Huawei’s sub-brand Honor has released some interesting devices in the two years since it entered the Indian smartphone space. Whether it’s the budget-focused Holly-series or mid-range smartphones such as the Honor 4C, the Honor 5C or last year’s flagship Honor 7, they all have been well received. The company’s latest offering, the Honor 8 ups the ante with dual rear cameras, front and back glass design and powerful hardware on-board. Priced at Rs 29,999 and available via Flipkart, the smartphone competes with the likes of popular devices such as the OnePlus 3 and the Asus Zenfone 3 (ZE552KL). After using the Honor 8 as my primary phone for the past one week, here’s my detailed review.
Honor 8 Design
The Honor 8 brings some major design changes over its predecessor, the Honor 7. It features a unibody design, metal frame with curved edges and a 2.5D curved glass on the front and back, which adds to its premium look and feel. It has a 5.2-inch full-HD screen with ultra thin bezels on the sides to maintain a slim profile. The design looks refreshing and the device is comfortable to hold in one hand, but the smooth front and back glass makes it slippery. During my week with the phone, I had several moments where the device was very close to slipping out of my hands. Another shortcoming of having a glass back is that it is always smudgy and needs to be cleaned.
Up front, you have the selfie camera, ambient light sensor and earpiece, which also has a hidden LED light for notification alerts. The volume rocker and power / sleep buttons are placed on the right, and they offer good tactile feedback. The power button also has a concentric circle pattern to help you differentiate it from the volume rocker. The hybrid SIM-card tray is placed on the left, which lets you use either two nano-SIM cards or one nano-SIM card and a microSD card. The 3.5mm audio jack and USB Type-C port is placed at the bottom, while the top has an IR blaster which lets you use the Honor 8 as a remote to control your TV, air conditioner and Blu-Ray player, among others.
At the back of the phone, you have the dual camera modules, the laser autofocus window and the dual-tone LED flash. Just below the camera modules, you also have a circular 360-degrees fingerprint sensor, which is very quick and accurate in unlocking the device. The fingerprint sensor is also a physical button that lets you trigger various functions with a single press, double press, or press-and-hold. Honor calls it the ‘Smart Key’, and it can be used for taking screenshots, starting the flashlight, or opening an app.
What’s more, it also has a gesture control feature. Swiping down on the fingerprint sensor opens the notification screen, and swiping left and right to move to the next or previous photo within the photo gallery. The sensor can also use used to answer calls, stop the alarm, and as a shutter button to shoot photos and record videos.
Honor 8 Specifications
The Honor 8 flaunts a 5.2-inch full-HD (1080p) screen with a pixel density of 423ppi. The panel is bright with text looking sharp, punchy colors and nice viewing angles. The panel offers deep blacks and bright whites, making photos and videos look great. Sunlight legibility is decent as well, but I noticed that the auto-brightness takes a couple of seconds to kick in. Honor also lets you adjust the color temperature from warm to cool based on your preferences. There is also a blue light filter that can be activated under Settings and Display. It adds a yellow tint to the screen to ensure less strain on your eyes, even with prolonged usage, and this is particularly useful when using the phone at night right before you fall asleep.
Under the hood is Huawei’s homebrewed HiSilicon Kirin 950 octa-core SoC built on 16nm architecture. The processor is powerful, with four Cortex-A72 cores clocked at 2.3GHz and four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.8GHz. It is paired with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. There’s also a 3,000mAh battery, and connectivity options such as 4G LTE, Bluetooth, GPS and Wi-Fi 802.11ac are present. The Honor 8 does not support VoLTE, but the company promises that this will be enabled via a coming software update.
Honor 8 Software
The Honor 8 runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, with the company’s Emotion UI (EMUI) running on top. Honor has added a lot of customizations to the interface, while others remain present, such as the dynamic lock screen. It changes the photo every time you press the power sleep / wake button to unlock the smartphone, thereby showing a different photo pulled from an online service every time. The interface does not have any app drawer and all of your installed apps appear on the homescreens. Dragging down from top reveals quick toggles for mobile data, Wi-Fi, GPS, Airplane Mode and more. It is customizable and you can add / remove toggles based on your needs.
There is also an on-screen floating dock with smart control options such as back, home, app switcher, lock screen and clear apps. You also get a built-in screen recorder app, but the recording resolution is limited to 720p. Single handed mode is also present which shrinks the screen size and bringing it closer to one size for easy use. It can be enabled by swiping from left-to-right or right-to-left on the onscreen navigation buttons.
Honor has added a Health app that uses the onboard sensors to show you the fitness data such as the number of steps walked, distance covered and calories burned. You can also see your daily, weekly and monthly fitness statistics.
There is also a power manager app that lets you optimize the system by cleaning cache files, block unwanted callers, and lock apps such as gallery, WhatsApp, Facebook and more with a password or fingerprint to keep your data safe from prying eyes. Lastly, there is also voice control feature where you can wake up the smartphone with your voice by simply saying ‘Dear Honor’. In case you forget where you kept the smartphone, you can simply summon it by saying ‘Dear Honor’ followed by ‘Where are you’ and it will play a nice tune and speak out, ‘I’m here.’ It’s very fancy, but it will only work when you are in close proximity of the device, or when you speak out loud, which might seem a bit awkward depending on where you are.
Honor 8 Performance
The combination of Kirin 950 SoC and 4GB of RAM works perfectly to handle daily tasks with ease. During the past week that I have been using the smartphone, I did not encounter any lag or stutter. Whether I was using Google Chrome with about 7-8 tabs open, using Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, or playing casual games such as Subway Surfers and Temple Run, the phone is able to handle things very smoothly. Even when playing demanding, graphics hungry games such as Asphalt Xtreme or Modern Combat 5: Blackout, I didn’t encounter any frame drops. However, the phone did get a little warm after five minutes of continuous gaming.
Multimedia performance on the smartphone is also quite satisfactory. The phone was able to play 4K videos without any hiccups. The stock music player supports playback formats such as MP3, AAC and even FLAC, which has now become a norm on most affordable smartphones too. In terms of quality, audio sounds good, but it was a bit flat in terms of sound signature. Honor has also included support for DTS audio, which only works when the headphones are plugged in, but it’s hard to distinguish any difference, even when the mode is turned off. However, the speaker output is quite low, especially when watching videos on the UI’s default video player or when streaming on YouTube.
Honor 8 Camera
The USP of the Honor 8 is its dual-camera setup at the back, which uses two 12-megapixel sensors of aperture f/2.2 and pixel size of 1.25um, along with laser auto-focus and dual-tone LED flash. It uses one monochrome sensor and one color (RGB) sensor – both working in tandem to let you capture better photos, even in low-light conditions. However, they aren’t Leica-certified as the ones on the Huawei P9 and the Mate 9. The smartphone is capable of recording full-HD videos at 60fps, and slow motion videos at 120fps.
The camera app interface is pretty neat, with quick toggles to switch cameras, add live filters, turn flash on or off and ‘wide aperture’ mode to let you add shallow depth-of-field (bokeh effects) to your photos. With the aperture mode, you get a slider to vary the aperture from f/0.95, and going all the way up to f/16. The camera also offers different photography modes such as pro photo, pro video, panorama, HDR and time-lapse, among others. Swiping from right to left brings up the settings for resolution and aspect ratio and more. My only significant complaint with the camera is that after using it for about five minutes, the area around the camera module gets very hot.
I tested the camera capabilities under different scenarios and found the results to be pretty impressive. The monochrome and color sensors work together to let you capture detailed and sharp photos. The monochrome sensor captures as much light and detail information as it can to form a black-and-white image. When you choose monochrome in filters, you get true monochrome images from only the monochrome sensor and it is very useful in low-light where you can capture photos with less noise.
The overall photo quality is pretty satisfactory and both cameras are able to capture enough detail. The photos look sharp, and only when you zoom in at 100 percent crop is some grain visible. While the photos look good, I noticed the colors look washed out in some cases, especially in outdoor conditions. Macros and low-light photos look however come out nicely, and the camera is able to capture enough details.
[Click to see camera samples shot on the Honor 8]
The wide aperture mode lets you add live depth-of-field effects to your phones. It works well on objects that are close to the camera, and is fairly effective even at some distance. If you want to change the aperture level or focus, you can tap on the screen and do it with ease. This adds some neat and useful tricks to the camera. The full-HD video quality is decent, but slow-motion videos at 60fps have a significant amount of visible grain.
Selfies are decent as well, and will serve you reliably in those moments when you want to capture yourself and your friends. The f/2.4 aperture allows for enough light capture, making it effective even in low-light settings. The screen flash works great in low-light, and even in complete darkness. The best part is that the camera captures accurate skin tones, which keeps pictures looking natural.
Honor 8 Battery
Battery life on Honor 8 is fairly decent. With support for fast charging, the 3,000mAh battery manages sail through the day with moderate usage. I have been using the phone with a Reliance Jio SIM (no VoLTE support though), with either Wi-Fi or 4G data on all the time. My typical usage includes – brightness at 40 percent, 30 minutes of gaming, listening to music over Bluetooth with a headset for two hours, a few phone calls, three email accounts in sync and some social networking throughout the day. I also have Pebble Time smartwatch connected to the smartphone 24×7 and real-time Twitter notifications on from few people as and when they tweet. Even with all this, I could easily get screen-on time of about three-and-a-half hours, which is not bad. Under battery settings, there is also a power saving ROG mode that reduces the resolution to HD (720p) and under-clocking the processor, among a few other tweaks. With the ROG mode on and the same usage, I was able to squeeze a little more than four hours of screen on time.
On the whole, the Honor 8 ticks all the right boxes. The company has done a pretty good job in finding the right balance between design,specifications and features. The phone has managed to impress me in all ways, particularly when it comes to battery life and performance. The dual camera is capable of capturing good shots in almost all lighting conditions. Being a camera-centric smartphone that lacks 4K video-recording support is a bit of a disappointment, but given the fact that not many of us capture videos in 4K resolution all the time, it shouldn’t be a big deal as such.Still it would have been nice to have the option. ALSO READ: OnePlus 3 review: A ‘flagship killer’ that really kills other flagships
At its price point, the dual-camera set up gives Honor 8 a significant edge over competitors such as the OnePlus 3, the Asus Zenfone 3 (ZE552KL), and also the more affordable Moto Z Play and the Xiaomi Mi 5. The Honor 8 offers serious value-for-money and an excellent camera at under Rs 30,000, but if you’re looking for a better overall performer and you’d like to spend a bit less, we’d recommend the OnePlus 3 over this.
Photos – Vijay Khutale