Time to test the metal of the Honor 50 5G as we put it under a scope and see what makes it tick! Also, I want to see how the phone compares to the likes of its rival the OnePlus Nord 25G
This is an area where I feel that Honor has made a step up in terms of quality as this is one the nicest looking Honor phones I have had the pleasure of using. it is a really nice and comfortable shape and it feels good in the hand. Normally I try and avoid using the included case with phones I have in for review to give me a feel for the naked device. I did try and do this for a few hours but the phone just got so manky that the see-through case had to go on.
Surprisingly for a free case, this didn’t detract from the design aspects that I like about the phone in its raw uncovered form. The curves on the case mirror those of the phone nicely creating a secure feeling grip that is smudge-free. All the buttons are still responsive and easy to locate, with the cutouts on the case all lining up perfectly as well.
Now that we have gone over that kets have a little tour around the device.
Starting on the right-hand side we have got the volume rocker and the power key which is placed below the volume rocker. As I have been switching phones a lot recently this takes a bit of getting used to but once I had used the phone for a day it became normal for me to find the buttons in these places.
Moving around to the underside of the phone is where we can find the primary speaker alongside a Micro USB Type C, a pinhole microphone and the sim card slot which is capable of taking two Sim cards but sadly no SD Cards as the storage is not expandable.
On the left-hand side, we find an expanse of nothingness. So we will move on!
Up to the top of the frame, we have got a few more pinhole mics.
Around the back is where we come to what is perhaps the main focus for this phone the camera array which is comprised of two units.
Up top, we have got the primary camera which delivers an impressive 108MP when used at full resolution. Underneath this is the rest of the quad-camera set up comprising of an 8MP Ultra-wide camera, a Bokeh Camer and a Macro camera.
I will explore these in more detail a little bit later in the review. If you can get the Frost Crystal Colourway of this phone then you will get a very fancy back that is comprised of dual-film dual-coating technology, which makes each colour sparkle like diamonds. As I have the Emerald Green I don’t get this sparkle but the colour does shift slightly depending on the angle that you look at it from which is a nice touch.
Coming around to the front of the device is where it gets a lot more interesting as this is a very nice display. But before that, we have another camera up at the top which is a 32 MP unit with a 90-degree field of view for getting those nice wide-angle selfies and also for good video but more on this is the camera section later.
Just above this camera is the secondary speaker which pulls double duty as an earpiece as well. This gives a reasonable level of stereo separation which is nice to see and hear too.
The other thing of note here is the screen which is really nice one that measures in at 6.57″ diagonal with an 89.7% screen to body ratio. The resolution is 1080 x 2340 a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and a PPI density of 392. In addition this the screen itself is OLED and has a refresh rate of 120Hz meaning that it is both responsive and fluid to use.
There is however one big issue with the display which I will come back in the software section as it is down to the software and not the display.
And to round up the tour it is time for a specs sheet
|NAME||Honor 50 5G|
|COLOR||Frost Crystal, Amber Red, Emerald Green, Midnight Black|
|DISPLAY PARAMETERS||Size: 6.57 inches|
Resolution: 1080 x 2340 PPI 392
Aspect Ratio: 19.5:9
Refresh Rate: 120Hz
Support 100% DCi-P3
|PERFORMANCE||Operating System: Magic UI 4.2 based|
on Android™ 11 with Google Play Services
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G
RAM: 6GB / 8GB / 12GB
|MAIN CAMERA – REAR||108 MP, f/1.9, (wide), 1/1.52″, 0.7µm, PDAF|
|ULTRA-WIDE CAMERA -REAR||8 MP, f/2.2, 120˚, 17mm (ultrawide)|
|MACRO CAMERA – REAR||2 MP, f/2.4, (macro)|
|BOKEH CAMERA – REAR||2 MP, f/2.4, (depth)|
|ZOOM||0.7x – 10x|
|AUTOFOCUS||Multi Autofocus (PDAF+CAF)|
|VIDEO||[email protected], [email protected]/60fps, gyro-EIS|
|FEATURES||Night Mode, Aperture, Portrait, MultiVideo, Video, Panorama, High Res, Time Lapse, Super Macro, Pro|
|FRONT CAMERA||32 MP, f/2.2, 22mm (wide), 1/3.14″|
|FEATURES||Face unlock, Screen flash, HDR, Face retouching, Portrait|
|CONNECTIVITY BAND||2G Bands|
GSM: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
HSDPA 800 / 850 / 900 / 1700(AWS) / 1900 / 2100CDMA2000 1x4G Bands
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 26, 28, 34, 38, 39, 40, 41, 66 – International1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 18, 19, 26, 34, 38, 39, 40, 41 – China5G Bands
1, 3, 7, 28, 38, 40, 41, 77, 78 SA/NSA – International1, 5, 8, 41, 77, 78 SA/NSA – China
|WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot|
|BLUETOOTH||5.2, A2DP, LE, aptX HD|
|POSITIONING||A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BDS, QZSS|
|SENSORS||In-display fingerprint sensor|
Ambient light sensor
|PORTS||USB 2.0, Type-C, USB On the Go|
Dual nano-SIM slot
|BUTTONS||Gestures and on-screen navigation support|
|AUDIO||Dual stereo speaker|
Noise cancellation support
Now that we have got the specs and tour of the physical hardware out of the way it is time to discuss what makes the phone tick on the inside. The Honor 50 5G is not an out and out powerhouse and nor is it trying to be. It comes with a more modest chipset in the form of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G 5G chipset which is paired to an Adreno 642L GPU as can be seen from the specs list above there is multiple version available in terms of the memory that you can get with 3 different configurations, 128GB 6GB RAM, 128GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 12GB RAM. These internals are supported in turn by a 4300mah battery that supports up t 66w fast charging from the Honor SuperCharge charger that is thankfully included in the box. This will give you up to 70% charge in 20 mins with the remaining 30% taking you up to a full 45 minutes as it slows down near the end to balance the cells in the battery thus prolonging the pack life span. if you don’t need a rapid recharge then this will charge from a lower power supply with no issue at all as this is what I did for the majority of my use during testing.
That is the internals dealt with but you don’t interact with them you interact with the display and thankfully this is a good one. I do like the fact that Honor has decided to include a 120Hz display. now I have said in the past that I can’t tell the difference between 60Hz and 90HZ displays and that it doesn’t bother me what i use. While i still stand by this statement it is nice to know that this screen tech is becoming more widely adopted in the midrange sector now. I still can’t really perceive a difference with my ageing eyes but knowing it is there gives me a nice smug feeling! I found that the 6.57″ panel was nice and enjoyable to use and looking at the curved edges made it feel sleek in my hand without detracting from the content. Colours were punchy and didn’t seem to be too “tweaked” to make them feel unreal. Brightness was more than sufficient for use indoors and out with the only time i had any real issue was when i was under direct glaring sunlight which is not all that common at this time of year. I watched a bit of Youtube on it and found that the video was fluid and didn’t seem to distort at all so was a pleasing viewing experience.
You can of course lower the refresh rate down to 60Hz if you wish to but i kept mine on Dynamic which will ramp up the refresh rate when required or daily it down when it is not needed. You can also lock it into High if you want that as well but this will be a detriment to the longevity of the phone. Whilst we are talking about the longevity of the phone I have been very please with the battery life of this phone as I have been managing to get through a workday with very little issue normally with just under 35 to 40 % left in the tank. This is spread across mixed usage of Calls, Messaging via text or WhatsApp, Email, Light web browsing, Streaming content on Youtube or Spotify and also using it as a Satnav whilst hooked up to Android Auto. Some days I would even have enough juice left over to not need to bother with a charge until well into the next afternoon. On average I was seeing between 3 and a half to 4 hours screen on time most days.
Performance was snappy whilst interacting with the device as you would expect from a phone from this year. I never felt like I was moving faster than the OS would allow me to. The phone responds to inputs accurately and smoothly. it is a really nice device to interact with one caveat, more on that later. I found calls to be crisp and clear as well while signal retention was good and of course when I ventured into a 5G enabled area then this would be picked up quite quickly. As for data speeds I was able to hit download and upload speeds slightly higher on this device than I can on my OnePlus Nord 2 5G over my home Wifi. My Nord2 averaged 48.23 Mbps download and 16.77 Mbps upload. The Honor 50 5G averaged 59.03 Mbps download and 17.87 Mbps upload. making for a near 20% increase over both metrics.
It was pretty much a match when it came to loading up various apps after a cold reboot.
So as you can see the performance is on par with the Nord 2 5G. The differences come to light however in the software.
This is where, as always Honor and to a greater extent the old parent company Huawei phones have started to show weakness for me. I mentioned this issue when i was reviewing the Huawei Mate 40 Pro. The user interface that Huwaei adopt and that Honor has inherited is just downright sinful. i cannot for rhyme nor reason fathom why you would want the UI icons in both the home screens UI and drawer to be so large. I may be alone here but i cannot get over the comically large scale of the iconography on this phone. it is enough to make me not want to use it if I am honest. I know that I can use an alternate launcher and that is fine for most people, if I were to be adopting this phone for my daily driver, I would do the same thing. I shouldn’t however need to do this as it is possible with some tweaks to the developer options to reduce the icon scale down to something more reasonable. This in my mind means that the scale of the icons has been made this way deliberately and i don’t understand why!!!
Here is an example of my home screen and app drawer from my Nord 2 5G and also the app drawer.
Here is the Homescreen and app drawer from the Honor 50 5G
Lastly here is a picture of the two side by side focusing on the app drawer
The difference is quite apparent although we have got 6 rows it is the columns that really annoyed me as we only get 4 on the Honor but 5 on the Nord. Both phones have got their display and font settings down to the smallest that is possible. I am not sure what influenced this decision but I for one am not a fan.
Once I had gotten past the size of the icons (which was a challenge) I found the rest of the UI to be quite pleasant with a little bit of clutter and app duplication, which was more than I would like but i could live with it. The one thing that i did notice to be lacking was the option to set a theme on the phone as the Honor Themes store app didn’t seem to be present anymore. Other than that you have got all the Honor staple extras that you would expect 18 in total which is a bit much. However, these can be disabled so they don’t encumber you. There is also thankfully a noticeable absence of any alternative app store for which I am glad.
The main reason for the lack of an alternative app store is that this phone comes with Google Mobile Service’s installed which include the Play store and all of Googles other Googley goodness. It is for this reason I was excited to test this phone out as it represents the re-entry of the Honor brand into the UK Market as what most would call a “proper” Android phone.
This is a big thing for Honor as the brand had become known to be the more affordable sister brand of Huawei and unfortunately due to the relationship between the two brands Honor also got dragged down by the American embargo placed on the Chinese company. Since Honor has now separated from Huawei they are not allowed to trade again in the US which means it, in turn, can also now use American businesses in the manufacturing and then the distribution of the phone. Most importantly this means that Honor can embrace all the goodness of Google’s services.
I have always been a massive fan of the design and hardware that the Honor range of phones brought to the market but when things went awry regarding the “ban” I missed the way that Honor brought high-end to the mid-range and I felt that there was a gap left in the market. Thankfully that time has now passed and we have the once-great Honor back and bringing its great design with it.
The other big area where Honor has been known for delivering above the price bracket has traditionally been the camera. I am pleased to say that for the most part, they are still doing this in the form of the Honor 50 5G.
So as I alluded to earlier the camera component of this phone is most certainly one of its features that Honor is shouting about. This is rightly so as for normal day times conditions this phone work really well it has some really clever AI assistance in the camera which does allow it to utilise the camera module well. It will also allow for some rather clever bit’s within the video camera. i want to cover these off first before delving into stills units.
So within the video section of the phone, you’ll be presented with a few different tools to use for your vlogging purposes. Examples of these are shown below for you to review. I have found that these can be useful in some scenarios.
First up is the Rear Dual Camera mode.
This uses the main camera and the zoom lens to obtain a view of two different perspectives when recording the video. It would potentially be useful if you are trying to do a close-up demo of something that needed a bit more of a detailed viewpoint.
Second, we have got the Front and back Camera mode
Ever wanted to show what you can see whilst also showing the customer your reaction to what you are seeing. No neither have I but this mode allows you to do just that. By using the front-facing camera and the rear-facing camera at the same time, possibly useful for reaction videos I guess. If you can find a use for it then good on you but for me, this is not one that I would use personally.
The third one I wish to highlight is the picture in video mode, Picture In Video
This one that I could maybe see me using but not really all that often although extensively the same as the above option it will use the front-facing camera but keeps it in a smaller window that can be moved around the screen to allow you to get the best view of the rear shot whilst also allowing your reactions to be seen.
Of course, the video will also record regular video in 720p, 1080 at 60fps, and 4k at up to 30fps. there is also a gyro-based Electronic Image stabilisation to allow you to keep the video reasonably blur-free, just be warned excessive movement will not be able to be prevented from showing in the footage as the EIS is not as effective as mechanical stabilization. You also have a slow-mo mode which can create some rather cool shots.
Another video-esque feature is Timelapse mode which will allow you to create some really cool shots of scenes as they change across time. Be warned though as with the full video features you will need to have got a stable position when you are using this mode. I would defiantly recommend using a tripod here.
Next to the still shooters, First things first let’s look at the type of shot you would get from the 108MP camera. (Click on the image to see the full-res version)This is a really cool mode to have as it allows to crop into the image with minimal loss of clarity on the cropped area. If I crop the photo above to the lego figure then I get really detailed shot including the detail on the uniform where you actually make out the numbers on the shirt lapels.
Quite a neat feature but unfortunately it comes a bit undone when you are not that close up to the subject though as when you are cropping the image you do lose fidelity.
Fortunately, Honor has added a zoom camera that works at a 2X level allow you a bit of Zoom magic to add to your tools when you are out and about. As if on cue here are some photos of the camera on different Zoom levels from Ultrawide, Normal and of course 2X.
I think it is fair to say that the zoom does its job and the Ultra-Wide option is really nice to have included as well. I have been able to get a lot of really nice photos on the phone in the right light levels. However, when things get a bit darker the camera starts to struggle a bit as the camera seems to take a bit longer to get the required levels of light into the sensor. To try this I thought I would take the camera out with me to a fireworks display and capture the show on there and the results are shown below.
I was a bit disappointed if I am being honest as I was not able to really capture any images of my Wife and Son enjoying the show as it took so long to get the shot that they wouldn’t stay still for long enough so I ended up with a blurry mess. Had I taken a tripod with me then I would have maybe got some better results. However, I want to be able to capture the moment as it happens and I just felt that I was let down here (also didn’t want to be that guy!!) I just feel that for the money this phone should have performed a bit better in the dark especially given that the phone does have an AI-assisted night mode on it.
So coming back to daylight shots The 108MP sensor works well with 9 in1 pixel binning to reduce the 108MP capture from the sensor down to a more palatable size of 12mp. These photos have good detail and produce a pleasing result when used in good lighting.
So the rear camera is good when used in the correct light levels but can slip a bit when things get a bit darker.
How about the other features such as Macro and Aperture modes well here are a few samples for you below. First up is Super Macro which is awesome for those close up product style shots.
This worked very well and you are guided by the software to say whether you are too close which is useful. I am impressed with the clarity of the writing on the figures spanner. I also quite liked the bokeh effect of the background which almost makes the subject stand out a bit better.
Next up is the Aperture mode
I really like the aperture mode on the Huawei Phones of the past and I am still a fan of the Honor devices. The subject in the image is very clear and the background blurs away really nicely. Let’s see what happens on one taken inside.
This one was taken a bit closer up and the light was not as good but again we do get a nice shot although it is significantly darker almost moodier.
Last up before we move to the selfie shooter is the video at night from the aforementioned fireworks display.
Now moving to the front camera and the obligatory selfie. I have taken three different offerings for you using the different modes available to you.
These are all perfectly serviceable with the standard mode showing a bit of blurring on the boundary between my beard and the dark sofa background. Night Mode manages to get a clearer more defined separation between my face and the background. The portrait mode is about halfway between them. I did turn the bokeh and beauty modes down to zero before taking the Portrait as I wanted to get the purest image without any AI tweaking. if you do turn these on you get something more akin to the image below.
Not a massive fan of this look to be honest as it tweaks things a bit too much and I only had the beauty mode on stage 1 of 10!!
So now that I have covered all the key sections where do I stand on this phone. I proposed that this phone may be a good option for those who are looking at a high-end mid-ranger like the OnePlus Nord 2 5G. I am going to cut to the chase for me the Nord 2 5G wins and there are two main reasons here the camera at night and the icon size in the UI. I will be honest I am a bit spoiled by the fact that I get to test and play with a lot of phones so I have very high expectations for this level of phone.
In isolation, this is a great phone and one that i can imagine that a lot of people will be very happy using. However, when it is being put up against the competition from the likes of OnePlus and to a lesser extent Realme I feel that the phone still has a few things that have let it down. The camera was such a disappointment for night shots as this was somewhere that I remember previous Honor and Huawei devices really shining. If I recall my experience of the Huawei P30 Pro which had a brilliant camera both in the day the night then the overall feeling is that this is just a B Grade camera. Moving away from the camera and perhaps my second biggest complaint the rest of the phone is great it has a really nice design a good battery and a really good screen but i just feel that a bit more work needs to be done with the UI and the camera to really make it that go to high-end mid-ranger that Honor wants it to be.
With all that being said one of the things Honor has always been very good at is getting the price right and this may be enough to sway people especially at this time of year. Currently, the Honor 50 5G is being sold on the Honor website for £379.99 for the 6GB RAM and 128GB Storage version or £449 for the 8GB RAM and 256GB storage versions each of these will also include an Honor Watch ES included for free! This is a cracking price and makes it a great option for a gift for someone at Christmas particularly for someone who stepping up from a lower-end device as this will be a significant step up for them. It also makes it a bit cheaper than the OnePlus Nord 2 5G at the time of this article going live. (10/12/2021)
So there you have it the Honor 50 5G a good solid phone with a great screen and capable camera as long as you don’t take too many photos at night, you may want to use a different launcher though!
On a personal note oi am glad to see Honor devices with google services back on board and I look forward to seeing what they come up with in the next couple of months with intrigue again which I didn’t think I would say again the last time I was at one of their events in the summer of 2019!!