If you’re in the market for a mid-range phone, this Honor 50 review could help you make a decision. It's a sleek handset with a lot to offer when it comes to its screen and performance, which is why this is one of the best cheap phones you can buy in 2021.
Formerly owned by Huawei, Honor is clearly trying to make a new name for itself away from the Chinese tech giant. The Honor 50 is a step towards that, it's bold and beautiful but you can still hear the echoes from the manufacturer’s past. That’s not a bad thing, Huawei might be on Google’s naughty list but they still know a thing or two about design.
As you'd expect, the Honor 50 looks incredible - it's glossy, grown-up and unlike Huawei phones, you still get full access to the Google Play Store so it's much more convincing in that sense as well.
Honor 50 review: price and availability
You can buy the Honor 50 now starting from £379.99 in the UK for the model with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. That goes up to £449.99 for 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Take a look at the widgets on this page to see recent deals on the phone.
Honor 50 review: design and display
Despite being a mid-range handset, the Honor 50 looks glossy and feels premium. It’s available to buy in Frost Green, Midnight Black and Frost Crystal. I took a look at the black colourway, it’s mature and classy although admittedly a little prone to fingerprint marks.
Glass covers the whole body of the phone, which looks really flashy but that does make it a little slippery to hold. I’d be worried about it smashing if I were to drop it. That won’t be so much of a problem if you plan to have a case on it anyway.
Measuring 159.96 x 73.76 x 7.78mm and weighing about 175g, it’s a good size for most people - not too small but not so big that people with small hands will struggle to use it.
The back of the phone has a camera module with a large main lens, and three smaller lenses placed in a circle notch below. Using the phone on a flat surface isn’t ideal because of the design of the lenses, it rocks quite a lot when you use it on a table and they sometimes get caught sliding it in and out of your pocket.
On the front of the phone, the large screen curves around the edges and is only interrupted by a hole-punch style camera in the middle at the top. There isn’t too much going on around the frame either, there’s literally just a power button, a volume rocker and the USB-C port to charge it.
If you use wired headphones it’ll be time to buy some Bluetooth connected ones instead because there's no 3.5mm headphone jack, or you'll need an adaptor at the very least. You could make do with the USB-C headphones that are included in the box but you can't expect to be blown away with good sound if you do.
To unlock the display, you get to choose between pin, password, facial recognition and the in-display fingerprint sensor. Using your thumb to open up the system is quick and easy although I did find it was placed very low down on the screen so it wasn't completely comfortable to use.
The Honor 50 has a 6.57inch OLED screen with a resolution of 2340 x 1080p FHD+. While it’s far from being high-end, the screen tech is way beyond its price tag. You get 1.07 billion colours and each detail looks precise and sharp with ultra-clear lettering. You get plenty of brightness so it’s easy to see even outside on a sunny day. It’s a really stunning display that you can use for everything from photo editing to watching TV shows and online shopping.
There’s a maximum refresh rate of 120hz so the screen feels lovely to use as well. It will even intelligently adjust itself according to the task at hand. For example, if you're messaging it will go down to 60Hz or when you open up mobile games it'll get boosted to 120Hz. You won't be wasting battery life on apps that don't need such silky smooth scrolling and swiping.
Honor 50 review: camera
The Honor 50 uses a four-lens camera system that includes 108MP main lens, an 8MP Wide camera, a 2MP Bokeh lens and a 2MP Macro camera. On the front, you get a 32MP selfie camera.
Point and shoot photos came out really well using the default settings on the Honor 50's rear cameras. You get vibrant, accurate colours with a good balance between light and dark areas of the shot.
The camera takes excellent shots of landscapes and cityscapes, as well as flattering portraits but it isn't quite as good at taking photos up close. You can't expect too much from the 10x zoom either because photos looked very grainy when I tested that out. Take a look at some examples of photos taken on the Honor 50 in the gallery below.
Snapping selfies using the 32MP camera was just as effective, the system will automatically recognise when more people are in the shot and switch to a wider field of view to fit them in. There's a beauty mode and a bokeh mode on the front camera as well to help you capture the very best selfies possible. When I took a few test shots, each one looked bright and flattering so if you need a decent front camera then you will most definitely get there here.
Granted neither the front nor rear camera systems will produce the level of detail you'd get from a high-end flagship device like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, but for this price, you do get a lot for your money.
There are a few different video camera features to know about as well, like the fact that the camera system lets you seamlessly switch between the front and rear lenses without disrupting filming, and you can shoot on both sides at the same time. That's perfect for vloggers and content creators but it'll also be useful in loads of other ways, like when you're filming home videos or if you want to record both your reaction and the musician at a concert, for example.
Honor 50 review: performance
Packing the mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G chipset, along with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, the Honor 50 chugs along quite happily with most day-to-day tasks. Apps opened up quickly and games loaded fine, although it did show some signs of struggle with larger mobile games like PUBG Mobile or Call of Duty. It’s worth pointing out that there’s no Micro SD card slot to expand the storage in the Honor 50.
When I ran the Geekbench 5 benchmarking test on it, the Honor 50 reached scores of 787 single-core and 2,909 in multi-core. So while it won’t win any best-in-class awards, it matches up quite nicely with the best performers of the mid-range market like the OnePlus Nord 2.
As you’d expect at this price in 2021, you will get 5G connectivity here as well, so you’ll be fully future-proofed with high-speed internet when you’re out and about.
What about the battery? The Honor 50 has a 4,300 mAh battery which bodes well for it surviving the day. During my testing I didn’t need to charge it up very often, it got me through a whole day of use and then some, that being a bit of flicking through social media, messaging and browsing the web.
To test it out more vigorously I ran a two-hour local video on full brightness, in that time, the battery dropped by 12% which suggests it would have lasted about 17 hours in total which is excellent, you’ll be able to rely on it not to give up on you.
Then, using the included 66W charger, it took just under 40 minutes to charge it back up from empty to 100%. That's incredible and means you won't have to worry about not having enough time to charge it before you leave for work in the morning. You will have to use the charger in the box because there’s no wireless charging support on this phone.
Behind it all, the Honor 50 runs on Magic UI 4.2 which is based on Android 11. You still get access to all of the apps in the Google Play Store and Google’s suite of apps come pre-installed on the handset too.
Navigating the system feels just as easy at stock Android, although admittedly it is much more colourful which makes it feel slightly childlike. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes.
Honor 50 review: verdict
I'm surprised that Honor has managed to keep the price so low on the Honor 50 because it's a great phone across the board. You get a stunning screen, a fantastic selfie camera, a decent main camera, speedy performance and excellent battery life - that's all packed into a slim handset that won't leave a huge dent in your pocket when you go out and buy one.
That's not to say this phone is perfect, the OS won't be for everyone and while the design is beautiful, it does feel very fragile and it lacks water resistance, so you'll have to be very careful using it day-to-day. You also won't get wireless charging and there's no MicroSD card slot to expand the storage.
Those are pretty much the only significant complaints I have though, overall the Honor 50 is incredible value for money and deserves its spot as one of the best Android phones you can buy if you don't want to spend too much.
Honor 50 review: also consider
The best cheap phone for most people is the Apple iPhone SE (2020), it feels like a premium phone without costing as much as a premium phone. Its camera, build quality and speed are out to impress.
Not a fan of iOS? No worries, another cheap phone you could consider is the OnePlus Nord 2 which runs on Android. It's actually cheaper than the Honor 50 although you wouldn't know it. It's another really impressive piece of kit boasting impressive specs and performance.