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I believe in value for money.
On REASONTOUSE, although I only cover high-end Androids, I still have a curiosity to use and analyse the smartphones which are borderline between the top-flyers and the mid-rangers.
OnePlus 3 was one such recent example in late 2016 which thoroughly impressed me.
Let us face the fact, we can not ignore the Chinese premium Android smartphones anymore. They are gradually closing the quality and user-experience gap with their more matured and settled counterparts.
I recently came across the Honor 8 and could not resist myself to try it in my hands as my personal phone.
Honor (Huawei’s sister company) is relatively new. I had never used any other Honor device before.
I wasn’t sure if Honor 8 is a true high-end device or a mid-ranger with a lot of hype attached to it.
After using it for over a month and a half, here I am with its detailed review. An analysis of its strengths and weaknesses and my final verdict of the phone.
“I am not hesitant to call it the high-end or flagship model by Honor. However, the question remains, how does it compete with the rest of the competition in this competitive market?”
Stay with me and at the end of this article you will have a flavour of that.
Remember, I write from a common user’s perspective. My reviews do not involve hi-tech testing, complicated benchmarks and complex comparisons. How it feels on a day to day basis is how it’s explained to you.
Keep it simple and to the point.
Let us dive in.
Huawei Honor 8 Strengths
Honor 8’s Real Strength is its Price to Specification Ratio (Value for Money)
Price is a subjective matter and it varies from country to country as well.
For comparing a particular smartphone in a like-to-like scenario, I use Amazon as a testing ground.
At the time of writing this article, the Honor 8 is selling for £369 in the UK ($329 in the US). This is lower than some of the other major competitors such as Google Pixel, Galaxy S7 and HTC 10 etc.
For a phone which is only 5 months old, this is an attractive price tag for a high-spec device. Honor 8 does not cut corners on key hardware specifications for a late 2016 phone. While it is not mega-cheap, it still does not break your bank in comparison to the competition.
It is worth mentioning here that the OnePlus 3 (£329 if you can get it) and OnePlus 3T (£399) are two other phones which are in close comparison to the Honor 8 in late 2016 and early 2017. Definitely a tough competition although I have a suspicion that the OnePlus will have an edge here for overall quality and value.
Nevertheless, you are getting a smartphone which is fast, solid, arguably beautiful and having plenty of power under the hood. I feel that it presents a great value for money to a common Android user who wants to enjoy flagship experience at a decent price tag.
The influx of Chinese premium phones is undeniable.
And “price” is one key area they are particularly good at.
Fingerprint Scanner is Impressive
I have seen some big players struggling in this area.
All you want is a fast and responsive fingerprint scanner which is reliable as well.
And Honor 8 ticks this box very well.
The round imprint scanner is at the back. It is conveniently located to pick up your index finger which is my ideal location for a fingerprint scanner in a smartphone.
It is fast, very responsive and accurate almost all the time.
Honor has spiced up the things further. The fingerprint scanner can be doubled up with some extra features such as swipe up, down and double tap etc.
You can programme these gestures in the settings to perform certain tasks such as pulling the notification menu down, sending it back and opening the camera app etc.
Mildly put, it is a step in the direction of wider and more versatile use of the fingerprint scanner button.
Honor 8 Passes (Average Performers)
Honor 8 is So So in Overall Camera Quality
Now let me say this straight.
Honor 8 has not got a bad camera at all.
In fact, for many of us, it might just be fine. It depends on how important is the camera and the picture quality it produces for you.
“For me, as we are reviewing a high-end and flagship Android, it fell short of expectations for camera user experience.”
Let us talk first about the hardware and features very quickly.
Honor 8 comes with dual cameras at the back – each with 12 mega pixels resolution and f/2.2 aperture. There is no optical image stabilisation however laser autofocus and dual-tone LED flash is on board.
It is an interesting camera arrangement and TechRadar in this brilliant article has explained this arrangement in further detail. Honor 8: Why two cameras are better than one – I suggest having a quick read.
I have no issues in terms of hardware specs except image stabilisation as one key omission.
So back to the primary factor in establishing a good camera experience – the sheer quality of the images it produces.
How did the Honor 8 main camera perform?
The pictures simply didn’t impress me – although they were acceptable on many occasions, they failed to create a wow with their punch and depth.
The colours were generally on the washed-out side, exposure not consistent and signs of soft focus on many occasions as well. I am not saying that the camera is not capable of taking good photos, I am just saying that using it on a day to day basis with auto-mode, it did not produce consistently good photos for me.
I include below a set of 7 pictures taken in various conditions to give you a flavour.
In macros and close-up shots, the camera struggled again.
The pictures came out to be soft, lacking in depth and with not-enough-punch.
Here are a couple of examples below.
Overall, I am trying to convey the point that for a common user who relies mainly on default settings and wants to take quick snaps, the results might not impress him at this level of competition.
Perhaps, turning to manual mode and adjusting the settings might help. Or trying a third party app.
I appreciate that Honor has tried to give us a good dual camera hardware along with a nice set of features and tricks within the camera app, but when it comes to the sheer picture quality, it lacks and leaves much to desire.
It will get my 6 out of 10 for overall camera experience in auto-mode – feels neutral.
The Shiny and Slippery Honor 8 is Beautiful But Not Stunning
Let us first have a look at the 3 main angles and I will then share with you my overall verdict of its design.
Honor 8 is a well-proportioned and an elegant looking phone from the front.
The 5.2 inch screen comes with minimal side bezels and decent sized top/bottom bezels. There is a front facing camera, proximity sensor and earpiece on the top bezel while the at the bottom we have the Honor logo in the middle. There are no hardware buttons in Honor 8, it relies on software based buttons.
At the back, Honor 8 has a glass back.
There is a dual camera setup on the top left with dual tone LED flash in the middle. Underneath, the fingerprint scanner is round and slightly depressed. The rest of the back is plain with just the Honor logo towards the bottom with some text in smaller font including the model no. FRD-L09.
The glass looks well made, shiny and extremely reflective. It reflects light in various angles and creates an aurora effect. With slightly curved edges from all sides, it reflects light more than any other glass panel that I have seen before. So a touch of spice is added by Honor in their first flagship here which is good.
While the glass and its shine/reflectiveness looks good, I found the glass to be extremely slippery, slightly difficult to grip and attracting way too many fingerprint marks. For me personally, I would go as far as saying that it was a difficult phone to handle without any protection.
I normally cover the glass surfaces (front and back) with thin plastic screen protectors. In this case, I found that by applying the screen protection, although it increased the grip and hence the handling of the device was easier, at the same time, the shine and prismatic effect of the glass was reduced.
“So the glass is beautiful (perhaps the most beautiful glass in Smartphones to date) but it is not very practical.”
On to the sides then.
All four sides of the device come with a continuous metal frame.
This metal band adds to the elegance and style of the device. On the right side, you have the usual power button (textured) and volume rocker on the top.
The top contains a microphone slot and IR blaster.
On the left hand side we have a SIM tray which can either house two SIMs or if you want to use a microSD card, you will have to live with one SIM and use the second SIM slot for the memory card.
At the bottom we have a trio of downward facing speaker grille, USB type-C and a standard 3.5mm audio jack.
Overall, Honor 8 is a no-nonsense design.
While it lacks curves and slightly difficult for me to handle, I would still call it a good design.
The size, proportion and weight of the phone feel appropriate. My biggest gripe is that glass texture could have been better and made easier to hold and handle on a day to day basis. However, if you are going to slip your Honor 8 in a protective case or a pouch, you should be fine in that case.
Purely for design, Honor 8 will get my 7.5 out of 10 – feels good.
Honor 8 has an Average Battery Life
Honor 8 is not much different in terms of battery life in comparison to rest of the competition.
I usually charge it overnight to full and find that it lasts most of the day generally. Having said that, don’t forget battery life is a subjective matter, my use could be different to yours. This is just to give you a flavour.
A day of charge with light to moderate use. If you are a heavy user, you may need to charge it again in the afternoon or evening depending on your nature of use.
The fast charger comes in the standard box which charges the battery from say 5% to 95% in an hour and a half. It is a handy feature which is nowadays coming as a standard in most of the flagship devices. The best I have seen to date is the Dash Charging by OnePlus 3/3T.
I am not going to comment on how good or bad is this fast-charging for the long-term health of the battery. As a common user, it saves me a lot of time and hassle with my busy lifestyle, so I am up for it.
In 2017 and going forward, I still see the battery life as one key area where there is a lot of room for improvement, research and innovation. A common Android user is keen to have longer and more reliable battery life of his smartphone.
It is important for them. Have a look at this general poll I conducted here on REASONTOUSE and what my readers told me about their primary considerations in buying a flagship Android. This poll was closed after 200 responses in late 2016.
Honor 8 Weaknesses
The EMUI (OS) Needs Attention
Honor 8 uses the same operating system (OS) as Huawei’s other flagships do – the EMUI.
Mine came with EMUI 4.1 based on Android Marshmallow.
I am still waiting for a recently released EMUI 5.0 to be updated on my phone but it hasn’t happened yet (end January 2017).
It is the Huawei’s own flavour of the Android. While it is great to see manufacturers taking the stock experience to the next level with their own flavour, I have struggled to see many succeeding in doing that.
“I found the EMUI 4 to be lacking in depth and struggling to provide a super smooth and pleasant user interface.”
To start with, there is more-than-require bloat and third party apps that come bundled with the software. The trend in the industry is to give this choice to the end user to decide what he wants to install and what not.
The apps drawer is missing from the EMUI 4.1 version.
I am told it can be enabled in EMUI 5.0 now. While I am getting used to “no-apps-drawer” style, I still feel that giving this option to the user is the right choice which I believe Huawei has done it now with the EMUI 5.0. I personally prefer to have one without the need to install a third-party launcher on my phone.
It is not silky smooth either.
With top-notch hardware specifications including 4GB of RAM, I expect an OS which is free of lag and stutter. The EMUI 4 does show signs of jerkiness and lag on certain occasions and it does not feel right. I expect at this level the OS to be super-fast with pleasant transitions and smooth scrolling.
“As it stands, with EMUI 4.1, I see it as an achilles heel for the Honor 8. It is a weakness of this device in my opinion.”
I am sure that with an update to EMUI 5.0 or above, the user experience is likely to change.
I am still waiting for it.
Honor 8 Verdict – The Overall User Experience
Honor is the Huawei’s sister company and their Honor 8 phone is targeted for a specific group of people. It aims to inspire the design-conscious people who are looking for strong specs at a reasonable price tag.
I get that.
I think it is a great effort and I am not hesitant to commend Honor for bringing us a premium Android experience at a non-premium price. If you are tight on budget but still want a decent high-end phone, this will be a great option for you to consider.
However, if you are a quality conscious person and like details such as camera quality, design and battery life etc., you will find the Honor 8 to be “just another phone”.
While it is acceptable in many areas, it fails to create a wow-effect as an overall package.
I will call it a good flagship, but not great.
“It will get my 7 out of 10 for the overall user experience on day to day basis for a common user.”
What do you think about the Honor 8 smartphone?
Have you tried it or are you thinking of buying this phone?
Share your thoughts.