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Honor 90 review: An immaculate mid-range display

Our Rating :
£399.00 from
Price when reviewed : £450
inc VAT

Honor returns with another sharp-looking mid-range smartphone


  • Outstanding screen
  • Decent performance
  • Generally classy design


  • No wireless charging or charger in box
  • Puny mono speaker
  • MagicOS too busy

Honor is rapidly establishing itself as a serious player in the smartphone game, emulating parent Huawei’s former approach in producing classy, distinctive handsets. Last year’s Honor 70 provided an elegant, if flawed, mid-range experience, so hopes are high that the Honor 90 can iron out some of the creases.

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Even in an increasingly competitive mid-range scene, there’s still ample room for a phone that provides that little bit of extra glamour. However, the Honor 90 suggests that the brand isn’t quite learning its lessons quickly enough.

Honor 90 review: What you need to know

Like the Honor 70, the Honor 90 is a mid-range smartphone that sets out to dazzle with a flagship-ish design, with a competent underlying spec sheet and just one or two compromises at a £500 price point.

Honor has been tinkering with its camera system again. No sooner had it brought in a large 54MP main image sensor for last year’s model, that it decided to switch the component out again for an even larger 200MP sensor in the new Honor 90.

Change is also afoot in the performance department, with a newer, faster Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 that’s been accelerated a little beyond its original performance parameters. Add in a brighter and sharper 6.7in 2,664 x 1,200 120Hz OLED display, and Honor is clearly stepping things up a little.

There’s an even larger 5,000mAh battery this time around, paired with the same 66W charging potential. However, there’s no charger in the box with this year’s model, and wireless charging still isn’t supported.

Honor 90 review: Price and competition

Prices for the Honor 90 start from £450 for 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, while my test unit is the 12GB/512GB step-up model retailing for £500.

That’s quite a turn up for the books, because this pricing makes the Honor 90 a rare 2023 smartphone that has actually gotten a little cheaper than its predecessor. Honor 70 pricing started from £480, and it only gave you the one base option here in the UK.

At that starting price, the Honor 90 finds itself in direct competition with the Google Pixel 7a, the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G and the Poco F5. That’s some high-grade competition.

Honor 90 review: Design and key features

If I were to name one thing the Honor 90 has over its mid-range competitors it’s a certain elevated sense of style. That much it shares with the Honor 70 before it.

Once again, you get a display that curves away at the edges, which is typically a design feature you associate with Android flagships. Also familiar is the Honor 90’s skinny (7.8mm) and lightweight (183g) body. It’s a pleasant phone to look at and use, although the frame is sadly made of plastic.

My test model is the Diamond Silver unit, which features a new etched glass design on the rear of the phone that will likely prove divisive. To my mind, it’s a little chintzy, rather resembling a doily. The Emerald Green and Midnight Black models are more traditionally plain, but the latter model won’t let you max out the RAM and storage.

We often complain about the ‘me too’ nature of modern smartphone design, and this signature model of the Honor 90 certainly doesn’t look like anything else out there. So props to Honor for trying something different, at least, even if it’s not wholly successful.

There are more glaringly negative design decisions elsewhere. There’s still no official dust and water resistance IP rating here, for example, which places the Honor 90 at a disadvantage compared to the Pixel 7a and the Galaxy A54 5G.

Honor still hasn’t equipped its mid-ranger with a proper set of stereo speakers, either. You’ll have to make do with just the one, somewhat brash and bass-lacking, bottom-mounted speaker for your sound output, which is far from satisfactory in a £500 phone.

While we’re on a bit of a downer here, Honor’s MagicOS 7.1 software still doesn’t belong anywhere near the top tier of the Android interface competition. It’s overly busy, with large folders and a split notification/Control Center menu that speaks to an ongoing obsession with emulating iOS rather than the clean Android OS sitting underneath.

Naturally, there’s a high degree of customisation potential, so you can whip this scramble of elements into some sort of shape. But all in all, Honor’s software lacks the elegance of its hardware, and it falls short of the crisp utility found in those interfaces that stick closer to stock Android.

There’s quite a bit of bloatware here, with pre-installed apps for Netflix, Facebook,, TikTok and a couple of throw-away games. Honor likes to pile on its own services and apps too, and there are just a few too many annoyances, like the inability to set a different default Calendar app in the Settings menu.

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Honor 90 review: Display

The Honor 70’s display was a strong performer, so it’s gratifying to see that Honor hasn’t rested on its laurels. The Honor 90’s screen is a straight up banger, and the best you can get for the money – or even a fair amount more.

It’s an all-new 6.7-inch OLED panel with a 120Hz resolution and a unique 2,664 x 1,200 resolution. The latter isn’t something I can remember seeing before, falling somewhere in between FHD+ and the ‘Retina’ resolution employed by Apple in its iPhones, not to mention Honor itself with the Magic 5 Pro.

It’s extremely crisp and well-balanced. Interestingly you can set three different resolutions here – High (as above), Standard (2,442 x 1,100) or Low (1,998 x 900), with a Smart Resolution option flicking between the three according to the task.

Honor has doubled the Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) dimming rate to 3,840Hz too, with the aim of being even easier on your eyes. Most flagship phones don’t feature such a thoughtful provision, let alone mid-range handsets.

I found the default Vivid colour mode to be nicely vibrant without being overly punchy, but it’s the Normal mode that turns out the best colour accuracy. In this mode I recorded a 98.7% gamut coverage against a 99.5% gamut volume in the sRGB space, with an average Delta E rating of 0.78.

That’s outstanding, and is much better than the Honor 70, as well as pretty much everything else in the Honor 90’s class. A maximum measured luminance (with auto-brightness off) of 530cd/m² is a big improvement, too. Honor reckons it will hit 1,600cd/m² in peak HDR situations, which is flat-out flagship-worthy.

Honor 90 review: Performance and battery life

The Honor 90 is a decent mid-range performer, courtesy of a Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 chip. This is the ‘Accelerated Edition’ of the chip, which is a slightly overclocked version of last year’s mid-range Qualcomm processor. Honor 90 review - PerformanceIt produces strong benchmark results that top the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G and its custom Exynos 1380 chip, while falling just a little short of the Pixel 7a with its flagship-level Tensor G2.

I couldn’t fault the Honor 90 in day to day performance terms, either. It’s slick, smooth and responsive, and it runs that pixel-packed display at full 120Hz without a hitch. My model came with an ample 12GB of RAM, but even the entry version comes with a decent 8GB. Honor 90 reviews - GamingHonor has upped the size of the battery to 5,000mAh with this year’s model. Given that the display is now sharper and brighter, that’s a smart move. I ran the Honor 90 with a fully cranked up resolution and refresh rate from the off, which yielded perfectly competent results from the battery. On full days, with around five hours of screen-on time – what I would call a fairly intense-usage day – I was generally left with between 22 and 25% left in the tank. Given the aforementioned qualifiers, I think that’s pretty good going.

In more scientific terms, I ran our standard looping video test, and the Honor 90 gave up after 19hrs 45mins. That’s far from catastrophic, but it is some way short of the Pixel 7a and the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G, and almost two hours short of the Honor 70. I suspect it’s all down to that sharper display, and that with the default flexible resolution option left on it would perform just fine. Honor 90 review - Battery lifeOne thing that’s tougher to let pass is Honor’s charging provision. This year it’s decided to leave the charger out of the box. True, the Pixel 7a and the Galaxy A54 also do this, but fast charging has never been a part of the package with those lines. One of the key features of the Honor 50 and the Honor 70 was rapid 66W charging support, but you’re going to have to buy a specialist charger to make the most of it this time.

When you hook up an appropriate charger (I happened to have Honor’s 66W brick to hand from the Magic Vs) it will get you from empty to 76% in 30 minutes, and on to full in a smidgen over 45 minutes.

Another way in which the Honor 90 falls short of the Pixel 7a, not to mention its own flagship ideals, is by omitting support for wireless charging. Again, this isn’t a set-in-stone feature for this price, but it’s always nice to have.

Honor 90 review: Cameras

Interestingly, having swapped in a strong new 54MP 1/1.49″ image sensor for the Honor 70, the company has changed things up yet again for the Honor 90. Instead, in comes a 200MP 1/1.4″ sensor. Honor 90 review - camera sample daytime BridgeIt’s both bigger and way more pixel-dense, and by employing the usual pixel-binning trickery the Honor 90 is capable of capturing bright, detailed, vibrant shots. There’s a hint of excessive punchiness to the colours, but generally speaking everything looks reasonably natural while being eminently Instagrammable. It’s backed by a 2MP depth sensor for those portrait shots, though the accentuated bokeh effect wasn’t the most natural I’ve ever seen. Honor 90 review - camera sample NightNight mode shots are reasonably bright and sharp without looking too fake, although there are clear signs of graininess in those dark skies. It’s at this point that the Honor 90 camera’s lack of OIS really bites. It’s an omission that neither the Pixel 7a nor the Galaxy A54 5G have made.

The Honor 90’s main camera is also a little fuzzy and indistinct in those mid-lighting conditions, such as when shooting human subjects indoors with artificial lighting, where it can feel a little sluggish and prone to movement blur. Honor 90 review - camera sample blurOn paper it’s a bit of a shame to see the 50MP ultrawide of the Honor 70 scaled back to a 12MP equivalent, but I was reasonably pleased with the quality of the ultrawide shots I took here. The general tone isn’t a huge departure from the main sensor, and detail and contrast are both passable, if not up to the main sensor’s standards.

The 50MP front camera is a strong performer too, providing decent detail, contrast and colour depth, while skin tones are on point. Honor has also offered two shooting angles – one normal 1x, and one zoomed-out 0.8x option. There’s only the one selfie camera around front, so there’s clearly cropping involved here (hence the megapixel boost), but it’s an effective mid-range camera solution.

Is this new camera set-up an improvement over the Honor 70 before it? Without being able to shoot with the two side-by-side, it’s impossible to say for sure, but I would suggest not. Given the choice, I would rather Honor had kept its hardware exactly the same and simply added OIS. Ultimately, it’s a solid setup that doesn’t disappoint, but it also doesn’t quite match the well-rounded capabilities of the Pixel 7a and the Galaxy A54 5G.

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Honor 90 review: Verdict

With the Honor 90, this emerging brand is tantalisingly close to offering a mid-range smartphone champion. Its display is without equal in the weight class, the main camera takes solid photos, and performance is broadly competitive.

However, the phone seems to suffer from the odd blip that stands at odds with the classy confidence found elsewhere. The lack of an IP rating, stereo speakers and OIS set it back in its fight with the Pixel 7a and Galaxy A54, while it can’t match the former’s wireless charging provision, either. Meanwhile, I’m not convinced that the new signature finish is a step forward in the design department.

That display and the overall flagship air of the phone ensures the Honor 90 a place on the best mid-ranger shortlist, though that’s as a strong alternative pick rather than a confirmed member of the leading pack.

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