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(Pocket-lint) - Since separating from Huawei, Honor is back and meaning business once more. Its 2021 flagship is the Magic 3 series, which comes in three forms: the Magic 3, Magic 3 Pro, and Magic 3 Pro+.

All of those handsets - if each makes it to international markets, that aspect is as yet unclear - comes with Google Play Services and, therefore, the Google Play Store will be front and centre to please those European and international customers.

But just how do the Magic 3 series handsets otherwise differ? The screen is the same across the board, so it's all about finish and cameras. Let us breakdown the points of difference.

Design

  • Magic 3 only: Blue Hour vegan leather
  • Magic 3 & Pro: Golden Hour, White, Black
  • Magic 3 Pro+ only: Ceramic Black, Ceramic White
  • Magic 3 & Pro weight: 202g / Magic 3 Pro+: 212g
  • Magic 3 only: IP54 protection / Pro & Pro+: IP68

The Honor Magic 3 and Pro are one and the same, with the base handset the only one offering a blue vegan leather finish. So-called 'Golden Hour' and black and white options are available for the pair.

The Magic 3 Pro+, however, is only available in a ceramic finish - in black and white only - which adds to the weight and visual style. The Pro+ also looks different on the rear - its camera unit is more a 'soft hexagon' than true circle like the other handsets - on account of its shift in camera setup.

Display

  • All handsets: 6.67-inch OLED, 2772 x 1344 resolution, 120Hz refresh rate
  • All handsets: 'Flex OLED' panel, 89-degree curved side edges
  • Magic 3 Pro+ only: Nano crystal shield glass protection

The reason all three handsets look largely similar is because they're all built around one and the same screen: a 6.67-inch 'Flex OLED' panel, complete with 120Hz refresh rate, and a curved edge design.

"A curved edge design?" we hear you cry. Honor thinks it's still a big seller, despite this type of design fading from other manufacturers, often due to accidental touches from such edges. All three Honor Magic 3 handsets are more curved than any other before, with 89-degree curves to the left and right sides.

The only difference in the display is that the Pro+ adds a nano crystal shield finish, for added protection, which Honor claims to be three times more effective than the other devices' coatings. None will be totally scratch-averse, though, so how much pratical difference that makes is for debate.

Hardware

  • Magic 3 only: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
  • Magic 3 Pro & Pro+: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888+
  • All handsets: 4,500mAh battery capacity, 66W fast-charging

On the hardware front there's a big shift for Honor: all Magic 3 handsets opt for Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 series platform, putting the old Huawei Kirin partnership to rest.

The Magic 3 features the top-end Snapdragon 888 platform, while the Magic 3 Pro and Pro+ up things with the Snapdragon 888+ platform. All will be available in 8GB or 12GB RAM variants, with Honor's software utilising an expansion technique to utilise 2GB extra of the ROM/storage to extend this RAM - something we've seen in the past from Vivo and others.

All handsets, being more or less the same size, also house the same 4,500mAh battery capacity, paired with 66W fast-charging by wire. The Magic 3 and Pro also offer 50W wireless charging, which isn't possible for the Pro+ on account of its ceramic material finish.

Cameras

  • Magic 3 & Pro main (23mm): 50MP, Sony IMX766 sensor (1/1.56in), f/1.9 / Magic 3 Pro+ only: 50MP, Sony IMX700 (1/1.28in), f/1.9
  • Magic 3 Pro & Pro+ zoom (90mm): 64-megapixel, f/3.5 aperture, optical image stabilisation (OIS)
  • Magic 3 & Pro wide (13mm): 13MP, 1/3.1in, f/2.2 / Magic 3 Pro+ only (11mm): 64MP, 1/2in, f/2.4
  • All handsets mono: 64MP, f/1.8

The biggest difference of all between the Magic 3 offerings is in the cameras. The Magic 3 has a triple camera setup, while the Magic 3 Pro and Pro+ have quad camera setups, adding a 4x periscope zoom lens, but differing in the main and wide-angle departments.

All three handsets have a 50-megapixel main camera, but the Pro+ uses a larger-scale Sony IMX700 (rather than IMX766), giving larger pixels across the same resolution, and therefore better light-gathering properties and likely better low-light performance.

All three handsets also have a wide-angle camera, which is 13mm and 13-megapixels in the Magic 3 and Pro; in the Pro+ it's a little wider still, at 11mm, with a much higher 64MP resolution and, again, larger sensor scale.

It's only the Magic 3 Pro and Pro+ that implement a 4x optical zoom lens, both of which are the same: 90mm, 64MP and with optical image stabilisation.

Design wise the Magic 3 and Pro have a 'perfect circle' sat proudly to the upper centre of their designs; the Pro+ morphs this slightly, almost like it's a 'soft hexagon', which is on account of it encompassing two larger-scale sensors in its design.

Conclusion

  • Pricing:
    • Magic 3: €899
    • Magic 3 Pro: €1099
    • Magic 3 Pro+: at €1499
  • Release date: To be confirmed

Overall we think the Magic 3 series looks like a strong potential return for Honor. Although we're not yet sold on the ultra-curved screen design, the use of Qualcomm and return of Google Play Store will be of considerable appeal.

That the handsets are also so similar makes choosing which is best for you all the easier: there's no screen differences of note, so it comes down to whether you want the extra camera prowess at extra cost or not.

Although, at the time of writing, there's no release date schedule confirmed. As is typical with Honor, we would expect the series to appear in China first, with a different software setup, before trickling into an international launch cycle - but whether all three handsets make it to everywhere in the world is something that we doubt.

All three have been given European pricing, though, with the Magic 3 starting at €899, the Magic 3 Pro at €1099, and the Magic 3 Pro+ at €1499.

Writing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on 12 August 2021.