[Review] Honor 8 Pro – The Attractively Affordable Flagship

[Review] Honor 8 Pro – The Attractively Affordable Flagship

While the adage that good things don’t come cheap is oft bandied about and is usually true for tech, the Honor 8 Pro is one of the few smartphones that buck that trend as it comes with hardware at the forefront of the tech curve while still clocking in at a price tag that remains very reasonable for what it offers.

The Honor 8 Pro is the successor to the Honor 8 that was released sometime last year in Malaysia and maintains Honor’s design philosophy: cramming in as much performance as possible at as low a price point as feasible into a fetching chassis that can match any flagship phone in service. Also designated the Honor V9 in China, the Honor 8 Pro consists of a sound, well considered blend of improvements that enhance every aspect of its predecessor without cutting corners.


Externally, the Honor 8 Pro is larger, thicker and heavier than its predecessor at 184g though it is still comparably slim as most smartphones go at 7mm thin. The Honor 8 Pro puts this added weight and girth to good use with a larger, higher resolution 5.7-inch display and better hardware all around including a larger battery too.
Aesthetically speaking, the Honor 8 Pro takes a different tack from its predecessor. Eschewing the somewhat scratch prone high-gloss mirrored finish of the Honor 8, the Honor 8 Pro instead goes for a more practical and fingerprint resistant matte brushed aluminium finish that comes in two different colours for the Malaysia market – Midnight Black and Navy Blue. Our test unit came in the latter colour. The matte Navy Blue finish repels fingerprints nicely and the whole affair looks exceptionally premium with excellent tactility and a reassuringly even heft to it. Gently rounded edges on each corner make it easier to pocket while the sides are smoothly curved to meet the large 5.7-inch touchscreen.
The right side of the phone sports a power button and volume rocker while the left is bare except for a hybrid SIM card slot that can support up to two SIM cards or one card and an additional SIM card. The base of the phone has grilles for the mono speaker, a 3.5mm audio jack and a USB Type C port for charging duties. The top of the phone comes with an IR blaster that allows it to work an ersatz controller to control your TV, air conditioner, set top box or even as a remote shutter release for selected camera models; handy that.

Honor 8 Pro top view

The front of the Honor 8 Pro comes with side bezels that almost stretch from edge to edge to house the large 5.7-inch LCD though the top and bottom bezels are still stretched out to about half an inch from the edges with the bottom bezel sporting the Honor logo. Rather than a physical home button, Honor kept things neat by solely relying on virtual home, back and menu buttons on the display. The top bezel sports an 8-MP selfie camera along with a speaker for voice calls.


The rear of the phone has a layout that bears a resemblance to a certain phone hailing from Cupertino with the dual camera array located on the upper left of the casing. Two subtle antenna bands flank the top and bottom of the phone while a rounded fingerprint reader is positioned in the upper quadrant of the backplate.

Of note with the Honor 8 Pro is that it also ships with a pair of cardboard VR goggles that you can assemble out of the box on top of the usual impedimenta like a charger, cables and the like. The phone doesn’t break new ground in terms of design but the build quality is top notch and easily matches the Huawei P10 and many other flagship phones and at a cheaper price to boot.

Performance

The hardware available on the Honor 8 Pro is impressive and surpasses its predecessor, the Honor 8’s smaller 5.2-inch Full HD display. The display on the Honor 8 Pro is larger and crisper: you get a 5.7-inch 1,440 x 2,560 515ppi touchscreen display up front that offers crisp detail and great colours too with good visibility under sunlight though it veers a bit on the vibrant side of the spectrum. If needed, you can tinker around with the colour temperature for a cooler or more neutral spectrum using a colour wheel accessed via the menu settings. If needs must, you can also dial down the resolution too to save on juice via several power saving modes.

Added to this is a current-gen Huawei-issued Kirin 960 octacore processor; the very same one used on the flagship Huawei P10. The Kirin 960 pairs up  four 2.4GHz Cortex A73 cores with four 1.8GHz Cortex A53 cores. Added to this is a hefty 6GB of RAM along with 64GB of expandable storage for units issued for the Malaysia market. Running on the Honor 8 Pro is Android 7.0 Nougat along with their latest EMUI 5.1 that offers several significant performance refinements and software features seen on the P10 and the P10 Plus.

Getting about the phone is a doddle with EMUI 5.1 offering quite a bit of customisability akin to what you would experience on the P10. You’re able to tweak between a standard layout that tosses all your apps in the open or plonking what you want in a series of app drawers. EMUI 5.1 also offers other features seen on the P10 as well like the ability to implement a floating dock – a translucent ring that hovers on top of the display which allows for immediate access to a bunch of pre-defined shortcuts. The rear fingerprint reader is of note as it offered fast and accurate unlocking in seconds from multiple directions without errors when tested. The EMUI 5.1 user interface on the Honor 8 Pro also has a very useful App Twin feature that lets you use two identical copies of Facebook or Whatsapp on the same phone so you can use separate accounts simultaneously.

When subjected to benchmarks, the Honor 8 Pro served up a single core score of 1,869 and a multi-core score of 6,537 on Geekbench 4 which is quite an impressive feat, surpassing many of last year’s flagship phones by a smidgen on single core scores and by quite a margin in the multi-core comparison.

In 3D Mark’s Sling Shot Extreme which throws in an extensive pixel crunching workout, the phone yielded a very respectable score of 2,556. In Epic Citadel it yielded a smooth 60fps on Ultra High Quality settings at 2,368 x 1,440 pixel resolution. In Antutu Benchmark, the Honor 8 Pro served up a score of 146,103 which ekes out last year’s flagships by a slight margin.


This performance is borne out in practical field tests with the Honor 8 Pro tackling games and almost every task asked of it with deft aplomb on account of the generous 6GB RAM and Kirin 960 processor. Videos and movies were handled with nary a stutter while games ran in a silky smooth fashion with the likes of Asphalt 8 or Modern Combat 5 running at full tilt without chugging. Multiple open browser windows on Chrome were handled without issue as well.


Another interesting feature that the Honor 8 Pro touts is its ability to tackle VR experiences. It comes bundled with a VR headset out of the box complete with a set of lenses with the box acting as the housing. Once you slot the phone into headset, you can enjoy a host of on-the-rails VR experiences and gaming with the phone’s beefy Kirin 960 processor handling it without undue effort. Unfortunately you’ll have to hold the box to your bonce unless you jury rig up some means of attaching it to your head without constantly holding on to it but there’s little to quibble for something that’s free and the excellent lenses in the VR set and the Honor 8 Pro’s crisp display means that VR content, hand holding aside, make for a delightful experience. There’s a dearth of VR content at the moment but it’s likely to pick up in the coming months.

The one major quibble though is the middling speaker on the phone. Located on the base of the phone next to the USB Type C port, the mono speaker serves up a somewhat underwhelming sound stage. While it’s sufficiently loud for casual use, piped tunes lacked bass and aural oomph. Fortunately, it’s something easily dealt with by popping in a pair of headphones.

Camera

On the imaging front, the Honor 8 Pro sports a rear dual camera array, one of which takes shots in black and white and the other in colour with both coming with an F/2.2 aperture backed up by a dual-LED flash, phase detection and laser autofocus; this setup allows it to snag snaps in JPEG and RAW as well as videos in up to 4K resolution.



The cameras lack optical image stabilisation and the Leica branding prevalent on the P10 but are highly capable in their own right. The Honor 8 Pro uses the mono camera to acquire details in a shot, combining data from both cameras to create more pleasing and detailed images as well as achieving the oft desired blurred background defocus effect in shots with the option to tweak the aperture with anything from F/0.95 to F/16. The camera comes with a bevy of modes and filters as well including a slo-mo mode, a pro photo and even a pro video mode that offers quite a few creative options for those that know their way around the settings.

When taken for a spin around the block, the cameras on the Honor 8 Pro proved up to the task with the dual camera array serving up pretty good shots in both colour and black and white. Mono shots are excellent with scads of detail in daylight while colour shots served up decent amounts of detail and generally accurate colours. Low light shots are pretty decent as well with a steady hand.


One of the Honor 8 Pro’s primary features is the ability to digital dial in the depth of field effect with a live preview onscreen. This effect is usually spot on for the most part and serves up some pretty impressive shots though it does fudge the effect on rare occasions.

Captured videos are luscious and detailed at 4K but you will need a steady hand though if you shoot at Full HD you can take advantage of video stabilisation to some degree. In general, the Honor 8 Pro has a highly competent rear camera array that’s capable of getting you some very shareworthy shots.

Price & Conclusion
The Honor 8 Pro sports a non-removable 4,000mAh battery juiced via a Type C USB port and also supports quick charging via the supplied 9V/2A charger. On a full charge, the Honor 8 Pro was easily able to last over a day of heavy use with calls, data constantly on, web browsing, e-mails and a modest amount of gaming spread throughout the day as well as heavy use of social media with enough left for light usage though it needed juicing at dawn. On power saving mode, it has significantly better endurance as the screen resolution and other niceties like email auto-syncing are dialled down, eking out two plus days of modest use.

All said, the Honor 8 Pro brings a lot to the table. At RM1,999 you get an excellent display, superb hardware running the latest version of Android with their leading flagship user interface, a good rear dual camera array and very respectable battery life. All this is shoehorned into a premium casing with excellent build quality. If you’re looking for a high performing flagship that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, this is it.

What we liked Excellent battery life, superb display, good specs for price,decent rear dual camera, bundled VR headset
What we didn’t middling speakers, bundled VR headset not particularly sturdy, camera lacks OIS
We say Honor’s latest phone offers excellent endurance, nippy performance and a decent camera at just under RM2000, making it one of most value-packed phones in its price range

Specifications
Price RM1,999
Display 5.7-inch IPS LCD, 1,440 x 2,560 pixels, 515ppi
Processor HiSilicon Kirin 960 processor
OS Android 7.0 Nougat w/ EMUI 5.1
Memory 6GB RAM / 64GB storage + expandable memory
Camera Dual 12-MP camera w/ LED flash & F/2.2 aperture (rear) / 8-MP w/ f/2.0 (front)
Battery 4,000mAh
Size/Weight 157 x 77.5 x 7 mm/184g
*Review unit courtesy of Honor Malaysia

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