The affordable flagship smartphone category, promoted to casual smartphone users as “flagship killers”, has found an indispensable place in the consideration of mid-range smartphone seekers. OnePlus started the trend, followed by Xiaomi, OPPO, Vivo and Honor later on. While OnePlus found immense popularity with its handsets in the Indian smartphone market, Honor couldn’t exactly set the market on fire with its premium phones — at least not yet.
Their last flagship for 2016, the Honor 8, was a great smartphone with a premium build and an excellent dual camera setup to challenge the then OnePlus flagship. However, with the arrival of the OnePlus 5, Honor now has the chance to challenge it with its latest offering — the Honor 8 Pro. The smartphone promises to be a great purchase on paper along with a competitive price tag of Rs 29,999 in the affordable premium smartphone range. So, we had it with us to check out whether it stands on its intention of providing a notable affordable flagship smartphone experience.
Both the Honor 8 and the Honor 8 Lite had a glamourous glass-metal combo body. The flagship Honor 8 Pro ditches the convention and goes for an all-metal construction. The 8 Pro flanks a premium metal build for the rear with the dual camera sensor and prominent antenna bands, which is pretty reminiscent of the iPhone 6 Plus. Sadly, Honor seems to have eliminated the much-needed OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) in order to keep the two rear cameras flush with the rear panel. In fact, the entire profile of the Honor 8 Pro harks to the Apple iPhone 6 Plus, especially with a large 5.7-inch display that we shall discuss later. The only distinguishing element in the rear panel is the fingerprint scanner, which, while being responsive, is a tad smaller, making it hard to reach on a large phablet, especially if you have smaller hands. However, the ‘Dual Lens’ branding on the camera panel takes away the overall premium feel of the device, when noticed carefully. It is practically shouting out loud that it has a dual camera setup. Rest apart, the beautiful metal body makes the phone heavier too — thanks to all that metal and the large battery that is incorporated within.
The bottom sports a USB Type-C port, which is accompanied by a loudspeaker and a 3.5mm headphone jack, whereas the top sports a secondary noise-cancelling microphone along with an IR blaster for controlling supported appliances. There’s a hybrid SIM card slot to the left and hardware buttons to the right.
With the 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass 3-protected display, the Honor 8 Pro surely feels premium to hold. Little things like the tiny screws beside the USB Type-C port helps showcase extreme attention to details. The matte finish on the metal surfaces provides ample grip, despite the phone’s gigantic form factor.
One of the main highlights of the Honor 8 Pro is its 2K display. Honor has provided a massive 5.7-inch 2560 x 1140-pixel LTPS LCD display for providing an ultimate viewing experience, especially for VR. The LTPS technology makes for sharper images with high contrasts while keeping the temperature under control. The colours rendered on the display are vibrant and brightness levels are great, which help in impressive sunlight legibility. And for those worried about smudges and fingerprints, the Honor 8 Pro’s display unit is smudge resistant too.
Being a flagship phone, the 8 Pro is built on the 16nm FINFET HiSilicon Kirin 960 chipset with four high-performance ARM Cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.4GHz alongside four low-power Cortex A53 cores clocked at 1.8GHz. This processor is aided by a Mali G71-MP8 GPU for handling graphics. To complete the powerhouse specifications, there’s 6GB of RAM for aiding easy multitasking and 128GB of onboard storage to accommodate apps and user data.
With all these specifications, the Honor 8 Pro sails through any regular tasks thrown at it. Apps open instantly, loading times are lower, and animations are slick. You can easily flick between five to six apps at once. On a day-to-day basis, the Honor 8 Pro is simply 'super fast'.
With these flagship class specification, the Honor 8 Pro glides through resource-intensive games with great ease. Games like Asphalt 8 and Need For Speed No Limits run on this handset without issues. However, expect some low quality textures on these high-end titles as not all games are optimised for different chipsets and 2K displays on various Android devices.
The Honor 8 Pro really shines in the photography department. There is a 12MP RGB sensor clubbed with a 12MP monochrome sensor and a dual tone LED flash to handle the camera duties. Unlike dual camera units on most competitors that focus on optical zoom, the Honor 8 Pro’s dual camera focuses on image quality. A monochrome sensor excels at capturing details, which is then combined with the result of the RGB sensor using clever algorithms at ground level to produce astonishingly detailed photographs. The photos capture natural colours with the right amount of contrast.
For those obsessed with the bokeh effects, the Honor 8 Pro does that pretty well, creating shallow depth-of-field (DoF) effects on par with DSLR cameras. See sample shots for bokeh below.
The camera manages to capture natural colours in low light conditions pretty well. Although there's a lack of sharpness, it manages to capture decent photos without any major issues.
With the Pro mode enabled, you can get some DSLR-level photographs in low light conditions, like this light trail photo (below) that we managed to capture without a tripod. You can achieve slower shutter speeds up to three seconds and larger aperture values as well in the pro mode.
The camera can shoot videos in 4K resolution without losing out on details and colours. One major issue here is the lack of Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS). While the Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS) manages to reduce vibrations for still photographs satisfactorily, the same cannot be said for videos. Although the electronic trickery cannot make up for the actual hardware’s inability to stabilise photos on the move, it still manages to even out the vibrations by losing out a bit on quality.
Lastly, the front 8MP selfie shooter produces average results, giving us nothing special to write about.
Overall, the camera produces good photos with respectable levels of details, colour balance, contrasts and exposures. It would have been better if Honor could incorporate the OIS mechanism in the camera to make it a decent complete package.
To power that brilliant 2K display and the camera, Honor has managed to stuff a mammoth high density 4000mAh battery within the 7mm slim body. With an extensive usage that involves texting, calling, gaming, photography and video streaming, the Honor 8 Pro manages to last a day and a half, falling just short of the 2-day battery in our tests.
However, that can be achieved if you turn down the screen resolution from 2K to Full-HD. One notable aspect of the battery is that even with 9V, 2A fast charging capability and a metal body, the phone doesn’t heat up uncomfortably, which is commendable.
The Honor 8 Pro runs EMUI 5.1, which is built on top of Android 7.0 Nougat. For an extensively customised interface, EMUI 5.1 doesn’t show any signs of lag or stutters. There’s a lot of stock Android-inspired minimalism across the software. Users are given an option to choose between an iOS-inspired home screen menu layout or a traditional Android app drawer layout, which a great thing for people accustomed to the stock Android setup.
Honor also provides the latest Android security patches to EMUI, thus making it one of the few customised UIs to get timely updates. On the whole, EMUI is constantly improving and feels a lot more matured than the version we experienced on the Honor 8 Lite a few months back.
When large manufacturers give their time, efforts and attention on a product, a brilliant smartphone is created, which is exactly what the Honor 8 Pro is. The build has immaculate attention to details, the camera has the capability to challenge an entry-level DSLR camera in terms of image quality, the 2K display beats OLED displays in terms of colours and contrasts, and the giant 4000mAh battery makes sure that you get to enjoy the best of Honor’s efforts without worrying about hunting a charging source. If you don’t care about a stock Android experience and need a good smartphone camera, then at Rs 29,999, the Honor 8 Pro is probably the best affordable flagship smartphone money can buy.