When Honor first revealed its Magic 5 Pro flagship, it proudly purported it to have the best camera in any Android phone. There was DxOMark (an independent testing outfit) behind that claim and everything. But when you're looking for the best Android phone is that going to be enough to convince you?
After all, this is Honor. It's a brand that's risen and fallen and then risen again over the years, now sitting in a stronger position than it has for quite some time. That's because the company is now independent, the Magic 5 Pro has full access to Google Play Services, and therefore there's little to hold it back.
Indeed, quite the opposite, for the packed-out spec sheet, including those cameras, should be ample enough to propel it forward. With IP68 waterproofing, a huge and bright screen, masses of power, and a distinctive design that stands apart from some of the best phones on the market, Honor could well be onto a winner with the Magic 5 Pro...
Honor Magic 5 Pro: Price & Availability
Flagship phones these days tend to cost £1,000 or more in the UK. It's not atypical for $1,000-plus to be the price in the USA either. While Honor doesn't currently sell in the latter country, it has savvily priced the Magic 5 Pro under the four-figure mark in ol' Blighty, with a £949.99 asking price for the launch.
That launch will be towards the end of April 2023, with no specific date provided at this moment in time. I'm crossing my fingers that Honor might put on some kind of pre-order special to further tempt you to buy into this flagship.
Honor Magic 5 Pro review: What's New?
The Honor Magic 5 Pro hasn't come out of nowhere though. Nope, it's the next stage in the flagship Magic series, following on from the Magic Pro 4 released in 2022. The two phones have obvious similarities, yet clear differences too.
One of our bigger complaints about the previous handset was related to battery, but the Honor Magic 5 Pro upgrades this by plonking a massive 5,100mAh cell into the device (up from 4,600mAh). That does come with some downsides to counter the obvious longevity benefit though: charging is slower, now 66W rather than 100W, and the greater capacity will take longer to charge.
When it comes to cameras, the Magic 5 Pro has a similar-looking giant circular enclosure to the rear, although I find its design much neater to look at overall. Within is a trio of 50-megapixel cameras, covering main, ultra-wide and 3.5x zoom. Again very similar to before, but these are different sensors, with optical stabilisation (OIS) added to the main, and improved wider apertures too.
Honor Magic 5 Pro review: Design & Display
For me it's the Honor Magic 5 Pro's display that makes this handset special though. It's massive, at 6.81-inch across the diagonal, but still avoids being unwieldy as a result. Reaching across the panel is fine, although the proportion of weighting does make the phone feel heavy. It's not really, at 219g, I just think it's much of that sits among the large camera enclosure and makes it somewhat top-heavy.
But back to this display: the thing I'm most impressed with overall is just how bright this panel is. It's easily among the more eye-searing displays I've seen in an Android device, but it doesn't try and force-feed that brightness to you at all times. It's just nicely balanced and when you want to go all-out, say when gaming, you can easily adjust the brightness slider to get the most out of it.
The panel is also 120Hz, so makes for smooth visuals thanks to this high refresh rate. Although not super-smooth in all instances. Irrelevant whether it's in Dynamic (i.e. automatically adjusting the refresh rate as applicable to what you're doing with the device) or fixed at 120Hz, I've found issues with specific apps presenting some 'stuttery' feedback (Nationwide banking being one of a handful I've spotted so far). That's not ideal, as the visual experience feels inconsistent in that regard.
In terms of overall design, I think the Magic 5 Pro will divide opinion: that circular emblem to the rear is neatly implemented, curving away from the body rather than abruptly projecting from the phone's rear. However, for me, the 'one giant circle' approach is more an Eastern stylisation, as you'll see it on the latest Huawei, OnePlus, Oppo, Vivo an d other handsets. I prefer the look of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, not that everyone will agree.
Honor Magic 5 Pro review: Performance & Battery
The Honor Magic 5 Pro's innards give you more than a hint that this is a powerful flagship. Under the hood there's Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, paired with 12GB or 16GB RAM (my review model is the former, plus 7GB of 'virtual RAM' taken from the device's storage). No doubt the Magic 5 Pro earns its 'Pro' namesake.
In real-world use I've found the results to be generally very good. Whether playing Mighty Doom or South Park: Phone Destroyer, visuals have been slick, frame-rates high, and also worthy of note is the sound output being exceptional – the stereo speakers here are cracking.
But while I've been pleased with that core performance, where apps are allowed to let loose, there are aspects about the Magic 5 Pro that I don't like quite so much. A lot of which comes down to software. The way in which there's no swipe up app drawer as default; how adding apps to folders isn't alphabetical is frustrating; and in my use, I've found notifications can sometimes (but not always) be more delayed than I'd expect – whether a credit card spend notification or a Ring doorbell notification.
Honor calls its software MagicOS, here in version 7.1, which sits over the top of Google's Android 13. There aren't major differences between them, it's more a visual, layout, and access set of changes. But there are perks, too, such as the App Twin settings permitting dual SIM app duplication so you could, for example, run WhatsApp in two versions to suit your personal and business needs. You won't get that on a Google Pixel 7 Pro.
So how does this all come together when it comes to battery life? The Magic 5 Pro is a better performer than its predecessor, which is great to see, and while I didn't find it to be outstanding for a battery this capacious at first, after more extended use I've been impressed. For example: the day I'm writing this review I've used 50% battery in 8.5 hours. That includes 5.5 hours of screen-on time, so I'm using the device heavily, yet it'll still run for a massive 17 hours based on that usage. That's good innings, however you look at it.
Charging speeds, at 66W now rather than 100W of before, are a little slower, but that's still fast overall. It's not Motorola Edge 40 Pro fast, which offers 125W charging, but I could plug the Magic 5 Pro into the wall and it'll top up quicker than the 45W charging maximum of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus.
Honor Magic 5 Pro review: Cameras
- Main: 50-megapixel, f/1.6 aperture, optical stabilisation (OIS)
- Ultra-wide: 50MP, f/2.0, 122-degree field-of-view
- Zoom: 50MP, f/3.0, OIS, 3.5x optical (90mm)
- Selfie: 12MP, f/2.4, plus depth/bio sensor
The big one, the supposed killer feature of the Magic 5 Pro: its cameras. There are certainly moments that impress from this triple rear setup, but in the same breath there are certainly also areas for improvement.
Above I've laid out the specifications for the three cameras you'll find on the Magic 5 Pro's rear within that large circular enclosure. The theme is clearly 50-megapixel, much as it is with the Xiaomi 13 Pro (well, sort of, that actually has a much larger main sensor which is almost magic in its ability), with sensors of decent quality ensuring you'll get good results whether shooting wide, extra wide, or zooming in.
The Magic 5 Pro's app does lay out its cameras as if there are four available, though, with a 0.5x, 1x, 3.5x and 10x set of quick-select zoom settings to tap on screen. The last of those, at 10x, is beyond the optical reach of what's available (that's 3.5x maximum) and I don't really think it needs to be there (it over-processes in some instances to try and compensate, such as presenting blur in fine detail areas)
That's because the 3.5x zoom is decent enough at grabbing those portrait and far-away shots that you might need with ease. It's got optical image stabilisation on board, too, just as the main lens does – although it's not the very best I've ever used. The Vivo X80 Pro, for example, has super stabilisation that I find a step above.
And it's also worth pointing out the Magic 5 Pro's not instantaneous adjustment when cycling between different lens choices, activating macro, and such like: it becomes 'jumpy'. Not a breaking bug by any means, and I've seen other phone-cameras present similar such issues, but it's not the smoothest.
There are plenty of positives, though, such as the press-to-focus/expose response time being speedy (although not always pin-point accurate; and once the camera has locked on, it's determined to tell you it's correct with a big square around the subject - but upon closer inspection the focus area might not be specifically where you'd hoped), and the obvious benefit of having more resolution across all cameras.
When some leading flagships, such as Samsung, opt for lowly 10-megapixel zoom cameras, the Honor's 50-megapixel approach pays its worth, that's for sure. Quality is consistent, varying conditions are handled well whether light or dark, and high dynamic range plays a part in keeping shots looking balanced - as you can see from my various shots of flowers captured in the Easter sunshine.
Honor Magic 5 Pro review: Verdict
All things considered and Honor has put together a compelling package in the Magic 5 Pro. It's beefed up the battery, tidied up its design, and strengthened its camera arrangement compared to the previous Magic 4 Pro model. Of everything, however, it's the super-bright screen that's my favourite feature.
But it's not the perfect device: I've found some software irks from time to time, there are functionality improvements that would see the cameras as even better still, and let's not forget just how strong the competition is, with the likes of the Xiaomi 13 Pro really kicking all of its competition hard in the cameras department.
Where Honor has been particularly savvy, of course, is with the pricing: the Magic 5 Pro delivers a lot while sitting below that crucial four-figure asking price that so many other flagships demand. And if you're especially keen on getting an Android phone with a decent zoom camera then that ought to mean this Honor is on your shortlist.
There are an abundance of phones on the market at this price point. Want to pay more and want the best cameras? Consider the Xiaomi 13 Pro. Want to pay less and have the best software? It's got to be the Google Pixel 7 Pro.