An impressive first experience with the Honor 8

While it used to be that you would have to spend over $600 to get a top-tier handset, there are now a handful of companies shaking up the industry by offering high quality devices at more reasonable prices. As of yesterday, Honor is now one of those companies, debuting the Honor 8 for the United States at a starting price of $399.

I've been using the handset for a couple days and I can tell you - I'm highly impressed. When it comes to trying to compete in the same arena as a Samsung S7 or an HTC 10, you have to first and foremost present a device to the world that exudes the highest of quality. The Honor 8 does this by offering a handset constructed from metal and glass. While this isn't something new, the Honor 8 executes construction with finesse by refining the details, making use of 2.5D glass on the front and back that seamlessly meld the aluminum alloy bezel with the sloping edges of the display and rear glass.

Although this in itself would already be enough, Honor has taken the process a step further, by constructing the glass back panel from 15 layers, which gives it a prismatic shimmery effect that puts on quite a show in the right light, and is nothing like I've ever seen before.

Although the rear panel is beautiful, it offers much more than just an aesthetic conversation piece, as it houses the 12MP dual lenses and fingerprint reader. The dual camera sits flush with the back panel, going against the norm, which has recently seen design regress, with many handsets' lenses protruding. But, looking good doesn't get you good marks, you also have to back up the aesthetic with performance.

So far, the 12MP camera is doing a great job, making colors pop and offering great detail. The Honor 8 is able to accomplish this by using both lenses, one that takes a photo in color and the other in monochrome, and combines the two images for a superior result.

As for clarity, most of the photos I have taken look crisp, which can be attributed to the devices use of a hybrid autofocus system that employs both contrast and laser focusing. Naturally, more testing will have to be done over the next couple of weeks, and in more environments.

The Honor 8 also comes with a fingerprint reader that is quick and accurate, and can even learn your fingerprint to allow for faster recognition over time. But, what makes the fingerprint sensor on the device unique is that it can also be setup as a customizable button. By invoking what Honor is calling "Smart Key", users can setup the button to act as a shortcut button to gain instant access to actions or an app. Although the list for setting up an action is fairly short with only three (voice recording, flashlight, screenshot) options being available, the potential to setup an app as a shortcut is limitless. Currently, I have a single press opening Snapchat, a double press opening the camera app, and a long press activating the flashlight. So far, this has been extremely convenient, and is a very resourceful way of utilizing the fingerprint sensor.

As for performance, the device seems zippy, with applications running smoothly without hiccups. The 3000mAh battery is able to power through most of the day and night, and should be enough for most users. If you tend to use battery intensive apps like Snapchat, the battery will suffer a bit and will most likely require you to recharge. In the intensive situation, using Snapchat sporadically, I was able to make it through a 12 hour day with about 10% battery life remaining. Luckily, the device supports fast charging, but does so through its proprietary charger.

Honor 8 specifications:

  • 5.2-inch 1080p display
  • HiSilicon octa-core Kirin 950 processor | Mali-T880 MP4
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB of storage with microSD expansion
  • Dual 12MP AF rear cameras with laser and contrast focusing
  • 8MP wide-angle front-facing camera
  • 3000mAh battery with fast charging capability

Along with the above, the handset also offers the usual array of ports and sensors like a 3.5mm headphone jack, single speaker output and USB Type-C port. You also have a power button with volume rocker, a set of microphones, IR blaster and a SIM slot that accepts Nano SIM and microSD.

For the most part, I am enjoying my time with the Honor 8. The handset is a head turner, and although most that approached me to ask about the device didn't recognize the Honor brand, they did like the Honor 8. Like any handset vying to make a name for itself, the Honor 8 attempts to offer as much as possible with very little compromise. Its solid construction, excellent use of materials, a formidable spec list, and costing a few hundred dollars less than the competition, make this a very real threat for Samsung and others.

Over the next week or two, I'll be putting the Honor 8 through its paces exploring the capabilities of the dual lens camera, performance and other aspects of the device. If you have questions in regards to the device, you can leave a comment or find me on Twitter, otherwise be sure to check back soon, as we will have our full review of the Honor 8 up soon.

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