Honor 8 Pro Android Smartphone Review

April 11, 2017 - Written By Alexander Maxham

Honor took their best phone and super-sized it, keeping all of the best features of the Honor 8

Honor introduced the Honor 8 last summer, and it became a pretty popular smartphone for a couple of reasons. The biggest reasons were the small size, but still relatively high-end specs. Another was the sheer design of the device. With the glass back, it was a great looking smartphone. Now Honor has introduced the Honor 8’s big brother, the Honor 8 Pro. It is a 5.7-inch device with a QHD display, but it retains those same great cameras on the backside, and mostly the same design. It’s also a bit more expensive – which is to be expected – but is it worth the cash? Let’s find out.

Specs

The Honor 8 Pro has a 5.7-inch 2560×1440 resolution LTPS IPS display. That gives us around 515 pixels per inch. Honor kept the bezels somewhat small, with the screen taking up about 73.6% of the front side of the device. Powering the Honor 8 Pro is Huawei’s own Kirin 960 processor. This is an octa-core CPU (four Cortex-A73 cores clocked at 2.4GHz and four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.8GHz), which is paired with the Mali-G71 MP8 GPU, and 6GB of RAM. Honor has included 64GB of storage internally, but there is a micro SD card slot so that you can add even more storage, up to 256GB. Dimensions of the Honor 8 Pro are 157 x 77.5 x 7mm and it weighs in at a hefty 184 grams.

When it comes to the cameras, the Honor 8 Pro has the same setup as the Honor 8. That is two 12-megapixel sensors on the back. One is a monochrome and the other is a RGB sensor. They are both f/2.2 aperture and also include phase detection and laser autofocus. When it comes to the front facing camera, there is a 8-megapixel camera with a f/2.0 aperture, which can record in 1080p. The rear cameras can record in 1080p at 60 frames per second, while it can do 2160p at 30 frames per second.

Finally, connectivity is a plenty here. Surprisingly, this does have NFC, so you are able to do mobile payments. It does also have Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, and for GPS we have A-GPS, GLONASS and BDS. There is also a fingerprint sensor and a USB-C port for connectivity. Honor has added in a non-removable 4000mAh battery for good measure. Finally, the Honor 8 Pro runs on Android 7.0 Nougat, and EMUI 5.1, which is the latest version of Emotion UI.

In the Box

The unboxing experience of the Honor 8 Pro isn’t that special, but Honor did throw in something pretty cool with the smartphone. The box actually doubles as a Cardboard VR viewer. So you can at least experience a hint of VR with the Honor 8 Pro, although it is not compatible with Daydream (likely due to the fact that it does not use an AMOLED display). Inside the box, you do get all of the usual stuff. This includes the wall adapter (which is an EU adapter, since this device is being sold in Europe and not North America), a USB-C to USB-A cable as well as a SIM ejection tool and some paperwork. There’s no case included in the box, unlike with the original Honor 8.

Hardware

Huawei, Honor’s parent company, is known for their hardware and build quality, and with the Honor 8 Pro it’s no different. The smartphone has a metal unibody, and the only glass you’ll find on this one is around the front. Honor has curved sides here on the Honor 8 Pro, which makes the smartphone a bit easier to handle, which is important since this is a fairly large device at 5.7-inches On the back you’ll find the dual-camera module in the upper left-hand corner. Now since this is a metal unibody and not a glass back, the camera module is black and glass, so it sticks out (by looks, not physically sticking out as it is flush with the back) more than it did on the Honor 8. There are also antenna lines at the top and bottom of the device, but they don’t stick out to much. They are a slightly darker shade of blue on this unit we have here, and they look pretty nice actually. Below the camera we have the fingerprint sensor, which is not next to the camera, unlike another smartphone that was just announced.

The rest of the back is pretty much empty. There is the Honor logo and regulatory information towards the bottom, but like the antenna lines, it  is a darker shade of blue so they do blend in a bit. Which is actually a nice touch. On the right side of the Honor 8 Pro, there is the volume rocker with the power button below it. And on the left side, you’ll find the SIM and micro SD card slot. At the top, you’ll see that there is a microphone as well as an IR Blaster (one of the only companies to still include one in their smartphone). While the bottom houses basically everything else. There is the 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C port and the speaker. All of which we’ll talk about a bit later in this review.

If you look at the front of the Honor 8 Pro, it looks exactly like the Honor 8, and it definitely should, since this is indeed the Honor 8 Pro. We’re looking at a pretty large display with almost no side bezels at all. Although the top and bottom bezels are a bit bigger than many would expect – especially after seeing plenty of companies going to war against these bezels, including Xiaomi, LG and Samsung recently. The Honor 8 Pro, despite being a large smartphone, actually feels rather nice in the hand. Even coming from something as small as the LG G6, the Honor 8 Pro doesn’t feel overly large, and that’s a good thing, especially for those looking for a nice sized device, but not something that feels all that large. When you hold the Honor 8 Pro in the hand, you get the feeling that this is a premium device, which it is, and that is also a good thing.

Performance

The Kirin 960 is the latest chipset from Huawei, which is Honor’s parent company (even though they don’t like to be referred to as the same company). As we mentioned already, the Kirin 960 is an octa-core processor, and is paired with the Mali-G71 GPU which together provides some pretty impressive performance. During our time reviewing the Honor 8 Pro, we had a great time playing games, browsing through different social networks and watching YouTube videos. The Honor 8 Pro did not lag one bit. We did notice that it was a bit slow in getting notifications from some Google apps, but I’d chop that up to Gmail being Gmail (as this has happened on other devices as well). But when playing games like Super Mario Run, we had basically no issues with performance at all, and the game looks impressive on this Quad HD display.

Inside the Honor 8 Pro is also 6GB of RAM, which is more than enough. I’m in the camp that you can get by with a good experience on just 3GB of RAM and 4GB of RAM is future-proof, and I still believe that after using the Honor 8 Pro. Often times, the Honor 8 Pro would have over 3GB of RAM available, which means that it is wasted RAM. Even after using some Cardboard apps on the Honor 8 Pro. It’s good to have that extra bit of RAM, but I’m still not entirely sure that it was needed.

Virtual Reality Performance

Unfortunately, the Honor 8 Pro is not compatible with Google Daydream, but it does work with Google Cardboard. So this means that users can get a taste of virtual reality on the Honor 8 Pro, without spending any extra money. And this is because the box for the Honor 8 Pro actually doubles as a Cardboard viewer. There are directions on the bow on how to set it up as well. It’s quite easy to get going, although the experience isn’t as great as Daydream or even Gear VR.

Now the actual performance inside Cardboard is pretty decent. It’s not overly impressive, and it won’t blow you away, but it is a nice entry into VR. Having a Quad HD display also helps make things a bit better, although when the screen is that close to your eyes, it’s still a bit rough. Included on the Honor 8 Pro is the Cardboard Viewer app, but also Jaunt VR, which is part of Honor’s partnership with Jaunt. Of course, you can find many more Cardboard apps on the Play Store, and also watch 360-degree video on YouTube through Cardboard.

Display

Huawei and Honor have been pretty adamant about sticking with an FHD display rather than making the jump to QHD. We’ve visited Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China in the past and asked some of their executives about why they have stuck with FHD and the reasoning was basically the fact that there isn’t a big difference to the human eye between the two resolutions. And the other being the fact that QHD panels use more battery than FHD, and they believe customers would rather have better battery life. However, that seems to have changed. Last year with the PORSCHE DESIGN Mate 9, the company announced their first smartphone with a 2560×1440 resolution display. Since then they have announced the P10 Plus with the same resolution display and now Honor has their first Quad HD device in the Honor 8 Pro.

It’s great to see the higher resolution display on the Honor 8 Pro, especially since it doesn’t appear to put a massive hit on the performance or battery life of the smartphone. With the display measuring 5.7-inches diagonally, we have about 515 pixels per inch here which is still quite high, and it makes the display look very sharp. This is an IPS panel, so it’s not the sharpest or best looking display on the market, but there’s very little to complain about when it comes to this display. The display gets pretty bright here, which makes it great for using in direct sunlight, and it also gets pretty dim, so that you don’t blind yourself in dark situations, like at night. There’s also “Eye Comfort” here, so that you can strip out the blues and make the display a bit more yellow. This means that your eyes won’t strain as much when using your smartphone at night. This isn’t something that’s new with the Honor 8 Pro, but still nice to have available.

The default temperature of the display on the Honor 8 Pro is a tad cool, but it’s not too bad. Honor does allow you to adjust the temperature. You can either choose warm or cool, or drag the selector inside the color wheel to the perfect temperature for you. Honor also allows you to adjust the size of the display here. So you can have the elements of the display nice and large, or smaller, which will then fit more things onto the display.

This display is great for consuming media on, and we consumed a whole lot of video on this device during the review period. Watching YouTube on the Honor 8 Pro was a pure joy. It looked great, and also sounded pretty great, making for a great experience. And with this huge battery (which we’ll talk more about in a minute), it means you can watch a whole lot of content before the battery dies.

Sound

Many believe that the Honor 8 Pro closely resembles the Huawei Mate 9, due to its size and features, but the Mate 9’s dual speakers did not make it to the Honor 8 Pro, unfortunately. Here we have just one speaker at the bottom of the device and the earpiece does not double as another speaker. That’s not a huge deal because the speaker here is already pretty decent. It won’t win any awards for putting out some incredible sound, but it will sound better than a lot of other smartphones out there. Even if you are holding the phone in landscape and muffle the speaker a bit, it still sounds pretty good. The speaker gets plenty loud without distorting the sound coming out of it as well.

Of course, this is something that has to be said in 2017, but there is a 3.5mm headphone jack included. So your existing headphones will work with the Honor 8 Pro. We used the Xiaomi Mi in-ear Headphones with the Honor 8 Pro (which are Hi-Fi earbuds) and it sounded incredible. Now it wasn’t as high fidelity as you’d expect out of something like the LG V20, but it still sounded great. So there’s no complaints there.

Fingerprint Sensor

The fingerprint sensor is located on the back, right where your index finger would normally rest. Unlike a certain other smartphone, it isn’t way up next to the camera making it tough to reach. It’s pretty easy to reach the fingerprint sensor, and as you’d expect the sensor is nice and quick. It might even be one of the quickest out there. That’s what you would expect from a smartphone made by Huawei though. Their fingerprint sensors have always been pretty fast, leaving the competition in the dust. They are also fairly accurate as well.

Huawei also debuted fingerprint gestures with the Honor 8 last year. Now unfortunately the fingerprint sensor here is not a physical button like it was on the Honor 8, where it allowed you to press once for a flashlight, or press twice for a screenshot. We are stuck with just swiping down for the notification shade and swiping left and right to browse through photos in the gallery app. Pretty similar to what Google has done with the Pixel smartphones. It works pretty well, although I’ve only really used it for bringing down the notification shade. It’s really helpful on a large smartphone like the Honor 8 Pro.

IR Blaster

While most manufacturers have opted to get rid of the IR Blaster in their smartphones for some reason, despite many people loving the feature, Huawei and Honor have opted to keep it in their devices, and it is available here on the Honor 8 Pro. What this means is that you are able to use the Honor 8 Pro as a remote for your TV and other devices. It’s pretty easy to setup and it works pretty well. This is a feature that may not be a make or break feature for a lot of users, but it is one that is nice to have available for users to use.

Phone Calls & Network

The Honor 8 Pro is available in Europe, and our model is a European model, which means it does not work 100% with the US networks, as you can see from the bands listed below.

2G 850, 900, 1800, 1900

3G 850, 900, 1900, 2100

4G LTE bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 38, 40

We did use the Honor 8 Pro on T-Mobile in the US, and we were able to get HSPA+ speeds, but unfortunately no LTE. Having said that, our experience on T-Mobile’s network was pretty similar to other non-US devices on their network. Speeds were pretty decent for HSPA+ and calls sounded great. There’s no support for Wi-Fi Calling, or VoLTE here, but callers said that we sounded good, and we experienced no drop calls here.

Benchmarks

On the Honor 8 Pro, we ran three benchmarks. That included 3D Mark, AnTuTu and GeekBench 4. On 3D Mark, it scored a 1377, which was pretty good, and about what we expected from the Mali-G71. Over on AnTuTu, it scored a 128,671 which put it between the Nubia Z11 and the Meizu PRO 6 Plus, which was a bit surprising to be honest. However, over on GeekBench 4, it scored the highest scores we’ve ever seen. That was a 1857 in the single-core score and a 6054 in the multi-core score. That beat all of last year’s flagships (GeekBench 4’s app hasn’t added this years yet), which is impressive, and that is likely due to the RAM boost to 6GB here. You can check out the full results in the gallery below.

Battery Life

There’s a 4,000mAh battery inside the Honor 8 Pro, which didn’t seem like it would be all that impressive considering the Huawei Mate 9 also has a 4000mAh battery with a slightly larger screen and a lower resolution display. But the Honor 8 Pro is pretty impressive when it comes to battery life. Honor touts that you can get about 1.5 to 2 days on a single charge with the Honor 8 Pro. There are plenty of smartphones on the market right now that like to claim that as well, but the Honor 8 Pro does actually live up to that. We got nearly two full days on a charge with the Honor 8 Pro, this is obviously only going to be the case for light users, as heavy users won’t see two full days. But the will see at least a full day and then some.

Charging the Honor 8 Pro does take a bit of time. It does have fast charging, but it’s not as fast as the Huawei Mate 9’s charging, and since there is a Kirin 960 CPU inside, that means that there is no Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 support here. With there being a 4,000mAh capacity battery inside, that means that the device does take a bit to charge, but it’s not too long. Just charge it up overnight and you’ll be good to go.

Software

As far as software goes, Honor has Android 7.0 Nougat along with EMUI 5.1 with the February 1st, 2017 security patch. Now with this launching in early April 2017, that is a bit of an old security patch, but it’s not too old. Huawei and Honor have gotten much better over the past year or so with their updates and was actually one of the first to push out Nougat last year to the Honor 8, so there shouldn’t be any issues when it comes to getting updates for the Honor 8 Pro in the coming months. They have been pretty quick at pushing out security updates, although still not as quick as Google with the Nexus and Pixel lineup.

EMUI or Emotion UI 5.1 is nothing new actually. We’ve seen it on the Huawei Mate 9 and Honor 8 already, so there’s not much new to talk about here. But the software does run incredibly fast on the Honor 8 Pro. Of course, you would expect that from a smartphone running the Kirin 960 SoC and 6GB of RAM. But it’s still nice to see. One of the bigger changes that Honor has in EMUI 5.1 is an app drawer. For years, that was the biggest complaint about anything that Huawei or Honor put out, the fact that there was no app drawer, but now we have one. You just need to go enable it in the settings. It’s still not quite perfect, as it would be awesome to have the ability to increase the grid size in the app drawer and on the home screen, since this is a larger 5.7-inch smartphone.

One of my favorite features on the Honor 8 Pro actually is the floating dock. What this allows you to do is to have a button that floats on the screen (so you can move it wherever you want), it’s kind of like the floating heads in Facebook Messenger. But the floating dock allows you to tap on it and then open up a few things, which includes your softkeys for home, back and recents, but also a button for locking the phone and clearing the RAM. Now this is a good feature to have at your disposal because the Honor 8 Pro is a somewhat large device. And not everyone can reach the top and bottom of the device with one-hand. So if you combine this with the fingerprint sensor gestures, you’ll have a pretty great experience on the Honor 8 Pro.

Honor does also have a one-handed mode here, again this is going to be good for those with smaller hands. But if you swipe from left to right across the navigation bar, you’ll enable one-handed mode. This will make the screen smaller, on the right-hand side. This is good for those that are right handed. Now if you are left handed, just swipe right to left and it’ll do the same thing, but put it in the lower left-hand corner, making it even easier for you to use. It’s not a feature that I have used often, but it is still a nice one to have included here.

Camera

Honor has basically taken the camera from the Honor 8 and stuck it in the Honor 8 Pro, and that isn’t a bad thing. The Honor 8’s camera was one of my favorites from 2016, so it’s nice to see it here in the Honor 8 Pro. What we have here are two 12-megapixel sensors, one is an RGB sensor and the other is a black and white sensor. Basically the same setup we’ve seen in all Huawei and Honor flagships smartphones for the past year or two.

Now the camera app functions just as it should. It’s pretty easy to navigate through as well. If you swipe in from the left, you’ll bring up all of the available modes. This includes Photo (auto), pro photo, video, pro video, monochrome, HDR, 3D Creator, Night Shot, Panorama, Light Painting, Time-Lapse, Slow-mo, watermark, audio note, document scan and good food. Basically every single mode you can think of, and yes the pro video mode is a new one, and one that everyone has been asking for. Now you swipe in from the right and you’ll see all of the settings for the camera. Like turning on the Assistive Grid, doing audio control and more. It’s a pretty simple and easy to use camera app, and it hasn’t changed from other EMUI 5.1 smartphones.

Camera Quality

Of course, more important than the camera experience is the quality of the pictures coming out of the camera, and most people will be happy with the quality on this smartphone. The pictures come out looking stunning, even with just 12-megapixels to work with. The camera has put out some pretty good looking pictures, which you can see the full resolution files in the Flickr gallery down below.

In low light, the camera does struggle a bit. Remember these pixels aren’t larger, like on the Pixel or HTC 10, but you instead have two cameras. While it does struggle in low light, it actually still brings out a fairly good looking picture. Of course, in great lighting, like being outside in direct sunlight you’ll get some incredible images. And with Bokeh turned on, you’ll get some great images with the blurred background. Which you can actually change the focus subject after the picture has been taken. That is one of the advantages to having dual cameras here.

The Honor 8 Pro’s camera may not be the best camera on the market (I actually think the Huawei Mate 9’s is slightly better, but it does also have a 20-megapixel sensor included on the back), but most if not all will be quite happy with this camera. The images do break down a bit when you zoom in, like with most smartphone cameras, and this is largely due to there only being 12-megapixels to work with here.

The Good

Build Quality

Battery Life

Display Quality

Camera Quality

Google Cardboard Support

The Bad

Metal backing scratches way too easily

No announced availability for US or outside of Europe

Slightly out-of-date software, Android 7.0 instead of Android 7.1.1

No Daydream support

Wrap Up

The Honor 8 Pro is the bigger, beefier version of one of my favorite smartphones from 2016, and the one that was my daily driver for the second half of the year, the Honor 8. So I had high expectations for the Honor 8 Pro, and it did not disappoint. Although, it did disappoint with the design, I thought. I loved the design of the Honor 8, with the glass back and the camera sensors that sat flush on the back of the device and it was almost hard to see them. On a larger device, that design would have looked amazing, but Honor decided to go with a metal backing here, which isn’t a bad thing, but it seems like the metal they used here is a bit cheap. Seeing as it was more prone to scratches than other devices. Actually, it arrived with a big scratch down the back of the device, which is unfortunate (but not much we can do about that). Otherwise, there’s not a whole lot to dislike about the Honor 8 Pro here.

Should you buy the Honor 8 Pro?

The Honor 8 Pro isn’t cheap, it comes in at €549, which with todays exchange rate is about $581 USD, so it’s in the same price range as the Huawei Mate 9. Which means Huawei now has two very capable flagship smartphones available, and it’s going to be tough to decide which one is the better one to pick up. If you are wanting a better camera, you’ll want the Mate 9, but if you want that higher resolution display, the Honor 8 Pro is the one to check out. The Honor 8 Pro is a great smartphone, in a very crowded market, so it’ll be interesting to see how well it does.