- The HONOR Magic4 Ultimate has a curved 6.81-inch LTPO screen and a Penta-camera setup at the back.
- Under the hood is a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC, a customized AI ISP, and a standalone security chip, jointly delivering flagship experiences in display, photography, videography, gaming and privacy.
- The premium flagship smartphone supports 100W fast-charging and 50W wireless-charging speeds.
Amid the intensifying premium smartphone battle in China, HONOR has successfully upgraded its flagship lineup with the Magic4 Ultimate. Sitting at the top of the Magic4 series, the Magic4 Ultimate, like its predecessor, brings great innovations in hardware and software.
Equipped with 12GB RAM and 512GB storage, it is still priced at ¥7,999 or around $1,230 for the China market. The model’s performance is comprehensively improved with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset and a customized AI ISP. I have been using the smartphone for a while and it impressed me in three key areas:
- The Magic4 Ultimate strives to present a combination of beauty and advanced technologies. Its exterior consists of a 6.81-inch bezel-less quad-curved screen, a flashy stainless steel middle frame, and a refined nanocrystal ceramic shell that creates a sense of elegance.
- The gaming experience, built on the fourth-generation Snapdragon Elite Gaming engine and HONOR’s enhanced GPU Turbo X technology, is smooth and enjoyable.
- The last but the most important is the sophisticated and powerful imaging system. The rear penta-camera setup is led by a 50MP, 1/1.14-inch large main camera and performs extremely well in capturing true-to-life images with superb clarity and rich details day and night. I will discuss the three highlights and other features in detail in my review below.
HONOR strengthens its presence in China’s flagship battle with Magic4 Ultimate
In 2021, China’s premium smartphone market recorded significant YoY growth with nearly one out of four smartphones being sold at above $600. This lucrative segment is becoming ever more important, particularly for China-based brands looking to improve their product mix and achieve meaningful earnings against the overall decline in smartphone sales, while enhancing their brand image.
The new round of competition started following the announcement of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC in December 2021. Soon after the availability of the vivo X80 Pro in late April 2022, major Android brands launched 25 premium models with the flagship SoC inside. To stand out from the crowd, HONOR made great efforts in unleashing the full potential of the system by leveraging its self-developed Turbo X technologies, and also implemented multiple heat dissipation solutions, including the graphene film and VC plate, to maximize the computing power. In addition to the cutting-edge SoC, HONOR empowers the Magic4 Ultimate and other models from the Magic4 series with a brand-new LTPO display and upgraded imaging system. According to Counterpoint’s China Smartphone Weekly Tracker, the monthly sales of the Magic4 series quickly crossed 200,000 units in April, having been among the best-selling Android flagship phones in China since March.
Commenting on the upgrades from the Magic3 Ultimate, Research Analyst Mengmeng Zhang said, “The Magic4 Ultimate undoubtedly has greater computing capabilities, with the Snapdragon 8 Gen1 promising 20% faster CPU, 30% faster GPU and 4x faster AI performance compared to the Snapdragon 888. On top of the industry-leading 5G mobile platform, three standalone processors, represented by the dedicated AI ISP, play an important complementary role and allow users to explore more premium and unique experiences. Besides, the improvements in display, camera, security and battery life also stem from using the advanced LTPO technology, improved camera setup, and more secure fingerprint and faster-charging solutions.”
Magic4 Ultimate vs Magic3 Ultimate
Design: Emphasizes sense of harmony, symmetry, elegance
The Magic4 Ultimate largely inherits design characteristics from its predecessor. The front side of the 163-mm-long body is fully covered by a super-curved nanocrystal glass, which is engineered for more comfortable single-handed use and better protection from damaging drops. The redesigned iconic Eye of Muse is still an eye-catcher but creates greater symmetry and balance with the periscope camera relocated to the center, and the new pattern looks more modern and attractive. The Magic4 Ultimate also blends more streamlined styling into the new nanocrystal ceramic back, on which the runway-like protrusions neatly surround the camera bump.
Display: Smooth, vivid, immersive visual experiences
The Magic4 Ultimate is equipped with a flagship-level, HDR10+ OLED display supporting the best-in-class color accuracy. It has a resolution of 1312×2848 pixels (around 460ppi density) and allows users to view pictures and videos with sharp details. The display also realizes the combination of LTPO-based 1~120Hz adaptive refresh rate and 1920Hz PWM dimming technology, which provides double-edged benefits – better eye protection and power saving by switching the refresh rate to the lowest possible when displaying static content.
On top of these, HONOR, together with Pixelworks, enables premium viewing experiences leveraging technologies such as “Always-on HDR” and MEMC (Motion Estimation and Motion Compensation). Powered by the dedicated display processor, the Magic4 Ultimate supports on-the-fly conversion of SDR videos to HDR quality and intelligent increasing video frame rate to eliminate motion blur, leading to a more vivid and fluid display.
Gaming: Ultra-smooth, realistic experience
The fourth-generation Snapdragon Elite Gaming engine is designed to push the limit of mobile gaming experience. It features more than 50 enhancements, in which technologies such as “Adreno Frame Motion Engine” and “Variable Rate Shading Pro” can effectively alleviate the GPU load, thus improving frame rate, picture clarity and power consumption while gaming.
The powerful engine is well complemented by the latest GPU Turbo X technology. By implementing the mobile gaming-oriented “AI Super Rendering” and fully taking the advantage of multiprocessor synergy, the upgraded GPU Turbo X can highly improve the graphic processing efficiency and also elevate the gaming performance. Consequently, we can play the graphically demanding game titles with less power but without compromising the visual quality.
In addition, the ultra-high-speed 5G and Wi-Fi 6 connection, paired with HONOR’s LINK Turbo X technology, provides a lag-free gaming experience.
Photography: Industry-leading performance
The biggest highlight of the Magic4 Ultimate is the versatile world-facing “Eye of Muse” system. Its flagship-grade main camera is powered by the Samsung ISOCELL GN2 and a customized 8P wide-angle lens set. With 50 million 1.4μm-sized pixels and a large aperture of f/1.6, the default camera can take in more light and offers great low-light performance and dynamic range.
To better restore what you see, the Magic4 Ultimate adds another 50MP camera, especially for spectral enhancement, with which it can reproduce more accurate colors, textures and real-light and shadow effects.
Below is a good example of how the Magic4 Ultimate restored the color on the glass and retained the decorative details without overexposing them.
The above image was shot in default mode. The colors of lights, plants and flowers are very close to reality and the dynamic range is well balanced, retaining good details in the indoor areas.
In addition, the rear camera system includes a 3.5x optical zoom periscope camera and a 126-degree ultrawide camera. The two 64MP auxiliary cameras are located close to the main camera, forming a triangular arrangement that is designed to facilitate the implementation of HONOR’s “Ultra Fusion Photography”.
The technology provides an innovative approach for cameras to work together, thus maximizing image quality by fully utilizing the strength of different lens modules. As shown below, in the overlapped zoom range, the process has two steps. First, multiple frames shot by each camera are merged, respectively, and then the resulting images are further aligned and combined into a single photo.
HONOR’s Fusion Photography Technology Fits into Magic4 Ultimate’s Impressive Zoom Range
Benefiting from the enhancement of “Ultra Fusion Photography”, we can capture moments more sharply and clearly than ever. The photo below presents clear details of the leaves in the foreground and the building at the far end.
When working alone, the ultrawide and periscope cameras also show great performance. The former has a 7P lens set supporting a 126° field of view and is among the best choices for grand landscape photography. It also incorporates two pieces of the free-form lens, which significantly improve edge distortion. Below is a photo shot at 15 mm equivalent focus length where the straight lines on the wall look quite natural.
With the support of autofocus, the ultrawide camera can also be used for close-up shots, allowing you to click stunning photos of flowers as shown below.
The periscope design supports up to 100x hybrid zoom capability, making it a perfect fit for long-distance shots. Below is a photo captured at the 7x zoom level. It still retains rich details while minimizing the noise and the words on the poster are quite readable.
The camera system is not only a real success in daylight conditions but its performance in low-light environments is also great, and this is largely due to the adoption of the independent AI ISP. The customized chipset has up to 28.8TOPS computing power and supports the nearly real-time process of a burst of raw images at different exposure settings, leading to a greater night photography experience, including the support of 4K Super Night mode videos.
The image below was captured using night mode, where the pink light falling on the glass ceiling and tree leaves were accurately reproduced with little noise in the sky area. Thanks to the support of OIS optical stabilization for both the wide and telephoto cameras, it is much easier for us to shoot great night photos, no more worrying about unintentionally blurring them with a hand jitter.
The camera system has more to offer. To suppress lens flare and improve the image quality against the sunlight, HONOR applies the super anti-flare coating technology to the lens surface. Besides, the flicker sensor and 8×8 dToF sensing camera are preserved. The latter can effectively help improve the autofocus speed and accuracy, especially in low light. Combining with the large aperture of the main camera, it also brings better bokeh effects like in the picture below which presents a gradually blurring foreground and background.
The Magic4 Ultimate also provides impressive video capabilities. Thanks to the “Dual Chain Computational Photography & Videography” algorithm, we are allowed to capture high-quality photos while recording a 4K video with little compromise. The AI-based “Magic Take” function can automatically identify highlight moments when recording and transform them into short clips or dramatic pictures. Moreover, the Magic4 Ultimate further extends its 4K 60FPS video capability to the Night and Magic-Log mode, and the outputs are relatively smooth even when you are moving.
Moving on to the front side, the dual-camera system sits in a hole-punch cutout on the top left. It consists of a 12MP selfie camera and a 3D depth camera primarily for face unlocking. The former features a 100° field of view to make taking a group selfie much easier. It is enhanced by a number of AI-based features such as portrait beautification, background blurring and anti-distortion, and also supports 4K video shooting.
High security and long battery Life
The Magic4 Ultimate also makes decent improvements in security and battery life. For a safer but more convenient user experience, HONOR not only upgrades the fingerprint solution from optical to more accurate ultrasonic technology but also applies an independent security chip to provide hardware-level protection. All of this, combined with the “Dual TEE Security OS”, makes the Magic4 Ultimate a highly secure flagship model.
Moreover, HONOR introduced a practical feature, “AI Privacy Call”, to address the pain point of sound leakage when making a phone call in crowds. The new feature supports intelligent sound direction control, and can significantly reduce sound leakage while maintaining a clear voice.
To further ease battery anxiety, HONOR increases the fast-charging speed with the support of the 100W wired charging. Tests show the Magic4 Ultimate’s 4,600mAh battery can be charged to 100% within half an hour.
As a top flagship offering, the Magic4 Ultimate is armed with a valuable package of hardware components and features, with the camera system being the biggest bright spot. Although there is space for improvement, such as a smoother preview when switching the lens, its overall performance is rated as the best by DXOMARK. By combining the evolving “HONOR Image Engine” and powerful AI ISP, the Magic series is set to fully harness the power of AI and push the boundaries of mobile photography.