Honor 8 2017 Review: After six months with the Honor 8, the flagship Honor smartphone from Chinese giant Huawei, we’re still quite besotted. Here’s our long-term 2017 review of the Honor 8, for anyone wondering whether to buy this lovable smartphone a few months after launch.
While the Honor mobile brand is best known for its wallet-friendly handsets, we saw the launch of a £400 Honor smartphone in September 2016. The Honor 8 was essentially a flagship phone, the handset that you’d shoot for if your bank balance allowed. A mobile offering the very best of the Honor brand. And if you saw our original Honor 8 review, you’ll see we quite liked it.
Since the Honor 8 launched, the phone has received a full update to Android Nougat. On top of that you can also get Huawei’s latest mobile software, known as Emotion UI 5.0 (or EMUI 5.0 for short) which adds even more cool features – a couple of which really help with the general usability.
So, six months after launch, is the Honor 8 still a solid mid-range mobile? And how does it compare with recent budget-friendly phones like the Lenovo P2 and Huawei P8 Lite 2017? Here’s our full Honor 8 re-review for 2017, for anyone looking to join the Honor party a little late.
Read next: Honor 8 or OnePlus? Which is best for me?
Honor 8 2017 review: Design
Since the launch of the Honor 8 we’ve seen a few other glossy handsets pass through the Recombu offices, proving that a shiny glass finish is fast replacing the matt plastic designs of yesteryear. For our buck that’s definitely a good thing too, even though those sleek surfaces are serious fingerprint magnets.
Truth be told, our dark blue Honor 8 model makes it difficult to see those greasy streaks, so it’s not really a problem. Best of all, that glass surface seems pretty hardy. Even after a few months of being slapped down on our desks and carried around in our bags, the phone hasn’t picked up any serious scratches or scuffs.
In a world suddenly dominated by 5.5-inch monsters, it’s great to use a phone that’s more compact and easy to use one-handed. Describing the 5.2-inch Honor 8 as ‘compact’ still seems a bit silly, but in comparison it really does feel quite slim and portable. Huawei has packed in plenty of great features to help you use the handset with one mitt too.
Around the back you’ll find a circular fingerprint sensor sunken into that glossy rear plate. It’s ridiculously fast to unlock your phone, popping up your desktops pretty much the moment you tap your finger to the surface. And as with other scanners, the only time we get an error is with dirty or damp digits.
Honor 8 2017 review: Screen and media
Since the Honor 8 came out, we’ve seen lots of mobile phones released with similar Full HD screens, for a lot less cash. For instance, the Lenovo P2, Huawei P8 Lite and Wileyfox Swift 2 X all boast a 1920×1080 pixel resolution, producing crisp and eye-pleasing visuals. The difference being that they cost around £200, while the Honor 8 costs well over £300 still.
Well, the Honor 8’s display may be no sharper than panels on budget handsets, but it’s still a step above. Compare the Honor 8 side-by-side with those cheaper phones and you’ll notice the more punchy colours on this device, with images appearing more vibrant and attractive. And when it comes to media chops, the Honor 8 holds up well against the likes of the OnePlus 3T, not to mention full-priced handsets like the Huawei Mate 9.
Got a big movie or music collection? No worries, as the 32GB of storage space can be expanded by a further 256GB via the microSD memory card slot. We’ve certainly not had any issues in running out of space in the past six months.
Honor 8 2017 review: Features and OS
The Honor 8 can now be updated to Android Nougat and EMUI 5.0, which in combination offer an impressive range of features. Usability is as strong as ever thankfully, giving you a neat layout and plenty of nifty shortcuts.
Read next: How to update your phone to Android Nougat
EMUI 5.0 finally gave us an apps tray, so you don’t need to store all of your apps on the desktops (messy messy). You can multi-task with apps side-by-side, tweak the look and feel of almost every part of the interface and use various gestures to interact with the handset.
Gestures including the often-maligned Knuckle Mode, which we still battle with occasionally. This involves dragging a knuckle across the screen in order to send a section of the display to the clipboard, or to split the display for dual app use. After a lot of practice, we can get it to work first time most of the time now. The trick is to tap quite hard before dragging, although it still doesn’t work one hundred percent of the time.
Still, the rest of EMUI 5.0 is absolutely lovely, including the excellent one-handed modes which shrink your apps for easier operation. You can even swipe a finger across the fingerprint sensor to drag down the notification bar and navigate through apps. The entire package has been very carefully considered and it’s seriously impressive.
Check out our EMUI 5.0 review for more info.
One rare feature you’ll find on the Honor 8, but not many other mobiles at all, is the built-in IR blaster on the top edge. This can be used to control your TV or other IR-supporting devices, although admittedly these days there’s generally an app for that.
Honor 8 2017 review: Performance and battery life
A Kirin 950 processor backed by 4GB of RAM is packed inside the Honor 8, which offers smooth everyday performance even after all these months and updates. You’ll rarely be left twiddling your thumbs when flipping between apps and the latest games still play with a solid frame rate.
In fact, after running the AnTuTu benchmarking software, the Honor 8 appears to have improved with age – possibly down to more memory-efficient software. The phone originally scored 93.6k in the test, but a fresh run spunked out a score of 97.5k.
That’s not as good as some similarly priced rivals in 2017, sadly. The OnePlus 3T offers one of the latest Snapdragon processors backed by 6GB of RAM, which gave us an AnTuTu score of 164.5k. You won’t notice much difference during everyday use right now, but the Honor 8 will show signs of ageing before some of the competition.
Battery life is still respectable after half a year. Even with constant use and a bit of heavy handling (such as lengthy Skype chats), we generally make it through a full day before slapping the Honor 8 on to charge. And with a bit of restraint, we can still make it through a day and a half between charges. Just like when the phone was box fresh.
Honor 8 2017 review: Cameras
The Honor 8 boasted one of the first dual-lens smartphone cameras we played with back in 2016, after the very good Huawei P9 and LG’s G5 of course. And although two cameras is now becoming quite common (even the cheap-ish Honor 6X boasted a second lens around the back), we’re still satisfied with the shooting experience on the Honor 8.
In everything but low light you can expect detail-packed results, complete with accurate colour reproduction. As long as lighting conditions are decent, the Honor 8 doesn’t even struggle with fast-moving subjects such as manic children and excitable pets. Of course, once the light drops you’ll need to employ the flash for sharp and grain-free results.
We’re still happy with the video functionality of the Honor 8’s camera too. You can’t shoot 4K footage, which means some rivals like the OnePlus 3T have an advantage as far as resolution is concerned. But the resulting footage is still packed with detail and quite smooth when moving around thanks to the optional stabiliser feature.
You get loads of features to play with too, including slow-mo and timelapse video, a pro mode with full manual controls, HDR for those tricky lighting conditions and plenty more besides.
Honor 8 2017 review: Verdict
Six months on, the Honor 8 is still a solid slab of slender hardware, now married with some truly excellent software. Android Nougat and EMUI 5.0 make this a feature-packed extravaganza, although the release of the OnePlus 3T means it has stiff competition. And if money is still an issue, you can get Full HD phones with similar specs for a lot less cash.
Honor 8 2017 review: Video
Check out our full Honor 8 re-review for 2017 in video form, taking a closer look at the performance and software updates.