Huawei’s sub-brand Honor cannot go unnoticed in the Indian market, especially after how it took on the giants with the relatively newer name and not using the parent company Huawei’s name in offering some of the best smartphones in India last year. We had rated the Honor 7 as the best mid-range smartphone last year. This kept the expectation obviously high when Huawei was prepping up to launch its successor, the Honor 8 in India.
While there are flagships offered at a premium price point, some brands go ahead to bring out their best ones at a mid-range pricing, namely the OnePlus 3, LeEco Le Max2, and Xiaomi Mi 5 this year. And then, there’s Huawei who offers almost all of its flagship features in a mid-range smartphone. That’s the case with even the Honor 8! I wore my hat of skepticism while using the Honor 8 for the past two weeks but I’m convinced for most of the aspects. This is a perfect example of having features of ‘flagship’ phone into a smartphone that should seem reasonable with the price.
The size is not uncommon, with a 5.2-inch display on the front. There’s no fuss about unnecessary additions or any removals of important ports (that we’ve been hearing of lately), as the Honor 8 has a USB Type-C port, speaker grill and the 3.5mm headset jack on the bottom, while an Infrared sensor is given on the top.
The Honor 8 seems a bit slippery, which is a common case with most of the glass-bodied smartphones out there, but it is the glass that gives it this beautiful look. All the three colors are good and the fingerprint scanner on the back is bordered around by a metal ring. There is a 2.5D arc curve given for glass on both the sides, and the metal frame meets these two glass sheets. It is the aluminum alloy frame that adds to the rigidity, taking away the impact when the device falls on one of the corners.
It is a 5.2-inch LTPS LCD display that comes with a Full HD resolution, and it has a 1500:1 contrast ratio and 96% NTSC color gamut. I’ve be, en on a tour recently and carried the device along, and at several conditions around, the display has been brilliant in not just the viewing angles but the legibility under sunlight.
The screen isn’t the brightest out there but is capable of put out content that is readable under the sunlight. The only concern here is with the presence of on-screen navigation buttons that take away from space out of the 5.2-inch cross area of the display, though Huawei might have had to take this step to keep the phone compact enough and not give an extra space for touch buttons outside of the display area.
The Honor 8 runs Android Marshmallow based EMUI interface, which is the one you would see on every Huawei device. The EMUI 4.1 does not offer a separate app drawer but the user is free to use a launcher, and we’ve checked to find out most of the popular launchers to be working with ease on the Honor 8. If you are fine with what is given by default, there’s a lot to check out.
First thing that’s quite satisfying with the UI is that you won’t see a lot of unnecessary apps pre-installed. Smart Key, Motion control, One hand UI, and Voice control are some handy features that one should take advantage of for a long-term easier use of the device, and they can be easily turned off if you don’t find a good use of them.
A Floating dock would reduce the number of taps and you don’t have to stretch your fingers out for some shortcuts all the time as the dock comes with some of them, and you can also clean the apps and improve the RAM whenever you feel that the device is being taken on a toll due to a big load of apps on the background.
Other necessary inclusions such as Do Not Disturb mode, Home screen style switcher, adjustments to status bar and notification panel are included as well.
When it comes to admiring a company for the accuracy of fingerprint sensors, the two brands that come to mind before the others are Huawei and Coolpad. The one provided in the Honor 8 works very fast and well, just like how the ones on Honor 7, Nexus 6P, and on Huawei P9 did. It is a 3D fingerprint scanner and while it isn’t easy to measure and judge the speed, Huawei claims that the sensor recognizes and unlocks the screen in just 0.4 seconds.
The functionality of the fingerprint scanner is not limited, as a couple of very useful features are included – swiping down to open the notification panel and up to close it, and swiping left / right when viewing pictures in the gallery to scroll between them.
The sensor also has a few Touch & Hold functions, where one can stop an alarm, answer an incoming call, or click a picture by touching and holding the finger on the sensor.
For the UI, it is about how comfortable you feel with the options offered and whether you will be happy using it for a long time. If not, thankfully we are talking about Android OS and customization is very much possible, anytime.
Camera – The best thing about the Honor 8!
How well is a camera used matters more than how well has a manufacturer packed it in the device. We’ve seen smartphone cameras with a big megapixel count, specs that no other device boasted, and while they did offer some special functions, what they lacked was the basic photography needs that one would want. Is there really a use of a 23-megapixel camera when it doesn’t have a good pixel size or a sensor that can allow good amount of light to pass through for a well-lit capture? With the Honor 8, Huawei carries ahead what it held as a supreme photography tool with its dual-lens camera setup. While the Leica branding here is gone, the dual sensors are not any different when it comes to the hardware functionality.
Here’s how the camera arrangement in the Honor 8 works. One lens in the 12MP bionic lens combination has the standard RGB sensor that every smartphone camera would generally have, while the other lens comes with what creates the magic here – a monochrome sensor. While it can capture perfect Black and White photos with ease and much better detail, the use of this sensor is rather different and important. This sensor allows more light to pass through and it is the one that records the details in the picture. The software then works instantly to merge the color details from the first sensor and the depth details from second one to come up with a perfect shot.
Before the actual capture, the hybrid auto-focus enables laser focus for short range, precise depth focus for long range, and contrast focus, working together to spend as less time as possible to achieve the focus on the subject. The built-in dual ISP helps improve the speed, focusing time, and focus on the subject being captured. A feature that would seem similar to several other dual-camera setups is the post-capture focus on multiple points in same picture. Called as the “Wide Aperture Mode” in the Honor 8, it offers blurring of the background from F0.95 to F16, which is one of the top ones for any smartphone camera.
There’s a lot more at offer when the cameras are being talked about, but I’ll let the camera samples do the talking. To note, most of these captures are with the Auto mode in different conditions, although the camera app has a great professional mode at offer with several controls that can be adjusted by the user.
Check all the Honor 8 Camera Samples: Click here.
Buttery smooth but not chilled out
The performance of the Honor 8 is swift, and the interface has managed to stay on top and smooth all the while, thanks to not just the good octa-core Kirin 950 processor but also the 4GB of RAM that is offered here.
Let’s keep the benchmarks aside, even though Honor 8 scores well in that aspect. For gaming, the device did show occasional lags on the graphic-heavy games like Modern Combat 5. But as is the case with any glass-bodied phone without an exception, the Honor 8 tends to warm up quickly and this doesn’t come as a surprise. It isn’t at the levels where you drop your phone to take a break, but atemperature rise is well noticeable.
The same heating is not seen when I had the 4G active on the Honor 8 with Wi-Fi Tethering on for hours during my travel. The connectivity is another big plus with the device, although two things it lacks are the VoLTE feature and the Dual SIM slot. Otherwise, the smart switching of Wi-Fi bands, 4G LTE connectivity are all up to the mark.
The battery lasts well for a day with the 3000 mAh battery included. To add to it, the support for fast charging is helpful and it gets to about 40% in 30 minutes time when the phone is out of charge, i.e. if we use the charger provided in the box. The UI has a power saving mode called ROG power saving that does a brilliant job in the time of crisis when a charger isn’t around. Not just disabling the background functions but also rendering the display at 720p for saving power is greatly helpful at times.
Final verdict – Is the Honor 8 all you want?
There is certainly a lot of competition around and Huawei might surely be feeling the heat when they had launched the P9, and that’s the same that Honor 8 will see. But the device has its own points to talk against the competition, especially with the likes of OnePlus 3, ASUS ZenFone 3, and even the LeEco Le Max2.
Flagship, or not a flagship – it never matters because these words pertain to a brand and not to the end user. The user should choose based on what they need, and for someone looking for a device with a camera that is hard to beat in its price segment, the Honor 8 is the best, hands down.
The design is classy, the battery lasts well, and the best part is the dual-lens camera that speaks for itself with the performance it offers. Not one thing is compromised here as the company has included a perfect fingerprint sensor with smart functions, a well-lit colorful display, and even the IR blaster.