- Premium design
- Great screen
- Competent cameras
- Fingerprint magnet
- Older processor
Honor 8 Review: We were more than impressed when Chinese phone maker Honor unveiled its new flagship, which marries great specs, a decent dual camera and an eye-catching design into a sub £400 device.
Honor 8 Review: Design
You have to hand it to Honor, the company’s previous flagships all looked pretty generic amidst the slew of other affordable smartphones, particularly from Chinese rivals, but the 8 is a major gear change.
It’s arguably the best-looking Honor phone to date, but we’d go as far as to say that it trumps the likes of the Huawei P9 family too, provided you’re a fan of glass-backed, metal-framed handsets.
The 2.5D glass on the back offers up its eye-catching reflective pattern by way of a 15-layer process and against the light, it looks great, especially in Sapphire Blue. As ever, the trade-offs with predominantly glass bodywork are well documented – it’s undeniably a bit of a fingerprint magnet and metal is a hardier material in the long term.
Irrespective of whether or not we believe Honor when it claims that the 8’s form is ‘inspired by light’, the rounded, finely chamfered metal frame paired with the pillowed glass make for a pleasant feel in the hand and give the impression that it’s narrower than its already svelte 7.45mm profile.
There are also some practical elements on the new Honor too, like the fact it’s the first in the family to transition to a reversible Type-C USB port, and there’s the company’s latest rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, which feels just as rapid as the Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 6S, with a quoted response time of 0.4 seconds.
Honor 8 Review: Screen
The 5.2-inch Full HD IPS LCD is excellent, not only offering accurate looking colours, but exceptional viewing angles and strong overall brightness – a major shortcoming of previous displays used by Honor phones, as such it’s one of the best 1080p screens at its size and paired to the narrow bezels either side, makes for an enjoyable media experience when watching videos or playing games.
Honor’s also thrown in a blue light filter so that it’s easier on the eyes in poorly lit environments or when you’re on your phone late into the evening and the software allows for a full customisation over the colour temperature too.
Honor 8 Review: OS
Whilst we’re seldom fans of heavy skins, especially ones as drastic and different as Emotion UI, which is found on both Huawei and Honor devices, version 4.1 running atop Android 6.0 Marshmallow on the Honor 8 is one of the best, most approachable iterations yet.
The most obvious alterations from stock Android are the phone’s two-pane notifications drawer and the absence of an apps drawer. Neither element is a deal-breaker, so long as you’re happy having all your applications live on one of your home screens (that said, there are ways around this), but there are some nice tweaks too.
As well as unlocking your device, you can pull off Smart Key gestures that launch apps or control elements of the UI with the phone’s fingerprint sensor. There are also a ton of customisation options with fine-grain control over the elements of any theme. The gamut of pre-loaded Honor apps will likely be the biggest bugbear, primarily because so many tread the same ground as Google’s apps, albeit with an unfamiliar execution.
Honor 8 Review: Performance
The brains of the operation is the slightly older Kirin 950 processor that we met on the Huawei Mate 8 last year, but paired to 4GB of RAM, it still renders the Honor 8 as fast and fluid as any of the other latest top-tier Android phones on the market.
Where the Honor 8 really shines though, is with regards to connectivity. Naturally, it’s a 4G handset, with dual-SIM support, WiFi+ for intelligently switching between WiFi and mobile data connections, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, NFC and even an IR blaster for controlling devices like your TV and its connected set-top boxes – a feature that the likes of Samsung ironed out in the transition from the Galaxy S6 to S7.
Like a lot of Honor phones, that dual-SIM slot is also a hybrid, so if you prefer you can use the Honor 8 as a single SIM phone with microSD expandability, bolstering its 32GB of internal space with up to 256GB on top, double that of the supposedly more premium Huawei P9.
Also like the P9, there’s a sizeable 3000mAh battery inside, which in general use should give you up to a day and a half on a single charge or just over a day under heavy use conditions. It doles out completely acceptable longevity amongst the current competition and as is also par for the course, fast charging is also on-hand giving you 47 per cent charge in just 30 minutes.
Honor 8 Review: Cameras
A growing trend, cemented by the arrival of the iPhone 7 Plus are phones with dual cameras and the Honor 8 is another such offering. Like much of the hardware at play, it’s main snapper apes the Huawei P9’s camera in almost every aspect, with dual 12-megapixel Sony sensors capturing colour and black and white respectively as well as depth data.
Unlike the P9, there’s no RAW support, but you do get pro photo and video modes with manual control, the ability to refocus shots after capture and video up to 1080p at 60fps.
General picture quality is great, the best Honor’s ever produced and unsurprisingly comparable to the P9. Low light is its biggest weakness, but even then it’s not unusable, particularly as a result of the dual-tone LED flash, and video feels like a marked improvement over its predecessor, with sharper imagery, better colour and contrast balance, and better audio quality.
Selfie fans will also appreciate the crisp 8-megapixel front-facer, which comes with the standard range of EMUI beauty tools to take you from deceptively "natural" beauty to full-blown mannequin.
Honor 8 Review: Verdict
Whilst it isn’t going to give rivals like Apple or Samsung real cause for concern, the Honor 8 offers a great all-round experience for a competitive price in the flagship space, with more individuality than perhaps Sony’s latest X handsets.
If it’s not already glaringly obvious, this is for the most part, a Huawei P9 in a shinier more affordable package at just under £370 and that is an offering we can get behind.
Read next: Huawei P9 Review: In Depth
- Full HD (1920x1080)
- 153 grams
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow w/ EMUI 4.1
- 2.3GHz/1.8GHz octa-core Kirin 950
- 4GB RAM
- 32GB. Expandable via microSD up to 256GB
- Dual-lens camera, fingerprint sensor w/ gesture controls, fast charging, dual SIM, blue light filter