Cameras everywhere: HONOR 50 smartphone review

HONOR is back, and its latest smartphone has brought with it five cameras, an OLED screen and an affordable price tag - so, we put it to the test

from HONOR
RRP  £299.99
HONOR 50 displaying What's The Best tech page

by William Austin-Lobley |
Updated on

Two years without releasing a phone in Western markets, and after breaking away from Huawei, HONOR is back. The HONOR 50 smartphone marks the brands return, and with it brings no less than five cameras, an OLED screen and 5G support. One of the best smartphones of the year, The 50 lands right into the mid-priced market, a notably competitive zone, so expectations are high to see whether it can make space for itself in a congested marketplace. What’s The Best’s William Lobley puts it to the test.

HONOR 50
Price: $685.00
Specifications
Screen: 6.57-inch OLED, 120Hz
Chip: Qualcomm SM7325 Snapdragon 778G 5G
Platform: Android 11, Magic UI 4.2
Memory: 6GB RAM/128GB Storage (tested), 8GB RAM/256GB Storage
Camera: 108MP f1.9 wide, 8MP f2.2 ultrawide, 2MP f2.4 macro, 2MP f2.4 depth
Front camera: 32MP f2.2 wide
Colour: Frost Crystal, Emerald Green (tested), Midnight Black, HONOR Code
Weight: 175g
Pros Cons
• Competitive pricing • Some features are rough around the edges
• Great camera and video features • No weather sealing
• Really enjoyable screen

Quick verdict: Overall, the experience with the HONOR 50 is very positive. It performs well in daily use, with a speedy and reliable performance across newsfeed scrolling and mobile gaming. Plus, the OLED screen is a pretty place to stream TV and film, and it recharges in a flash. But it’s the cameras that draw the most attention.

The four rear cameras and selfie camera work in combination to inspire new approaches to taking snapshots and video. While the final result of the expansive camera/video feature set never quite reaches the level of sheen the marketing material suggests, it’s great for keeping your social media threads stocked with engaging content.

Build

HONOR 50 colours
©HONOR

• Big but light

• Lots of cameras

• Fast charging

The Honor 50 is big. It’s got a 6.57-inch curved OLED screen, with the rear-facing camera floating just inside its borders, appearing as a little black dot. There’s no doubt that it certainly makes an impression when first seen, and in your hand it’s surprisingly light, weighing only 175g.

On the rear, it’s all about the cameras - of which there are four. The main camera is a monster, offering a huge 108MP of photographing power (though because of some complicated mathematics, the experience is generally closer to a 12MP camera). The remaining rear cameras are a wide-angle 8MP camera, and a Bokeh and Macro camera, both at 2MP.

Add to this camera array the 32MP selfie camera, and you’re already getting an idea of what HONOR has put together here. The HONOR 50 is a phone for the social media age, where photographs and video are the number one priority for millions of users. More on this later.

The Honor 50 has a USB-C connection, and ships with an HONOR 66W superfast charger which delivers a 70 per cent charge in just 20 minutes, with full being reached in 45 minutes. There’s no audio jack, though the phone does ship with a pair of decent USB-C wired earphones. Bluetooth 5.2 is here to connect to other wireless devices, the loudspeaker is stereo, and Dual SIM (Nano) is supported.

HONOR has the phone available in four stylish finishes - Frost Crystal, HONOR Code, Midnight Black and Emerald Green. These options are a nice touch, giving some flair to what would other be a large expanse of boring plastic. There’s a subtle pattern to the Emerald Green finish that I tested, which has light and reflections bounce around in interesting ways. It’s almost a shame that most people will want to cover it up with a protective case. This is particularly true given that the Honor 50 has no weather or dust sealing.

The HONOR 50 is available with 128GB or 256GB of memory. Though there is no card slot for adding memory, most users will be fine, especially if they are comfortable storing some photos and videos on the cloud.

Usability and Performance

HONOR 50 Quad Camera
©What's The Best/William Lobley

• Google is back

• Speedy operation

• Good colours from screen

The first thing to note here is that the HONOR 50 has an Android operating system and supports all the lovely Google apps and services that lots of smartphone users in the UK are used to. This is important because HONOR used to be part of Huawei, and was therefore barred from using Google over security concerns. Since splitting from Huawei, HONOR has earned the ability to use the software again. This is good news, as phones feel pretty sparse without it. Now, onto performance...

The HONOR 50 has a performance that will see you through day-to-day use without fault - it’s responsive and speedy, and it holds up well even when multiple apps are open. The only time I really noticed a drop in performance was when I had a good dozen apps open, including two games, YouTube, Netflix, several internet tabs and the camera.

The 6.57-inch screen has a 75-degree curve to its edges, feels very natural to hold and is kind on the eyes - plus, it doesn’t distort videos or photographs that you might be looking at. Whether you’re watching Netflix, scrolling through TikTok or playing a game, the image is clear and vibrant, thanks to the 2340 x 1080 resolution and the OLED panel, which displays one-billion colours.

The visual crispness of the screen, its 120Hz refresh rate and its accurate touch response work well with the processing power for mobile gaming. I took some of the most popular free-to-play games for a spin, including Asphalt 8, PUBG, Critical Ops and World Of Tanks. The gameplay and graphics were smooth across the board, with the large screen really helping to spread out controls and optimise the gameplay experience.

The battery life will last you throughout a day of normal use, with extensive streaming or gaming knocking this down slightly. I never found this to be an issue - a day at work and an evening out are all completely doable. Besides, if the battery does run low, the HONOR 66W charger has you ready for hours and hours of use in only 20 minutes. It’s really pretty spectacular.

Camera

Quad camera photo and selfie on HONOR 50
Left: Standard photo mode | Right: Rear camera with bokeh mode ©What's The Best/William Lobley

• Creative camera modes

• Multi-video recording

• 4K footage

Though there is much to enjoy on the HONOR 50 for all users, the camera array and its feature set make it clear that this phone’s focus is on social media fans and up-and-coming influencers.

For photography, the four front-facing cameras offer plenty of fun and creative choice. The main camera has a great depth of field and produces bright and sharp images. The 10x zoom lets you focus on subjects while zooming out switches the camera over to the wide-angle lens, which is great for capturing more of a scene and environment. If you’d like to get some more style in a picture, Aperture Mode lets you control the depth of field and create impressive images. The Super-Macro mode uses the macro camera to allow you to take really close-up photographs of details - though it’s a shame that the final image is only 2MP, the resulting image is still full of detail and perfectly acceptable for sharing online.

The 32MP rear-facing selfie camera is a real highlight on the HONOR 50. It has a 90-degree field of view that really helps to capture your surroundings, adding context to the image and allowing for group shots. There’s a beauty slider that hides blemishes if desired, and a bokeh mode can be activated, adding background blur to your image for a more professional look. It’s not a perfect mode and wouldn’t stand up against a dedicated digital camera and lens, but it’s ideal for Instagram-ready snaps. There’s even a night mode, which helps you take selfies in dimly lit locations.

Standard photo from the HONOR 50 at sunset
Standard photo from the HONOR 50 at sunset ©What's The Best/William Lobley
Standard photo from the HONOR 50 on an overcast day as sun just broke through
Standard photo from the HONOR 50 on an overcast day as sun just broke through ©What's The Best/William Lobley
Standard photo from the HONOR 50
Standard photo from the HONOR 50, with slightly oversaturated reds ©What's The Best/William Lobley

All of these features are nicely packaged in an accessible way. While phrases like bokeh and aperture are technical, the interfaces and application of the features are clearly laid out and very approachable. The only point of frustration comes with the camera AI, which in lower-light situations can ask you to hold the phone steady while it works out how to keep things sharp. The results are fine, but it’s difficult to predict when it’s going to ask, which can have you moving the phone and blurring a photo inadvertently.

Equally as approachable are the video modes. The standard video mode uses the main camera, with a slightly cropped field of view - this is because the HONOR 50 uses image stabilisation software to make sure your footage is smooth and jolt free. It does a reasonable job of this, though occasionally the final video can look a little woozy. Footage can be captured in full HD at 30fps or 60fps (which is good for reducing stutter) and 4K/30fps for sharp clarity. The selfie camera can also shoot in full HD at 60fps, but 4K isn’t supported.

For fans of video, there are a number of features carried by the HONOR 50 - most notably multi-video. This mode lets you record from two cameras at once, showing two different perspectives in one video. Front/rear shooting allows you to capture your face and reactions while the front camera captures whatever you point it at. Rear/rear uses two front-facing cameras to capture a wide-angled and focused perspective on your subject, while Picture-in-Picture records the front and rear camera with your selfie footage appearing miniaturised in the corner - just like you see on YouTube and Twitch.

You can switch between these modes while recording. For example, you may want to record a little introduction of just yourself with the selfie camera, before switching to Picture-in-Picture to show where you are and carry on chatting to the video. You could then switch to Rear/Rear to really focus on an aspect of the scenery and environment, before switching back to the selfie camera to say goodbye. It’s a powerful tool for creating share-ready content on the fly.

HONOR 50 Picture-in-Picture Multi-Video mode
HONOR 50 Picture-in-Picture Multi-Video mode ©What's The Best/William Lobley
HONOR 50 Rear/Front Multi-Video mode
HONOR 50 Rear/Front Multi-Video mode ©What's The Best/William Lobley
HONOR 50 Rear/Rear Multi-Video mode
HONOR 50 Rear/Rear Multi-Video mode ©What's The Best/William Lobley

It’s fair to say that the HONOR 50 is well-featured when it comes to camera and video capture. Though the ideas and inventiveness of HONOR occasionally overshadow the final result, with some photos looking overly sharp or footage being a little disorientating, it’s still an excellent offering for such a reasonably priced smartphone.

Video and photography enthusiasts take note: If you are looking for a phone to launch your influencer career, there are a few things to be aware of. The first is that the multi-video recording saves the footage as a single video - you will not be able to take the two video feeds and edit or colour grade them separately. Secondly, the photographs can’t be saved as RAW files - though if you wanted to retain some creative control in-phone, you could use an app like Darkroom or Lightroom CC.

Price

The base model of the HONOR 50 with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage retails for £449.99, and the 8GB and 256GB model for £529.99. This pricing firmly cements the phone as a higher mid-priced option. It competes with the likes of OnePlus, Xiaomi and Realme while outpricing the Google Pixel 4a, Apple iPhone SE and Samsung Galaxy A52 by over £200, depending on available offers.

Verdict

Honor 50
Price: $685.00

Also available from HONOR | Currys | Carphone Warehouse | Maplin | AO.com.

After two years out of the game, HONOR had something to prove. While smartphone brands typically over small improvements on their previous models year-on-year, HONOR needed to make an impact and carve a place for itself in the market and the minds of consumers. The HONOR 50 has achieved this comfortably.

The overall experience with the phone is very positive. In daily use, the HONOR 50 performs just as it should at every juncture, being both nippy and reliable. Even if you forget to charge it up before heading out, the battery has a nice amount of life in it, and when you do get to a socket, you’ll have a day of juice ready to go in under 30 minutes.

This performance and the quality of the screen make the HONOR 50 a compelling option for anyone who likes mobile gaming, with even demanding and graphically intense games holding up well. At over 6.5-inches, the OLED screen is also a delight for streaming content.

But it’s the cameras that draw the most attention here, and with that most of the scrutiny, too. The four rear cameras and wide-angle front camera work in combination to inspire and facilitate new approaches to taking snapshots and video. While the final result of the expansive camera/video feature set never quite reaches the level of sheen the marketing material suggests, it’s great for keeping your social media threads stocked with engaging content.

The HONOR 50 is a mid-range smartphone that covers the basics with ease. Its additional features help it to masquerade a little like a more premium option, and though it does fall short on some fronts, it’s a real treat to see a smartphone within this over-populated price range do enough to challenge and excite.

Score: 4/5

Pros Cons
• Competitive pricing • Some features are rough around the edges
• Great camera and video features • No weather sealing
• Really enjoyable screen

How we tested it

I put my iPhone 12 aside, and the HONOR 50 became my phone for a week. I browsed the internet, synced it with my headphones, streamed videos, answered calls, sent IMs and scrolled social media. I spent much longer than I usually would, trying out all the camera functions and playing around six hours of games over a few evenings. As a result, I am now addicted to World Of Tanks.

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William Lobley is a Content Writer and reviewer for What's The Best, specialising in technology, gaming and outdoors. He also writes for Empire Online.

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