Huawei has found a niche for its Honor phones by catering to a budget conscious audience that doesn’t want to compromise too much in the specs and features departments. These phones are only available online and as a result, their prices can remain low without having to make too many concessions to their budget nature.
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The Honor 7 was a solid entry in that respect, managing to offer decent features at an affordable price. Now the Honor 8 aims to build on this. So is newer better? Let’s find out how the Honor 8 stacks up against Honor 7 and whether it’s worth the upgrade…
Undoubtedly, the first thing that will strike you about the Honor 8 is its new glass construction. We got to play with the Sapphire Blue model, though it also comes in Midnight Black and Pearl White. Either way, this thing refracts and reflects light like a house of mirrors and it’s definitely enough to set it apart from previous models.
The change in materials is the biggest difference between the two devices: last year Huawei was going through something of a metal phase and the Honor 7 firmly fitted that approach. The switch to glass this year does mean the 7 is a fingerprint magnet but as we’ve seen with other glass-backed devices, this is common for a glass finish.
At the end of the day though, Huawei has done an excellent job on the aesthetics here, creating a device that can really turn heads. The Honor 7 was certainly not an ugly phone and it felt surprisingly nice for its price. It’s just that the honor 8 takes a big step forward to become something unique that actually feels quite premium, even next to high-end flagships.
Otherwise, the design language is pretty similar, with a finger print sensor around the back, no physical home button and nice thin bezels. It’s slightly thinner this time at 7.45mm vs 8.5mm but in all other respects the dimensions are very close indeed and they almost stack perfectly on top of one another.
The rear fingerprint sensor is embedded into a physical button this time around though. As with the gestures on the Honor 7’s fingerprint sensor, this lets you assign several custom actions. These can be triggered with single taps, double taps and long presses, meaning Pokémon Go is never more than a button press away. It could also be handy if you ever need to access the flashlight quickly. You can also swipe through images in your photo gallery with it and perform other gestures, making it a neat extra feature to have.
On the front, the Honor 8 has an attractive 5.2inch screen, which remains the same as last time. The resolution also holds steady at 1920×1080, so no quad HD here yet. That said, the screen has been given a little more saturation and brightness to closer resemble an AMOLED but generally, these two device sport very similar displays. It looks good and fairly crisp but some may be disappointed by the lack of progress here.
As is par for the course, the Honor 8 features a slight bump up in specs compared to the 7. Inside is Huawei’s own octa-core Kirin 950 processor, with four cores clocked at 2.3GHz and four at 1.8GHz. This is an upgrade on the Kirin 935 found in last year’s model (which had cores clocked at 2Ghz and 1.5Ghz) and RAM has also been increased from 3GB to 4GB.
The Honor 7 could occasionally struggle with heavy 3D gaming so this is a welcome upgrade and there shouldn’t be many performance concerns with the Honor 8. Of course the Kirin 950 lags slightly behind the likes of the Qualcom 820 but it should be more than enough for most tasks.
Last year’s device came with either 16 or 64GB of internal storage but this time we have one option bang in the middle at 32GB. Both are expandable by up to 128GB via a microSD card though, in case you’re in need of a little more.
Battery life takes a small step down from the Honor 7 meanwhile, going from 3100mAh capacity to a 3000mAh but it shouldn’t make a huge difference. The 8 also promises low power consumption for its GPS and comes with quick charging, which lets you charge the battery to 47% in just 30 minutes. So this should be handy for power users too.
Something new that the Honor 8 brings to the table is a dual camera, like the one found on the Huawei P9 but without the Leica branding. That means it actually uses two lenses simultaneously to capture a color and monochrome version of the same image. The Honor 8 then combines these two versions to form a more detailed final product and it does seem to work well.
The camera app is also very nice, allowing you to adjust the aperture both before and after taking the shot. The main camera is 12MP, while the selfie camera is 8MP. The 8’s rear camera is a step down from the 7’s 20MP then but the software tweaks and dual camera more than make up for this. Side-by-side comparisons confirm that the 8 is definitely a significantly better shooter with images sporting a lot more detail and contrast.
Out of the box, the Honor 8 will come with Android Marshmallow and this should be upgradable to Android N at some point in the future. Once again, you’ll also get Huawei’s Emotion UI on top of that, which brings a couple of neat additions like a screen capture function but may not be to everyone’s tastes. The look was certainly something that was criticized about the Honor 7, though you can always switch your launcher and use other customizations to minimize its impact if you’re not a fan.
Another nice software feature that’s new to the line is a blue light filter. This reduces the amount of blue light coming from the screen and it should help to reduce eye strain and keep your cortisol levels low before bed to improve your sleep. This is the same option that has been introduced on the Galaxy Note 7 and it’s something health-conscious users and night owls might appreciate.
The Honor 7 was a surprisingly solid phone for its price and that’s exactly what you’re getting again with the Honor 8. While the increase in specs might be a little marginal in some respects, that’s starting to matter less and less these days. With this upgrade, what you’re getting a better camera and big improvements in build quality and aesthetics. This device looks and feels like something you can be proud to own thanks to its reflective body; you just have to make a couple of small sacrifices in terms of the screen resolution and OS compared with other flagships.
This is definitely an appealing proposition with the price still so affordable, making this overall a pleasant surprise from Huawei. However, if none of these new features appeal and you want the very lowest price for your smartphone with no need for the latest hardware, the Honor 7 is still a fine choice too.