Honor has had some pretty interesting budget offerings in the past but none of them have stood out quite like last year’s Honor 7 (Review). It was a well-crafted phone with good performance across the board, except in the battery department.
A year later, the company has launched a successor called the Honor 8. Unlike its predecessor though, the new model is positioned in the upper mid-range smartphone segment, which puts it in the crosshairs of the OnePlus 3 (Review) and the Asus ZenFone 3 (ZE553KL) (Review), both of which have proven to be excellent choices.
The OnePlus 3 has been our de facto recommendation around this price segment for a while now, but can the Honor 8 change that? More than ticking specifications boxes, does it offer the kind of good experience which has earned the other two such high praise?
Honor 8 design and build
Honor has overhauled its design completely, and the new model looks striking. There are elements of Samsung’s 2016 A-series aesthetic here with a metal frame sandwiched between two sheets of curved glass. It makes the Honor 8 look incredibly premium, but as a side-effect, fingerprints are a nightmare. It’s also quite slippery and it does slide off most surfaces if you’re not careful.
The display measures 5.2 inches diagonally, and thanks to the full-HD resolution, text is razor sharp. Honor has used a good quality panel here, as colours are punchy, viewing angles are good, and sunlight legibility is also strong. You can adjust the colour temperature and toggle a blue light filter from the Settings app. There are also very thin borders on either side of the display which makes the phone very manageable for one-handed use. At 153g, it’s also quite light.
Button placement is ergonomic with good tactile feedback. There’s a notification LED neatly hidden in the earpiece grille; an infrared emitter on the top; a USB Type-C port on the bottom (USB 2.0 speed); and a SIM and microSD card tray (up to 128GB) on the left. Although the SIM slot has a physical cutout for a second Nano-SIM, the phone won’t recognise it.
Around the back, we have the dual cameras, laser autofocus sensor, and dual-tone LED flash unit. The fingerprint sensor below is very sensitive and unlocks the phone quickly. You can also use it to lock apps, access hidden files, and perform gestures such as answering a call, taking a selfie, or even pulling down the notifications shade. Honor takes this one step further and has placed the sensor on a physical button which it calls Smart Key. Depending on the type of press (single, double or long), you can trigger various functions such as voice recording, toggling the flashlight, taking a screenshot or simply launching an app.
he Honor 8 ships with an 18W charger, data cable, SIM ejector tool, and instruction leaflets. We’re missing a headset here but the rest of the accessories are built well and should last.
Honor 8 specifications and features
Honor has gone with Huawei’s in-house silicon for the CPU. The Kirin 950 octa-core SoC is a beast of a performer for even demanding apps. We got 92,353 points in AnTuTu, 41fps in GFXbench, and 18,083 in 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited. These numbers are still well behind those of a Snapdragon 820 powered phone, but for real-world usage, it would be hard to tell the difference.
The Honor 8 also has 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, dual-band Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, USB OTG, and NFC. The one thing that’s missing is FM radio, which might be an issue for some. The Honor 8 supports 4G LTE for FDD and TDD bands. VoLTE is currently not supported in India but the company says it should be enabled by a software update in the future.
One of the highlights of the phone is Honor’s custom fork of Android Marshmallow called Emotion UI or EMUI. The latest version (4.1) retains features like Now-on-Tap from Android but also adds a bunch of new customisations. It’s a single-layered interface with its own icons, Settings app, and notifications shade. The layout of the onscreen buttons can be changed if needed, which is always nice.