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Honor Magic 2 Review: A Great Phone You Can’t Buy (Yet)

We take a look at a great phone from Honor

We’ve spent quite a bit of time with Honor’s new flagship, the Magic 2, for quite some time now. To quickly catch up, the Magic 2 is the company’s latest top-tier flagship, which delivers a true, full-screen display without a notch via a sliding mechanism. It’s one of the most novel solutions to the notch problem we’ve seen, and it works remarkably well, though unfortunately, the general populace can’t buy the Honor Magic 2 – at least not yet.

Wait, what?

Yeah, right now Honor’s only offering the Magic 2 in their home country of China, where it’s going up against more expensive flagship phones. It’s a shame because the Magic 2 has all the right features to make it a killer device on its own right.

It looks a lot like the P20 Pro, from the back anyway.

Absolutely. It’s no secret that both Huawei and Honor share design notes when it comes to their phones, and the Magic 2 is no different, at least from the back. We wouldn’t blame you if you mistook the Magic 2 as the P20 Pro, as the positioning of the triple camera module looks identical to Huawei’s earlier flagship.

The lack of Leica branding on the rear should clue you in that this isn’t a P20 Pro. Instead of brandishing the German brand’s collaboration with Huawei, the words AI Vision sit right below the vertically stacked triple-camera module.

The rear of the phone looks as shiny as any P20 Pro, though our review device didn’t have the same stunning color gradient as Twilight that first debuted on that particular device.

The power and volume rocker is on the right side, while the lone speaker grille and USB Type-C port are on the bottom. The IR blaster is on the top, while the side of the device holds the SIM tray.

That no notch display looks really pretty

It does, doesn’t it? Honor has solved the notch issue with a novel, manually actuated slide-out mechanism that’s similar on the one on Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 3. You’ll have to pull the display down with deliberate force to expose the three front-facing cameras, and once down it stays in that position until you close it back up.

Since there’s no longer a need to accommodate the cameras on the front, all you’re left with is the 6.39-inch, FullView full HD+, AMOLED display with an almost 100% screen to body ratio.

Playing around with a phone that doesn’t have a notch or a big chin to compensate is a refreshing and novel experience, as your content is able to take center stage without that annoying design compromise.

The fingerprint scanner is also embedded on the display, much like their sister company’s latest top-tier phone. There’s also facial recognition tech built into the mix, but honestly, it’s faster to just scan your finger than sliding the phone down for the camera to recognize your face.

As for the actual display quality of the display goes, it’s top notch. The AMOLED panel is bright and punchy, with excellent color all around.

Does it have flagship guts?

Yes. The Honor Magic 2 is equipped with Huawei’s newest Kirin 980 chipset, the same processor that’s in their Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro. That’s paired with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, at least for the review unit handed over to us.

The Magic 2 is as fast and as capable as the Mate 20 Pro, both in synthetic benchmarks and actual use.

Does the AI that Honor brags about deliver?

One of the biggest selling points for the Honor 2 was YOYO, an advanced AI that integrates itself into the phone’s functions. Does it work as advertised? Well, we wouldn’t know since we weren’t really able to use it. See, the Magic 2 ships with a China ROM since it’s not yet offered internationally. Most of the AI magic that’s supposedly included in the phone is tailored to Chinese audiences – we couldn’t even get it to set up since the instructions were all in Chinese.

Despite our issues with setting up AI, the rest of the phone was surprisingly easy to use despite not being a global model. After sideloading Google Play on the Honor Magic 2, we were able to set up and use Google Services and other apps that we enjoy on it without any other issues, a far cry from the problems we typically encounter on phones that don’t have Google Play.

How are the six cameras?

Yeah, that’s not a typo. The Honor Magic 2 has SIX cameras: the three on the rear is composed of a 16-megapixel f/1.8 man camera, a 25-megapixel f/1.8 monochrome camera, and a 16-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle camera, while the trio on the front is composed of a main 16-megapixel f/2.0 front shooter and two depth sensors. Why the additional depth sensor? Who knows – it’s probably for enhanced bokeh during selfies but honestly, we couldn’t see that big of a difference compared to dual-camera selfie shooters.

As for actual camera performance, well, the Honor Magic 2 delivers. Images shot from the camera are clean and crisp, with excellent detail even in challenging light.

The phone’s AI smarts shine here, as it intelligently detects what you’re shooting at and adjusts the camera’s settings to bring out the best image.

Image quality is pretty good, probably as good as some of the flagship smartphones we’ve reviewed recently. Some shots are a tad oversaturated which is pretty much par for the course for Honor/Huawei made phones, but that’s just nitpicking. Dynamic range is good and the phone performs extremely well even in low light as well as high-contrast shots. The phone even has the same AI-stabilized low-light capabilities as Huawei’s more expensive flagships.

How’s the battery life?

Typical of what you’d expect from a flagship phone. The Magic 2 is equipped with a 3,400mAh battery which is more than what we expected considering the sliding mechanism (which eats up space). PCMark’s Battery benchmark puts battery endurance at 11 hours and 5 minutes, which is right along what you’d expect from a phone like this.

Once you completely drain the battery, you can quickly put the phone back into service via 40W SuperCharge charger and USB cable included in the package. The battery is quick enough that you’ll be able to put 50 percent of juice into the phone in just 15 minutes.

Should you buy it?

Here’s the rub: as great as the Honor Magic 2 is, it’s still only available in China as it hasn’t officially made its way outside of Honor’s home country. Over there, the Magic 2 costs RMB 3,799 (Php 29K) for the base 6GB/128GB model, RMB 4,299 (Php 33K) for the 8GB/128GB model that we reviewed, and RMB 4,799 (Php 37K) for the 8GB/256GB model.

It’s a shame that you can’t buy this officially in the Philippines yet since it’s one of the best phones Honor has released so far. Hopefully, the folks at Honor HQ decide to offer the Magic 2 globally, as it’s definitely a solid flagship option for people looking for a beautiful phone without an ugly notch on the front.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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One Comment

  1. It’s good that there are more and more VERY good smartphones coming through now especially from China. And that the new trend is that they’re all at a much friendlier pricing.

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