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Honor 50 review: A mostly triumphant return

The Honor 50 will make your movies and games look great, but this midrange phone could use a beefier chipset

Back of Honor 50
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

With its access to Google apps restored, Honor's latest phone is a good choice for midrange budgets, especially if you want a good display, quick charging and decent cameras. Give the Honor 50 a miss if you need your phone to have strong computing abilities though.

For

  • Premium curved 120Hz display
  • Unique video modes
  • Rapid 66W charging

Against

  • Cameras can be finicky
  • Inconsistent performance
  • No U.S. availability

Tom's Guide Verdict

With its access to Google apps restored, Honor's latest phone is a good choice for midrange budgets, especially if you want a good display, quick charging and decent cameras. Give the Honor 50 a miss if you need your phone to have strong computing abilities though.

Pros

  • + Premium curved 120Hz display
  • + Unique video modes
  • + Rapid 66W charging

Cons

  • - Cameras can be finicky
  • - Inconsistent performance
  • - No U.S. availability
Honor 50: Specs

Starting price: £449
Display: 6.57-inch OLED, FHD (1080 x 2340)
Refresh rate: 120Hz
Rear cameras: 108MP main (f/1.9), 8MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 2MP macro (f/2.4), 2MP depth (f/2.4)
Front camera: 32MP (f/2.2)
Chipset: Snapdragon 778G
RAM: 6GB/8GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB
Battery: 4,300 mAh
Charging: 66W wired
Operating system: Android 11 with Magic UI 4
Size: 6.3 x 2.9 x 0.31 inches (160 x 73.8 x 7.8 mm)
Weight: 6.17 oz (175 g)

After taking a year off from selling phones in Europe, Honor is back with the plainly-named Honor 50. Because Honor can once again use Google Mobile Services, you can use all the Android apps that you're used to having on hand, making this a much easier sell for the average phone buyer.

Somewhat surprisingly for a phone marking the brand's revival, the Honor 50 isn't a flagship, but a midrange device. That hasn't stopped Honor offering a surprisingly luxurious screen or a decent (albeit unreliable) camera package, which is good news given how competitive this part of the market can be. 

The OnePlus Nord 2 remains the better all-round phone in this price range, particularly given the Honor 50 is probably a bit too expensive at its current price for what it offers. Don't let that stop you if you love both watching and taking smartphone video though, as this is where this phone shines brightest.

Honor 50 review: Price and availability

The Honor 50 goes on sale today (Oct. 27), and can be currently be found on Honor's websiteor at Currys PC World. There won't be any U.S. availability, which is in line with Honor's behaviour even before its divorce from Huawei.

The price of the Honor 50 begins at £449 for 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, with a £529 8GB RAM/256GB storage option also available. Given that the OnePlus Nord 2 starts at £399 for 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, and offers 12GB RAM/256GB storage for £469, the Honor 50 on its face look like a bad deal.

Honor 50 review: Cameras

Photography and videography are the dual cores of Honor's pitch with the 50 series. The phone sports a 108MP main sensor, an 8MP ultrawide camera and then 2MP macro and 2MP depth sensors rounding off the back camera array. Honor embeds those lenses into two circular camera bumps. The Honor 50’s front camera uses a 32MP sensor.

I compared the Honor 50's skills in producing still images to the OnePlus Nord 2, currently the best mid-range phone available in the U.K. and Honor's biggest rival in this price bracket. This shot of the London Underground sign hung above Tuffnel Park station proved tricky for the Honor. It took several tries to get a shot that balanced the bright autumn sky against the lit-up sign, but the final result was an image with warm, saturated color. The Nord 2's photos were more consistent, but the image is colder and a bit drab.

I faced a different struggle with the Honor's cameras when I returned later to the same spot after night had fallen. Smudges of light from other sources within the camera's view kept spoiling the clear sky, although I was at least able to get a shot of the sign with much more consistency than I had earlier in the day. The Nord 2 again proved more consistent, but the image is again not quite as appealing and rich as the one I finally coaxed from the Honor 50.

I noticed the Honor 50's issue with image consistency again when taking this indoor close-up of one of my housemate's decorate espresso cups. Even selecting the brightest shot captured by the Honor 50, the Nord 2's image is far brighter. It seems that without strong light sources around, the Honor 50 starts to lose its advantage.

For the final comparison, I took portrait selfies with both phones. I really don't like the coloring of the Honor 50's shot — it’s richer than the Nord 2's image, but it gives my skin an unpleasant yellow tinge. I prefer the Nord 2's bokeh mode too. It offers a slider to control the intensity of the effect, unlike the Honor, and does a better job of capturing all the pinpricks of light coming through the gaps in the leaves behind me.

Honor 50 video in video view

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

On the video front, Honor adds some special features in the form of automatic dual-view and picture-in-picture recording, allowing the use of two cameras at once without any post-production work. This is clearly part of Honor's attempt to pursue the TikTok and vlog-obsessed youth, but if you've got the creativity to make use of this feature, it feels like a worthwhile inclusion to the Honor 50.

Honor 50 review: Display

The Honor 50 features a 6.5-inch OLED FHD 120Hz screen, with the selfie camera embedded in a central punch-hole notch. 

Honor 50 front camera

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Unusually for a phone at this price, Honor has given the 50 a dramatically curved display. You typically only find curved displays like this on expensive flagships like the OnePlus 9 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. This feature gives the phone a handsome look, but it can be divisive due to how it feels in the hand and how it can interfere with using the display for some people. I didn't have trouble with mistouches when using the Honor 50.

Honor 50 side view

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Watching the new The Batman trailer side by side on the Honor 50 and the OnePlus Nord 2 revealed that while the Honor phone manages a much brighter overall image on its slightly larger display, its colors are cooler and the contrast isn’t as bold as what you get on the Nord 2.

I think the Honor 50 just falls behind the Nord 2 in this area, though the Honor phone gains some points back by having that 120Hz panel; the Nord 2 maxes out at 90Hz.

Honor 50 review: Battery life and charging

Power management is also a strong point of the Honor 50. The phone offers 66W charging out of the box, precisely one watt more than OnePlus does with the Nord 2. 

After charging the phone myself, I found it reached 50% full in 15 minutes and 87% full in 30 minutes, with 100% arriving at the 44-minute mark. That's pretty zippy, but the dual-cell battery design of the Nord 2 beats that, filling to 100% from empty in 30 minutes, despite having a slightly larger total capacity than the Honor 50.

Honor 50 charging port

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

At 4,300 mAh, the Honor 50 has one of the smallest batteries in a phone of its size currently on sale. Considering the quality and brightness of the display this battery has to power, I feared that this phone won't last that long during a day of normal use. But after performing a rundown test by playing a YouTube video non-stop at medium brightness over Wi-Fi, the Honor 50 actually lasted 7 hours and 40 minutes — nearly an hour longer than the Nord 2 lasted on the same test. Clearly Honor didn't need all the extra capacity in the end.

Honor 50 review: Other features

That’s not the entire story involving the Honor 50. Here’s a quick look at some of the phone’s other features and whether they make the Honor 50 a worthwhile purchase.

Honor 50 software: While this goes without saying on most Android phones, the Honor 50 is the company's first phone in some time to use Google apps. Now that Honor has spun out from the blacklisted Huawei, you can use its latest phones like the Honor 50 as you would any other typical Android device. 

Display of Honor 50

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Magic UI 4, the company's take on Android 11, still looks attractive too, pairing well with the excellent display. However I can't forgive the lack of an app drawer for more convenient access to everything you've downloaded. All your apps are just spread across multiple homepages whether you like it or not.

Honor 50 performance: The Snapdragon 778G chip in the Honor 50 is paired with either 6GB or 8GB RAM. Despite my review unit using 6GB RAM — half the memory of the top-tier OnePlus Nord 2 model — the Honor 50 kept up on the Geekbench 5 general performance benchmark. But in the gruelling 3D Mark Wild Life Extreme graphical benchmark, it did a fair bit worse.

Geekbench 5 - Single core scoreGeekbench 5 - Multi-core score3DMark Wild Life Extreme Unlimited - score3DMark Wild Life Extreme Unlimited - average frames per second
Honor 5078528506884.1
OnePlus Nord 27862,7571,2627.6

Trying out Genshin Impact on the Honor 50 made the phone uncomfortably hot after just a couple of minutes. Despite a generally stable performance with the game set to 60fps, there were still some distractingly jagged edges around the characters, some unfortunate pop-in and a couple of stutters. depending on the environment I was exploring. 

It's a pity that in spite of the excellent display, the Honor 50 is not going to make for an excellent gaming phone. Since I was trying out the 6GB RAM version of the phone, perhaps this issue is reduced or eliminated with the 8GB model. 

Honor 50 design: Given Honor's intended audience is the "global youth", I'm impressed with how restrained and handsome the 50 can be. The phone is on offer in two quite loud colorways: the letter-splattered Honor Code or the glittery Splendid Starry version. But the glossy Midnight Black, Frost Crystal or Emerald Green editions are some sophisticated hues that look awesome draped over the curved back of the phone. 

Back of Honor 50

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Emerald Green model I got to try proved to be very bad for picking up fingerprints, but after a wipe-down with a microfiber cloth, it is a striking hue.

I am still unsure what to make of the Honor 50’s rear camera block design. The main camera sitting alone in the top circle looks good, but squeezing all the other cameras into the lower circle makes me question what the point of all that unused raised space is.

Honor 50 back camera

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Happily if you aren't too fussed by the aesthetics, the Honor 50 is a fab phone to handle. Its light, slim frame also makes the device really easy to carry and use for long periods, and I found the curved back and front only made the phone easier to use, and didn't cause any unwanted taps on the screen.

Honor 50 review: Verdict

It's great to see Honor return to the regular Android fold with a competent device in the form of the Honor 50. The new phone covers all the basics like you'd hope at this price, while offering premium features in the form of its large, bright display and rapid charging. The cameras can sometimes keep up with the best in the category, but it may require some patience to get the best images possible.

With phones in this segment though, it's often about what the manufacturer has had to leave out to keep the price down. For me it's the chipset, or perhaps the lack of RAM even in the phone's highest specced version, that lets the phone down. You shouldn't struggle if you're a typical user, but perhaps go for a phone like the Realme GT if you want to get the most power for your money at this price point.

Anyone interested in the Honor 50 should probably check out the OnePlus Nord 2 first, since I feel it's a more consistent device overall. Any potential U.S. customers shouldn't be too worried about the lack of availability either, since there are plenty of great phones you can get in the States, like the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G or the iPhone SE, that occupy the same spot that the Nord 2 does in Europe.

Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. He's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.