The Honor 8X is a true successor to the sub-$200 Honor 7X, with a larger screen, more storage, better battery life, and an improved camera.
Honor’s X lineup of smartphones have been crushing the budget and mid-range market over the past few years. Each one has outsold its predecessor, which is how it should work, but it doesn’t always work that way in the smartphone world. The Honor 7X was one of the year’s best budget smartphones, and the Honor 8X has some pretty big shoes to fill. Can Honor top the Honor 7X in its budget segment? Well, we’ve spent a little over a week using the Honor 8X, so let’s find out.
The Honor 8X sports a 6.5-inch display (making it the biggest screen in this price range), with a resolution of 2340x1080. That means that this is a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, and there is indeed a notch here. It’s an LCD panel as well, with a pixel density of 396, and 84.4-percent screen-to-body ratio. Powering the Honor 8X, there is the Kirin 710, along with 4GB or 6GB of RAM, and there is also 64GB or 128GB of storage here (our particular model is the 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage model, so that is the model we will be talking about throughout the review). All of this is powered by a 3750mAh capacity battery, with Android 8.1 Oreo and EMUI 8.2 on the software front.
Honor has put a big emphasis on its cameras for a few years now, and the Honor 8X doesn’t disappoint there either. There are two cameras on the Honor 8X, with a main 20-megapixel sensor that has a f/1.8 aperture and phase detection autofocus. There is also a 2-megapixel depth sensor here, which is going to help you get that awesome Bokeh effect on portrait and macro shots. The front-facing camera is a 16-megapixel sensor, and Portrait mode is available there as well, providing for some great selfies. Both the front and rear cameras can shoot video at 1080p and 30 frames-per-second.
Other odds and ends on the spec sheet include WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 with support for A2DP, LE and aptX. There is also location tracking being done with A-GPS, GLONASSS and BDS. Honor has a fingerprint sensor here, as well as facial recognition. However, charging is still being done with a micro USB port. There is NFC here, and perhaps more importantly, there is a 3.5mm headphone jack.
In The Box
With a smartphone that costs under €249, you don’t usually expect to see a whole lot in the box here, and there isn’t much here. As soon as you open the box, you are met with the Honor 8X. Beneath the phone, you’ll find your paperwork and a SIM ejection tool. Below that is where you’ll find the wall charger (capable of fast charging!) and a micro USB cable. That’s about it. Typically Honor does include a case with its smartphones, but that is not the case here with the Honor 8X.
Honor’s parent-company, Huawei, has been quite well-known for its superior build quality, and that rings true on the Honor 8X. It has perhaps the best build of any smartphone in this price range. It’s a glass-backed smartphone with a metal frame. The back isn’t just glass though. There is a stripe on the left side (from top to bottom) that has a slightly different look. It is actually a bit lighter blue than the rest of the back. The entire back feels the same though, so it doesn’t feel different, but it does definitely look different. It’s a pretty good look here, instead of just being all glass. Honor has decided to keep the individual camera bumps for each camera. Which is a real nuissance because dust gets between them and it’s almost impossible to get the dust out from around and between the cameras. Which leads to the phone looking pretty disgusting after a while. The flash is below the two cameras which are lined up vertically. The logos on the back are also vertical like Huawei did with its newer smartphones. It’s kind of a cool look, to be honest. But it doesn’t really change how you use the phone.
The fingerprint sensor is also on the back, in the center. Where it is nice and easy to reach. Now we’ll talk about how well or not so well, it works in the security section. But Honor has given it a more matte look here, so it does stand out a bit, and in contrast to the glass back, it looks really cool. The sides of the Honor 8X are curved slightly, which makes the phone easier to fit in your hand. Definitely a nice thing here as well. The glass back is also curved and almost melts into the aluminum frame for a really nice feel in the hand.
Now the front of the Honor 8X is almost all screen. Of course, with a 84-percent screen-to-body ratio, that is to be expected. Honor also managed to have a pretty small chin and a very small notch as well. To make the notch smaller, the earpiece is actually a circle instead of a long oval/rectangle. So it takes up less room. Making that notch even smaller. Basically, the chin and notch here are much smaller than the Pixel 3, which is about three times the price. Of course, this is because Honor is not using dual front-facing speakers, nor using the earpiece as a speaker. The only speaker is at the bottom of the phone, to the right of the micro USB port (the headphone jack is on the left).
The buttons on the Honor 8X are nice and clicky, with the power button on the right side and the volume rocker just above it. It would have been nicer if Honor could have made the power button rigid, making it easier to tell which button is which when you’re in the dark and not looking at the buttons. But they still work quite well. On the left side you’ll find the SIM card and micro SD card slot.
The hardware design on the Honor 8X is quite nice actually. And Honor, like usual, is selling the Honor 8X in multiple colors. So there’s definitely something for everyone here. Compared to other smartphones in this price range, the Honor 8X might have the most beautiful design. In fact, many might mistake it for a smartphone that costs around $700 or more, just by its looks, which is rather impressive.
Honor doesn’t typically use Quad HD displays on its smartphones, even in the higher-end range, it still uses a form of full HD. So it’s no surprise to see a full HD+ resolution display on the Honor 8X. Many may think that given the size of this display, the pixels might be more noticeable. But that is not the case. The display looks really good, you can’t see individual pixels, and the color calibration is spot on. The display can sometimes look like it is an OLED panel, but it’s actually an LCD. So Honor has done a good job at calibrating the color on this smartphone, and that’s a great thing to see.
When it comes to brightness, the Honor 8X does get pretty bright, and it can definitely be used outdoors. There are some smartphones that have great looking displays, but they are virtually useless outdoors in the sunlight, because they aren’t bright enough. That’s not the case with the Honor 8X. Auto-brightness also seems to work quite well. Now there is a small one or two second lag in it adjusting to the light around you, but otherwise, it works rather well.
The Kirin 710 chipset is inside the Honor 8X, which is an in-house chipset made by Huawei. This means that Huawei and Honor are able to better optimize its chipset and software to run really well on its smartphones. And with the Honor 8X, it does run really well. The Honor 8X doesn’t really slow down at all. That is because the Kirin 710 is an octa-core chipset that has four Cortex-A73 cores clocked at 2.2GHz for the more intensive tasks, and then four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.7GHz for the less intensive tasks. This also allows it to offer better standby time than a lot of other smartphones out there. Combined with the 4GB of RAM in our model here, there’s not a lot to complain about with the Honor 8X’s performance. If you are going to be buying this phone and can afford the upgrade to 6GB of RAM, you should definitely take it. 4GB is on the very low-end of what is acceptable for an Android smartphone, and in a year or two, it will likely not be anywhere near as smooth as it is today. But in 2018, on Android Oreo, it works well. Apps are kept in memory and not killed quickly, like some other smartphones tend to do.
Gaming on the Kirin 710 is also pretty impressive, with 4GB of RAM. Now the Honor 8X is not going to handle those super graphic intense games like PUBG Mobile or Fortnite all that well. But for some casual gaming, the Honor 8X performs pretty well and doesn’t get that hot. If you are looking for a gaming phone, the Honor Play is going to be a better option, seeing as it is geared towards gaming, with a more high-end processor (and it doesn’t cost a whole lot more).
Like most (basically all) smartphones in 2018, the Honor 8X does support fingerprints and facial recognition for securing your device. On the back of the phone you’ll find the fingerprint sensor, which is in a good spot to use without having to readjust the grip of your smartphone. Huawei and Honor have led the way with fast and accurate fingerprint sensors, and that is the case here with the Honor 8X still. It’s super fast and of course, very accurate. I actually can’t remember a time where it did not recognize my finger - as long as I placed the right finger on the sensor.
Honor has facial recognition here, which works pretty decently. It’s not perfect, so you’re still going to want to have that fingerprint sensor set up. And in fact, sometimes it is just not able to recognize my face. So it’s definitely not an option you’ll want to rely on all the time, but it is there.
Phone Calls & Network
The model of the Honor 8X that we have here is actually the European one, so it doesn’t work on US carriers here in the US. That means that making phone calls was a no-go as expected. There is also no VoLTE or HD Voice support included here, but you do get dual-SIM 4G LTE support here. So with both SIM cards you can get LTE at the same time. Typically it’s LTE from one SIM and EDGE or 3G from the second SIM slot.
When it comes to data speeds however, everything seemed to work quite well on our end. We were able to get some pretty fast speeds out of the Honor 8X, and they matched up with the Galaxy Note 9 running on the same network. So that is definitely a good thing here.
This is another area where smartphones in this price range typically fail or cut corners in. But the audio quality here is actually pretty decent. The bottom-firing speaker is loud but not distorted. There’s not a whole lot of bass there either, so you’re getting more mids and highs than bass. Which might be what some people would rather have. Honor also has the vibration motor working with the speaker here. So on louder, more bassy sounds, the phone will be vibrating. For example when there is applause in a video (like when you’re watching a TV show clip on YouTube) the phone will vibrate. It’s an interesting way to add to the audio quality here, though there should be a way to turn it off in the settings, and there isn’t.
The headphone jack on the Honor 8X is also a nice thing to have here, and works as you’d expect. Honor doesn’t have a quad DAC here, so you aren’t going to get the same quality audio as you would out of the LG V40 ThinQ. But again, this phone is a fraction of the price of the LG V40 ThinQ, so that’s expected. But it is nice to see a budget smartphone keeping that headphone jack around.
Recently, Huawei (and because Honor is a sub-brand of Huawei) and Honor, have been caught cheating on benchmarks. Now this isn't the first time that Huawei/Honor have been caught, and they are far from the only manufacturers doing so. Because of this, many benchmark apps have delisted their devices, and now you cannot even install the apps from the Google Play Store. Needless to say, we weren't able to run any benchmarks on the Honor 8X here.
Let's talk about the "cheating" on benchmarks though. It's not really cheating. What is happening is, the software is able to tell that the user is running a benchmarking app or a game and will increase the speed of the processor and GPU, which results in higher scores on these benchmarks. Again, Huawei and Honor are not the only ones that do this, just about every manufacturer do this. They were just the ones that got caught.
The 3750mAh capacity battery inside the Honor 8X actually lasts pretty long. Sure it’s not the 4000mAh capacity that is in the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 or Xiaomi Poco F1, but it does last plenty long. That is thanks to the Kirin 710 chipset and the full HD+ display here. We were able to get over two days of battery life out of this phone consistently. And get over four hours of on-screen time. That is right on par with many smartphones that are heralded as “battery life champs” in 2018. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.
When it comes to recharging the Honor 8X, you are stuck with charging it through the micro USB port. Honor does offer fast charging, and with the included wall charger, you are able to charge the Honor 8X in under two hours (closer to an hour and a half) which is a good thing for sure. But having wireless charging would have been nice as well. Seeing as this does already have a glass back, it just needs the coils for wireless charging. However, Honor would rather give its users a bit more battery capacity than to offer wireless charging. And many users would rather have a bit more juice than wireless charging.
Out of the box, the Honor 8X runs on Android 8.1 Oreo and EMUI 8.2.0. This is a slightly updated version of EMUI compared to the Honor 10 and View 10 that launched on EMUI 8.1 earlier this year. It also has the September 1, 2018 security patch, and did receive two updates during our review period. Honor has gotten significantly better at updating its smartphones, though it’s still unclear when it will be getting Android 9 Pie. But we do know that it will get Android Pie.
With EMUI 8.2 you are getting a few new features compared to other Honor smartphones released this year. We actually got the chance to use EMUI 8.2 on the Honor Play about a month ago, so we’re already pretty familiar with the changes here. One of the big changes, at least design wise, is the in the notification shade. Honor (or more importantly, Huawei) has changed the quick settings toggles to have a white background instead of a black background. It does make it look a bit cleaner, but many would prefer the black background that was used in EMUI 8.1. Another change is in the camera. Where you can choose to see the AI or original version of a photo after it has been taken. This actually appears to be a Honor-only feature right now, as it has not shown up on other Huawei phones.
Honor 8X still ships without an app drawer out of the box, though there is an option to add one in the settings. So that’s not a big deal. The launcher has actually gotten much better over the past few years. Now with the Honor 8X, you can increase the home screen from 4x5 to 5x6, getting more icons onto that home screen and really taking advantage of that home screen size. Since it is 6.5-inches this time around. There are some settings for the notch, because of course there is. You can opt to keep the notch there or you can choose to hide the notch. Despite this not being an OLED display, the black background at the top to hide the notch actually blends in really well with the notch. That’s something we don’t really see on smartphones without OLED (the LG V40 ThinQ blends it in quite well). Typically, it’s a different shade of black - black colors are usually more of a dark gray on LCD panels - so it doesn’t really do a good job of hiding it. But it does on the Honor 8X, and gives you a bit more screen real estate without having that ugly notch showing.
Software on the Honor 8X is pretty incredible. It is unfortunate that this is launching Android Oreo instead of Pie, but it was also to be expected. Huawei and Honor will update its flagship smartphones first (which is not the Honor 8X), then move onto the more mid-range and budget handsets. So it could be 2019 before the Honor 8X receives Pie, so keep that in mind before purchasing this one. But the experience here is top-notch, no pun intended. And this is because it is running on Honor’s latest version of EMUI and that is pretty well optimized for the chipset inside. Of course, with Huawei building the Kirin 710 in-house, it makes it easier to optimize it. That’s not a big surprise, but of course it’s good to see. Having laggy software is not something you want to see on any smartphone in 2018.
As mentioned already, Honor is using a dual-camera setup on the 8X here, with a 20-megapixel main sensor that has a f/1.8 aperture and then a secondary 2-megapixel sensor that will gather depth information. It’s not a monochrome/RGB setup like Huawei and Honor have used on other smartphones in the past. But that doesn’t make the camera experience on the Honor 8X a bad one. The camera here is actually quite good, and it does improve over the Honor 7X, which we took for a spin last year when it launched. Honor has infused its AI camera into the 8X’s camera here, so you’re going to get some great looking images, even if you don’t know how to take these great looking images.
With the AI Camera here, the phone is going to be able to see what you are taking a photo of. It can recognize a ton of different scenes, and from there it is able to adjust the settings to get a better looking picture. Sometimes this means turning up the saturation or turning down the brightness if something might get blown out. The AI Camera typically produces some really nice shots, but there are other times where it makes the shot look very unreal. But that’s where the ability to toggle AI on/off in the gallery really comes in handy. This allows you to turn off AI and share the original version of the image, and it also allows you to really see what the AI is able to do with the image.
Portrait mode has always been pretty good on Huawei and Honor smartphones. While many feel that the “depth sensor” serves practically no purpose, it does serve one here. It appears to work better on edge-detection than most other smartphones. The only one that is really better with edge-detection than what Huawei and Honor put out, is likely the Pixel 2 (and now Pixel 3). The front-facing camera also does Portrait Mode, and it appears to work really well, though it’s not as great with edge-detection as the rear camera - showing that the extra megapixels in that rear sensor and that depth sensor really come in handy.
The pictures that the Honor 8X take is actually really impressive, especially you when consider the price of this phone. Just a couple of years ago, the Honor 8X would have outperformed flagship smartphones that were $650-750, at a fraction of the price. But now, with cameras improving so much on every smartphone, it’s nothing all that special. The camera is good, and will get you some great pictures, but do not expect it to beat out the Pixel 3, Galaxy Note 9 or the upcoming Huawei Mate 20. You can see the images we’ve taken with the Honor 8X in the Flickr gallery below. These are all taken in either auto or Portrait mode. No professional/manual mode here, as usual.
Display size & quality
3.5mm headphone jack
NFC (this is often not included on smartphones in this price range, especially outside of the US)
Super Slo-mo support (though it’s only 480fps and not 960fps like some flagships)
No 4K video recording support
No wireless charging, despite the glass back
Launching on an outdated version of Android
Doesn’t come with a case in the box
Staggered launch plans (very staggered, about a month between each region’s launch)
The Honor 8X is a good smartphone. I say this quite often about these sub-$300 smartphones, and that’s because it’s true. This range of smartphones are getting really good, and leaving little reason to buy the more expensive smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, LG V40 ThinQ and the Google Pixel 3. Unless you really want or need those features. The Honor 8X can do just about everything those phones can do, and at €249, you really can’t go wrong with this smartphone. Now the 4GB of RAM model is a bit on the low side, so we would recommend the 6GB model, but Google did just launch its Pixel 3 that’s a little more than three times the price, with the same 4GB of RAM, so it should continue to perform just fine.
Should I Buy the Honor 8X?
Definitely. These days, with smartphone prices getting higher and higher, there is little reason to buy a smartphone that’s over $500. Sure they may have some features that get you excited, like the five cameras on the LG V40 ThinQ. But they are mostly just gimmicks. Sure that telephoto camera will come in handy, but you likely won’t use it that often. The Honor 8X is all around a great smartphone to pick up, and it should be launching in the US fairly soon.