Good smartphones are getting cheap. You can snag near flagship-level Android device for less than half what the best of the best cost, especially if you’re willing to buy an unfamiliar brand from outside the carriers.
Case in point, the Honor 8, a 5.2-inch Android handset from Huawei’s house brand with specs that slot somewhere between Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S7, and a price tag that falls below both.
The Honor 8 has more going for it than a reasonable price, it also has premium features, including a dual-camera setup that enables nifty photo tricks, like true monochrome photography and shifting focus fields.
The Honor 8 has an all-glass build that is heavily reminiscent of Samsung’s recent releases. It feels and looks like a well-built device, though it’s slick to the touch and a fingerprint magnet. Its 5.2-inch display means it’s about as small as Android smartphone get these days, aided it by its buttonless design and thin bezels.
It sports a Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080), resulting in about 420 pixels per inch. That’s a notch below the best of the best, which top out at 500+ PPI, but it’s more than enough for everyday use. You’ll be hard pressed to tell the difference between FHD and QHD at this size for any use other than VR. Besides, lower resolution is better for battery life.
Huawei’s quick-as-a-whistle fingerprint sensor sits centered on the back panel, and it’s one of the best on devices. In our brief time with the Honor 8, it proved reliable and consistent; certainly better than any other Android device on the market (but not the iPhone, that still has the best).
Huawei also added the ability to quick launch up to three apps or shortcuts by doubling the fingerprint sensor with a button. Tap, double tap, and tap and press to open the camera, turn on the flashlight, open Gmail, or anything else. We like it here at NotebookReview; we’re a sucker for quick access to useful apps (especially the flashlight).
The novel and bizarre knuckle gestures also return from the Huawei Mate 8. Taps snag screenshots or record the display, while drawing a C can launch the camera app, and more.
Also on board is Android 6.0 with Huawei’s eMUI skin. Huawei applied some heavy tweaks here, giving Android and the app icons an iOS aesthetic. We liked it on the Huawei Mate 8 enough to keep it on there, but those pining for a purer Android experience can always install Google Now launcher.
The Huawei dual cameras first popped up on the P9 flagship, and returns on the Honor 8, but without the high-end Lecia lens branding. The 12-megapixel rear shooter has two image sensors, one capturing colors and the other monochrome. Huawei claims the images combine to form richer pics, with greater focus control for depth of field.
The Honor 8 can also take true black-and-white photos with superior contrast, not just color photos with a filter applied. Our initial sample shots are very pleasing, and we look forward to testing the Honor 8 camera more in our full review.
Other Honor 8 specs include an octo-core Kirin 950 processor (Huawei’s own), 4GB RAM, 32GB or 64GB capacity with microSD expansion, USB Type-C, 3000mAh battery with fast charge, 8-megapixel front shooter, NFC, and an IR blaster.
That’s a great haul. The 4GB RAM is impressive, considering the P9 has 3GB. We also like seeing USB Type-C on a phone in this class. The IR blaster is also a nice touch, considering Samsung ditched it on its most recent devices.
Price & Availability
The Honor 8 will be available for preorder on August 17 for $400 (32GB) or $450 (64GB). Preorders run until September 3, with Huawei offering up a $50 gift card for those that make the effort. It will be available from Honor, Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg, and B&H, in sapphire blue, pearl white, and midnight black. Blue is a Best Buy exclusive through October.
On paper this is a great smartphone at a good price. The Honor 5X impressed us with the same combination of price, build, and performance earlier this year, and Honor stepped things up for the 8, adding premium features. We look forward to testing its limits with a full review in the coming weeks.