The Honor 8 was released back in July 2016 and it was a surprisingly good handset at the time. An alternative to the Huawei P9, but slightly cheaper, it represents the pinnacle of the firm’s smartphone range. Both these phones share near-identical specifications.
It’s recently been upgraded to Android 7.0 Nougat, but the Honor 8’s price hasn’t drastically changed since launch. The phone still costs £370 on Amazon, but you can find for less (£320) if you go through vMall, Honor’s official web portal. The Huawei P9 has seen a price cut, too. Originally reviewed at £450 in April 2016, the dual-lens flagship can be found for £390 on Amazon and through various network providers, such as Three.
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Honor 8 review: Build quality
If you think Honor and Huawei are trying to sell you the same phone twice, though, you’d only be partially correct. The Honor 8 has a design that really catches the eye. That’s partly down to its rear glass panel, which is built from 15 different layers of materials, giving it what Honor calls a “3D grating effect”.
That doesn’t sound very luxurious, but the way its 7.5mm-thin chassis catches the light is certainly very pleasing to the eye. The white and black versions don’t do it justice, but this 3D grating effect really comes into its own on the sapphire blue version. Couple this with its smooth texture and lightly chamfered edges and, to me, it’s one of the prettiest phones around. Unfortunately, its glass back is prone to fingerprints and scratches, so if you do purchase the phone, I’d advise you purchase an £8 transparent phone cover to protect the device.
As with all of Honor’s flagship phones, you’ll find a fingerprint sensor on the back that does double duties as a touch gesture control. Whereas previous Honor fingerprint readers have given you the option of answering calls and bringing down the notifications menu with a quick swipe of your finger, the Honor 8 adds the ability to swipe left and right through your photo gallery as well. The sensor is fully clickable, too, allowing you to assign different app shortcuts to single and double clicks as well as a long press.
Honor 8 review: Display
The phone’s full HD (1,080 x 1,920) 5.2in display is as good to look at as phone itself. Colours pop and aren’t overly saturated, and viewing angles are impressive. Reproduction of the sRGB colour gamut is good to reaching 98.20% coverage – it’s clear this is one capable, well-tuned display. the phone is capable of reproducing a wide array of colours. In fact, put in context it’s not far off the £550 Huawei P10, which covers 99.9% of the sRGB gamut.
The 1,086.8:1 contrast ratio and 0.38cd/m2 black level are a little on the low side for a modern flagship, but nonetheless both figures are still acceptable. Its biggest flaw is its readability under bright sunlight. At a tested 416 cd/m2 maximum brightness it lags behind most IPS-based screens; the Huawei P10 and P9 have brighter screens at 498cd/m2 and 489cd/m2 respectively.
Honor 8 review: Software
Originally shipped with Android 6 Marshmallow and EMUI 4.1, the Honor 8 now runs on Android 7 Nougat with EMUI 5.0. The update is free to install and is carried out over the air.
The look and feel of EMUI 5.0 won’t be for everyone, but I had no problem using it as the phone works seamlessly with Android 7 and the use of EMUI enables you to customise certain aspects of your phone, such as the button that doubles up as a fingerprint reader at the back of the phone.
Honor 8 review: Performance
Inside, you’ll find an octa-core 2.3GHz Kirin 950 chip and 4GB of RAM. This is a slightly different chip to the Huawei P9’s, which has a Kirin 955, but the Honor 8′s Kirin chipset is also joined by an i5 co-processor, allowing the phone to boot up quicker and capture health data in the background.
In terms of its benchmark performance, the Honor 8 is up there with the very best. With Geekbench 4 single-core score of 1,711 and a multi-core score of 5,449 it’s up there with the fastest phones on the market today.
The phone feels snappy, has no trouble under heavy load and is perfect for multitasking.
^Geekbench 4: Honor 8 vs Huawei P9 vs Huawei P10
It’s no slouch for gaming either, and with an onscreen GFXBench result of 20fps is another impressive result. Games feel fluid and no matter what I threw at the Honor 8, it was able to keep up.
^GFXBench Manhattan 3.0 Onscreen: Honor 8 vs Huawei P9 vs Huawei P10
As for storage, the Honor 8 comes with 32GB as standard, and this can be expanded by up to 128GB via the phone’s microSD card slot. There’s also a 64GB variant of the phone, but supply is rather limited.
Battery life is the phone’s weakest point, however. Inside is a non-removable 3,000mAh battery, which should be good for a full day of use, but it lasted only 9hrs 13mins in our video playback test.
In comparison, the Huawei P9 lasted 11hrs 24mins in the same test, and even the much cheaper Huawei P8 Lite 2017 lasted longer at 10h 24m. It’s not the best phone for playing Pokemon GO, that’s for sure, unless you equip yourself with a power bank.
On the plus side, the Honor 8 does support fast-charging via its USB Type-C port. You’ll get around half charge in 30 minutes with a zero-to-hero charge time of around an hour. Honor includes a fast charger in the box.
Honor 8 review: Camera
The Honor 8’s camera is the standout feature. It has a dual-lens 12-megapixel f/2.2 camera with laser autofocus and dual-tone LED flash, while at the front is an 8-megapixel f/2.4 camera.
Alongside the regular camera mode, you’ll find specialist modes such as Good food, Panorama, Night shot, Light painting, time-lapse and beauty. The most interesting of the bunch, though, is Pro photo, which will allow you to adjust the metering, ISO, shutter speed, EV, focus and white balance. If you’re competent with pro-level photography, the Honor 8 will satisfy your geeky habits.
The images it captures are simply stunning, although not quite as good, perhaps, as the more advanced Huawei P9 with its Leica-branded optics. A natural picture quality is achieved through Honor’s RGB and monochrome sensors, which combine to provide accurate colours and improve dynamic range.
In my tests shots I found details such as brickwork at distance clearly defined, with HDR mode adding that extra bit of detail and colour accuracy to my images.
^Road shot in HDR mode (brickwork is clear, colours are accurate, both sky and road are visible)
Low-light performance was spectacular. Our indoor studio still life was reproduced with little visible image noise and very impressive overall colour accuracy with no signs of over-saturation.
^Indoor shot in standard mode
Enabling flash somewhat reduces the quality of the image but does remove unwanted shadows from the background.
^Indoor shot with flash
You can’t record video at 4k resolution with the Honor 8, which is a little disappointing, but the Honor 8 will let you capture in 1080p at 60fps or 30fps and in 720p at 120fps for slow-mo. It’s also good to see there’s a Pro video mode, which lets you manually adjust the metering mode, EV, AF and white balance. You can’t lock exposure in, though, which is mildly annoying.
Honor 8 review: Verdict
The Honor 8 is a fantastic smartphone, especially at its lower £320 price tag. It has a fantastic camera, a beautiful and unique design, a fast processor resulting in a fluid Android 7 experience and its Full HD screen is excellent. It is only let down by its battery life.
So should you buy one? It all really boils down to the price. At the Amazon price of £370, the Honor 8 doesn’t provide a convincing argument over the £390 Huawei P9 or, in fact, the superlative OnePlus 3T, which is only £10 more at £400. However, if you’re happy purchasing from Honor direct, at £320 the Honor 8 makes a great purchase.