Honor Magic 4 Pro Review: A return to form… mostly

Honor had a pretty good shot at re-entering the market last year when they came back after the Huawei split, the Honor 50 was a very good device and has gotten better with firmware updates since, but it wasn’t a flagship phone, that’s where the Magic 4 Pro comes in, it is a flagship phone, with the specs to match, so, can Honor still hang with the big girls and boys since the split, or are they a shadow of their former self?

Honor Magic 4 Pro
+ FOR
  • - Amazing screen
  • - SD 8 Gen1 is blisteringly fast
  • - 100w charging is insane
  • - Beuatiful hardware
- AGAINST
  • - SD 8 Gen1 gets HOT
  • - Camera overexposure bug
  • - Battery inconsistencies
  • - MagicUI feels old

Buy on Amazon

Disclaimer

Honor UK PR sent me this Magic 4 Pro for the purposes of review, they have not seen this review before it goes live nor do they have any control over it. No money has exchanged hands between either entity. The device was used with a nanoSIM in the southeast of the UK on the Three UK network for 4 weeks..

Honor Magic 4 Pro Review

Quick Links…

Overview

The Honor Magic 4 Pro is the first real flagship from Honor for the UK in a long time, honestly, the last one I would seriously say since the Honor 20 from 2019, So I have some pretty high hopes from this. Honor really is going balls to the wall with this, a big beautiful OLED screen with a high refresh rate, a plethora of large camera sensors on the rear, Qualcomm’s latest and greatest (well, ish) SoC, a rarity for android in that it has a 3D depth map face unlock as well as a large ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, all of that with a big battery and fast charging, the Honor Magic 4 Pro, on paper at least, looks like a winner.

Honor Magic 4 Pro Review

Taking a tour around the device the Honor Magic 4 Pro has a massive 6.8” OLED screen, it is curved on the edges, not nearly as much as some previous Honor/Huawei devices, but the curve is definitely more prominent than on others. The Screen has a resolution of 2848×1312, a quirky resolution, for sure but the software handles it fine. It’s an LTPO panel with a refresh rate of up to 120hz and as low as 1Hz, and something that I found interesting is the way it refreshes, this is a PWM panel and the frequency is at 1920Hz, much higher than the low 300’s of most panels, why does this matter? Because some people are very sensitive to high refresh rate screens with low PWM flicker frequencies, causing nausea and headaches, whilst not everyone is susceptible to that, the high PWM refresh does just make for a nicer experience overall. In the top left of the screen is the pill-shaped cutout, and whilst there are 2 lenses there, they are not 2 usable cameras. One is the 12MP 100-degree ultrawide selfie camera, the other however is a 3DE ToF (Time of Flight) sensor that shoots lasers at your face and measures how long it takes to come back (it calculates the time of flight, get it) and makes a depth map of your face from that, leading to a much more secure 3D based face unlock rather than just relying on a picture of your face. You can make it more secure in that it requires you to blink to “show life”, pretty neat and this is secure enough to be used in lieu of fingerprint as an actual biometric authentication method, so banking is an example. Below the screen is an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, and I say this as concisely as possible, this is without a shadow of a doubt the best ultrasonic fingerprint solution I have used, beating out even the newest S22 series, I have been vocal about my distaste for Ultrasonic fingerprint sensors from Qualcomm for a few years now because they did truly suck donkey balls for years, but with the S22 series they started getting mostly fine, but this is just as reliable and fast as the best optical scanners which have been great for years now.

Honor Magic 4 Pro Review

On the chassis of the phone, we have the power and volume rockers on the right-hand rail, the chassis rails actually curve outwards to make the rail thicker around the buttons to put them in a more comfortable position. There is nothing on the left-hand rail, but on the top, there is a secondary speaker grille, a microphone for noise cancellation in audio calls and video recording, and lastly, what is that? An IR Blaster! Truly a blast from the past, for better or worse, you too can be the annoying person and turn off TVs you find in public places. The bottom of the phone has the USB-C port for charging and data, the main microphone, the main speaker grille, and the NanoSIM card slot. There are 2 NanoSIMs, but no expandable storage, but with 256GB storage, you are unlikely to need it anytime soon. Looking at the back we have the ginormous camera cutout that looks even more like an induction cooking hob than the one on the Honor 50 did. There are 3 main cameras, as well as a ToF sensor and a laser AF sensor. The main sensor is a 50mp Sony IMX766, the ultrawide is also 50mp, but it is a separate much smaller sensor, the telephoto is a 3.5x 64mp unit. Strangely the main camera isn’t optically stabilised, is that something that will change how you think of the phone? I don’t know, but I thought it was neat.

Spec Sheet

  • 163.6×74.7×9.1mm
  • 209g
  • 6.81” OLED display
    • 2838×1312
    • 120Hz LTPO
    • HDR10+
    • 1000Nit peak brightness
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen1
    • 1x Cortex X2 @3.00Ghz
    • 3x Cortex A710 @2.4Ghz
    • 4x Cortex A510 @1.7Ghz
    • Adreno 730 GPU
    • Samsung 4nm 
  • Android 12
  • MagicUI 6.0
  • 8GB/256GB
  • 4600mAh battery
  • 100w wired charging
  • 100w wireless charging
  • Cameras
    • 50MP Main
      • Sony IMX766
      • F1.8
      • 23mm effective focal length
      • 1/1.56” sensor size
    • 50MP Ultrawide
      • 122 degree
      • F2.2
      • 1/2.5” sensor size
    • 64MP Telephoto
      • 3.5x zoom
      • F3.5
      • 90mm effective focal length
      • 1/2.0” sensor size
    • 12MP selfie
      • F2.4
      • 100 degree

For a more complete specification list, head on over to GSMArena, they’ve got the whole get up there.

Performance & Use

The Honor Magic 4 Pro has been pretty stellar to use, performance-wise, the Snapdragon 8 Gen1, whilst a toasty toasty boy, is very performant, the mix of Cortex X2 cores and A710 cores show that Arm’s design group still know what they’re doing. A high-end chipset paired with a very fast screen means that pretty much everything about this phone, bar one or two things, was faultless. Now I say one or two things because every now and then the phone would take a few seconds to wake up after pressing the power button, and launching the camera would occasionally take a few seconds and lag whilst it got its bearings. These seem like minor software quirks that can be ironed out in a future software update.

I’ll post some screenshots of benchmarks here, but the Magic 4 Pro is, unsurprisingly, hella fast, but the result of that power is heat, and when I was setting the Magic 4 Pro up, downloading all my apps and logging into accounts the device, specifically at the rim of the camera housing at the bottom got more than uncomfortably hot, I had to put the device down and let it do it is stuff, I daren’t think how it would have felt if the device was plugged in. However that only happened during setup, the only incredibly intensive thing I did on the Magic 4 Pro was using the camera which heats up almost all phones, however, this was noticeably warmer and the phone let me know this too. Genshin Impact is known as a bit of a beast to phones and whilst it ran like a champ, it also ran the battery down in record time too.

Honor is very good at making phones at this point, the hardware is unsurprisingly solid, and the weight is noticeable at 209g but the phone feels like it was crafted with a purpose the curved chassis rails that bow out to allow for the power and volume button to have enough space and to be in a comfortable position, that’s something, not all companies do in the never-ending quest for thinness.

Camera & Samples

Cameras are where the Magic 4 Pro get interesting, I mean for one look at that monstrous hump on the rear of the phone, they clearly want you paying attention to the phone. Despite what you might think looking at the rear of the phone, there are only 3 cameras here, not 5, there is the 50MP main camera, a 50MP Ultrawide and a 64MP Telephoto, there is also a ToF (Time of Flight) sensor and a laser autofocus in there which are the two other lenses on the rear.

Honor Magic 4 Pro Review

Hardware-wise, the main camera we have been told is a Sony IMX766, a very capable sensor that is in many devices lately, the other two are a mystery sadly, but I would wager that they are both Samsung ISOCELL cameras given some of the quirks I’m seeing from them. Back to that main camera, the IMX766 is a 1/1.56” sensor with 1.0µm pixels, it’s a 23mm equivalent lens on that bad boy with an aperture of f1.8 and it’s… fine. Let me be clear, the Magic 4 Pro can take some gorgeous photos. Still, there seems to be a serious issue here with overexposing pretty much anything when there is a hint of sunlight, sometimes this is worse than others, and sometimes the final image isn’t overexposed but the preview in the viewfinder makes it look like you accidentally cranked it to the max, this is very obviously a software bug. Still, in the updates I had during the time here it was never fixed, and I have of course used other devices with this sensor without these issues.

Honor Magic 4 Pro Review

If you ignore that for the moment, the Magic 4 Pro main camera has some lovely colours and is remarkably sharp, the IMX766 is relatively large but not only is it not the largest but it is also not the highest-end sensor in Sony’s lineup, goes to show that some of the tuning it still there at Honor. Whilst this overexposes like a crazy person, the autofocus for the most part had been flawless, likely helped by the laser AF and ToF system, though it is a bit over-eager to pop into the ultra macro mode in my experience, once again, a software issue, not a hardware one.

Moving on to the 50MP Ultrawide here, this is a much better experience than i had feared, lately, we’ve been getting Ultrawide cameras that were such massive step downs from the main sensors I had not wanted to use them, but thankfully that’s, not the case here. Whilst it is on the small side at 1/2.5” and the aperture of f2.2 is pretty slow the Ultrawide really is capable, and with a 122 degree field of view, it’s wide as well, something that can’t always be taken for granted. Whilst the colours are not very well matched to the other two sensors (this being significantly cooler) but the snaps out of this are more often than not, fun to look at. A cool side effect of the ultrawide is that Honor are using this as the macro camera, something pioneered by former owner Huawei back on the P30 Pro days and something that is infinitely better than slapping a cheap,small, dark 5mp macro lens on the rear and I applaud Honor for this, it also allows you to get neat shots like these.

 

Next is the telephoto, this is a 3.5x zoom, which strangely in this case a periscope, those are usually reserved for 5 zooms or higher, but I can’t complain too much. This 1/2.0” sensor is large enough, and the F3.5 aperture is super slow, but thankfully it has optical image stabilisation which makes a lot of sense on this 90mm equivalent lens. Despite the small pixel size and slow aperture, the snaps are pretty impressive, once again when you disregard the over-exposure issues. So close yet so far. Colours are once again different from the other two sensors, this leaning much warmer, like the main camera, yet these colours don’t match the main either, annoying.

Onto the front-facing camera, this is a 12MP f2.4 sensor, but the neat thing here is that the native lens has a 100-degree field of view, but in software Honor crops in to make it a “normal” selfie view, but you can back out to use the full ultrawide sensor, so useful if you have multiple people in the frame or just want to show more of the frame than normal.

Lastly video. Video is still a bit of a sore spot for many android devices, and the Magic 4 Pro is better than I had feared, significantly better than the Honor 50 that I reviewed from them a few months ago, but as with most phones if the phone is stationary on a tripod, the video is often times very impressive, and even when walking the stabilisation is pretty good, not iPhone good, but very nice, but if you’re in a car or on a bike, even 60fps footage isn’t going to help you here.

Software

I’ve said over the years that I’ve found MagicUI (formerly EMUI) to be my favourite iteration of Android for varying reasons, and whilst that is mainly still true with the sixth iteration here on the Magic 4 Pro, it’s pretty obvious that MagicUI has stagnated design-wise and is incredibly similar to how it was in 2019 when Honor was still a part of Huawei and shared EMUI with them, the problem is, in the years since then, every other major phone company with its own version of Android has stepped up the design and user interface cohesiveness to make them much nicer to use and more in line with Google’s Android design, especially with Material You. Samsung with OneUI, Oppo with ColorOS (and Realme with their variation on it) now make much more modern looking and feeling software suites for their products than Honor does with Magic UI.

Honor Magic 4 Pro Review

Outside of the aesthetics of MagicUI being in the past, actually using it on the other hand is very pleasant, I still know where everything is, the settings are smartly organised, and outside of some quirks with the launcher, which can thankfully be replaced (I use Action Launcher by Chris Lacy, check it out). Most of the stock apps are pretty decent, and some of them are even just the Google apps these days, which is nice, however, it does show the ever-growing gap in design aesthetics of the platform and where things are going.

Battery

The battery on the Magic 4 Pro is a bit of a mixed bag for me, I haven’t quite decided whether it was Snapdragon 8 Gen1 related, network-related or just the screen drawing a lot of power in bright environments, but there were days when the Magic 4 Pro could deplete it;’s 4600mAh in mere hours, whereas I was also able to get a day and a half out of the phone, with pretty similar usage between those days, though it should note, the days where the Magic 4 Pro got hot where the days where the run time was significantly cut short, which isn’t that surprising.

Honor Magic 4 Pro Review

When you need to top the phone up, however, the Magic 4 Pro is able to charge up at a kinda insane 100w when wired, but also even more insane, 100w on a wireless charger, of course, you need the special Honor charger for both of those feats, you aren’t going to just be able to plug in a 100w laptop charger into this, which is a shame, as I would prefer more companies to strictly adhere to the USB-PD specification, but Huawei and by extension Honor where some of the progenitors for fast charging much like with Oppo, i don’t like it, but I understand it. That Wireless 100w charger is an £85 additional purchase by the way, which is, I think, a lot, but if you are a person who loves wireless charging and needs to juice up fast, it might be worth it to you.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed my time with the Honor Magic 4 Pro, and as I said in the title, it is mostly a return to form for them, but from here on out it’s going to be harder to stand out, they’re going to have to use the same chips as everyone else so they won’t have the Kirin advantage anymore, they also don’t have the same camera expertise they once had, and most importantly, they’re really going to need to update their software game, having killer hardware is no longer all it takes.

Honor Magic 4 Pro Review

If Honor can prove that it can fix the camera niggles I had, can update the software to integrate with the current flow of android and apps, and most importantly keep these devices up to date, I think they’ll have a pretty good chance of climbing the ladder again and getting to the point where Huawei once stood, I hope I get to see Honor taking strides again.

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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