Honor 8 review: A gorgeous dual camera flagship for half the price of Apple and Samsung phones

  • Editors' rating
    9.3 Spectacular
  • $336.00

Pros

  • Low price
  • Gorgeous design and sleek form factor
  • Fast and responsive
  • Functional rear fingerprint button
  • Excellent camera

Cons

  • Glossy fingerprint magnet finish
  • Proprietary fast charger

Would you like a powerful, beautiful, and innovative smartphone for just $399? Visit the Honor website now and register to purchase one starting on 26 August.

If you register to purchase one before 3 September, then you will receive a $50 voucher. When your device arrives you won't believe it only cost you $349.

Last week I attended the Honor 8 launch event where Huawei revealed the first Kirin-powered Honor-branded smartphone for the US market. It's a stunning device that rivals the flagship Huawei P9, and even offers a bit more.

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You can buy a couple year old iPhone 6 with extremely limited storage for $549 or even a three year old model being sold as the iPhone SE for $399. However, aggressive Chinese competitors are launching Android smartphones with amazing design elements and features with a full price in the $400 range.

Specifications

  • Processor: Hisilicon Kirin 950 octa-core
  • Display: 5.2 inch 1920x1080 pixels resolution LTPS
  • Operating system: Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Emotion UI 4.1
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 32GB internal (64GB option available) with microSD expansion card slot
  • Cameras: Dual rear 12 megapixel f/2.2 aperture and front 8 megapixel f/2.4 aperture
  • Others: IR port for remote control, Knuckle Sense display technology, customizable button under fingerprint scanner
  • Battery: 3000 mAh non-removable with fast charging technology
  • Dimensions: 145.5 x 71 x 7.45 mm and 153 grams

As you can see, the Honor 8 is loaded with some of the best internal components. You will find a fast processor, ample RAM, expandable storage, and a large battery.

Hardware

I wrote about my experiences with the Huawei P9 in June and the Honor 8 is essentially that same device with some additional functionality and loss of Leica branding on the camera. I asked Huawei about the physical camera differences between the Honor 8 and P9, but have yet to receive a response. Everything looks the same on paper so they may indeed be the same cameras.

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So what's different between the Honor 8 and Huawei P9? Here's the list:

  • The Honor 8 is powered by a Kirin 950 versus the 955 in the Huawei P9.
  • The Huawei P9 has a Leica-branded dual camera setup while the Honor 8 has similar dual cameras without the branding.
  • Both the 32GB and 64GB versions of the Honor 8 include 4GB of RAM. The 32GB P9 has 3GB of RAM.
  • The Honor 8 has a blue light filter for better night time usage.
  • The Honor 8 rear fingerprint scanner is also a button with three customizable actions. You can launch your favorite apps or enable actions with a single press, double press, or press and hold.
  • The Honor 8 has an IR transmitter so you can remotely control a number of products.

The Honor 8 has 2.5D glass, that's curved glass, on the front and back with something like 15 layers on the back to give it a visually interesting look. The sapphire blue is gorgeous and will be available for 60 days exclusively through Best Buy.

The front is one piece of glass and the back is one piece of glass. A beveled metal frame surrounds the edges. The right side buttons are well positioned and provide good tactile feel. There is a headphone jack and USB Type-C port on the bottom, adjacent to the mono speaker.

The dual rear cameras are flush mounted into the top upper back, unlike the big bulges we see on most other smartphones today. On the Huawei P9, the outer camera is monochrome while the inner one is color. On the Honor 8, the ability to capture a monochrome image is not yet enabled so you can only capture color images. If you want a monochrome image you can choose the mono filter, but that's just filtering out the color from a color photo and not using the monochrome lens. Hopefully, a fix is released soon since I enjoy taking monochrome shots.

You can check out full resolution images of some samples I capture on the Honor 8 in my Flickr album.

The rear center fingerprint scanner also serves as a button. Labeled as the smart key, you can program it to perform different actions or launch apps with a single press, double press, or press and hold.

I've easily gotten through more than a day with the 3000 mAh battery and 1080p display. You can use the included fast charger to charge it up quickly, but I found that other fast chargers do not kick it into overdrive. OnePlus has the same issue with its OnePlus 3.

Calls sounded good and even though this is a SIM-unlocked device you can enable VoLTE on T-Mobile. The Honor 8 works with GSM carriers, but does not work with CDMA carriers like Verizon and Sprint.

Software

The Honor 8, like most Huawei devices, runs the Huawei Emotion UI (EMUI). I personally do not understand why so many people I hear from hate this particular Android skin. I like it and anyone who is satisfied with the Apple iPhone experience will like it.

All apps are saved on a home screen panel, there is no app launcher. You can search for apps, contacts, and messages while seeing recently used apps just by swiping downwards on any display.

While there are a couple things that make it function like iOS, it's an Android device so you can install any launcher you like and customize your user interface. You get the best of both worlds with a fairly pure and bloatware-free experience with the Honor 8 so just ignore all those hating on the EMUI.

There is no carrier crapware, but there are a few Huawei apps and utilities. These include a weather app, calculator, flashlight, recorder, mirror, compass, IR smart controller, and theme store.

The Honor 8 supports Qeexo's FingerSense technology, rebranded as KnuckleSense by Huawei, that gives you the ability to use your knuckle on the display to perform a few selected actions, including:

  • Letter c to launch the camera
  • Letter e to launch Chrome
  • Letter m to launch the music player
  • Letter w to launch the weather app
  • Letter o to initiate a smart screen capture where you can drag corners of a box to capture just what you want on the disply
  • Knock twice on the display to take a screenshot (reviewers will love this)

You can tap on each setting to change the default apps listed above to apps you want to launch, but you cannot change the letter you write with your knuckle. It takes a bit of practice to use these gestures, but I quickly learned that a tap/knock with your knuckle works to start the letter recognition.

This is the first time in the US we have seen Qeexo's technology on a mobile phone, but the company has been providing FingerSense to Huawei for a couple years. It's interesting to see a company thinking outside the box a bit by providing a new interaction method with our very personal mobile devices.

Huawei also has powerful camera software with a number of modes for capturing the perfect shot. While the hardware does not have optical image stabilization (OIS), it is very fast at capturing images and I haven't noticed any issues with a lack of OIS. The dual camera setup lets you capture wide aperture images so you can selectively zoom and create fun bokeh photos. There are plenty of other filters and cool software experiences within the camera app too.

Pricing and competition

You can pre-order the Honor 8 starting today for $399.99 for the 32GB model and $449.99 for the 64GB model. Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo, Newegg, and the US Honor site have the new Honor 8 available for ordering. While the Honor 8 will be sold in pearl white, midnight black, and sapphire blue, the sapphire blue model will be a Best Buy exclusive for 60 days. My eval unit is a sapphire blue 32GB model.

Customers who pre-order will also receive a $50 gift card, from participating retailers, with a $50 rebate if you buy it directly from Honor.

Similar to what HTC offers with its Uh Oh protection, those who purchase and register their Honor 8 will be eligible for a one-time repair of any accidental screen or back cover glass damage during the first three months of ownership.

You may also consider the OnePlus 3 also at $399 and that too is a great choice. There is no ability to expand your storage on the OnePlus 3 and you don't get the dual camera experience.

There are other options at the $400 and less price range too, including the Moto G4 Plus and ZTE Axon 7.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

The Honor 8 is extremely well designed and is perfect for slipping into your front pocket. While it doesn't have the highest resolution display, it looks the same as the high res smartphones to my eyes. It's a stunning device, especially in the unique sapphire blue color.

My three daughters have old iPhones and I'm trying to convince them to give the Honor 8 a try. The Honor brand is targeted towards millenials and I'm trying to sell them on the color, small form factor, and ability to load up most of the apps they have. All at a price half that of a comparable iPhone 6s.

The Honor 8 is Huawei's first flagship Honor-branded device available in the US. Given the changing wireless carrier landscape and fact that people finally now realize how much they pay for their phone, it will be interesting to see if the Honor brand catches on and how many Honor 8 phones are sold in the US.

Specifications

General
SAR Value 1.19 W/kg (body) / 1.42 W/kg (head)
Integrated Components Rear-facing camera, front-facing camera, audio player, voice recorder, navigation
Body Color Midnight black
Phone Features
Phone Functions Speakerphone, call timer, conference call, flight mode, vibrating alert
Sensors Accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, digital compass, gyro sensor, hall sensor
Additional Features Dual noise reduction microphones
Security Devices Fingerprint reader
Cellular
Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
Type Smartphone
Integrated Components audio player, front-facing camera, navigation, rear-facing camera, voice recorder
Navigation A-GPS, GLONASS, GPS
Mobile Broadband Generation 4G
Phone Form Factor touch
Service Provider AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, MetroPCS
Operating System Family Android
Operating System Android 6.0 Marshmallow
User Interface HUAWEI Emotion UI 4.1
SIM Card Type nano SIM
Input Device Multi-touch, capacitive
Messaging & Internet
Messaging Services MMS, SMS
Supported Social Networks and Blogs Yes
Miscellaneous
Sensors accelerometer, ambient light sensor, digital compass, gyro sensor, hall sensor, proximity sensor
Color Sunrise Gold
Color Category black
Processor
Clock Speed 2.3 GHz
Manufacturer HiSilcon
Processor Core Qty Octa-core
64-bit Architecture Yes
Communications
Data Transmission EDGE, FDD-LTE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSPA+, HSUPA, LTE, VoLTE
4G LTE Band Band 1, Band 12, Band 17, Band 2, Band 20, Band 3, Band 4, Band 5, Band 7, Band 8
Wireless Interface Bluetooth 4.2, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Infrared (IrDA), NFC
Display
Type LCD display - color
Technology LTPS TFT
Display Resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels
Color Depth 24-bit (16.7 million colors)
Pixel Density (ppi) 423
Contrast Ratio 1500:1
Diagonal Size 5.2 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 13.2 cm
Smartphone Diagonal Size 5.2 in
Color Support color
Media Player
Supported Digital Video Standards MPEG-4, 3GP, H.264, H.263, VP8, H.265
Supported Digital Audio Standards PCM, MP3, AAC +, eAAC+, WMV (Sound), AMR-WB, AMR-NB
Memory
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDXC - up to 128 GB
Battery
Run Time Details Standby: up to 360 hrs
Talk (GSM): up to 1680 min
Talk (WCDMA): up to 900 min
Talk (LTE): up to 660 min
Playback (video): up to 9 hrs
Playback (audio): up to 24 hrs
Capacity 3000 mAh
Recharge Time 100 min
Technology Lithium polymer
Digital Camera
Special Effects HDR
Header
Brand Honor
Product Line Honor
Model 8
Packaged Quantity 1
CE Input Device
Type touch sensitive screen (multi-touch)
Touchscreen Technology capacitive
Features
Sensors accelerometer, ambient light sensor, digital compass, gyro sensor, hall sensor, proximity sensor
Phone Functions call timer, conference call, flight mode, speakerphone, vibrating alert
Security Devices fingerprint reader
Additional Features Dual noise reduction microphones
Digital Player (Recorder)
Supported Digital Audio Standards AAC +, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, MP3, PCM, WMV (Sound), eAAC+
Supported Digital Video Standards 3GP, H.263, H.264, H.265, MPEG-4, VP8
Sound Enhancements DTS Sound support
RAM
Installed Size 4 GB
Flash Memory
Internal Memory Capacity 32 GB
Max Supported Size 128 GB
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDXC
Optical Sensor
Sensor Resolution 12 pixels
Front-facing Camera
Sensor Resolution 8 Megapixel
Lens Aperture f/2.4
Dimensions & Weight
Width 2.80 in
Depth 0.30 in
Height 5.73 in
Weight 5.40 oz

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Where To Buy

Huawei Honor 8 (Midnight Black)

Part Number: 51090RGP

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