Honor 8 Pro Review


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The Honor 8 was one of the best mid-ranger devices of 2016 especially when it came to the camera performance, design and build quality. However, the small size often put off many prospective buyers who needed a larger device and perhaps something more powerful too. The Honor 8 Pro is the solution to this dilemma. It essentially is a larger and more advanced version of last year’s surprise hit. Let us take a look at the smartphone in detail to see just how good it is.

Unboxing

While the Honor 8 had quite an interesting side sliding box, the Honor 8 pro has a regular mounted box. However what is different is that the box itself can be used as a VR headset. Check out our unboxing below:

Here are the contents of the box:

  • Honor 8 Pro smartphone in Navy Blue color
  • Box that doubles up as VR Cardboard along with lenses
  • 2-pin charger (5V-2A / 9V-2A) with Huawei Quick Charge
  • USB Type-C Cable
  • SIM ejector tool
  • User manual and warranty information

Design, Materials and Build Quality

The Honor 8 was perhaps the best looking device of last year and one of the best looking touchscreen smartphones of all time. It wasn’t the first smartphone to feature glass on both the sides nor the first to use a combination of glass and metal. However the way in which it was used produced results that were so beautiful looking that it wouldn’t look out of place when kept in an art museum. The design is timeless and the only downside was perhaps being a bit slippery and also a fingerprint magnet which are a result of all the glass being used.

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The Honor 8 Pro builds on the same fundamentals. From the front, it looks virtually identical to the untrained eye. Unless you see both of them side by side or hold them, it is tough to tell them apart. The bezels of the Honor 8 pro are now a bit smaller thanks to a display that extends a bit further at the sides as well as top and bottom too.

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The smaller bezels yield a higher screen to body ratio of 73.6% compared to the Honor 8 which had a smaller 72.5% screen to body ratio. Due to the larger display, the Honor 8 Pro has a larger footprint that measures 157 x 77.5 x 7 mm compared to the Honor 8 that measured 145.5 x 71 x 7.5 mm. Despite the larger screen size, the Honor 8 Pro actually feels a lot easier to hold and feels great to grip. The Honor 8 was a bit slippery and also did feel a bit thick. Honor has cut down the thickness and have replaced the back glass panel with a unibody metal design that feels even more premium than the Honor 8. Some users may feel that the Honor 8 Pro design is inferior looking to the Honor 8; especially from the back but then there are those who may find it otherwise. I personally, belong to the former. I love the improved build quality and grip on offer but in terms of sheer visual appeal the Honor 8 takes the cake.

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Nevertheless, I am still happy that the Honor 8 Pro has a differentiated device rather than just being an enlarged photocopy of the same. Honor could’ve just kept everything the same way but the differentiation will attract more people to buy both devices.

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Weight distribution is on point and the Honor 8 Pro doesn’t feel as heavy as the 184 grams suggests on paper. Below the display is the Honor branding while you have the earpiece, front facing camera as well as ambient light and proximity sensors above it.

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At the top, you have the IR blaster and secondary microphone while you get the primary microphone, 3.5mm audio jack, USB Type-C port and speaker at the bottom.

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The right side houses the volume rocker button and the power key while the left side houses the Hybrid Dual SIM card slot. The power key has a grooved pattern that helps distinguish it from the volume keys without looking.

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At the back, you have the dual camera system and LED flash below which you have the fingerprint sensor and the Honor branding at the bottom. The antenna bands are quite visible this time around compared to the Honor 8 which only had antenna cutouts visible on the sides of the phone. Apart from the design itself, one of the highlights and USPs of the Honor 8 was the blue colour which looked stunning especially in the way the back panel reflected the light. While the reflection is missing at the back this time around, you still get the same Blue colour option alongside usual Black and White variants.

Display

The Honor 8 Pro comes with a 5.7″ 1440p IPS panel which is really sharp and vivid. The contrast ratio is also really good and despite the reflective display, the sunlight legibility is also very good thanks to the brightness and contrast levels. The increased resolution would typically take a toll on the battery life. We shall talk about that later in the review.

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The glass has 2.5D curved effect at the edges which feels good to use and swipe across. It is Corning Gorilla Glass 3 which is our experience does a good job to keep scratches at bay and is strong to a certain extent as well. However, we’d still recommend throwing on a screen protector; preferably a tempered glass protector to keep scratches at bay and reduce chances of any breakage.

There is an LED notification light above the display and users can also adjust the colour temperature of the display from the settings to make it warmer or cooler based on their preference. Users can choose to toggle the notification light on/off and also make use of the eye comfort mode to reduce the amount of blue light emitted by the display. As a result, the display will seem yellowish but as studies have shown, blue light is known to be one of the reasons for people not being able to sleep at night and this should mitigate it to a certain extent.

Fingerprint Scanner

Just like the Honor 8, the Honor 8 pro features a rear mounted fingerprint sensor. However this time around, it isn’t clickable and as a result, you don’t get the extra customizable actions for single click, double click or press and hold.

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Luckily, you still get the same level of accuracy and a really fast always active fingerprint sensor which means that you can unlock the device directly by placing your registered finger on the sensor even when the device is sleeping as opposed to having to wake the device up first then unlock it. You also get gestures on the fingerprint sensor which allow you to toggle the notification drawer by swiping up/down as well as browsing through photos by swiping along the sensor.

Users can register upto 5 fingerprints on the sensor and the fingerprint sensor is quite accurate. Instances of failed recognition were very limited and most often involved a wet or sweaty finger or sensor. Even in such instances, the sensor does a good job at recognition unless it is that sweaty or wet. It also works in 360 degrees which means regardless of how your finger is positioned on the sensor, it will still get detected.

Calls and Messaging

Honor 8 Pro has good call quality both over the earpiece and loudspeaker. Loudness too is pretty good over the earpiece but the weak loudspeaker from its smaller sibling is carried over. It is stronger than the former but still isn’t as loud as we would like.

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There is a large dialpad that is easy to use and the built in keyboard is Swype which has an easy to use layout and is smooth. It supports tracing, themes and gestures as well. You can also choose to download and use a 3rd party keyboard from the Play Store if it doesn’t suit you.

Software and UI

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The Honor 8 Pro comes with Android 7.0 Nougat with EMUI 5.1 on top. EMUI lacks an app drawer but users can arrange the apps on their homescreen as per their preference and also group them into folders. There is a simple UI mode as well for those who are not quite tech savvy and those who are visually impaired.

The new Nougat based EMUI brings in some knuckle gestures such as split screen multi-tasking, a better Doe mode and better battery saving methods. EMUI is perhaps one of the best when it comes to customization and EMUI 5.1 only takes it a step further.

Users can choose whether or not to display the battery percentage and whether they want to have it in the battery logo or next to it. You can also enable displaying the carrier name as well. The recent apps screen has a 2D layout which can be used to jump from one app to the other or clear apps individuals or close all at once by pressing the recycle bin icon. There are two tools that can be used for people who have difficulty in accessing the large screen that’s to the mini screen view and the shifting keyboard. Users can enable a mode that will prevent accidental touches and in case you want to use gloves, you can turn gloves mode on as well. Motion control allows several different ways to use your phones features. There is a flip to mute, pick up to reduce volume, tilt to move icons as well as a raiser to switch to earpiece feature that is especially useful when you are driving. If you phone is connected to the handsfree, you can take the call and automatically switch to the phone’s earpiece by just placing it on your ear.

There is a screen on gesture mode which can be used to launch certain apps by drawing letters with your knuckles. Additionally, you can take screenshot by double tapping the screen with your knuckle. There is a scroll capture feature too that can either be activated after you capture the screenshot or drawing the letter S with your knucles. Lastly, you can even select a portion of the screen that needs to be captured using your knuckle. The on-screen navigation keys can be customized to your liking in terms of layout. You can swap positions of the recent apps and return key as well as add an open notification button. Lastly, there is an optional floating dock that can be expanded to reveal the recent app, return, home key as well as a screen lock and one touch optimization shortcut. You can drag the dock and place it in any corner of the screen too.

Storage, Connectivity and Performance

We have the UK (International) variant of the Honor 8 Pro which is equipped with a Hybrid Dual SIM card slot along with 64GB of internal memory. While the internal memory should be the same on the Indian variant as well, there is a slight chance that Honor would introduce it as a single SIM device with a dedicated microSD card slot here.

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The Honor 8 too came with a Hybrid DualSIM slot in the international variant but India shockingly only got a single SIM variant. The market wants and needs a DualSIM so fingers crossed, we don’t get a single SIM version of the Honor 8 Pro at least.

The device comes with dual-band WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, USB Type-C port with OTG functionality, IR blaster, NFC and Bluetooth 4.2.

The Honor 8 Pro gets the updated Kirin 960 chipset with Mali-G71 MP8 GPU. Performance is butter smooth and the device handles multi-tasking as well as gaming with ease. The device also does a good job at staying relatively cool even when under heavy tasks. There is 6GB of RAM on board as well which explains why the device is great at multi-tasking fluidly. Apparently, there is a 4GB RAM variant also but we haven’t gotten confirmation on the same and the official specs sheet we received also didn’t indicate the same. We shall update you once we get clarification on the same.

Camera

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Starting with the specifications, the rear camera setup is exactly identical to the one found on the smaller sibling. Users get a dual camera system that comprises of One RGB sensor and another Monochrome sensor.  The Leica branding that is present on the P series and Mate series smartphones from Huawei is missing here and so are some of the software tweaks from Leica as well. However, you still get the “magic” that the dual camera system is capable of delivering.

Both the lenses have 12 Megapixels of resolution and work in unison to produce images that are more detailed and with higher dynamic range than most smartphones are capable of producing. The RGB sensor takes in all the colour information while the Monochrome sensor manages to extract the details from the shadows as well as highlights. The Monochrome sensor is able to capture 3 times the amount of light that a typical RGB sensor can. This especially makes sense when you consider the fact that the aperture is f2.2 on both the lenses.

Image quality wise, there is practically no tangible difference between the Honor 8 and the 8 Pro. After all the hardware is identical and we don’t see any difference coming in terms of processing either. Perhaps the main improvement is the shutter lag or the lack of it to be more precise. Sometimes the Honor 8 did take a moment or two to capture the shot and process it but it is much faster on the 8 Pro. We guess the newer and faster processor as well as added RAM is to be given credit here.

The colours are beautiful, there is plenty of detail resolved and the dynamic range is great even without having to enable the HDR mode. HDR mode only takes it a bit further but it doesn’t drastically change the image. The HDR mode is still pretty much natural looking and avoids going the over-saturated path that some smartphone makers prefer. Focusing is pretty quick too but there were the usual hit and miss situations when shooting objects up close. The Honor 8 surprisingly didn’t have a dedicated Monochrome mode that could make use of the Monochrome sensor to the full extent like with Huawei flagship phones. Luckily, Honor have included that on this one and the results are great. Its not just a black and white photo but instead you get a monochrome photo with much better detailing, contrast and sharpness.

You also still have the depth of field effects which are about as realistic as we’ve seen on any smartphone apart from the iPhone 7 Plus itself. Then again, the effect on the iPhone is only increased due to the focal length of the lens itself. Achieving such results with a wider angle lens is still a great thing from Honor. You can mimic the DoF effect from f16 all the way to f0.95 which is a throwback to the famed Noctilux lens from Leica with a similar maximum aperture. Apart from this, users get the usual HDR, panorama, time lapse, food, night shot and beauty modes. You could also go full professional and choose to get the best out of your shot using the manual mode. Luckily, the 8 Pro also provides RAW capture in Manual mode which was missing on the Honor 8.

Compared to the P9 and Honor 8 which had only 1080p video capture, the Honor 8 Pro has 4K video capture at 30fps which would’ve been an awful miss considering that its 2017 and practically every decent smartphone has the feature. Videos recorded are good in terms of resolution but the detail resolved is still not that great. The shots are still shaky and are often over-exposed too. The Honor 8 Pro as a result is more of a still camera than a video camera.

 

The front facing camera is now with a brighter f2.0 lens but with the same 8 Megapixels of resolution. Photos are really well detailed and you can capture good looking selfies in both good as well as bad lighting conditions.

Music

The music player on the Honor 8 is pretty beautiful visually. It has a dynamic colour palette that changes based on your album art. Music can be sorted according to the song title, artist, album, folder etc. The now playing screen can display the album art, lyrics and also quick access to the various tracks. You also have the usual track controls, shuffle/repeat and favorite options.

The output through the loudspeaker is decent but is a mono experience and we would’ve preferred a stereo speaker setup. The output through the 3.5mm audio jack on the other hand is really loud and offers good quality output. It has a decent dynamic range especially on the lower end but again isn’t the best in class.

Battery Life

A large 5.7″ screen with 1440p resolution would often mean poor battery life. Luckily, Honor has done well and equipped a sizable 4000 mAh battery under the hood and have also optimized the battery consumption. The end result is a phone that will get even heavy users through a complete day of use and then some more. It isn’t an endurance champion but is miles ahead of most of the other smartphones in this price range. Additionally, the device also supports fast charging but you need to use the charger that it is bundled with to make use of the full speeds.

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Conclusion

Honor essentially took the Honor 8 as a base, enlarged it and fixed some of the flaws and shortcomings to create the Honor 8 Pro. The Honor 8 itself is a great phone and the 8 Pro is even better. The lack of 4K recording, the slippery design, battery life and many other aspects have been addressed. The audio department could still use some improvement but nonetheless, it seems to offer more value for money than the Honor 8 did. However, that precisely was the problem of the Honor 8, at least in India where it was priced much higher than it should’ve been.

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Even with the design and few other USPs such as the dual camera system, many people were thrown off by the price and even the single SIM only option. The 8 Pro has an even better chance of doing well but price is still a major concern. The smartphone costs 474.99 GBP in the UK and 549 Euros in Europe, both of which translates to roughly around Rs 38,000 and US$ 590. Unless Honor price the device closer to 30k, it will be difficult to perform well considering competition from the likes of OnePlus.

Pros

  • Amazing Build Quality and Attractive Design
  • Fast and Responsive Fingerprint Scanner
  • Good Battery Life
  • Gorgeous Display
  • Good Camera Quality
  • Fluid Performance

Cons

  • Weak Loudspeaker
  • Audio Quality Isn’t that Great
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Author: Sandeep Sarma

Sandeep Sarma is a blogger and a freelance photographer. Apart from gadgets and phones, he also has a passion for movies and cars. He currently uses the S7 Edge as his main phone. Catch him on twitter at @sandeep9sarma