Since 2019, Honor, the former Huawei sub-brand hasn’t really enjoyed a global success after its former parent company got added to an entity list over “national security”.
Until Huawei took the hard decision to let go of the Honor sub-brand which has left the company soaring ever since.
As an independent company now, they have been able to get their own Google-licensed Android OS which is one of the most important losses for Huawei before it decided to switch to its own in-house HarmonyOS.
However, Honor has slowly but surely crept back into the limelight and it overtook Huawei in China and its target is the global smartphone market with its cool products.
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One of such is the new Honor 50 which had a number of people wondering “Is Huawei just disguising as Honor?”
I asked that question myself until I did a little bit of digging in order to better understand how things work.
The thing is smartphone designs and components that go into their development often take time so most companies already have a roadmap ahead of the next launch.
This can be attributed to Honor which left Huawei almost a year ago. According to a YouTube post by MrWhoseTheBoss who reportedly reached out to a Huawei official about why Honor devices and the operating systems still look extremely similar to Huawei’s, the response was simple – It takes a really long time to put together a smartphone design.
So it’s a matter of time before Honor actually switches lanes fully and be its own boss.
However, the similarities between the new Honor 50 and Huawei Nova 9 are too obvious. The design language, camera placement, and design, the volume rocker, power button, the display’s curvature, even the user interface of the operating system – HarmonyOS for Huawei and MagicUI (based on Android) for Honor.
One thing though is the fact that MagicUI was originally an EMUI clone right off the start for the Honor sub-brands which further explains the over similarities.
Another thing is the fact that a sizeable number of Huawei employees were also allowed to go with Honor when it was moving away from Huawei.
Leaving us with the new Honor 50 which is a mid-range smartphone with interesting features and finally, Google Mobile Services.
Honor now being able to ship its devices globally now further makes it hard for Huawei, its former parent company with billions of dollars in resources.
The Honor 50 has a base price tag of about US$616 and it comes with some pretty cool specifications right out of the box.
The new Honor 50 isn’t the best mid-range smartphone on the market despite its price point of about US$616 for its base model with a 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage (there’s even a higher US$698 model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage).
However, the devices sport the mid-range Snapdragon 778G chipset and a 4,300mAh battery which can be charged up with a 66W blazing-fast charging.
Right out of the box, you get the smartphone with an exorbitant design. There is literally “Honor” written all over the back of the device and it chimes in different colors depending on where it’s being hit by light.
The shiny white color variant looks pretty cool and feels premium. Honor is never shy to make its devices with premium materials such as having a glass front and back with a metallic frame, unlike Samsung who only uses these materials for its US$1000+ smartphones.
At the front of the device, there is a moderate-sized 6.57-inch OLED panel with a Full HD+ resolution and a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. There is also a tiny center-placed hole-punch camera cut out to house the device’s 32MP selfie camera.
The display also curves around the edges of the device which gives it that olden Huawei’s obsession with curved displays.
Apart from the outward looks, the internal components are also pretty wild and my experience with the device is in fact surprising.
Officially, this is the first Honor smartphone to test waters overseas right after the separation from its parent company. That makes the Honor 50 an important leap forward for the brand.
Honor 50 review: The Hardware
- 5G Network support
- Snapdragon 778G chipset
As mentioned earlier, the new Honor 50 comes with a big 6.57-inch display which gives it a dimension of about 160 x 73.8 x 7.8 mm (6.30 x 2.91 x 0.31 in) and it weighs about 175 g (6.17 oz).
Picking up this device for the first time, it felt very premium and well put together in every way possible especially the obvious rear back panel.
By the right, you get all the buttons of the device which include its volume rocker and the power button.
Honor’s smartphones often place the device’s buttons on one side and it’s usually on the right. While the bottom area houses the device’s USB Type-C port.
However, there is no headphone jack. Honor can be partially forgiven for this because it has its own Honor Flypods TWS earbuds making waves on the market so it’s not a surprising choice.
Another thing is that the device comes in a quad-color option which includes Frost Crystal, Amber Red, Emerald Green, Midnight Black, Honor Code.
There is however no IP rating on the device as well as wireless charging which can be sad considering the high price of the device.
- 6.57-inch OLED Panel
- 120Hz refresh rates
- 1B color
Straight out of the box, you get a big 120Hz refresh rate which is pretty smooth when scrolling through applications. Also, the Magic UI 4.2 skin will give you that nostalgic Huawei’s EMUI feel; if you are a die-hard Huawei fan.
One thing obvious though is the fact that the device often has issues when you open up Google Play Store for example.
This is more of a software issue than the hardware which is why a future update may fix it.
Apart from that, gaming on Honor 50 is pretty interesting and there is nothing to really complain about here.
A high refresh rate is the new gold standard for smartphone makers in 2021. So I’ll be surprised if a mid-range smartphone doesn’t include such an important feature. Even Apple adopted this finally with its latest iPhone 13 Pro.
Information relayed on the screen is bright and the color vibrance is very good. While using the Honor 50 under direct sunlight, there is often no issue as far as viewing the display is concerned which is quite convincing.
Apart from all that, there is really nothing super special about the device that we’ve not seen on other smartphones on the market in 2021 especially from those in its same price range.
However, for over US$650 for its 8GB variant, I think I’d rather opt for the Google Pixel 6 instead – but that’s just my opinion.
Honor 50 review: Software
- Magic UI 4.2
- Google Mobile Service out of the box
This is something that Huawei will pay billions to have but can’t have until it’s removed from the entity. However, the MagicUI 4.2 comes with some pretty decent features, and it’s based on the current Android 11 OS.
Even though the software is now based on Google-licensed Android, if you never liked the EMUI look and feel, then you may be forced to tweak the user interface to your very own taste.
Personally, I love to tweak up my device’s UI to my very own taste which is often the reason why people find it hard to borrow my phone since it’s often too complicated for them to go through in the first place.
While I like the Magic UI design, things like its default keyboard which is based on Microsoft Swiftkey right off the box may need to be switched off to something like Google’s Gboard.
I’ve been using the Swiftkey since its infancy so I have all my keystrokes and my own personal dictionary on the system which is why it’s a better option for me.
Also, there are duplicated applications that might need to be deactivated as they just bloat the user interface, especially on a device with 128GB of storage.
- 4,300mAh Li-Po battery
- 66W fast charging
- No Wireless charging support
The device’s 66W blazing-fast charger is an important addition to the device out of the box.
Another thing I find interesting is the 4,300mAh battery. While the number may not be what you’d expect from a mid-tier device, the MagicUI 4.2 did well enough to conserve the device’s battery life which is something it probably inherited from Huawei as well.
Another thing is the adaptive display which often steps down from the buttery smooth 120Hz refresh rate to as low as 60Hz depending on what content you’re consuming.
One thing I don’t really like is how quickly the software kills applications in the background in its attempt to conserve the device’s battery.
There might be scenarios whereby I have to switch from an app to the other but within five minutes, the background application would’ve been closed.
Apart from that, I think you can use the battery for 12 hours straight but that also depends on what you’re going to be doing with the device such as gaming, internet surfing, and screen time.
In my own scenario as a heavy smartphone user, I started by checking the latest news through my RSS feed then went straight to YouTube to watch some new videos from my favorite channels.
Then I took the device out to take a couple of pictures out on the field before coming back in.
The fact that I can plug in the device and go take a shower and before I’m done, the battery is already at 70% is an amazing thing that truly compensates for the battery longevity.
The absence of a wireless charger though might not be very cool but it’s not a necessity. However, it can be useful during overnight charging which may require you to charge up your device before the next morning.
The Honor 50’s software also comes bundled with a smart charge feature that automatically disconnects the device’s battery from electricity when the battery is at 100% – so I don’t have to feel guilty for falling asleep while charging my phone knowing fully well that the battery will charge up under 45 minutes.
- Quad rear camera setup
- 108MP wide-angle primary sensor
- Can record 4K@30FPS
Even though this isn’t a This-or-That type of post, I was forced to compare the Honor 50’s camera with that of the Huawei Nova 9 and there is an obvious difference between the two.
But first, the specifications. Right out of the box, you get a big 108MP wide-angle primary sensor with features such as an f/1.9 aperture, 0.7µm, PDAF without optic image stabilization (OIS).
Even though there is no OIS on the four cameras, there is also no dedicated telephoto sensor on the device which might be disappointing to many.
Upfront, there is a 32MP front selfie camera that can record up to 1080P@30FPS.
The lack of consistency is my biggest problem with the camera no matter the time of the day you’re shooting the picture.
While shooting on a portrait mode tries to do its best with post-processing, sometimes, I like what I see in the viewfinder only to see something totally different after the camera software has acted on it.
While colors are often vibrant, the inconsistency sometimes leads to oversaturation.
As for white balance, the color is often more natural, and taking selfies with the device isn’t very bad at all.
Recording videos with the primary camera in low light is a disturbing nightmare especially with the absence of an OIS which often requires me to make use of a Gimbal.
But taking pictures in low light isn’t very bad at all. If you remember, Huawei was one of the pioneers of low light photography as far back as 2018 when it debuted its P20 series.
Ever since then, nearly all of its devices including Honor adopted this technology even though we can’t compare the output with other high-end devices on the market with low light photography especially, as it lacks OIS.
Should you buy the Honor 50?
The response to that will depend on your budget, needs, and wants out of a smartphone. Right off, I think the Honor 50 is overpriced at US$616 for the base model with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
Another thing is the fact that the US government might eventually come after Honor just like it did with Huawei. Even though the big Chinese tech company still supports its older devices to this day no matter their region across the globe, the fact that you can suddenly be cut off from accessing your favorite services especially seeing how influential Google Mobile Service is across the globe, it’ll be a tough challenge that many can’t just cope with.
Even if you decide to go with the Honor 50, another thing is the lack of a storage extension. Since you’re stuck with either the 128GB model or the bigger 256GB model that you’ll need to pay nearly US$700 for, I don’t think it’s worth the stress.
Even though there is a 5G, 120Hz refresh rate, fast charging capability, I just think the price tag of the Honor 50 is too much even compared to Huawei Nova 9 which costs much lower than that at about 500 bucks.
Honor 50 versus…
There is a number of great products I’d match the Honor 50 against considering its price tag as well as its specifications.
Google Pixel 6
- Dual rear camera setup
- 6.4-inch AMOLED dislay with 90Hz refreh rate
- Google Tensor chipset
- 128GB of storage and 8GB RAM, 256GB of storage and 8GB RAM
- 4,614mAh Li-Po battery
- Wireless and reverse wireless charging support
- US$699 prcie point
The Pixel 6 was recently announced and it’s a pretty wonderful smartphone straight out of the box featuring everything Google such as the new Tensor chipset, and it runs the latest Android 12 OS straight out of the box.
While it’s slightly much more expensive, it definitely comes with some cooler features and in my opinion, it’s much more reliable.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G
- Quad rear camera setup
- 6.5-inch AMOLED dislay with 120Hz refreh rate
- Snapdragon 750G
- 128GB of storage and 6GB RAM, 128GB of storage and 8GB RAM, 256GB of storage and 8GB RAM
- 4,500mAh Li-Po battery sans wireless charging
- About US$450
The other one is the Galaxy A52 5G which is way cheaper than the aforementioned duo above.
The device comes with some interesting features and sports a good camera system. It falls within the same range as the Honor 50 especially with its features and specifications which is why I think it’s a great alternative you can consider.