Huawei Honor 8 Review: A pocket camera for shallow depth of field at a budget

Honor 8 takes the legacy of Huawei P9's dual rear camera and brings it down to mid-range segment

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Written by Karthekayan Iyer | Updated: October 20, 2016 2:38 pm
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Fingerprint Scanner – a tiny sensor placed at the back or embedded into the home button – was the big differentiator among smartphones sometime back. It’s second half of 2016 and dual rear camera system is now becoming the new common differentiator. Right from Apple to Coolpad, OEMs are going crazy about packing dual rear camera system on their devices. While HTC deserves to be credited for bringing the concept to a wider platform like Android, Huawei gets accolades for making consumers take note with its Leica branded P9.

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Huawei P9 had an extremely capable camera and its Leica style monochrome was just second to none but the price point made it an enthusiast smartphone camera rather than a compelling buying option. With Honor 8, Huawei wants to change that scenario altogether.

Honor 8

Honor 8 is basically an all new smartphone with that same camera found on the flagship Huawei P9, minus the Leica branding. With Honor 8, Huawei is bringing all its Leica learnings to an even cheaper price point.

Apart from that camera, Honor 8 also tries to offer a dynamic design and seamless experience with Android. Before buying the Honor 8, the biggest question that needs to be answered is whether you really need a dual camera smartphone? Isn’t that one camera on your smartphone good enough?

Specs: 5.2-inch (1080x1920p, ~423 ppi) IPS LCD display | Octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 950 processor | 4GB RAM | 32GB storage | 12MP+12MP dual rear camera + 8MP front | Li-Ion 3000 mAh battery | Android Marshmallow OS

Price: Rs 29,999

What is good?

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The USP of Honor 8 is its camera (which we will touch upon in a bit) but I believe design is equally impressive. Honor 8 features a combination of metal and glass unibody design. The rear of the device has metal fused with glass, which really stands out. The rear panel is a serious fingerprint magnet but when kept clean, it’s a portable mirror.

More colleagues asked me about this phone than any other in the past. The glass back and the slim profile makes for an elegant look. Honor 8 is easy to hold and even great for one-handed use. In my opinion, Honor 8 is one of the best designed smartphones of 2016.

Honor 8 features a 5.2-inch with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. I found the display to be deeply saturated and colour accuracy was as good as it can get with a LCD display. The blacks tended could be deeper though. The important aspect of this display is its ambient light sensor. The sensor intelligently switches the display brightness when you move from a dark environment to say direct sunlight.

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Huawei is trying to be as independent as possible with its smartphone development. Honor 8 like Huawei P9 is powered by the company’s own HiSilicon Kirin processor. The processor is slower than 955 found on P9 Plus. In my week long time with Honor 8, I found application load times, gaming and multitasking to be quick. The EMUI worked seamlessly on this chipset and most basic tasks felt really smooth here. In a nutshell, performance was not an issue at all with Honor 8.

Huawei and its Honor branded smartphones have got one thing really perfect since the start – fingerprint sensor. Honor 8 also packs one of the fastest rear mounted fingerprint scanner among smartphones. In fact, with Honor 8, Huawei has turned that sensor into a clickable button. Single click switches ON the flashlight while double click opens the camera. Long pressing the fingerprint scanner now gives access to Google Now. I got addicted to this feature and ended up triggering the camera right from the fingerprint scanner and if you continue placing your finger on the sensor, the camera shutter gets triggered too. The whole implementation is very neat.

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Let’s talk about the camera – the biggest selling point here. Honor 8 has the same dual rear camera setup I really liked on Huawei P9. There are two sensors – one for chrome and another one for monochromatic shots. The difference being that the monochrome sensor is not endorsed by Leica.

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For most part, consumers buying Honor 8 will end up clicking the images in auto mode and this one performs fairly well. The autofocus is fast and the ability to latch onto a subject is instantaneous. The most interesting thing about the camera is its shallow depth of field of effect.

In this mode, the camera uses the regular sensor to snap the image and adds depth using the second sensor. The feature has been there on smartphones like HTC One M8, but it works like a charm here. For eg. I shot a portrait with f/0.95 aperture and standard settings for ISO and shutter speed, the output was really astonishing.

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Yes, the bokeh is not as realistic as the one shot with a DSLR but nonetheless this is a cool party trick. While P9’s standout feature was monochrome mode, the feature has been hidden in filters here. In monochrome mode, the images are rendered in black and white – the output does not offer as much contrast as the P9 samples – but this is definitely good for posting on Instagram with the hashtag #bw.

Overall, I am extremely impressed by the camera prowess of Honor 8. The samples are not as striking as P9 in monochrome, but they are certainly different from anything else available in this price bracket.

What is not good?

There is hardly anything to complain about Honor 8 technically. The battery of this phone lasted nearly a full day but with some moderate use. I could not get as much output as Asus Zenfone 3. Honor 8 uses USC-C and it charges really quick. So in all, the smartphone can last you a day but I would have loved it if I could have pushed it to a day and a half.

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Another thing worth mentioning here is that the Android UI used here is a skinned version of Marshmallow. While it easy to get accustomed to the interface, the UI is something not everyone is going to like. The software is going to be a hit and miss feature.

Should you buy?

The paradigm of photography has changed a lot in the last few years. The photography scene has been democratised and Instagram and Snapchat are becoming the new canvas. If you want to add a new touche of photo elements to your Instagram feed, Honor 8 is the smartphone to buy.

A good mix of photos with real depth of field and monochromatic filters will earn you new followers and most importantly change the perception of photography by adding a new dimension. If that’s all you seek, then Honor 8 is a great smartphone to buy.

I must say at Rs 29,999, Honor 8 seems to be overpriced. There is only one killer feature – dual rear camera and you can live without that camera.