ROG product family

It’s no surprise that Honor will continue its line of flagship smartphones ever since its debut of the Honor 6. A year ago, I reviewed the Honor 7, and I really loved that phone. I can honestly say that the Honor 7 set a brand new standard of inexpensive smartphones with high-end specs, design, and features. A while ago, Honor announced their brand new Honor 8 – their sequel to their flagship smartphones. It took a rather huge change from its predecessor.

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Acer Nitro 5

First difference – its box. The packaging on the Honor 8 is extremely different from any other smartphones in the market. It slides out from the bottom, and it reveals the Honor 8 standing on its side. Interesting.

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There’s a small tab to lift up the entire “container” thing up, and it reveals two compartments slotted in the container itself. These two compartments hold the charger and USB-C cable in one of them, and documentations on the other. Very neat design overall.

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Here are all the things that come along with the Honor 8. There are missing paperworks in our unit, and we apologize for that.

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[nextpage title=”Design”]

Obviously the most interesting aspect of the Honor 8. Firstly, it has a magnificent 15-layer back glass which gives off a fantastic look, yet Honor managed to pull off this gorgeous look. The reflections look absolutely miraculous – and there’s nothing similar available in the market at all.

I absolutely adore this reflective glass deisgn. It did give off a similar vibe when compared to the ASUS ZenFone 3 (which we reviewed here) and also the very old LG Nexus 4.

Here’s also a gallery of its beautiful glass reflection off the Honor 8 for your admiration.

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Looking around the phone, it’s quite minimalist. It has 2 pieces of curved-edge glass sandiwching a metal rimmed body, and that’s pretty much it.

On the left side, there’s a SIM 1 + SIM 2/microSD card combo slot, and on the right side is the volume rocker and power button.

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At the back however is a rounded fingerprint scanner with Smart Key integrated into it. Not really sure how I feel about this.

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Around the top left corner is where the magic happens. Dual camera with laser autofocus and a two-tone flash.

Let’s not the two vertical sides, as the top has a microphone with an IR blaster – which I have not seen in smartphones for years!

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The bottom are where the USB-C port and a mono speaker, and the 3.5mm audio jack are found. Thank you for putting the audio jack at the bottom!

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[nextpage title=”Connectivity”]

As mentioned earlier, the Honor 8 comes with a 3.5mm audio jack and I think that relieves many of us here. Together with that IR blaster, it’s one of the most fully-featured smartphone of today in terms of connectivity.

However, I do think that it’s sad knowing that Honor took the combo SIM2/microSD slot instead of having a dedicated one. This approach had been taken by many other smartphones, and it still hurts to see such a thing exists. I want both SIM2 and microSD to be separated. It might be difficult to do on a 5.2-inch screen device such as the Honor 8 though.

Moving on, it’s great to see the absence of physical navigation keys. Just maintains that super sleek look and functionality. Also, moving these navigation keys to be virtual does make it versatile too. More on this later.

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[nextpage title=”Display”]

The Honor 8 comes with a rather tinier footprint compared to other flagships in the market today. With its 5.2-inch LTPS 1080p screen, it’s not bad. I mean it’s decent, but not the best. I realized that when brightness goes up high, the colours tend of fade away. Gets a little washed out.

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Well, it’s nothing serious per se, and a tad more calibration on the screen colours would solve the issue. They even provided a colour temperature selector for you in the settings menu. Not sure if they realized that their “default” calibration is a bit off from perfect.

The sharpness itself however is very on-point. Going in at about 423 pixels per inch, it’s seriously something to drool about. Why don’t other manufacturers make 5.2-inch devices anymore?

With those on-screen buttons, there’s a sacrifice of 180 pixels – which means only 1800×1080 is usable. Personally speaking, I prefer to sacrifice those pixels for versatility. Makes the phone a lot more usable when rotated, and also while playing games on full screen. Zero accidental touches with those buttons getting itself out of the way!

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[nextpage title=”Camera”]Hardware

Many of you might know about the Huawei P9’s dual rear-camera setup. The Honor 8 is no different – it has two cameras at the back too, but with quite a number of differences compared to the P9.

Honor 8

Huawei P9

CAMERA Primary Dual 12 MP,
f/2.2, 35mm,
laser autofocus,
dual-LED (dual tone) flash
Dual 12 MP,
f/2.2, 27 mm,
Leica optics,
phase detection autofocus,
dual-LED (dual tone) flash
Features 1/2.9″ sensor size,
1.25 µm pixel size,
geo-tagging,
touch focus,
face detection,
HDR,
panorama
1.25 µm pixel size,
geo-tagging,
touch focus,
face/smile detection,
HDR,
panorama
Video [email protected],
[email protected],
[email protected]
[email protected],
[email protected],
[email protected]
Secondary 8 MP
f/2.4,
1.4 µm pixel size
8 MP,
f/2.4,
1080p

From GSM Arena

As you can see, the only visible difference between each other is that the Honor 8 does not have Leica optics. Other than that, it’s the same – at least on paper.

Many of us do think that both smartphones’ cameras should work the same, given that they do have the same hardware after all. According to ZD Net  here, the monochrome picture performance on the Honor 8 isn’t as good as the Huawei P9. Why? That’s because the P9 uses one camera to capture colours, whereas the other to capture monochrome picture only. Then, these two images are merged together to form the final product.

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So, if you want to take a monochrome picture, then just disable the RGB camera, isn’t that right? Yeah, and that’s what happens to the Huawei P9.

Honor 8 however does not have this option enabled yet. The monochrome effect is not from the hardware, but through software. A usual coloured picture is taken first, then applied a monochrome filter on it. Tedious, but that’s how it is – for now.

Picture samples

Enough babbling though, let’s take a look at the camera samples on our Flickr album. If you want the full details, be sure to check out the image over at Flickr to see all the settings we used.

Honor 8

In terms of picture quality, I think that the Honor  8 performs pretty well in all scenes. Its rear-facing camera got its white balance correct, and manages to get a lot of details in the picture. Colours are adequately vivid and satisfying too – which is to say that it isn’t too fake, and certainly not washed-out.

The feature I really like the most here is its “wide aperture” mode. It takes what it seems to be two images at first, and the picture’s focus point and aperture are able to be fine-tuned later on. For me, it’s not always easy to focus and take pictures accurately with such a teeny tiny screen – even on a 5.5-inch screen.

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I manage to get away with accurately focused images with the Honor 8 – all thanks to the “wide aperture” mode. I am constantly using this mode, because I can now take pictures without worrying about the focus. Capture the moment now, deal with its focus later. Also, the “wide aperture” mode photos are saved pretty quickly too.

I’ve never really been a fan of filters, but there is a hot topic regarding Honor 8’s monochrome pictures. It seems that there are users who discovered the Honor 8’s monochrome picture is just a filter rather than capturing a pure grayscale image with one of its camera.

#Nofilter!

Of course, this can be fixed by a software update, which also leads us to the next segment.

[nextpage title=”Software”]

Currently, the Huawei and Honor devices are running on the latest Emotion UI 4.1, or EMUI 4.1 for short. In case you didn’t already know, EMUI resembles a lot like iPhone’s home screen – that is to say, all  installed apps are laid on the home screen itself. As far as I know, there are many Android users who prefer this way – and there’s nothing wrong with it.

EMUI 4.1 is reliable and decent.
EMUI 4.1 is reliable and decent.

EMUI 4.1 for me is still alright. I still commend Huawei/Honor for not including a bunch of bloatware in the system itself, yet giving us the option to remove some of the Huawei-made apps in EMUI 4.1.

EMUI 4.1 isn’t the most bug-free flavour of Android that I’ve used too, with some hiccups here and there. I can say that it’s reliable overall.

Features

Knuckle gesture

Okay, so here’s a little confession. I got the Honor not knowing what extra features it has. There’s an IR blaster which I programmed almost instant, and there’s knuckle gesture. You know, those fancy things you can do with knocks and movements of your knuckle?

I cannot describe how happy I am when I discovered that Honor actually build features and values around the knuckle gesture. For me, it’s not a niche, gimmicky feature – but it’s one that made me realize how much time is saved when I take cropped screenshots with the Honor 8.

One of the "rolling screenshots" I took using the Honor 8's knuckle gesture. Hit the screen with my kunckle and drew an "S", then voilà!

One of the “rolling screenshots” I took using the Honor 8’s knuckle gesture. Hit the screen with my kunckle and drew an “S”, then voilà!

Knock the phone twice, take a screenshot. Knock the phone once and draw a square, a box will appear. Adjust it and you take a cropped screenshot. There are some other  features which I don’t really use, like knocking the phone once and draw some alphabets to launch certain apps of your choice. EMUI 4.1 offers up to 4 different alphabets by the way.

Fingerprint reader

Oh right – the fingerprint scanner. It is actually a trackpad and the Smart Key from Honor 7 too. EMUI 4.1 gives the option to scroll through pictures from left to right or pull the notifications menu from the top. Its fingerprint sensing is very quick and I have had no failures so far. The trackpad part is pretty on point too, with all of my gestures detected with no errors. However, there are improvements to be made.

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When I pull down the notifications menu with the trackpad on the fingerprint sensor, I expect it to scroll from left to right, so I can access the shortcuts menu. But no, for some reason that doesn’t work, although you can scroll between pictures left and right without issues.


Other than that, I think EMUI 4.1 is an alright system for smartphones. There are a few bugs here and there, and they’ll get fixed with a software update.

[nextpage title=”Performance”]

Speaking of its performance, the Honor 8 is the supposedly one of the last – if not the final device, to use their in-house HiSilicon Kirin 950 chipset. We did explain about what the Kirin 950 is about right here too.

The Honor 8 in particular has an octa-core, which consists of a 2.3GHz Cortex A72 quad-core, and another 1.8GHz Cortex A53 quad-core working together. Coupled with Mali-T880 MP4 graphics and 4GB of RAM, this device packs a serious punch!

And by serious punch I mean a really impressive FPS in Epic Citadel! It consistently scored ~51FPS throughout my repeated Epic citadel test in loops. The first test did show 56FPS though, but I guess thermal throttling did occur albeit in a rather small scale.

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Again, after repeating Epic Citadel benchmarks, I switch over to CPU-Z and have a look at the thermals. To be honest, it’s pretty good – sitting at about ~50℃ consistently. Decently cool, I must say.

On Vellamo tests, I was able to obtain some really insanely high scores. I did no optimizations – just opened Vellamo and hit benchmark for each and every tests. Just crazy high numbers.

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These numbers didn’t lie too, as I was able to use the Honor 8 smoothly overall other than a few hiccups here and there due to software issues. Of course, these issues can be fixed with a simple patch. Till now, I did receive two software updates already.

Speaking of software updates and patches, Honor formed a partnership with XDA Developers to create Honor Hub – a community incentive program for developers. Every month, they award prizes for their most active members in the Honor Hub, which is indeed a really nice incentive.

A partnership with XDA Developers means a partnership with custom ROMs too!

[nextpage title=”Battery”]

Battery life

Let’s talk about its 3,000mAh battery. Even for my intense usage throughout the day, the Honor 8 can survive soldier through the day without any significant issue. There was just one odd day where I unplugged and went about my day. I managed to get it down to a mere 15% left after 20 hours unplugged. That’s actually very good!

However, although it has the same capacity as the ZenFone 3, I can quite confirm that the Honor 8’s battery life isn’t as long-lasting as the ZenFone 3 (which we reviewed here).

The reason might be:

  1. Kirin 950’s 16nm process vs. Snapdragon 625’s 14nm process
  2. Software optimization
  3. Operating voltage (talked about it here)

It might be one of the above or the combination of any. I don’t really mind, since the battery life on the ZenFone 3 is already good enough to last a day for me – and I regard myself as quite a heavy phone user.

Charger

Huawei’s little charger adopts the familiar collapsible third prong to make it flat and compact. This is for one obvious reason – packaging. It saves them a lot of space in logistics. But I digress.

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The charger here has the usual 5V 2A output or it can be adapted to a much higher 9V 2A output. With that 9V 2A output, it means that the Honor 8 supports quick charging, correct?

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And the answer is yes – yes it does. I was able to charge the entire Honor 8 from about 30% to 98% within an hour. As described earlier, the battery is quite difficult to drain – so you can essentially get many hours of battery life out of an hour of charging.

[nextpage title=”Wrap up”]

The Honor 8. There aren’t much negativity surrounding this thing of beauty. I guess I can start by nitpicking on the bottom-facing mono speaker, but the speaker actually sounds acceptable. It’s a speaker on a smartphone that I can consider using to listen to music instead of using a Bluetooth speaker.

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The other thing to nitpick about is the lack of a silicon case in the box. Maybe another pre-installed screen protector. No matter how cheap the case and screen protector is, I think it’s good to just include it in the box – much like what OPPO did for the F1s.

But then again, for all of these well-integrated hardware and software in a beautiful industrial design, its price starts at only RM 1,699Damn, the price is way too good to be true.


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