Huawei Honor 8 Pro review: The true flagship killer, better than Oneplus 5? Is it worth the price?

Last year’s Honor 8 brought with it impressive specs, a premium design and great cameras. What let the device down though was bloated software and the relatively high price (for what it offered). The Honor 8 Pro is the successor to the Honor 8 and is quite a comprehensive update – much more than what its Pro moniker indicates. In fact, Huawei could easily have named this device the Honor 9 and got away with it.

The Honor 8 Pro has an all-new design which has much more in common with the Huawei P10 than its predecessor, updated internals, a much better display and streamlined software. On paper – the smartphone looks like a complete all rounder – Huawei has stuffed as many features as they could in the 5.7-inch monolithic slab. But in doing so, has the company made the phone too complicated? Or is the Honor 8 Pro the best smartphone under Rs 30,000? Should the OnePlus 5 be worried? Let’s find out:

Subtle and classy design [Huawei Honor 8 Pro review]

 

Subtle and classy – those are the two words that best describe the design of the Honor 8 Pro. Yes, the smartphone does slightly resemble a certain smartphone from a company named after a fruit (read Apple). However, when it comes to design originality, there is a certain other phone which fares much worse (cough, OnePlus 5, cough) than the Honor 8 Pro.

The design is very subtle and premium and the matte metal back makes it look more classy than the Honor 8. The sides are curved and the smartphone has a screen to body ratio of 79 per cent. Frankly, I was a bit taken aback by how restrained the Honor 8 Pro’s design is — companies these days have a tendency to garnish their smartphones with tacky and gaudy finishes in a bid to stand out from the crowd. Kudos to Huawei for not going down that rabbit hole.

Despite the fact that the Honor 8 Pro comes with a huge 5.7-inch display with substantial top and bottom bezels (no bezel-less magic here), the smartphone is actually quite easy to hold in one hand. This is partly due to the fact that the smartphone is extremely slim – less than 7 mm. And the best part is that despite the slim chassis, the smartphone comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack and a substantial 4,000mAh battery.

There is an antenna line running across the top and bottom and the back is extremely prone to smudges. I spent a huge deal of my eight days using the smartphone just cleaning it. The build quality is top-notch – the buttons have a very sturdy and premium feel and the Honor 8 Pro feels like it can withstand a drop or two.

Design wise, the only negative can be the dual camera setup at the rear top right corner – it looks like an afterthought and does not flow well with the rest of the Honor 8 Pro. Also I do not like the fact that Huawei has included a hybrid SIM card slot with the smartphone. The single speaker on board is also a bit disappointing – it is tinny and shrill.

All in all, I am impressed with the design direction Huawei has taken with the Honor 8 Pro. In a day and age of smartphones becoming more and more shiny and gaudy, the Honor 8 Pro’s design is sleek, suave and classy, especially in our review unit’s midnight black color. There is also a navy blue color option on offer.

Display: Pixel perfect [Huawei Honor 8 Pro review]

The Honor 8 came with a 5.2-inch FullHD display. In the Honor 8 Pro, Huawei has not only improved the resolution to Quad HD but has also bumped the display size all the way up to 5.7 inches.

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The Honor 8 already came with a great display – it had excellent colours and great viewing angles. The Honor 8 Pro takes those positives and adds the pixel perfect brilliance of Quad HD resolution into the mix. A Quad HD display at this price point is a big win for the Honor 8 Pro considering the fact that the OnePlus 5 still makes do with a 1080p panel and so does the Xiaomi Mi 6.

Those pixels may not matter in day to day use, but in certain use case scenarios such as VR, they make a world of difference. In fact, the box of the Honor 8 Pro turns into a makeshift VR headset. Even while viewing 2K videos in apps like YouTube, those extra pixels add to the experience in small but significant ways.

In a day and age of smartphones becoming more and more shiny and gaudy, the Honor 8 Pro’s design is sleek, suave and classy, especially in the midnight black color

The only negative with the display is that the maximum brightness is a bit lacking. I struggled to see the screen at times in Delhi’s blazing sun. There is a blue light filter on board as well which can be programmed to run at a scheduled time.

Stellar performance [Huawei Honor 8 Pro review]

A few years ago, OnePlus successfully coined the controversial term flagship killer with their first smartphone OnePlus 1. Borrowing the phrase, I can say that the Honor 8 is surely a flagship killer when it comes to the hardware inside. The smartphone is powered by Huawei’s own HiSilicon Kirin 960 processor clocked at 2.36GHz.

This is the same processor found in Huawei’s flagship smartphones such as the Huawei P10 and Mate 9 and is the company’s top of the line chipset. The processor is paired with 6GB of RAM and the Mali G71 GPU. There is a sizeable 128GB of internal storage on board which can be expanded via a microSD card (of up to 128GB).

Even though the Kirin 960 is a few months old, it is one of the most powerful smartphone chipsets out there. The only slight chink in the Honor 8 Pro’s armour is the Mali G71 GPU, which while a worthy contender, is not as powerful as its Adreno counterparts found in other handsets running Qualcomm chipsets.

How well does all that power translate in real life?

The power under the hood of the Honor 8 Pro translates really well into real life. Under most circumstances, the smartphone is fast, snappy and fluid.

The day to performance of the smartphone frankly took me by surprise. Having had reviewed Huawei phones in the past, I was expecting good performance but with the occasional lag and stutter. What I was not expecting was an almost (not quite) stock Android like butter smooth experience.

Most apps open instantly, scrolling through home screens is an extremely smooth affair and animations are not intrusive. Yes, there are instances of delays when you push the phone – like when you download many applications at once or open a gazillion tabs in Chrome – but otherwise the experience is seamless. Huawei deserves credit for what they have done here.

Gaming is a pleasant experience as well and the smartphone handled almost everything I threw at it – from intensive titles like Asphalt 8 to casual games like Subway Surfers. The 5.7-inch Quad HD display with its vivid colours also helps games look very immersive which is best experienced in visually dense games like Leo’s Fortune.

Software: Machine learning makes EMUI fast

The great real-world performance is not just a result of the internals – the company has worked hard to streamline the software. The company claims that 90 percent of the core interactions of the device can only be achieved in three steps in EMUI 5.1. Additionally, they also promise that the Honor 8 Pro will remain lag free for 500 days.

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Most of the updates in EMUI5.1 are under the hood and are performance related — improved mis-touch detection, a new algorithm for recycling and freeing RAM faster called Ultra Memory and a new algorithm for faster touch response called Ultra Response which lowers touch latency and supports predictive finger tracking.

The big feature however is machine learning. Huawei claims the Honor 8 Pro uses advanced machine learning to track and predict which apps you use the most. The smartphone then allocates CPU, GPU and I/O resources to those apps in order to make them more responsive.

There is now the option to add an app drawer (it is not enabled by default) and the notification centre, quick toggles and settings look and work a lot like stock Android. The design ethos is also a little toned down though there are still a few loud colors here and there. The problem is that even though EMUI 5.1 is very fast, it is still quite bloated and full of unnecessary features.

All in all, even though the bokeh effect is a bit gimmicky, the cameras of the Honor 8 Pro are arguably the best in class

There are way too many features on board– so many so that the average user will get thoroughly confused. The fingerprint reader can be used to bring down the notification shade, you can lock certain apps, there are various gestures that are initiated with your knuckles, there are flip gestures, there’s a floating dock, there’s the ability to run multiple instances of a single application and much more. The list just goes on and on. Most of these are not even very useful. The good part is that none of these get in the way and can be completely ignored if one wishes to.

Battery life [Huawei Honor 8 Pro review]

The Honor 8 Pro comes with a 4,000mAh battery with fast charge support that delivers pretty impressive battery life. In the 8 days I used the smartphone as my daily driver, not once did the smartphone run out on me before I plugged it in at night. In fact, the smartphone regularly had around 40 per cent of charge left by the end of the day – that too after pretty intensive use.

Moderate use might even fetch you 1.5 days to even 2 of use from a single charge. However one thing I did notice was that the while the smartphone excels when it comes to overall battery, the screen on time wasn’t that particularly impressive, which boils down to the power sucking QuadHD display. However, there is a mode which lowers the screen resolution as required in order to save battery life which you can toggle under settings.

Impressive cameras [Huawei Honor 8 Pro review]

On the imaging front, the Honor 8 Pro features dual cameras at the rear. There is a primary 12MP RGB (color) sensor mated to a 12MP monochrome (color) sensor. Both have an aperture of f/2.2. The rear camera also comes with a dual – LED flash. On the front, there is an 8MP camera with an aperture of f/2.0 for selfies.

How Huawei’s dual camera setup works is a bit different than the implementation found on the OnePlus 5 and the iPhone 7 Plus – the monochrome sensor captures a lot of data, which then is used to process images so that they have better details, especially in low light.

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Images shot with the smartphone’s rear dual camera setup are crisp, vivid, well exposed and capable of giving more expensive smartphones a run for their money. Images shot in moderate to well lit conditions have a lot of detail and have impressive dynamic range. The noise levels are adequate and colors are natural.

The on-board phase detection and laser auto-focus is also very fast and precise, although it does have the propensity to blow out images sometimes when touch to focus is used. In low-light as well, the Honor 8 performs quite well. Although there is some level of noise, the images are surprisingly good. They are detailed and crisp, with natural colors and overall are better than a lot of smartphones out there.

As mentioned above, the Honor 8 Pro’s secondary camera is a monochrome sensor which can be used to take some striking black and white shots. In low-light, the monochrome images are not as good as on the Huawei P9 but they are great nonetheless. It is in well lit conditions though where the monochrome sensor shines – contrast, detail and dynamic range is excellent and you can take some truly artistic shots.

The Honor 8 Pro’s dual camera setup can also be used to take bokeh shots or images with depth of field effects. With the aperture between 16 and 3.5, the resultant images are perfectly usable and have a nice, if a tad artificial depth of field effect. At the highest setting — 0.95 – though, the bokeh effect looks way too artificial and the images looks photoshopped. On the positive side, there is no lag at all while shooting images in this mode.

The front camera is also pretty good and captures sharp images with a decent amount of detail in well-lit situations. In low light as well, images are crisp, albeit with a little bit of noise. All in all, even though the bokeh effect is a bit gimmicky, the cameras of the Honor 8 Pro are arguably the best in class.

Should you buy Honor 8 Pro [HuaweiHonor 8 Pro review]

The Honor 8 Pro is an accomplished all-rounder — it has a great high-resolution display, mighty impressive cameras, top of the line internals, snappy performance, classy looks and impressive battery life. At Rs 29,999, the smartphone poses a very real threat to the OnePlus 5 and is very easy to recommend to anyone who wants an extremely proficient smartphone but does not want to spend flagship level money.

There are a few areas where the smartphone disappoints. Stereo speakers are missing, the software is crammed full of many unnecessary features and the back is very easy to smudge. The bokeh effect is also a bit gimmicky. These are not deal-breakers though by any stretch of the imagination and the Honor 8 Pro overall is a homerun by Huawei. The company has surely hit this one out of the park.

Our Honor 8 Pro rating:- 8.5/10

  • Good stuff
  • Impressive cameras
  • Good performance, battery life
  • Classy design
  • Vibrant display
  • Bad stuff
  • Bokeh effect is gimmicky
  • Software too cluttered
  • Back smudges very easily

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