Unpolished software and subpar camera performance hold the ‘Honor 90’ back from being a true Pixel 7a rival.
Honor is on a trajectory for growth. The company recently worked to significantly expand its business operation in Europe, aiming for market domination. While the company has some enticing flagship phones on offer, like its foldable Honor Magic Vs or the Honor Magic 5 Pro, I’m sure that the biggest portion of growth comes from more handsets at more competitive price points. Enter the Honor 90, the company’s latest midrange flagship phone that’s supposed to take on the Google Pixel 7a.
The Honor 90 is a continuation of Honor’s high-end midrange phone lineup, with the Honor 70 being its international predecessor. The company is known to bring some high-end technology to these phones, with the quad-curved 120Hz screen with super fast LTPO dimming being the highlight this year. But the Honor 90 has more to offer than just a fantastic, albeit curved, screen. It’s a well-rounded package, and it might just be the right almost-flagship for many people.
Table of Contents
7 / 10
The Honor 90 is the latest budget flagship, offering some of the best hardware at its sub £500 price point. It packs a 200MP camera, some interesting colorways, a curved screen, and more.SoCSnapdragon 7 Gen 1
- Display2664×1200 6.7-inch OLED, 120Hz, 1,600 nits, 3840Hz PMW dimming
- Operating SystemAndroid 13 (MagicOS 7.1)
- Front camera50MP
- ConnectivityWi-Fi 6, dual-SIM 5G
- Dimensions161.9mm x 74.1mm x 7.8 mm
- ColorsDiamond Silver, Emerald Green, Peacock Blue, Midnight Black
- Prices start at ₹ 37,999
- RAM and Storage8+256GB, 12+256GB, 12+512GB
- Incredible display that also supposedly helps against eye fatigue
- Fast-wired 66W charging
- Great battery life
- Some fun colors
- The curved display offers accidental touches and more reflections
- Lots of camera issues
- Some software quirks
- No wireless charging
Like other Honor phones, the Honor 90 isn’t officially available in the US. That said, you can find an imported version available on Amazon at ₹ 44,999 in the Emerald Green variant with 512GB of storage and 12GB of RAM. It only supports GSM networks, so it doesn’t reliably work on Verizon or any other CDMA network. Even then, it only supports 4 out of 11 relevant 5G bands, so be sure to check if your carrier is sufficiently compatible with this phone before you jump the gun. Keep in mind that, as it’s an import, you won’t have the same level of after-sales support as you could expect from an officially sold phone.
In the UK, the Honor 90 is starting at ₹ 37,999 in its 8+256GB configuration and £500 when you want the 12+512GB version. Honor only sells the higher-end variant in other European countries like Germany, where it’s ₹ 43,999. That comes in at about the same price as the ₹ 44,999 the Honor 90 goes for in the US if it wasn’t for the government’s cut — sales tax is usually included in European prices.
Design and display
The Honor 90 offers an iterative design compared to its predecessor, the Honor 70, making the company’s budget flagship lineup instantly recognizable across generations. The new handset has two oval camera arrays arranged at the top left of its back. The back is otherwise only interrupted by the Honor print, regulatory symbols, and — depending on which color you choose — a tacky “AI Matrix Camera” branding below the lenses. Given the off-center camera placement, you’ll experience quite some wobble when you use the phone flat down on a table, though it’s balanced enough to stay nearly flat when you’re not touching it.
I’ve had my hands on three different colors of this phone. The Emerald Green version reminds me a lot of the Honor Magic 5 Pro, which offers a similar shimmering look. There is also a white version ornamented with a gemstone-like texture on the lower half, which frankly looks and feels a lot cheaper than Honor likely intended it to, thanks in part to the plastic build that all colors share. The most interesting color, to my eyes, is Peacock Green. Depending on the angle of the lighting, its colors shift from green to pale red, arranged in feather-like splashes.
Check this out: Top 15 Multiplayer Horror Video Games of All Time
On top of this, this colorway offers a frosted glass back, which repels fingerprints and gives it a high-quality feel. The frame, meanwhile, is made of plastic, which does have the advantage of not requiring any cutouts for the antennas.
On the front, you’re greeted by a flagship-level display. The 2664×1200 6.7-inch OLED offers a dynamic refresh rate of up to 120Hz and can get up to 1,600nits bright, which is more than ample for outdoor usage. Honor also says it’s one of the best displays you can get when you suffer from eye strain thanks to its 3840Hz PWM dimming rate, supposedly the fastest in the industry.
Like all other OLED screens, the Honor 90’s display pulses on and off quickly to modulate brightness, which can induce headaches for some people. Honor’s solution is to offer a much faster rate for flashing, which reduces the flicker and is better for the eyes. Personally, I can’t say I noticed much of a difference, but I’ve never been particularly sensitive to display flickering.
Like its Honor Magic 5 Pro flagship, the Honor 90 also offers a quad-curved display. The curve is very pronounced on the sides, with content close to the edge quickly appearing warped. At the top and the bottom, the curves are barely noticeable, but they add to an extremely premium-looking feel that makes it seem like content is just floating above the device itself, with next to no distracting bezels left. That said, the bottom bezel is just a tad larger than the one at the top, making for a slightly unbalanced look.
Despite the big footprint thanks to the big display, the phone still feels light and comfortable to hold even during long browsing sessions. The pronounced curves on the side help shrink the footprint of the phone, making it much easier to use in one hand than similar-sized the 6.7-inch Pixel 7 Pro with its much flatter edges.
Other hardware and what’s in the box
The Honor 90 is a midrange powerhouse. It packs the Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 Accelerated Edition, combined with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. There is also a 12+512GB version available. On the connectivity front, it supports Wi-Fi 6, 5G, and Bluetooth 5.2, with LE, SBC, AAC, LDAC, aptX, and aptX HD onboard. A USB-C port and the dual-SIM card slot can be found at the bottom.
The Honor 90 ships with a fully packed box. Alongside the phone, you can find a 66W fast charger and a USB-A to USB-C cable, a simple TPU case, the usual SIM eject tool, a warranty card, and quick start guide, and a pre-applied TP screen protector. I quickly removed the latter as it’s easily one of the worst screen protectors I’ve ever used. It’s almost impossible to keep clean, with a greasy film slowly building up on it and making the whole interaction with the phone feel icky.
Software and performance
The Honor 90 ships with Android 13 with Honor’s MagicOS 7.1 skin on top of it, the same experience offered on the Magic 5 Pro. In contrast to the flagship phone, Honor only promises two major Android updates and three years of security patches for the Honor 90. This is significantly worse than what Samsung and Google support in this price range. It definitely doesn’t help that Android 14 is right around the corner, which means that the Honor 90 will get the first of its two updates much sooner than if the phone had launched just a couple of months later.
Software has historically been the department where Honor falls short, and that’s no different for the Honor 90. By and large, the software does its job just fine. In everyday usage, everything runs smoothly; it’s relatively easy to find your way around even if you’re only familiar with Google or Samsung phones. Honor has also added some nice tricks up the Honor 90’s sleeve, like Honor Connect, which allows you to freely move your cursor across your PC, Honor tablet, and Honor phone.
I also like some of the thoughtful gestures on display here, like knocking twice to take a screenshot or a screen recording. There is also a side panel that shows up when you swipe back from the edge and hold, which allows you to use some apps in a windowed mode. Swiping down on a popup notification opens the corresponding app in a windowed mode, too, which is a neat way to quickly reply to a message without leaving the app you’re in at the time.
Once you dig deeper, there are some inexplicable issues, though. Despite Google introducing it with Android 13, Honor has completely disabled per-app languages, which means you can’t set individual apps to your preferred language. When you use Gboard rather than the pre-installed Swiftkey and have gesture navigation enabled, you’ll also have to get used to having the keyboard shifted further to the bottom of the screen than you might like.
On the surface, the Honor 90’s camera hardware looks impressive. It consists of a 200MP primary camera with a 1/1.4-inch sensor and an aperture of f/1.9, paired with a 12MP ultrawide and a depth sensor. On the front, a 50MP camera is responsible for selfies.
In good lighting conditions, the setup is perfectly acceptable and can offer up some good shots. However, things quickly change when you’re shooting in less-than-ideal conditions. The issues start with a tendency to clip highlights in bright overcast conditions, with clouds easily appearing in part as a gray mass. The camera also likes to oversaturate colors, which is particularly noticeable with leaves and patches of grass looking unnaturally green. The color science across the ultrawide and the primary camera is also widely inconsistent, with images appearing much less saturated and further on the blue spectrum on the ultrawide.
In darker environments, the problems are just exacerbated. It’s hard to stabilize the camera enough for a blur-free image, and even when you manage to, the images suffer from massive grain and loss of details which means you can basically forget about taking anything but snapshots in the dark.
The camera also exhibits some of the worst lens flares I’ve seen on phones. In a series of sample images and videos, you can see that there is not only a flare spanning across the entire image but also a prominent weird bubble on the right which I can only explain as some defect in the lens optics or the cover glass (though none that is visible to the naked eye). Lens flare is just a normal physical phenomenon with the way our cameras work, but other manufacturers have managed to lessen the problems arising from it.
The most frustrating aspect of the camera is its inconsistency. During my testing period, it did produce some great shots, as you can see in the gallery. But I never felt like I could truly rely on it, constantly double and triple-checking the results to make sure I really got my shots the way I wanted to get them. That’s particularly annoying when midrange competitors like the Google Pixel 7a have figured this out, essentially allowing you to just point and shoot and forget about it.
The cameras are easily the Honor 90’s weakest spot, which is a shame. As impressive as the 200MP camera is on paper, I think it would have been better to go for a less powerful setup that is more proven. As long as you don’t care too much about photography, you should still be just fine with the Honor 90, though. Just don’t expect every image you take to come out perfect without putting in some work.
On the battery front, things are looking much more positive. With the Honor 90, I never once got the feeling that it wouldn’t last me a full day from morning to bedtime, no matter how many paces I put it through. Even on a mini vacation with little to no Wi-Fi usage, lots of Google Maps navigation and hotspot tethering, and extensive camera testing, the phone never came close to dying.
On heavy days, I could routinely get more than four hours of screen-on time, with enough charge left to easily get me up to six hours and more if I were to push it.
All this is in part thanks to the software optimizations I criticized earlier, but certainly also because of the comparatively big 5,000mAh battery. And if you ever do come close to the battery dying, it doesn’t take long to breathe enough life back into it thanks to the included 66W wired charger that will rarely make you miss wireless charging at all, which isn’t available on the Honor 90.
At its price of $500 to $550, the biggest competitor in the field is the Google Pixel 7a, which is only sold in a single $500 expensive 128GB storage configuration. Personally, I would go for it in a heartbeat over the Honor 90. It offers a more consistent software experience with tons of Pixel-exclusive features I routinely miss on other phones, its camera system is reliable and versatile, and it is guaranteed to get updates for a much longer period of time than the Honor 90.
However, it’s clear that Honor’s offering might be better for you if you value an incredible display, long battery life, and fast charging, and don’t love the one-design-fits-all approach Google has taken since the Pixel 6 and the camera visor it established.
Another clear contender for the upper midrange crown is the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G. It’s remarkably similar to the Honor 90 in key aspects, like with its excellent screen (with no curves!) and its 5,000mAh battery. Like the Pixel 7a, it’s guaranteed to get updates for up to five years since its launch, and it has a design that is clearly inspired by Samsung’s top-of-the-line flagships. Even though it charges more slowly, it’s probably the phone to pick when you’re in the US, if only for the simple fact that the Honor 90 needs to be imported.
Should you buy it?
Honor certainly cements its spot in the upper midrange with the Honor 90, a worthy successor of the Honor 70 that hits all the right notes. If you’ve used Honor phones before, or read up on them extensively, there is nothing much that would surprise you about it, though. It offers the usual strengths and weaknesses you know from the brand, with an excellent display and great battery life hampered by questionable software decisions and a poor camera.
If you value a unique design, great battery life, and a good screen over anything else, then the Honor 90 is the pick for you. However, if you like getting timely software updates for a long time and an always-reliable camera, there are other options for you to pick.