Honor 8 Pro Review – A Mid-Range Flagship

Being a sub-brand of Huawei, the brand Honor is usually perceived as a brand that sits at the lower end of the smartphone market, and it further confirms that after Huawei announced that it will pull its brand out of the lower end smartphone market. But, the latest Honor 8 Pro is nothing like a budget device. We’ve all seen and loved the regular Honor 8 when it was launched last year, and the Honor 8 Pro is supposed to take it to the next level as Honor’s flagship. So, with a price tag of RM1999, how does the Honor 8 Pro stack up as Honor’s flagship and one of Huawei’s higher-end smartphones?

Unboxing

Being the flagship in the Honor line-up, the packaging that came with the Honor 8 Pro makes a pretty good first impressions. The blue packaging that it comes with looks classy and elegant, and once the top cover is off, the phone is immediately presented on the top. The usual accessories can be expected – a USB wall adapter, a USB Type C cable, a pair of earphones, a SIM tray removal tool and some documentations. On top of that, Huawei also throws in a very basic VR casing with a pair of lenses to go with it.

Design

While the regular Honor 8 spots a design that we all like because it stands out, the pro version gets a more mature and slightly toned-down design. Gone are the Holo effect glass on the back which is what the Honor 8 is known for, and a metal unibody design is the only thing you’ll get with the Honor 8 Pro. Nevertheless, the overall design is pretty handsome too, and you can spot the Huawei’s usual design language here. As for dimensions, it is not too bad for a device with a 5.7-inch display, and even though it is wider than most other phones, the width of the device does not stop the phone from fitting comfortably in your hands, even though it may be difficult for some to use it single-handed. The only downside we had with this device is that its mature design translates to a rather boring design.

On the other hand, we give credit to their choice of materials, as they are premium and feels expensive in your hands. The front consists of a premium glass to not only give it a premium look, but also some rigidity. As per usual, all 4 corners are rounded off, which gives it a 2.5D elegant look. The rest of the body consist of an all metal unibody design, unlike the Honor 8 with its glass back. It is real metal, has a matte finish and feels really nice, and it held up pretty well during our review period. Considering its build quality, the 184-grams weight is acceptable.

Largely dominating the front is a 5.7-inch display, and to make it comfortable to hold, the bezels are pretty minimum, and does not introduce much accidental inputs. The usual array of setup is expected towards the top of the front panel, which includes an 8-megapixel front-facing camera, a couple of sensors and an earpiece. Interestingly enough, the LED notification light sits in the earpiece, and despite that, it is relatively easy to spot it. Like most Honor and Huawei devices, the Android controls are on-screen, so there’s nothing much to be seen except a Honor branding at the bottom.

The removable card tray is located on the left side, and in there spots 2 slots – a nanoSIM slot for a primary SIM card, and a secondary nanoSIM slot which doubles as a microSD storage expansion slot. Even though we are not a fond of this setup and have complained a lot of times, it seems that this is the route that most smartphone manufacturers decide to go.

The usual power and volume buttons are conveniently located on the right, with a different texture on the power button to distinguish itself between the buttons. The volume buttons requires a little effort to reach due to its height. Apart from the secondary microphone, Huawei also throws in an IR remote controller located on the top of the device. With the included Smart Controller app, you can control any electrical appliances which supports IR remotes, and there are lots of apps in the Play Store to enhance this further.

The usual array of ports are also at the bottom of the device, which includes a 3.5-mm external audio out port, a USB-C port for charging and various connectivity options and a mono speaker.

The back of the device is where we’re not really sure about the Honor 8 Pro. Gone are the holo glass effect that is found on the regular Honor 8, and instead it has been replaced by a regular metal unibody design, and accented by antenna lines running across the top and bottom part. The dual 12-megapixel sensors are located towards the top left, and in case you still don’t notice, it stated “dual-lens” just next to the sensors. Along with that, a dual-tone LED flash is also included. Below them is a fingerprint sensor which is also conveniently located. There’s nothing much going on at the back except for some Honor branding and some regulatory stuff located at the bottom.

Honor 8 Pro Exterior Photos

For our market, the Pearl White option is not available, which leaves us with a classy Midnight Black and Navy Blue, which is what our tester is in. It is the same colour as the regular Honor 8.

Specs and Performance

The Honor 8 Pro wouldn’t deserve the “Pro” badge had it not receive a bump in specs, and so it did. The Kirin 950 found in the Honor 8 has been replaced by the infamous Kirin 960, and yes, that’s the same unit that is found in the P10 Plus and Mate 9 Pro. It works the same here, with 4 primary cores topping at 2.4GHz and 4 lower powered cores at 1.8GHz, and unsurprisingly, it runs in 64-bit architecture. It is smart to distinguish between heavy and light tasks, and then sending the right cores to do the job efficiently. The Honor 8 Pro also benefits from 6GB of RAM.

We’ve seen this setup a few times before with previous Huawei devices and are impressed with it, and with the same formula, the Honor 8 Pro meets our expectations as well. Even though it’s price might suggest mid-range specs, it is impressive to see its specs not only on paper, but also in real life. It is able to handle anything that we’ve thrown at it well, and provides a silky smooth experience. It has no problem dealing with heavy tasks either, and while there are times you might run into slight hiccups, it’s definitely nothing major. Huawei is so proud of the performance that they collaborated with the famous mobile game Mobile Legends to show off the performance. The only major downside of this problem is heat, where the unibody design of the Honor 8 Pro heats up easily and is very noticeable under load. Too bad they do not include a case to reduce the heat that you might feel.

Using our standard benchmarking app, Geekbench 4 reveals pretty big numbers, with single-core score settles at 1864, and multi-core score sits at around 6767. Compared with the most recent Kirin 960 device that we’ve reviewed – the P10 Plus, the one found in the Honor 8 Pro performed even better, despite some thermal issues.

While the Honor 8 Pro has not been given the 128GB storage option like the flagships from Huawei, it still receives a modest 64GB of storage. It is a rather speedy storage, with sequential read and write speeds over 200MB/s. If that is not enough for you, you can also expand the storage with a microSD card, and the Honor 8 Pro will take cards up to 256GB. You do have to give up on dual-SIM functionality for that.

Unlike the Zenfone 3 Zoom, the Honor 8 Pro isn’t lack of the latest and greatest connectivity options. Dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi is standard, along with Bluetooth 4.2. As usual, dual-SIM and dual-standby functionality are included, and only the primary SIM card is able to make full use of the 4G connectivity.

The round fingerprint sensor that is located at the back of the device is pretty much the same as other Huawei or Honor devices. It does have a matte surface which improves the accuracy of the reader. It is able to recongise fingerprints easily, accurately and quickly. It also acts as a touchpad for added functionality, including swiping gestures and long-press gestures.

Display

The display department is also where Huawei bumped it up for the Honor 8 Pro. For starters, the screen size has been increased to 5.7-inch from the 5.2-inch found in the regular Honor 8. Compared to its competitions which usually settles at around 5.5-inches, we actually think 5.7-inch works better, and is much welcomed. Luckily, the screen resolution is much improved as well, and it now spots a 1440 X 2560 resolution, which is found on the P10 Plus as well. In this application the screen density is slightly lower at 515 pixels-per-inch, but you can still expect the display to be crisp and sharp with barely visible pixels.

Also contributing to the experience of the display is the LPTS IPS display, which is present in other recent Huawei devices, with the regular Honor 8 included. While it won’t blow you away with extremely vivid colours like the AMOLED counterparts will give you, the colours are still vivid and accurate, while keeping it natural. It could use some more peak brightness for use under sunlight, but it tops it off with good viewing angles.

As always, Huawei did not include too much software enhancements for the display as their setup is pretty spot on, but you do still get the ability to alter the colour temperature to your desired liking,

Speaker

Like most other Huawei devices, the Honor 8 Pro only utilizes Huawei’s standard mono speaker setup, which isn’t surprising since they usually kept their stereo speakers for the true flagships. Nevertheless, the performance is pretty much identical to the same as before. The bottom-firing speakers is quite loud, and is rather clear, even though it could use some more bass. But for a mono speaker, it excels pretty well.

Camera performance

The regular Honor 8 already has a rather good camera setup to start off with, and we are quite impressed with the final product that it produced. For the Pro model, Huawei thinks that it is not necessary to make any changes to its camera setup, and leave those changes for the next model. But right now, the same dual 12-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.2 setup remains, with the primary sensor being a regular RGB sensor, and the secondary sensor is a monochrome sensor which is responsible for capturing fine details, then letting the RGB sensor fills in the colour. The rest of the features are pretty much identical too, with laser autofocus and dual-tone LED flash. Variable aperture mode is also achievable with both sensors working together.

The camera setup might be from a previous generation Huawei device, long before their partnership with Leica, but the Honor 8 Pro excels rather well in the camera department. In fact, it is still pretty much one of the best in that price range, even though it is not advertised as the best photography device. Images produced have lots of details and have plenty of light, all courtesy of the monochrome sensor. Details are well preserved too, if the surrounding lighting is in favour of the sensor. The RGB sensor fills in the colours well, and while it may not be as vivid as its newer cousins, at least it is natural, and are pretty accurate. One advantage the Pro model had over the regular model is its ability to capture greyscale photos using only the monochrome sensor, and it is a huge improvement in greyscale photos.

Like the Honor 8, the Pro is still good at low-light photography. It is perfectly equipped to capture low-light images while preserving most of the details and have lots of light without needing to bump up the ISO up too much which leads to lots of noise. In some cases, it could use a pair of steady hands or a tripod, as the lack of Optical Image Stabilisation will cause blurriness when the shutter speed is increased. It is perfectly fine for most people in auto mode, but the pro mode is there for those who like to play with the settings.

Combining the use of both sensors and the laser autofocus feature, the Honor 8 Pro is still capable of software-simulated variable aperture effects. All abovementioned parts work together to determine the distance and shape of an object, creates a depth map and thus applying blur effects to the background of the object which makes it looks like it has been taken with a higher end professional camera. It works pretty well for most of the time, and does struggle a bit under low-lighting conditions. Apart from that, the effect looks real, even though it still can’t match any professional cameras when it comes to the bokeh effect.

Honor 8 Pro Samples

Another advantage the Pro model had over the regular Honor 8 is the ability to record 4K videos, and you can step down to the regular 1080p resolution in either 30 fps or 60 fps, and all the way down to MMS resolution. 4K videos are smooth enough, but it’s more expensive cousins could do the job better. But, what’s similar is that it is recorded using the H.265 codec, which might cause problems in some players or streaming sites, all for the sake of smaller file sizes. It still remains plenty of details, even though the colours are toned down a little. 1080p videos are pretty much the same with lesser details. Audios are recorded in stereo format, and is loud and clear.

The front-facing camera setup did receive some improvements on the Honor 8 Pro. While it is still a 8-megapixel sensor, it is now paired with a f/2.0 lens. While the colours are still considerably vivid yet natural, normal selfies are noticeably brighter. We are quite satisfied with the details as well, and is easy to get your face in focus without having to hold the device too near or far from your face. It does get noisy in low-light conditions, and could actually use a wider lens. A software-simulated beautification feature is also included, and works pretty much the same as before. Higher settings completely ruin the image, and is advisable to stay at the lower settings.

The camera app that came with the Honor 8 Pro is a slightly toned down version from the ones found in Huawei’s flagships. It looks a lot simple to use, with less clutter around the viewfinder. You’ll also lose out on some modes, but it is good enough for most users.

Software

The Honor 8 Pro comes with Huawei’s usual latest software setup – Android 7.0 Nougat with EMUI 5.1, which is Huawei’s own customization on top of Android. The usual drill here applies – you can expect good performance out of it, and it is packed with all the necessary features. It stands out among the rest with its sensible and functional design, and isn’t cluttered with bloatwares right out of the box. Combining that with its performance, you could get good experience from the Honor 8 Pro.

Battery

With great overall power, comes with great price, and luckily, Huawei has that covered too. The Honor 8 Pro receives a bump in battery capacity to 4000mAh to deal with its power. It is by far one of the largest capacity of any Huawei devices, even compared to the P10 Plus. Using our regular testing methodology, we usually ended up between 35% and 40% at the end of a busy day, which is impressive. It easily lasts over 24 hours with slightly less usage, and Huawei even claimed 48 hours of use on a single charge.

The Honor 8 Pro only supports basic version of fast charging, and can be achieved with the included USB wall charger, even though we’ve been getting rather similar results from a regular third-party USB brick that is capable to output similar power. It is capable to bring a completely empty battery to 35% in 30 minutes, and it takes less than 2 hours to fully charge it.

The Bottom Line

You can’t deny that the Honor 8 Pro actually packs lots of value. For RM1999, you are getting flagship-spec hardware with little compromises, which are acceptable. Most importantly, the overall experience is really welcoming, and if you are looking for a device that actually has some flagship performance but with a lower price, you can’t miss the Honor 8 Pro.

Recap:
5.7-inch LTPS IPS display, 1440 X 2560 resolution, 515 pixels-per-inch
HiSilicone Kirin 960, 4x 2.4GHz + 4x 1.8GHz Octa-core processor
6GB RAM, 64GB internal storage, microSD card support up to 256GB
12-megapixel RGB sensor + 12-megapixel monochrome sensor, up to 4K video recording
8-megapixel front-facing camera
4000mAh battery

Pros Cons
Flagship specs at reasonable price Metal body easily collect finger grease
Quick & accurate fingerprint reader Easily heats up under heavy load
Impressive image quality Came in a bit too late for our market
Display quality is acceptable Low-light video shooting can still be improved
Long battery life Mono speaker