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Smartphones

Honor Magic 2

Huawei’s Honor brand is known for making sleek phones with features that appeal to digital natives, and the Honor Magic 2 is no exception. Starting 3,700 yuan (approximately $540), the Magic 2 is a gorgeous phone with flagship-quality hardware and spectacular cameras, yet it doesn’t quite manage to best its competition. Merely average battery life and audio performance, combined with clunky software, make the phone a hard sell when less expensive handsets like the Xiaomi Mi 9 offer more bang (and performance) for your buck.

Design, Display, and Audio

At first glance, the Honor Magic 2 looks like your standard flagship phablet. It has an all-glass body over an aluminum frame and comes in blue, gray, or red. It measures 6.19 by 2.96 by 0.33 inches (HWD) and tips the scales at a significant 7.27 ounces. But look a little closer and you’ll notice the front of the Magic 2 is all display, since its trio of front-facing cameras slide behind the front of the phone.

CE Phone Project 14

The 6.39-inch AMOLED display is absolutely gorgeous, thanks in no small part to the almost non-existent bezels. Screen resolution comes in at 2,340 by 1,090, for 403 pixels per inch (ppi). Up close the phone isn’t quite as crisp as the OnePlus 7 Pro (516ppi), but it’s still excellent for long multimedia streaming sessions. Colors are accurate and the screen is bright enough to see in all but direct sunlight. Our only complaint is that the lack of bezels makes it hard to hold the phone without accidentally tapping the screen, which really isn’t the worst problem to have.

Audio is hit or miss. The Magic 2 has a single bottom-firing speaker that reaches a peak volume of 93dB. For the most part the speaker is solid, offering clean sound with a little bass, but the absence of stereo audio makes things feel unbalanced. It’s a good speaker for calls, but not for listening to music. The phone also lacks a 3.5mm jack so you’ll want to invest in Bluetooth headphones for private listening.

Cameras

With a trio of camera sensors on both the front and back of the phone, there are plenty of opportunities to get the perfect shot. On the back you’ll find a 16MP primary lens with an f/1.8 aperture and a secondary 16MP lens with an f/2.2 aperture. The tertiary lens is black-and-white and comes in at 24MP with an f/1.8 aperture.

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In short, the Honor Magic 2 performs well in any lighting scenario. Daylight photos are crisp, with excellent color accuracy and background detail. The monochrome lens—a beloved feature removed a few years ago from Huawei’s flagships that simply cannot be replicated in post-processing—also helps to take gorgeous photos that capture lots of light. Low-light photos, a challenge for even the best smartphone cameras, are stunning on the Magic 2 as well. Our test shots were crisp, without a hint of noise.

The front-facing cameras sit behind the display and slide up manually when needed. The primary lens is 16MP with an f/2.0 aperture, while the secondary and tertiary sensors are depth-sensing 2MP lenses with an f/2.4 aperture. The depth-sensing lenses are primarily for facial authentication in any lighting scenario, however it seems like a lot of work to pop up the cameras to unlock the phone when you can simply use the in-display fingerprint sensor.

That said, the Magic 2 takes stunning front-facing photos in every lighting condition. Low-light photos in our tests were just as crisp as daylight photos. This is due in part to the lens setup, but more so because Honor has developed terrific post-processing AI.

Hardware and Benchmarks

The Magic 2 features Huawei’s flagship Kirin 980 processor along with 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM by default. There’s also a 256GB storage option available with 8GB of RAM if you’re willing to pay more. Neither version has a microSD slot for external storage.

Chinese Overview

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Performance is good. Apps open within seconds and we had no problems quickly switching between nearly a dozen apps. Gaming performance is admirable as well. During an hourlong gaming session of PUBG Mobile, we encountered no skipped frames and minimal lag.

Chinese Graphics

In our benchmark tests, however, the Magic 2 performs below the competition. On PCMark, a series of tests that emulate everyday smartphone tasks, the Magic 2 scored 7,586. That’s far below the similarly priced OnePlus 7 Pro (9,874) and the much less expensive Xiaomi Mi 9 (8,932). Results on Ludashi are similar, with the Magic 2 coming in third place (299,742) compared with the OnePlus 7 Pro (359,913) and the Xiaomi Mi 9 (349,490).

Chinese AI 2

In addition to the typical suite of tests, we also added AI Benchmark to the mix. This benchmarking app requires the phone identify images of people, places, and things using AI. Once again, the Honor Magic 2 scored lower than the competition, coming in at 15,587 compared with the Mi 9 (23,140) and the OnePlus 7 Pro (25,258).

A 3,400mAh battery powers the Honor Magic 2. In our battery drain test, which streams video over Wi-Fi at full brightness, the Magic 2 eked out 9 hours, 8 minutes before dying. That’s not bad, but it simply doesn’t compare with phones like the Xiaomi Mi 9 (11 hours, 52 minutes). Luckily, a 40W power adapter is included in the box that can quickly add up to 50 percent of battery life in just 15 minutes.

Chinese Overall

Software and Special Features

The Honor Magic 2 ships with Android 9.0 Pie. It runs Honor’s Magic 2.0 UI and has a suite of custom apps to replace the standard Google apps that appear on US and global Android smartphones. There are also dozens of third-party apps that come preinstalled on the phone, though thankfully they can be easily uninstalled to free up some space.

While OnePlus’ OxygenOS and Huawei’s EMUI have become more sophisticated over the past several years, Honor’s Magic UI continues to lag behind. Gestures are wonky and don’t always work as expected, and there’s a slight lag when unlocking the phone or swiping through the home screen. It simply feels clunky next to the sweet simplicity of the elegant software overlay on the OnePlus 7 Pro.

As touched on, Honor offers several ways to authenticate the phone including an in-display fingerprint sensor and face unlock. In our lab tests, face unlock definitely beat out the fingerprint sensor, but comes at the price of reduced security. If you choose to use the in-display fingerprint sensor, we recommend setting up multiple fingerprints since accuracy was hit or miss in testing.

Conclusions

Although the Honor Magic 2 is a gorgeous phone with great specs, it doesn’t quite have what it takes to compete with similarly priced options from OnePlus and Xiaomi. The OnePlus 7 Pro offers faster performance overall and a much better software experience. And if you’re looking to save money, the Xiaomi Mi 9 also offers more muscle and much better battery life. Both phones earn Editors’ Choice honors, and are stronger choices than the Magic 2.



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