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Review

Honor 8 Pro Review: A premium smartphone at less than a premium price

The successor to the Honor 8 and Honor 8 Lite is here, and it is truly impressive.

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BGR Rating :
4/5

Huawei’s sub-brand Honor debuted model number 8, which was followed by the Honor 8 Lite, and now the Honor 8 Pro. The Honor 8 received particular praise for its dual-camera setup at the rear. Following the trail, the Honor 8 Pro is betting big with its dual rear camera setup as well. And with its specifications, the Honor 8 Pro is here to take on the Rs 30,000 price segment, offering serious competition to the OnePlus 5 and the HTC U11.

I spent a few days with the Honor 8 Pro using it as my primary device, and I wouldn’t say I had even a single bad day with the phone. They may not have been entirely perfect, but not a bad day. In the days I have been using the phone, people have always asked me what phone I was using, and have mostly given a very positive smirky smile looking at the phone. The Rs 29,999 Honor 8 Pro is sleek and has a beautiful matte-finished metal unibody, and a wide 5.7-inch display, with powerful innards and a dual-camera setup at the rear. Read our full review to find out just how the Honor 8 Pro fares against the competition.

Honor 8 Pro Design

Let’s start with the Honor 8 Pro’s design. At the back, very similar to the iPhone’s design, it has antenna bands placed along the top and bottom edge of the phone. But unlike the iPhone 7 Plus, the Honor 8 Pro has no camera bump, with a smooth back. The Honor 8 Pro sports two 12-megapixel sensors at the back. While one captures in RGB, the other captures details in monochrome. And these rear cameras are accompanied by an LED flash, which sits near the center on the antenna band. And just a couple of inches below the flash sits the fingerprint sensor, which I must say is impressively responsive. It’s significantly faster than I’m used to, and comparable on speed and accuracy to the OnePlus 5. It is comfortable to hold, and the weight of the phone is evenly distributed, but the size of the phone itself may be a bit too large for people with small hands. The first few days were a little uneasy with the phone, though I did get used to the large size of the phone eventually.Untitled design-4

The Honor 8 Pro features an 8-megapixel front-facing camera, and the earpiece next to it. The notification LED also sits within the earpiece grille, blinking white for notifications, red to indicate low power and green for charging. One other thing I really like about the phone in terms of aesthetics is that with the fingerprint sensor placed at the back, the phone has no physical button on its front. On the top, the smartphone features the IR blaster, while the power button and the volume rocker sit on the right, and the SIM tray (nano SIM + micro SIM) sits on the left. The 3.5mm socket, USB type-C port and the speaker grille are at the bottom.

DIY Cardboard VR

Before we actually talk about what’s inside the phone, it’s worth mentioning the interesting box that the smartphone comes in. Besides the usual adapter and charging chord that comes in the smartphone’s box, the Honor 8 Pro also comes bundled with a DIY VR headset. Essentially it comes with a rectangular VR headset made out of the box itself, with a pair of lenses packed separately to fit into the right place in the box. Once you’ve fixed the lenses and placed your phone into the slot, you can experience basic Google Cardboard-style VR straight out of the box with the Honor 8 Pro.

Honor 8 Pro Display

Diving back into the phone, the Honor 8 Pro has a screen-to-body ratio of about 71 percent. Also contributing to its large screen are the narrow bezels on the sides of the screen, with narrow non-screen space at the top and bottom. It’s incredibly sharp with a resolution of 1440×2560 pixels, and this will help when it comes to VR as well. The brightness of the display gets a little too much for me (so I mostly used the phone in the color comfort mode, which I will talk about ahead in the review), but the colors in the display are pretty accurate, and the sharpness is just right.

The Honor 8 Pro sports an LTPS LCD display, which is a Low-Temperature PolySilicon (LTPS) screen and is meant to help provide larger pixel densities and lower power consumption than the standard LCD, along with controlled temperature ranges. While the smartphone lets you adjust the blue light tint of the display, when you use the device on full brightness, I found the the display produces good white and black levels, there’s no fading/bluish black tint. Contrast between colors is impressive too.

I also found the ambient light sensor to be quite accurate. Personally, I get very easily irked when a phone gets the optimum brightness level wrong. But this one almost always gets the brightness level right depending on the ambient light conditions I’m in.

Further, the smartphone also comes with a one-hand usability mode, which can be enabled by swiping to the left or right on the navigation panel on the screen. This really helped me use the phone easily with one hand. With its out-of-the-box Android 7.0 Nougat OS under EMUI 5.1, the smartphone has a familiar drop down shortcut drawer, which can also be customized from the phone settings. The Android navigation buttons are on-screen.honor-8-pro-hands-on-4

Honor 8 Pro User Interface

The phone runs Huawei and Honor’s EMUI 5.1 overlay, which adds a little flavor to the smartphone’s UI. The Honor 8 Pro UI has a lot of typical features and functions that earlier versions have been known for, including the excellent Magazine Lock Screen, which gives you a range of great images to use as your lock-screen wallpaper. Another key change with the latest version of EMUI is the possibility of having a two-layered home screen interface, creating a separate app drawer for all of your apps. A lot of users do prefer this in order to keep the phone’s home screens clutter-free, and Huawei departing from this is a welcome change. Of course, you can choose to go with the typical single-layered interface as well.

I must also point out, among the many widgets that Android phones offer, EMUI 5.1 comes with app suggestion widgets, which is uncannily similar to iPhones. It has the top five most used apps suggestion at the top, with the news update from the pre-installed Flipboard app beneath it. Another thing worth pointing out about the interface of the device is the new eye comfort mode, which is essentially a blue light filter. With the eye comfort mode on, which is somewhat similar to iPhone’s night shift mode and the night mode seen on many Android smartphones, the screen gets a yellow tint, which is easier on the eyes especially at night, as this is said to not hamper your ability to fall asleep.

Honor 8 Pro Performance

Moving to the performance of the Honor 8 Pro, I was generally happy with the phone in that aspect. The phone features a combination of the Hisilicon Kirin 960 chipset and 6GB RAM, which ensures flagship-grade performance. Swapping between apps and working on split-screen mode was seamless. However, out of my usual set of apps that I installed on the phone during my time with it, the Uber and Snapchat apps gave me some trouble. The phone crashed multiple times while using these two apps. While it’s possible that these are app issues that may be fixable with a simple update, we’re unsure if this is a major issue or one limited to our review unit. Other than that, even with multiple apps running in the background, performance was at flagship levels all throughout.

I ran a few benchmark testing apps on the device too, and on AnTuTu it scored a 130,399. It’s a score on par with what you would expect on a phone running the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 or 821 SoCs, and significantly less than what you’d see on the current-generation Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC. This is due in part to the 16nm fabrication process of the Kirin 960 SoC, close to the 14nm process of the Snapdragon 821 but far off the 10nm fabrication of the Snapdragon 835.

I installed and played a number of graphics-intensive games on the phone such as Asphalt 8: Airborne, Temple Run 2, and Racing for Speed, and the experience was bittersweet. Temple Run 2 worked perfectly, with no lags or crashes. Asphalt 8 too worked well, with seamless graphics, but after about 20 minutes of gaming, the phone heated up far too much and got uncomfortable to hold. And with Racing For Speed, the phone would become unresponsive through the game’s settings. While a little bit of lag is acceptable, the high thermal levels are a bit worrisome and raises the question as to whether the Honor 8 Pro can keep up with truly intensive usage beyond just multi-tasking and ordinary apps.honor-8-pro-hands-on-3

Honor 8 Pro Battery

Coming to the battery on the Honor 8 Pro, this was one aspect of the phone that was disappointing. Despite the 4,000mAh battery on the Honor 8 Pro, I did expect better battery life on the device. To be fair, the 5.7-inch display and the QHD resolution take a lot to power, but I still expected better battery performance from the Honor 8 Pro. Even with light usage all day, I would start my day at 5AM with 100 percent battery, and by 7PM I would be nearly out of power. With heavy use, the phone would run out by around 5PM. Naturally, low use would keep the phone going on standby for much longer, but higher screen time tends to sap the energy out of the phone quickly.

Honor 8 Pro Camera

The key feature of the Honor 8 Pro is its camera, and there’s very little to fault with it. the smartphone has a pair of 12-megapixel primary camera on the back with duo-tone LED flash, f/2.2 aperture, autofocus and 4K video recording capabilities. On the front, it has an 8-megapixel selfie snapper with f/2.0 aperture. The camera app of the phone is quite straightforward and easy to use. It is quick and has negligible shutter lag, allowing for quick pictures. The speed in no way compromises with the photo quality, and the pictures are undoubtedly good. The images clicked from the phone are bright, sharp and have a good color accuracy. Be it indoors or outdoors, the Honor 8 Pro won’t disappoint you with the output. Untitled design-5 The Honor 8 Pro’s front and back camera also come with some interesting modes. Besides panorama, slow-mo and time lapse modes, it also has a mode which lets you give a bokeh effect to your output images. Swiping right on the camera app opens the modes, and swiping left opens the camera settings. Similar to Snapchat and Instagram, you can also add text stickers to your pictures, which are under the watermark tab in the camera app.

Then there is also a 3D creator mode on the Honor 8 Pro, which is another very fun feature in its camera app. Basically, if you pan a person’s face profile in 180 degree in front, the 3D creator creates a three dimensional caricature of the person. Though it’s pretty accurate most of the time, it sort of misses the target for people who have too much facial hair. Also, there is another feature called Light painting worth mentioning. You know those images where you basically see trails of lights against a dark background, or a light graffiti against a natural background? The light painting mode essentially lets you do that.

For the Honor 8 Pro, the company has also partnered with GoPro, which brings a new Quik app to the phone. I found it similar to Apple’s Clips app, and it’s a lot of fun. Essentially, if you have a bunch of videos on your phone, you can just select those videos together, click on the share option, where the Quik app will show up. When you do that, the app automatically stitches all these small videos together, and makes one large video clip. You can also add background music in it from your library. Also, it has different filters that you can apply to the entire video. Overall, I’m impressed with the camera performance on the Honor 8 Pro. Below are some camera samples shot on the smartphone.

Results in low light are decent, thanks to the monochrome sensor which captures light information more accurately than the typical RGB sensors. In good light, the camera is most capable, allowing for clean shots. Close ups are quite neat too, I didn’t notice any noise in the image when you zoom up too close, or focus on a subject too close to the sensor. Also, even with pictures taken up close, the focus on the subject adjusts pretty fast, which I really like. Slow-motion videos however, seem a little over adjusted in terms of color, and you can even notice a little grain in it, though it’s very minimal. It’s the same camera system as the one on the Honor 8, with similar results. IMG_20170623_174214 IMG_20170623_174822 IMG_20170623_174855 IMG_20170623_174837 IMG_20170626_204416 IMG_20170628_190822 IMG_20170629_194032 IMG_20170623_174247 IMG_20170627_102802 IMG_20170627_190447 IMG_20170628_185749

Final word

Gathering my thoughts on the Honor 8 Pro, I feel the smartphone’s price tag really justifies its offerings. I love the aesthetics and camera of the device. With 6GB RAM and 128GB on-board storage, the phone stands directly in competition with HTC U11 and OnePlus 5, which remain at a disadvantage thanks to the Honor 8 Pro’s price tag of Rs 29,999. The phone competes more directly with the OnePlus 5, with a Rs 3,000 price advantage and nearly the same level of features.

There are ways where the Honor 8 Pro stands out compared to the OnePlus 5. While performance doesn’t quite match up and the user interface isn’t as light as OxygenOS, the Honor 8 Pro has a larger, higher-resolution screen which is better suited to VR and media use. Additionally, there’s 128GB of internal storage and the possibility of expansion, which is more than what’s present on the 6GB/64GB variant of the OnePlus 5. Both phones feature dual-camera systems, which we consider on par with each other save for a couple of key pros on each. While the OnePlus 5 uses its dual camera system to offer a better bokeh mode and 2X lossless zoom, the Honor 8 Pro achieves better low-light photography thanks to its use of a monochrome + RGB setup.

In conclusion, the Honor 8 Pro is just about the closest serious competitor to the OnePlus 5 we’ve seen thus far, bettering it on price and some specifications. Although battery life, software and overall performance leave a bit to be desired, the temptation of the high-resolution screen, 128GB of storage and a proven dual camera system make the Honor 8 Pro worth considering if you’re looking for a top-level smartphone at under Rs 30,000. I would recommend the Honor 8 Pro to anyone who is looking to buy a premium device without shelling out big bucks, and also to anyone who is looking for a decent alternative to the OnePlus 5. It’s on sale now exclusively on Amazon India.

  • Published Date: July 6, 2017 3:33 PM IST


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