Plus its got Google Mobile…

Plus its got Google Mobile Services back up and running….

Like

  • Google Mobile Services
  • Selfie camera
  • 66W bundled charger
  • Battery life

Don’t Like

  • Excessive rear cameras
  • No IP rating for water and dust resistance
  • Not available in US

The Honor 50 phone lineup revealed Wednesday has a compelling reason to be considered after years of being written off outside of the Chinese market. In short, it’s among the first in the series to have access to Google Mobile Services (GMS) after losing access in 2019 due to sweeping sanctions leveled by Donald Trump’s administration at then-parent company Huawei. That changed with Huawei’s sale of Honor to an independent group of buyers last year, which now lets Honor phones regain access to GMS, letting those phones access the Google Play Store, Gmail and Google Maps. 

So with the political drama out of Honor’s way (at least for the time being), I began testing the Honor 50 for about a week and have found it to be a midrange 5G phone with a lot of features that work well for its price. The phone has a 6.57-inch OLED display with a 120Hz high refresh rate, an impressive selfie camera, dependable rear cameras, an ultra-fast 66W charger and stereo speakers. To get those features at a price that’s lower than comparable rivals like Samsung’s Galaxy line, the Honor 50 lacks an IP rating for water and dust resistance nor wireless charging. The Honor 50 is also powered by the more midrange Snapdragon 778G processor, but it’s hardly a perceptible difference in day-to-day use from something like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which runs on the flagship Snapdragon 888.

With a 32-megapixels selfie camera, Honor designed this for those who like to create content on a budget. And it comes amid the meteoric rise of TikTok and its China-equivalent Douyin. But even if you don’t see yourself partaking in TikTok’s dry scooping challenge anytime soon (or ever), this phone is worth considering if you’re looking for an affordable 5G Android phone to upgrade to with dependable cameras or even if you jump on a lot of Zoom calls on your phone since it has decent battery life as well as a fantastic warp-like charge speed comparable to OnePlus.

The Honor 50’s base model includes 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage to start. A stepup model is also available with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Pricing for the phones start at 529 euro for the 6GB model, which roughly converts to £445, AU$820 and $610 and 599 euro for the 8GB. Both phones are set to release in Europe before getting a wider global rollout, but there are no plans to release the phone in the US. 

And in addition to the Honor 50 that I am reviewing here, a stepdown Honor 50 Lite phone is also planned for release that should come in a bit cheaper, but pricing isn’t yet available. 

Honor 50 design: Business in the front, party at the back

With its sleek build and modern aesthetic, the Honor 50 very much looks like a premium phone. It’s also refreshingly lightweight compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which might be partly due to the Honor 50’s plastic frame. Honor says the back is made of glass, and my model came in a white and silver color. This phone features a holographic-like Honor logo on the back, along with a dual-circle camera bump. 

Though perhaps not as elegant as Huawei’s P50 Pro, the design of the camera looks uncannily like that phone despite each company stressing Honor is an independent unit. 

The rest of the phone includes familiar features like the volume rockers and power button on the right. The bottom of the phone includes a USB-C connector on the bottom along with one of the stereo speakers.Yet with the color scheme, the Honor 50 is anything but subtle. If that louder white and gray isn’t to your liking, you can also check out other color options.

Honor 50 display: Solid all-around

The Honor 50 features a 6.57-inch OLED display with Full HD Plus resolution ( 2340 x 1080 pixels) and a zippy 120Hz display. Though it’s become more commonplace in midrange phones, it’s still nice to see smoothly scrolling web pages and breezy app transitions made possible with the 120Hz refresh rate. That is the same refresh rate as the Galaxy S21 and the Pixel 6 Pro, along with Xiaomi’s flagship Mi 11. Like the Galaxy S21 and the iPhone 13 Pro, the Honor 50 makes use of an adaptive screen refresh rate which can intelligently switch to a lower rate when you are doing an activity that wouldn’t benefit from it, such as looking at a still image.

Honor 50 camera: 108-megapixel lens leads pack

Honor boasts a revamped camera bump, taking the form of a “dual-circle” and a reshuffled camera array consisting of four rear lenses:a 108-megapixel main shooter, 8-megapixel (wide-angle), 2-megapixel (bokeh), 2-megapixel (macro). The main camera relies on a 1/1.52″ large sensor and a f/1.9 wide aperture, and took mostly solid shots. But the macro images weren’t great, and it got me questioning why Honor bothered to put a macro lens to be begin with. Apart from the camera setup, a slew of camera modes are at your disposal letting you do things like “picture in picture,” which lets you overlay the view of the front camera onto the bigger view of the rear camera or vice versa. Even as someon who enjoys creating content, these modes are a bit gimmicky to me, but I can see how others might appreciate having all those content creating tools easily available from the camera’s viewfinder.

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Screenshot of multi-camera mode.

Sareena Dayaram/CNET

Honor 50 camera: Spotlight on selfies

Honor put a lot of emphasis on its selfie camera — yet another sign Honor wants you to create content with this device. The front-facing camera uses a 32-megapixel front-facing lens housed in a circular notch on the top-center of the display. It also comes with a 90 degree viewing angle, allowing you to fit a bit more scenery than usual in your selfies. I was impressed with the selfie camera. Photos turned out to be pretty realistic and detailed. When I compared selfies to the pricier iPhone 12 Pro Max I discovered it had whitened my face slightly, but I didn’t think it looked unnatural. Much like how Apple, Google and Samsung phones seem to have their own style of photo-taking, whether or not you like Honor’s style will likely come down to personal preference.  

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Taken with the beauty filter on. I was able to toggle it to decide how much of a filter I wanted. 

Sareena Dayaram/CNET

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Selfie taken in a dark room at night with low visibility.

Sareena Dayaram/CNET

Photos:

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Taken with the main camera.

Sareena Dayaram/CNET

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Sareena Dayaram/CNET
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Wide angle example.

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Taken on default settings (1x)

Sareena Dayaram/CNET

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5x zoom example. 

Sareena Dayaram/CNET

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10x zoom photo taken on a cloudy day.

Sareena Dayaram/CNET

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Panorama example

Sareena Dayaram/CNET

As you just saw, the photos were crisp and detail-filled with some a tad sharper than I would have liked thanks to the AI processing. The 10x digital zoom allowed me to capture images — even on foggy days — of faraway objects, though their images turned out to be blurry. Still they are subjects that weren’t visible with my naked eye, particularly on cloudy days. Overall, I think the cameras took solid pictures for the price point.

Honor 50 Software: Magic UI 4.2 runs on Android 11

While Honor and Huawei may have gone their separate ways, I didn’t notice a ton of changes on Magic UI, though it was a functional user experience. There were a bunch of extra settings to explore such as battery settings and always-on-display settings, and overall it was clean and user-friendly without feeling bloated, except maybe in the aforementioned camera app’s many modes and tools.

Honor 50 battery & performance: Dependable

The battery lasted me about a day and half with very mild use. That means I made a few calls, sent some emails, watched a couple of YouTube videos and browsed the internet. Even when you eventually run out of juice, refilling the Honor’s 4,300 mAh battery is quick work thanks in part to the 66-watt wired charger. Honor says that you’ll get a 70% charge in just 20 minutes — and for the most part that claim proved to be true. Based on my tests, the battery juiced up more than 50% in just 15 minutes and it took about an hour to recharge completely. Even without including wireless charging, it’s safe to say that battery anxiety will be a thing of the past when you’re using the Honor 50.

The Honor 50 runs on a Snapdragon 778G, which is respectable for a midrange phone. In day to day use, the phone sailed through tasks and I didnt notice any sluggishness or lags even when I tested out some games or watched YouTube videos.

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