Honor 8 hands-on review


THE INQUIRER was at the European launch of the Honor 8 in Paris and got a chance to get our paws on the device.

Design
It’s a not very well kept secret that Honor phones are tweaked versions of their Huawei parent brand’s devices. The difference between this one and the Huawei P9 released earlier this year is that it has a glass finish like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

We got to hear a lot about how the design was based around ‘the language of light’, and there’s no doubt that the version we got to play with in Midnight Blue is spectacularly shiny.

honor-8-front

Black, White and later Gold models are on the way. The low profile flat design with smooth curves screams top-end and the 5.2in screen is very hand-friendly.

The USB-C port is, thankfully, not at the expense of a headphone port and the whole shell is significantly sleeker than its big brother. Even with a case, it’s incredibly slim.

Hardware
The Huawei Kirin 950 chip is quad-core in a big.LITTLE formation of two 2.3GHz cores for big jobs and two 1.8GHz for keeping the show on the road. What is notable is that, despite its low price, the Honor has 4GB of DDR4 RAM compared with three in the P9. The ‘young’ demographic to which Honor is trying to appeal demands more, it would seem.

The screen is Full HD and incredibly sharp. There’s quite a lot of bezel on the top and bottom, but the sides curve away like an infinity pool.

honor8-backA fingerprint reader on the back doubles as a button allowing secure shortcuts to apps and features with a press, double press or long press.

The camera capability is a big selling point for the selfie generation and Honor has gone all out with an 8MP front-facing camera, two 12MP rear cameras, one for colour, one for monochrome, and twin flash. This makes for much sharper images. The camera app is configured to allow this to be the gateway to any number of clever tricks, most notably impressive colours in low light, even on the selfie-cam.

light-show-honor8Be in no doubt, Huawei has thrown the kitchen sink at this. The speaker is surprisingly pleasing (though sadly mono) and just in case you thought your phone wasn’t already doing enough, there’s an IR blaster to use it as a universal remote.

The single SIM door also houses SD cards all the way up to 256GB. We’ve tested with a Lexar 200GB and it works a treat. But cleverly, if you don’t feel the need, you can put a second SIM in its place. Word of warning, though: the second SIM is 2G only.

Software
Being a son of Huawei, the Honor 8 has the lamentable EMUI interface, which would be fine if it had an app drawer. Fortunately, it seems to play nice with third-party launchers, and a quick swap out for Nova Launcher and we were all smiles again.

Feature packed doesn’t begin to cover the Honor 8. Aside from the wealth of photo effects, the most we’ve seen in ages on a camera, it offers a pedometer on the lock screen and a native blue light filter. Downloaded blue light filters are only so good with unrooted phones because they overlay instead of changing the palette, but an integrated one will really fix those bedtime browsing blues.

honor8-bottom

One mildly frustrating aspect of the phone is the amount of bloatware. Fortunately it’s all removable, but it seems that the low cost of the hardware is down to ‘partners’, a list of which reads like a list of everything you’ve ever uninstalled.

Gameloft features strongly, bolstering the potential for gaming, and as recently announced, Truecaller caller ID and blocking software is now integrated in Huawei and Honor phones. Shazam is also one of the more useful preinstallations, but all in all there’s a lot of deleting to do.

Battery life is superb. End of. Honor’s claim of nearly two days with regular use seems to be borne out because hammering it constantly for four hours with the screen on all the time used only seven per cent of the battery.

First impressions
The Honor 8 is very special. With a label price of under £370 for the 32GB version, it’s a genuine flagship killer. We wish that Huawei would leave the Android interface alone, but at the same time EMUI adds so much value in terms of little touches that it’s hard to complain too much.

The whole premise of the Honor-Huawei relationship is still a bit strange, but it’s sometimes best not to question these things because, little niggles aside, this is certainly one of the best value fully featured phones we’ve seen this year and represents a company seriously upping its game. µ

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