough moment for full-sized foldables?

Honor Magic Vs review: What you need to know

The Honor Magic Vs is, to all intents and purposes, a flagship foldable. However, it’s one that makes some clever cutbacks in pursuit of a non-extortionate price tag.

For example, it features a 7.9in fold-out AMOLED display, but it cuts the refresh rate back to 90Hz. Honor evidently expects you to use the 6.45in external OLED, with its 120Hz refresh rate, more frequently than other foldable manufacturers might.

Then there’s the phone’s processor, which is a Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 that hasn’t been cutting edge since the turn of the year. You could still just about deem it a flagship component, but it’s certainly a slightly more mature one than its rivals.

You also get a camera system that features a 54MP main sensor, a 50MP ultrawide, and an 8MP telephoto. That’s all very respectable, but the main sensor doesn’t have optical image stabilisation.

Finally, while the phone’s 5,000mAh battery comes with a 66W wired charger in the box, there’s no wireless charging support.

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Honor Magic Vs review: Price and competition

As we’ve just mentioned, the price of the Honor Magic Vs, and how that relates to the foldable competition, is the defining aspect of this phone.

At £1,400, you still wouldn’t call it cheap. However, that price brings it in several hundred pounds south of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and (almost certainly) its imminent successor, not to mention the forthcoming Google Pixel Fold.

In the inflated world of phone/tablet hybrid foldables, the Honor Magic Vs is practically a budget option. Of course, these things don’t exist in a bubble, and that £1,400 price also sees the Honor Magic Vs going head to head with some top-spec non-foldables.

For this sort of money you can secure yourself a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, an iPhone 14 Pro Max, or even a Sony Xperia 1 V, each benefitting from superior performance and cameras. You’d still have one or two hundred pounds to put towards something else as well.

Honor Magic Vs review: Design and key features

The Honor Magic Vs sticks fairly close to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold school of foldable design. It’s a tall and thick phone when closed, and a square and thin mini-tablet when open.

When you examine the fine details, however, you’ll discover some laudable refinements. Most notably, this is a much nicer phone to use while closed than the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

At 12.9mm thick when closed, it’s significantly thinner than the Galaxy Z Fold 4, which ranges between 14.2mm and 15.8mm. As that uniform thickness suggests, there’s no gap between the two halves of the phone, which again makes it feel a lot more cohesive, though also makes it somewhat tricky to open.

The main thing that gives away the phone’s foldable nature, besides its thickness, is a weight of 267g. That brings it in a tad over the 263g weight of the Z Fold 4.

When open, the Honor Magic Vs is a mere 6.1mm thick, which is 0.2mm thinner than its major rival. By making one edge of the display curve away gently, matching the rear panel, there’s a pleasant symmetry to the Magic Vs in this unfurled state.

You’ll still get a clear crease down the middle of the screen when fully extended – no foldable maker has fully addressed this design flaw yet. You can nearly always see that it’s there when you look for it, regardless of screen content, but in general use it fades into the background nicely.

Talking of foldable design issues, there’s no IP rating here whatsoever. Other foldable manufacturers have at least managed some form of certified waterproofing, even as they remain open to dust ingress, but Honor hasn’t even managed that much.

One small thing that makes the Honor Magic Vs slightly irritating to use in the closed position is the size and positioning of the camera module. It makes for the wobbliest, rattliest resting position when lying the phone on a hard surface, making me pine for the Pixel Fold’s width-spanning camera module.

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Honor Magic Vs review: Display

There’s a bit of an imbalance with the two displays on offer here, at least on paper. The smaller external display, a 6.45in 2,560 x 1,080 OLED with a 120Hz refresh rate, is ostensibly the stronger of the two. The internal display might be bigger at 7.9in (which is a little larger than the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s), but at 2,272 x 1,984 it’s less pixel-dense.

It’s also less fluid at 90Hz. Meanwhile, the larger screen doesn’t get as bright in HDR scenarios, with a stated peak brightness of 800 nits compared to the external screen’s 1,200 nits.

That doesn’t quite tell the full story, however. In practical use, these are two very good displays that suit different purposes. What’s more, in taking my own brightness and colour accuracy readings, they’re very well matched in a couple of key ways.

With auto-brightness turned off, the external display achieved a strong measured luminance rating of 510cd/m², while the internal display wasn’t far off at 503cd/m².

Using the more natural and sRGB-oriented Normal colour mode, the external display achieved an sRGB gamut coverage of 97.1% against a gamut volume of 98.1%, and a very good average Delta E of 0.82. The internal display, meanwhile, scored 97.3% gamut coverage and 98.7% gamut volume, with an average Delta E of 0.83.

In other words, while the Honor Magic Vs undoubtedly has a somewhat unfortunate imbalance between its two displays, the baseline quality of the output is almost identical between them. Crucially, hopping between the two is a cohesive, joined-up experience, which is what really matters here.

Honor Magic Vs review: Performance and battery life

The Honor Magic Vs runs on a Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor, which isn’t the latest and greatest chip on the market any longer. It can still be viewed as a flagship component, however, and is the very same processor that powers the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4.

Interestingly, the benchmark scores I recorded with the Honor Magic Vs were quite different to those of the Galaxy Z Fold 4. It outstripped Samsung’s phone on two of the four GFXBench GPU tests, while falling well short on one, and more or less drawing on another. CPU scores seem similarly mixed, with Geekbench 5 scores showing the Vs falling well short of the Fold 4, while the more up to date Geekbench 6 tests seem to show a more expected result.

In general usage, however, the Honor Magic Vs acquits itself admirably, running games and switching between multiple apps with similar fluidity. That’s aided by the fact that the sole global model ships with 12GB RAM and 512GB of storage, which should be sufficient for the vast majority of people.

Similarly capacious is the Honor Magic Vs’s 5,000mAh battery, which is huge for a foldable. You can expect to get through a day of around three hours and 30 minutes of usage with about a third of a tank left, which is solid for a device with this kind of unfavourable screen-to-battery-capacity ratio.

Curiously, however, the Magic Vs performed pretty awfully in our usual looping video test, lasting a mere 12hrs 51mins. That’s a good five-and-a-half hours shy of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, even with the latter’s smaller battery. This would appear to be a combination of poor battery optimisation from Honor and strong performance from Samsung, as Honor’s non-foldable phones fall similarly short of their Samsung equivalents on this test.

There’s a 66W charger bundled in, which will get the Magic Vs from 0 to 60% in 30 minutes, and on to 100% in just shy of an hour. What you don’t get is wireless charging support, which is probably one of the biggest omissions in a £1,400 smartphone.

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Honor Magic Vs review: Software

Honor’s custom MagicOS 7.1 software sits heavily on top of Android 13, squeezing the lightness and freshness out of Google’s OS.

Just as with the Honor Magic 5 Pro, it’s not an outright bad or disfunctional UI. It’s just filled with lots of little decisions that grate, from confusing settings menus to an ugly notification shade, not to mention the sheer weight of superfluous third party apps.

Even the apps that do perform some kind of limited but useful function, like calculator and weather, have here been put in a supersized ‘Tools’ folder that seems to defeat part of the purpose of folders, which is surely to tuck a bunch of related apps well out of the way.

There isn’t much in the way of optimisation for that larger screen, either. Certainly nothing on a par with what Samsung and Google are offering through their own foldable software tweaks. You can run apps in split screen, or windowed out, but it’s not the best implementation I’ve seen.

While this is essentially Huawei’s EMUI, you do at least get access to the Google Play Store, so there are no worries about accessing your favourite apps.

Honor is promising three major Android upgrades and five years of security patches, which is solid. But given the lack of meaningful UI improvements over the previous few years, I wouldn’t put money on a major UI upgrade within that time.

Honor Magic Vs review: Cameras

The Honor Magic Vs incorporates a triple camera system made up of a 54MP main sensor, a 50MP ultrawide, and an 8MP telephoto.

It’s a solid enough setup, but it falls well short of non-foldables selling for the same money, or even considerably less. The Pixel 7 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S23, iPhone 14, and OnePlus 11 all give you much more capable camera systems for £600 or so less.

Alarm bells start to ring when you notice that the main sensor (the same Sony IMX800 as the Honor 70) doesn’t come with OIS, which is a basic feature for any vaguely flagship-leaning phone. You do get it with the telephoto though, which is something.

Despite those hardware limitations, shots taken in good lighting are nice and punchy – perhaps a little too much so on occasion, with extremely green greens and blue blues on landscape shots. There’s a reasonable amount of tonal consistency across the three main sensors in these well lit scenes, and it’s particularly good to see the ultrawide given some attention, as this is usually an afterthought when budgetary concerns are high on the agenda.

While the 3x camera does a good job shooting sharp closeups – this one does get OIS – things fall apart when you use the 10x option in the Camera UI. There just isn’t the necessary information here to make a success of the hybrid cropping technique. I’d leave well alone.

More generally, as soon as the light drops, things start to get a little sketchy across the board, at least for a flagship-level phone. Extended shutter times and no OIS conspire to bring a little blur in.

Night mode really shows up the Honor Magic Vs camera’s mid-range status. Brightness levels are pretty well enhanced, but there are a lot of fuzzy dark skies, some indistinct detail, and a few blown out highlights.

The 16MP selfie cameras (one in, one out) isn’t bad, with reasonable detail in good lighting, though you can expect the odd blown out highlight and smudged skin tone. That’s less of an issue on a foldable, though, where it’s relatively easy to put the main camera to use on selfie duty.

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Honor Magic Vs review: Verdict

The Honor Magic Vs isn’t the very best full-sized foldable on the market, but it takes some calculated risks in order to offer an alternative. It’s in the same ballpark as the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 in a number of key areas, including design, display(s) quality, and performance, but for several hundred pounds less.

Its best features relate to the way it feels while closed, with a relatively slim build and a gapless hinge. The external screen, meanwhile, is technically the better screen of the two.

Perhaps the main concern is that Honor’s approach falls somewhat between. If you’re willing to spend £1,400 on a phone, you’re presumably expecting the very best, or close to, of everything. You simply aren’t getting that here, with glaring omissions such as wireless charging and an IP rating.

You have to feel that the first manufacturer to make a compelling full-sized foldable for less than £1,000 will be onto a winner. Until then, the Honor Magic Vs is the closest thing to a value option within this niche flagship sub-category.

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