Honor Magic Vs hands-on: A foldable alternative to Samsung and Xiaomi
Honor's second foldable has a lot of potential.
Honor is back in contention on the global stage, and the brand is picking things up right where it left off. The brand has released phones and tablets, and a new area of focus for Honor is foldables, where it made its foray last year with the Magic V.
While that particular foldable was limited to China, Honor has grander ambitions for its 2022 foldable, the Magic Vs. The phone was unveiled in China at the end of November, and is set to make its way to global markets in early 2023.
There hasn't been a shortage of foldables of late, and Samsung continues to be the runaway leader in this category on the back of its Galaxy Z devices. But with Chinese brands introducing models slated to launch in global markets, 2023 is the year we could see things heating up on the foldable front.
I'm doing a hands-on of the Magic Vs instead of a full review as the unit Honor sent out has unfinished software that isn't ready for public use just yet. The brand says that the hardware itself is ready and that the unit that consumers will be able to buy next year is the same as the model you see in this post, and that it is still working on tweaking the software. To that effect, I'll be talking about the design and some of the hardware features for now, with a full review coming once Honor sends out a retail unit.
I used foldables for several months this year, starting out with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and switching to the Z Fold 4 when that became available. I also used the Z Flip 4 for over six weeks and really liked that device for the inward-folding design, and in the last two months I used Xiaomi's incredible Mix Fold 2. With Chinese manufacturers increasingly turning their attention to foldables, I was curious to see what Honor had to offer in this category with the Magic Vs.
Honor nailed the design of the Magic Vs, and the foldable feels like a premium product the moment you take it out of the box. One of the things that's immediately noticeable is the smoothness of the hinge; just like the Mix Fold 2, it articulates smoothly and is a joy to use. Honor says it switched to a gearless hinge that's lighter and more durable, touting 400,000 actuations.
The hinge feels reliable and smooth, and there's no flex whatsoever here. What I particularly like here is that it stays unlocked at various angles — similar to the Galaxy Z Fold 4's Flex Mode — something that the Mix Fold 2 isn't able to achieve. Another standout is the fact that both halves fully close with no gap in between, unlike the Z Fold 4. That said, the Magic Vs doesn't have any ingress protection — Samsung's foldables continue to be the only ones with this particular feature.
Because of the thin profile and flat sides, it takes a little more effort to unfurl the inner screen of the Magic Vs. That said, the svelte design feels great, and the Magic Vs holds its own against the Mix Fold 2 in this area. Continuing with usability, the Magi Vs is taller and wider than the Galaxy Z Fold 4, and the width in particular works in its favor as the cover screen is larger and feels more in line with a traditional phone. The foldable unfurls to a 7.9-inch inner screen, and while there is a crease in the middle, it isn't particularly noticeable in daily use.
There's a large oblong camera housing at the back with three sensors; a 50MP f/1.9 module alongside a 50MP wide-angle lens with 122-degree FoV and an 8MP zoom lens that goes up to 3x. The island is noticeably larger than what you'll find on the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and the Mix Fold 2, and it juts out quite a bit as well. The foldable doesn't quite sit flat on a surface thanks to the large camera housing, and the wobble is so extreme that you won't be able to use the cover screen when the Magic Vs is on a table — you'll definitely need a case to make the phone usable.
The standard black variant of the Magic Vs has a glossy finish and doesn't stand out too much, and if you're looking for some more flair, there's an orange model with gold accents and a leather back, and a beautiful cyan version. My variant has a glossy finish at the back, and it is a smudge magnet — you'll want to use the case that's bundled in the package.
Like other Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Mix Fold 2, Honor went with a fingerprint reader that's baked into the power button. There is an IR blaster here and identical stereo channels, and the SIM tray can hold two SIM cards.
Coming to the screen, the Magic Vs has a 6.45-inch OLED cover screen with a 120Hz refresh, and it can go up to 1200 nits for HDR content. The inner 7.9-inch OLED panel has 90Hz refresh and goes up to 800 nits, and with both the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Mix Fold 2 both featuring 120Hz panels, Honor doesn't quite measure up.
That said, the Magic Vs excels where it counts, with both the inner and cover screens offering vibrant colors and brightness levels that are among the best in this category. The phone comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and under the hood you'll find a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. I'm not going to share full findings of the hardware as this isn't retail software, but in the week I used the Magic Vs, I didn't see any slowdowns. Considering the caliber of hardware on offer, that is likely to be the case on the final version as well.
Rounding out the hardware, there's a 5000mAh battery that should be more than adequate for all-day use. The device uses Honor's 66W fast charging tech, and you'll find a 66W charger in the box. Like the Mix Fold 2, there's no wireless charging.
Overall, there's a lot to like in the Magic Vs. Honor did a great job with the design and the hinge mechanism, and the foldable feels just as reliable as the Galaxy Z Fold 4 in this regard. Like Xiaomi, Honor is being aggressive with its foldable strategy, and the Magic Vs starts off at just 7,499 RMB ($1,075) in China. B
But where Honor is different is that the Magic Vs is slated for a global release sometime in 2023, and it will be interesting to see how much the foldable costs once it makes its way outside China.
There is potential for a foldable that can undercut Samsung's offerings, and at the moment, it looks like Honor is aiming to do just that.
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.