Honor Magic 2 review

Angie Zampona, 14 December 2018.

Android Pie and Magic UI 2.0

The Honor Magic 2 runs on a heavily customized Magic UI, v.2.0.0. It was an interesting switch that took place a month ago with Magic replacing Huawei's EMUI as the name of the custom launcher. You know, they call it Magic UI, but it's essentially still EMUI, in what's looking just like the 9.0 version we found on the Mate 20.

Obviously, it won't be to Android purists' tastes, but you should know better than to expect vanilla Android from Huawei/Honor. Our review unit came with a ton of China-specific software installed and no Google Play Services, but it was a straightforward process to install those from the Chinese app store.

Honor Magic 2 review

Anyway, the experience starts by sliding the display bit down to expose the front camera for the facial recognition. Pretty much as soon as the camera gets to have a look at your face, the phone unlocks. Obviously, if you wake the phone with the power button, there'll be no face unlocking - the camera is behind the display.

Honor Magic 2 review

For those cases, you can use the under-display fingerprint sensor - yes, that one is under the display too, but not quite under-under as the camera. In our experience, the sensor isn't as quick as we'd like (not as fast as on the OnePlus 6t, for example) and requires a bit of a firmer press. It does the job, only it may take a couple of tries.

Security features - Honor Magic 2 review Security features - Honor Magic 2 review Security features - Honor Magic 2 review Security features - Honor Magic 2 review Security features - Honor Magic 2 review
Security features

Magic UI, being EMUI in disguise, has Magazine lock screen, which cycles through a bunch of wallpapers (covers), so you see a different one every time you fire up the display. There's naturally plenty of customization options and features, smart rotation, and lift to wake. Themes are supported, too, and there is a lot to choose from.

Out of the box, there is no app drawer on the EMUI 9 - it's a single tier interface akin to iOS. However, if you prefer Android's usual two-tier layout, you can enable it from the Display settings.

Lockscreen - Honor Magic 2 review Covers - Honor Magic 2 review Homescreen - Honor Magic 2 review Homescreen styles - Honor Magic 2 review Themes - Honor Magic 2 review Themes - Honor Magic 2 review
Lockscreen • Covers • Homescreen • Homescreen styles • Themes

With the ultra modern bezelless design, it would make no sense to be all retro and use a navigation bar on the bottom. We saw Huawei's take on gesture navigation on the Mates, and it's present here on the Honor Magic as well. It goes like this - swipe up for Home, swipe up and stop midway for Task switcher, or swipe from the left or right edge of the screen for Back. If you are, however, unwilling to accept the current trends in UI navigation, the option for a nav bar is still there.

Gesture navigation - Honor Magic 2 review Gesture navigation - Honor Magic 2 review Gesture navigation - Honor Magic 2 review Gesture navigation - Honor Magic 2 review
Gesture navigation

The notification shade is straight out of EMUI - it does the same things as any most standard implementations, with the usual Huawei take on the graphics. There's a brightness slider and a row of toggles, and you pull down again for more toggles.

Multitasking works in familiar ways too, with a slight modification due to the use of gestures. Swipe up and hold to access the task switcher and tap on the icon in the top right corner of the apps that support multi-window.

Notification area - Honor Magic 2 review Toggles - Honor Magic 2 review Recent apps - Honor Magic 2 review Split screen - Honor Magic 2 review
Notification area • Toggles • Recent apps • Split screen

From the Phone Manager app, you can access shortcuts to storage cleanup, battery settings, blocked numbers, Virus scan powered by Avast, and mobile data usage.

Huawei's own Music app offers a way to listen to stored MP3s, while Huawei's Health app offers Google Fit syncing and step counting. The gallery is an entirely custom job too, but it has the usual chronological and albums views plus an AI powered highlights selection. There's a file manager app and a note-taking app. And if you don't like any of those - there is an abundance of alternatives in the Play Store.

Phone Manager - Honor Magic 2 review Music Player - Honor Magic 2 review Gallery - Honor Magic 2 review Huawei Health - Honor Magic 2 review Files - Honor Magic 2 review
Phone Manager • Music Player • Gallery • Huawei Health • Files

Synthetic benchmarks

The Honor Magic 2 is powered by the in-house developed Kirin 980 chipset. It's a cutting-edge SoC built on a 7nm fabrication process and no droid outside of Huawei's lineup can boast such a thing (yet). The same silicon is found inside the more expensive models in the Mate 20 series ('lite' version excluded), so effectively the Magic 2 has all the computational power Huawei can muster.

That comes courtesy of an octa-core CPU in a tri-cluster configuration (2x2.6 GHz Cortex-A76 & 2x1.92 GHz Cortex-A76 & 4x1.8 GHz Cortex-A55) and a Mali-G76 MP10 GPU. RAM options are either 6GB or 8GB, and we have the latter for this review.

Honor Magic 2 review

RAM has little to no effect on CPU performance and GeekBench is our go-to benchmark for measuring that. The Magic 2's numbers are very much in line with what we got out of the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro, and that's some class-leading multi-core performance.

GeekBench 4.1 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Honor Magic 2
    9887
  • Huawei Mate 20
    9793
  • Huawei Mate 20 Pro
    9712
  • Xiaomi Pocophone F1
    9003
  • OnePlus 6T
    8977
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+
    8883
  • LG G7 ThinQ
    8865
  • Sony Xperia XZ3
    8607
  • LG V40 ThinQ
    8568
  • Xiaomi Mi 8
    8494
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+ (Snapdragon)
    8349
  • Google Pixel 3
    8146
  • Google Pixel 3 XL
    8088
  • Honor Play
    6696
  • Huawei P20 Pro
    6679
  • Honor 10
    6591

It would have been the same in single-core performance if it weren't for the oversized custom cores that Samsung uses in the Exynos 9810 chip in the Galaxy S9+, which are still unmatched in the Android world. Even so, the Magic 2 is significantly more powerful in single-core tasks than the Snapdragon 845 competitors.

GeekBench 4.1 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S9+
    3771
  • Honor Magic 2
    3316
  • Huawei Mate 20 Pro
    3291
  • Huawei Mate 20
    3284
  • Sony Xperia XZ3
    2486
  • Xiaomi Pocophone F1
    2438
  • Xiaomi Mi 8
    2431
  • OnePlus 6T
    2431
  • LG V40 ThinQ
    2408
  • LG G7 ThinQ
    2395
  • Google Pixel 3
    2377
  • Google Pixel 3 XL
    2363
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+ (Snapdragon)
    2199
  • Huawei P20 Pro
    1907
  • Honor Play
    1899
  • Honor 10
    1894

When it comes to graphics, the Magic 2 puts out average numbers - for a high-end phone, that is. The Snapdragons of the day can achieve 10-15% higher frame rates in offscreen tests, and that either remains true in onscreen runs for the 1080p phones in this pool. Conversely, the higher-res models fall below the 1080p Magic 2 in onscreen tests.

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S9+ (Snapdragon)
    61
  • Xiaomi Pocophone F1
    60
  • OnePlus 6T
    60
  • LG G7 ThinQ
    57
  • Google Pixel 3
    57
  • Sony Xperia XZ3
    56
  • LG V40 ThinQ
    56
  • Huawei Mate 20 Pro
    53
  • Huawei Mate 20
    53
  • Honor Magic 2
    53
  • Xiaomi Mi 8
    53
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+
    47
  • Google Pixel 3 XL
    44
  • Huawei P20 Pro
    40
  • Honor Play
    39
  • Honor 10
    37

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Google Pixel 3
    55
  • Xiaomi Pocophone F1
    53
  • OnePlus 6T
    53
  • Xiaomi Mi 8
    50
  • Huawei Mate 20
    47
  • Honor Magic 2
    45
  • Huawei P20 Pro
    37
  • Honor 10
    37
  • Honor Play
    36
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+ (Snapdragon)
    34
  • Sony Xperia XZ3
    31
  • LG G7 ThinQ
    30
  • LG V40 ThinQ
    29
  • Huawei Mate 20 Pro
    27
  • Google Pixel 3 XL
    24
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+
    24

GFX 3.1 Car scene (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • LG G7 ThinQ
    35
  • Xiaomi Pocophone F1
    35
  • Sony Xperia XZ3
    35
  • Google Pixel 3
    35
  • OnePlus 6T
    35
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+ (Snapdragon)
    35
  • LG V40 ThinQ
    34
  • Xiaomi Mi 8
    33
  • Honor Magic 2
    30
  • Huawei Mate 20 Pro
    29
  • Huawei Mate 20
    28
  • Google Pixel 3 XL
    28
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+
    28
  • Huawei P20 Pro
    23
  • Honor 10
    23
  • Honor Play
    22

GFX 3.1 Car scene (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi 8
    33
  • Google Pixel 3
    33
  • Xiaomi Pocophone F1
    31
  • OnePlus 6T
    31
  • Huawei Mate 20
    28
  • Honor Magic 2
    26
  • Huawei P20 Pro
    21
  • Honor 10
    21
  • Honor Play
    21
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+ (Snapdragon)
    20
  • Sony Xperia XZ3
    19
  • LG G7 ThinQ
    18
  • Huawei Mate 20 Pro
    17
  • LG V40 ThinQ
    16
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+
    14
  • Google Pixel 3 XL
    12

We then turn to Antutu for a number to gauge overall performance, and the Honor handset is posting numbers towards the top of the pack and virtually identical to those from the Mate 20s.

AnTuTu 7

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 6T
    293994
  • Sony Xperia XZ3
    284555
  • Honor Magic 2
    274466
  • Huawei Mate 20 Pro
    273913
  • Huawei Mate 20
    273913
  • Xiaomi Pocophone F1
    265314
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+ (Snapdragon)
    264044
  • LG G7 ThinQ
    259393
  • Google Pixel 3 XL
    258244
  • LG V40 ThinQ
    254304
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+
    246660
  • Google Pixel 3
    233699
  • Xiaomi Mi 8
    217298
  • Huawei P20 Pro
    209884
  • Honor Play
    204876
  • Honor 10
    200440

Overall, a pretty predictable showing from the Honor Magic 2 and a predictably great one too. You could expect slightly higher numbers if you enable the Performance mode, but those won't be sustainable and will dip when thermal throttling kicks in. Plus, it'll eat up into your battery life.

Reader comments

  • Anonymous

When it'll be released in Pakistan...???

  • Tonker

Im replying this on honor magic 2. Its a whole different & wonderful experience.

  • the validator

valid point that dude