Honor 90: Two-minute preview
With the launch of the excellent Honor Magic 5 Pro at MWC 2023, Honor proved itself capable of competing with the likes of Samsung and Apple when it comes to developing genuinely innovative mobile hardware, and the brand’s latest mid-ranger – the Honor 90 – represents an even-more-ambitious attempt to bundle the Magic 5 Pro’s best features into a decidedly more affordable package.
Indeed, Honor told us – during a pre-launch presentation for the device – that the Honor 90 is intended for “younger users with a smaller budget,” and although this successor to the Honor 70 must necessarily compromise in some areas to cater to such a demographic, the brand has done a stellar job of making its newest handset look and feel like something close to a flagship phone.
In truth, Honor pulled the same trick with the Honor 70, which we praised for being “an attractive phone with good specs for the price,” but that sentiment rings even truer for the Honor 90, whose Magic 5 Pro DNA brings a different level of premium to the table.
The phone’s headline feature is its 6.7-inch AMOLED screen – which benefits from the same eye-friendly display technology as Honor’s latest flagship – while a capable-looking 200MP main camera represents a marked improvement over the Honor 70, too.
You’re also getting up to 12GB RAM and 512GB storage with the Honor 90 (depending on your region), where the Honor 70 was limited to 8GB RAM across the board. Admittedly, that memory bump doesn’t exempt the phone from occasional performance dips, but such instances are no less than you’d expect – and accept – from a £449.99 handset.
I haven’t spent enough time with the Honor 90 to deliver a full verdict on its value for money just yet, but given that it’s an objectively superior phone to the already impressive Honor 70, I’m confident that Honor has another mid-range winner on its hands.
Hands-on Honor 90 review: Price and availability
In the UK, the Honor 90 is available in two memory configurations: 8GB RAM with 256GB storage and 12GB with 512GB storage. The former costs £449.99 and the latter £499.99, with both variations available to purchase now from Honor directly. The Honor 90 will hit retailers including Amazon, Very and Currys on July 19, and Three on July 26.
The phone is likewise available in Europe, and Honor has confirmed that it’ll be coming to India later down the line. Availability in the US and Australia seems unlikely, though.
For context, the Honor 70 started at £479 (for the 8GB RAM / 128GB storage variant) and rose to £529 (for the 8GB RAM / 256GB variant), so you’re actually getting more phone for your money with the Honor 90. Samsung’s latest mid-ranger, the Galaxy A54, starts at £449 for the 8GB RAM / 128GB storage configuration (head over to our Samsung Galaxy A54 review for our verdict on that phone), so the Honor 90 offers better storage value in that comparison, too.
Hands-on Honor 90 review: Specs
Check out the Honor 90’s full specs below:
|Header Cell – Column 1
|162mm x 74.1mm x 7.8 mm
|MagicOS 7.1 atop Android 13
|2664 x 1200 pixels
|Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 Accelerated Edition
|8 / 12GB LPDDR5
|256GB / 512GB UFS 3.1
|200MP (wide), 12MP (ultrawide), 2MP (depth)
Hands-on Honor 90 review: Design
The Honor 90 weighs a touch more than its predecessor – 183g versus 178g – but the phone feels just as comfortable in the hand, measuring a large-but-not-offensive 161.9mm x 74.1mm x 7.8 mm.
The design itself is largely unchanged from the Honor 70, save for some slight reshaping of the two camera rings, and the phone’s rounded edges making it equally easy to hold and use with one hand.
The Honor 90 ships in three colors: Midnight Black, Emerald Green and Diamond Silver, the last of which is exclusive to the Honor website. I tested the Emerald Green variant, which has a frosted rear finish, and in truth, I much prefer it to the Diamond Silver, which is downright ostentatious and far too glittery for my liking. Still, it’s good to have options – though the green variant is the only one that’s available in both memory/storage configurations, at least in the UK.
On the durability front, Honor says the Honor 90 uses “deeply reinforced glass,” but we haven’t yet been able to confirm the phone’s dust or water resistance certification (if any). We’ll have more info on both specs in our full review.
Hands-on Honor 90 review: Display
The Honor 90 sports a 6.7-inch quad-curved AMOLED display with a resolution of 2664 x 1200 and an adaptive screen refresh rate of up to 120Hz. It’s big, bright and more than suitable for gaming and watching movies, thanks to HDR10+ support and HDR certifications from streamers, including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
The phone’s bezels are largely non-existent – which isn’t a given on mid-range smartphones – and a ‘punch-hole’ front camera cut-out (rather than an obstructive notch) at the top of its screen keeps things feeling fluid.
In other words, this is the sort of display you’d expect to find strapped to one of the best phones on the market, and it’s no surprise to see that DXOMARK considers the Honor 90 to have the joint-best display – alongside the Google Pixel 7 and Google Pixel 7a – in the high-end mobile category.
The difference between the Honor 90’s display and those used on comparable mid-rangers, though, is its eye-friendliness. The Honor Magic 5 Pro earned plaudits for being the first phone to feature Honor’s proprietary Circadian Night Display technology, which effectively filters blue light to encourage natural melatonin secretion in the user and improve the quality of their sleep. The Honor 90 comes equipped with the same screen smarts, as well as an impressive 3840Hz PWM dimming cycle rate that helps to minimize strain on the eyes.
Sure, that all sounds like hyperbolic marketing speak, but Honor enlisted the services of Dr. Glen Jeffery, Professor of Neuroscience at University College London, to help prove the value in its new display technology, and the professor made the following judgment, “long-term sleep disruption is associated with a range of ailments that Honor’s novel technology may be able to help side-step. By regulating blue light in the Honor Magic 5 Pro [and Honor 90], Honor is taking an important step in this direction.”
So there you have it, folks: the Honor 90’s display is easy on the eyes and easy on the eyes (I’ll see myself out).
Hands-on Honor 90 review: Cameras
The Honor 90 uses a triple-camera system that comprises a 200MP main lens (with a 1/1.4-inch sensor), a 12MP ultra-wide lens (with a 112° field of view) and a 2MP depth sensor that helps the camera accurately gauge distance.
On the whole, this is a better setup than you’ll find on the Honor 70 – which uses a 54MP lens paired with a 50MP ultra-wide lens and the same 2MP depth sensor – though the Honor 90 doesn’t threaten the best camera phones for versatility and picture quality.
That’s not to say the phone doesn’t take great pictures, mind. As you can see below, snaps are consistently bold and bright – in both well-lit and low-light conditions – and a hefty helping of AI wizardry means the Honor 90 takes the legwork out of deciding which setting to use for which photography scenario.
Image 1 of 4
The phone introduces an iPhone-style Portrait Mode, too, which you can use in two magnifications (1x and 2x) to better highlight the subject in frame.
Once again, there’s no telephoto lens in sight here, meaning no optical zoom. You can digitally zoom up to 10x, but picture quality becomes compromised as you approach that magnification.
On the front, the Honor 90 boasts a 50MP camera, which is an improvement over the 70’s 32MP selfie snapper. Once again, AI optimization helps to keep pictures taken with this lens looking bright and sharp, and it’s refreshing to see a mobile manufacturer paying attention to more than just a phone’s rear camera setup.
Hands-on Honor 90 review: Performance
Under the hood, the Honor 90 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 ‘Accelerated Edition’ chipset, which is something of an unknown quantity in the mobile space. The Xiaomi 13 Lite and the Chinese version of the Oppo Reno 8 Pro use the base Snapdragon 7 Gen 1, and the Honor 90 – unsurprisingly – delivers largely comparable performance.
The Honor 90 can keep up with the demands of browsing, streaming and gaming with ease, and although I did notice the occasional dip in performance when several power-hungry apps were open at once, the average user is unlikely to put the phone through similarly grueling paces.
For those interested, the Honor 90’s Geekbench 6 scores – 1120 single-core and 3206 multi-core – are comparable to the Google Pixel 7, which is a powerful handset but far from one of the best gaming phones out there. The same is true of Honor’s latest mid-ranger.
Hands-on Honor 90 review: Software
The Honor 90 runs MagicOS 7.1 – which runs atop Android 13 – and the phone comes pre-equipped with Google apps and services; meaning the likes of the Play Store, Google Maps and Gmail are ready and waiting when you first boot-up the phone.
The Honor 90 packs a raft of enhanced smart features, too – like Magic Text, which recognises text on an image and lets you perform various actions with it – and you’ll come across most of these helpful tools as and when you need them (rather than having to sit through a swathe of tedious tutorials straight out of the box).
Less brilliant is Honor’s lackluster software support commitment. You’ll get two years of Android updates and three years of security updates with the Honor 90, which is less than we’ve come to expect from phones in this price range.
Hands-on Honor 90 review: Battery life
When it comes to battery, the Honor 90 boasts a supersized 5,000mAh battery, which is a touch bigger than its predecessor’s 4,800mAh power pack.
Honor promises that you’ll get up to 19.5 hours of continuous local video streaming with the Honor 90, and I’ve found that claim to be true in my testing so far. The phone will comfortably last a full day in all but the most demanding use cases.
On the charging front, the phone supports 66W wired charging, and the included Honor SuperCharge charger (kudos, Honor) juiced up my review unit from 0% to 35% in just 15 minutes. After 30 minutes, I’d reached 68%, and a full 100% charge took 50 minutes.
Considering that the Samsung Galaxy A54 and Google Pixel 7 – two comparable mid-range phones that we’ve mentioned throughout this review – both take well over an hour to charge to 100%, 50 minutes is a mightily impressive figure, and Honor 90 owners will be hard-pressed to find themselves wanting for battery life.
Unfortunately, there’s no wireless charging functionality on the Honor 90, and although this isn’t something we’d expect from a mid-range handset, its absence does keep the phone from real greatness.
First tested July 2023
This post originally appeared on TechToday.