Let me pull the curtain back on something that happens when you spend time with a very early phone prototype: Often, there’s a list of stipulations that mean you can’t talk about your experiences in a certain way. Keep this in mind as I talk about this prototype I’ve been dealing with for the past few days. I really like it, though I’ve been asked not to make any strong conclusions about its unfinished hardware, software, imaging, performance, and display quality.
The Magic VS is the company’s second foldable phone, albeit the first to be available for sale outside of China when it hits select global markets at the start of 2023. It’s a close cousin to Honor’s first foldable phone, which was first released at the start of 2022, and that sounds like it. Like a polish, rather than an evolution, of the current model. The main difference is the largely redesigned hinge with far fewer parts, which makes it more reliable. And the company promises that the phone will withstand 400,000 times, or more than 100 times, a day for the better part of a decade. It’s also two grams lighter than Samsung’s Z Fold 4, something Honor is proud of, but it’s still only two grams.
The rest of the differences between Magic VS and Magic V are all fairly minor; 5,000mAh battery, up from the last model’s 4,750mAh. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is being replaced by the 8+, and there’s one major change on the imaging front. While the V was packing a trio of 50MP lenses, the VS dropped in favor of an 8MP, f/2.4 3x optical zoom. Of course, I can’t speak to the power of those thick zoom lenses, or the speed at which they shoot. Or that, like a lot of other Android devices, you wish the pictures weren’t as dim.
As for displays, you’ll find that the external 6.45-inch OLED display is no slouch, especially since it has a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. Honor knows that most people will default to the external display for the bulk of their smartphone use, so that’s almost the first thought here. The 21:9 ratio is still tight and confusing at first, but it’s hardly a deal-breaker. And if I’m being honest, you’d settle for a slightly narrower external display for the sake of a foldable 7.9-inch OLED. Now, it’s not HD or fast (it beats at 90Hz) but it’s so much bigger that you’ll want to use it as often as possible.
Honor says the display is “not wrinkled,” a term I’d take with a fair amount of trouble, if only because there’s no such thing. Hold the device face up, and when watching a video or browsing, you’ll hardly notice the crease unless you catch the light at a bad angle. Sit anywhere off center and you can see the bumps in the terrain just fine—but that doesn’t mean that’s a deal breaker at all. It’s just that some of the promises look better on paper than they do when you’re looking at a very faint bezel in a flexible OLED screen.
One thing I can talk about is the hinge, which helps the two halves of the phone fold flat (save for the dreaded camera bump) and sit comfortably in my pocket. There’s no doubt that this is still a huge slab of device, with a 6.45-inch screen, which will be uncomfortable if you’re a fan of super skinny jeans. But if you’re looking for something that will pull double duty as a slate, this looks like the most stylish in the admittedly limited pantheon.
I probably can’t draw conclusions about the speed of the power button-mounted fingerprint sensor, or the face unlocking of the camera. Sure, don’t expect the Snapdragon 8+ to stutter, especially when paired with 12GB of storage, like it does here. Honor gave strict instructions not to test app performance on the device, but I can’t imagine that — given the performance of what’s preloaded, this device would have a hard time handling too much. I tried out a very popular Battle Royale game, I won’t name it to respect Honor’s wishes, and it ran beautifully.
The Magic VS won’t ship with the Magic Pen pen input, but it does support , which I’d say is a good start, but not really what this device should be. After all, the benefit of a device like this is what it can do for you when you need to do some focused work when you’re out and about. (Well, that’s my concern, I’m sure others just want a bigger screen to play Fortnite Turn on, and that’s totally fine.) If Honor ships this thing with a little kickstand and matching wireless keyboard (or both), I could see it becoming every traveler’s dream purchase.
Now, this is something that I think should make the folks at Samsung feel a little queasy. It’s an imperfect comparison, but imagine you’re watching the Z Fold 4, which currently retails for $1,700 in the US. Honor plans to sell the Magic VS for 7,499 yuan in China, which works out to about $1,048. Now, for example, Honor will most likely not sell to the US market, and taxes and exchange rates will play their part. But if the latest version of this phone can offer something very similar to the Z Fold 4 at a much lower price, I can imagine it turning a lot of potential fold owners’ heads.
Now, like I said, I can’t make any hard conclusions about this device, but what I can say is that I really think it deserves a full review when it hits global markets early next year. And there’s enough here to say that Honor might make a very compelling case to be spoken of as a fair competitor to Samsung at the higher end of the Android space.
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