Honor 8 Pro Review – A True Flagship Contender

Thomas Wellburn
April 11, 2017

[nextpage title=”Introduction” ]

Product Type: Smartphone | Manufacturer: Honor | Price: £474.99 | Where to buy: Amazon | [et_social_share]

The Honor 8 Pro is an excellent device that ticks boxes in all the right areas… and offers it all for a good price.

Honor is typically a company you’d associate with value focused handsets that sit firmly in the mid-range The Honor 8 was a major success, sporting sleek styling, good pricing and plenty of features. The company has now decided to release a ‘Pro’ version of that very device, which has it’s self set on being a flagship killer. Boasting top-tier specs and an attractive price-tag, can it tempt you to part with the Samsungs and Apples of the world?

Technical Details

OS Android 7.0 Nougat

Processor HiSilion Kirin 960

Screen 5.7 inches

Resolution 2560 x 1440 pixels (320 DPI)

Memory 6 GB RAM

Storage 64GB

Micro SD compatible? Yes, up to 256GB

Rear camera Dual 12MP

Front camera 8MP

Video 4K

Connectivity WIFI b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC

Dimensions 157 x 78 x 7.6 mm

Weight 184g

Battery 4,000 mAh


[nextpage title=”Design and Screen” ]

The Honor 8 Pro has come a long way from the previous Honor 8, though it still maintains an aesthetic which is faithful to the original. The body keeps its curved edges and the front face looks almost identical, with the same positioning of camera sensor and Honor logo.

It’s when we get to the rear that things are noticeably different, with the matte metal finish replacing the glass back. The unibody design has obvious comparisons to the iPhone 7 Plus, which is a compliment to the Honor team. At 7mm, they’ve actually managed to make it thinner than the iPhone despite throwing in a much larger battery. It won’t slide off a desk anymore and feels snug in the hand, something that was a major problem with its predecessor. The choice to forgo glass also means you don’t have to worry about a cracked rear.

On the back you’ll find that same dual-camera sensor, though it now has its own black bezel that offers a nice contrast to the rest of the handset. The little ridge around the edge does a decent job of keeping it clean, though you’ll still need to wipe the lenses from time-to-time. Compared to the iPhone 7 Plus, the camera sits much more flush with the rest of the device. There’s no camera hump here.

On the bottom, you’ll find all of the connectivity options. There’s a headphone jack, USB-C port and speaker. The speaker on the Honor 8 Pro is clear and goes quite loud, though the bass could be a little better. On the sides, you’ll find the usual array of volume/ power controls, plus a dual-sim port with the second slot doubling as a microSD reader. The buttons on the Honor 8 Pro are metal and feel high quality, which is another good sign to the quality of the design here.

Honor is keen to push this new handset as a VR device and the inclusion of a Google Cardboard headset in the box is a welcome addition. For those of us not savvy with emerging technology, it could be quite easy to miss. The design of the headset blends incredibly seamlessly into the packaging.

Once you’ve taken it out, assembling requires little effort. You fold down a flap to support the headset and insert the included lenses. Part of the box acts as the rear of the VR headset, with the phone slotting in-between the two pieces. We could moan about how the field-of-view isn’t that great and the focus was a little off… but this is a freebie headset designed to give people an introduction to VR. For that reason, it gets our thumbs up.

The Huawei Honor 8 Pro continues its crusade against the flagships, packing in a 5.7-inch QHD LCD display. AMOLED screens have much deeper black levels and contrast, but fall down when it comes to colour balance in the whites. This has been improved massively and is pretty much indistinguishable on newer displays, though it’s still an area where LCD panels are more effective. The panel on the Honor 8 Pro carries a top-notch screen that is up there with the best.

We found only small evidence of banding and plenty of sharpness to images. Colour reproduction was nice and wide in the test images, getting the most out of our test pictures. Overall brightness was very good despite the large panel, managing to generously saturate the screen for outdoor use.


[nextpage title=”Camera” ]

On paper, little has changed from the Honor 8 that came before it. You’ve got the same 12 megapixel dual-camera setup with f/2.2 aperture; the second acting as a monochrome sensor. Honor has again chosen to avoid Lecia branding, probably as a cost-cutting measure.

Image quality is a definite step up from the Honor 8, though it’s a subtle jump that you’ll only really notice on closer inspection. Colours are still slightly oversaturated and the lack of optical image stabilisation disappoints, but the overall image quality is up there with the best. Solid macro photography is possible without the OIS and it handles harsh exposures well. There was a tendency for it to blow out highlights when shooting in auto, though it never does this to the extend where you’re losing large amounts of data.

Variable aperture is a feature that has been commonplace on Honor and Huawei devices for a while now, though it’s been perfected somewhat on the Pro. Instead of the clunky refocus method, there’s now a bar along the bottom of the screen which can be used to adjust the f stop. This is not dissimilar to how you would do it on a DSLR. The result is easy bokeh effects which can be applied incredibly easy, though the effect varies depending on the shot. Sometimes, it will work quite well and you’ll get sharp foreground edges with a lovely blurred background. Other times, the software processing gets a little excited and cuts into the foreground. This gives images a soft appearance and a strange shimmering effect. It’s really luck of the draw, though for lone foreground objects with little background information it seems to work well.

Low-light was the main area where the Honor 8 Pro struggled most, as auto mode was unable to suitably light our test image. Thankfully, a full suite of Pro shooting modes is available to overcome this. The camera app on the Honor handset is about as good as it gets, with every little adjustment necessary to take a good picture. It was possible to get a decent low-light image, though the long shutter speeds don’t lend themselves well without OIS.

The front camera on the Honor 8 Pro is perfectly acceptable, with a newer 8 megapixel sensor that has a larger f/2.0 aperture. It captures plenty of light but doesn’t have the widest lens and is a little on the soft side. That said, this can actually be quite flattering for selfies.


[nextpage title=”Performance and Software” ]

Make no mistake, the Honor 8 pro is a powerhouse. With the newest Kirin 960 and 6GB RAM, you’re getting top notch performance that holds its own against most other flagships currently on the market.

Browsing the UI was buttery smooth and multitasking was practically instantaneous. Honor has done some wizardry behind the scenes to help frequently used apps boot a lot faster and in practice, it seems to work really well. Since I mainly stick to a few core apps, I’m presuming the algorithm picked this up quite quickly and optimised things as a result.

Gaming was another area where the device performed very well. This is one area where HiSilicon chips usually fall behind but I had no such problems playing intensive games like Asphalt Xtreme on the Honor 8 Pro. Even on the highest settings, things were very smooth and frame dips were very minimal at best. Less intensive games such as Candy Crush Saga play without a hitch. The inclusion of Vulkan API support is a welcome addition and means you’ll be able to get the best possible performance out of games that use it.

Such great performance is reflected in the benchmarks, with the Honor 8 Pro performing high in all but the graphics tests. GeekBench 4 showed a single-core score of 1919 and multi-core score of 6036. This result managed to best the Samsung Galaxy S7 and all other competitive devices by a large margin, though it will be interesting to see how it measures up against the new S8. The 122,384 score on AnTuTu was a bit more realistic, placing it 24th on the list. The top 10 is still dominated by the likes of Apple, Xiaomi and OnePlus.

Our GPU tests showed that while the Kirin 960 may play games perfectly well in practice, it still can’t benchmark on the same level as competitors. A score of 1537 in the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme test puts it well behind competitors such as the OnePlus 3, Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S7. Likewise, the score of 477.9 frames in GFXBench is also a long way from leaders, which are all tipping the thousands.

It’s important to note that benchmarks are not everything and it could be poor support from the app itself, though we think it’s still apparent that HiSilicon still fall behind when it comes to GPU stats.

The Honor 8 Plus runs Android 7.0 Nougat with the latest EMUI overlay. The function is identical to the Huawei P8 Lite we reviewed recently, though bloatware was a little bigger this time around. You’ll find a bunch of pre-installed apps and games divided into folders but thankfully, they’re all capable of being deleted.

The EMUI is still one of my least favourite Android Launchers but it’s nice to see that Huawei is making steps to improve it. With an updated notification tray and toned down system notifications; it’s a lot purer Android experience. The company also continues to use Swiftkey as the default keyboard, which is a damn sight better than most included keyboards.

The newest version of EMUI still decides to forgo the app tray in favour of an more iPhone-like experience, meaning you’ll need to use folders or risk the home screen getting rather cluttered. Unlike older versions, a downward gesture on the screen will now bring up a search bar with your most most frequently used apps underneath. It’s far more intuitive than the pinch-to-open seen on older variants and embraces one-handed operation. The quick-launch bar still exists at the bottom of the screen and can be accessed using an upward stroke on the lock screen.

The Honor 8 Pro has an enormous 4,000mAh battery, which is far bigger than the iPhone 7 Plus; a device that shares a similar size footprint. Our day-to-day testing found that it was capable of lasting 48 hours and then some, which is an excellent result for power users. During our battery drain test at 50% brightness, it lost 20% charge over 87 minutes. This means we can expect around 7 hours 15 minutes of constant on-screen time, which is an excellent result. Those using this for long-haul trips will be happy to hear this.


[nextpage title=”Conclusion” ]

The Honor 8 Pro is a massive upgrade on the original Honor 8 which takes the handset beyond mid-range and into the upper tier. Cheaper competition does exist but as a complete device package, it still represents very good value for money. Performance is up there with best and aside from some lackluster graphics test results, real-world use suggests this is as good as most other flagships on the market. If you can put up with the size, it’s well worth checking out.



About the Author

Share this article