Honor 8 Pro review: Can Honor’s big smartphone outsmart the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge?

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Many would have poked fun at 5.7in smartphones a few years back, but today they’re a common sight. Even budget manufacturers are producing phablets these days, and the latest is Honor with its Honor 8 Pro. This is a 5.7in Quad HD screen with an impressive array of specifications and a gorgeous design that merges the beauty of the Honor 8 and Huawei P10, yet it keeps the price down to a comparatively low £475.

I recently revisited the Honor 8 due to its Android 7 Nougat update, so I was intrigued to see what this new device could bring to the table and how it would compete with other Quad HD phablets such as the Google Nexus 6P (£350 used), Samsung Galaxy Note 5 (£442 new) and the impressive Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (£490 new).

You can find the Honor 8 Pro through an array of UK retailers for £475, including on Honor’s vMall website, a tasty price given its specifications and competition. The smartphone is available in platinum gold, midnight black and navy blue colours, and comes with 64GB of internal storage as standard. I was sent the midnight blue phone for this review.

Honor 8 Pro review: Build quality

Honor decided to ditch the 15 layers of glass found on the regular Honor 8, instead coming up with a design that merges the Huawei P10’s matte finish and Honor 8’s vibrant colour scheme. The result is stunning. The sleek, rounded edges and its full-metal unibody design give the phone a premium feel. Its 184g weight also complements the phone’s handling.

Measuring only 6.97mm from front to back, the Honor 8 Pro is slim; it’s thinner than the iPhone 7 Plus, in fact, which is 7.3mm. And without a camera bump on the rear, the Honor 8 Pro can lie flat on any surface.

Unlike the Huawei P10, the Honor 8 Pro has a fingerprint sensor around the back of the phone. This, to me, makes the phone more natural to unlock and, with its blisteringly fast unlock speed, the Honor 8 Pro is secure and comfortable to use one-handed.

However, where the fingerprint reader doubles up as a customisable button on the Honor 8, that capability has been removed here. You can still swipe your finger left, right, up and down to carry out various operations, but I do miss using the button as a shortcut for the torch.

A 3.5mm headphone jack is located at the bottom, alongside a downward-firing speaker and its fast-charging USB Type-C connector, which delivers 38% battery from a 30-minute charge. The phone’s volume rocker and power button are found on the right, and a dual nano-SIM compartment is on the left. If you prefer, a 128GB microSD card can be inserted, occupying the secondary SIM slot.

Honor 8 Pro review: Display

The Honor 8’s Full HD display was impressive, but the Honor 8 Pro takes it one step further with its 5.7in QHD screen. With an impressive 1,440 x 2,560 pixels, the Honor 8 Pro kicks out a pixel density of 515ppi, resulting in sharp images and text.

Its 93.7% sRGB colour gamut is slightly lower than the 98.2% achieved by its smaller sibling, the Honor 8. Nonetheless, colours still appear vibrant and rich. Its 1,305:1 contrast ratio and 0.35cd/m2 black levels are acceptable, too, and I experienced no issues with viewing angles.

With a maximum brightness of 463cd/m2, you won’t have any problems viewing the screen in sunlit conditions, either. By comparison, this is brighter than the Honor 8’s 416cd/m2 screen.

Honor 8 Pro review: Software

The Honor 8 Pro ships with Android 7 Nougat and EMUI 5.1 out of the box. EMUI has been optimised extremely well and works fluidly with the Honor 8 Pro. I’ve grown fond of Honor’s integration of EMUI on its smartphones, and 5.1 includes RAM and processor optimisations, which Honor claims help Android stay responsive in the long run.

According to Honor, EMUI 5.1 has “RAM defragmentation, advanced memory compression and a faster kernel for memory recycling”, which all combine to deliver a stutter-free Android experience. Often, Android phones slow down after a few months or years of use. This can be due to anything from a build up of app cache, to low-level code that clutters up your RAM.

It’s a little early to say how effective this is, but we’ll be keeping tabs on it for you. A colleague is currently using a Huawei P10 as his everyday phone, which uses the same Android optimisations, and he’ll update this review with his findings in a few months.

Honor 8 Pro review: Performance

The Honor 8 Pro looks impressively well stacked inside. It has an octa-core Kirin 960 chip, comprising one quad 2.4GHz CPU and one quad 1.8GHz CPU, and the phone flies through intensive tasks. A massive 6GB of RAM is also thrown in to help it deal with heavy multitasking. Put into perspective, these specifications are more impressive than the £650 LG G6.

The Honor 8 Pro’s benchmark performance is impressive. With a Geekbench 4 single-core score of 1,828 and multi-core score of 6,278, it’s up there with the very best smartphones around and, compared with its closest rivals, it’s the best of the bunch.

^Geekbench 4

I found the phone blisteringly quick and able to cope with anything I threw at it, including intensive Android games; from Asphalt 8: Airborne to Temple Run 2, the Honor 8 Pro had no trouble at all maintaining a smooth frame rate. With a consistent performance of over 30fps in benchmarks and games, the Honor 8 Pro is perfect if you’re a hardcore gamer.

Its results in the GFXBench Manhattan 3 test back up this positive impression, with the Honor 8 Pro achieving an average onscreen frame rate of 33fps and an off-screen frame rate of 42fps.

^GFXBench Manhattan 3

The big disappointment is that the Honor 8 Pro has below-average battery life. For a phone with a 4,000mAh battery, I’d have expected more than the 11hrs 17mins achieved in the Expert Reviews video-rundown benchmark. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge achieved 18hrs 42mins in the same benchmark.

Honor 8 Pro review: Camera

The Honor 8 Pro has the same 12-megapixel f/2.2 camera as the regular Honor 8. The rear camera comes with laser autofocus and dual-tone LED flash, while the front selfie shooter is an 8-megapixel f/2.4 camera.

There’s a healthy selection of camera modes to choose from: photo, pro photo, video, pro video, monochrome, HDR, 3D creator, night shot, panorama, light painting, time-lapse, slow-mo, watermark, audio note and document scan.

Pro photo mode allows you to adjust the metering, ISO, shutter speed, EV, focus and white balance. Pro video gives you the option to adjust the metering mode, EV, AF and white balance.

As with the Honor 8, images are stunning to look at. With good colours and image details, and the ability to shoot in monochrome, the Honor 8 Pro is a great device for smartphone photography. It isn’t in the top percentile of smartphone cameras – where phones such as the Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Huawei P9 and P10 reside – but it’s still great.

^Road shot in HDR mode (brickwork is clear, colours are accurate, both sky and road are visible)

Its low-light performance is wonderful, with images appearing brightly lit and exhibiting little image noise. I was yet again impressed by its colour accuracy and balanced exposures.

^Indoor shot in standard mode

On the downside, flash performance was more of a disappointment, as for some reason images appeared very dull and dark. In fact, I’d advise avoiding using the flash completely, but that shouldn’t be a problem since low-light performance is so good.

^Indoor shot with flash

As for video, that’s pretty good as well. Unlike the Honor 8, which couldn’t record at 4K, you can use the Honor 8 Pro to record in Ultra HD resolution at 30fps. You can also record Full HD footage at 60fps and 30fps, and there are a couple of slow-motion modes as well – Full HD at 120fps and 720p at 240fps.

After you’ve recorded your slow-mo video, you can edit the part of the video that is shown in slow-mo, making it great for social media sharing.

Honor 8 Pro review: Verdict

There’s very little to dislike about the Honor 8 Pro. It has a blazingly fast processor, 6GB of RAM, a beautiful Quad HD display, a mesmerising design and solid build quality. And with 64GB of internal storage, dual-SIM capabilities (or microSD card expansion) and a good pair of cameras, it’s amazing value for £475.

The one big black spot is battery life, which isn’t great – here, the OnePlus 3T and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge stretch out a lead.

Still, the Honor 8 Pro is nothing short of amazing at this price, and if you’re looking to buy a large, phablet-sized smartphone for less than £500, the Honor 8 Pro should be one of your first choices.

Hardware
Processor Octa-core (4×2.4 GHz Cortex-A73 & 4×1.8 GHz Cortex-A53)
RAM 6GB
Screen size 5.7in
Screen resolution 1440 x 2560
Screen type LTPS IPS
Front camera 8 megapixels
Rear camera 12 megapixels
Flash LED
GPS Yes
Compass Yes
Storage 64GB
Memory card slot (supplied) microSD (128GB)
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2
NFC Yes
Wireless data 3G, 4G
Dimensions 157 x 77.5 x 6.97 mm
Weight 184g
Features
Operating system Android 7.0
Battery size 4,000mAh

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