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Honor Magic 6 Pro Review: A Strong and Emerging Smartphone Contender

The Honor Magic 6 Pro is a quality smartphone with a camera array built to make the case that it has the goods to be among the best. Honor is a spinoff of Huawei, which let the brand go in 2021 in a bid to evade U.S. sanctions. Since then, Honor has carved out its own purpose and identity, including a current attempt to go public with an IPO.

To make that case, it has to sell more phones. While its sales continue to grow in Asia, expansion in other markets continues, particularly in Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America, the latter of which is its fastest-growing region. North America isn’t there yet, but those who live there can still get their hands on this one online.

There are some innovative ideas in the Magic 6 Pro that I haven’t seen in other smartphones, all of which help drive the device’s impressive results.

A mint green honor smartphone lying on a wooden surface, featuring a prominent circular camera module with multiple lenses.

Design and Build

This phone has a premium look that could be divisive, depending on your tastes. I liked the faux leather back with its textured finish, and even my review unit’s interesting green color grew on me after a while.

The camera module is eye-catching, though not always in a good way. Every phone manufacturer tries to figure out what works best from an aesthetic and functional point of view. While I disagree with the sentiment that the lenses resemble the iPhone Pro models, they are certainly eye-catching.

I’m not particularly fond of the curved edges on the 6.8-inch (2,800 x 1,280) OLED, but I can appreciate its vivid and bright finish, hitting a peak brightness of 5000 nits for HDR content — far too bright unless it’s in broad sunlight. By default, the screen is also on the Vivid setting, though switching it to Normal doesn’t take away from the screen’s overall vibrancy. What’s nice is you can change the color temperature to apply a warmer or cooler tone at all times.

A smartphone screen displaying a city street at night framed within a camera app, capturing an illuminated tower with bokeh lights in the background.

It’s very much a premium phone beyond that, running on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor and an unusually large 5,600mAh battery. IP68 protection also means it can handle exposure to the elements without issue. The base model starts at 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, with others going up to 16GB and 512GB. It has a dual-SIM tray and supports eSIMs for the global model sold outside China.

Camera Features

Honor is a little cagey about the exact image sensors used for the Magic 6 Pro. Interestingly, the main 50-megapixel wide camera is a 27mm equivalent, making it tighter than most phones, which routinely stick to a 23mm or 24mm focal length. It’s not a Type 1.0 sensor like other Chinese brands offer, but rather a Type 1/1.3-inch sensor that goes with a variable f/1.4-2.0 aperture lens with optical image stabilization. Only Pro mode lets you manually adjust it, whereas the software adjusts it automatically in other modes.

The 180-megapixel telephoto gets more attention in how Honor markets the device, which is unsurprising given the large number involved. It’s a 68mm equivalent with f/2.6 aperture periscope lens that’s optically stabilized and also happens to be the biggest sensor ( Type 1/1.4) of any periscope camera on any phone to date. Onscreen, it translates to a 2.5x optical zoom, but there’s also a 5x zoom that utilizes the sensor’s extra pixels to apply a crop factor without losing much in quality. Honor has yet to disclose whether it’s using the Samsung Isocell HP3 sensor to hit such a high pixel count, but it is very likely, given the sensor’s size.

A hand holding a smartphone capturing a photo of the sagrada familia in barcelona, displayed on the phone screen, with the actual cathedral blurred in the background.

Rounding things out is the 50-megapixel ultra-wide (13mm equivalent) on a 1/2.88-inch sensor with f/2.0 aperture, which also doubles as a macro camera with a 4 cm distance.

Software Features

Compared to other Chinese mobile brands (Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo) that partner with renowned photography brands (Leica, Zeiss, Hasselblad), Honor doesn’t offer the same integration because it has no collaborative partner. There is, however, a development heritage from the years under Huawei’s banner that produces admirable results that are competitive with those brands.

That includes innovative ideas on how to access settings or features. One of my favorites is how Honor’s MagicOS overlay enables you to curate shortcuts for specific apps, like the Camera one. Hold down on the icon and drag it to reveal a folder with shortcuts to related actions. At the time of my review, I was limited to selfies, panoramas, video, and multi-video modes, without the option to choose among others when looking to change things up. I would’ve liked to see Pro or Night mode as options because it feels a bit limiting as it is. It’s a great idea, though, and I hope to see evolve further across all brands.

Close-up of a smartphone screen displaying camera settings with options for video, panorama, and multi-video on a blurred app icon background.

Some interesting tools are included within the camera interface. Honor offers three unique styles to choose from: Natural, Vivid, and Authentic. And rather than being filtering gimmicks, they all add value to what kind of look you want in your compositions — with automatic HDR applying to all of them if you want to leave it on.

Decorative light fixtures made from recycled glass bottles in various colors, hanging in a dimly lit bar ambiance. the bottles emit a soft, warm glow, enhancing the cozy atmosphere.

Other unique settings include Aperture mode, where you can adjust a virtual aperture onscreen to control bokeh effects in an image for subjects up to two meters away. It differs from Portrait mode in that it only lets you use the telephoto lens, has no HDR, and is perhaps more focused on capturing objects over people. You can still control bokeh in Portrait, so they share that capability otherwise, only diverging in the ancillary features involved, respectively.

Another I’ll mention is Motion Sensing, a setting within the Photo mode that helps capture movement, albeit with a focus on “smiling, running, and jumping people, as well as cats and dogs.” There’s an AI element to this called Auto Capture that triggers the shutter on its own when it detects certain movements, though you can also turn that off and just snap the photo manually. All told, this is Honor’s way of tackling movement, which inevitably ramps up ISO to go with the high shutter speeds necessary to freeze action, albeit with mixed results.

A wooden sculpture of a robed historical figure gesturing with one hand, displayed in a museum with paintings in the background. the lighting highlights the sculpture's detailed craftsmanship.

Image Quality

Main Camera

It doesn’t take long to notice the Magic 6 Pro can take excellent shots, with the odd caveat here and there. The good news is the software doesn’t heavily process shots off the bat, especially when you opt for the Authentic style above the other two, so long as you leave AI Photography off to get the best results. Dynamic range and exposure hold steady in most cases, never truly veering off into excess, though Night mode can sometimes brighten shadows more than necessary.

Two large framed paintings displayed on a dark blue wall in a gallery, one depicting a saint adorned in green with onlookers, and the other showing a dramatic religious scene with vibrant colors.

What’s a little weird is that Honor sharpens images more in Natural and Vivid than it does in Authentic, and in some instances, seems to sharpen certain parts more than others. I have no explanation as to why this happens but it doesn’t always hurt the resulting image. A narrower 27mm focal length is a bigger change (for a phone) in framing images and made me wonder if it might have been worth trying for Honor to add a 35mm crop factor.

The differences between Natural and Authentic will appear more subtle in low-light scenes, both of which subdue colors and highlights enough to keep them from popping too much. But perhaps too much in some instances, like in how a neon sign might appear muted in contrast to the naked eye.

Ultra-Wide and Telephoto Lenses

The 180-megapixel telephoto lens is more of a standout because it’s supposed to offer versatility in ways other phones don’t. It is a double-edged sword, however, in that you can get stellar shots at 2.5x, whereas zooming in further introduces the kind of processing that can ruin photos. At 5x, you get a crop factor that helps get closer to a faraway subject without losing too much detail, except Honor’s software throws its processing into the mix to ostensibly help deliver better composition. It often does the opposite, unnecessarily sharpening fine details and making them worse when pixels appear too blurry or merged together.

A silhouette of an industrial area with a tall chimney and several smaller structures, against a hazy sky.

A close-up view of a tall, cylindrical industrial smokestack against a hazy gray sky. the stack has a slightly weathered surface and features two pipes protruding from its top.

Interestingly, a workaround for this is to shoot the same photo in Authentic, leave AI off, and adjust exposure a little. It won’t altogether remove what Honor does, but it mitigates it enough to produce a better photo that you can edit in a post later. Beyond 5x, results get steadily worse, with 10x hybrid zoom offering passable shots while 20x and on up to 100x are at varying levels of atrocity.

You have the option to shoot with the telephoto in Pro and High-Res modes, opening up new ways to capture scenes with all the pixels the sensor gives you. Granted, these are small pixels, so low-light shots may lead to very mixed results, but in good lighting, you have a lot to work with editing the photo afterward.

The 50-megapixel ultra-wide won’t present any major surprises but it’s just as serviceable as other ultra-wides from other top devices. It especially excels in day or bright environments, maintaining impressive detail along the edges and never skewing out of control on color. The quality of low-light or night shots really depend on the conditions, but good shots are possible.

A vibrant, crowded bar at night with colorful lighting, patrons socializing, and a bartender serving drinks under mural-decorated ceilings.

Portrait and Aperture Mode

I pointed out the redundancies with these two modes, and after using them, it’s hard to gauge the particulars between them. Shooting the same object in both modes doesn’t necessarily lead to different results, though I would argue that Aperture is better at close-ups than Portrait. Portrait is more focused on people and pets anyway, including a ridiculous beauty slider that softens skin and blemishes when face detection kicks in. Both modes let you choose the style you want, so going for something authentic or vivid is always within reach.

Honor’s editing suite in the Gallery app gives you different filters to try, a few of which aren’t bad. It’s the quickest way to turn a color shot into a black and white one, say, for a street photography image or one that you want to give some character.

Pro and High-Res

Pro mode lets you capture images in JPEG, JPEG-L (high-res), or RAW. High-Res lets you always shoot in JPEG-L. Naturally, Pro gives you more granular control with the slew of manual settings, including switching between the f/1.4 and f/2.0 variable aperture for the main wide lens. You can’t choose any of the styles to act as a base nor choose a different lens like you can with High-Res — a huge functional limitation for Pro mode that doesn’t make much sense. If the telephoto lens is so integral, why keep it away from the one mode that gives photographers better control over what it can do?

A nighttime view of the historic gooderham building in toronto, showing its distinctive flatiron shape and red brick facade, illuminated by street lights with modern skyscrapers in the background.

Apart from this baffling omission, these two modes are capable of getting some of the best photos possible, assuming you also work on them in post. Unprocessed RAW files offer the best situation that way, though I was also encouraged Honor doesn’t overdo it for High-Res photos, leaving you two decent options to work with when you want more pixels.

Video Features

As always, my review focused on still photos, but I tried out the video recording features to get a sense of the broader package here. It becomes clear fairly early that Honor has work to do to catch up and compete against the industry’s best. You can record in 4K at up to 30fps or 60fps, along with 1080p at 24, 30, 60, 120fps, and 240fps, though you’ll have to do the latter two using the separate Slow-Mo mode. Movie mode takes things further with LUTs and the option to shoot in 10-bit LOG with control over bokeh. There are some roadblocks, however, like how you’re limited to 1080p if you have bokeh on in regular mode, whereas LOG will leave all of those supporting features off to edit the footage as you please later.

Getting There, Slowly but Surely

It’s easy to like a phone with a brilliant display and some of the best battery life around, both of which the Magic 6 Pro has in spades. The cameras come off like an improved performance that doesn’t entirely hit the mark in all areas, only still impresses with more than a hint of optimism. There are wrinkles to smooth out for sure, yet plenty to like about how the cameras work.

Honor doesn’t have a storied European partner to help figure out all the nuances of how it captures and renders images, which is important to note when taking a broader look at how this phone performs. It’s a good idea to offer different styles to cater to different photographers and not mire them in overreaching computational software. Honor manages to do that, for the most part, only to crank it up to 11 when zooming in, rendering any styles of composition moot. It’s a classic case of good from far, far from good when shooting beyond 10x zoom.

A plate of rigatoni pasta with a rich tomato sauce and shredded meat, topped with a generous sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese.

Most on this side of the pond won’t notice anyway because the Magic 6 Pro doesn’t have the same visibility as it does in other markets, but when I showed photos I captured with the device, reactions were far more positive. The fact that that some asked whether I used a filter (when I hadn’t at all) indicates that that Honor has something compelling in its approach to overall composition. Now, things need to be refined further to hit another stride.

Are There Alternatives?

Among Chinese brands pushing the mobile photography envelope, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra certainly stands out as a highly effective option. It is perhaps the deepest camera feature set available on any phone to date and proves a marked improvement on the video side as well. And if you deem it too expensive, you get a lot of value from the Xiaomi 14 as an alternative. The Vivo X100 Pro is another stellar choice for the sheer volume of features and results, not least of which is the excellent way it handles exposed light sources and reflections.

Three men playing basketball in an indoor court focus on a ball approaching the rim of the basket, with spectators in the background.

Closer to home in North America, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and Google Pixel 8 Pro are the leaders for Android devices, with the OnePlus 12 running much closer behind them than ever before. It’s fast becoming a three-horse race with each iteration between them. The iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max remain the best choices for Apple users sticking with iOS.

The cn tower dominates the skyline amid modern high-rise buildings under a clear blue sky.

Should You Buy It?

Maybe. It’s definitely worth considering. The Honor Magic 6 Pro costs about $1,100 USD, cheaper than some of its flagship contemporaries and on par or better than others offering the same memory and storage. It’s also readily available from different online retailers.

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