Honor 8 review

Introduction

Branding aside, the Honor 8 is a purebred Huawei sharing much of the P9 DNA. It was created to fill the blanks left by the P9 by attending to markets and price tiers beyond the reach of the Leica co-branded flagship.

Honor 8 has its own take on design, but keeps the internals pretty much intact. There is the same 5.2″ 1080p display and Kirin power core. Even better, both 32 and 64 GB storage options come with 4GB of RAM.

The most interesting bit, of course, is the dual-camera setup lifted from the P9 – put in a clever setup together for better low-light selfies and bokeh effects. Missing the Leica branding meant you lose the exclusive film modes, including the monochrome one, but Honor found a clever way around that.

Honor 8 key features

  • 5.2″ 1080p LTPS capacitive touchscreen, 423ppi
  • HiSilicon Kirin 950 chipset: octa-core CPU (4xCortex-A72 @ 2.3GHz plus 4xCortex-A53 @ 1.8GHz), Mali-T880 MP4 GPU; 4GB of RAM
  • 32/64GB;
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow, Huawei EMUI v4.1 overlay;
  • Dual 12MP camera with hybrid AF, color and monochrome sensors, f/2.2 aperture; 1080@60fps video recording
  • 8MP front camera, f/2.4 aperture; 1080p video recording; wide selfie
  • Hybrid DualSIM/microSD card slot (up to 128GB)
  • Cat. 6 LTE (300/50Mbps); dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi hotspot, Wi-Fi Direct; Bluetooth 4.2 LE; NFC; GPS/GLONASS/Beidou; USB Type-C
  • 3,000mAh Li-Ion battery, Rapid charging

Main disadvantages

  • No 4K 2160p video recording
  • No adequate screen protection
  • No direct access to the monochrome sensor for B&W photos
  • Non-removable battery
  • Hybrid DualSIM/microSD card slot limits options on the dual-SIM model

Lacking the option to shoot with the monochrome sensor only is gone with the Leica branding, while the Kirin chip means no 4K video recording. The B&W camera is still used but only for shooting in low-light conditions to enhance the final photo, though so it’s not just sitting there. Plus the rest of the features we saw and loved in the P9 is all here and it all comes at a fraction of the price so it looks like a great deal.

 

Then again, we’ll have to carefully check if the Honor 8 cut any other corners to stay on budget so we won’t rush to any conclusions. We are starting with the hardware inspection right after the break.

Unboxing the Honor 8

The Honor 8 comes in a neat box, where the phone is greeting you with its slim profile inserted into a slot, instead of lying face up. Inside there are just the usual suspects – a pair of Huawei headphones with design similar to Apple’s EarPods, a USB Type-C cable and a wall plug capable of 9V/2A rapid charging.

Honor 8's retail package - Honor 8 review Honor 8's retail package - Honor 8 review Honor 8's retail package - Honor 8 review Honor 8's retail package - Honor 8 review
Honor 8’s retail package

There are some nice cases matching the Honor 8’s accent color available, but those are sold separately.

The original matching bumper - Honor 8 review The original matching bumper - Honor 8 review
The original matching case

Honor 8 360-degree spin

Honor 8 spreads at 145.5 x 71 x 7.5 mm, which is about the same as the P9. The Honor 8 weighs 9g more at 153g, but it’s not a difference you can easily feel when you hold it in your hand. Nor does it make too heavy a phone overall – it’s about average in the 5.2″ league.

Design and build quality

The Honor 8 is similar to P9 in a lot ways, but the design is where its unique spirit shines through. The Honor flagship is vastly different from its Huawei sibling and yet it is just as stunningly beautiful.

The Honor 8 - Honor 8 review The Honor 8 - Honor 8 review The Honor 8 - Honor 8 review
The Honor 8

The Honor 8’s only place to use metal is the frame. A slightly curved chassis with the same paintjob as the two 2.5D pieces of glass it is separating. We got the blue model of Honor 8 and the combination of blue frame and blue glass plates is nothing short of flagship-grade.

We are fond of the glass designs even though they are prone to fingerprints and smudges and require regular cleaning. Yes, the P9 has it all figured out with its metal unibody, but the Honor 8 is arguably the more eye-catching phone.

 

The front of the Honor 8 is business as usual, but its back is where things get interesting. The dual camera setup isn’t highlighted by a special plate, which allows for a seamless design. There are two small transparent circles for the two cam sensors and a place for the dual-LED flash. Even the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner is painted the same color and doesn’t stick out too much.

Speaking about the fingerprint scanner – it’s of the always-on kind, and Huawei certainly knows its way around those – it’s among the fastest and most responsive around. It also doubles as a configurable clickable button and you can assign up to three actions on single press, double press, and press&hold. This allows for instant access to favorite functions or apps.

A closer look at the rear glass reveals an arc pattern within the blue color, almost like fingerprint lines. It is a very nice touch and we like that a lot.

 

Handling the Honor 8 is a joyful experience due to the premium feel of the metal and glass body and the nice curves. Maintaining its looks is a different subject, though, as you need to clean fingerprints quite frequently.

Handling the Honor 8 - Honor 8 review Handling the Honor 8 - Honor 8 review
Handling the Honor 8

Controls

Above the 5.2″ display of Honor 8 is the earpiece, the 8MP selfie snapper and a couple of sensors. There is also an embedded notification light underneath the earpiece grille but you can see it only when active.

Below the screen is the lonely Honor logo.

A peek at the front - Honor 8 review A peek at the front - Honor 8 review
A peek at the front

The left side of the Honor 8 has the SIM/microSD tray. It could either house a nano-SIM and a microSD card, or two nano-SIM cards if you got the dual-SIM Honor 8 flavor. This model uses a hybrid slot, so you can choose to either have a microSD or a second SIM.

The metal volume rocker and power/lock key are on the right.

The left side - Honor 8 review the hybrid card slot - Honor 8 review the right side - Honor 8 review the volume and power keys - Honor 8 review
The left side • the hybrid card slot • the right side • the volume and power keys

The top of the phone has the IR blaster and the second mic. The bottom accommodates the USB Type-C port flanked by the audio jack and the loudspeaker grille. The primary mic is hidden somewhere beneath that grille, too.

The top - Honor 8 review the IR blaster - Honor 8 review the bottom - Honor 8 review the USB Type-C port - Honor 8 review
The top • the IR blaster • the bottom • the USB Type-C port

The Honor 8 features two 12MP sensors on the back, one is fairly standard and captures color photographs while the other is monochrome and is used to add more light, more depth, and reduce noise in the regular camera samples.

The dual-tone flash and the laser for autofocus assist are also around.

The dual-camera setup - Honor 8 review the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner - Honor 8 review
The dual-camera setup • the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner 

Display

The Honor 8 has a very promising and flagship-worthy 5.2″ IPS LTPS display. Arguably, 1080p is a bit outdated, but the 423ppi is more than enough for achieving an excellent mark in pixel density. The LTPS screen promises deep black and high color gamut.

The 2.5D screen glass trend continues, but we’d have really appreciated an adequate glass protection to keep the scratches away from the display. Once again, there is no protective glass mentioned anywhere in the Honor’s promo materials and official specs. And we we can confirm it accumulates scratches rather easy.

The display is almost as bright as the P9’s 500nits unit – the Honor 8 screen has a maximum brightness of 460 nits and a minimum of just 1.6nits – great for reading. Thanks to the deeper blacks the contrast is now excellent at 1243:1, even better than the P9.

You should know though the auto brightness option is somewhat broken as it often dims the screen way too much and it’s barely visible. Huawei needs to fix the auto brightness calculations with an update as soon as possible. This came to be an issue on the both Honor 8 units we had, so unless it’s a defective batch of ambient light sensors, it should be a software issue.

Regarding color reproduction accuracy, the Honor 8 screen is an average performer as was the P9’s. It came out less than stellar with an average deviation (DeltaE) of 7.5 – a bit higher than what we would ideally like. We’ve seen worse even in flagship devices, so this one sits somewhere in the middle. For a screen to be considered properly calibrated it needs to have a maximum DeltaE of 4.

Using the built-in Color temperature modes, we managed to get a better color reproduction by going with the Warm one (Avg. DeltaE 5.8), but that came at the expense of slightly lower maximum brightness (450nits). The Warm option fixed the bluish white color, which was the one to drag the Maximum DeltaE up to 14.1.

Display test 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Honor 7 0.32 450 1398
Honor 8 0.37 460 1243
Huawei P9 0.46 500 1094
Huawei P9 Lite 0.42 497 1192
OnePlus 3 0.00 433
Samsung Galaxy S7 0.00 391
LG G4 0.43 532 1238
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 0.42 403 953
Meizu MX5 0 346
Sony Xperia X 0.44 539 1219
Huawei P9 Plus 0.00 400

The Honor 8 did very good in our sunlight legibility test. A score of 3.346 is a very good achievement for a non-AMOLED panel.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • OnePlus 34.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S74.376
  • Huawei P9 Plus3.956
  • Meizu MX53.416
  • Honor 83.346
  • Huawei P93.195
  • Sony Xperia X2.989
  • Huawei P9 Lite2.679
  • Huawei Honor 72.406
  • LG G42.317
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (MediaTek)2.249

Battery life

The Honor 8 is powered by a sealed 3,000 mAh battery. It supports rapid charging with a 9V/2A charger, which fills about 40% of the capacity in 30 minutes. The phone ships with a proper 9V/2A plug for this type of fast charging, which is nice.

We ran our battery test and the Honor 8 scored a 63h rating, which means you can count on the battery to last few hours short of 3 days if you do an hour each of calling, browsing the web and video playback a day.

If you want to use the phone with two SIM cards, it will cost you five additional hours.

The Honor 8 posted very balanced scores on all tests. Standby battery life was gauged in the Performance mode, which does not put any limits on the hardware. The Standard mode will add a couple of hours to the rating, while the Ultra Power Saving will keep your phone alive for quite some time.

There is also the so-called ROG power-saving, which lowers the resolution down to 720p and will give you more battery life when playing games.

Connectivity

The Honor 8 is properly equipped in terms of connectivity. The radio support includes up to four 2G bands, five 3G bands, and five 4G bands. The P9 covered a lot more bands than Honor 8, which is a concern for those planing to import it from another market. If you get a unit destined for your country all the important 4G bands are covered.

Our variant (FRD-L09) comes with a hybrid nano-SIM/microSD slot. Its second card can only tap into 2G networks while the first gets the full cellular connectivity.

The Honor 8 supports dual-band 2.4/5.0GHz Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, with Wi-Fi Direct and hotspot capabilities. Bluetooth is v4.2, where interference issues with LTE networks should be fixed. There’s NFC on board, no matter the Honor 8 model.

The satellite receiver supports GPS, GLONASS, and Beidou, so there isn’t a corner in the world where the smartphone won’t be able to pinpoint your location.

There is no FM radio though.

A 3.5mm jack provides standard connectivity for wired headphones. There is the new USB Type-C connector for charging and wired connectivity. Mind you, it defaults to charge-only every single time you connect it to a PC, and you have to manually switch the mode from the notification shade if you want to do something else.

Finally, there is an IR blaster on top, so you can use the Honor 8 as a universal remote via the Smart Remote app.

Smart Remote - Honor 8 review Smart Remote - Honor 8 review
Smart Remote 

Marshmallow and EMUI

The Honor 8 runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, skinned with Huawei’s Emotion UI, in its v.4.1 iteration. Emotion UI has been pretty consistent between versions and recurring Huawei users should feel right at home if upgrading to the Honor 8.

There’s plenty of stuff going on the lockscreen, starting with the alternating cover images – every time you wake up the device, you’re greeted by a different wallpaper. That’s if you opt for some of the Magazine unlock styles. You can also go old-school and pick a single image to be shown on the lockscreen. Whatever you choose, you likely won’t be seeing much of it, as the fingerprint unlock will take you straight to the homescreen.

If you do decide to wake up the Honor 8 via the power button, you get a large clock with a date, steps counter (if enabled) and a shortcut to the camera. You can also quickly start the camera by a double press of the Volume Down button.

Back to the lockscreen, you can pull up an iOS-style menu from the bottom, where you get yet another camera shortcut, but also quick access to the flashlight, calculator and voice recorder. If you’ve chosen the magazine style lockscreen, the pull-up menu will give you eight more options for control over the changing covers.

The Lockscreen - Honor 8 review The Lockscreen - Honor 8 review The Lockscreen - Honor 8 review The Lockscreen - Honor 8 review The Lockscreen - Honor 8 review
The Lockscreen

After unlocking you see a fairly standard Android homescreen with between 0 and 5 customizable shortcuts docked at the bottom and visible on all panes. There are eighteen homescreen panes at most, more than enough to house all of your apps since there is no app drawer.

Default homescreen - Honor 8 review apps-only homescreen - Honor 8 review folders - Honor 8 review settings - Honor 8 review options - Honor 8 review
Default homescreen • apps-only homescreen • folders • settings • options

A pinch on the homescreen triggers the familiar Overview mode to let you check out and organize the homescreen panes currently in use, remove or add panes as you please. Widgets are available too – it’s mostly the stock Android ones, but Huawei has thrown in some of its own as well. If you like your homescreens neatly organized, you can enable the shake feature, which will arrange scattered apps starting from the top left.

Theme options are available in the Emotion 4.1 UX. They can swap your wallpapers, icon pack, and lockscreen style.

Themes - Honor 8 review applying a new theme - Honor 8 review another theme - Honor 8 review
Themes • applying a new theme • another theme

The notification area has two panes – one that holds all notifications sorted in a timeline, and another for all of your quick toggles.

The Honor 8’s task switcher lets you swipe up and away unwanted apps. A downward swipe locks the app so that when you hit the Kill all button, it remains open. That’s nifty if you are trying to free some RAM for a particular app or game.

Notifications - Honor 8 review quick settings - Honor 8 review toggles rearrangement - Honor 8 review pull down to keep - Honor 8 review swipe up to kill - Honor 8 review
Notifications • quick settings • toggles rearrangement • pull down to keep • swipe up to kill

For certain scenarios, like in-car use, you can enable a Simple homescreen mode, which features large tiles for easy tapping. It’s not particularly consistent, though, offering simple version of some menus, but not others – the dialer is the same size as in regular mode (in all fairness it’s fairly oversized to begin with).

Simple homescreen with a tiled interface - Honor 8 review Simple homescreen with a tiled interface - Honor 8 review Simple homescreen with a tiled interface - Honor 8 review Simple homescreen with a tiled interface - Honor 8 review
Simple homescreen with a tiled interface

Huawei had granular control over app permissions before it was cool, and there’s no reason to change that, now that the feature comes as a part of latest Android Marshmallow.

The Honor 8 features a notification center, courtesy of the Phone Manager app, from which you can control which apps can send you the three types of available notifications – the shade notifications, the lockscreen notifications and the banner style notifications.

This level of control is also employed when it comes to the app access to network data. The user can control the rights of each application to access either WiFi or mobile data. This can save a lot of traffic and help you optimize your data plan and consumption in an easy and convenient way.

The Phone Manager also features harassment filter, battery manager with power-saving modes, and options to choose which apps to run in the background and which not (protected apps).

Phone Manager - Honor 8 review Notification permissions - Honor 8 review Notification permissions - Honor 8 review
Phone Manager • Notification permissions • Notification permissions

As part of the extensive Smart assistance package, you can customize the bottom navigation bar – you can swap the task-switcher and back keys, or even add a shortcut for the notification area. There is also a one-handed UI mode, for easier menu surfing on the go, although it’s hardly essential on a 5.2″ screen like the one on the Honor 8.

The fingerprint sensor on the back is also a clickable key (Smart key), on which you can assign up to three quick actions invoked on single press, double press, and press&hold. You can assign app shortcuts, as well as actions such as torch or screenshot.

You can enable the so-called Floating dock – it’s a virtual key you can move anywhere on the screen, allowing you to expand it to the primary Android keys – Back, Home, Task Switcher, Lock and Close all running apps. It will help you control your phone with just one hand.

Motion control also plays a significant role on the Honor 8. There are flip gestures, as well as picking up, tilting and even things like knuckle detection and drawing. All of those are extensively customizable to your liking as well.

Smart assistance - Honor 8 review navigation bar options - Honor 8 review floating dock - Honor 8 review motion control - Honor 8 review motion control - Honor 8 review
Smart assistance • navigation bar options • floating dock • motion control • motion control

Scheduled power on and off is also available. The Smart Assistance package also offers Glove mode, and an option to prevent accidental unlocks while the Honor 8 is in your pocket.

Voice control, on the other hand, lets you operate the Honor 8 entirely hands-free. It lets you trigger a voice command, even when the phone is locked, and its screen is off.

The Honor 8 does this by always listening for a “trigger word”, which by default is… “Dear, Honor.” Once triggered, the phone wakes up and awaits further voice instructions, like placing a call. Speech awareness is also customizable. The wake-up phrase can be changed, and you can also train the device to recognize your voice better.

Voice control - Honor 8 review Voice control - Honor 8 review Voice control - Honor 8 review
Voice control 

Performance

The Honor 8 is powered by an in-house Kirin 950 chipset. The model number doesn’t suggest a big change compared to the Kirin 955 inside the P9. In fact, it’s the same chip to power the Mate 8, and the difference is almost insignificant.

The Kirin 950 SoC features an octa-core CPU with four Cortex-A72 cores clocked at up to 2.3GHz (compared to the 2.5GHz of the Kirin 955’s), and four Cortex-A53 cores ticking at up to 1.8GHz (same as Kirin 955). The GPU is again a quad-core Mali-T880 MP4. The Honor 8 comes with 4GB of RAM on both the 32GB and 64GB models, unlike the 3GB-powered 32GB Huawei P9 model.

The performance of a single Cortex-A72 core is rather uninspiring compared to the Snapdragon 820’s Kryo within the OnePlus 3 and the Galaxy S7. It’s on par with the same core inside the P9 and P9 Plus albeit the lower frequency.

Telephony

The Honor 8 handles voice calls with ease and sound quality doesn’t disappoint. The phone offers powerful dual-SIM manager in case you opt for the dual-SIM flavor, too.

Smart dialing - Honor 8 review recent calls - Honor 8 review call log - Honor 8 review
Smart dialing • recent calls • call log

The stock dialer app is a trinity of tabs bundled together – these include the Dialer, Contacts, and Favorites. The phonebook offers all the usual sorting and display options, it supports multiple accounts, and there are lots of fields available for each contact.

The Honor 8 scored a Good mark in our standardized loudspeaker test. Our impressions from the speaker’s sound quality are mostly positive – it produces deep and rich sound, but the default ringtones are rather quiet and you may miss some calls. Perhaps you can load a ringtone of your choosing.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Sony Xperia X 61.3 61.1 65.7 Below Average
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) 65.8 66.0 66.5 Below Average
OnePlus 3 62.4 71.0 77.8 Good
Huawei Honor 5c 66.5 71.1 74.4 Good
Huawei P9 72.1 66.6 75.6 Good
Honor 8 67.1 66.2 82.6 Good
Huawei Honor 7 72.0 66.6 77.5 Good
Huawei P9 lite 66.0 71.5 83.2 Very Good
Huawei P9 Plus (regular) 71.7 73.7 81.3 Very Good
Meizu MX5 75.7 73.5 79.5 Excellent

App package

The Honor 8 ships with WPS office, which can be used for some basic document editing on the go. It can handle text documents, spreadsheets and presentations as well as PDF files. It can also export to PDF.

WPS office - Honor 8 review WPS office - Honor 8 review
WPS office

Phone Manager is Huawei’s do-it-all app for keeping control over your phone. It lets you control all sorts of features from call/message privacy and Do Not Disturb settings to phone optimization and app permissions, to network and battery usage.

The app features a one-touch optimization feature that frees up memory space and gives you settings recommendations for maximum battery performance. It’s a hell of a slick feature that few manufacturers offer.

Phone manager - Honor 8 review Phone manager - Honor 8 review Phone manager - Honor 8 review Phone manager - Honor 8 review Phone manager - Honor 8 review
Phone manager

Battery Manager is part of Phone Manager and includes a selection of three power plans with varying degrees of feature limitations. From here you can also control which apps can remain active after you send the phone to sleep.

Battery manager - Honor 8 review Battery manager - Honor 8 review Battery manager - Honor 8 review Battery manager - Honor 8 review
Battery manager

Huawei has bundled the Honor 8 with its Health app, which tracks steps and calculates calories burnt, but can also supposedly count the number of floors you’ve climbed. A file manager is also present, and it supports batch actions.

Health app homescreen - Honor 8 review week view - Honor 8 review file manager - Honor 8 review file manager - Honor 8 review more tools - Honor 8 review
Health app homescreen • week view • file manager • file manager • more tools 

The gallery

The Honor 8’s gallery app offers a Timeline view, which sorts your images by the date you’ve taken them. Alternatively, you can opt for the standard Album view with all of your images sorted in different albums.

Opening a single image lets you quickly delete or rotate it, as well as gives you some basic sharing options (including streaming it over DLNA).

The info icon up top gives some pretty detailed information about the image, including a histogram. Pulling down from anywhere on the screen lets you take a quick photo without leaving the gallery. The image comes out in a square 1:1 ratio at 2,976 x 2,976.

Album view - Honor 8 review chronological view - Honor 8 review viewing an image - Honor 8 review detailed info - Honor 8 review camera quick access - Honor 8 review
Album view • chronological view • viewing an image • detailed info • camera quick access

You can also go into a more capable editor with options for light and exposure adjustments (so you can bring out the shadows or the highlights), filters and beauty enhancements. You can adjust levels and add individual watermarks for time, location, weather, food and mood.

The image editor is quite capable - Honor 8 review The image editor is quite capable - Honor 8 review The image editor is quite capable - Honor 8 review The image editor is quite capable - Honor 8 review The image editor is quite capable - Honor 8 review
The image editor is quite capable

Video player

When it comes to playing videos, the Honor 8 default player is pretty basic. Its sole option is playback speed.

Simplistic video player with few options - Honor 8 review Simplistic video player with few options - Honor 8 review
Simplistic video player with few options

Music player

The Honor 8 comes with Huawei’s custom music player app. It offers four default playlists – songs, artists, albums, folders. You can create your playlists, too. The background of the app changes dynamically to match the album art, which is a nice little touch.

The Now Playing screen is pretty standard, it offers album art and lyrics. There are no equalizers to speak off, but the app does have a few extra features. It would try to pull album art, song info and lyrics automatically for you.

The music player - Honor 8 review The music player - Honor 8 review The music player - Honor 8 review The music player - Honor 8 review The music player - Honor 8 review
The music player

The Honor 8 lacks FM radio.

Audio clarity is perfectly clear, nicely loud

When used with an active external amplifier the Honor 8 delivered perfectly clean output. The volume levels are higher than average too (and better than what the P9 offers), so it’s a great showing overall.

Stereo crosstalk worsens by a tony amount when you hook a pair of headphones, but it’s the only affected reading. Loudness remains good, if not great, so it’s really an impressive result by the Honor flagship.

Creative dual 12MP camera, no Leica effects

Just like the P9, the Honor 8 features two 12MP sensors, one is fairly standard and captures color photographs while the other is only monochrome (black & white). The latter lacks a Bayer filter which is used in conventional cameras to produce color images. This has enabled the monochrome sensor to capture up to 3x more light and so it should fare better in low-light photography.

 

Unfortunately, the lack of Leica licensing means you won’t be getting the proprietary Vivid and Smooth film modes and also no monochrome photos straight with the monochrome sensor. But don’t you worry, Huawei found another way to go around this limitation even if it’s not ideal. You still get a black and white filter, which would use both cameras to produce a regular shot and then desaturate it, resulting in B&W shots that are still better than the majority of phones out there.

Live filters - Honor 8 review Live filters - Honor 8 review
Live filters

The Honor 8, just like the P9, relies on the secondary B&W sensor for capturing more light and occasionally to play with the depth of field. Often, when you shoot with either phone, it snaps a picture with each sensor and use the information from the B&W photo to enhance the color one. This makes for quite good low-light shots as it helps reduce noise.

The Huawei camera app offers manual mode, which has RAW shooting, manual focus, shutter speed and ISO and a few other options. The Pro camera interface is very comfortable, but only if you know how to use it.

All the camera options are hidden in menus you can bring by swiping up or down from the screen (assuming you hold the camera in landscape mode). This may be confusing at first but you quickly get used to it. The main menu houses all the available shooting modes – Photo, HDR, Panorama, Beauty, and Light Painting. There is also an advanced settings menu, summoned by a swipe from the top.

The camera app - Honor 8 review Pro mode - Honor 8 review Settings - Honor 8 review All shooting modes - Honor 8 review Light Painting - Honor 8 review
The camera app • Pro mode • Settings • All shooting modes • Light Painting

Since we talked about the B&W photos first let’s kick off with such samples. The low-light scenes have a bit more noise than we’d get with the P9’s mono shots, but those are still quite impressive. There is enough detail and you can get creative with these if you like. The last two are taken with the flash turned on.

Monochrome camera samples - Honor 8 review Monochrome camera samples - Honor 8 review Monochrome camera samples - Honor 8 review Monochrome camera samples - Honor 8 review
Monochrome camera samples - Honor 8 review Monochrome camera samples - Honor 8 review Monochrome camera samples - Honor 8 review
Monochrome camera samples

The main purpose of the second camera is to provide superior low-light performance, as the lack of an RGB filter on top of the sensor lets more light to the sensor, which means less noise. The info is then mixed with that coming from the regular sensor so you get less noisy but still full color image.

Additionally, the two sensors allow the distance to the subjects to be calculated precisely, which is part of Huawei’s Hybrid autofocus (which also includes Laser AF). And since the camera creates a depth map of the scene anyway, it can also leverage this information to recreate a high-quality optical background defocus effect (bokeh).

F-Stop samples: f/4.0 - Honor 8 review F-Stop samples: f/4.0 - Honor 8 review F-Stop samples: f/4.0 - Honor 8 review
Bokeh effect preview

We have to applaud Huawei for adding live bokeh preview, so you’ll always know what the result will be. But in case you are unhappy, you can always change the focus point post shooting, and you can even opt for some nice effects.

Desaturated background effect - Honor 8 review motion blur background effect - Honor 8 review painting effect - Honor 8 review
Desaturated background effect • motion blur background effect • painting effect

The Light Painting mode shoots at 8MP and has four additional sub-modes – tail light trails, light graffiti, silky water, star track. Whatever the scene, your Honor 8 will first take a picture with the proper exposure settings and then it will capture the light trails of either cars, stars, water or other moving objects. After you finish capturing those, the light trails will be automatically added to your picture. This process produces some stunning results as long as you keep the camera perfectly still while shooting – on a tripod or similar.

Tail Light Trails - Honor 8 review Tail Light Trails - Honor 8 review Graffiti - Honor 8 review Graffiti - Honor 8 review
Tail Light Trails • Tail Light Trails • Graffiti • Graffiti

And whether you love playing with the Pro mode or not, the Honor 8 is capable of taking some great low-light images.

Low-light samples - Honor 8 review Low-light samples - Honor 8 review Low-light samples - Honor 8 review Low-light samples - Honor 8 review
Low-light samples

Here are a few more night time samples.

Low light (auto) - Honor 8 review Low light (exp. 2s, tripod) - Honor 8 review Low light shot (exp. 5s, tripod) - Honor 8 review
Low light (auto) • Low light (exp. 2s, tripod) • Low light shot (exp. 5s, tripod)

Let’s focus on the daylight image quality now. The 12MP color samples came out with more than enough resolved detail and very good dynamic range. Noise levels are only average and colors end up a little cold now and then, but generally these are some solid samples.

Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review
Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review
Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review
Honor 8 12MP camera samples

Indoors samples - Honor 8 review Indoors samples - Honor 8 review Indoors samples - Honor 8 review Indoors samples - Honor 8 review
Indoors samples

Of course, you may need HDR at some point of your shooting experience. You can check the HDR samples we took below.

HDR off - Honor 8 review HDR on - Honor 8 review
HDR off • HDR on

And here are the usual camera samples taken around our office for comparison reasons.

Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review
Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review Honor 8 12MP camera samples - Honor 8 review
Honor 8 12MP camera samples

The panorama mode is one of the better implementations on the market, switching automatically between portrait and landscape. When shooting in portrait, panoramic images turn out just over 3,000 pixels tall and the samples below are about 30MP – not that far from a 180-degree sweep (about 35MP). Stitching is good, exposure is even, it’s just that the captured detail and dynamic range are not quite the same as on the still images.

panorama - Honor 8 review
panorama - Honor 8 review
Honor 8 panorama

The front camera of the Honor 8 is an 8MP unit shooting images at 3,264 x 2,448 pixels. It’s paired with a relatively slow by today’s standards f/2.4 lens. There is the obligatory beautification feature, which attempts to mask skin blemishes, but mostly gets rid of any fine detail in the shot.

If you go for a regular photo, the resolved detail is quite satisfactory, the colors and contrast are great, too. It’s one of the better selfie snappers we’ve met, it also supports screen flash and shoot pleasant selfies most of the time.

8MP selfie samples - Honor 8 review 8MP selfie samples - Honor 8 review 8MP selfie samples - Honor 8 review 8MP selfie samples - Honor 8 review
8MP selfie samples

You can check out how the Honor 8 camera stacks up against the competition in our Photo compare tool.

Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool
Honor 8 vs. Huawei P9 vs. Galaxy S7 in our Photo quality comparison tool 

Video recording at 1080p

One of the major flaws of the Honor 8 is that it doesn’t support 2160p video recording, when it has become the de facto standard resolution for high-end smartphone camcorders. Many users will live just fine without it, especially at this price point.

The smartphone maxes out at 1080p@60fps and you get a slow motion mode, where video is recorded at 120fps, but the resolution is just 720p.

The 1080p@60fps videos come out with a bitrate of 34Mbps while the 30fps ones are exactly half that. In either case, audio is recorded in stereo at 192kbps.

There isn’t much room for praise in the video department. They lack the detail as you’d expect at that resolution and the dynamic range is mediocre. The colors are spot-on and the contrast is very good. There isn’t any annoying focus hunting either.

Final words

So that’s that then – Huawei may be trying to run Honor as a separate brand in some regions, but the Chinese company’s design philosophy is clearly visible in the 8. A flashier P9 without the Leica branding we can certainly live with. Knowing you save €150 over the original model makes it a very attractive offer.

And there weren’t any major corners cut either – outside of the missing film modes and the more limited use of the monochrome sensor the Honor 8 didn’t really feel inferior in any way. The glass design might be a bit too flashy for some, but others will certainly prefer it over the metal of the P9.

 

Honor 8 offers a great camera capable of taking some very creative shots with little to none preparations. And you don’t need to wait for some update (iPhone 7 Plus we are looking at you) to shoot those awesome wide aperture photos, as Huawei does this very well for quite some time.

Honor 8 key test findings

  • Premium design, excellent and sleek build, but prone to fingerprints.
  • The LTPS display offers excellent contrast and sunlight legibility, 460 nits of maximum brightness is very good, and the color calibration is above average with punchy colors. The auto-brightness option doesn’t work properly.
  • Battery life is average at 63 hours – the Honor 8 did well across all tests, but failed to impress us with its standby endurance.
  • Marshmallow with Emotion UI UX is a powerful combo. There are lots of customization options, gestures, and proprietary services to enhance your Android experience.
  • The Kirin 950 chipset offers stellar CPU performance but mediocre graphics power, which may create stutters in games or app switching.
  • It’s got excellent audio quality through the audio jack. The speaker loudness is good, as is the output quality.
  • One of the best camera setups on the market with high dynamic range, the colors are spot on, the resolved detail is more than enough. The low-light images are not as detailed but the ease of use of the long exposure modes still can’t be matched by any competitor a year later after the Huawei P8 introduced them. Native mono shots are a no-go, but the processed ones are still among the best on the market.
  • The 8MP selfies are very good with enough detail and accurate colors. The screen flash helps, too.
  • There is no 4K video capture, and the 1080p videos are uninspiring – there is not enough detail. The color rendition and the audio recording are very good, though.

The first competitor to come in mind is the OnePlus 3. It has a bigger and punchier AMOLED display, utilizes the top notch Snapdragon 820 with 6 gigs of RAM, and its build quality and thin profile are great. Its camera is rather uninspiring, while the almost vanilla Android isn’t as powerful as the EMUI on the Honor 8, but probably beats it in looks. If performance is more important than camera, then you should check the similarly priced OnePlus 3 for sure.

OnePlus 3
OnePlus 3

The Sony Xperia X costs a few bucks more, but its signature design and powerful camera are quite a treat. The GPU is better, there are more connectivity options, and its fingerprint scanner is as unique. Sony fans will grab it in a heartbeat and anyone having some Sony TVs or consoles should try it – the integration is quite good among Sony’s lineup.

Sony Xperia X
Sony Xperia X

Xiaomi’s Mi 5 is faster and thinner, offers OIS on its camera, but lacks the same creativity level. Its price is very attractive and if available in your region, you should check it out.

Xiaomi Mi 5
Xiaomi Mi 5

The ZTE Axon 7, just like the Mi 5, runs on the top-notch Snapdragon 820 chip with 4GB of RAM. Its screen is bigger and powered by an AMOLED matrix of Quad HD resolution, the 20MP OIS camera is an excellent shooting tool with all necessities, and the Dolby Atoms effect on the stereo speakers is amazing. The Axon 7 isn’t as beautiful but is still equally intriguing.

ZTE Axon 7
ZTE Axon 7

The Honor 8 is a trimmed down model of the P9 mostly because the lack of the Leica collaboration. If this is your biggest concern, then you should refer to the P9 or the AMOLED and PressTouch-enabled P9 Plus. Those are more expensive, but offer the full power of the monochrome camera and some nice Leica film modes. And you can now get the new P9 in Blue or Red if that’s your thing.

Huawei P9 Huawei P9 Plus
Huawei P9 • Huawei P9 Plus

The 2015 flagships – the Galaxy S6 edge and the Xperia Z5 are still among the best performers on the market, their prices have settled at about the same levels as the Honor 8’s, and they may turn out the better choice if video recording or water protection come before the camera quality for you.

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge Sony Xperia Z5
Samsung Galaxy S6 edge • Sony Xperia Z5

By now you can tell we liked the Honor 8 a lot. Even without the Leica tricks, it’s a flagship-grade beauty at a very reasonable price (€399). The best part is it isn’t just a beautiful shell – it has the power to match too. The marketing may be revolving around the camera experience, but it’s a solid smartphone from every angle and one you should definitely have on your shortlist.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s