Sorry Honor, but last year’s Magic 4 Pro was a shock to the system. The one-time budget brand was suddenly competing with the big boys – and in several respects beating them, courtesy of an excellent set of cameras and incredibly quick charging. Of both the wired and wireless varieties. The Honor Magic 5 Pro has a lot to live up to, then.
Things look good off the bat for the 2023 effort, with suitably high-end styling, top-tier internals and an overhauled trio of cameras that have a serious need for speed. But it arrives when the competition has never been hotter, with many rivals going even higher on camera pixel counts – or finding room inside for huge 1in sensors. Has Honor done enough make it two successes in a row?
- Check out our guide to the best smartphone overall as well as our list of the best upcoming phones due this year
Design & build: glass is always greener
To call the Magic 5 Pro another glass and metal sandwich would be doing Honor’s design team a disservice. Yes, it has the curved screen edges we’ve seen plenty of times already this year, but the polished aluminium and frosted finish of our Meadow Green handset look properly premium. The central frame is also flatter than some rivals, giving your hand something substantial to grip onto.
The “eye of muse” rear camera bump is the biggest visual upgrade over the previous generation. The giant circular module holding the lenses is colour-matched to the phone now, and the glass rises up to meet it. Swoon.
While you can pick one up in a more subtle black colour, it has a more glossy finish that picks up fingerprints a little too easily. The green version’s textured glass is much easier to keep clean. Either way you’re looking at an IP68-rated handset that can survive a dunking or two. There’s no word on impact or drop protection, though, given the lack of Gorilla Glass. Honor says the phone passed its own internal testing, but we’d still be inclined to slap a case and screen protector on it ASAP. One of the former is included in the box.
You’ve got the choice of fingerprint unlocking using the in-display sensor, or face recognition via the dual-width punch-hole selfie camera. The latter is secure enough to use as biometric security for banking apps and the like. Both are quick to recognise you and skip the lock screen.
That there’s no 3.5mm headphone port will hardly come as a surprise – but the IR blaster at the top might. It’s easily programmed using Honor’s smart remote app to control gadgets like your TV or air conditioner.
Screen & sound: up to speed
With skinny bezels and subtly curved edges, the Magic 5 Pro’s 6.81in AMOLED is easy on the eye before you even turn it on. Once you do, you’re treated to a pin-sharp 2838×1312 resolution panel that uses LTPO tech for 120Hz smoothness without the accompanying battery drain. It tended to favour 60Hz in most third-party apps, and 90Hz on the home screen in dynamic mode, though. We opted to force 120Hz all the time, where motion was always effortless and there was no noticeable jelly scrolling.
This is a properly bright display, usually topping out at 1300 nits in regular use but able to hit a peak 1800 nits to properly give HDR videos proper punch. Not even bright sunshine will give you any trouble when it comes to seeing whats onscreen. Viewing angles were excellent, too.
Honor is particularly proud of its new Circadian night mode, which increasingly reduces blue light to match your sleeping patterns. Combined with rapid 2160Hz backlight dimming, you shouldn’t see any screen flickering once you head to bed and lower the screen brightness. We can’t say we noticed a significant change in our ability to snooze, but testing body TUV Rhineland has handed it a circadian friendly award – the first of it’s kind, no less.
The Magic 5 Pro’s stereo speakers are just fine for catching up on your YouTube subscriptions without scurrying for a pair of headphones. There’s a decent balance between the down-firing main driver and upper earpiece speaker, which fires both upwards and forwards. They get satisfyingly loud, vocals are clear enough and there’s a reasonable amount of low end for a phone.
Cameras: sets the pace
While the rest of the high-end phone world seems fixated on pixel count (see Samsung’s 200MP Galaxy S23 Ultra) and sensor size (see the Xiaomi 13 Pro, Oppo Find X6 Pro or Vivo X90 Pro), Honor has made speed a priority for its cameras. Not that the Magic 5 Pro is especially lacking on the hardware front, though: there’s a trio of 50MP rear snappers here.
The lead lens has a rather large 1/1.12in sensor for capturing plenty of light; that may not not quite match its 1in rivals, but a wide f/1.6 aperture helps close the gap – and create plenty of natural bokeh for close-ups. Honor has also treated it to optical image stabilisation to cut down on camera shake and laser-assisted autofocus.
Then there’s a 122-degree ultrawide that can double as a macro shooter, with an impressive 2.5cm focusing distance, and a 3.5x zoom periscope telephoto. That gives a magnification advantage over rivals that make do with 2x cameras, and it can manage up to 100x digital zoom like the pricier Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Whichever lens you use, colours are wonderfully vibrant and easy on the eye – even if that can mean hues are a little punchier than they might be in real life. Only sticklers for total accuracy will feel any need to grumble. Fine detail is fantastic, sharpness is kept in check, and image noise is almost entirely absent in good light. Everything is largely consistent across all three cameras. We did spot more aggressive sharpening and a narrow dynamic range on the ultrawide, but there’s not a lot in it.
Does the bespoke “Falcon capture” algorithm make snapping fast-moving subjects a breeze? Yes and no. The mix of subject detection and software optimisations did help us get a few more usable snaps of our cat (which refuses to sit still for photos), but you’ve still got to lead your subject if you want perfectly crisp shots. The highlights capture function didn’t always pick the moment we intended, and there’s no way to pick an alternate frame like a traditional burst mode.
By pulling image info from multiple cameras, the Magic 5 Pro produces excellent zoom shots up to 3.5x, with no noticeable drop in quality. Sharpness and dynamic range take a hit between 5 and 10x, so although results are still very clean, it isn’t able to match the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s versatility. It’ll do 100x when asked, but the results unsurprisingly won’t give a DSLR zoom lens anything to worry about. 20-30x is about the maximum we’d want to use.
HDR is now baked into the camera app’s main mode, rather than being buried in a separate menu. That’s because a new processing system takes contrast and brightness calibration frames as well as multiple exposures, to deliver more impactful shots automatically. it does a fantastic job, capturing both bright highlights and dark shadows. Scene-wide metering largely prevents clipping, but can underexpose when shooting against a strong backlight – you’ll want to swap to Pro mode and its spot metering option for trickier subjects.
Low light performance is equally excellent, with natural colours and plenty of resolved detail. The main camera steals the show, but the periscope lens also puts in a very good showing. The ultrawide trails behind, relying more on night mode’s multiple exposures because it has no OIS.
The Xiaomi 13 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra remain our overall top picks for photography in the Android world, but they both cost considerably more than the Magic5 Pro. The iPhone 14 Plus and Galaxy S23+ are closer rivals, and in many respects it’s the Honor which leads the charge, although the Google Pixel 7 Pro remains the value champ as far as flagship phones go.
This isn’t a phone for keen filmmakers, though. The main camera records 4K at 60fps with standard dynamic range in the regular video mode, with up to 10x digital zoom. The more advanced Movie mode supports HDR recording at 4K, but only at 30fps, and is restricted to 2x zoom. Video quality can’t match pricier rivals, which can also record using the ultrawide lens; Honor has disabled that sensor for all video modes.
Performance and software: pulls no punches
With a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and 12GB of RAM on board, it’ll come as no surprise that the Magic 5 Pro felt especially speedy in general use. Apps open in a flash, multitasking was smooth and no amount of media-heavy websites could slow the phone down. It easily keeps pace with the best 2023 has shown us so far, with only minor differences in benchmark results. A very generous 512GB of on-board storage will be more than enough for most, too.
Just as we’ve seen from rival handsets using the same chip, there’s more than enough GPU grunt here to run the most demanding Android titles at their highest detail settings. Limited cooling and a rather reserved performance profile mean it can’t deliver the consistency of a gaming phone like the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate, but you can still take advantage of the 120Hz refresh rate in supported titles.
The phone runs the latest version of Honor’s MagicOS, sat on top of Android 13. It’s a more streamlined skin than before, with flatter icons, more widgets and big folders for greater home screen customisation. We still get major Huawei vibes from the general layout, which isn’t a huge surprise given the companies have only recently parted ways, but it’s still a breeze to navigate. A bespoke Honor app store feels redundant on phones sold in the West given they have the Google Play Store, but a handful of own-brand apps aside, the Magic 5 Pro was refreshingly free from bloatware.
Battery life: endurance champ
Most 2023 flagships with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 CPU are able to comfortably deliver a full day’s worth of juice, and the Honor Magic5 Pro is no exception. Its 5100mAh cell copes with daily use brilliantly, taking us from first thing in the morning to the early hours without dipping into the red.
With an intensive mix of video playback, gaming and photography, plus some more daily driver tasks like web browsing, social scrolling, email and listening to podcasts, it had enough in reserve to make it through to the next morning without needing to plug in overnight. Honor’s power management software really helps squeeze out every last drop from the battery, putting it up there with the OnePlus 11 and significantly ahead of the Google Pixel 7 Pro.
66W wired charging isn’t as fast as last year’s Magic 4 Pro, which topped out at 100W over USB-C. The 50W it can manage wirelessly with the right Qi Pad is also a significant step behind its predecessor. Keep in mind Honor doesn’t include a power brick in the box any more, so you’ll need to provide your own.
That said, with the right adaptor it can manage a full refuel in just over 45 minutes. That puts it behind the absolute fastest phones out there right now, but still ahead of the pricier Galaxy S23 Ultra – and almost twice as quick as an iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Honor Magic 5 Pro verdict
If last year’s Magic 4 Pro was Honor testing the waters, the Magic 5 Pro is a confident cannonball into flagship territory. It has the looks to rub shoulders with more lavish rivals, a stunner of a screen, outstanding battery life and very fast charging. Add in an impressive showing from that rear camera trio and it absolutely earns a place among today’s best high-end phones.
There are a few hiccups, like the slightly restrictive video recording options and an adaptive refresh rate that isn’t overly keen to adapt. A slight Huawei influence also still lingers on design and software. But those are all minor foibles in what’s otherwise a very capable all-rounder.
It may not have the Xiaomi 13 Pro’s 1in camera sensor, and the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has a sharper UI, but the Magic5 Pro undercuts both by a fair margin – and anyone eyeing up a Galaxy S23+ should absolutely consider this as an alternative.
Capable cameras, stellar performance and stand-out styling make this Honor’s greatest handset yet, and a true flagship contender.
Takes fantastic photos
Superb battery life and fast charging
Flagship screen and styling
Display refresh rate could be smoother
Video recording somewhat limited
Some software foibles
Honor Magic 5 Pro technical specifications
|Screen||6.8in, 2838×1312 AMOLED w/ LTPO, 120Hz, HDR10+|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 octa-core|
|Cameras||50MP, f/1.6 w/ laser AF, PDAF, OIS + 50MP, f/3.0 periscope telephoto w/ 3.5x optical zoom, PDAF, OIS + 50MP, f/2.0 ultrawide w/ autofocus rear|
12MP front w/ ToF 3D biometrics
|Operating system||Android 13 w/ MagicOS 7.1|
|Battery||5100mAh w/ 66W wired charging, 50W wireless + reverse wireless|