Samsung got an early start with foldables, but Chinese manufacturers are now fully invested in this burgeoning segment. The OPPO Find N2, Xiaomi MIX Fold 2, and Vivo X Fold showcase the best that these brands have to offer, but the biggest drawback is that all of these devices are limited to China and won’t get an international release.
That’s where Honor comes into the picture. The brand is trying to reclaim its market share following its divestment from Huawei, and a big part of that push is its foldable strategy. I covered the Honor Magic Vs in a hands-on post last year, but that was the Chinese variant, and it lacked the Play Store and other Google hooks that make Android the dominant mobile platform globally.
Honor said at the time that it would release the Magic Vs internationally, and it is following through on its word at MWC. The Magic Vs is launching globally in Q2 2023, becoming the first real alternative to the Galaxy Z Fold 4. I used the international version of the Magic Vs for just over a week, and here’s what you need to know about the latest challenger to Samsung’s dominance in this category.
Honor Magic Vs: Pricing and availability
Honor unveiled the Magic Vs in China back in November 2022, and the foldable made its global debut at MWC 2023. Honor says the Magic Vs will go up for sale globally in Q2 2023, and while the brand hasn’t shared availability details, we know what it will cost: €1,599. Honor is selling a single version of the Magic Vs in global markets with 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.
While that is a lot of money, it is €200 less than the starting version of the Galaxy Z Fold 4 with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and if you’re eyeing the 12GB/512GB configuration, you will need to shell out €1,899 — €300 more than the Magic Vs.
Honor Magic Vs: Design
The Magic Vs is Honor’s second foldable, and the first to launch outside China. But you wouldn’t have guessed that by looking at the device; it has a refined design that’s on par with the best foldables today. Where Honor deserves a lot of credit is the hinge — it uses just four moving parts and is 60% lighter than the first-gen Magic V, and that is a huge deal.
By going with a lighter hinge, Honor was able to fit a larger 5000mAh battery inside the Magic Vs, giving the foldable a definite edge over the Galaxy Z Fold 4. The hinge feels smooth and has a clean articulation, and the best part is that it stays unlocked in any angle from 45 to 130 degrees — just like the Z Fold 4.
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While it is 4g heavier than the Z Fold 4, that isn’t evident in daily use, and the weight distribution is ideally balanced. The fact that it closes flat means the Magic Vs is 1.3mm thinner than the Z Fold 4 when folded, and that makes a difference when using the outer screen. That said, getting to the inner screen is a bit of a hassle as the sides are flat, so I found myself having to exert a little bit of force to unfurl the device.
Otherwise, the design itself is rather elegant, and the cyan model I’m using looks rather nice. The large camera housing at the back gives the phone a distinct look, but the downside is that it creates a lot of wobble when using the foldable on a flat surface.
The back has a glossy finish and a shimmering effect that looks pretty good, but I would have liked a matte texture here. Furthermore, the Magic Vs misses out on ingress protection. That’s a letdown considering the caliber of design you’re getting here, but for now, Samsung is the only brand offering this feature on foldable phones.
Overall, Honor did all the right things with the design of the Magic Vs, and the foldable looks every bit as premium as its price tag suggests.
Honor Magic Vs: Displays
The Magic Vs is a fold-out device like the Z Fold 4, and it has a large 6.45-inch OLED outer screen. The biggest difference over Samsung is that the outer screen here is larger, and with a 21:9 ratio, it feels just as good to use as a regular phone. As a result, I ended up using the Magic Vs in its folded state much more than the Z Fold 4.
The panel itself is vibrant and has good color vibrancy, and I didn’t see any issues with brightness levels. There’s no LTPO tech here, but the screen goes up to 120Hz, and it holds up well in daily use. Unfolded, the Magic Vs goes up to 7.9 inches, 0.3 inches more than the Z Fold 4. The inner screen also has an OLED panel, but it only hits 90Hz.
Like the outer screen, you get good colors here, but the fact that it doesn’t hit 120Hz is a bit of a letdown. Most mid-range phones and above now feature 120Hz refresh as standard, and for a high-end foldable to miss out on the feature feels like an oversight. The positioning of the camera on the inner screen is also annoying as it cuts into the screen real estate when streaming videos.
Neither screen gets as bright as those on the Z Fold 4, and that is noticeable when using the devices next to each other. Honor should have done a little more in this regard — particularly around the inner screen — and while both panels are serviceable, they don’t measure up to what Samsung is offering on its foldable.
There is the inevitable crease here, but it isn’t as noticeable as the Galaxy Z Fold 4. The Find N2 is still the best around if you want a foldable with a nearly invisible crease, but Honor did a good job in this area. The Magic Vs also manages to close fully flat with no visible gap whatsoever between the screens, making it look that much sleeker.
Honor Magic Vs: Performance and battery
For a phone launching in Q2 2023, the Magic Vs doesn’t have the latest hardware — it misses out on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, instead offering the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. Now, the 8+ Gen 1 is still a powerful chipset in its own right, and holds up just fine. But it doesn’t have the same efficiency as the 8 Gen 2, and doesn’t fare as well during sustained performance.
Of course, I don’t have any foldables powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, but using the Magic Vs alongside the best Android phones of 2023, I noticed the device getting hotter during extended gaming sessions. Other than that, it offers a similar level of performance as Qualcomm’s latest chipset, and that shouldn’t change for several years.
|Category||Honor Magic Vs|
|OS||MagicOS 7.1 based on Android 13|
|Outer Display||6.45-inch 120Hz OLED, 2560 x 1080, HDR10+, 1200 nits|
|Inner Display||7.9-inch 90Hz OLED, 2272 x 1984, HDR10+, 800 nits|
|Chipset||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, 1 x 3.0GHz Cortex X2, 3 x 2.5GHz Cortex A710, 4 x 1.8GHz Cortex A510, Adreno 730, 4nm|
|Storage||512GB UFS 3.1|
|Rear camera 1||54MP f/1.9 Sony IMX 800, 1.0um pixels, PDAF|
|Rear camera 2||50MP f/2.2 wide-angle lens, 122-degree FoV|
|Rear camera 3||8MP f/2.4 telephoto, 3x optical zoom, OIS|
|Front camera||16MP f2.5 ffixed focus|
|Security||Side-mounted fingerprint sensor|
|Audio||Stereo sound, USB-C|
|Battery||5000mAh, 66W wired charging|
|Dimensions (unfolded)||160.3 x 141.5 x 6.1mm|
|Dimensions (folded)||160.3 x 72.6 x 12.9mm|
Honor is rolling out the Magic Vs in a single configuration with 12GB of RAM and 512GB of UFS 3.1 storage. You miss out on UFS 4.0 storage, but I didn’t see any issues whatsoever when it comes to the storage. Elsewhere, you get Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, a decent set of Sub-6 5G bands, dual-band GPS, dual SIM connectivity with the ability to use an eSIM, and NFC.
The side-mounted fingerprint reader is fast to authenticate, and it’s ideally located where you rest your thumb on the side. The vibration motor is excellent, delivering granular feedback that feels great while using navigation gestures and the keyboard.
Thanks to a large 5000mAh battery, the Magic Vs lasts longer than the Z Fold 4 and just about every other foldable. I didn’t have any issues getting the foldable to last a full day even with heavy use, and in the week I used the device, the battery didn’t go below 20%. While I’m not a fan of the fact that the inner screen is limited to 90Hz, it was clearly done to increase battery longevity.
There’s good news on the charging front as well, with the Magic Vs featuring 66W wired charging. You’ll find a 66W charger bundled in the box, and the device takes just under 45 minutes to fully charge the battery. The charger uses a USB-A connector and is rather bulky, but the fact that it’s included is a big deal in and of itself. The phone misses out on wireless charging; like ingress protection, that particular feature is limited to Samsung’s foldables at the moment.
Honor Magic Vs: Cameras
The Magic Vs has three cameras at the back: a 54MP Sony IMX800 main lens that’s joined by a 50MP wide-angle with 122-degree field of view, and an 8MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom and OIS. You get dual 16MP cameras — one on the cover screen, and one over the inner screen — and they feature the same lens and have fixed focus. The wide-angle lens doubles as a macro shooter, and it does a good job in this area.
When folded, the camera interface is similar to other brands; you get a ribbon at the bottom with all the shooting modes, toggles for the various lenses, AI effects, flash, beauty effects, and so on. The interface stretches to fill the screen when unfurled, with the shutter button and modes on one side and the toggles on the other.
Now, while the hinge of the Magic Vs can be locked at various angles, there’s no way to leverage that for taking photos. Samsung’s foldables do a great job in this area with FlexForm mode — where the viewfinder is pushed to one side and the controls to the other half — and OPPO is also getting in on the action with the Find N2 and N2 Flip. Annoyingly, the Magic Vs doesn’t have any of these features, and because of the way the interface is laid out, it’s hard to even take a photo with the inner screen half-folded — the shutter button sits along the crease.
You also miss out on other features like the ability to take selfies with the rear cameras. You can use the outer screen as a preview, but it serves as just a viewfinder — you don’t get any controls here. These are basic features that other brands are getting right, and for a €1,600 phone to miss out in this area feels like an oversight.
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While the interface doesn’t take full advantage of the foldable form factor, the Magic Vs takes good photos in most situations. Daylight shots from the 54MP camera are vibrant and have good dynamic range, with no visible noise whatsoever. Colors are detailed and don’t look too saturated, foliage is rendered correctly, and while you can take full-res 54MP shots, they don’t deliver more detail.
The wide-angle lens does a brilliant job in its own right, producing photos of the same caliber as the main module. I also liked the images I got out of the telephoto lens, and Honor did a good job with the auxiliary cameras. The phone takes vibrant shots in low-light scenarios, with the Night mode kicking in automatically — like most other phones, there’s no way to turn it off. The auxiliary cameras measure up to the main lens in challenging situations as well, and that’s great to see.
Overall, I have zero issues with the cameras on the Magic Vs, and the only thing missing here is the added feature-set to fully utilize the foldable design.
Honor Magic Vs: Software
I used the Honor Magic Vs for a bit back when it launched, but as that variant didn’t have the Play Store and other associated Google services, I couldn’t use it as my daily driver. Thankfully, the global version doesn’t have any such shortcomings, and it comes with MagicOS 7.1 based on Android 13 out of the box and includes the entire Google suite of services.
While it’s great that the phone is launching with Google services, using the current iteration of MagicOS 7.1 took me straight back to the early days of Chinese ROMs. ColorOS, MIUI, and Funtouch OS feel refined now, but their initial versions were clearly aimed at a Chinese audience and missed out on a lot of features that we take for granted. That’s the case on the Magic Vs as well — there’s no app drawer, you won’t find any Material You influences whatsoever, and the device misses out on foldable-focused features that debuted with Android 12L, like a split notification pane and a taskbar.
As a result, although the Magic Vs is running Android 13, it doesn’t feel that way. The overt customization along with the fact that you don’t get an app drawer makes using the foldable that much more annoying, and throwing a launcher at the problem doesn’t fix things. I tend to use Lawnchair, and switching to the launcher broke gesture navigation — I had to press the back button to exit the overview menu — and I couldn’t get any icon packs to load. It didn’t scale across the inner screen either, so I had to switch back to the default home screen.
The biggest drawback to the software is the lack of the foldable-focused features. Honor said it worked with Google to enable foldable use cases, but I don’t see that in action. The best part about using the Z Fold 4 is the software, and while Honor nailed the hardware brief, it clearly has a lot to do on the software side of things.
That said, there are a few things that MagicOS 7.1 does well, and one of those is multitasking. It’s easy to set up multi-window mode on the inner screen, and you can use floating windows as well. While there isn’t a taskbar, you can pull up a sidebar with a long press of the back gesture, and you can customize it.
The Magic Vs will get three Android OS updates along with five years of security updates, one less than what you get with Samsung and most Chinese manufacturers.
Honor Magic Vs: The competition
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is the obvious alternative to the Honor Magic Vs, with Samsung offering the best overall package in this category. The Z Fold 4 has a narrower outer screen and the hinge isn’t as smooth, and it doesn’t close fully flat. That said, it has a huge advantage in that it offers IP68 dust and water resistance, a feature no other foldable has at the moment. You also get the best software of any foldable, with Samsung delivering meaningful additions that make the Z Fold 4 an absolute joy to use.
There isn’t much else at the moment if you’re looking to buy a foldable outside China. While I like the Find N2 quite a bit, I wouldn’t recommend picking it up as it doesn’t have Google services out of the box.
Honor Magic Vs: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if:
- You want a foldable with a refined design
- You need a large outer screen and a hinge that closes fully flat
- You’re looking for the foldable with the best battery life
- You need good cameras
You shouldn’t buy this if:
- You want easy-to-use software
- You need foldable-focused features
- You need a phone with ingress protection
- You want wireless charging
It isn’t fair to pit the Magic Vs against other Chinese brands as those foldables are still limited to China. The fact that Honor is launching the Magic Vs in global markets makes the foldable the first real threat to Samsung’s dominance in this category, and thankfully, Honor got a lot right.
The Magic Vs feels great in daily use, and a lot of that has to do with the hinge design; the lighter hinge system just feels better, and it closes fully flat with no visible gap — giving it a distinct edge over the Z Fold 4. There isn’t much in the way of a visible crease either, and while it isn’t as good as the Find N2, it is definitely less intrusive than the Z Fold 4. My only quibble in this area is that the inner screen is limited to 90Hz — a 120Hz panel would have made the Magic Vs that much more enticing.
While Honor clearly nailed the design brief, it has a lot of work to do on the software front. In its current iteration, MagicOS 7.1 doesn’t hold a candle to One UI 5.1, ColorOS 13, and even Funtouch OS 13. The interface misses out on basic features like an app drawer, and you don’t get any foldable-focused features introduced in Android 12L.
Honor’s Magic Vs is notable because it is the first credible threat to Samsung’s foldable dominance in global markets, and that’s always good for the category as a whole. But the software is underwhelming for a device that costs this much, and that makes me unwilling to recommend the Magic Vs — for now, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is still the better all-round device.