The term ‘Flagship killer’ didn’t even exist until a couple of years ago, but this particular smartphone segment is now among the most thriving. Also referred to as affordable flagships, these phones offer flagship-level specifications at half (or even lower) prices as compared to premium smartphones. OnePlus is the pioneer of this category with its feature-packed offerings, and its fifth-gen smartphone – the OnePlus 5 (review) – sticks to the same promise. While several companies have tried (and failed) to take on the Chinese company’s offerings (remember the YU Yutopia or the LeEco Le Max2?), we think the latest from Huawei’s sub-brand’s stable, the Honor 8 Pro (first impressions) comes as the closest rival to the venerable OnePlus 5. In fact, it even manages to beat the flagship killer in some aspects. Did we catch you by surprise? Read till the end and you’ll know why we think so.
Specs at a glance
|Resolution||1440 x 2560 pixels|
|CPU||Quad core, 2.4 GHz + Quad core, 1.8 GHz, HiSilicon Kirin|
|Internal memory||128 GB|
|External memory||Up to 128 GB|
|Capacity||4000 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable|
|Primary camera||12 MP|
|Secondary camera||8 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 7.0 Nougat|
One look at the spec sheet above – and you’ll know that the Honor 8 Pro is as loaded as it can get. From its 2K display to dual cameras, powerful hardware to the beefy 4,000mAh battery, the handset is quite well-equipped. What makes it a potent killer of the flagship killer is the fact that it’s priced marginally lower than the OnePlus 5. But specs and pricing are just one side of the story, and the real question is whether the Honor 8 Pro can impress us in real life. The short answer is yes, for the most part. And now we’ll expound upon that…
Design and display: big, bold and beautiful
Size: 5.7 Inch
Resolution: 1440 x 2560 pixels
Display Type: IPS LCD
Pixel Density: 515 ppi
With a large 5.7-inch display, the Honor 8 Pro fall squarely in the phablet category. Even then, you can hold the smartphone with a single hand. Thanks to the slim bezels on the sides, it’s not too wide, though it does have considerable space above and below the display. While the top portion does have some elements such as an earpiece, a couple of sensors and a front-facing camera, there’s only Honor branding at the bottom, which seems a waste of space. This means you can reach the corners of the screen single-handedly, but for most operations such as typing, you’d need to use both hands.
In terms of ports and buttons, the handset follows the norms. Both the volume rocker and power key are placed towards the right, and it’s easy to identify the latter by feel with its textured pattern. The left spine has an ejectable tray which can accept a nano-SIM card and either a nano-SIM or a microSD card. Up top, the Honor 8 Pro features an infrared emitter and a noise-cancellation mic. The base is choc-a-bloc with a 3.5mm audio socket, a USB-Type C port and speaker grilles.
Flip to the back, and you’ll be greeted by dual cameras on the top left, accompanied by a dual-tone LED flash. It’s worth noting that there’s no ugly camera bump. Towards the middle, there’s a fingerprint scanner, while Honor’s logo has been placed further below. The fingerprint scanner works 360-degrees and is quite fast as well as accurate in authentication. Our review unit arrived in black, which looks quite premium and the only things that break this uniformity are the grey antenna lines at the top and bottom.
Even with a mammoth battery, the Honor 8 Pro has managed to stay slim with its girth measuring 7mm (in comparison, the OnePlus 5 is 7.2mm thick). However, the phablet has a considerable heft as it tips the scales at 184g, which takes some getting used to. On the plus side, the weight and the unibody metal construction make the phone feel quite solid.
With its high-res 2K display, the Honor 8 Pro’s 5.7-inch IPS screen offers impressive visuals with crisp text. The colours also look pop out well and the brightness levels are adequate enough to read it outdoors. While the screen is quite reflective, its viewing angles are quite good. The 2.5D display is protected by a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3, ensuring that it’s impervious to minor scratches and accidental drops.
Camera: black and white adds more life to your images
Primary camera: 12 MP
Flash: Dual-color LED Flash
Secondary camera: 8 MP
While dual cameras might seem to be in vogue this year, if there’s one company which has been at the forefront of this trend – it’s Huawei and its sub-brand Honor. The company actually launched its first dual-camera smartphone in 2014 in the form of the Honor 6 Plus (camera review), with the device making its way to India in March 2015. Since then, it has launched quite a few offerings, with the Honor 8 Pro marking its fourth-generation dual-camera system. It comprises two 12-megapixel shooters, with the primary one capturing colours (RGB), and the secondary sensor capturing the scene in monochrome (black and white). The camera software then combines them to offer an image with better colours and contrast levels. The pair of snappers also work in tandem to offer a wide aperture mode, which lets you get some impressive bokeh results, with the subject in focus and the background being blurred. What sets it apart from other smartphones offering the depth-of-field effect is the fact that you can set the aperture between f/0.95 and all the way up to f/16 – ensuring that the images don’t look too artificial. The phone also comes with PDAF technology to lock the focus on the subject quickly.
The camera app on Honor smartphones have always been loaded with features, and the one on the 8 Pro is also the same. While it’s minimal up front, it offers a wide range of modes and options if you dig deeper. In portrait orientation, the interface shows the shutter button, the option to start recording videos (capable of shooting 4K) and the preview button at the bottom, while the top includes a toggle for the flash, the ability to enable the wide aperture mode, enable the beauty mode and switch to the front camera. You can swipe to the right to access the shooting modes. The Pro photo mode not only gives you the ability to adjust ISO levels, shutter speed, exposure, and white balance, but the metering mode and autofocusing mechanism too. You can also tweak some of these settings while shooting videos with the Pro video mode. Monochrome lets you use the secondary camera to capture images in black and white. 3D Creator is an interesting feature, letting you capture a face from all angles to create a 3D model. Night shot ensures that you can capture good details in low-light by increasing the shutter speed, although it means that your hands need to be stable for best results. A tripod can come in handy for Light painting, which lets you get DSLR-like light trails or light graffiti by elongating the exposure time. You also get the usual modes such as Panorama, HDR, and Slow-mo, among others. To see more settings, you can swipe to the left.
Clearly, the Honor 8 Pro camera is filled to the brim with features, but what about the image quality? Well, the device is a versatile shooter, which manages to delight in all situations. The daylight shots are quite pleasing and offer show a lot of detail. The HDR mode is also effective and enhances the dynamic range of the scene. Close-ups are full of details too, and even without enabling the wide aperture mode, offer a slight depth of field effect. However, like most phone cameras, low-light shots are just average and have some amount of noise too. The dual-tone LED flash does help in such cases though. The front camera manages to click nice selfies, but isn’t in the same league as the selfie-centric smartphones out there.
But the dual cameras on the Honor 8 Pro aren’t just for normal shots… so how good is the monochrome sensor for clicking black and white pictures? Well, we have to admit that BnW adds more life to the scene since by stripping away the colours.
The bokeh effect is also impressive, as the blurred background doesn’t seem artificial. What’s more, the aperture can be changed both while shooting as well as post capture. While the images clicked in this mode are sharp and colour reproduction is natural, the edges appear soft at times.
Here are a few image samples showcasing the shooting prowess of the Honor 8 Pro.
In a nutshell, the Honor 8 Pro is an impressive shooter, and while we can’t rank it against premium flagships, it surely tops the charts in the Rs 30,000 segment. And, if you are wondering whether it’s better than the OnePlus 5 or not, then instead of our comment, we will leave you with the comparison image below.
Hardware and software: as snappy as a dragon
CPU: Quad core, 2.4 GHz + Quad core, 1.8 GHz, HiSilicon Kirin
GPU: Mali-G71 MP8
RAM: 6 GB
Memory: 128 GB + Up to 128 GB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM
For years, Honor has used its parent company’s in-house processors in its smartphones, and the Honor 8 Pro continues in the same vein. It’s equipped with the latest from the HiSilicon family – the Kirin 960, which is an octa-core processor built on the 16nm fabrication process. Following the big.Little architecture, it features two quad-core clusters running at 2.4GHz and 1.9GHz, which work as per the task at hand to keep a balance between performance and battery efficiency. Being a flagship, it’s as powerful as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, and while it might not have similar benchmark results, its real-life performance is buttery smooth. Thanks to the powerful chip and 6 gigs of RAM, there was nary an instance of lag during our usage. Even with multiple apps opened, the phone usually has around 2GB RAM free, and switching between them is instantaneous.
Gaming on the Honor 8 Pro is a delight too. We went on a zombie-killing spree for hours while playing Dead Trigger 2, and the device didn’t break into a sweat. While Kirin chipsets are known for their thermal efficiency, sadly, the same can’t be said for the Kirin 960. Not just while gaming or performing intensive tasks such as GPS navigation, it starts heating up even while using the camera continuously. Thankfully, we didn’t notice any dip in performance due to the increase in temperature.
With 128GB storage on board, the Honor 8 Pro has enough room to store all your media files and install a bunch of apps and games. And in case, that’s not enough, you can top it up with a microSD card of up to 256GB, although you’d need to give up on the dual-SIM functionality.
Honor’s EMUI is among the most refined custom skins, and its latest iteration (v5.1) can be found on the Honor 8 Pro. Based on Android 7.1 Nougat, its interface would be familiar to anyone who has ever used a smartphone with a Chinese UI. All the apps are laid out nicely on the homescreen itself. It has a dedicated screen called HiBoard towards the left, which lets you search for anything on the phone (the search bar can also appear by swiping towards the bottom), apart from showing frequently-used apps and news (powered by Flipboard). Talking about features, the skin isn’t much different from its previous iterations. Various off-screen gestures are on offer, along with the ability of using the fingerprint sensor as a shutter button or swiping on it to bring down the notification panel or navigating photos. We particularly liked the ability to access the split-screen mode with the knuckle.
For connectivity, the Honor 8 Pro offers support for 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. The IR blaster is quite useful as it lets you control home appliances with your phone.
Battery: the sore spot
Capacity: 4000 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable
This is one aspect which reinforces our belief that specs don’t tell the full story. Even with a beefy battery, the Honor 8 Pro’s Achilles Heel is its battery life. With usage that involved GPS navigation for around an hour, streaming music via Wynk Music, 15 to 20 minutes of calls, cellular data being enabled the whole time and light gaming, it barely managed to last a full day of usage. If you push it though, then it will give up much sooner. Our battery test is a testament to the same, as the phablet was able to play a 720p video on loop for less than 11 hours, which is average.
You can however, enable various modes to extend the battery life. These include Power saving mode, Ultra power saving and Low resolution power saving (which scales down the display resolution to conserve battery life). The Honor 8 Pro also supports fast charging, but sadly we couldn’t test that out as our review unit didn’t come bundled with a charger.
Honor entered the Indian market in 2014, and has gone from strength to strength during this time. Right from its debut offering, the company has mostly managed to offer a good package priced affordably, but the Honor 8 Pro takes that to the next level. It’s the best offering from the brand’s stable yet, and is a compelling package with a price tag that’s not only attractive, but also undercuts the competition.
Between the Honor 8 Pro and OnePlus 5, it’s a close call. But the fact that the Honor 8 Pro has better cameras and is priced Rs 3,000 lower, tilts the balance in its favour – and makes us forget about its average battery life. The Honor 8 Pro is priced the same as the OnePlus 3T (review), and between the two, it comes across as a clear choice. The other devices in this segment include the OPPO F3 Plus (review) and Samsung Galaxy C9 Pro (review), packing large displays and powerful batteries, but both of them feature mid-tier specs in comparison.
All in all, if you have a budget of around Rs 30,000, then you can’t go wrong with the Honor 8 Pro.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Solid metal build
- Impressive display
- Versatile pair of snappers
- Powerful hardware
- Average battery life
- Heats up quickly
Photos by Raj Rout