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HONOR 50 Review: A Noteworthy Return To Google Ranks

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The HONOR 50 marks Google’s return to HONOR devices in style.

HONOR 50
€529
Rating
star star star star star_empty
Pros
  • Modern design
  • Not too big
  • Solid battery life
  • Fast charging with included charger
  • Solid 120Hz display
  • Good performance
Cons
  • Barebones software
  • Camera could use some improvements

HONOR supplied us with a review unit of the HONOR 50, but didn’t have a say in our opinion, nor did they see this review before you. We’ve been using the device for a couple of weeks before forming an opinion.

HONOR has been created by Huawei, and was Huawei’s company for quite some time. Much like Huawei, HONOR was banned from using Google’s services on its devices by the US government. That managed to affect HONOR’s sales, much like Huawei’s, and Huawei decided to sell the company a while back. As it’s under new leadership, and no longer tied to Huawei, HONOR is free to pre-installed Google’s services on its smartphones once again. The HONOR 50 is the first smartphone to have such apps / services pre-installed, ever since the US ban took place.

The HONOR 50 is not a flagship smartphone. HONOR decided to push the HONOR 50 to global markets, but not the HONOR 50 Pro. We don’t know why, but that’s the way it is. Still, the HONOR 50 is a compelling smartphone, and just because it belongs in the mid-range category you shouldn’t discard it, not at all. This handset does come with a compelling set of specs, and it also looks quite nice. HONOR also nailed it when it comes to the size of this phone. In this article, I’ll try to give you a lot more information about the phone, as I’ve spent quite a bit of time with it. So, let’s get started.

The design is just right, and so is the size

The HONOR 50 looks exactly as you’d expect from a modern smartphone. It is made out of metal and glass, while it has really thin bezels, and a display camera hole. This phone is easily recognizable because of its camera setup on the back. You’ll notice two circular cutouts for its camera, while the top one is reserved for its huge main camera. There are four cameras on the back, in total, and one on the front.

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In regards to size, this phone is kind of perfect. It features a 6.57-inch display, and thanks to its thin bezels and curved display, it’s not exactly too large. It measures 160 x 73.8 x 7.8mm, and it weighs 175 grams. It’s even usable with one hand if you can handle its slippery nature. Considering that there’s glass on the back, this phone is slippery, though it didn’t seem as slippery as some other glass phones during my testing. I don’t know if that’s due to the weight distribution, or some sort of material being applied to the back, but the back does seem to be a bit less slippery. This is, however, still glass, so don’t expect miracles.

The sides are a bit sharper than you’d expect

The sides are a bit sharper than you’d expect out of similar smartphones. HONOR did that on purpose, as it’s going to be more difficult to press the display by accident. I like this approach, to be quite honest, though it would bother me if the phone were heavier. Luckily, that’s not the case. The display camera hole is larger than on some flagship smartphones, but you’ll get used to it really fast, at least I did.

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The buttons are clicky, though I’d prefer to have some sort of different feeling to the power / lock button, to make it easier to find. Still, considering the placement, it’s not that difficult to differentiate. When it comes to the design, HONOR did really well. This phone feels like a premium device, and it’s the perfect size and weight, pretty much. The weight distribution is also good. Unfortunately, the HONOR 50 is not IP certified for water and dust resistance, so keep that in mind.

HONOR included both a case and a charger

Unlike some companies out there, HONOR did include both a case and a charger with this phone. You’ll find both in the box. A 66W charging brick, with a cable, is included, and a regular silicone case as well. That case offers really good protection for the device, though you can always get a third-party one, if you’d like something fancy. The point is, this will do just fine out of the box, until you get something else you want.

The display won’t disappoint you, it’s as smooth as you’d expect

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The HONOR 50 features a 6.57-inch fullHD+ (2340 x 1080) OLED display. That panel can project 1 billion colors, and it offers a 120Hz refresh rate. Do note that it’s not an LTPO panel, though, so it doesn’t have an adaptive refresh rate. The panel is curved, and we’re looking at a 392 PPI here. The display aspect ratio is 19.5:9, for those of you who are keeping track. This display is curved, but this is not a waterfall display, or anything of the sort. You can use it with one hand, and the design of the phone does help as the sides are a bit more pronounced, so that you don’t accidentally touch the display.

The display is more than large enough

This display is quite large, and it’s really good. It gets quite bright when you need it to, and it’s quite contrasty. The blacks are deep as you’d expect them to be, and the display is more than sharp enough. When you place it side-by-side with one of the best panels on the market, you’ll notice it’s not as vivid, but the difference is not that big, to be quite honest. This panel looks great, to say the least. The viewing angles are also great, and as already mentioned, this is a 120Hz display.

The scrolling is especially smooth on this panel, while the 120Hz refresh rate will also come into play when it comes to gaming, for some titles. HONOR also did a really good job with animations, so all that works really well here. Not many people will find complaints with this display, that’s for sure, especially when you consider the price tag.

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There’s not much to complain about when it comes to performance

As already mentioned earlier, the HONOR 50 is not a flagship smartphone. Despite that, though, it has a really solid set of specs. This smartphone is fueled by the Snapdragon 778G, a 6nm 5G-enabled processor. This chip will keep the phone running nicely, even when it comes to gaming. Of course, it doesn’t perform that well in graphically intensive games as a more powerful chip, but you’d be surprised how capable this processor is. In addition to that, HONOR included 6GB of RAM into this particular unit, but an 8GB RAM model is also available.

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That, in combination with Android 11, and HONOR’s Magic UI 4.2, works great. I haven’t really noticed any lag, only an occasional stutter, which does happen on the vast majority of phones when you push them too hard. Those are hardly noticeable, and not something that will annoy you, at all, as they happen rarely, and are gone in a blink of an eye. This phone’s performance is great, no matter if you’re browsing, consuming multimedia, multitasking, editing pictures, or gaming, it can handle all that really well.

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Solid battery life and extremely fast charging

The HONOR 50 includes a 4,300mAh battery. That is a good size considering its display size and the fact it has a fullHD+ 120Hz panel. It’s not exactly huge for what the phone offers, but if you looked at the specs alone, you wouldn’t anticipate any battery life issues, I presume. Well, you’d be right, as the HONOR 50 does offer a really good battery life. I don’t really like talking about numbers in this section, as battery life depends on so many aspects, and it can vary a lot from one person to the next.

I, personally, was able to get around 6 hours of screen on time with the device on most days. I’m not much of a gamer, though I do play some casual games from time to time on my phone. I do watch a lot of YouTube, browse the Internet, use social media networks, chat with my friends and for work, edit images, and so on. I put this phone through a lot, and it managed to keep up not only in the performance department, but the battery life department as well.

66W charging is supported, while a charger is included

If, by any chance, you end up needing to recharge this phone in the middle of the day, don’t fret, as it supports 66W fast charging. You can plug it in when it dies, and it’ll be up to 70-percent in only 20 minutes. That sheer fact will make you worry less about battery life, that’s for sure, just keep the charger close by, even though chances are you won’t need it.

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The camera performance is this phone’s weak spot

The camera performance is probably one of the weakest points of this device. Maybe my expectations were too high when it comes to this camera setup. The HONOR 50 includes four cameras on the back, and one on the front. It uses a 108-megapixel main camera with an f/1.9 aperture lens, PDAF, and 0.7um pixel size. An 8-megapixel ultrawide camera is also included, along with 2-megapixel macro and 2-megapixel depth cameras.

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What I’ve noticed when it comes to the main camera is that it can do a good job, but most of the time it gets something obviously wrong. In most cases, the sharpness wasn’t quite there. The images were a bit less sharp than I’d like, even during the day. It also tended to mess up the white balance when the sun is involved, and oversaturate colors, especially when shades of green are involved.

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Low light photos didn’t turn out particularly well

In low light, it had issues with street lights, from time to time, while it also lacked sharpness, and some images also ended up being a bit darker than I’d like. You’ll want to use the dedicated night mode to shoot images during the night, though, as it does a much better job than standard mode. The ultrawide camera is also not exactly impressive, and the macro camera is something you’ll want to avoid. 2-megapixel macro cameras are simply not good enough in general, on any phone, this one is no exception.

It seems like the camera is all bad, and that’s not the case, it can do a good job, but it tends to mess up images more often than not, and that makes it difficult to recommend. The camera performance is definitely this phone’s weakest point. Perhaps HONOR can improve things via updates, we’ll see, but at the time being, the camera performance is not good.

HONOR 50 camera samples

Just one speaker, but not a bad one

The HONOR 50, unfortunately, comes with a single speaker. You won’t find a front-facing secondary speaker on this phone. The only speaker is bottom-facing, and even though it’s fairly good, it cannot replace a stereo setup. Most people probably won’t have complaints regarding this, but if you tend to watch a lot of YouTube, movies, or perhaps stream some music on your phone, without headphones, this could be an issue.

Truth be said, HONOR could do a lot worse when it comes to that speaker, as it could have been a lot quieter, and overall crapier, so… there you go. You won’t notice any noticeable distortion on this speaker, until you go to the high volume levels, that’s when it will become noticeable. A 3.5mm headphone jack is also not included here, though that is to be expected these days.

The software could use more features

The HONOR 50 ships with Android 11, and HONOR’s Magic UI on top of it. The software on this phone is not exactly bloaty, not at all. This software works great, from the performance standpoint. It is quite barebones, though. The Magic UI launcher is really light on features, and if you try to use a third-party launcher to add more features to the table, the navigation gestures will have issues. I was unable to use quick app switch gesture, nor one-hand mode gesture while using a third-party launcher (tried three of them). This is actually Android 11’s problem that Google unnecessarily created, and OEMs need to fix via their Android builds.

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Magic UI does work great, though. The animations are well put together, while it also seems really fluid thanks to a 120Hz display included here. There is no double-tap gesture here, nor any similar gesture. On top of that, you’re very limited in terms of the grid size, and so on. It’s a functional launcher, but for those of you who want more utility, well, you’ll need to install a third-party launcher. For most people, this will work more than fine. I haven’t spotted any bugs or anything of the sort here, which is a good sign. HONOR has been really good when it comes to optimizing its software before, so let’s hope the same will continue being the case.

The HONOR 50 is a solid mid-ranger

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So, is the HONOR 50 worth the money? Well, for the most part, yes. You’re getting a really solid display, with a 120Hz refresh rate. The charging is extremely fast, while the phone also seems premium from the design perspective. Camera performance is not its strong suit, nor is audio, so keep that in mind. It all depends on what you want from a smartphone. The HONOR 50 nails it in most categories.