Honor 50 Review: An Imperfect Homecoming

Honor has had a rough time of it lately, the once Huawei subsidiary has since been sold off to a state-run consortium to escape the seemingly ironclad restrictions on trade for Huawei, but in the short time since they’ve had to rejig a phone still mostly Huawei, just with Google, but is that a bad thing? I don’t think so.

Honor 50
+ FOR
  • Stellar design
  • Great screen
  • Very performant
  • Battery and Charging no issue
  • Main camera is very decent
- AGAINST
  • Secondary and tertiary cameras meh
  • Price not competitive
  • Updates are a mystery

Buy on Amazon UK

Disclaimer

Honor UK PR have sent this device to us (Dom) for review. No money has exchanged hands between either party and Honor are not seeing this review before it goes live. The Honor 50 was used as my personal device for 2 weeks on the Three UK network in the South East of England.

Honor 50 Review

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Spec Sheet

  •  6.57” OLED Display
    • 70-degree curved edge
    • 2340×1080 resolution
    • 120Hz
    • 1 billion colours (10bit)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G
    • 1x Cortex A78 @2.4Ghz
    • 3x Cortex A78 @2.2Ghz
    • 4x Cortex A55 @1.8GHz
    • Adreno 642L
    • TSMC N6 6nm manufacture
  • 6/8/12GB RAM options
  • 128/256GB storage options
  • Cameras
    • Main 108mp sensor
      • F1.9
      • 1/1.52” sensor size
      • 0.7µm pixel size
    • Ultrawide 8mp sensor
      • F2.2
      • 120-degree field of view
      • 17mm equivalent focal length
    • Macro 2mp lens
      • F2.4
    • Depth 2mp lens
      • F2.4
    • Front 32mp camera
      • F2.2
      • 22mm equivalent focal length
      • ⅓.14” sensor size
  • 4300mAh battery
    • 66w Honor SuperCharge
  • Android 11
  • MagicUI 4.2

For a more in-depth look at the specifications of the Honor 50 check out the Honor 50 page on GSMArena here

Performance & Use

The Honor 50 is, in a word, gorgeous. Huawei and Honor never had a hard time making pretty well-made devices, and this device due to time and production was still a mostly joint venture it’s clear to see this is of the same quality or higher than the last flagship we saw from Honor, the 20 Pro from a few years back.

The Aluminium frame is sandwiched between two layers of curved glass and come to a lovely if almost too thin point at the side. Upfront is the gorgeous 6.57” OLED screen, this is a real stunner, whilst it might “only” be 1080p, I don’t care, the 10bit panel, the 120Hz refresh rate and the input latency made this truly a joy to use. I think that out of the box the UI elements are too large, so in the display settings I dropped it down a notch and that made it much more enjoyable. There is a hole punch in the middle of the panel for the 32mp front-facing camera and I think this hole is larger than it needs to be personally, we’ve seen from cheaper handsets smaller bezels around the camera and better-centred ones. Under the screen is the optical fingerprint scanner, I had no issues with this scanner, it is much nicer than the side-mounted ones they used for a few years, it is fast and consistent, hard to ask for much more than that.

Honor 50 Review

Looking around the frame, the left-hand rail has absolutely nothing, whereas the left has the power button and volume rocker. I do feel like there could be better differentiation between the buttons, more space between them or a different texture for the power button, something more than the little notch inside. Down the bottom of the device are the main speaker, main microphone and nanoSIM/MicroSD slot, lastly on the top is the IR blaster because of course, it has one.

Now we find ourselves approaching the rear, .and as Planet Booty suggested, there is plenty of “Junk in the Trunk”. The camera setup on the Honor 50 has been called many things, I liken it to a convection hob mostly, and it feels like it is a similar size, but it is a nice design and it does work, the main 108mp camera is in the top module, whereas the 8mp Ultrawide, macro lens and depth lens are in the lower module along with the LED Flash. This rear panel has many variations, and undoubtedly the best is the Frost Crystal model, the one I’ve taken to calling “Glitter Bomb” but my Emerald green model is still quite eye-catching.

Honor 50 Review

The industrial design of the Honor 50 is top-notch, I can’t complain about it much, and that trend continues with the internals. The Honor 50 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 778G, an interesting chip because technically it is the Snapdragon 780G, the only discernible difference? It is made on TSMCs 6nm process node instead of Samsung Foundry’s 5nm. it is a smart move considering how tapped out foundries are right now, having the same design taped out at multiple places is smart, and allows manufacturers to choose what’s more readily available.

The Snapdragon 778G is a 1+3+4 setup, the first cluster is a single high clocked core for burst performance, the second cluster of 3 cores is slightly lower clocked but if the workload needs to be spread out more it can go there, and the last cluster is a lower power core for more background tasks, the menial tasks your phone always does in the back. The 778G is truly a return to form for Qualcomm, I enjoy using it, it is performant, and not a furnace-like the 888+ and 870 seem to be. It also sips battery, along with the battery saving wizardry in MagicUI the battery performance on the Honor 50 is impressive given the large high spec screen.

Honor 50 Review

As always, I will post benchmark screenshots below, but the benchmarks do not show an accurate view of how the device feels to use, these numbers are lower than I would expect as well, making me think they’re running on the 4 low power cores.

Camera & Samples

This was the section that I was most excited to experience and write, and for the most part, it is pretty positive. The main sensor is a Samsung HM2, a 108MP 1/1.52” sensor, what does that mean? Well, it’s a big sensor with a lot of pixels, and whilst you can shoot with all 108 million of those pixels, what the phone wants to do is take 9 of them, smash them together to make an extremely detailed 12mp shot. Why does it do this? Well the more pixels you stuff in, the smaller those pixels are, so whilst you can capture more detail technically, you need more and more light to do so, but if you combine 9 of them (a 3×3 grid) that makes the pixel size 3x larger going from 0.7µm (micrometre) pixels to 2.1µm, the bigger the pixel the more light it can take in which means better photos, this is called pixel binning, and it gives you the best of both worlds.

Honor 50 Review

The main camera on the Honor 50 is impressive 95% of the time. Some of the shots I’ve taken have been nice, easy and enjoyable to take. As with all Samsung sensors, the “ISOCELL Colours” are still in effect here, just a byproduct of the way the sensor is designed and how Samsung initially tunes these at the factory, certain colours, namely greens and reds have an almost radioactive aspect to them, some people really dislike this effect, I personally quite like it, but it isn’t a natural look, that’s for sure. my main issue with this main camera is that sometimes the focus drifts just as I’m hitting the shutter, and it is impossible to tell beforehand whether it has or not until you check back at the image, I’m told this is something being actively worked on in an upcoming update but once again, mine doesn’t have this yet.

Where the main camera of the Honor 50 falls down is when it comes to low light shooting, I am not quite sure whether this is an Honor Software tuning problem or a Snapdragon 778G ISP problem, but this phone slows to a crawl in low light, camera preview drops to about 15fps and takes 3-5 seconds for each shot, each shot can be grainy or have light streaks if the shutter speed wasn’t automatically selected properly, I hope this can be altered in a software update, but as of the time of writing there hasn’t been one to address night imagery slowdowns.

Honor 50 Review

The wide-angle lens is interesting, I’m glad it is here, but I am so mad that it is just an 8mp unit, this is ridiculous. It is ridiculous when Honor does, when Relame, Oppo and OnePlus do it and when other companies do it too, the Ultrawide is the primary of the secondary cameras, is the one people are going to use the most and this is a barely acceptable one, it is so soft and somehow bland compared to the main, and worst of all, because of the low resolution (which, a fun fact is lower than the ultrawide camera on the Honor 20 Pro from 2019) of the ultrawide it cannot be used to shoot 4K video which means you cannot switch from ultrawide to main, to 2x like you can on most other phones of this price point, very disappointing.

I don’t want to spend too much time on the macro and depth cameras, I have never found depth cameras to be particularly useful, and whilst this is one of the better 2mp macro cameras I’ve used it is still a minuscule sensor needing oodles of light and even then is still worse than just repurposing your ultrawide camera as a macro, but to do that you would have had to put a decent ultrawide in, to begin with.

Selfies are, actually to my surprise pretty decent, when this was announced, Honor was talking about this being a vloggers phone, and whilst I don’t think I’d quite go that far, it still has many of the issues that android phones do with video recording, it is still much better than I had expected it to be. Selfies came out with decent exposure and detail, even with the beauty modes turned off it was still doing some smoothing to my skin which I’m not the biggest fan of, but it at least seems to work quite well for Instagram stories and TikTok, for what that’s worth.

Lastly, we have video, which is just fine, as I said all Android phones suffer from video in some ways even the highest-end Samsung Galaxy phones do, there is just no good auto mode on an android phone that can match the iPhone sadly. These do have some pretty neat tricks such as multi-window capture, so using the front and rear camera at the same time to record an interview, or using the rear main and rear ultrawide to shoot at the same time for… something, I have to admit I’m having a hard time thinking what to use these features for, but I want to use them. Focus is pretty snappy, as is white balance, but as with all android phones there just seems to be an almost jelly effect when recording whilst moving. If the phone is on a tripod and I’m speaking to the camera, it is really good, the moment the camera starts to move, it goes downhill.

 

Software

Honor is once again using its MagicUI here on top of Android 11, with Android 12 on the horizon soon. Much like the hardware for the Honor 50 was pretty much set in stone before the split from Huawei, the software was too, this is mostly just EMUI with Google Apps, and that’s okay, it’s a well-polished functional system, and I’d rather them do this than try to rebuild a software system and user experience from scratch within 9 months to make a deadline, it would have been a mess.

Honor 50 Review

Performance-wise there were a few hiccups here and there, making me think that the 778G wasn’t the chip initially thought to be going in and they weren’t able to get all the hitches out before launch. Otherwise, this is MagicUI as you have seen it before, for better or worse, I have to admit that it is one of my favourite skins on Android along with the newer ColorOS/Realme UI. there is a level of design coherency here that although is heavy-handed and doesn’t always work well with some of the stock Google apps on the phone, is impressive nevertheless.

Something we don’t know much about are updates. Honor wasn’t always great at them before they split, and now with significantly fewer resources how are they going to do here? But on the upside, they have fewer devices and SKUs to support, so here is to hope. Honor has promised Android 12 for the Honor 50, but as far as I am aware have not committed to anything past that, which in this day and age is not a great showing.

Honor 50 Review

Battery

Battery wise the Honor 50 did not disappoint, with a large 4300mAh dual-cell battery (2x 2150mah cells in parallel) which allows it to charge at up to 66w, now you do need to use the Honor SuperCharge wall plug and the Honor cable that comes with the phone to achieve these speeds, but once you do, 70% in half an hour is more than doable. Temperatures whilst charging did elevate more than in normal use but still within tolerable levels. I do hope this is something Honor can alter in software though because I think if they could limit the temperature a handful of degrees lower it would be a more enjoyable experience.

Charging with a standard USB-PD charger and cable it seems to top out at around 18w, which is something I’d love to see changed. 27/33w USB-PD chips are plentiful these days, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice 2/3rds of your speed for using a standard cable and plug.

Final Thoughts

Whilst this review has it is ups and downs, I am mostly happy with this, as the name implies it is a homecoming for Honor into our lives, but it isn’t perfect, it has flaws and it needs to be said that the camera feels more fluff than anything else, outside of the main and selfie cameras, I don’t think it is all that great.

Honor 50 Review

But should you pay £469 or £529 for this device, that’s a harder sell. Samsung sells the S20 FE and the S21 is often on sale for near that, Realme has the GT Neo2 coming in at £20 less than this and it is looking to be an absolute killer. I want to see Honor succeed, but I think this price point isn’t the right one for them yet, or at last not this handheld.

About Domenico Lamberti

Technology has been a big part of my life for years, whether it be ripping the family computer apart to see how it worked, playing with the new phones that Dad brought home from work. Senior Reviewer for MTT.

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