Even though Honor has been releasing laptops and tablets in India over the years, the brand has been pretty much non-existent in the smartphone space for the past three years. The last batch of Honor phones to launch in India included the Honor 9X Pro (sans Google Play Store), Honor 9X, Honor 9A, and Honor 9S back in 2020. And the Honor 9X was the last phone we reviewed here at 91mobiles. Three years later, brand Honor is finally back in the country and is looking to grab a piece of the Indian smartphone market from established brands with the help of ex-Realme India CEO Madhav Sheth. Honor wants to do this starting with the Honor 90 5G.
Priced starting from Rs 37,999, the Honor 90 5G marks Honor’s return to India with an attractive design and a stunning display, showing us that the brand is very much ready to take on the competition. However, its inconsistent cameras and lack of stereo speakers leave you wanting more, especially in this price range.
Design and display
Outside India, Honor has been releasing some extremely stunning smartphones, including one I’m really hoping to see in India at some point: the Honor Magic V2 foldable. You can finally get a taste of Honor’s design philosophy with the Honor 90 5G. The phone looks premium from a distance, with an elegant curved rear panel in a choice of glossy or matt finish depending on the colour option. The Emerald Green colour that we received for review has a matte finish and looks quite nice. The phone also comes in Midnight Black and Diamond Silver colour options in India.
Honor says the rear panel is made of glass, but the actual feel of the matte back was more plastic than solid glass, which makes it feel less premium to the touch than Honor would like you to believe. That said, the two oval camera modules have a glossy accent around them that gives off a pearl-like look and is definitely an attention-grabber.
The Honor 90 5G is a sleek phone, measuring around 7.8mm in thickness. It also feels light to hold at 183 grams. The bottom of the polycarbonate frame sees a nano-SIM tray, a Type-C port, and a speaker grille. The power button is ideally placed on the right side just below the volume control. Overall, the Honor 90 is one of the better-looking phones in this price segment.
Around the front, you get what is perhaps the best display on a smartphone in this segment. The 6.7-inch quad-curved AMOLED screen supports 1.5K (2,664 x 1,200) resolution and up to 120Hz display. But the next two features are what make it stand out: firstly, you get up to 1600 nits of peak brightness, which means the display gets plenty bright under direct sunlight.
Secondly, the display supports up to 3840Hz PWM dimming, making it the fastest in the industry. PWM dimming, short for Pulse Width Modulation dimming, is a feature that provides a flicker-free display at low brightness levels, aiming to reduce eye fatigue when looking at the screen in a dark environment. While this feature was not immediately noticeable to me when browsing through Instagram in the dark just before sleeping, it provided comfort in knowing that my eyes weren’t getting strained.
In short, the Honor 90 5G offers a flagship-grade display that is not only bright and vibrant, but also protects your eyes. The display is great for watching content, offering plenty of sharpness and vibrancy. It would have been nice to have stereo speakers for a more immersive experience, but unfortunately, you only get a single speaker at the bottom.
The Honor 90 5G has a camera system that looks good on paper. You get a 200MP Samsung ISOCELL HP3 primary sensor with f/1.9 aperture, a 12MP ultra-wide and macro camera lens, and a 2MP depth sensor. At the front, the phone uses a 50MP camera for selfies. There is no OIS support, which is unfortunate for a phone in this price segment. You do get EIS support though.
In daylight conditions, the Honor 90’s primary camera captures decent photos with accurate colours. For comparison, I tested the Honor 90’s cameras with the OnePlus Nord 3’s, the latter being one of the best camera phones in its segment based on our review. In daylight shots, the Honor 90 5G would produce shots with more accurate colours and better dynamic range as opposed to the saturated photos taken by the Nord 3. That said, the Nord 3’s 50MP Sony IMX890 camera (in default shooting mode) was able to capture sharper, more detailed images in comparison to Honor’s 90’s 200MP HP3 sensor. In the comparison shot below, the Honor 90 5G was able to accurately differentiate the orange colour of the fire extinguisher from the red buckets behind it, which the Nord 3 was unable to do.
We found that the Nord 3’s 8MP ultra-wide lens managed to capture more visually appealing (albeit with boosted colours) and detailed shots compared to the 12MP wide-angle images taken on the Honor 90 5G. The same 12MP lens is able to capture macro shots, leading to sharper close-up shots compared to the Nord 3’s 2MP macro lens.
The Honor 90 lets you capture high-res 200MP snaps (you’ll find the High-Res mode in the More section). This allows you to capture highly details images if you wish to crop and blow up a certain image to frame at home. But this also comes at a cost of brightness and dynamic range. The camera is able to shoot in 4K video resolution, which is great. But EIS can only stablise videos so much.
I found the Honor 90’s cameras to be slightly inconsistent and frustrating to use in low-light conditions. The lack of OIS support makes it difficult to capture steady images in darker environments. While the colour science was largely pleasing in daylight, it became disappointing in low light, with the Honor 90’s cameras saturating colours and unable to differentiate between purples and reds. In the comparison below, you can see the Honor 90’s image showing unnaturally green grass, flared lights, and unable to accurately capture the purple colour of the poles. The Nord 3 does a much better job at capturing accurate colours, natural lighting, and details in low light, in part due to OIS.
Performance and software
Last year’s Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 Accelerated Edition chipset powers the Honor 90 5G. We haven’t seen this processor powering a lot of devices in India despite it being over a year old. In fact, the only other phone to launch with this chip in recent times is the Rs 60,000 Moto Razr 40. As far as benchmarks go, the Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 Accelerated Edition, which is essentially overclocked up to 2.5GHz, delivers fairly mid-range scores. On AnTuTu, the device scored over 700,000 while single-core and multi-core scores on Geekbench were 1127 and 3284, respectively. These benchmark scores are expectedly lower than the more affordable POCO F5 that’s powered by the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 chipset.
While it’s not the most powerful chipset in the segment, the Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 is good and efficient. It is more than capable of handling basic day-to-day tasks like messaging, checking mail, browsing through social media, and switching between apps lag-free thanks to up to 12GB of RAM. It can also run games like BGMI in HDR with Ultra frame rate settings. However, expect some stutters while playing in these graphics settings, although I was impressed with the chipset’s thermal efficiency.
Honor 90 5G ships with Android 13-based MagicOS 7.1. Globally, Honor phones have been called out for offering a lot of bloatware, but the Honor 90 5G that’s released in India will be largely bloatware-free. You will be greeted with some pre-loaded apps, especially Honor’s own apps like Honor App Market, Game Center, Honor’s Email app, and a few more. Most of these apps can be uninstalled if you prefer fewer apps and a cleaner UI. In everyday usage, MagicOS 7.1 is largely easy to deal with and runs smoothly for the most part. However, Honor is promising only two major OS updates and three years of security patches. Other phones in this price range, especially from Samsung, OnePlus, and Google offer better software support.
We tested the Honor 90 5G on Airtel 5G Plus network in Gurugram, Haryana, and managed to get good speeds and largely uninterrupted signal.
The Honor 90 5G packs a 5,000mAh battery that’s good enough to last a full day and then some. Battery drain during typical day-to-day tasks like messaging, social media browsing, checking emails, etc., is managed efficiently thanks to the 4nm chipset. During a 30-minute BGMI gaming session, the battery dropped by around 5 per cent, with little to no noticeable heating throughout. In our PCMark battery test, the phone lasted roughly 12 hours, which isn’t the best in its segment, but is quite decent.
While the device supports 66W charging, you don’t get a bundled charger in the box in India. Honor stated that you can get its 66W charger separately free of cost. Using Honor’s charger takes roughly 50 minutes to fully charge the phone from zero to 100 per cent.
The Honor 90 5G is priced at Rs 37,999 and will be effectively available for Rs 27,999 through bank discount and other offers. For its price, the Honor 90 is a solid mid-range smartphone and a good choice for the brand to begin its second stint in India. The phone’s excellent display and premium looks are almost flagship-grade, suggesting the brand has what it takes to take on current rivals in the Indian market. That said, Honor’s software support commitment isn’t the best right now. The biggest issue with the Honor 90 5G, however, is the camera. Its iffy performance in low light leaves you wanting more, and more is what you get with rivals like the OnePlus Nord 3 and Pixel 7a. But then, the smartphone does offer good battery life with a decent 66W charging speed to boot. Software has been a big concern with Honor phones for years now, but you can be rest assured the Honor 90 5G comes with a largely nice Android 13 experience. The chipset, while not the best in the segment, is dependable for everyday work and efficient as well. Overall, definitely worth a closer look.
Editor’s rating: 7 / 10
Reasons to buy Honor 90 5G
- The display is easily the highlight of the Honor 90 5G, offering excellent brightness and visuals while being protective of your eyes at the same time.
- The phone has a sleek design language and looks attractive from a distance, making it worth flaunting.
- The Honor 90’s battery life, while not the best in class, is dependable and support for 66W charging is convenient.
Reasons not to buy Honor 90 5G
- The Honor 90’s cameras are unreliable due to iffy colour science and lack of OIS. Phones like the OnePlus Nord 3 offer better cameras in this segment.
- At this price point, the Honor 90 5G doesn’t get the best chipset so don’t expect lag-free performance during gaming and intense workloads.
- With the Honor 90 5G, the brand is only promising two years of software support, which is a bit disappointing.