This is a big launch for Honor as this is the first non-Samsung horizontal folding phone that has been launched in the UK. It is also aiming to be undercutting the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and the recently announced Pixel Fold. if you caught the recent article that I published regarding the price for this phone you will have noted that you can get the Magic Vs for as little as £1399 as the standard RRP, however, it is highly probable that this will be subject to discounts as Honor do love to do a good discount now and again. That is a massive and significant saving over the other two options on the market at this time.
The Pixel Fold is coming in at £1849 for a matching spec and the Z Fold 4 will cost £1769 without any trade-in options on either phone. Now I know that these phones will offer things that the Magic VS cannot but the latest from Honor is by no means a slouch in any respect. I will be mainly focusing this review on the comparison with the Z Fold 4 as I have been using this as my primary phone for nearly 8 months outwith times when I have been using a review device. I have grown quite accustomed to the way I want my folding phone to work for me and things that can be improved in this area.
So I would normally go into a full tour of the device and a specs list for you at this point in the review but I am going to skip that here and suggest that you pursue the Unboxing Article that I posted back when I first received the phone earlier this month.
I will however include the specs list here again for those of you who don’t want to click over to that post above.
Now that we have ticked that off it is time for a few of my thought now that I have used the phone and lived with it for a bit longer.
First thing first and this won’t be a surprise for those of you who have used foldable already is that this phone has got a fair bit of heft about it. You will notice this in your pocket when you are stowing it, not just in the weight though as the phone is thicker than a candy bar design. This is hardly surprising as the phone essentially consists of two phones held together by a hinge assembly in the middle. Whilst I have mentioned the hinge this is an area where Honor has invested a lot of time and energy in the development of the phone and as such they have managed to achieve something that Samsung has not in that this hinge is a no-gap hinge and the actual size of it is considerably smaller than that of the Z Fold 4
The hinge is also slightly less complicated and whilst this does mean that the size is smaller it doe cause an issue when you are trying to find the correct screen angle when using it partially folded. The Z Fold 4 will be happy at most over approx 25 degrees to the full 180 degrees. This is down to the much more complex hinge design which Samsung has refined over 4 generations of development. Sadly the same cannot be said about the Magic Vs hinge as I found that it was only really happy at an opening angle between 35 degrees to about 150 degrees as the hinge does not have the same friction capabilities built into the device.
Whilst this is by no means a deal breaker for me it is something that I feel is important to know about as some people will want to use the phone at the wide end of these angles for viewing video content etc. I found it was a pain point when I was using it to read Ebooks in particular. There is however one saving grace in that the Magic Vs is very secure when it is fully closed maybe even more so than the Z Fold 4 is.
A big difference between the two devices in terms of the screen footprints both when folded or unfolded, this is most notable when the phones are closed as the Magic Vs has got the larger outer display, especially in terms of width. this makes for a nicer experience when using the phone closed as you can use it more like a regular phone. I found that I was using it more in the folded state than I was with the Z Fold 4, I really only used the screen unfolded if I was settling into a long session of browsing socials, the web or consuming media content. This feels like one of the key benefits of a folding phone and the way you interact with them but this is also where software becomes a big factor as well and I will cover that a bit later on.
Another design aspect that liked is the bundled case that I had included in my review kit as it doesn’t add any bulk to what is as I already mentioned a chunky device, this is appreciated and is a massive improvement to my Z Fold 4 which I ended up using without a case for most of the time I have had and it shows the marks due to this.
The next thing I like more than I thought I would is the positioning of the Volume buttons and the Power buttons on the different sections of the folding screens. It meant that I had a lot fewer accidental presses when I was playing games or watching videos on the phone. The Power key is in a good place for finding and using for unlocking the phone however it is set up in a strange way in the software. I found that there were a lot of occasions when I was having to use the fingerprint reader differently than on the Z Fold 4. Normally I would expect that when I put my finger on the reader it would perform a scan and then unlock the screen without the need for an actual press. I thought this must have been a setting issue so I check the settings and it was set up correctly but it was just not working as I expected, now I have got an early production unit so your mileage may vary if you get one but it is something to be aware of.
UPDATE:-Shortly after starting this review my Magic Vs received a software update that seems to have improved the behaviour of the fingerprint reader and I was not seeing the missed read of the sensor as often.
I also like the positioning of the speakers as it provides a good soundscape when watching videos as the speakers are less likely to be covered by your fingers when holding it in the landscape.
In terms of negatives I would say the main ones are the fingerprint magnet that is the rear cover, I would recommend the Blue colour version if you don’t like a smudgy rear. The offset camera lens array means that the phone will not sit flat on a surface and will rock, especially when being used in folded mode. Other than these things I genuinely do like the design of the phone and I would (barring the hinge stiffness which I identified earlier) say that it may be slightly above the Z Fold 4 in the design stakes. However, there is so much more to these two phones than design, so it is time to dig into the hardware and performance.
Hardware and Performance
So there are a few areas where the hardware of the Magic Vs is significantly different to that of the Z Fold 4. The there areas I want to specifically focus on are the Screen Tech, the Battery and Charging tech and the Camera Array.
Without further ado let’s take a closer look at the screens. The external screens as we have mentioned are different in terms of size and aspect ratio but that is really the main difference. Yes, the Samsung one will get slightly brighter but in most scenarios the Magic Vs has been plenty bright enough for me. The refresh rates of both panels are the same at 120hz and they are both sufficiently high resolution for daily use. With both screens using forms of OLED tech the colours are bright and crisp on both and the blacks are inky and deep when they need to be, incendentally in terms of colour representation the same statement rings true for the internal displays on both phones. The big difference comes into play when we are talking about the internal displays as the Z Fold 4 has one or two aspects where it gets a leg up on the Magic Vs.
I will cover the more minor one first, the refresh rate of the internal display on the Magic Vs drops to a 90hz refresh rate which is not something I would really worry about and unless you have very good eyesight in normal use you will not notice this. I was only able to see a very slight difference when was scrolling a website with the phones both unfolded and them set up side by side. It shouldn’t affect your gaming either as the Honor will also push the refresh rate to the highest available setting during gaming due to the GPU Turbo X software tweaks.
The second big difference is potentially much more substantial and that is that the Magic Vs does not have a digitizer on the inner screen meaning that you will not be able to use a stylus of any kind on the inner display like you can on the Z Fold 4. Now I say that is potentially a bigger issue but for me, it is a non-issue as I can count on my fingers of one hand how many times I have actually used the SPen on the Z Fold 4 inner display. I simply don’t see this as being a useful feature and this is down to the way the stylus has been integrated with the phone. Quite simply it hasn’t been, which means it is never on me as I refuse to have it clipped onto the outside of the phone case adding even more bulk to what is already a bulky phone. I am glad that Honor did not try and copy this feature as I don’t feel it is a useful enhancement for me until that is they can actually have the SPen stowed inside the phone frame for quick and easy access like on the Note series of old. In short, if you need a folding phone that has Stylus input then buy a Z Fold series device if not then the world is going to be your oyster as you now have the Honor Magic Vs 5G and the Pixel Fold to choose from in the UK and more will come very soon trust me on that.
Battery and Charging tech:
In the simplest possible terms, this phone has the Z Fold 4 liked in terms of what the battery is and what it can do in terms of longevity and charging speed. it is however not that fully onesided as the Z Fold 4 does claw some points back here with Qi Wireless charging and reverse Wireless charging support. The batteries in both phones are split cells across both sides of the hinge as this allows for the phone to feel more balanced. I believe the split in the Magic Vs is a 50/50 split whereas with the Z Fold 4, I think there is a bit more battery in the camera half of the phone. This doesn’t really matter in terms of the use as both phones balanced excellently for weight on both halves. What it does mean as the cell sizes for the Honor are equal in capacity then it can adopt the faster charging technology to fill the bigger 5000mah total capacity battery.
The Honor will use their propriety SuperCharge charging technology to allow the Magic Vs to charge from 0 to full in under an hour as opposed to the slower charging of Z Fold 4, which can take nearly 1 hour 30 mins from my testing. Whilst this is not a big issue for me it is good to know that I can quickly top up the Magic Vs with a SuperCharge charger and it will get back up to 50% in the time it takes for me to have a quick shower before I head out for the day.
What is however a shame is that this is the only way I can get power into the phone as there is no QI charging here either fast or slow and no reverse charging for your earbuds or watches etc. This is annoying as I have become a wireless charging covert for my phones and I hate having to use wired charging as I have a wired charging stand built into my desk and on my bedside table I even have it available in my car! Fortunately, the pain of having to plug in is lessened by the fact that I can eek two days of use out of this battery without too much trouble on a normal workday. When using it more intensively that will come down to about a day and a quarter. This is however still better than on the Z Fold 4 as most days I was getting near to empty by the end of the day. So there are pros and cons in each camp but I think for me, I am in my happy place with the Wireless charging capability on the Z Fold 4 if I had to choose one over the other.
Again this is an area where there are differences in terms of the numbers but in reality, those differences are not that significant. That is until you come to the front camera of the inside display. So let’s address that first, on the Z Fold 4 Samsung has tried to use a hidden under-display camera to hide the camera when it is not in use this results in the camera being quite a low MP (4) and this reflects the quality of image that is produced as it is normally pretty bad. On the Magic Vs, they decided against the use of this emerging tech and went with a much more simple hole-punch camera which allows them to use a higher quality 16MP sensor that works as you expect as normal from a front-facing camera, they actually use the same senoras they use on the outer display so you will not see any difference between the two cameras. As for my thoughts, I am not going to use either normally so I don’t care about it but I do like that the one on the Z Fold 4 is kinda hidden when it is not in use.
As for the rear camera’s we have got similar triple sensor arrays on both phones with slightly different setups.
On the Z Fold 4 we have got the following;
12MP Ultra-Wide camera F1.8 aperture , 50 MP Wide-Angle camera F2.2 aperture, 10MP 3x Optical Zoom Telephoto camera F2.4 aperture
On the Magic Vs we have the following
50MP Ultra-Wide camera F2.o aperture, 54MP Main camera F1.9 aperture, 8MP 3x Optical Zoom Telephoto camera F2.4 aperture
So as you can see they have got differing numbers of megapixels but as we know the numbers don’t always paint the full picture when it comes to cameras. I have been able to get good photos from both but I will go into this is in more detail in the cameras section of the review below. What is a big difference is in terms of the way these cameras are mounted. The array on the Magic Vs is mounted in the corner in a very similar position to what we find with the Z Fold 4 but the difference is that while the lenses on the ZFold 4 are in a slim sliver, the Magic Vs has them all in one large and wide glass bump. I feel that this bump protrudes a lot more on the Magic Vs which means that the phone is more prone to rocking when laid on a flat surface in folded state. This may be exaggerated by the way that the stock case fits around the camera bumps respectively but then found the Z Fold 4 was more stable, probably due to the slightly bulkier case.
As I am writing this I had almost forgotten one fairly major difference to the hardware is the level of ingress protection of the devices as this is very different across the two phones. Neither of the phones has any official dustproof rating so this may not be one to use on your next trip to the desert but if you are planning on getting them wet then I would be concerned with the Magic Vs as it does not have any waterproofing rating whereas the Z Fold 4 is rated for IP8X which should mean that it can take a quick splash here and there. In all honesty, I wouldn’t feel 100% comfortable with taking either of these down to my local beach due to the sand….. Eurgh nasty stuff.
As for Performance, the phones are very level in terms of performance which is hardly surprising as I have got two phones which at their cores both have the same specs, Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 + Gen processor, 12GB of Ram and 512GB of storage (Z Fold 4 is available in smaller 256GB and larger 1TB sizes). They both use the Adreno 730 GU as well so the raw number crunching abilities are the same, however, this is again an area where software is a big factor so more about that later. I have been happy to use both phones as my daily driver and experienced very few issues with ever needing more oompf out of either device. The only thing I would say is that the Samsung feels a touch more refined but I am going to put this down to the software implementation as you will see there are some significant differences to be found there.
I have broached this matter a few times so it is now to pool the wool back and dig into what makes these phones so different. The crux here is that the software on the Samsung is more evolved and fits better to the foldable form factor. This is quite understandable as they have had four years of developing the software for the fold whereas Honor is only in its second year of doing things for foldable phones. Normally I would say that I prefer the cleanness of the lack of modding that has been carried out to the core Android 13 software on the Magic Vs as I am normally a big fan of the pure Android UI but this is not the case here. Let me explain.
The Magic Vs has taken a simple approach to the implementation of Andriod 13 on the phone and as such there is no immediate apparent evidence that the form factor has been given much thought. An example of this is when you have taken the time to set up your home screen layout on the external display and then you open it to be a tablet-style device this app layout is exactly the same in terms of layout (see below examples).
Now those of you who are familiar with my reviews may be thinking well that is just how you like things clean and uncomplicated. However, when it comes to a tablet-style foldable form factor I want my tablet-mode home screen to reflect that I am working on a bigger canvas. My logic is if I am unfolding the screen I am doing so as I want to be reviewing the content on that bigger screen or I want to be productive, I will therefore have my main apps for these tasks at the forefront with the widgets laid out to fit into the bigger display format. When I then fold the back top phone mode I would then go back to my regular app layout for daily normal use. Now I will be the first to admit this is perhaps a behavioural trait that has been learned from using the Z Fold devices over a few generations, but I would also argue that this may have come from using tablets in the past as well.
Unfortunately, this is not the case with the Magic Vs as when you unfold the screen to enter tablet mode your app layout is exactly the same just with slightly bigger iconography. This is something that I have now learnt to live with but it is a shame that Samsung give you the option to have different home screen layouts depending on what mode you are in. I do however this is an option that comes more from Samsung One UI than from Google so I do understand. What is more concerning is that I dont see many other ways that the Ui Element s that Google has been developing for foldable have come through either. We dont have a navigation dock to allow you to quickly switch between apps, the back navigation gesture does not only work on the active app when in-app pair mode and the biggest sin of all is the lack of the App Drawer as shown in the video below!!!
This last point is in my opinion inexcusable for any Android software UI and it is especially worse on a Folding phone. Up until I was given this review unit I have always had the option on Honor devices and some others from Chinese brands as well to have either all apps on-screen iPhone style or an App Drawer. I have always been a fan of the latter and it is normally the first thing I do when setting up a phone if it isn’t on by default. I was shocked to see that this was not an option that I could see within the Ui anywhere, so I asked Honor as I thought it may be down to me having an early preview of the phone. Sadly this was not the case as I am now (to my knowledge) running release firmware and there is still no App drawer. I was advised that this was due to the UI embracing the folding nature of the device. the end result is I have an extra display screen which has all the apps that I rarely used and a folder with all of the Honor duplicate apps in there as well. It is messy and I can’t fathom why anyone would want this on an Android phone at all.
Moving away from the negative to the more positive, Once you do start using the multi-tasking it does become more intuitive use but it is nowhere near as simple as on the Z Fold 4. You can have apps open as split-screen apps and floating apps as well. you can also use Picture in Picture mode for some video playback apps. Some apps are context and fold-state aware. for example, Gmail will adopt a dual view mode like you get a on tablet when the phone is unfolded in landscape but it will revert to normal when folded. Youtube will also respond to the fold state and orientation really nicely as seen in the image below. Twitter gives you the option of opening a split screen when you click on a link whilst having your main feed open and being able to action the reply or link in the other half, this does need to be enabled under foldable settings though. Some other apps are not quite as well-honed but that is more to do with the developers than anything else.
My main takeaway from the Magic Vs is that Samsung has done a boatload of work to make the software work with the folding phone form factor as well as it does on the Z Fold 4 and Android have some catching up to do. This does concern me slightly as I have put down a preorder for the Pixel Fold and if the UI features that I like come from Samsung, is that going to be a mistake?
Only time will tell I guess but I hope with Google now have ig hardware of their own in the mix this will give the push needed for Developers to start thinking about how we can really use the real estate better. Hopefully, with the Magic Vs being on the more affordable end of the currently available foldable it will bring the tablet-style foldable form factor to a wider audience which will also increase the need for better software implementation onto these devices from Google themselves.
Here is a selection of images of the software of various apps for you to see some of the multitasking at work.
I just hope that any changes that are made to the core Android design in Android 14 are quickly rolled out to the Magic Vs as well
Last but not least we need to discuss the camera on the Magic Vs
While this is not one of the main draws for the phone as that is the giant foldable screen it still needs to perform to a reasonable degree as this would be your main on-the-go camera if you are to buy one of these phones. The good news is I have been pleased with the camera in the situations I have tried it in. I am not going to say that I have been blown away by the camera performance but it has been more than satisfactory for use day to day.
I have been happy with the various different levels of Zoom and I have found that I have not been lacking in this area it does a good job at closes up and wider shots as well and I include a few samples of this below for you to see for yourself.
The camera modes are as you would expect from Honor all here and this allows for you to get some rather interesting shots and capture on multiple camera modules at one time which is a nice feature but if I am honest it is not one I see myself eve rising and indeed I have not used it during the course of this review.
I like the UI of the camera it is straightforward to use and easy navigate, you can also customise which shortcut modes you have in your toolbar for quick changes to shooting modes. Honestly, I am not much a of pixel peeper if the pictures that are captured by the camera are useable then for the most part I am happy. I have included a selection of photos below for you to review if you want to see what the phone can produce along with a very short video clip to give it a representation of the video quality.
Here is a video clip that was shot a 1080p and 30fps but has had to be downgraded by WordPress to share here so it is now 720p and 25fps but it is still representative of what the camera can do for video work.
Next up is the obligatory selfie using the front-facing outer display camera which is the same in terms of spec as the internal one.
Pretty happy with the result but given the subject matter it was never gonna be great was it?
Finally here are a few low-light images where weaknesses for the camera start to show
This one isn’t too and as it has picked up a bit of light from the clock face and that has helped however the next one which is the other side of the room where it was darker things start to unfold pretty quickly.
You can start to see some edge blending where the phone tries to make up for the lack of clarity to try and give you a good image but it fails miserably. For context this is the same shot with some light
You can clearly see the differences here. Most phones would of course struggle in the conditions I took the same shot with my Z Fold 4 and the result was a bit better but still far from perfect as I could still see the edge blurring see below
I am as I mentioned above pretty happy with the result in the good lighting of the Magic Vs and as I don’t tend to venture out after dusk anymore i would normally be using the Night modes of the camera anyway so this is moot point for me.
So there you have it my review of the Honor Magic Fold Vs. This is an important phone for Honor as mentioned as it is them making a statement that they want to play in the Foldable market on the global stage (the previous Magic V was a Chinese-only release) and they have come out strong and also undercut their rivals in the space in doing so. However, I do feel that whilst the hardware is something for the most part I prefer, with the exception of the hinge mechanism which is too prone to unfolding when you don’t want it to, there is til work to be done on software. Honest ly this conclusion surprises me as i thought that i would prefer the implementation of the more clean Ui over what is offered by Samsungs One Ui on the Z Fold 4. I also felt that the lack of an app drawer on this phone is a big misstep and this will need to be looked into as they should at least give the user the option (i did eventually get over it though!).
Do I think it is worth the investment into getting one now given that we have just had the Pixel Fold announced and we have got the Z Fold 5 on the horizon imminently? Well, it is a simple question of how much you are willing to pay and also if you think having a non-stowable stylus is important. if you are not willing to pay but do want the stylus and don’t mind buying a refurbished unit then i would say go for the Z Fold 4 as you pick these up for less than half the original price at the moment in great condition. if you want the wider aspect ratio afforded by the front display then you have got two real options the unknown Pixel Fold which has a very phone-like width to the front display and then becomes more of a tablet when unfolded or you go with the slimmer but taller Honor Magic vs which still give you all the benefits of folding screens but in taller skinnier front screen ratio and a squarer unfolded internal display, it is also nearly £500 cheaper.
I like the Honor Magic Vs 5G but the software is a bit too compromised for me and as such I would b sticking with the Z Fold 4 for the time being but it has given me food for thought about my planned move to the Pixel Fold at the end of next month. I guess i have inadvertently become a One UI Foldable fan, which was very unexpected!!
The Honor Magic Vs 5G is available to buy now from Honor’s website and is currently retailing at £1399 with shipping of the BHlack colour sooner than the Cyan one which is the more popular and the one I would go for if I was buying one now.