Huawei Honor 8 Review

Huawei has always been known for their great value for money, especially at the lower end of the spectrum. The Huawei Honor 8 is a more premium device from Honor, a segment of Huawei. Though the Huawei Honor 9 is better in almost every way, the Huawei Honor 8 is still a solid contender, and it’s now a good $100 cheaper too. Compared to Huawei’s latest phones, the Huawei P10, Mate 9 Pro, and Honor 9, The Huawei Honor 8 is a little underpowered and looks just a little bit dated, but it’s still a very good phone. It’s standout features are the dual camera and the large for the time 4GB of RAM. Let’s see how it stacks up today, compared to other phones in the same price bracket.

Design

The Huawei Honor 8 is a real knight in shining armour. Every facet, surface, bezel, and corner of the phone glistens like a gem in the sunlight. While a sight to behold, it can get rather annoying and can look cheap sometimes, since there isn’t any contrast, especially if you buy a lighter color of the Huawei Honor 8. This is expected from Huawei, and in line with many phones today (Looking at you, HTC U11), though I’m really not a fan of the look. I’d much prefer the matte black look that many of the true flagship devices are going for, like the iPhone 7 Plus and OnePlus 5. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredibly good looking phone, but it’s a little flashy, and I fear that the form is at the cost of durability, since a large portion of the phone is made up of glass.

The Huawei Honor 8 sports the usual Android layout of buttons. On the right are the volume and lock buttons, with the left kept completely empty, save for the SIM card tray. On the front of the phone is the 5.2″ IPS display, with Full HD resolution. While it’s not extraordinarily large, it’s still a decent size, and it makes it much easier to hold with one hand, unlike larger sized phones, like the Xiaomi Mi Max 2. Overall, it’s a good looking phone, but it’s a little too flashy and dainty looking for me.

Build Quality

Huawei hasn’t been known for bad quality, and all of their phones above $200 have exceptional build quality. The Huawei Honor 8 absolutely is the continuation of their past reputation, but the durability might still suffer here. This is especially apparent in the Huawei Honor series, since almost the entire phone is made out of glass. I haven’t tested it personally, but I’d suspect that the phone wouldn’t survive many drops. Also, since both the front and back are made out of glass, you’ll have to get both panes of glass replaced, should you crack the glass on both sides.


Fingerprint Sensor

Unlike many Android phones today, the phone doesn’t have off-screen buttons – the back, home, and recent apps buttons are all on a navigation bar at the bottom of the screen. This means that the fingerprint sensor is placed on the back of the phone. Though it makes it difficult to unlock the phone when it’s lying flat on a tablet, having it on the back does bring a few advantages. Firstly, it reduces the amount of fingers you need to register to the phone, since your index finger will naturally fall on the sensor. Also, it’s a little bit less awkward to unlock your phone normally with it on the back than on the front. Since the home button on most phones is on the bottom, it’s odd to have to place your thumb right at the bottom for it to unlock.

Display

The Huawei Honor 8 features a 5.2″ IPS display. It’s not the largest or best display I’ve seen, but it’s still a solid contender for the price of the phone. Compared to AMOLED displays, IPS technology usually lacks in color reproduction and brightness. However, IPS displays are usually cheaper, and last longer than AMOLED displays – AMOLED displays are prone to “burn in” and pixel degradation, where the display gradually becomes dimmer. However, the IPS panel on the Huawei Honor 8 is very good, and reproduces color beautifully. It’s not quite the same as an AMOLED display, but it’s still very good. The Huawei Honor 8’s display isn’t all that large, and for that reason, it’s actually very decent for it to have a Full HD resolution, at 1920×1080.

Usually, I’d be disappointed at the lack of a 4k display, but at this size, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a 1080p display. The only time you might find that 1080p isn’t enough is if you’re using the Huawei Honor 8 as a VR headset, but if you were serious about wanting VR, you probably wouldn’t be considering buying a phone at this price range anyway. Overall, the Huawei Honor 8’s display is excellent, and one of the best I’ve seen around this price range.

Features

The Huawei Honor 8 was the first Honor phone to feature a dual camera. It’s intended to help with detail and quality, and it seems to do it pretty well. It’s also used like the “portrait mode” on the iPhone 7 Plus, where the subject is kept in focus and the background is blurred out. Aside from that, the Huawei Honor 8 doesn’t have many special features so to speak of, except for the fingerprint sensor and fast charging. Obviously, being a phone released in 2016, the Huawei Honor 8 has a fingerprint scanner. It’s a decent fingerprint scanner – fast and accurate. The battery in the Huawei Honor 8 isn’t that big, at just 3000mAh, but Huawei has decided to add in fast charging. It claims to be able to charge the phone from 0-50% in just 30 minutes, and it seems to hold up to that.

Fast charging is fast becoming standard in Android phones, but it’s a nice touch that Huawei has decided to add it into the phone, even though the battery is only 3000mAh. The Huawei Honor 8 is charged through USB Type-C, and it’s great that USB Type-C has been chosen over Micro USB. While most Android phones now are being equipped with USB Type-C, it’s only recently that it’s trickled down to more affordable phones.

Hardware

Like the lastest generation of Huawei Phones, the Huawei Honor 8 utilises the Kirin series of System-On-Chip. This is in stark contrast of most other Android phones, which use Snapdragon Chips. Unlike the latest series of Android phones from Huawei, the Huawei Honor 8 uses the Kirin 950 chip, instead of the latest 960 chip from Huawei. The 950 chip is just a little slower on both the CPU and GPU sides, but it shouldn’t be too noticeable today. The Kirin 950 is paired with 4GB of RAM on the Huawei Honor 8, which is ample amount for a good few years. It’s the same amount as the standard version of the Samsung Galaxy S8, but it’s still only half that of the OnePlus 5’s whopping 8GB of RAM.

The Huawei Honor 8 doesn’t have the largest battery, at just 3000mAh. Combine this with a slightly less power-efficient chip and a bright, and I’d expect the Huawei Honor 8 to have sub-par battery life. However, battery life turns out to be fairly decent, and it’s not an issue at all.

Variants

The base model of the Huawei Honor 8 comes with 32GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. If you need more storage, you can buy the 64GB version, but I wouldn’t recommend you do – and here’s why. The Huawei Honor 8 is a dual SIM phone, which is great, since you can use two SIMS at once, but you can also use the idle SIM slot as a micro-SD slot. That means that if you don’t need to use both SIM slots at the same time, you can expand the storage of the Huawei Honor 8 by up to 256GB, for a total of 320GB of storage if you buy the 64GB version, or 288GB for the 32GB version. This is more than enough for anybody, and unless you need lots of fast storage, I’d just buy the 32GB version. You can’t buy a 6GB RAM or 128GB ROM version.

Connectivity

The Huawei Honor 8 comes with all the usual connectivity options, and a few you don’t usually see. This includes WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS. However, the Huawei Honor 8 also comes with an IR blaster, as well as an app accompanying it to control your home appliances, like a TV. It’s rather useful, and I found myself using the phone instead of the remote control, first for the “cool” factor, but then later as a habit. It’s awesome, and it makes your phone a hub for all of your appliances.

Performance

The Kirin series of SoC on Huawei’s phones have historically not been able to compete with chips on the Snapdragon and Exynos sides, and the Kirin 950 in the Huawei Honor 8 is no exception. Speed and raw performance are not eh main features of the Huawei Honor 8, so if you want the most performance for your money, stay away. That’s not to say the Kirin 950 is a slow chip – it’s just not as fast as the bleeding edge of flagship chips. Although it’s older, it still performs admirably, and the UI is lag free. Even with 3D games, it’s absolutely fine, and frame drops are few and far between.

Right now, the performance on the Huawei Honor 8 is flawless. It’s still in its flagship stage, where the chip is more powerful than most of what the software can demand (noticeably), so you won’t feel much difference in day to day use compared to a true flagship in 2017, unless you put them side-by-side. Still, since the chip is older, in a year or so, you’ll notice slowdowns, which will increase in lagginess as times goes by.

Camera

The dual cameras work synchronously on the Huawei Honor 8 to provide the clearest and most detailed picture possible, supposedly even in low light. They’re also used to create an artificial “bokeh” effect, where the subject stays in focus but the background is blurred. The bokeh effect works relatively well, but of course it isn’t as good as a true bokeh effect from a wide aperture, rather than from image processing. The Huawei Honor 8’s camera is excellent in good lighting, and pictures come out very clear, with accurate colors, but in bad lighting, the camera starts to falter. It’s unfortunate, but as soon as lighting isn’t good, the image quality drops significantly. I think this is a mixture of intense image processing and the fact that the aperture on both cameras is rather high. Overall, the picture quality is good, but as light decreases, so does quality.

The Huawei Honor 8 also shoots video, but interesting, and somewhat disappointingly, it can’t shoot 4K video at all, even though it can shoot 1080p video at 60fps. It’s a real shame, since it’s a gaping hole in its spec sheet. Most premium and flagship phones in 2017 can record in 4K, but the Huawei Honor 8 can’t. The disappointments don’t end there either, the Huawei Honor 8 doesn’t have any optical image stabilisation, and the electronic image stabilisation doesn’t work at all when filming 1080p video at 60fps. You’ll have to choose between shaky 60fps video or semi-smooth 30fps video, both at 1080p. It’s very disappointing, and at this price range, there’s almost no excuse to have a phone like this unable to shoot 4k or even have EIS in 1080p60fps.

Operating System

The Huawei Honor 8, like all Huawei phones, runs Android, with “Emotion OS” on top of it. Though it’s favoured in Asian markets for its simplicity and ease-of-use, I’m definitely not a fan of this “dumbed-down” approach to Android. A lot of design elements throughout the UI look childish, and lack any sort of cohesive design language. It’s not nearly as polished as TouchWiz, and I’d have much preferred Stock Android. If, like me, you’re not a fan of the launcher on Emotion OS, you can download Google Now Launcher, but it can only change the launcher of your phone (the home screen).

Battery Life

On paper, the battery life on the Huawei Honor 8 looks to be disappointing. With a mere 3000mAh to play with, and a high-powered Kirin 950 chip, things weren’t looking good. However, the Huawei Honor 8 stunned with an above average battery life. It’s able to last just over a day, which is excellent for such a small phone, with an even smaller battery. I’d say it’s most likely due to the fact that the phone has a fairly small display, which more than makes up for the low capacity battery.

Wrap-Up

The Huawei Honor 8 is a very good phone from Huawei. It’s not on the bleeding edge, and it doesn’t have the best price-to-performance ratio. However, it’s a good all round phone with good battery life and a sleek body, so if you want a casual phone that looks great, get the Huawei Honor 8.