The Honor 8 marks the second Honor branded device that Huawei has released in the United States. It shows the company’s interest in obtaining a Western following for their devices, but is the Honor 8 a good attempt at that? The pricing is right and the specs looks good, but that’s all on paper. After spending almost two weeks using the Honor 8 as my daily driver, let’s see how well it actually performed with day-to-day usage.
- 5.2” 1080p display
- HiSilicon Kirin 950 octa-core processor
- 4GB of RAM
- 32/64GB Storage
- Dual 12MP Rear Cameras
- 8MP Front Camera
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- 3000mAh battery
First up is the most important part of any smartphone, the hardware. In the case of the Honor 8, the hardware is pretty by every definition of the word. The device has the standard “square glass slab” look that a lot of smartphones get dinged for these days, but when you look a little closer there’s more to it than that. On the back of the device you will find a uniquely reflective, glass surface that Huawei is very proud of, which they should be because it looks great. This look paired with the brushed aluminum around the perimeter of the phone gives it an attractive and more premium look and feel.
Now let’s talk specifics. On the front of the device you will find nothing out of the ordinary. There’s the front-facing camera, top speaker grill, and the Honor logo stamped where’d you would normally expect a home button. Flip the Honor 8 over and things get a little more interesting. Here you will find two 12MP cameras, one monochrome and the other, color. Placed directly to the right of the dual-camera setup you’ll see the two-tone flash that a lot of modern smartphones are starting to adopt these days. Last but certainly not least you have the fingerprint sensor located in the same place as the Nexus 6P or 5X. And let me tell you, it’s both fast and very reliable.
Moving onto the perimeter of the Honor 8 you will quickly find that like the front of the device, there really isn’t much to see here. On the right side, towards the top of the device is the volume rocker, directly below that you will find the power button. Sliding over to the left side you have only one thing, the SIM card slot located towards the top. Speaking of top, on top of the device all you will really notice is the infrared sensor that you can use to do things such as change the channel on your TV. Lastly, on the bottom of the device you have (from left to right) the 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C port, and secondary speaker grill.
Software & Performance
Android 6.0 Marshmallow is what the Honor 8 is natively running and when you use it you can really tell. Animations are fluid and you hardly, if ever, notice any hiccups or slowdowns in the software. Honestly, despite being pegged with the “mid-range” badge, the Honor 8 software feels like it’s running on high-end hardware. You could argue that it actually is, but that’s neither here nor there.
Layered on top of Android Marshmallow is Huawei’s own EMUI 4.1, the company’s latest UI. A lot of other reviews of the Honor 8 really bash this UI, but I found that I really didn’t take much issue with it. It’s by no means the greatest and most intuitive UI on an Android smartphone, but it’s definitely not the worst. This being said, there are some issues that I found with it.
The first of these issues is the notification shade. It’s very different from “stock Android” and at times can be a tad bit confusing for first-time users. This is mainly because app icons that accompany notifications can sometimes be different than what users are used to. For instance, when navigating via Google Maps there is usually an arrow icon in the notification bar, letting the user know that they have navigation open. On the Honor 8 that arrow icon is instead just the Google Maps logo. You will also quickly find that notifications don’t really “stack” the same way that they do on most other devices. Then you have the more glaring issue, which is the complete absence of any sort of app drawer. Instead, just like on an iPhone, all of your apps are simply placed on the home screen. Some people may not have any problem with this, but a lot of other people will. An option should be added to remove or add the app drawer instead of forcing it onto users.
Other than the issues described above, I didn’t really have any other issues with the software and UI on the Honor 8. It’s fast, somewhat easy to use, and above all else, smooth. Whether or not this is because of Android Marshmallow or just plain ole’ good hardware is up for discussion.
The display of the Honor 8 actually ended up being one of my favorite aspects of the device. Despite it only being a 1080p display, it looks fantastic. I would actually go as far to say that it’s the best 1080p display on a smartphone that I’ve seen to date. It’s not as good as the displays on the Galaxy S7 or iPhone 7, but it’s close enough that users of those devices would be satisfied.
Battery Life & Charging
Battery life is where the Honor 8 really shines. During my use with the device getting through a day on a single charge was a breeze, even with heavy usage. I do everything from texting, instant messaging, YouTube, internet browsing, social media, and even some light photo editing on my devices and the Honor 8’s battery handled all of this like a champ.
My average day starts at 9am and ends at around 11pm, during this entire time you would be hard-pressed to find me without my phone in my hand. At the end of most of these 9 hour days the Honor 8 would be left with about 40% battery life left. Again, this is with heavy usage. Needless to say, you should have no problem getting through your day on a single charge with the Honor 8. You may even be able to get through two whole days if you are a light user.
As far as charging goes, the Honor 8 includes Huawei’s own form of fast charging. The device charges over USB-C and its charging speed is not quite as fast as let’s say the Galaxy S7, but it is certainly fast enough to suffice for the average user. For example, charging the Honor 8 for just 30 minutes gives it quite a substantial charge.
The dual 12MP cameras on the rear of the Honor 8 are capable of capturing some beautiful shots, but they’re nothing too amazing. Shots tend to be nice and crisp with pretty accurate colors, although that’s not always the case. Some shots can have rather dull colors and the camera tends to favor a more blueish white balance. Regardless of this, most shots you take with the Honor 8 are going to be more than acceptable, especially at that $400 price.
Something else worth mentioning that is included in the Honor 8’s camera app is “Pro Mode.” When this mode is switched on it allows the user to make fine adjustments to things like ISO and EV. Knowing how to manipulate these camera settings carefully may allow users to capture some better looking shots than using the default settings.
Pricing & Final Thoughts
At the end of the day the Honor 8 only costs $400 and is a very well-rounded smartphone with battery life that will easily get you through the day. Because of all of that, if you’re in the market for a capable smartphone then you should definitely give the Honor 8 a chance. Plus, the device just looks and feels good.