There’s a new flagship out in time for your Diwali shopping - the dual-camera Honor 8.
Its sleek-n-slim design, nippy bits o’ silicon and a pair o’ clever cameras make the Honor 8 quite an interesting device. In essence, it’s almost like a more affordable version of the Huawei P9 (yup, that phone with the ‘co-engineered with Leica’ camera system), and to tell the truth, it might even make more sense when it comes to the design.
Honor 8 design: Hello, sexy
You can’t really tell how much the Honor 8 costs just by looking at it - and we mean this in a good way. The glass-and-metal design is stunning, and can stand its ground when compared with flagships that cost twice as much.
The 2.5D glass wraps the front and back, and somehow manages to stay scratch-free. But you’ll see a bit of the iPhone in the Honor 8’s shape. And be careful if you’re used to picking up your phone while halfway through a pizza - it’s an absolute fingerprint magnet.
But the 5.2in screen size is a sensible decision, and you won’t have to struggle and stretch out your thumbs while using it in one hand. The fingerprint sensor at the rear is also placed just right. The sensor doubles up as a ‘Smart Key’ - offering gestures (swiping to pull down the notification shade is quite a smart thing) and working as a hardware button. I’ve got the single click set to launch Chrome, with a double-click taking me to Whatsapp, and a long press for the camera. Not bad. It’s also amazingly fast at its primary job - unlocking the phone - and can even embarrass Apple or Samsung!
Honor 8 Camera: Double-barrel shooter
Remember the recently launched Huawei P9 and its dual-camera setup? It’s back, although without the Leica branding. But what’s all the fuss about? Well, you get two 12MP sensors at the back, one working ‘normally’ and the other taking monochrome shots. That helps to increase the available light, but it’s also handy in other ways - the camera app offers a depth-of-field mode so you can tweak the focus after you shoot.
While the monochrome-only mode seen in the P9 is missing, you get a Pro mode (tweak the ISO, shutter speed, exposure) and a rather nifty light painting mode. And of course, there’s Honor’s favourite mode - food photography - as well!
In fact, the camera quality is pretty impressive, and colours come off balanced while exposure’s normally fantastic. Outdoor, daytime shots are great while HDR manages to do a great job even if you’re shooting against the summer (well, okay, autumn) sun. But you’ll still miss OIS once it gets dark - so ease off on the caffeine if you want to take crisp photos. Overall, while the Honor 8 won’t beat the Galaxy S7 or the iPhone, it does a great job and can easily fend off the challenge from other devices in its price range.
As for the 8MP front-facing camera, it gives you refreshingly noise-free shots even under challenging light. But do turn down the beauty mode (unless you prefer the overprocessed look) as it really errs on the side of overdoing things.
Honor 8 display: Screen-wise
No, there’s no 2K screen here, though, to be honest, Honor’s decision to go with Full HD isn’t a bad thing - after all, fewer pixels mean less work for the processor, which adds up to better battery life. Interestingly, there’s a power-saving mode which reduces the resolution to 720p (making life even easier for the processor), although we’d rather just look for a charger!
The 5.2in screen size still means 423ppi, which really is enough to make for crisp text and images. Colours are nicely vibrant, and you can tweak the display’s colour balance if you don’t like it out of the box (it is a bit cold, to be honest). You also get a blue light filter mode, which should really help for anyone who cannot go to sleep without a spell of late-night Reddit. And before you ask, the Honor 8’s display’s just about bright enough to use under the sun.
Honor 8 hardware and battery: Under the hood
You’ll find Huawei’s 64-bit, octa-core Kirin 950 humming away under the hood, and it’s got 4GB RAM to play with. Is it any good? You bet. The Honor 8 is a properly fast device - even with EMUI’s skin. Apps pop open in an instant, scrolling is smooth, animations seem fluid and multitasking is seamless. In general, it should keep pace with phones using Qualcomm’s 820, but gaming is another matter - the Kirin has a less powerful GPU configuration. Still, unless you play the latest, most demanding games, it’ll handle the job easily. But what’s surprising is how warm the Honor 8 can get - walk around taking photos outdoors and you’ll find it rather toasty.
The slim profile hides a 3000mAh battery inside, and under normal usage, you should make it to the end of the day, but heavier usage - a lot of mobile data, photos and social media - will probably have you reaching for a power bank by the evening. There’s a USB Type-C port (USB 2.0 spec), but sadly, Indian versions miss out on fast charging. Even then, we went from 20 percent to 55 percent in half an hour.
All that’s fine, but the Honor 8’s insanely aggressive power management can get very, very annoying as EMUI starts closing down apps very soon, unless you add apps to the ignored list. Hopefully a software update will fix this.
As for storage, the Honor 8 has 32GB onboard, although you can fit in microSD cards to get another 128GB. You’ll have to forgo the second SIM, though, if you do that. But you do get dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC and even an IR transmitter (useful when you’ve misplaced the telly remote or if you have colleagues who keep turning the aircon off).
Honor 8 OS: EMUI
The Honor 8 runs EMUI 4.1 (based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow) and while it works pretty similarly to ‘regular’ or stock Android, it looks quite different. For starters, there’s no app drawer (you’ll find folders on the Honor 8’s home screen as in iOS) and the vertical multitasking cards view has been replaced with a horizontal row. You’ll find loads of customisation options sprinkled through the settings menu and you can change a lot of stuff - but don’t expect to tweak your way to a stock-looking device. Other Honor tweaks include ‘knuckle gestures’, a one-handed mode and motion control.
Honor 8 verdict
The Honor 8 has everything it needs to be a helluva device - it’s powerful, looks fantastic and has great cameras. But the problem is, it’s up against the (slightly cheaper) OnePlus 3. Had the (already decent) battery life been better, this might have even dethroned the OnePlus as the ‘value-packed flagship king’. Still, it’s an excellent phone that makes for a great choice as long as you like EMUI, and it’s actually come really close to beating the OnePlus juggernaut.