Since spinning out from the shadow of parent company Huawei, Honor has been about simple power in eye-catching form.
Its phones have packed a punch, just without upper-cutting your bank balance. The Honor 8 Pro, however, is something different.
A phone to worry its big brother’s flagships such as the Huawei P10 and Huawei Mate 9, this is a flagship device that lacks the trademark price tag.
The Honor 8 Pro is 5.7-inch phablet that pairs plenty of grunt and high-end features with a sleek, high-end finish, it’s a phone that sees Honor graduating from new kid on the block to a serious contender.
On paper, it’s an instant win. Paper doesn’t tell the whole story though. This is a great phone, but it’s not faultless.
Yes, its screen is all sorts of beautiful and there’s a decent dual-lens camera on the rear, but despite steps in the right direction, some of the company’s trademark shortcomings still shine through.
Honor 8 Pro price and release date
Set for April 20 UK release
Costs £474.99 (around $590, AU$770)
No word on a US or Australian release
Honor’s most expensive phone to date, the Honor 8 Pro mixes it with the flagship challengers on asking price as well as spec, landing for a penny shy of £475 (around $590, AU$770).
While that’s a significant sum by anyone’s standards, compared to the phones it’s lining up against - the £679.99 (around $870, AU$1,160) Huawei P10 Plus and the £719 ($769, AU$1,229) iPhone 7 Plus for example - it’s reasonably affordable.
Not cheap, sure, but certainly closer to posing decent value for money than much of the competition. It, like most other devices, can’t quite match the £399/$439 (around AU$580) OnePlus 3T on the power to cost front though.
You also might not be able to buy the Honor 8 Pro where you are, as there’s currently no word on if or when it’s launching in the US or Australia.
A coming of age for Honor
Lightning quick fingerprint scanner
Huge 4,000mAh battery
Whopping 6GB of RAM
Despite its asking price and the slightly less established brand logo that proudly sits on the front and rear of the device, the Honor 8 Pro is a veritable checklist of what’s what for high-end flagship phones.
It’s a device that cuts no corners, instead weaving together a collection of components to match far more expensive handsets.
For those who demand plenty of power, the 8 Pro has you covered. And then some. It runs the same Huawei-made Kirin 960 octa-core chipset as the Mate 9 and P10 Plus, pairing four 2.4GHz A73 cores with a further four 1.8GHz A53 cores. This is backed up by a massive 6GB of RAM.
All this power’s noticeable too. Combined with an admittedly heavily skinned take on Google’s latest Android 7.0 Nougat operating system, the Honor 8 Pro cruises through whatever you can throw at it.
This is a phone that’s about more than just core grunt though, there are plenty of features that earn it fun factor points too.
For example, there’s not one but two 12MP cameras squeezed onto the rear, each with an f/2.2 lens, and an 8MP camera up front for the selfie addicts out there. On paper this puts the phone on par with the likes of the iPhone 7 Plus. Like we’ve said though, that bit of paper doesn’t tell the whole story.
Unlike Apple’s phone, which features a wide-angle and a telephoto lens, the Honor 8 Pro pairs a standard lens with a monochrome offering. The result is impactful black and white snaps, but a camera that will take you no closer to the action.
Elsewhere, while the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S8 are upping the security stakes by moving into the realms of iris scanners and facial recognition, the Honor 8 Pro has stuck with an integrated fingerprint scanner. Here it’s slotted centrally on the phone’s rear, not awkwardly off to the side like on the S8, but perfectly, accessibly centred.
This is one of the best fingerprint scanners we’ve used on a phone. It’s not just responsive, it’s lightning quick. Your finger barely grazes the sensor before the phone is springing to life. It’s sensationally rapid and unlike many of its rivals rarely suffers from misreads. There is something missing though, namely Smart Key functionality.
Unlike on the standard Honor 8, the Pro’s fingerprint scanner doesn’t offer button functionality. There’s no assignable single or double tap functionality. You can turn on the option to swipe down to pull down the phone’s notifications window - key on such a big phone - but that’s it.
Design and display
Stunning 5.7-inch QHD display
Blue, black, and gold colour options
Large, at times cumbersome design
Guess what? The Honor 8 Pro looks like an enlarged Honor 8. Shocking, right? Don’t let these design similarities put you off though. Whatever negatives we might have about the phone’s abilities elsewhere, its design is hard to fault. This really is a stunning bit of kit.
It’s not a total design doppelganger though, trading in a glass back for a finish that’s all brushed metal and flowing curves. The result is a phone with a luxurious design, and one that truly mixes it with the big names in the smartphone space.
At just 7.0mm thick, it’s beautifully slim, and while its 184g form is weighty, it’s well spread out across the phone’s 5.7-inch body, creating a device that’s well balanced.
It’s a big phone though and it certainly feels like it. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S8 or LG G6 that pair minimalist bezels with expansive, near edge-to-edge screens, the Honor 8 Pro wears its size proudly.
Yes, the framing around the side of the screen is pretty minimalist, but there’s plenty of top and bottom bordering that gives the device a sizeable footprint. It manages to fit a marginally larger screen into a footprint almost identical to the iPhone 7 Plus, but that’s not the biggest achievement.
Ultimately, it will be too big for some users and you’ll definitely feel it in your pocket, but as average sized men with average size man hands, we found it manageable. Reaching up to pull down the notifications panel is a two-handed job, but other than that, most of the screen is reachable with one hand.
And what a screen. The phone’s 5.7-inch panel is a 2560 x 1440 pixel QHD offering, and it’s stunning. Offering a beautifully sharp 515 pixels per inch image density, it won't leave you wanting on detail.
This is a panel that’s about more than an impressive pixel count too. Its brightness levels are hugely impressive, ensuring the screen is perfectly visible, even in direct sunlight. You can change the warmth of the screen to suit your tastes too, although its standard setting is pretty much on-point for our eyes.
The phone might be as good looking on the back as it is up front, but although the brushed aluminium body is easy on the eye, it’s not the grippiest, with the phone’s smooth back and rounded edges making it slightly slick to hold. There’s another problem too, it’s missing the latest must-have design feature - water resistance.
Unlike many modern flagship phones, the Honor 8 Pro is lacking in the splash proof department. While it would be nice if the phone was waterproof, when it looks this good, it’s not a killer blow, unless you’re near a body of water that is.
Interface and reliability
Android 7.0 Nougat foundations
Finished with heavy EMUI interface
Not the most refined UI
The Honor 8 Pro is powered by Google’s latest Android 7.0 Nougat operating system. Not that you’d know it by looking at or using the thing. There’s no Google Assistant, but there is Honor and Huawei’s Emotion UI.
This is EMUI 5.1, and although more refined than the company’s past efforts, it's still a slightly heavy-handed skin that’s simply not worthy of flagship phone status.
It doesn’t look too bad, the childish, cartoonish nature of past iterations is gone and instead there’s a more sophisticated if slightly basic and clipart-inspired finish. Honor’s trademark ‘Themes’ app remains, letting you tweak the interface’s look to a number of pre-set standards, and there are plenty of customisation options.
No matter how much you tweak the platform and tinker with its look, however, scratch beneath the surface and it’s still lacking compared with stock Android or some other manufacturer skins.
Firstly, there’s still too much bloatware on board. When you’re splashing hundreds on a high-end handset, you should be able to choose whether you want your phone clogged up with the likes of the booking.com app or the crap, grainy Disney Magic Kingdoms game.
Here though, it's unceremoniously thrust upon you, and it’s not the only thing. The likes of vMall, Dragon Mania and Little Big City 2 are all there to take your precious storage space too. It’s a move that cheapens the phone and, as a user, frustrates.
It’s not just third-party apps that clog things up either. Honor/Huawei’s insistence on filling its phones with its own bespoke apps, shunning many better core Android offerings in the process, is equal parts admirable and frustrating.
Yes, things have improved in recent years, these apps have got better, the whole support system more refined, but they can, at times, still feel slightly clunky. Google Fit is great, by comparison Huawei Health is basic, unattractive and lacking any real depth, just a series of clunky menus. This is just one example of many unnecessary double ups.
Emotion UI isn’t without its benefits though. There are a number of small touches, such as the pre-installed SwiftKey keyboard and a lock-screen steps counter. These nice additions are all too regularly offset by negatives, however.
There’s also no app drawer, instead, you’ll have to settle for home page after home page of apps. Again, the system lacks refinement, with many of the small touches that make the likes of TouchWiz and Sense such enjoyable interfaces to use, missing.
For the most part, however, the user experience is a fluid one. There are no misfires or missteps, no stutters or false starts, just a rapid and pleasingly fluid user experience whether you’re browsing the web, getting your Facebook fix or hitting it hard on some system intensive gaming sessions.
Movies, music and gaming
Weak, lifeless audio
Beautiful QHD screen for gaming
Bundled with Cardboard-style VR headset
Honor is forever banging on about how its phones are for the youth of today, the rule breakers and edgy trend-setters. If that’s the case though, you’d expect this phone to offer much better audio, because surely the youth of today like to listen to music on the move, right?
Sadly, there’s no stereo sound here, just a single, base-mounted speaker, and that's just one of the phone’s audio-based shortcomings. The speaker that is present is lacking on the audio front too.
Listening to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s Can’t Hold Us, the big bass lines are disappointingly flat, with the track lacking any punch or impact.
It’s a woefully hollow sound that hampers music listening and stops you getting fully immersed in streamed movies. The speaker’s not particularly loud either. No, the speaker doesn’t tweak out into tinny tones as you crank the volume, but neither will it help get a party going.
This woefully weak audio is a shame, and not just because sound is a crucial element of on-board entertainment. Despite the phone’s screen being beautifully attuned to on-the-move movie viewing, paired with the lifeless speaker, it doesn’t create the best streaming experience.
Plug in a pair of headphones, however, and that 5.7-inch ultra-bright QHD panel comes into its own, offering bright, immersive visuals packed with detail and combined with the sounds it deserves.
Pair this screen and the phone’s impressive chipset and you’ve got a solid portable gaming platform too. From beautiful but system-light puzzlers like Kami 2, to knocking out laps on more demanding 3D titles like Real Racing, the Honor 8 Pro comfortably handled all the gaming action we could throw at it, all without batting an eyelid.
It doesn’t stop at traditional gaming, either. What the Honor 8 Pro really has going for it has little to do with the device itself. Part of the phone’s box transforms into a Google Cardboard-style VR headset. Slot the phone in the front, and with the handset’s QHD display and oodles of processing power, you’ll be enjoying reasonably rich VR experiences in minutes.
There’s also 64GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD card, to handle all of your media needs.
Benchmarks and performance
Kirin 960 chipset paired with 6GB of RAM
Hugely impressive Geekbench scores
Real world usage pleasingly robust
When it comes to processing abilities, the Honor 8 Pro is an absolute joy to use. Its Kirin 960 chipset and 6GB of RAM combine to create a phone that’s perfectly fluid and fuss-free, no matter what you ask of it.
There’s no hesitation to app launches or stuttering during gaming, just a smooth, accomplished experience at all times. It’s the sort of power you won’t notice, because it’s on top of everything. There’s a beautiful fluidity to the phone made possible by is overloaded power reserves.
Running the Geekbench 4 test, the Honor 8 Pro managed an average multi-core score of 6528. That’s not just huge, it’s massive. On par with the Exynos powered version of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, and comfortably ahead of the Snapdragon option or the Huawei P10, it’s a score that puts the Honor 8 Pro truly in the mix with genuine flagship phones.
It leaves the likes of the HTC 10 and HTC U Ultra in its wake and although benchmark tests aren’t always a true representation of a phone’s real world grunt, the Honor 8 Pro’s Geekbench scores back up its effortlessly smooth performance.
Massive 4,000mAh battery
Slightly better than average battery life
One of the main benefits of a plus-size phone is all the extra space available to squeeze a massive battery in. On that front, the Honor 8 Pro’s got more junk in its trunk than the whole Kardashian clan combined. A massive 4,000mAh battery to be precise. As some will tell you, though, size isn’t everything.
Despite its massive capacity, the 8 Pro’s battery life is pretty average. OK, yes, you’ll comfortably get a full day’s use out of the phone while hammering the features, but not much more.
You’re not going to be able to eke a couple of days heavy use out of the thing without your battery circling the drain before you get home. We regularly had 20% left come evening after having spent the day hammering social media, emails, web browsing and some commute-busting gaming.
Honor’s claims of two day’s regular use on a single charge are a little bit embellished, so unless you’re happy to take things lighter on the usage front, nightly charges are still going to be a must. That or keeping a spare charger to hand at work.
It’s not the speediest to charge either. It took the phone 30 minutes to restore just 20% of its power supply.
What’s more, during our standard battery test, playing a 90 minute full HD video on full brightness, the Honor 8 Pro haemorrhaged 25% of its battery. This is a huge figure compared with the competition. By contrast the OnePlus 3T lost just 14% of its power.
Dual 12MP cameras on the rear
Reasonably wide f/2.2 aperture
Solid 8MP selfie camera
Like many other aspects of the phone, the Honor 8 Pro’s cameras are solid but won’t ever set the world alight. The dual 12MP rear mounted cameras are enhanced by a dual-LED dual tone flash, laser autofocus and phase detection, while the 8MP front-facing snapper features its own wide aperture f/2.0 for improved low light shooting.
Sometimes it’s as much about what’s missing as what’s there, however, and that’s the case here. Although the Honor 8 Pro’s cameras have plenty going for them, optical image stabilisation is sadly noticeable by its omission.
Fortunately, the focus is quick and sharp and the general image capture process reasonably prompt. You will need a steady hand to avoid blurry images and the need for constant reshoots though.
Honor’s dual camera setup takes a different approach to some of the competition. While Apple uses its second lens to take you closer to the action and LG to give you a wider field of view, Honor uses its additional lens to enhance the tones of a shot with a dedicated monochrome sensor.
The result is photos with pleasing levels of depth and natural, subtle colours. Merging images from the two sensors, the monochrome shot helps lighten standard images, bringing a more natural, true to life collection of colours and tones.
With HDR mode kicking in, there’s a pleasing balance between areas of light and dark. With a bit of cloud, skies look deep and moody. There’s not much pop to images, but a decent balance.
Low light shots are solid without being exceptional. The cameras let in a decent amount of light, letting you pick out levels to the shot, not just solid blocks of light and dark. Images are quite noisy though, with skies and areas of subtle shading regularly being diminished by excessive graining.
Around front, the 8MP selfie snapper is similarly solid. The wide f/2.0 lens lets in plenty of light, but snaps are, like on so many phones, quite flat and lacking in definition.
The Honor 8 Pro is a well-rounded, accomplished phone that’s not overly lacking on any front. It pairs a stunning design with more power than you’re ever likely to need and solid if far from ground-breaking performances on the camera and battery front.
Its interface is still clunky though, and certain features, such as its speakers, still feel rushed and lacking thought. There’s also a distinct lack of additional features to push the phone into the realms of greatness.
Simply put, it’s a solid smartphone, but it’s not special. At £475 (around $590, AU$770) it’s affordable compared with the iPhones and Galaxy S8s of the world, but it’s still undercut considerably by the likes of the OnePlus 3T. If you’re going to spend this much on a phone, you want something special, and unfortunately, that’s what the Honor 8 Pro lacks.
Who’s this for?
Forget the brave, the Honor 8 Pro is a phone for the money conscious and specs enthusiastic. It’s a device that although lacking on some fronts, doesn’t at any point actively disappoint.
It gives you a decent array of flagship-worthy features, and is kinder to the wallet than many of the rival devices out there. If you’re after a phone that looks great and will take you from answering emails to enjoying a quick VR session, you could do much worse.
Photo enthusiasts will be pleased but not ecstatic. The same goes for those who covet decent battery life over all else. If, however, you’re after a phone that combines style with generally solid performance, this might be the handset for you.
Should you buy it?
If high-end specs without the high-end price tag are your thing, the Honor 8 Pro is a phone worthy of your consideration. Emotion UI is still a bugbear of ours, but it has progressed since past devices.
This isn’t a phone that will fill your friends with envy whenever you pull it from your pocket, but it is a device that will comfortably fit into every facet of your life without ever leaving you feeling like you’re missing out. You will need pretty sizeable pockets to carry it around though.
The Honor 8 Pro is a great phone, but it's far from in a class of its own, and one of its main rivals even comes from the same parent company. Here are two strong alternatives.
Huawei Mate 9
Arguably the Honor 8 Pro’s main rival, Huawei’s flagship phablet features a similar design and a near identical array of specs, but it will hit you for more than £100 (around $125/AU$165) more.
Honor has undercut its big brother without compromising on power or performance. If anything, the 8 Pro’s slightly edgier look is a bonus too.
The Honor 8 Pro is an affordable phone compared to many flagships. Compared with the OnePlus 3T, however, it’s positively pricey.
OnePlus rewrote the rules on what affordable phones with high-end specs can offer. While the Honor’s dual-lens camera brings something different and it’s almost unrivalled on power, OnePlus’s phone feels more well-rounded and accomplished.