We're almost a year removed from the Honor 7, and that means it's time for the Huawei-owned brand to launch a new high-end handset. A European launch event has been scheduled for Aug. 24 in Paris, but thanks to the fact that the phone's already broken cover in China, we already have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
With a glass-backed, metal-framed design, the Honor 8's appearance is somewhere between an Honor 6 and a Samsung Galaxy S7. Although we only have official promotional photos to go on, the build quality appears to be a solid step up from the Honor 7 — even with less metal in the mix — and is a reflection of the progress we've seen Huawei make in build and materials at the high end.
You've got two layers of "2.5D" glass, which is a fancy marketing term for glass that tapers towards the edge, giving a curved appearance. And the outer trim is accented by antenna lines and reflective chamfers. By any standard it's a good-looking phone — one that wouldn't look out of place with a better-known brand emblazoned on the back. The use of curved glass and metal gives it a less industrial look than the angular Honor 7, making for a more elegant appearance overall.
On the inside, the Honor 8 is more or less a Huawei P9 — and that's a good thing.
Many of the technological hallmarks of Huawei and Honor have made it across to the Honor 8. There's a fingerprint scanner around the back, along with a Huawei P9-esque dual camera setup. It's unclear whether this is exactly the same camera setup used by the P9, but specs match up — dual 12-megapixel sensors (one color, one black and white), laser autofocus and dual-LED flash. Like the P9, the Honor 8's dual camera setup enabled a bunch of neat photographic tricks, like virtually changing the aperture after the fact to create bokeh-like effects, in addition to claims of enhanced detail and contrast thanks to the dedicated black-and-white sensor.
The P9's camera was a bit of a mixed bag at launch, but has improved with successive software updates. And that gives us hope that the Honor 8's camera will be, at the very least, a decent all-rounder.
Kirin 950, dual cameras, 3,000mAh and quick charging.
On the inside, the P9 similarities continue. It's running Huawei's own Kirin-branded silicon — Kirin 950 to be precise, not the higher-clocked Kirin 955. (That's the chip used in the Huawei Mate 8.) Along with that you'll get 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage in the base model, or 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage in the more expensive SKU. It's worth noting that in the case of Honor phones with two RAM/storage configurations, the lower-specced one is usually what buyers outside of China end up getting — so expect 3GB/32GB in a European Honor 8.
In any case, Huawei's latest 16-nanometer Kirin chips are a known quantity, with Kirin 950-powered Mate 8 outclassing many of its rivals in late 2015 in terms of raw performance.
There's a 3,000mAh fixed internal battery powering all that stuff, same as the P9, and Honor claims 1.77 days of use for regular users, or 1.22 days for heavy users — the bottom line being that whatever you're doing, you can probably expect a decent day of use per charge. The Honor 8 also boasts 9V/2A quick charging — basically the same tech underpinning Qualcom QuickCharge 2.0 — the first Honor phone to charge at more than a basic 5V/2A.
It's also the first Honor phone with USB Type-C, but data speeds are limited to USB 2.0 spec according to the Chinese specifications.
Honor 8 could be the first real rival for OnePlus around the €300-400 mark.
Around the front, the Honor 8 boasts what appears to be a similar display to its Huawei-branded counterpart — a 5.2-inch panel with a 1080p resolution and 96% NTSC colorspace coverage. There's also an eye-friendly reading mode that's designed to reduce blue light output to avoid eye strain. We wouldn't be surprised if it's exactly the same JDI-made panel used in the Huawei device — and given the quality and brightness of that screen, that's a good thing.
As for pricing, the Honor 8 sells in China for the local equivalent of around $300 (currently ~€270), but we wouldn't expect this pricing to translate directly over to Europe, where taxes and shipping costs are likely to drive up the price tag. We'd expect European pricing to land somewhere in the low €300s — maybe around €330. UK prices are anyone's guess given the current volatility of the British pound, but somewhere around the £300 mark wouldn't be unreasonable.
If our ballpark figures are right, they'd put the Honor 8 in direct competition with the fan-favorite OnePlus 3. These two devices take very different approaches to design, hardware and software, but both look like offering a very similar class of experience at a comparable price point.
The question of whether the Honor 8 is actually worth your cash will have to wait until we've spent some time with the phone at the Paris launch event. But with Huawei's EMUI 4.1 software (based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow) now being more usable than ever — and the promise of great things from future EMUI versions — combined with some impressive hardware, the Honor 8 is a phone to watch.
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