- The Honor 90 is a solid mid-range phone that offers a stunning screen, strong performance, and impressive battery life.
- However, it has some drawbacks such as the lack of an IP rating, no optical image stabilization, and a weak single speaker.
- The limited software support with only two years of updates is also a downside, but at its price point, the Honor 90 is still a good option to consider.
It feels like Honor is really getting into its stride right now. With several good releases under its belt in the past few years, and a couple of really promising-looking ones too, it feels like now – more than ever – is a time to be watching the Chinese manufacturer closely.
The Honor 90 is the company’s latest stab at the mid-range market, a market is getting increasingly busy – and increasingly talented.
Honor is looking to add to that, with the Honor 90 – its latest mid-range, sub-flagship model. It brings with it some impressive on-paper specs, offering considerable upgrades on the Honor 70, the last model at this level to be put on sale outside of China.
But how does that hold up in the real world? Here’s my full review.
The Honor 90 is a good mid-range phone, that looks great and performs very well indeed. Its screen, in particular, is a stunner, with a battery life that should last you through the day, and then some. There are some niggles in the details that leave its competition open to swoop in – particularly with its limited software support – but for the price, it’s a solid option to consider.
- Superb screen
- Solid performance
- Strong battery life
- Decent main camera performance
- No IP rating
- No OIS
- Single speaker is very weak
- Only two years of software updates
Specs, pricing and availability
As with all Honor phones, the Honor 90 isn’t officially available in the US. You’ll find it on Amazon, all the same, but be aware that this will be the imported version, costing $499 for the 12GB RAM and 512GB storage option – the same as my review sample.
The imported Honor 90 will only support GSM networks, so it can’t be recommended for Verizon or any other CDMA network, and is a pretty restricted when it comes to the necessary 5G bands too. Buy with care, and ensure that your carrier will support it before you add it to your cart.
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 Accelerated Edition 5G
- 6.7 inches AMOLED, 2664×1200, 120Hz
- Operating System
- Android 13 + MagicOS 7.1
- Front camera
- 50MP wide-angle
- Rear camera
- 200MP main (f/1.9), 12MP ultra-wide/macro (f/2.2), 2MP depth (f/2.4)
- 161.9 x 74.1 x 7.8 mm (hwd), 183g
- Charge speed
- 66W wired
- IP Rating
- RAM and Storage
- 8GB/256GB, 12GB/512GB
In the UK and Europe, it’s a much more straightforward story – though you can only pick up the 8GB RAM/256GB storage option in the UK, with an RRP of £450. That option makes little sense anyway when you consider the 12GB RAM/512GB version costs £500/€500 – however, at the time of writing, the Honor store direct was selling the phone for £399, making the Honor 90 an even better deal.
In terms of colours, there’s the choice of Emerald Green, Diamond Silver or Midnight Black, plus Peacock Blue available direct from Honor’s website. It’s worth noting that the Midnight Black version is only available in the lower spec.Design and build
There’s no doubt that when it comes to design, Honor picks a theme and runs with it. We’ve seen that across its ranges in recent years, so when it finds something that works – it sticks with it. That’s certainly the case with the Honor 90, which offers a slim and tall build reminiscent of its predecessors – sitting a little higher in the hand than you might find in something like the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G thanks to its larger 6.7-inch screen.
The back panel of our review model is the Diamond Silver finish, which may not be to everyone’s taste – it has a bit of a chintzy pattern etched into the bottom half of it, while the other colours – a more pearlescent finish in Emerald Green, Peacock Blue or Midnight Black – don’t. It’s plastic, too – something Samsung ditched for the A54, in exchange for glass. That would be nice here, but it doesn’t take too much away from the feel of it in the hand – it feels solid with no creaking.
As is Honor’s way, the Honor 90 makes its rear camera design a huge focus of its overall look, with two large camera “islands” to house the three cameras and flash. When placed in the included clear protective case, this envelops the surrounds to make it look a little like a figure 8, and is as bold a design statement as the diamond pattern below it.
Such a camera bump can make the phone a little unstable when using on a table but it’s not a big deal.
There’s only a single speaker here, at the bottom of the phone, which can not only be also be easily covered by your hand, but is also pretty hollow and brash sounding, with very little sense of bass. It does affect the enjoyment to watching anything except very short videos on the phone – if you’re a big video-on-the-go watcher, you’ll want to use headphones.
Apart from this, the design and build feels about right for its price point, even if some of its competitors are starting to overtake it. However, the lack of any IP rating is starting to feel a little unforgiveable, and to some extent, wireless charging too. They’re just becoming things I’d expect to see – even at this mid-range price point.
Honor has put a lot of work into its display credentials, packing a large 6.7-inch AMOLED display with a full HD+ resolution (2664 x 1200) and a whopping 1600 nits peak brightness.
It’s a stunning screen, that wouldn’t look out of place on a flagship phone. It’s crisp, punchy and incredibly bright, with that brightness also able to get behind HDR10+ video, thanks to Netflix HDR and Amazon Prime Video HDR certification.
Colours are well balanced in the Normal screen mode, and that looks best to my eye, but there’s also Vivid if you prefer your colours with more – slightly unrealistic – vibrancy.
Honor is still pushing its Quad-Curved Floating display, with curves at each edge, front and back. It’s not a design you see manufacturers use as often these days, due to the occasional issues with responsiveness on the edges. However, I haven’t experienced any issues during testing, and there’s no doubt it helps the make such a large phone easier to hold in the hand.
A 120Hz refresh rate helps to keep your content smooth, with the ability to have this adapting dynamically to what you’re doing on the phone, or setting it at 60, 90 or 120Hz – the latter will obviously offer the best in performance but will drain your battery quicker.
Like I saw in the Honor Magic 5 Pro, the Honor 90 is at the receiving end of several eye comfort features, including 3840Hz PWM dimming, a circadian night display and a TÜV Rheinland Flicker Free Certification – meaning it should be kinder and less fatiguing on your eyes at all times. I’m not sure how much benefit I found, as that is hard to meaure, but it’s certainly a comfortable screen to use all day, an it’s great to see such consideration given at this price point.
Under the display there is a fingerprint sensor which has worked pretty well. Every now and then I found myself having to touch my finger down again, but often the built-in face detection camera jumps in before I need to anyway.
Hardware and performance
The Honor 90 uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 Accelerated Edition 5G chip – a fitting chip for its place in the market, with the Accelerated version able to push peak CPU speeds to 2.5GHz.
The Adreno 644 GPU has also increased by 20 per cent compared to the Honor 70, while the AI performance has increased by 30 per cent for smooth graphics and quicker responses.
I’ve found the performance here to be solid – not quite with the speed and immediacy of a flagship chipset, of cpurse – but that’s to be expected. It has still handled light gaming and streaming without getting even slightly warm, and I’ve noticed very little by way of stuttering under pressure. Considering I moved into this phone from an iPhone 13 Pro, to find very few performance issues of note is pretty impressive.
There’s a 5000mAh battery here – a small upgrade on the Honor 70, and matching the battery of the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G. The battery here can easily get you through the day, even under pretty heavy use – something that’s not always guaranteed on my iPhone. A battery test streaming a 1.5 video from Netflix at half brightness saw the Honor 90 drain around 11 per cent of total battery.
There’s no wireless charging here, but there is Honor’s 66W charger in the box for super-fast charging. From empty, I was able to charge the phone up to 51 per cent in 20 minutes, with the promise of 20 per cent of charge in just five minutes. This also goes a long way to easing any battery anxieties, knowing you can get enough battery into it pretty quickly if you’re caught short.
The Honor 90 runs Honor’s own MagicOS 7.1 over Android 13, which still remains behind the curve compared with other manufacturers that stick closer to stock Android. It is improving, without a doubt, but it lacks the overall shine of its hardware, with a design language that feels just a little dated.
Everything works smoothly enough though, and it is easy enough to navigate too with plenty of customisation options to make it your own. It also has some nice touches, like quick access to popular apps with a swipe and hold from the left edge, flexible folders that you can choose to have smaller or bigger, and some helpful gestures too. From a usability perspective there are now fewer things to grumble about than there used to be.
However, there’s still an almost unacceptable amount of bloat from various companies and app duplications when Google’s own would have more than sufficed.
There’s also the issue that Honor has only a promised two years of software updates. That falls massively short of the four years that Samsung Galaxy A54 5G offers and the five years promised by the Google Pixel 7a, and while it should cover the popular 24-month upgrade cycle, it still forces an owner’s hand rather than giving them flexibility.
Honor has once again gone big on its camera promises in the Honor 90, with a triple camera setup comprising a massive 200MP main camera with a 1/1.4-inch sensor, a 12MP ultra-wide and macro camera (f/2.2), with a 2MP depth camera (f/2.4). There’s also a 50MP wide-angle front-facing camera for selfies, too.
As its 200MP bragging rights might suggest, the main camera is the star of the show here. The 1/1.4-inch sensor has increased by 25 per cent from the sensor in the Honor 70, and along with 16-in-1 pixel binning, allows for more light in for better, brighter pictures.
As is often the case for mid-rangers, perfect conditions are where the Honor 90’s camera does its best work, producing bright, detailed and vibrant shots – with just a touch of edge softness that is perhaps expected at this level.
Adding any zoom (a digital 2x shortcut is offered within the main camera’s software) tends to increase this softness fairly significantly, so should be used with caution, from my experience
Main camera, 2x zoom
Overall picture quality is not helped by the lack of OIS here, though – so pictures of fidgety children can struggle to retain the sharpness you’d want, and low-light pictures are also easily at risk of blur unless you have a very steady hand. It makes spontaneous point-and-click pictures all the more tricky, and the likelihood of blurring out that perfect snap much more possible.
I still managed to capture some relatively good night time shots outside – though darker areas can be undoubtedly noisy. Still, as long as there is some light in a shot for the Honor to work with, you can get some pretty nice results for this level – though the lack of OIS doesn’t make it easy, with blur creeping in at any given opportunity.
The pictures that suffer the most, though, are inside shots with variable and/or artificial lighting. The results can lack detail and definition, and become pretty smudgy fairly quickly. Adding the flash will lighten things up, of course, but rather unnaturally so – giving any human subjects something of a “deer in headlights” look about them.
As for the 12MP ultra-wide and macro camera, it offers a 112-degree field of view with a minimum focusing distance of 2.5cm. It’s a step backwards from the 50MP effort on the Honor 70, but as we well know by now, megapixels do not a good camera make.
There is an expected drop in detail and crispness using this lens, particularly when you zoom in. There’s also a rather different colour tone between the main lens and this one, with the ultrawide taking on a much more blue hue. It’s not a lens I’d find myself reaching for often, unless I’m looking to capture wide scenic shots outside.
Finally, that 2MP depth sensor is a bit of a ‘meh’ addition – something we noted when Honor included it on the Honor 70 too. There is an enhanced Portrait mode here, which aims to take advantage of it, with promises of improved bokeh effects and a more natural transition between the blur effect and the subject.
However, while the bokeh looks good in very defined subjects, it can still be caught out, and doesn’t offer any huge step up from those pictures that rely on software only. Hopefully in future, this lens space could be given to a dedicated macro lens or a telephoto lens instead.
The Honor 90 is a compelling mid-ranger for the money – particularly with its more recent price drop taking it to under £400. It delivers a surprisingly powerful performance with a stunning screen that wouldn’t look out of place on many flagships, not to mention a decent camera set up that can do good work with good light and a steady hand.
Battery life is also superb, and I loved the peace of mind that the 66W wired charging offered me too.
However, there are some niggles. The lack of an official IP rating feels like a miss at this stage, as does the lack of OIS on the camera. The single speaker setup also makes listening to music or watching video without headphones a pretty poor experience.
Mostly, though, I’d like to see a longer commitment to software updates from Honor, to keep consumer confidence high. The Honor 90 offers a lot to like, and at a great price, but it lacks just a touch of polish in the details.
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