After a good stint with the Honor 8 Pro, it remains a promising device. It represents the brand moving even closer in look and price to big bro Huawei, but it is a decent option. However without contract options in the UK at this time, you’ll have to plump for SIM free, and at just under £500 you might be tempted to look at the OnePlus 3T or even go for a more expensive, better phone on contract. And even though they cost more, the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus hardware is better designed.
Honor is slowly making a name for itself as an affordable smartphone brand. If you haven’t heard of them, perhaps you’ve heard of Huawei?
Honor is technically a start up, but it exists as part of Huawei, the huge telecoms brand that has itself moved successfully into the smartphone business in recent years. The Honor 8 Pro is the latest phone to use Huawei hardware and software under Honor’s cheaper branding.
Does this make it inferior? What is clear from the off is that this is a change of gear for Honor; the 8 Pro is the highest spec phone its ever released, and it’s incredibly fast and powerful. It’s just that it doesn’t quite feel any more than the sum of its parts.
UK price and availability
The Honor 8 Pro is available for pre-order in gold, black and blue from Honor’s official European online store, vMall. Its RRP is £474.99, which is pretty good for the specs but represents Honor’s quiet shift into the high-end.
In the box is the phone, USB-C Quick Charger and not much else. Except that the box transforms into a clever VR headset, similar to Google Cardboard.
The Honor 8 from last year is available for £319.90
Design and build
This is hands down the most premium Honor phone ever and is actually the European version of the Chinese released Honor V9.
It trumps a fair few Huawei phones too. Rather than opt for the Honor 8’s glossy rear panel, it uses brushed aluminium that is way more fingerprint-friendly (i.e., you wont really see them).
The generous 5.7in display sits in a relatively slim bezeled device, but it’s pretty hard to use one handed. I’ve got small hands, but compared to the slimness (and same screen sized) LG G6, it feels oddly antiquated.
That isn’t a slight on this phone specifically, it’s more indicative the malaise of the last few years of smartphone design, and now that we have the G6 and Galaxy S8, other still-excellent phones simply look less enticing.
Having said that the 8 Pro is a smooth operator, with a static rear mounted fingerprint sensor, subtle aerial lines and a USB-C port on the bottom next to the mono speaker and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The right side has the standard volume rocker and power/ lock key.
There’s also a dual SIM slot on the left edge that you can alternatively use one SIM and a microSD card with.
My review unit of the 8 Pro is a tasteful navy blue – better, I think, than Google’s incredibly blue Pixel. The front is Gorilla Glass 3, and in a smart touch there is aluminium reinforced glass covering the rear facing dual cameras.
These cameras pleasingly sit flush with the slim body of the device, great to see on a phone approaching high-end. But what is high-end? Is it price or specs, or both?
Extra detailing on the 8 Pro such as the textured power button and diamond cut bezels show an attention paid to design that is often lacking in Honor phones (and a fair few others in general).
The phone feels quite like an iPhone 7 Plus in the hand, despite its screen being larger that that phone’s. The 8 Pro is fairly weighty, and I often reverted to doing everything on it with both hands.
The 8 Pro is one of those phones you pick up and immediately know if it’s your bag or not. For me, it’s a shade too big, but if you like phablets and excellent build quality (with a splash of blue) it’s every bit as premium as a Huawei flagship like the P10 Plus. This is impressive, but begs the question as to why Huawei is making Honor phones with the same specs and build quality as its own flagships but at a cheaper price.
Hardware, features and specs
The specs themselves are impressive. The marketing says the Honor 8 Pro is ‘born for speed’. It’s corny, but it’s not far from the truth. Here are the details on everything.
It is a surprise that the 8 Pro has the high-end Huawei Kirin 960 processor, the same one found on the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus. Those phones are more expensive, but with the same chipset in the 8 Pro, it really can compete with those phones, commercially and technically, and all at a lower price point.
Storage and RAM
It’s available with 64GB storage but is expandable to 256GB via microSD, or you can opt for dual SIM. Like the OnePlus 3T it has 6GB RAM, which is still a bit nuts, but paired with the Kirin 960 processor gave us insanely high benchmark results.
The 8 Pro knocked out a ridiculously high score in the Geekbench 4 single and multicore tests. At the time of writing, it was the highest score we’ve ever seen on the platform, and that is impressive for a £475 phone. Almost (almost) unbelievably so. See below how it holds its own against the very best on the market.
Display and dimensions
The phone measures 157 x 77.5 x 7 mm, amazingly thin for a phone with a large 5.7in quad HD display and resolution of 2560×1440. It’s the first Honor phone in the UK to have a quad HD screen, and it looks good – but put it next to the Huawei P10 with brightness on a white screen turned up and it looks a tad grey and duller.
Games, battery benchmark test videos, Netflix and more all look pretty great on the display, and only the pickiest of consumers will have qualms with it. Honor’s colourful software choice in the default wallpapers and icons do it justice, and as long as they’re your thing too, you won’t mind.
The display over saturates colours, but this is by design. It’s kept more resilient with the use of Gorilla Glass 3.
It’s good to see a dual camera set up on the Honor 8 Pro in a year where the LG G6 is reminding me why it’s such a good idea. The latter’s has an excellent wide-angle mode, and while that is lacking on the 8 Pro, there are some benefits to be had with f/2.2 aperture.
The dual lenses mean you can choose to shoot in wide aperture, cleverly taking images on three planes of vision to digitally render the best possible exposure from your snaps. The level of detail on landscapes and macro shots was pleasing as you can see here.
The cameras also mean zoom quality is top notch. A neat addition is ‘Ultra snapshot’, which takes a picture with double press of the volume down key when the phone is locked. It’s a good idea, but results are generally a tad burred despite the lenses supposedly being able to quickly focus on the intended subject.
The 8 Pro at full zoom
The 8 Pro can also shoot video at 1080p at 60fps, which is to be expected these days, and results were as expected. The 8Mp front facing camera is a standard affair, but will serve every purpose you throw at it from sleefies to Skype.
And yes, Huawei’s weird beauty mode is still here to take all the detail away from your face. Get it right though, and it can produce a decent bokeh effect.
Connectivity and extras
The stand out extra on the 8 Pro is actually the box it comes in. Honor has cleverly turned it into a VR headset much like Google Cardboard, and it’s pretty good. Sliding the viewfinder out the box, adding lenses to the eye holes and putting the phone in it is an immediate VR experience, and works well with the included Jaunt VR app.
Other apps are downloadable and it’s good to see Honor pushing VR to consumers for free. This is the only surprise, and are joined by USB-C, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC and everything you’d expect to find on a phone just shy of £500.
The 8 Pro runs Android Nougat 7.0 with the EMUI 5.1 skin. 5.1 is less intrusive and more refined than the EMUI of old, but it still remains a level below the experience to be had on Samsung’s TouchWiz or OnePlus’ OxygenOS (and stock Android, of course). It’s not unattractive, but the sometimes-confusing menus and over elaboration make the phone feel a little limited, even when it isn’t; it’s still a bit on rails.
You can add an app tray rather than have iOS-like apps all over the homescreen and there are little touches which we noticed, like highlighting the first app beginning with the letter you just scrolled past when they’re ordered alphabetically with a little raise.
The EMUI apps for calendar, messaging and gallery (and more) are excellent though, pleasantly plain, clean cut and preferable to use, within the EMUI software, over the Google alternatives, which is something I can’t say for every high-end Android handset out there.
You get the usual bloat with Honor, but it’s easily ignored if you don’t want it (you don’t). The best additions are stuff I mentioned like the ultra snapshot mode, good processing of images taken with the dual lenses and the fact EMUI 5.1 is a vast improvement.
Honor 8 Pro: Specs
- Android Nougat 7.0 with EMUI 5.1
- 5.7in quad HD (2560×1440, 515ppi) touchscreen
- Octa-core Kirin 960 processor
- Mali-G71 MP8 GPU
- 6GB RAM
- 64GB storage expandable to 256GB with microSD
- Dual nano SIM compatible
- 12Mp dual cameras, f/2.2, LED flsh, support for video at 2160p @ 30fps
- 8Mp front facing camera
- 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.2
- 4G LTE
- 4,000mAh non-removable battery
- 157 x 77.5 x 7 mm