The days of Xiaomi being the only smartphone maker offering great hardware at great prices are over. Brands such as Nokia, Realme and Honor have finally caught on to the formula, resulting in very competitive, value-for-money devices such as the Nokia 6.1 Plus, Realme 2 Pro, and Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1.
Honor's latest offering, called the Honor 8X, is making a strong push into the mid-range segment. This time around the Huawei sub-brand has made the display and camera its top priority as it seeks to oust its main rival Xiaomi.
Indeed, the Honor 8X happens to have the biggest displays I’ve yet seen on a mid-range smartphone. The only device that even comes close is the Mi Max 2, but that phone has those thick, clunky bezels on the top and bottom.
This is also the first time we're seeing Huawei's brand new, mid-range, Kirin 710 SoC come to India.
Does that make the Honor 8X the perfect mid-range smartphone in the market right now? It does get stiff competition from the Redmi Note 5 Pro, Realme 2 Pro, and even the Mi A2, but I believe the Honor 8X outdoes them in a few areas. If you’re into big screens, don’t mind the notch and have moderate needs, then the Honor 8X seems to be the one to buy in the mid-range category, but only if you're buying the base model.
It really doesn’t make sense to get the high-end variant of the Honor 8X as it costs Rs 18,990. You could get a new Poco F1 smartphone just by shelling out Rs 1,000 more, and that phone is a beast of a performer on almost all fronts. The 4 B RAM + 64 GB storage variant of the 8X retails for Rs 14,999 though, making it a better option.
It’s 2018 and unless you're Google, a notch on a phone is no longer worthy of comment. Honor, not one to be left behind, has leapt aboard the notch express and quickly unleashed a bevvy of notched devices. The 8x is, of course, just another traveller aboard that train.
While the notch has helped shrink phone foreheads to vanishing point, chins and cheeks are still being sidelined. After all, if you want to have the maximum screen, you must remove all bezels. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it seems. Only the iPhone X, XS Max, XS and XR have been able to deliver a chin-less screen. The process of removing the chin is quite expensive as you need to bend the screen to connect it with the motherboard at the back.
The Honor 8X does not eliminate the chin completely, but it does make it so small that it's barely noticeable at all. This, in turn, is Honor 8X’s biggest USP. It is the highest screen-to-body ratio currently on any Honor smartphone (nearly 91 percent). This could still be improved by going with a waterdrop notch like the one we've seen on the Realme 2 Pro.
The device has a 6.4-inch FHD+ IPS LCD display on a body the size of a OnePlus 6. The latter has a 6.28-inch display, making it quite apparent that a chinless phone has advantages that go beyond aesthetics.
Honor has also made a commendable effort to offer a high-quality screen. The display was quite bright in sunny conditions, and vibrant as well, which is a pleasant upgrade over the Honor Play's lacklustre display. The huge display gives quite the visual pleasure while binging on Netflix. The display also dimmed down enough for me to read comfortably at night.
Honor's determination to offer a great display on the 8x, and that funky looking back, means that the phone is very attractive.
Build and Design: 8/10
Speaking of funky backs, the first time I saw the Honor 8X I was reminded of the Oppo F9 Pro, which had this shimmering two-tone diamond design on its back. While there is no diamond pattern on the 8X, the glass back on the phone certainly has that colour shift when you look at it from different angles. In the case of our review unit, it was a light blue and dark blue shift.
The glass back did attract a lot of smudges, some of which were not so easy to rub off. Now putting a case on such a beautiful back would be quite criminal in nature, but it is recommended lest you drop your device and damage it permanently.
The two rear cameras on the back look quite like minion eyes and the flash sit right below them. The Honor logo has been written vertically at the back, which was also seen on the Honor Play as well. The fingerprint scanner is placed in the middle of the top half of the device. Given the size of the phone, I found it hard to reach. People with larger hands or those who hold their phones differently may not have the same issue.
On the front, as mentioned before, we see that tall display with a notch at the top housing the front-facing camera, earpiece, and a sensor. On the left, we see the microSD card and dual-SIM slot. On the right, we see a volume rocker button a power button. At the bottom, there is a speaker grill and a 3.5 mm headphone jack (Yay!), and a micro-USB port.
Overall, the Honor 8X feels good in the hand, though it's truly a nightmare to use one-handed. But that's true of most of today's oversize phones.
Even so, the phone device is surprisingly light for such a huge size and I would definitely recommend it over its competitors, at least in terms of design.
The Honor 8X is not so heavily packed with features as I expected, but that is understandable given that the device costs just Rs 14,999. On the hardware side of things, there is a 6.4-inch FHD+ IPS LCD display with an aspect ratio of 19.5:9. Under the hood the phone packs in a Kirin 710 chipset along with 4 GB RAM + 64 GB internal storage. There are obviously other storage options involved as well and these include 6 GB RAM + 64 GB storage and 6 GB RAM + 128 GB internal storage.
In the camera department, the phone has dual-cameras on the back comprising a 20 MP primary sensor with an f/1.8 aperture and a secondary 2 MP depth sensor. There is a new 'night mode' and also an AI mode in the camera settings, which I will explain in greater detail later on in the review. On the front of the phone, we see a 16 MP camera with an f/2.0 aperture. All cameras support some sort of AI-enhanced features.
On the software side of things, the Honor 8X runs Android 8.1 with Huawei’s EMUI 8.2 running on top. In terms of connectivity options, we have dual-SIM 4G VoLTE support along with Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, microUSB 2.0 OTG port, GPS and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. The entire setup is powered by a 3,750 mAh battery without any quick charge capabilities.
While EMUI isn’t as bad as some of the other custom skins I’ve used in the past, there are some issues that Honor is yet to sort out. There’s that irritating “Log in with Huawei ID” tab still present at the top of the Settings menu, there's no option to customise the quick settings icons unless you head to the settings menu, there's no app drawer (though that's a personal preference) and gesture navigation options are terrible.
Overall, the UI feels a bit cluttered to me and there is a lot of bloatware in the form of separate icons for the browser, gallery and file manager apps. One good thing here is that swiping right from the home screen immediately takes you to the Google app, where a personalised list of curated news articles awaits your attention.
EMUI is something you will have to get used to over a period of time. Users of previous Huawei phones will note not change in the UI, but if, like me, you have a preference for stock Android, the Xiaomi Mi A2 and Nokia 6.1 Plus are great options in the same price range.
When it comes to camera performance, the Honor 8X is plagued by many of the same issues that plague all Honor phones in the same price range. Colours are oversaturated and dynamic range isn't consistent between shots. It's so bad that sometimes the sky will appear grey when it is indeed blue. a maroon building will turn red and a mild yellow tint could turn something canary yellow. At other times, the camera would replicate perfect detail in photos but mess up the exposure. A scene where the sun is shining behind a tall building looks underexposed even though the environment is well lit.
The thing is, I actually like the Honor 8X camera. In fact, I think it's one of the best cameras you can get in this category. While colours are off and dynamic range is all over the place, images are sharp and look great on that display. If you're one for Instagram filters and heavily processed images, you'll enjoy the Honor 8X. If the AI wasn't working overtime to overprocess the images, I'd happily recommend this camera to anyone. As it stands, if it's a more natural, true-to-life image that you seek, consider the Redmi Note 5 Pro.
Among the many modes on the 8X is something called 'Night Mode'. As the name suggests, the mode is supposed to enhance the quality of night-time shots. Initially, I believed the feature to be more of a gimmick than anything else, but I was wrong.
When I shot images at night in the regular mode, the images turned out to be quite unpleasant. Photos looked grainy and had a strong yellowish tint around the focus point. Colours are also washed out.
When I used night mode, I saw a huge difference in output. The image was better exposed, showed better dynamic range and the final image was much sharper.
As you can see from the comparison above, Night Mode makes a world of a difference to the image. While clicking photos in night mode, you have to hold your hand extremely still for 5 seconds as the camera attempts to soak up as much light as it can. The downside is, obviously, that if you move your hand, the entire photo is ruined.
The portrait mode on the phone looks to be good although the background separation isn’t quite as good as, say, on the Redmi Note 5 Pro. In tricky lighting conditions, the phone is not able to create any kind of bokeh, which left me a bit disappointed.
To compare images, I went with the nearest competitors to the 8X, which would be the Redmi Note 5 Pro and Realme 2 Pro. Looking at the images side-by-side, it's easy to see how oversaturated the 8X's images are. The Realme 2 Pro does a good job of maintaining colours but can't capture much detail. The Redmi Note 5 Pro has done the best job here, capturing images with good colour accuracy and detail.
When compared to its rivals, the selfie camera on the 8X also did not strike me as very good. It was definitely better than the Realme 2 Pro, but the Redmi Note 5 Pro presented more accurate colours. Surprisingly it was Honor’s turn to show more detail on my face as compared to the other two devices.
The bottom line is that the phone does click good pictures, but the resultant images are an acquired taste. A true photography enthusiast might cringe at the colours. In any case, the demographic that Honor is looking towards with the Honor 8X is one who do not deeply scrutinise photos.
The Honor 8X is the first phone in India to come with the new mid-range Kirin 710 SoC and while it does a very good job of handling multiple apps at the same time, the phone is not suitable for hardcore gaming activities.
The benchmark scores below also bear that out. It beats the likes of Redmi Note 5 Pro and Nokia 6.1 Plus, and it also beats the Mi A2 and Realme 2 Pro, leading me to believe that the Kirin 710 is a slightly better workhorse than the Snapdragon 660. Honor tells me that the phone does come with the GPU Turbo technology last seen on the Honor Play smartphone, but there is no way to compare what kind of difference the setting makes as there is no option present to toggle GPU Turbo on or off.
Games such as PUBG and Asphalt 9 ran on medium settings and there was some amount of frame drop, which I experienced during extended gaming sessions. Lighter games such as Temple Run and Subway Surfer ran well, but that's to be expected.
At this price, I think the Honor 8X does a good job. Despite the stuttering, there are few other phones in this price bracket that can handle PUBG and Asphalt 9 anyway.
In terms of audio, I was just happy to see a headphone jack, which has become somewhat of a novelty in today’s smartphones. The speakers could have been a little louder and call quality was as good as can be expected.
For some reason, the standard PC Mark 2.0 Battery life test does not work on Honor devices. However, my usage in real life revealed that the Honor 8X performs incredibly well when it comes to battery performance. I got through more than a day of usage on the device using 4G VoLTE and streaming a ton of videos on YouTube and Netflix, while simultaneously having an active Telegram account.
The only downside to the phone is that it takes ages to charge fully. In the absence of any kind of fast charging capabilities, the Honor 8X charges in about 3 hours 20 minutes from 0-100 percent. I would’ve loved some kind of quick charge capabilities, but the more than capable battery on the phone compensates in that respect.
Buy the Honor 8X if you
- Like huge displays and don’t mind the notch
- Want a great battery life
- Like bright, overly colourful photos
Don’t buy the Honor 8X if you
- If you are looking for true to life photographs
- Want a clean software experience
The Honor 8X is a mid-range phone that you'd want to flaunt. That huge, vivid display, shimmering back and punchy colours make a bold first impression. At first glance, the phone is impressive. While I did find the camera experience to be a bit jarring at first, it's something I got used to. Camera aside, the great battery life and reasonably powerful chipset won me over.
That said, I still think that the best version to buy is the cheaper option, the one with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage that retails for Rs 14,990. It hits that value-for-money sweet spot on the head. The other variants push the price too far into Poco F1 territory, and at that price, there's no arguing against a Snapdragon 845 and the dramatically improved performance it promises.
Editor's Note: We are happy to report that the Honor 8X is NOT cheating on benchmarks. Following several reports online, including our own, exhaustive testing, Huawei admitted to cheating on benchmarks and decided to do something about it. Clearly, the company has taken some welcome steps on this front. The fact that Huawei is at least listening and responding to its community is good news indeed.