Excellent hardware held back by software


Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold lineup doesn’t really have many competition out there. There are many great foldable phones in the market, but the vast majority of them are limited to China. That’s why I’m always excited when an interesting foldable device appears in global markets, a device like the HONOR Magic Vs. I got the chance to check out the Chinese variant of the HONOR Magic Vs a while back, for a couple of days. HONOR did promise that the device will launch globally, and I was waiting to use it. HONOR did send it out early. I’ve been using the global HONOR Magic Vs unit for a while now, and below you can check out my review.

This device does feel different compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 4, even though it comes sporting a similar form factor. Both phones are quite large, and both are book-style foldables which lean towards a portrait orientation. That being said, there are quite a few differences between them, and the HONOR Magic Vs does have some advantages. Let’s see what the phone has to offer.

Table of contents

HONOR Magic Vs Review: Hardware / Design

The HONOR Magic Vs has a similar profile to Samsung’s handset. It’s quite tall, and yet quite narrow for its display size, when folded. It is 72.6mm wide, and it weighs 261 or 267 grams, depending on whether we’re talking about the glass model, or a vegan leather variant. The phone actually feels really nice in the hand, better than most other foldables of its size. It is only 12.9mm thick when folded, and only the Xiaomi MIX Fold 2 beats it in that regard. That phone is not available globally, though. When unfolded, it’s only 6.1mm thick. This basically feels like a large phone with a case on it, and it’s a foldable, which is great.

It has a 4-component hinge which should be extremely durable

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The phone feels like it’s a quality product, but quite frankly I’m not a fan of its folding mechanism, even though HONOR bets on durability. HONOR did wonders here with the hinge, it utilizes a 4-component hinge design, down from 92 components. Thanks to this, there are way less moving parts on the inside, and the phone can be folded flat. The thing is, the feeling when you’re folding the device is not as confident as with the OPPO Find N2, for example. When fully unfolded, the phone locks into place, basically, with confidence. The whole experience feels quite sturdy. That’s not really the case here. It actually feels closer to what I experienced on the Huawei Mate Xs 2, actually. When I unfold it, it stays in that position, but when you hold it, it feels like the phone is not really locked into place for 10-20 seconds. It has a small give when you try to move its sides forward, even with the slightest movement. It’s kind of difficult to explain, but it’s there. I experienced that on both units I used, actually. Once it does settle, it’s all good.

It feels different to use thanks to that hinge, though

Now, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing at all, that won’t damage the phone, or anything of the sort. It’s just a different implementation, and it feels different. I prefer what OPPO delivered, but this works really well too, so I can’t really complain. Plus this hinge seems to have less chances of breaking, at least on paper, so… there you go. And yes, you can fold the HONOR Magic Vs honor to certain angles, you’re not getting just folded and unfolded state here. You can prop it up to take a picture or something like that, no problem. It works well. I’ll talk about the crease in the display section.

Overall, it’s a nicely-designed phone

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Overall, I enjoyed using the phone. When folded, it felt much better to me than the Galaxy Z Fold 4. It folds flat, and it’s quite noticeably thinner than Samsung’s offering, which is a huge plus in my book. Other than the folding mechanism I talked about, I really don’t have any complaints on this design. Everything worked well, and I had a feeling like I’m using a premium device. Design-wise, it’s definitely a nice contrast to the Galaxy Z Fold 4, it’s a shame it doesn’t offer water resistance, though.

A really nice, thin, soft-touch case is included

The HONOR Magic Vs does include a case in the box, and a really good, minimal one. This seems to be a plastic case, but with a soft feeling. It’s difficult to explain, it actually almost feels like soft vegan leather. It’s very thin, and it attaches to the back of the phone. There is a stick pad on the inside as well, for added protection. This is one of the best cases I’ve seen for foldables thus far. It’s quite grippy, and extremely thin, so it doesn’t add any bulk to the device. Foldable phones are bulky as it is, so the least they need is added bulk. You’ll be able to confidently place the phone on a table thanks to this case.

HONOR Magic Vs Review: Display

The HONOR Magic Vs has a 7.9-inch 2272 x 1984 Foldable OLED display. This panel can project up to 1 billion colors, supports HDR10+ content, and it has a 90Hz refresh rate. It gets up to 800 nits of peak brightness. The cover display, on the other hand, measures 6.45 inches, and it’s a 2560 x 1080 OLED panel. It also can project up to 1 billion colors, and supports HDR10+ content. This panel, however, has a 120Hz refresh rate. This display gets up to 1,200 nits of peak brightness.

Both displays are nice, though the main one could be brighter

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During my usage, I didn’t really miss 120Hz refresh rate on the main panel. Its 90Hz refresh rate is plenty for everything to feel smooth, and the vast majority of people won’t really notice the difference. I’m just glad HONOR avoided using a 60Hz panel. The display feels good to use, it doesn’t feel plasticky like on some other foldables. The colors are good, and the display is vivid, but I’ve seen better foldable panels thus far. The main thing that managed to irk me is the brightness. Its 800 nits peak brightness wasn’t exactly enough outdoors, and sunny days started early in my region, so it’s definitely something I’ve noticed. Another thing that I noticed is that the crease isn’t exactly as minimal as on the OPPO Find N2. Truth be said, I didn’t expect it to be, but it is less noticeable than on the Galaxy Z Fold 4, which is a good thing.

The cover panel is really good, and wide enough

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The phone’s second panel is really good, actually. It’s very responsive, and its high refresh rate does improve the overall feel. This panel does get a bit brighter at 1,200 nits, and that is a difference you do notice when you’re using the phone outdoors, especially on sunny days. This display is curved on the right side for the ease of use, as is one many other foldable phones that feature this style. The viewing angles on this panel are also really good. I don’t have any major complaints here, I enjoyed using this display.

HONOR Magic Vs Review: Performance

The HONOR Magic Vs is fueled by the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 SoC. That is no longer Qualcomm’s flagship SoC, but it’s not far behind. It’s an excellent SoC, and paired with 12GB of RAM, and HONOR’s software, it performs great. HONOR did a really good job polishing out this software, when it comes to performance. It’s a bit different to what you’re used to, but we’ll talk more about that in the software section.

The Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 keeps the performance at a high level

The Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 is an outstanding SoC, and I really had no issues with performance here. The device was quite snappy regardless of what I was doing. Even when I was switching between the main and cover display frequently, it managed to keep up without a problem. You’ll also find out that running apps on this phone feels great. The phone’s performance only emphasizes that fact. HONOR did include some gaming-related features here too, which only helps with the experience. I was able to run basically anything without a hiccup. Even Genshin Impact ran really well, and that is the game that I use to make phones lag, basically. There’s really nothing to worry about here.

HONOR Magic Vs Review: Battery

HONOR included a 5,000mAh battery pack on the inside here, and that battery will provide you with enough juice… well, at least most of you. I, personally, was able to get around 6 hours of screen-on-time with around 15-20% of battery left in the tank. Now, those are not bad results, especially if you consider that my usage was about 50:50. I cannot be sure, of course, but I was using the main display a lot. Of course, some days were stronger than others, and on some days I landed below that point. Those days were mostly when I used 5G more, instead of being connected to a WiFi network. Do note that gaming will likely decrease your battery life numbers as well. Also, your mileage will likely vary based on a number of factors.

66W charging can charge the phone in only 45 minutes

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Having said that, HONOR does include a charger in the box, and the phone supports 66W charging. Yes, you do get a 66W charger, so you can take full advantage of the charging speeds. You will charge up this phone’s 5,000mAh battery rather fast, as it will take you only 45-46 minutes to do so. At least that was the case with our unit. Wireless charging is not supported, however, so keep that in mind.

HONOR Magic Vs Review: Camera

From the hardware standpoint, the HONOR Magic Vs has a really compelling camera setup. The device includes a 50.4-megapixel main camera (IMX800 sensor), a 50-megapixel ultrawide camera (122-degree FoV), and an 8-megapixel telephoto camera (3x optical zoom). Those cameras do perform well in general, and can go head-to-head with what Samsung is offering on its foldable. They’re not on the same level as what the best camera smartphones have to offer, though.

The camera is not perfect, but it’s good enough

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In any case, let’s talk about the main camera. Most of the time the pictures looked very nice. At times, I’ve noticed, the focus is a bit soft when you’re taking indoor shots of objects. The same goes if you’re taking macro shots of objects, especially if it’s an overcast outside or something of the sort. As far as the negatives go, I’ve also noticed some oversharpening, but only in specific cases. When I was taking pictures of my cat, for example. It did not happen that often, though. In general, it handles photos well, even in low light. The consistency is not the best, though, and that’s what bothered me the most.

The ultrawide camera keeps up with the main camera when it comes to the color profile. What I didn’t like all that much is the telephoto shooter. It did a good job when the light was good, but I just wish HONOR opted for a bigger sensor here. It can be useful, though, far from it. The video recording is good, but nothing to write home about. It’s a bit janky at times, especially when there’s not plenty of light in the shot.

HONOR Magic Vs Review: Software

This phone does sound really nice thus far, doesn’t it? Well, it is nice, but it could use better software, in all honesty. Don’t get me wrong, the software works fine, aside from a tiny bug here and there, but the problem are the features. It feels like HONOR didn’t have time to implement everything it wanted to implement here. I tried asking HONOR about this, and they said that more features are coming in future updates, but I didn’t get any specifics. Also, MagicOS, which comes pre-installed here, work a bit differently than what you’re used to.

The software does feel a bit iPhone-ish

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Let me give you an example. When you swipe top-down across the display, HONOR Search will activate. Which is basically a powerful search feature baked into the phone. You can disable it, but you cannot assign anything instead of it. So, you cannot call upon the notification shade, for example, as you can on other phones. HONOR said that they’re trying to do things differently, and I can see that, but this just felt a bit iPhone-ish, and the fact there’s not alternative option is not that great. HONOR may introduce something soon, though, who knows.

The app drawer is not here, but it’s coming soon

Also, MagicOS, by default, doesn’t give you an app drawer. You can usually change that via the settings, but this phone doesn’t offer that option. I have confirmed with HONOR that the feature will be rolling out very soon, so that won’t be a problem for much longer. At the moment, you’re stuck with all your apps across various home screens, without the ability to alphabetize them. That may change by the time the phone ends up in your hands, though.

Some features are missing, but they’ll hopefully be added

There are some other issues I’ve spotted. For example, you cannot swap the two apps if you’re running them side-by-side. HONOR also decided not to take advantage of the app bar for foldables/tablets that Google offers in Android. It does have its own offering which is a bit different, though. There’s no camera shortcut for when the phone is off (double-tap the power button, or something like that), there’s also no gesture to take a selfie with the main camera. You also can’t quickly swipe from right-to-left to dismiss a notification, only the other way around, and so forth. These are just rather noticeable annoyances if you’re used to some of those features. Some are easy to ignore, others not so much. The good news is, HONOR can fix this, easily, if it deems it wants to, that is. The company obviously wants to do things differently, but some of these features are truly required, to say the least.

The UI does looks a bit dated, but some of you may like it

I’m also not a fan of the design of the UI, to be quite honest, but you may like it. There’s nothing especially wrong with it, but after using it across a number of devices, it feels a bit dated. Truth be said, HONOR usually caters its phones towards the younger generations, so this somewhat cartoonish UI may be what appeals to some people. The bottom line is, Magic OS does work really well, I’ve only had one or two bugs when I tried to launch apps, but other than that, it works fine. So as long as HONOR tweaks some things, and introduces a couple of new features, it could actually become a lot better.

The upsides

There are upsides to this software, of course. It’s immensely fluid, some of you may actually like the style, even though it feels a bit disconnected in some places. The phone comes with an excellent image and video editor built-in, the knuckle gestures are immensely useful, and so forth. There’s a lot to like here as well, but with some changes, MagicOS could be so much better. That goes for both foldable-related and non-foldable-related features.

HONOR Magic Vs Review: Should you buy it?

So, with all that being said, should you buy the HONOR Magic Vs? Well, only you can answer that question, but we can help you come to a conclusion. This is a very good phone. It does have some advantages over the Galaxy Z Fold 4, its direct competitor, but HONOR has to offer more software-wise. If you’re annoyed by the gap on the Galaxy Z Fold 4, or simply want a thinner foldable, this could be the phone for you. It offers great performance, really good battery life, solid cameras, good audio, and has good displays. There’s really not much to complain about here. Well, the price is quite high, so that may put some of you off. If that’s not a problem, however, do consider the Magic Vs.

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You should buy the HONOR Magic Vs if:

  • You want a gapless foldable phone experience
  • You want fast charging in a Galaxy Z Fold 4 competitor
  • You’ve been waiting for a global book-style foldable that is of a larger format
  • You want a rather durable hinge
  • You want good battery life in a large foldable
  • You waited for a non-Samsung large format foldable
  • You need a great capacitive fingerprint scanner

You shouldn’t buy the HONOR Magic Vs if:

  • You have high software expectations
  • You need wireless charging
  • You want water protection
  • You don’t want to spend a lot on a foldable


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