Hands-on: the Honor 8 is one impressive little smartphone [VIDEO]


Earlier this week, Honor, the US-focused subdivision of Chinese tech giant Huawei, announced a brand new smartphone aimed at young, hip, budget conscious buyers here in the states: the Honor 8. The phone boasts many of the high-end specs you’ll find on most other premium handsets, only at nearly half of the price.

At $400 for the 32GB model and $450 for 64GB, Honor seems to have to crammed most of the cutting edge hardware into this phone, while keeping the price relatively low. We got a chance to go hands-on with the Honor 8 and after spending a good couple of days with out we’ll admit — we’re really impressed. The Honor 8 could very well be the best petite smartphone you can get at this price point. Here’s what your $400 is getting you…

Honor 8 hardware specs:

  • 5.2-inch 1080p display
  • Dual 12MP Sony IMX286 1.25μm cameras (rear), 8MP 1.4μm (front)
  • HiSilicon (Huawei) Kirin 950 processor
  • 4GB DDR4 RAM
  • 32GB or 64GB
  • Micro SD card slot
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • 3,000mAh battery with quick charge technology (9V/2A)
  • NFC
  • Type-C port
  • Headphone jack
  • IR blaster
  • EMUI 4.1 with Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Unlocked and compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile (Band 12, VoLTE)
  • Pearl White, Sapphire Blue, Midnight Black

What we love

Honor 8 DSC00648

Right off the bat, the Honor 8 feels way more expensive than it actually is. While I, personally, have objections with Honor’s choice to go with a glass back (it doesn’t provide any additional benefits and only serves to make the phone more fragile), there’s no denying the phone feels premium when holding it in the hand. The smooth metal frame is sandwiched in-between two panes of 2.5D glass without a sharp edge in site. Even the camera lenses are If it weren’t for the recessed fingerprint sensor on the back (and buttons on the right side), it’d would nearly impossible to know if you were holding the phone right side up with out looking at it.

Using the phone for the first few minutes and you’ll immediately notice the speed. This phone is fast as hell, which is a given for most flagship devices these days but there’s one key difference: the Honor 8 isn’t using the same silicon as most other Android flagships. Forget about benchmarks, in real world use the Kirin 950 is every bit as quick as the Snapdragon 820, at least in our initial testing.


honor 8 DSC00642

The phone packs a lot of hardware, but that doesn’t mean it has everything. Right off the bat, the camera(s) — while capable of producing nice shots — don’t have OIS (optical image stabilization), something that’s apparent when trying to take a quick shot. Whether this was due to technical hurdles in uses 2 sensors, or because they wanted to keep the camera flush with the rest of the phone, who knows.

Also, while an argument can be made for devices like the Galaxy S6, S7, or Note 7 featuring glass backs to support wireless charging, the Honor 8 doesn’t have this feature. Glass, while, yes, a little more premium feeling than something like plastic, shouldn’t be the only reason you put this on a smartphone. Phones drop all the time and even at $400, the Honor 8 is far from disposable.

Of course, the Honor 8 is a Huawei device, so it only makes sense they’d use their custom Android UI. I’m sure the kids in Huawei’s homeland of China love it, but the tech savvy crowd here in the US seems to prefer a mostly stock Android experience (the kind they’re already familiar with). There is some light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve been told EMUI’s big 5.0 update will feature a more “stock Android experience” (at least here in the US) and Honor tells us

they’re committed to supplying the device with regular software updates — (bug fixes, new features, etc.) — every 3 months for the first 12 months, up to 24 months depending on the device. Security updates to patch up vulnerabilities and whatnot will continue beyond this period, we’re guessing depending on severity.

As we mentioned before, prices for the Honor 8 start at $400 for the 32GB model, with the 64GB version — or as we like to call it, the OnePlus 3 equivalent — coming in at $450. With the Honor brand supposedly being hellbent on providing the best possible value for budget conscious youngsters, that pricing doesn’t exactly line up with what we were expecting.

Going up against the ZTE Axon 7 or OnePlus 3 — all fantastic smartphones for the money — the Honor 8 really should have aimed for $300/$350 pricing if they really wanted to make an impact. While the initial $50 rebates help, it’s going to be a tough sell convincing people that the Honor 8 is worth every bit as much as the OnePlus 3 which features equally impressive hardware.

Stay tuned for more

Honor 8 DSC00656

We’ll be working on our full review which you can expect in the coming days. In the meantime, if you already have your heart set on picking one up, the Honor 8 can be pre-ordered from Amazon, B&H Photo, Best Buy or directly from Honor via their US website here.

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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