The Honor Magic4 Pro is an excellent phone; its pricing, however, puts it in direct competition with flagship phones widely available with financing from US carriers. That, along with the fact that the phone is still hard to find in the US, makes it less likely this phone will take the US by storm. Even so, it is good to see Honor back on the stage!
- Beautiful 6.8″ OLED screen
- Monochrome eBook mode to ease eyestrain
- IR blaster with remote control app
- Impressive cameras
- Fast 100W charging — both wired and wireless
- IP68 dust and water resistance
- Dual SIM
- No MicroSD card expansion slot
- Not widely available in the US
A few years ago, I reviewed a budget-friendly phone from Huawei’s sub-brand, the Honor View10. I loved it, and while Honor was meant to be a lower-priced option than Huawei, I didn’t find the phone lacking in the least; it looked, felt, and functioned beautifully. Honor is now a standalone company, completely separate from Huawei, and they’ve released the Honor Magic4 Pro. It’s a big deal, and we’ll talk about why in this review.
As you might recall, Huawei got into some trouble with the US government over, among other things, privacy concerns. The result was that Huawei was added to the Entity List, and there has been a complete ban on Huawei products in the US (at least on paper) in effect since 2019.
To comply with the ban, Google announced they were pulling their products and services off Huawei phones. The result of losing access to Google’s services and the Google Play Store was that Huawei, which had been building a massive presence and loyal following in the US, virtually disappeared from the American market.
That was a huge bummer since both Judie and I had become fans of their phone and laptop hardware.
Fast forward to today. Honor is now its own entity, completely separate from Huawei. Moreover, because of their separation from Huawei, Google was once again able to allow its apps and services on Honor phones.
So while Huawei’s phones remain unavailable in the US market, and Google Services remain unavailable for Huawei’s use, Honor is not in the same boat. And, as we shall see, that’s a very good thing.
But it’s not all good news, though, since Honor has followed OnePlus’s lead when it comes to pricing.
The 2018 Honor View10 was a great phone, and it was priced under $500. We liked it so much, in fact, that we gave it a Best of CES 2018 designation at the time.
By contrast, the Honor Magic4 Pro starts north of $1200 in the United States. If you want more RAM and storage than the base 8GB/256 model, you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars more.
The Honor Magic4 Pro is no mid-tier device that puts a great phone in the hands of huge numbers of customers looking for their next Android smartphone. Instead, it is a flagship-priced smartphone without US carrier financing options.
The bigger issue with the new pricing of Honor’s current flagship is that it now competes directly with the likes of my iPhone 13 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy flagship models.
Think about it this way. Imagine you’re shopping for a new phone and are ready to suck it up and drop $1200 or more.
If you’re in Apple’s ecosystem, you’ll look at Cupertino’s latest and greatest offering. If you’re an Android fan, you’ll likely look to Samsung, Google, or OnePlus as the first place to drop your cash since those brands are familiar and well supported in the US.
Even better, most of these phones can be financed through the manufacturers or their carriers, which is a popular way for people to make that $1,000+ investment a bit more palatable.
It takes a special leap of faith to drop that kind of coin on a phone that, no matter how good it might be, comes from a brand that is still relatively unknown in the US market.
So why should you even consider the Honor Magic4 Pro?
My answer is actually a two-parter.
First, when we take a closer look at the phone, I think you’ll be impressed with its design, camera, and the speed with which it charges.
Second, Honor has released the Magic4 Pro as part of a larger system that includes a beautiful smartwatch and exceptionally good true wireless earbuds.
So let’s take a look.
The Honor Magic4 Pro is beautiful. The back of my review sample is shiny silver with a massive camera array — more on that in a bit.
The entire front of the phone is a 6.81″ screen, and because it has curved sides, you don’t even see a bezel. It’s quite beautiful, and when using the phone, the lack of bezels makes it among the most immersive experiences I have ever had on a phone.
The display has a 20:9 aspect ratio and is a 120Hz OLED screen with a resolution of 1312 x 2848 (460ppi). Not too shabby! According to the company, the phone has a screen-to-body ratio of over 93%. That translates to a phone that is basically all screen, and I love it.
HDR10+ certification means you get a sharp image and even sharper, more vibrant colors. To top that off, the display’s refresh rate can dynamically switch between 1Hz and up to 120Hz. That’s important when it comes to conserving battery power on a phone with as large and bright a display as this.
Finally, 1920Hz PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) dimming helps reduce flickering and can spare heavy users the eye strain people are increasingly encountering.
You’ll find the power button and volume control on the left side, while the right side has no buttons or controls.
The SIM card slot is on the bottom left, followed by a microphone, the USB-C charging port, and the bottom-firing speaker.
The SIM tray has slots for two 5G SIM cards. Unfortunately, while some phones allow you to use the second SIM slot to expand a phone’s memory, this is not one of them.
So while you can have two different SIMs operating simultaneously, you are stuck with the amount of internal storage the phone has when it arrives.
Inside, the phone runs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset. This is a flagship-level processor, and the experience of using the phone feels like it. Apps open quickly; the screen is responsive as you scroll through content, and I’ve yet to encounter slowdowns or hiccups.
The base model comes with a respectable 8GB of RAM and 256GB of (non-expandable) storage; that’s the version Honor sent us for review, but you can increase both the RAM and the storage if you can handle the added expense.
My current iPhone has 256GB of storage, and I’ve run into enough issues over the year I’ve owned it that I expect I’ll get more storage when I upgrade this fall. I’m less concerned about the 256GB of storage on this phone, though, since it is so tightly integrated with Google’s services; therefore, I can offload a good amount of content to my Google account.
What you won’t know, simply based on appearances, is that the Honor MagicPro 4 is one of the fastest charging phones available.
This phone “only” has a 4,500mAH battery. That’s smaller than many other flagship phones, but thanks to the fast charging, that isn’t an issue.
The available 100w wall charger (it’s the size of a laptop charger!) works with Honor’s fast wireless charger to charge the phone to 50% in just 15 minutes, which is remarkable.
The available fast wireless charger maintains these fast speeds.
It is worth noting that because the wireless charger is pushing so much power into the phone so quickly, it has a fan to keep it from overheating. The first time I used it, my wife Raina was concerned by the sound coming from it; although it isn’t loud, it is noticeable.
I’ve never had a huge issue with the battery life of my iPhone or the speed with which it recharges, but knowing that the Honor Magic4 Pro can be fully charged in half an hour is rather nice.
The other differentiator is the camera. When Apple began putting better cameras in their phones, they, out of necessity, added camera bumps. Over the years, the cameras have gotten more and more powerful, and the camera bumps have gotten larger and more pronounced.
But nothing I have seen comes close to the camera array on this phone; it’s huge! The black circle takes up almost the entire top third of the phone’s back.
The good news is that, while the camera array is large, it doesn’t protrude from the back of the phone too much; it’s actually shallower than the bump on my iPhone.
The camera array houses three cameras.
There is a 50MP f/1.8 wide-angle, a 50MP f/2.2 ultra-wide angle with a 122° field of view, and a 64MP f/3.5 periscope telephoto.
The telephoto lens is amazingly powerful and offers a 3.5x optical zoom and a mind-blowing 100x digital zoom. It sits at the center of the camera array and looks rather cool.
In addition, the camera array houses a sensor that helps reduce flicker while shooting photos and a TOF focus sensor that not only helps the camera focus more quickly but also works to improve the bokeh effects that have become so popular.
When the camera app is launched and set to Photo, there is a small slider at the bottom of the screen. Moving the slider to the right puts the camera into wide-angle mode. Sliding to the left zooms in on the object in question. It’s pretty remarkable to watch the camera zoom in on an object all the way up to 100X.
As you might expect, the more you zoom in, the lower the quality of the image, and even the smallest movement might throw your framing off, so you’ll likely want to use a tripod to get the most from the zoom when leveraging its superpowers.
That should not, however, distract from the fact that this phone has a 100X zoom! We’ve come a long way, baby!
Here are some shots from Honor showing the zoom feature in action.
Here’s a series of shots I took inside my house showing the zoom feature.
And here is a series of shots that I took outside.
I’ve yet to be impressed by the images I capture when zoomed all the way in, but at lower levels of zoom, the pictures come out quite nice.
Other actions include Portrait mode, Night mode, and Aperture mode, which locks in on the subject and blurs the background. I’ve always loved this effect and the way it helps emphasize the subject.
There’s a simple point-and-shoot Video mode and a Pro mode for more advanced video capture. Clicking More gives you access to additional features such as slow-motion video capture, panorama, super macro, and more.
In all, this is the most advanced camera system I have encountered on a smartphone, and it works quite well.
Tapping on Settings gives you even more control. You can choose aspect ratio, video resolution of up to 4K in 21:9 or 16:9, and between frame rates of 30 or 60 frames per second. You can even activate a setting that will take a picture when the camera senses the subject smiling.
There is so much here, and playing around with the various settings has been a blast. Honor really did themselves proud with the implementation of the camera on this phone.
But it gets even better since Honor didn’t skimp on the front-facing camera, either. More accurately, they didn’t skimp on the front-facing cameras.
Two pinholes in the screen’s upper left corner (yes, the phone has its version of “the notch”) house a 12MP f/2.4 wide-angle (100°) selfie camera and a 3D depth camera. This latter camera is for face login, and it works quite well.
To my amazement, I discovered that you could capture 4K video with the front camera.
Additional bits and pieces that make this worthy of the flagship moniker:
Book mode converts the display to monochrome so you can comfortably use the phone as your eBook reader.
The operating system only consumes about 21GB, so the phone arrived with 235GB of free space. Thanks to the availability of Google services, you can store photos and videos in the cloud, so enough free space is maintained.
Face unlock works quite well, but the phone also has a beneath-the-screen fingerprint reader. This was my first experience with an in-display fingerprint reader, and I dig it.
The phone ships with Android 12 and Honor’s Magic UI 6. Magic UI 6 makes a wide range of customizable tweaks possible. Some have complained about bloatware, but I really haven’t been bothered by it.
In addition to the Google Play Store, the phone gives you access to Honor’s own App Store.
One of the gems I’ve discovered is Honor’s Smart Remote app. With it and the IR blaster built into the phone, you can control a nice selection of televisions and projectors. I love when phones have IR blasters and wish it was a standard feature. It isn’t, but this phone has it.
As noted, the phone charges in no time, and the fast wireless charger is powerful enough that it needs its own cooling fan.
An IP68 rating means you don’t have to worry as much about the phone if you get caught in the rain.
AI call privacy helps prevent sound leakage when on a call.
Honor Magic 4 specifications:
- Dimensions 74.7mm x 163.6mm x 9.15mm
- Weight 215g
- Display 6.81 inches, 1Hz-120Hz (LTPO) OLED, 1312 x 2848 (20:9, 460ppi), 10-bit colour (1.07 billion colours), 100% DCI-P3, HDR10+
- Screen-to-body ratio 93.50%
- IP rating (dust & water resistance) IP68
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
- RAM 8GB
- Storage 256GB
- OS Android 12 + Magic UI 6.0
- Rear cameras 50MP f/1.8 wide angle, 50MP f/2.2 ultra-wide angle, 64MP f/3.5 periscope telephoto (3.5x optical, 100x digital zoom, OIS)
- Front cameras 12MP f/2.4 wide angle, 3D depth
- Battery 4500mAh li-polymer
- Charging wired: Honor 100W SuperCharge • wireless: up to 100W SuperCharge (wireless charger is an optional extra)
- Networks 5G, 4G LTE, 3G, 2G GSM
- SIM slots 2x Nano SIM, eSIM
- Wi-Fi Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
- Bluetooth 5.2
- GPS GPS / AGPS / GLONASS / BeiDou / Galileo
- Sensors gravity, compass, fingerprint, gyroscope, ambient light, proximity
- Ports USB-C (3.1, OTG)
- Speakers stereo
Finally, it is worth noting that Honor didn’t just release a phone; they have created a full ecosystem that includes fast wireless charging, the Honor Watch GS 3, and Honor Earbuds 3 Pro.
The earbuds look quite similar to Apple’s AirPods Pro. Both the case, which is wireless charge-enabled and the earbuds are about the same size and shape as Apple’s offerings.
Here’s a gallery that runs down some of the key features:
The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro sound fantastic, and the active noise cancellation works as well as any I have experienced on true wireless earbuds. Some versions of the earbuds even have the ability to take your temperature, but that feature is apparently not available on the international version.
The Honor Watch GS 3 is equally impressive, or at least could be; I’ll explain in a moment.
While the Apple Watch looks like a smartwatch, Honor’s offering looks like a classic watch with a round face. In this case, however, looks can be deceiving as this is a powerful, fully-featured smartwatch.
I love the classic look of this watch, but, unfortunately, certain apps it requires on the phone, such as the Honor Health app, aren’t available in the United States. That’s a total bummer because the hardware is quite nice.
So, in the end, I have the Honor Magic4 Pro smartphone and the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro working well together and a watch that looks gorgeous but is currently unusable here in the US.
I suspect we will see Honor release the companion apps I need at some point, but for now, the watch stays in its box.
I really like the Honor Magic4 Pro. It is large but doesn’t feel unwieldy the way some large-screen phones do. It packs plenty of power and has a screen worthy of its “Pro” designation.
The camera is among the most sophisticated I have used, and as I become more familiar with it, I’m continuing to discover the powerful features Honor built into it.
Finally, the high IP rating and the fast charging prowess of the phone mean it will keep running all day long, and you won’t need to treat it with kid gloves.
The Honor Magic4 Pro is an excellent phone; the pricing, however, puts it in direct competition with flagship phones widely available with financing from US carriers. That, along with the fact that the phone isn’t easy to find and buy in the US, makes it less likely the Magic4 Pro will take the US by storm. Even so, it is good to see Honor back on the stage!
The Honor Magic4 Pro sells for ~$1,250.00; it is available directly from the manufacturer (in some markets) and other retailers, including Amazon in the US.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Beautiful 6.8″ OLED screen; Monochrome eBook mode to ease eyestrain; IR blaster with remote control app; Impressive cameras; Fast 100W charging — both wired and wireless; IP68 dust and water resistance; Dual SIM
What Needs Improvement: No MicroSD card expansion slot; Not widely available in the US; Pricey