Honor Magic 4 Pro review: An entrancing camera
With the Honor Magic 4 Pro, we have another phone that proves Honor doesn’t need former parent company Huawei holding its hand to make a great phone. While last year’s Honor 50 was a good phone, the Magic 4 Pro has proven to be a great Android flagship phone. It could easily top the shortlist for users who covet its anti-eye strain display or overflowing camera toolbox.
It’s just a pity that the Magic 4 Pro’s one big flaw is night photography, which is something most phones get right these days. Also it’s not coming to the U.S., which is a pity given how well this phone matches up against the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus and the OnePlus 10 Pro, two solid but less interesting handsets.
This Honor Magic 4 Pro review finds that it’s a phone worthy of our best Android phones in the U.K. list. It can’t quite dislodge Samsung’s place at the top of the pack, but as you’ll read below, Honor’s latest flagship phone shows it’s stronger than ever, and it’s got me looking forward to future devices from the newly-independent brand.
Honor Magic 4 Pro review: Price and availability
Magic 4 Pro preorders begin May 13, with the full retail launch happening on May 27. You can buy the single spec available for £949 from Honor’s website, Three, Currys PC World, Argos, Amazon and Carphone warehouse.
That price is the same as the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus, but as we’ll see below, the Honor’s just as premium and capable. Honor’s phone costs £150 more than a OnePlus 10 Pro, so it’s your choice whether the Honor’s extra abilities are worth that much to you.
After being available in China since April, the Magic 4 Pro is coming to the wider world. That doesn’t include the U.S., though if you’re determined you may find versions on sale from third-party retailers.
Honor Magic 4 Pro review: Cameras
You won’t be short of cameras on the Magic 4 Pro. On the back, you have a 50MP main camera, a 50MP ultrawide camera and a 64MP 3.5x telephoto for photography, plus a ToF depth sensor and a flicker sensor to judge distance and reduce the unpleasant banding effect when shooting with artificial light sources.
On the front, the Magic 4 Pro offers another two cameras. The first is the actual one used for photos, which has a 12MP sensor. The second is another ToF sensor, used both for portrait and other effects and for unlocking the phone via facial recognition.
So how exactly does all that kit perform? I ran some comparisons with the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the OnePlus 10 Pro to find out.
First off, this main camera shot between the Magic 4 Pro and the OnePlus 10 Pro offers immediate proof of how competent the Honor’s cameras are. Its shot of the May Green canal boat/cafe is a little darker than the OnePlus’, but there’s so much more detail on offer, whether it’s in the canal sidewalk, the bridge in the background or the May Green sign.
In this close-up of a flower near the TG London office that used the main cameras on the Honor and iPhone, we can see much better definition in the center of the flower in the Honor’s image, even if I like the brighter colors of the iPhone’s shot.
The weakest side of the Magic 4 Pro’s photography can be seen in this night mode shot of the basement venue of Clerkenwell’s The Slaughtered Lamb. the Magic 4 Pro’s shot is brighter than the iPhone’s, but in the process, the image has become noisy and unnatural looking. By comparison, the iPhone image is excellent, keeping the moody blue and red lighting while offering enough detail to make out the instruments and other equipment on the stage.
In an ultrawide comparison of this bridge over the Regent’s Canal against the OnePlus 10 Pro, the Honor Magic 4 Pro offers much better detail and color. However, it lacks the OnePlus’ anti-distortion measures, meaning the scenery on the edges of the Honor’s shot look unpleasantly skewed.
Comparing the telephoto cameras starts the Honor off at an advantage compared to the iPhone, since it offers 3.5x optical zoom instead of 3x. Accounting for that magnification difference, we see the Magic 4 has produced a slightly richer-colored image than the iPhone, but one with slightly better contrast of the finer details like brickwork and TV aerials.
In this rear portrait mode shot of me, the iPhone image offers more appealing, saturated colors but at the expense of the image looking flatter than the Magic 4’s. Both phones did a great job at cutting me out from the background and applying a bokeh effect, likely thanks to their respective LiDAR and TOF depth sensors allowing them to accurately judge distances.
Lastly, this selfie comparison between the Magic 4 and the iPhone shows a similar result: cooler colors on the Honor versus richer colors on the iPhone. Both phones have made another good effort with their portrait mode effects, although the iPhone has focused only on my face, while the Honor has included my shoulders as well for a more traditional portrait look.
While it’s perhaps not as consistent as the best camera phones, Honor’s produced a phone in the Magic 4 Pro that can at least compete with the biggest names on a shot-by-shot basis. If the phone maker could just improve the Magic 4 Pro’s night mode, then it may have a claim to being a genuine Apple rival.
While the image quality is definitely there, what bothers me most about the Honor’s photography is how slow the camera can be to take shots and reset so that it’s ready for your next photo. Maybe not everyone tries to hammer the shutter button quite as fast as me when trying to take multiple images, but in extreme cases, this could lead to you missing the perfect shot because the camera’s not as responsive as you need it to be.
Honor Magic 4 Pro review: Video
The Honor Magic 4 Pro has some attractive features for video too. Honor has put great emphasis on the Magic-Log and 3D LUT options in the “Movie” camera mode, which may only benefit hardcore mobile videographers, but I can at least see the use of them.
Magic-Log is like the video equivalent of a RAW image, recording the image in a very flat way but saving extra data to make editing it later much easier. You can only record up to 15 minutes of footage like this, but with time and effort, you should be able to get some excellent results after post-production
Meanwhile, 3D LUT is an automatically or manually applied color filter, designed to mimic the profiles of famous cinema cameras. This is probably less useful for proper videography than Magic-Log, but it’s a fun feature that can easily change the mood of clips you’ve captured, making them look like a vintage comedy or a grim modern thriller.
Honor Magic 4 Pro review: Display
Ignoring the fact you lose an above-average amount of your screen to the dual-camera punch-hole, the Magic 4 Pro’s screen is among the best I’ve tried this year. The 6.8-inch panel offers a QHD resolution and a fully variable 120Hz LTPO 2.0 display.
It’s a “quad-curved” display too, with the left and right curving gently away like we’ve seen on many premium phones before, and the rarer slight curve to the top and bottom display edges. The result is a phone that’s very comfy to hold whether in portrait or landscape.
The Magic 4 Pro’s display also offers reduced flickering, by using what Honor claims is the highest pulse width modulation (PWM) on an LTPO screen. It sounds complicated, but you can see what difference that makes in the image below. Check out how many black bars are sweeping across the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s 120Hz display as it refreshes compared to the Magic 4 Pro.
This apparently makes the Magic 4 Pro display less of a strain on your eyes. While I can’t say I noticed, it’s at least a great feature to try to implement, perhaps pointing the direction for future smartphone vision comfort features now that dark mode is firmly established.
On the negative side, I couldn’t seem to get on with the typing experience on the Magic 4 Pro, making far more typos and missing the space bar a lot more regularly than I normally do. Perhaps this is because I’m not used to how the default Microsoft SwiftKey keyboard works, or the curved screen is registering unwanted inputs, but something’s definitely off here.
Honor Magic 4 Pro review: Charging and battery
With a 4,600 mAh battery, the Magic 4 Pro is a little light on capacity for a phone this size. Without the well-equipped TG lab to see how long the Magic 4 Pro lasts in our custom battery test, I performed my own informal trial by playing 2.5 hours of a YouTube aquarium video at 1440p. By the end of that period, the battery had dropped from 100% to 90%. After spending the night on standby afterwards, the Magic 4 was at 80%, suggesting that whether you’re using the phone heavily or just leaving it on standby, you’ll easily get a day’s moderate to heavy use.
You get a 100W charger in the Magic 4 Pro’s box to power it up. The charger’s surprisingly small compared to some high-wattage charging bricks we’ve seen too, which means it’ll be easy to slip into a bag when needed. When I plugged the drained Magic 4 Pro into this charger, it got to 57% battery in 15 minutes and 100% in exactly half an hour. This isn’t the fastest charging phone we’ve seen, but it’s still rapid enough to save you from a dead phone midway through the day.
There’s 100W wireless charging on offer too, but you need Honor’s own charging stand and a huge 135W charging brick to make it work. If you do use it, wireless charging provides 51% battery in 15 minutes and 97% in 30 minutes.
Honor Magic 4 Pro review: Other features
Design: Honor’s so pleased with the striking look of the Magic 4’s huge rear camera module that it’s given the feature a name: the “Eye of Muse”. Whether you think that sounds awesome or pretentious, it’s certainly unique, and helps keep the phone stable if you’re tapping on it while it’s laid down on a table.
You only get a choice of two colors — black and cyan. (I reviewed the latter.) That’s a weirdly limited selection given other markets have access to white, gold and orange versions, but I do like the classy, shiny look of this cyan version. It’s just a shame it’s incredibly prone to fingerprint smudges.
On a more practical level, the Magic 4 Pro features IP68 water/dust resistance. No need to worry should your phone fall in the dirt or water, the Honor should survive the experience.
Performance: With a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, and up to 12GB RAM and 256GB storage, the Magic 4 Pro is on the same level as many flagship Androids launched this year, at least on paper. It certainly showed no difficulty when I played Grid: Autosport for half an hour using it, keeping the framerate smooth and the back of the phone cool.
Testing my entry-level 8GB Magic 4 Pro on Geekbench 5, 3DMark’s Wild Life Unlimited and Wild Life Extreme Unlimited and with our custom Adobe Premiere Rush test, these were the results.
|Honor Magic 4 Pro||Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus||OnePlus 10 Pro||iPhone 13 Pro|
|Geekbench 5 (single core/multi-core)||1,046/3,341||1,214/3,361||995/3,482||1,733/4,718|
|3DMark Wild Life Unlimited (score/frames per second)||10,436/62.5||10,027/60.1||10,221/61.2||11,693/70.0|
|3DMark Wild Life Extreme Unlimited (score/frames per second)||2,227/13.3||2,449/14.7||2,574/15.4||2,766/16.6|
|Adobe Premiere Rush (minutes:seconds)||0:46||0:48||1:02||0:26|
Unsurprisingly, the Magic 4 Pro can’t keep up with the A15 Bionic-powered iPhone 13 Pro on the Geekbench CPU benchmark, but it’s at least in the same area as the OnePlus 10 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus. Likewise, the iPhone conquers all in the 3DMark graphics tests, but the Honor actually beats both the Samsung and OnePlus devices on the standard Wild Life Unlimited test; it comes dead last (though not by much) for the Extreme version.
For the Adobe Rush test, which involves transcoding an edited 4K video, the iPhone is again champion thanks to its overpowered A15 Bionic chip. The Honor comes in second though, narrowly beating the Galaxy S22 Plus and leaving the OnePlus in the dust.
Software: Magic UI 6, the Honor spin on Android 12, is annoyingly one of those OSes that doesn’t have an app drawer by default. You can enable one, but otherwise your apps just pile up in a long series of home screens.
I can’t say the visual design of the app icons and menus particularly speak to me, but there’s nothing difficult or irritating about navigating the Magic 4 Pro. There’s actually one feature I really appreciate named “service cards”, which allow you to call up app widgets by swiping on the normal app icon. It lets you get a better glance at your recent photos or upcoming calendar appointments without taking up permanent space on your home screen, which I think is an excellent idea other phone makers should take notes from.
Most importantly, the Magic 4 Pro has access to Google apps and the Play Store. That shouldn’t need specifying for most phones but Honor only recently regained its access since leaving Huawei.
Security: Many Android phones now offer facial recognition unlocking, but the Magic 4 Pro actually offers the proper secure version of this thanks to a 3D depth sensor on the front of the phone in a large pill-shaped notch. It’s not quite as fast to react as Face ID is on the iPhone 13 Pro Max I use daily, but it seems no less reliable, whether you’re in the dark or in bright light.
You also get possibly my favorite under-display fingerprint scanner of any 2022 Android phone. The scanner on the Magic 4 Pro achieved this status for two reasons. First, the positioning about one third of the way up the phone is perfect for comfortably moving your thumb over to access it when needed. Secondly, it’s an ultrasonic sensor, like you’d find on a Galaxy S22, rather than the more common optical sensor. It means you don’t get that irritating flash of light when you scan your fingerprint, and in theory the scanner will remain reliable even if you scratch the screen, unlike with a light-based optical version.
Honor Magic 4 Pro review: Verdict
You can still see the Huawei DNA at work in the Magic 4 Pro, and I do wonder how long it will be before Honor’s fully abandoned the tech of its previous owner. But looking at the phone we have right now, it’s one of the best Android phones that still deserves to be counted alongside Samsung and OnePlus.
The Magic 4 Pro packs a lot into its frame, like the five rear cameras, clever display, facial recognition unlocking and 100W charging capability. The good news is all of it works really well, the only exception being the lower quality low-light photos. That could be a deal-breaker for some users, but I still consider this one of the most effective camera set-ups available on a smartphone today.
U.S. users will have to stick with the Galaxy S22 Plus or the OnePlus 10 Pro if they want a sub-$1,000 flagship Android device, but they won’t find quite as many toys for the price as what Honor offers with the Magic 4 Pro. However, those toys only work at their best for specific people who will invest time into making them work. Not everyone needs to record videos in Log format, and as I demonstrated, not everyone’s going to notice the benefits of an anti-flicker display.
For U.K. and other users in Europe who can buy the Honor Magic 4 Pro, the phone deserves a spot att the top of your shortlist, especially if these unique features are going to serve your interests or needs. Conversely, photography nerds may want to prioritize the Samsung, or even the iPhone 13 Pro over the Honor, for their more consistent camera performance.
For the average buyer though, it’s probably more of a toss-up between the Magic 4 Pro, the S22 Plus or OnePlus 10 Pro. Buy whichever one you can get for a good deal, and you won’t go wrong.
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