Back during the Mobile World Congress 2023 event in Barcelona, we got a chance to take a quick look at the Honor Magic 5 Pro, the Chinese company’s latest flagship for the year. It features a rather distinctive look to say the least, while also packing the hardware to match any other recent flagship Android in the market.
With a striking look and some of the best hardware around, I took on Honor’s new smartphone for a couple of weeks, and here’s what I found out about the Magic 5 Pro.
What’s better than two curves? Four!
Almost immediately upon booting up the device for the first time, I was greeted with what is perhaps the Magic 5 Pro’s strongest feature: it’s display.
Honor have packed into this smartphone a gloriously large 6.81-inch ‘quad-curved’ OLED display. Despite the large size, pixel density is still a solid 460ppi thanks to its 2848 x 1312p resolution. It also features an LTPO backplane allowing for a 1 to 120Hz refresh rate. Other flagship-tier specs you can expect here include a peak brightness of 1,800nits, 2,160Hz PWM dimming, 1.07 billion colours and support for HDR10+.
Overall, this large display is the centerpiece of what is a very impressive audiovisual experience. It gets nice and bright even under the sun, while watching content on it was fairly enjoyable. You get to pick between Normal and Vivid colour options in the settings too for the screen, but Normal seemed the better of the two with the latter adding too much saturation for my liking. The stereo speakers on the Magic 5 Pro are also quite decent, with loud and clear audio, putting it nearly on par with the best from Apple and Samsung if perhaps not quite there yet.
There are some oddities still with the Magic 5 Pro. For starters, the whole ‘quad-curve’ thing isn’t really that ‘quad’. As far as I can tell, the top and bottom of the display have a very slight curve to them, but is definitely not as pronounced as the sides of the glass. And speaking of glass, there’s curiously no mention of any Gorilla Glass being used here; I’m sure the glass they’re using has been tested by Honor internally anyway though so I’m not too worried. Oh, it comes with an IP68 dust and water resistance rating too which is very much a nice creature comfort to have.
And to Honor’s credit, the Magic 5 Pro does feel great in the hand. I mean sure, it’s a large device, coming in at 219g and measuring 8.77mm thick, but perhaps due to the curves and matte finish on the back it’s just nice to hold. The overall design though is perhaps a little more polarising, as its raised circular camera bump with sloping edges reminds me more of a mesa in the desert than a sleek smartphone, but it’s not too gaudy in my view—at least definitely not like the OnePlus 11 before this—though the ‘Eye of Muse’ design does give me a ‘Hidden Mickey’ vibe there.
MagicOS still lags behind other Android skins
Regardless of its looks, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and the Magic 5 Pro pretty much has everything you can expect with a modern 2023 flagship smartphone. This means Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 system-on-chip, together with 12GB of LPDDR5X RAM and 512GB of UFS 4.0 storage.
With what is basically the best silicon available to the Android scene, the Magic 5 Pro will comfortably handle nearly everything I threw at this. This includes things like games ranging from simpler titles like Marvel Snap to more tasking ones such as Dota Underlords, productivity apps like Slack or Google Docs, messaging apps, navigation, video playback and all that jazz. It’ll feel a little warm after some sustained performance, but never to the point I was worried.
Another nice thing to see with the Magic 5 Pro is that Honor is guaranteeing three Android OS upgrades and five years of security patches with this device. This means that you can ostensibly use it till 2028 though you’ll be stuck on Android 16 by then. Don’t get me wrong, Honor’s promise of software support here is pretty good, it’s just that the likes of Samsung and Oppo are already promising more with four Android OS upgrades and five years of security patches.
What’s not so good though is the MagicOS 7.1 skin running over Android 13 on the Magic 5 Pro. It just seems to be riddled with a number of weird oddities that makes it feel just a little less polished than its rivals. For instance, you can’t just swipe down from anywhere on the Home screen to get to your notifications; it instead shows you a search bar with recommended apps to try out below it. Also, there was no Netflix support when I reviewed it, despite it being supported when I first booted it up.
At the very least, battery life is quite good. The 5,100mAh battery easily lasted me a day of use with around five hours of screen time on average. Most days I’ll still have about a third or more of battery life remaining too, allowing to squeeze another half of a day out of the Magic 5 Pro. The included charger also means I was able to quickly charge it back up thanks to its 66W SuperCharge fast charging, with 50W SuperCharge wireless charging also an option.
The cameras are a double edged sword
With the Magic 5 Pro, Honor are highlighting a lot about its new camera setup. On paper, you’re looking at a triple rear camera setup with a main 50MP, f/1.6 camera alongside a 50MP, f/2.0 ultrawide shooter and a 50MP, f/3.0 periscope telephoto offering a 3.5 times optical zoom, while a 12MP, f/2.4 front camera rounds it all up.
With DxOMark calling it the best camera smartphone out there when it debuted (the Oppo Find X6 Pro has since dethroned it), I certainly had high expectations with the Magic 5 Pro. And you know what, for the most part it does seem like the Magic 5 Pro has a highly capable camera on it. Shots with the main camera often come out great even in the toughest low light situations, and feature a nice, vivid colour to them that’s maybe not totally accurate, but will look great to the eye.
It’s with the ultrawide and the periscope telephoto cameras though that’s a little more inconsistent. Just like the main camera, the ultrawide and telephoto will do the job just fine in appropriate lighting, but when the sun goes down you’ll find it tough to get a focused shot especially with the ultrawide. The 100x digital zoom meanwhile is nowhere near the quality the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra can achieve.
Then there’s also an AI Motion Sensing camera tool, which basically lets you aim the camera at an action scene like a sports event and have AI take over to automagically capture shots when it detects something going on. Now personally, the AI Motion Sensing capture just wasn’t that reliable in taking a literal blink-and-you’ll-miss-it photo, and I think regular ol’ Burst Mode would do just as well here.
Nevertheless, despite the hit or miss camera setup, when looking at the Magic 5 Pro as a whole…
This is the best Honor smartphone yet
…which is quite a shame when you realise just how much better it could’ve been. The Magic 5 Pro is actually a really good and well-rounded smartphone, with solid performance in the key aspects that most people will actually care about. This includes day-to-day usage, battery life, the speakers and display as well as the point and shoot experience with the main camera.
Where it falls short though is with its MagicOS skin of Android as well as the ultrawide and periscope telephoto cameras. With the former, there was just this feeling that they would’ve been better off with something more stock Android than a heavy skin with shades of EMUI still apparent. And as for the latter, it just needs a bit more work on the software side of things if Honor really wants to challenge the likes of Samsung, Apple and Google in the camera department. Luckily for Honor then that both of these issues can be rectified in the future with OTA software updates, so the Magic 5 Pro could actually get better down the line.
As for its price, the Honor Magic 5 Pro debuted in Malaysia with a RM4,299 price tag, which gets you the same 12GB+512GB model that we reviewed here. And overall, that’s actually a very fair price tag for what you’re getting: a well rounded Android flagship that has its quirks here and there. Whether it’s worth that price tag though is a different story altogether and will depend on if you’re willing to fork out even more for something more polished instead, such as a Galaxy S23 Ultra.
But to give credit where credit’s due, the Honor Magic 5 Pro is a quality smartphone with a price tag that’ll make it very appealing to anyone wanting a flagship device. If you’re willing to take the road less travelled, you might just find the Magic 5 Pro right up your alley.