The HONOR 50 is the brand’s first smartphone to be shipped globally with Google Mobile Services (GMS) since its independence. The phone was recently released in Malaysia with a starting price of RM1699 and peaks at RM1999, putting it on the premium end of the mid-range spectrum.
The challenge for HONOR here is to convince price-sensitive users that the HONOR 50 is worth the price tag. Let’s find out what they’re offering.
The phone is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G, Qualcomm’s latest mid-ranger that takes on everyday usage with ease. The SoC also gives the HONOR 50 support for 5G, though the feature is not very useful to most Malaysian users just yet. I’m not disappointed at the lack of storage expansion as even the base 128GB is more than enough for most people, but in late 2021, I would love for it to support at least one eSIM instead of two physical SIMs.
The 4300mAh battery is a bit smaller than I would prefer for a phone this size, considering it has to power a smooth high-refresh rate display. Unfortunately, there’s no wireless charging but the phone makes up for it with the 66W wired charging. The tall 19.5:9 aspect ratio also takes some getting used to but its slimness makes it easy to fit into small pockets.
Let’s talk about the most jarring part of the phone, the back. In one word, it’s sparkly. The panel is what HONOR calls “diamond-like craftsmanship”, which is basically a shiny backplate covered with glitter, effectively making the phone something of an attention-seeker. After the initial enamour wore off, I realised that I would much rather have the more covert Midnight Black model.
The only advantage from the glitter is that it makes fingerprint smudges on the back practically invisible. Speaking of smudges, the transparent case that comes in the box is — ironically — a fingerprint magnet. To that end, you may want to buy a different case if you don’t wanna go naked with this phone.
The back is made from plastic but the shiny finish could fool you into thinking it’s glass. It has a rubbery texture that gives it an excellent grip, which is important given how tall and top-heavy this phone is — people with small hands, take heed. The phone comes in four colourways to choose from, and the one I tried is called Frost Crystal. Believe it or not, there is an even more gaudy design for those who wish to sport the brand name. It’s called HONOR Code and it peppers the branding all over the back in shiny letters.
Moving on, the cameras are housed in what HONOR calls a dual-ring design, with one ring containing the primary sensor while the other ring houses the wide, bokeh, and macro cameras, plus the flash. It’s a big camera bump that, like other parts of the design, is clearly designed to stand out and be as bold as possible.
On the bottom, you’ll find a single speaker next to the USB-C charging port and on the other side, a dual-sim tray with no MicroSD expansion slot, which is pretty common these days. It unlocks using a responsive under-display fingerprint scanner and there’s also face unlock, which works well in good lighting but is not very reliable in the dark as it doesn’t have a FaceID-like infrared sensor.
The 1080p resolution on a large 6.57-inch screen might seem like HONOR is pushing it but I think that the screen is just sharp enough for a good experience. Scrolling and transitions are smooth with the 120Hz refresh rate and while there is a slight blue tint, it mostly goes away by changing the default “Vivid” display profile to “Normal”. Personally, I prefer flat displays but HONOR makes full use of the super curved sides to overcome its tall unreachability by letting you swipe from either edge as a “back” gesture.
The HONOR 50 also uses “intelligent dynamic refresh rate adjustments” which claims to balance the display’s refresh rate between smooth performance and battery life. However, in real-world use, Dynamic mode is a bit iffy as there were instances of the display not kicking up the refresh rate while scrolling, so I ended up just forcing the display to use 120Hz most of the time.
On another note, Magic UI still looks a lot like Huawei’s EMUI and is jam-packed with features and smooth, dynamic animations. The animation that I find the most beautiful is when the battery percentage is shown going up by decimal points in real-time as the 66W fast charging is working its magic. And of course, it has GMS so all the important Google apps like Gmail are already included. That being said, HONOR also went out of its way to include several pre-installed bloatware but they are all easy to uninstall.
Screenshots on the HONOR 50 will let you censor any parts you want with a built-in mosaic painter and it even has scrollshot for capturing a long vertical page in one go. The Always-On Display is highly customisable with the ability to choose AI-generated colour palettes for the clock by taking a selfie of your current outfit.
When it comes to performance, the Snapdragon 778G has no problems handling everyday usage but its gaming capabilities are about what you’d expect from a mid-range device. Again, this isn’t me saying that it’s a bad phone in that aspect, but if you’re specifically looking for a competitive edge in mobile gaming, this may not be the phone for you.
While the 4300mAh battery isn’t the biggest on paper, battery life is actually quite respectable. Keeping in mind that I’m a relatively light phone user, even with 120Hz constantly on, I can comfortably go through the whole day scrolling on social media and the occasional content streaming without worrying about finding a charger. On even lighter days where I barely watch videos, I can easily stretch it out to two whole days.
When put through a video loop test, the HONOR 50 lasted almost 16 hours. While there are some mid-rangers out there with higher endurance, this phone can definitely last through most binge sessions. And with fast charging, it takes about 47 minutes to charge from 0% to 100%, pretty close to HONOR’s 45-minute claim.
As I mentioned earlier, the four-camera setup consists of the 108MP main shooter at the top, while the bottom ring lumps together the 8MP wide, the 2MP bokeh, and macro lenses. To utilise the full resolution of the main camera, you need to go into the settings and specifically choose the High-Res mode. Colours are pretty accurate and pictures come out sharp during daytime photography or when lighting conditions are optimal.
The Night Mode on the main camera works wonders, which is important for this phone as the cameras have trouble with low-light photography. On a cloudy day, outdoor photos come out dark and dull, more so with the wide camera that struggles to capture any details at night and makes most objects unidentifiable, even when compared to the main camera with night mode turned off.
As for the macro camera, it feels mostly gimmicky. It’s a low-resolution camera that produces washed-out images and you can achieve a higher amount of detail just by cropping in using the main shooter. Trying to get the image to focus is extremely difficult, leading to the subject in most of my macro shots looking soft or just out of focus.
Sample 108MP Images
With a starting price of RM1699, the HONOR 50 is a bit pricey as far as the mid-range market goes, especially since there are cheaper competitors with similar processors or high-refresh rate displays.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE
The Mi 11 Lite 5G NE was released just last month and is a good competitor to the HONOR 50. The phone runs on the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G with a 90Hz 6.55-inch AMOLED display. The camera array houses a 64MP main camera, an 8MP ultra-wide camera, a 5MP telemacro camera, and upfront, a 20MP selfie camera.
The base model sports 6GB RAM and 128GB of storage with a similar-sized 4250mAh battery. It starts at RM1399 and tops out at RM1599 for the 8GB of RAM and 256GB storage variant, much less than HONOR 50’s equivalent.
POCO X3 GT
The POCO X3 GT is perhaps one of the better bang-for-your-buck phones in the current market. It’s powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 1100 processor that has maxed out scores on 3DMark, which makes for a good budget gaming phone. Other internal specifications include a 6.6-inch 1080p+ IPS display with 120Hz refresh rate, Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, and it even comes with 5G.
The triple camera module consists of a 64MP main camera, 8MP ultra-wide camera, and a 2MP macro camera. The much larger 5000mAh battery can also be charged via 67W Turbo Charging. Oh, and the phone also supports Dolby Atmos.
Pricing starts at RM1299 for the base 128GB model and tops out at RM1599 for 256GB of storage, with both SKUs equipped with 8GB of RAM.
realme GT Master Edition
This is another phone that runs on the Snapdragon 778G chipset and its 1080p 6.43-inch AMOLED display even has a 120HZ refresh rate. The realme GT Master Edition comes in either glass or vegan leather, with a 65W SuperDart charger to power its 4300mAh battery.
The triple camera array features a 64MP main camera, an 8MP wide camera, and a 2MP macro while the front has a 32MP camera. The phone comes standard with 8GB of RAM but the 256GB model can expand it with an additional 5GB of virtual RAM.
The base 128GB GT Master has a price tag of RM1399 while the 256GB variant costs RM1699.
The HONOR 50 is an overall adequate phone but its pricing may be a bit too high for what it offers. Regular everyday use is smooth but that’s a standard most 2021 mid-range phones can pass with flying colours. The premium that you’ll be paying for is most likely the 108MP camera which, while it may well make a noticeable difference for specific use cases, isn’t enough value for most people.
The macro camera is just a gimmick while the phone’s glimmering design might not be for everyone. The 66W charging is great but many phones in this price range now offer that speed, some even faster. It’s a tough sell for those who are on a tight budget and those who can afford high-end phones. The best person to recommend this to is someone who might be looking for an expensive fashion accessory.