Saturday, November 27, 2021
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Honor 50 review

Introduction

This is Honor’s first smartphone in Europe since its separation from Huawei, but it feels oddly familiar. That’s because the Honor 50 is an almost identical twin of the recently reviewed Huawei nova 9 but with two key differences. The main camera is upgraded to 108MP, and it comes with Google’s Mobile Services. And since those two were the main complaints in the nova 9 review, we can definitely see the potential in the Honor 50.

Still, you may be able to take Honor out of Huawei, but it’s likely harder to take Huawei out of Honor. These two phones share not only the hardware, but the software look alike as well. There are some small deviations from the original EMUI formula, though.

Also, since Honor has access to all of Qualcomm’s hardware, the handset supports 5G connectivity – an important feature for those looking for future-proofing. Perhaps the €30 premium Honor is asking over the nova 9 is rather reasonable.

Honor 50 specs at a glance:

  • Body: 160.0×73.8×7.8mm, 175g; Glass front and back, plastic frame.
  • Display: 6.57″ OLED, 1B colors, 120Hz, 1080x2340px resolution, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 392ppi.
  • Chipset: Qualcomm SM7325 Snapdragon 778G 5G (6 nm): Octa-core (4×2.4 GHz Kryo 670 & 4×1.8 GHz Kryo 670); Adreno 642L.
  • Memory: 128GB 6GB RAM, 128GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 12GB RAM.
  • OS/Software: Android 11, Magic UI 4.2, Google Play Services (market/region dependent).
  • Rear camera: Wide (main): 108 MP, f/1.9, 1/1.52″, 0.7µm, PDAF; Wide (main): 8 MP, f/2.2, 120˚, 17mm; Macro: 2 MP, f/2.4; Depth: 2 MP, f/2.4.
  • Front camera: 32 MP, f/2.2, 22mm (wide), 1/3.14″.
  • Video capture: Rear camera: 4K@30fps, 1080p@30/60fps, gyro-EIS; Front camera: 1080p@30fps.
  • Battery: 4300mAh; Fast charging 66W, 70% in 20 min, 100% in 45 min (advertised).
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader (under display, optical); NFC.

However, the question of whether Honor’s new re-entry in the European market is going to be successful still remains. The Honor 50 exudes that typical Huawei notion, and perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Now, Huawei and Honor fans can have the best of both worlds – a familiar experience with GMS on top.

The rather proficient hardware of the Honor 50, such as the 6.57-inch 10-bit OLED, the 108MP main camera, the speedy 66W charging and the lightweight design, make us think this would be an easy recommendation. We would refrain from giving our verdict before going through the usual tests and seeing what the competition has to offer. So join us in the next pages to find out.

Unboxing the Honor 50

The handset comes in a standard retail package carrying the appropriate 66W wall charger and a USB-C to USB-A cable for charging and data transfer.

Honor 50 review

Honor threw in a transparent silicone case as well as wired earphones with USB-C since the handset doesn’t have a 3.5mm audio jack.

Design and ergonomics

The Honor 50 looks and feels identical to the Huawei nova 9. It has the same curves, back design and a circular camera module that stands out. This also means that the same materials have been used to build the device – glass back and front, plastic frame. There’s no mention of Gorilla Glass so we would assume the glass sheets don’t have any additional protection.

Honor 50 review

We have the Midnight Black version of the phone. It’s definitely clean and inconspicuous, but there are other aspects of the color version than just color itself. Unlike the frosted glass versions of the nova 9 and the Honor 50, the Midnight Black variant has a glossy and more slippery back. Fingerprints and smudges are also pretty visible. If you plan to use the handset without a case, we strongly recommend going for the Frost Crystal and Emerald Green colors for better grip and fewer smudges.

Honor 50 review

The camera bump is protruding quite a bit, and the main 108MP camera is accented with a ring around it, whereas the other three sensors are housed within a secondary ring with no accents.

Anyway, the glass back is curved just like the front – a bit on the aggressive side. Most brands reserve their curved screens for the premium models, but we have Huawei’s typical waterfall-like screen on the Honor 50 as well. That’s a rather polarizing feature, so we let you decide if you like it or not.

Honor 50 review

Whatever the case may be for you, it’s clear that the nova 9 has modern looks. The side bezels are a bit on the thick side, but the curvature makes them look skinny. The top and bottom bezels seem pretty symmetrical, giving the handset a more complete look. We didn’t like the centered punch-hole that much because it’s a bit bigger than we would expect on an OLED screen. It’s not a deal-breaker, nor does it obstruct the image considerably more, but it’s worth noting.

Honor 50 - Honor 50 review
Honor 50 - Honor 50 review

Honor 50 - Honor 50 review
Honor 50 - Honor 50 review

Honor 50

The side frame is made of glossy plastic, and smudges are pretty easy to spot. Luckily, the sides are super thin, and there’s not a lot of room for fingerprints. And the top and bottom parts are flat with a frosted finish, so no finger grease there either.

Honor 50 review

The power button and the volume rocker are placed on the right and might come off as a bit high for some users. The power button is rather easy to reach, but the volume rocker requires some stretch.

The bottom end houses the USB-C connector, the speaker grille and the SIM card tray. The latter can hold only two SIM cards, and there’s no room for microSD.

Honor 50 review

Even with the slippery surface that’s prone to smudges, we liked the Honor 50’s as we liked the nova 9’s. Sure, Corning’s Gorilla Glass isn’t involved in the build but at 175g, 7.8mm thickness and 6.57-inch display, the Honor 50 is easily one of the most manageable phones in this category. It’s just easy on the hand.

120Hz, 10-bit OLED display

One would assume that the Honor 50’s display is identical to the Huawei nova 9’s, but there seems to be a bit of deviation in max brightness as well as color calibration. But first, let’s get the specs out of the way.

The Honor 50 is built around a 6.57-inch, 1080 x 2340px OLED display that can go up to 120Hz refresh rate and has a touch sampling rate of 300Hz for more responsive operations during gameplay. Support for more than 1 billion colors (10-bit) is also on the feature list. We’ve checked and HDR10 or HDR10+ content support is seemingly available but Netflix refused to play HDR10 movies. However, the YouTube app did play HDR-compliant content.

Honor 50 review

Now, the interesting part is that the Honor 50’s display shines brighter than the nova 9’s. Either we had a faulty nova 9 unit, or the Honor 50s get the higher binned OLED panels. At manual brightness control, the display got 525 nits, while in auto mode, the panel peaked at 748 nits. Both metrics are about 100 points higher than the nova 9.

Display test 100% brightness
Black,cd/m2 White,cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Honor 50 0 525
Honor 50 (Max Auto) 0 748
Huawei nova 9 0 433
Huawei nova 9 (Max Auto) 0 608
Realme GT 5G 0 443
Realme GT 5G (Max Auto) 0 650
Asus Zenfone 8 0 440
Asus Zenfone 8 (Max Auto) 0 800
Xiaomi Mi 11i 0 514
Xiaomi Mi 11i (Max Auto) 0 939
Xiaomi Mi 11T 0 498
Xiaomi Mi 11T (Max Auto) 0 798
Samsung Galaxy A72 0 396
Samsung Galaxy A72 (Max Auto) 0 825

Color accuracy-wise, the Honor 50 is better, too. The default Vivid preset with the default color temperature, the screen still looks somewhat blue-ish. We found the Normal color preset to fix that and even achieved a respectable dE2000 of 2.6. Staying on Vivid and choosing the Warm color temperature preset would bear similar results.

Now, when it comes to HRR control, the Honor 50 has a proper one. For the most part, that is. Going for the Dynamic and High refresh rate modes offers similar experience. Not interacting with the screen brings down the refresh rate to 90Hz (yes, not 60Hz, although we can’t confirm for sure with the tools we have at our disposal), while opening the YouTube or Netflix app limits the refresh rate to 60Hz. The same goes for videos played through the default gallery app.

Chrome refused to run at more than 60Hz, though, but that’s easily fixable by running the “High” mode that would force 120Hz on most apps or at least those that allow it. Given the similar behavior to the “Dynamic” mode, we suggest sticking to “High” 120Hz to ensure most apps take advantage of the HRR panel.

We’ve also tried a couple of games, and they were able to hit 90Hz, which is better than most phones limited to 60Hz but still under the 120Hz mark.

Battery life

Even though the Honor 50 and the Huawei nova 9 share the same hardware, the results from our battery tests are largely different. It seems that the underlying software is the culprit. A 4,300 mAh battery supplies the Honor 50 and the nova 9, but the former scored four hours higher, as per our overall rating.

Honor 50 review

Our battery tests were automated thanks to SmartViser, using its viSerDevice app. The endurance rating denotes how long the battery charge will last you if you use the device for an hour of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily. More details can be found here.

Video test carried out in 60Hz refresh rate mode. Web browsing test done at the display’s highest refresh rate whenever possible. Refer to the respective reviews for specifics. To adjust the endurance rating formula to match your own usage – check out our all-time battery test results chart.

However, the overall score shouldn’t fool you as there are a couple of key differences between the Honor 50’s and the nova 9’s endurance rating. The nova 9 achieved a better standby score than Honor’s contender, but the latter excels in screen-on tests and got a considerably higher 3G talk time result. Arguably, the screen-on metrics are more important.

Important thing to note here – we couldn’t force 120Hz on our web browsing test, so we ran that at 60Hz, so the result isn’t directly comparable to other handsets we’ve tested at 120 or 90Hz browsing tests.

Charging speed

No surprises here as we’ve seen the nova 9 perform the same in our charging test. The supplied 66W charger pushes 61% juice from flat in 30 minutes and reaches 100% in 54 minutes. It’s a tad slower than some competitors, but objectively speaking, it’s still pretty fast. The first 61% are a bit slower than one would expect from a 66W charger, ut as the Honor 50 gets closer to 100%, it catches up with the competition.

30min charging test (from 0%)

Higher is better

  • Realme GT 5G (65W)
    87%
  • Xiaomi 11T
    86%
  • Xiaomi Mi 11i
    69%
  • Xiaomi Mi 11i
    69%
  • Honor 50
    61%
  • Samsung Galaxy A72
    54%

Time to full charge (from 0%)

Lower is better

  • Realme GT 5G (65W)
    0:39h
  • Xiaomi 11T
    0:41h
  • Xiaomi Mi 11i
    0:52h
  • Xiaomi Mi 11i
    0:52h
  • Honor 50
    0:54h
  • Samsung Galaxy A72
    1:15h

Speaker

Just like the nova 9, the Honor 50 also misses the chance to have a set of stereo speakers – a common feature around these parts. Most of the Honor 50’s direct rivals boast some sort of stereo speakers providing higher maximum volume, deeper bass (for a phone, that is) and overall fuller sound. The single, bottom-firing speaker on the Honor 50 sounds rather clear but starts to ring at higher volumes. It’s probably needless to say that it’s kind of flat-sounding, too.

Use the Playback controls to listen to the phone sample recordings (best use headphones). We measure the average loudness of the speakers in LUFS. A lower absolute value means a louder sound. A look at the frequency response chart will tell you how far off the ideal “0db” flat line is the reproduction of the bass, treble, and mid frequencies. You can add more phones to compare how they differ. The scores and ratings are not comparable with our older loudspeaker test. Learn more about how we test here.

Magic UI 4.2 and Android 11

Although Honor’s current state of Magic UI 4.2 looks and feels like Huawei’s EMUI 12 we’ve tested on the nova 9, it’s actually far from it. The same aesthetics, icons, themes, always-on display presets, etc. might be enough to fool you, but the visual similarities are the only common ground. Sadly, the Magic UI 4.2 skips pretty much all of the major EMUI features. At least we can confirm for sure that the Honor 50 runs on Android 11.

Honor 50 review

Speaking of Android 11, the Honor 50 has all the intrinsic features from Google’s OS, such as one-time app permissions, notification Bubbles, integrated media controls into the notification shade and the Conversations grouping of your notifications from messaging apps. Other than that, it’s straight-up stock-ish Android minus the vanilla aesthetics.

Almost all of the default apps, however, aren’t Google’s stock ones. They are proprietary. We are talking Gallery, Phone, Weather, Calculator, Files, Notepad, etc. There are also a couple of pre-installed ones that can be removed at your wish.

Home screen, recent apps, notification shade, settings menu - Honor 50 review
Home screen, recent apps, notification shade, settings menu - Honor 50 review
Home screen, recent apps, notification shade, settings menu - Honor 50 review
Home screen, recent apps, notification shade, settings menu - Honor 50 review

Home screen, recent apps, notification shade, settings menu - Honor 50 review
Home screen, recent apps, notification shade, settings menu - Honor 50 review
Home screen, recent apps, notification shade, settings menu - Honor 50 review

Home screen, recent apps, notification shade, settings menu

Unlike EMUI 12, the notification shade isn’t separated into two parts, but it’s instead of the usual design with re-arrangeable quick toggles and notifications. Unfortunately, you can’t get to it with the usual swipe-down gesture on the Home screen. Some finger gymnastics require you to reach for the status bar to pull it down. We also couldn’t find the toggle for automatic brightness control – you have to dig deep into the general Settings menu to switch it on or off. Tapping and holding on an app shows only the “Uninstall” button in the context menu, so once again, you are forced to open the Settings menu to clear the cache, force stop a misbehaving app, adjust the background usage, etc.

Customization options and Always-on display - Honor 50 review
Customization options and Always-on display - Honor 50 review
Customization options and Always-on display - Honor 50 review
Customization options and Always-on display - Honor 50 review
Customization options and Always-on display - Honor 50 review
Customization options and Always-on display - Honor 50 review

Customization options and Always-on display

We would go as far as saying that the current state of the software feels rather unfinished. Basic features are missing along the ones that make Magic UI unique in a way. Gone are the multi-tasking features with the floating windows.

The good news is that the Honor Share feature is here to stay as long as you have an eligible Honor MagicBook to use it with. And we still have the screen-off gestures for waking the screen, for example, or the raise-to-answer gesture.

Gestures - Honor 50 review
Gestures - Honor 50 review
Gestures - Honor 50 review
Gestures - Honor 50 review
Gestures - Honor 50 review

Gestures

And to finish this section on a high note, we would like to point out that the Magic UI feels snappy, responsive, and animations don’t really get in the way. Mostly clutter-free experience that may appeal to many Android users that are not necessarily after the high feature count.

Performance

The Snapdragon 778G used inside the Honor 50 is based on the TSMC’s 6nm N6 manufacturing process and employs an octa-core CPU and an Adreno 642L GPU for graphically intensive tasks. The CPU consists of three clusters 1x 2.4 GHz Kryo 670 Prime (Cortex-A78), 3x 2.4 GHz Kryo 670 Gold (Cortex-A78) and 4x 1.8 GHz Kryo 670 Silver (Cortex-A55).

Honor 50 review

Despite the Honor 50 and nova 9 sharing the same SoC, their storage variants differ slightly. The former comes in more flavors – 6GB/128GB, 8GB/128GB, 8GB/256GB, 12GB/256GB as opposed to nova 9’s two available memory variations, with the base one being 8GB/128GB.

Of course, we ran the usual set of synthetic benchmarks to see how it ranks against competitors and if there are any significant deviations from the already tested Snapdragon 778G-powered devices in our database.

GeekBench 5 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi 11i
    3641
  • Realme GT 5G
    3555
  • Huawei nova 9
    2973
  • Honor 50
    2971
  • Xiaomi 11T
    2834
  • Samsung Galaxy A72
    1627

GeekBench 5 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Realme GT 5G
    1139
  • Xiaomi Mi 11i
    1114
  • Honor 50
    787
  • Huawei nova 9
    784
  • Xiaomi 11T
    742
  • Samsung Galaxy A72
    537

AnTuTu 9

Higher is better

  • Realme GT 5G
    810433
  • Xiaomi Mi 11i
    779481
  • Xiaomi 11T
    590837
  • Honor 50
    470348
  • Huawei nova 9
    469798
  • Samsung Galaxy A72
    333668

GFX Manhattan ES 3.1 (offscreen 1080p)

Higher is better

  • Realme GT 5G
    112
  • Xiaomi 11T
    77
  • Honor 50
    56
  • Huawei nova 9
    56
  • Samsung Galaxy A72
    29

GFX Manhattan ES 3.1 (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi 11T
    72
  • Realme GT 5G
    60
  • Honor 50
    48
  • Huawei nova 9
    48
  • Samsung Galaxy A72
    26

GFX Car Chase ES 3.1 (offscreen 1080p)

Higher is better

  • Realme GT 5G
    65
  • Xiaomi 11T
    47
  • Honor 50
    33
  • Huawei nova 9
    33
  • Samsung Galaxy A72
    17

GFX Car Chase ES 3.1 (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Realme GT 5G
    55
  • Xiaomi 11T
    40
  • Huawei nova 9
    28
  • Honor 50
    27
  • Samsung Galaxy A72
    15

3DMark Wild Life Vulkan 1.1 (offscreen 1440p)

Higher is better

  • Realme GT 5G
    5872
  • Xiaomi 11T
    4172
  • Honor 50
    2503
  • Huawei nova 9
    2503
  • Samsung Galaxy A72
    1031

As expected, there are no major differences between other Snapdragon 778G handsets but the phone struggles against the majority of the competition. In this price range, it’s rather easy to find phones running Dimensity 1200 SoC or a Snapdragon 888/870, and as you can see, the Snapdragon 778G is no match for those. As is the case with the nova 9, essentially but given the higher base price of the Honor 50, you get an even lower price/performance ratio.

We also ran а CPU-bound stress test to see how the phone handles high loads over time. The app showed two significant drops in performance, down to 74% of the CPU’s maximum performance, to be exact, but it then ramped up again. This might not be ideal if you are planning to run the phone for longer as this would inevitably lead to an unstable frame rate.

CPU stress test - Honor 50 review

CPU stress test

Ideally, you’d want a gradual decrease in performance so there are no sudden spikes and drops in frames during gaming.

108MP main camera leading the pack

The biggest difference, hardware-wise, between the Honor 50 and the nova 9 is the camera setup or, to be exact – the main camera. The Honor 50 replaces the nova 9’s 50MP unit with a 108MP one. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make the phone spill the beans about the manufacturer, but we can confirm it’s a nona-bayer outputting 12MP stills. The sensor is 1/1.52″ big and has 0.7µm pixels. The lens features an f/1.9 aperture.

Honor 50 review

The ultrawide is the same as on the nova 9 and plenty of other midrangers – 8MP with f/2.2 aperture providing 120-degree field of view. There are two more cameras – 2MP for macro shots and 2MP depth sensor used for portraits.

Inside the punch-hole, Honor put a 32MP, 1/3.14″ camera with f/2.2 aperture – a slightly narrower opening than the f/2.0 found on the nova 9.

Camera software

The default camera app is nothing out of the ordinary – the main modes are arranged in a carousel, and you can switch between them by swiping. The “More” sub-menu holds the rest of the modes. The general camera settings are accessed via the wheel in the upper-right corner of the viewfinder.

Camera menus - Honor 50 review
Camera menus - Honor 50 review
Camera menus - Honor 50 review
Camera menus - Honor 50 review
Camera menus - Honor 50 review

Camera menus

The Pro mode gives you access to the autofocus, ISO, shutter speed, exposure and white balance. You can only tinker with the main camera, though, as the ultrawide isn’t available in Pro mode.

Daylight samples

Main camera

The Honor 50’s daylight shots look a lot better than the ones we took with the nova 9. They are consistently sharper, resolve plenty of detail, and dynamic range is also okay. Looking closer at the photos with apparent overcast, the shadows suggest that the software tends to go for a slightly lower exposure. Not a major issue, though, and it makes the images look a bit more contrasty.

Daylight main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 200, 1/2000s - Honor 50 review
Daylight main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 234, 1/2000s - Honor 50 review
Daylight main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 444, 1/2000s - Honor 50 review

Daylight main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 297, 1/2000s - Honor 50 review
Daylight main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 294, 1/1945s - Honor 50 review
Daylight main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 243, 1/2000s - Honor 50 review

Daylight main camera samples

Color reproduction isn’t exactly accurate as most of the colors are a tad more saturated. On the other hand, that makes the stills more appealing and are not over the top by any means. We once again notice a slight magenta tint in almost all of the samples. Noise is mostly absent as well, and it’s hard to spot even indoors, which is admirable. The handset maintains sharpness in poorly-lit scenarios as well.

Daylight main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 272, 1/2000s - Honor 50 review
Daylight main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 294, 1/2000s - Honor 50 review
Daylight main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 419, 1/1780s - Honor 50 review

Daylight main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 419, 1/2000s - Honor 50 review
Daylight main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 1744, 1/100s - Honor 50 review
Daylight main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 2306, 1/100s - Honor 50 review

Daylight main camera samples

However, just like the nova 9, the Honor 50 falls a bit short of its competitors when it comes to camera quality.

The so-called Hi-res mode shoots in 108MP, but those photos are hard to recommend. You do get plenty of detail, but the loss of sharpness and the increased noise are not worth it.

108MP daylight samples - f/1.9, ISO 100, 1/773s - Honor 50 review
108MP daylight samples - f/1.9, ISO 100, 1/559s - Honor 50 review
108MP daylight samples - f/1.9, ISO 100, 1/380s - Honor 50 review

108MP daylight samples - f/1.9, ISO 100, 1/543s - Honor 50 review
108MP daylight samples - f/1.9, ISO 100, 1/792s - Honor 50 review
108MP daylight samples - f/1.9, ISO 100, 1/622s - Honor 50 review

108MP daylight samples - f/1.9, ISO 100, 1/543s - Honor 50 review

108MP daylight samples

2x zoom

It’s rather unrealistic to expect the sharp 2x zoom photos since almost all phones crop from the binned photos and upscale to the desired resolution. The Honor 50 does the same and, sadly, doesn’t utilize the full potential of the 108MP camera. Overall rendition is the same as the standard 1x zoom mode, but you get slightly noisier photos with considerably reduced sharpness. Still, they seem just about right for the class.

2x zoom daylight samples - f/1.9, ISO 250, 1/2281s - Honor 50 review
2x zoom daylight samples - f/1.9, ISO 531, 1/702s - Honor 50 review
2x zoom daylight samples - f/1.9, ISO 294, 1/2000s - Honor 50 review

2x zoom daylight samples - f/1.9, ISO 281, 1/2000s - Honor 50 review
2x zoom daylight samples - f/1.9, ISO 372, 1/1888s - Honor 50 review
2x zoom daylight samples - f/1.9, ISO 350, 1/2000s - Honor 50 review

2x zoom daylight samples

Ultrawide camera

The ultrawide shots are not much different from the competition’s running the same 8MP camera. They are soft, with limited dynamic range, some colors look washed out, and fine detail is completely lost. There’s also apparent color fringing even towards the middle of the frame.

Come to think of it, we’ve seen a tad better ultrawide samples from rivals with the same camera setup.

Ultrawide daylight samples - f/2.2, ISO 100, 1/1882s - Honor 50 review
Ultrawide daylight samples - f/2.2, ISO 100, 1/1997s - Honor 50 review
Ultrawide daylight samples - f/2.2, ISO 100, 1/1648s - Honor 50 review

Ultrawide daylight samples - f/2.2, ISO 100, 1/997s - Honor 50 review
Ultrawide daylight samples - f/2.2, ISO 100, 1/1442s - Honor 50 review
Ultrawide daylight samples - f/2.2, ISO 100, 1/753s - Honor 50 review

Ultrawide daylight samples - f/2.2, ISO 100, 1/1173s - Honor 50 review
Ultrawide daylight samples - f/2.2, ISO 154, 1/25s - Honor 50 review

Ultrawide daylight samples

Macro camera

The quality of the macro shots is once again expected. Contrast is a bit on the low side, and colors need a bit more punch. Sharpness is fine as long as you hit the right focusing distance, but the detail isn’t impressive due to the small, low-resolution 2MP sensor.

Macro samples - Honor 50 review
Macro samples - Honor 50 review
Macro samples - Honor 50 review

Macro samples - Honor 50 review
Macro samples - Honor 50 review

Macro samples

Low-light samples

Main camera

The nighttime shots are pretty good. Sharpness could be better, but we are also impressed by the amount of resolved detail, especially in the shadows, and there’s obviously HDR being triggered in almost all of the shots. Dynamic range is excellent as highlights are contained without crushing the shadows along the way. Noise is almost non-existent, contrast is great, and colors are okay.

Low-light main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 6120, 1/10s - Honor 50 review
Low-light main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 5040, 1/25s - Honor 50 review
Low-light main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 4800, 1/17s - Honor 50 review

Low-light main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 6400, 1/10s - Honor 50 review
Low-light main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 6400, 1/10s - Honor 50 review
Low-light main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 6040, 1/11s - Honor 50 review

Low-light main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 4840, 1/20s - Honor 50 review
Low-light main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 4000, 1/25s - Honor 50 review

Low-light main camera samples

Shooting with the Night mode bears even better results, although hardly noticeable in some scenes. We’ve observed that the Night mode shines mostly in darker, more challenging environments. The shadows are boosted by a little resolving more detail, even the small traces of noise are cleared up, and more importantly, the software adds a little bit of sharpness. There’s a small improvement in color reproduction – colors look more vivid, but you really have to look close enough. You can find the difference in plants or other small details around the buildings.

Night mode main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 5899, 1/10s - Honor 50 review
Night mode main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 1550, 1/13s - Honor 50 review
Night mode main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 2446, 1/13s - Honor 50 review

Night mode main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 5771, 1/10s - Honor 50 review
Night mode main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 8697, 1/10s - Honor 50 review
Night mode main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 5706, 1/11s - Honor 50 review

Night mode main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 3401, 1/13s - Honor 50 review
Night mode main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 1938, 1/13s - Honor 50 review

Night mode main camera samples

2x zoom

Cropping from the camera during the night is almost always a bad idea, and the samples below are here to prove it. The upscaling makes the photos look like watercolor paintings, and the noise is considerably more visible. Turning on the Night mode can only help with the shadows and noise, but that’s about it. The stills remain soft.

Low-light 2x zoom: Normal - f/1.9, ISO 6320, 1/10s - Honor 50 review
Low-light 2x zoom: Night mode - f/1.9, ISO 6454, 1/10s - Honor 50 review
Low-light 2x zoom: Normal - f/1.9, ISO 5360, 1/25s - Honor 50 review

Low-light 2x zoom: Night mode - f/1.9, ISO 2296, 1/13s - Honor 50 review
Low-light 2x zoom: Normal - f/1.9, ISO 6400, 1/10s - Honor 50 review
Low-light 2x zoom: Night mode - f/1.9, ISO 9305, 1/10s - Honor 50 review

Low-light 2x zoom: Normal • Night mode

Ultrawide camera

The ultrawide struggles to deliver decent photos during the day, so we weren’t expecting it to do so at night. The images are fuzzy, lack detail, have a narrow dynamic range and colors are washed out.

Low-light ultrawide samples - f/2.2, ISO 2604, 1/14s - Honor 50 review
Low-light ultrawide samples - f/2.2, ISO 1891, 1/17s - Honor 50 review
Low-light ultrawide samples - f/2.2, ISO 4340, 1/14s - Honor 50 review

Low-light ultrawide samples

Here’s how the primary camera on the Honor 50 stacks against the rest of the competition in the controlled environment of our Photo Compare Tool.

Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool

Honor 50 vs. Xiaomi 11T and the Samsung Galaxy A72 in our Photo compare tool

Portraits

Portraits look pretty good, and the edge detection is far superior to the one we saw on the nova 9. In fact, the bokeh blur behind the subject can get quite precise. Sharpness and detail are great and stay like that even when the light drops. Colors are vivid, whereas the subject’s skin remains somewhat natural-looking.

Portrait samples - f/1.9, ISO 334, 1/50s - Honor 50 review
Portrait samples - f/1.9, ISO 1206, 1/30s - Honor 50 review
Portrait samples - f/1.9, ISO 706, 1/33s - Honor 50 review

Portrait samples - f/1.9, ISO 100, 1/203s - Honor 50 review
Portrait samples - f/1.9, ISO 100, 1/183s - Honor 50 review

Portrait samples

Selfies

The selfies look pretty good. In fact, these are one of the better selfies in the price range. Samples look detailed, sufficiently sharp, offer plenty of color and dynamic range is pretty wide too. Even in more challenging conditions, the subject’s face remained somewhat well-exposed without clipping the bright background. Even indoors, where lighting isn’t ideal, images look consistent overall.

Selfies: Normal - f/2.2, ISO 420, 1/33s - Honor 50 review
Selfies: Portrait - f/2.2, ISO 378, 1/33s - Honor 50 review
Selfies: Normal - f/2.2, ISO 544, 1/25s - Honor 50 review
Selfies: Portrait - f/2.2, ISO 563, 1/25s - Honor 50 review
Selfies: Normal - f/2.2, ISO 100, 1/568s - Honor 50 review

Selfies: Portrait - f/2.2, ISO 100, 1/623s - Honor 50 review
Selfies: Normal - f/2.2, ISO 100, 1/568s - Honor 50 review
Selfies: Portrait - f/2.2, ISO 100, 1/536s - Honor 50 review
Selfies: Normal - f/2.2, ISO 299, 1/40s - Honor 50 review
Selfies: Portrait - f/2.2, ISO 296, 1/40s - Honor 50 review

Selfies: Normal • Portrait

The faux bokeh effect is quite convincing as well, except for the last sample where the cat should have been taken into account and left in focus.

Video recording

The handset caps its recording at 2160p@30fps while the ultrawide camera can only do 1080p@30fps videos. Stabilization is available in 4K as well.

Honestly, we have nothing bad to say about the video. The 4K footage below looks sharp, detailed, with wide dynamic range, and great colors and contrast. The darker areas of the image do look a bit darker than usual, but we blame the overcast.

The Full HD ultrawide video shows similar processing, but it’s considerably softer and less detailed. The contrast and colors look quite similar to the main camera’s footage.

Just like the nova 9, the Honor 50 impresses with good stabilization in 2160p resolution. The EIS managed to smooth out the deliberately more “aggressive” walking.

Once you are done with the real-life scenarios, take a look at our video compare tool to see how the Honor 50 stacks against the other phones we’ve reviewed.

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

2160p: Honor 50 vs. Xiaomi 11T and the Samsung Galaxy A72 in our Video compare tool

Competition

The Honor 50 asks about €30 more than the nova 9 in Europe, which makes €530 for the 6GB/128GB version. This means that the Honor 50 won’t be competing in a different category. However, Honor’s offering gets a better start in Europe since it has GMS, supports 5G connectivity, and we found a couple of key differences between the two phones that would make it a better choice. Still, the two handsets fall into the same price category; hence they compete against similar rivals.

Honor 50 review

We decided to add another phone to the list of potential alternatives, though – the Asus Zenfone 8. It’s considerably smaller at 5.9,” and it’s also sensibly more expensive – almost €600. It’s a more powerful device with better camera capabilities as well as more compact dimensions, which is the main reason why we chose to include Asus’ offering. It surely is more expensive, but those extra €70 might be worth it if you are looking for a proper, compact flagship phone.

Asus Zenfone 8
Xiaomi Mi 11i
Xiaomi 11T

Asus Zenfone 8 • Xiaomi Mi 11i • Xiaomi 11T

On the other hand, some flagship killers will ask for less than €530. The Xiaomi 11T and Mi 11i are similar phones with faster SoCs, excellent displays, good battery life, great photography skills, fast charging and the best part is that they cost around the €450 mark. Ingress protection, stereo speakers and overall better builds make a case for Honor’s phone even harder.

Realme GT 5G
Samsung Galaxy A72

Realme GT 5G • Samsung Galaxy A72

The Realme GT 5G is another flagship killer running the Snapdragon 888. The handset isn’t a photography expert, but it does seem to offer a similar camera experience, considerably faster charging, comparable battery life and a competitive 120Hz OLED display.

The only phone in this category that ranks below the Honor 50 in raw horsepower is the Samsung Galaxy A72. This one, though, excels in other areas. For instance, it has one of the brightest OLED panels in town, features a more versatile camera setup, which also happens to produce much better photos than most, if not all, of its direct rivals. One of the few phones to have a proper telephoto camera (3x zoom with OIS, at that) and a higher resolution, 12MP ultrawide shooter. Additionally, the A72 has outstanding battery life, and the bonus features such as stereo loudspeakers, IP67 ingress protection, 3.5mm audio jack and microSD card slot might make you forget about the sub-optimal Snapdragon 720G chipset.

Verdict

The Honor 50 impresses with an excellent 120Hz display, which turned out to be brighter than the nova 9’s, offers dependable battery life, shoots some good stills and videos, charges fast, and it’s one of the lightest handsets in its category. It even fixes some of the flaws the nova 9 couldn’t – it supports Google Mobile Services and offers 5G connectivity. It’s essentially an improved version of the nova 9.

Honor 50 review

Sadly, this isn’t enough to make it to our recommendation list. The Honor 50 isn’t exceptionally good in either field, making room for its competitors to shine. There are considerably more powerful alternatives with better camera capabilities for less money. And the Honor 50 misses some common features such as stereo speakers and ingress protection too.

With all being said, we are forced to end this review with a similar to the nova 9’s recommendation – other phones deserve your hard-earned money. The Honor 50 might be a lucrative choice in the future if the price drops considerably, but for now, it’s almost impossible to compete in its price category.

Pros

  • Slim and lightweight design, curved screen.
  • Bright, fast, 10-bit OLED display.
  • Overall decent camera experience.
  • Competitive fast charging solution.

Cons

  • More powerful alternatives for the same or lower price.
  • No ingress protection, no stereo speakers.
  • The software feels rather unfinished, a wide selection of Magic UI features missing.
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