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Honor 90 review: Back with a bang but at what cost?

Honor has made a comeback in the country after a three-year hiatus, and it has a lot of convincing to do before consumers can embrace it like they used to. The company has chosen to target the upper mid-range segment with the Honor 90, which starts at Rs 37,999. That sounds like a steep price, so let’s see if it’s really worth it.

Design and display

Honor didn’t cut corners on the exterior. The Honor 90 is sleek and slim, well-built, light and well-balanced, and has a smooth and rounded body for a great in-hand feel. Its design is also very elegant and even luxurious. I got the Emerald Green colour and when it catches the sunlight just right, it blinds you with a thousand sparkles.

honor 90 review 3 (Image: Zohaib Ahmed/The Indian Express)

How it feels is another story. While it’s one of the most comfortable smartphones to hold thanks to its extremely rounded design and the fact that it’s super light and slim, the choice of materials is not so cool. The back is glass but feels a tad plasticky and the frame is not metal either.

But the display is here to redeem the phone with its curved design that gives the illusion that UI elements are floating above the phone. This display also features PWM dimming. Honor claims that it helps reduce eye fatigue significantly, especially when the phone is used for long periods of time. But I couldn’t really tell the difference. Maybe older people will appreciate it more. Or maybe it’s a long-term thing that I’ll notice after years of smartphone abuse.

honor 90 review (Image: Zohaib Ahmed/The Indian Express)

Apart from PWM dimming, the Honor 90’s 120Hz display is crisp, reasonably bright, and even has a 1.5K resolution — all the signs of a near flagship-level display.

Performance and software

The Honor 90 is powered by the Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 Accelerated Edition chip, which is not exactly the latest and greatest from Qualcomm. The Snapdragon 7 Gen 2 outshines it in every aspect, but the Honor 90 has a small consolation prize: the Accelerated Edition suffix. This means that the CPU’s prime core has been boosted to 2.5GHz from the usual 2.4GHz, resulting in a marginal performance improvement. The AnTuTu score is just below 6,00,000, which is respectable but not impressive. It does handle everyday tasks like a champ though, thanks to the superbly optimised MagicOS 7.1 skin.

honor 90 review (Image: Zohaib Ahmed/The Indian Express)

MagicOS was a pleasant surprise for me as a former Honor Play user. It looked very familiar, with icons and apps that resembled EMUI, but that was a good thing. Instead of making unnecessary changes to the interface, Honor focused on polishing the UI and enhancing fluidity. I also liked that Honor partnered with both Google and Microsoft, so I got the best of both worlds. All of Google’s apps and services were there, but the default keyboard app was actually SwiftKey.

The only thing that annoyed me was an unwanted update that replaced the notification panel with an iOS-style Control Center. The notification panel was simpler and did not have the cheesy ‘Control Center’ text and I miss it.

Camera

The Honor 90 boasts a massive 200MP Samsung ISOCELL HP3 sensor in the primary camera, which sounds like a dream come true on paper. This sensor is accompanied by a 12MP ultrawide and a 2MP depth sensor. The main sensor produces decent photos in daylight, but nothing to write home about.

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The details do tend to fade a little more than you’d expect when you zoom in. On the bright side, the colour accuracy is excellent, with natural tones throughout. The night mode is a similar story.

honor 90 review camera 7 (Image: Zohaib Ahmed/The Indian Express)

But then again, most people would be perfectly content with the camera performance of the Honor 90. The photos are ready to be shared on social media and are not bad at all.

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Verdict

honor 90 review 1 (Image: Zohaib Ahmed/The Indian Express)

The Honor 90 has put itself in a tricky spot with its Rs 37,999 price tag. Apart from the stunning display, its specs do not really scream flagship killer. For a little more money, you can get flagship killers like the Oppo Reno 10 Pro+ and the OnePlus 11R, both with flagship-grade chips. Again, it is not a bad phone at all, but its positioning in the market is rather Samsung-esque, as it relies more on brand value than value for money. If you are planning to get this device, you will surely be dazzled by its quad-curved display and smooth and well-optimised software. But beyond that, the phone is a hard sell.

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