Honor 8X Review: Looks are its X-factor
A lot of style and quite some substance too
2018 has seen a fair number of phone launches, and one of the companies that has really upped the ante in terms of bringing one device after another to the market is Huawei, both under its own name and that of its sub-brand Honor. This year has seen a launch of a many (perhaps one too many) devices from the brand and the most recent one comes from the house of Honor is the Honor 8X. The device is the latest addition to the much loved Honor X series which is known to bring innovative features with a budget-friendly price tag. But how well does the 8X carry this legacy forward?
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The most gorgeous phone below Rs 15,000. Period.
We do not want to beat around the bush, so, we are going to say it straight away: the Honor 8X is the most gorgeous phone under the price tag of Rs. 15,000 in the market at the time of writing. Smartphones falling under the sub Rs.15,000 category often follow a very similar, tried and tested, sometimes even to the point of boring design language. Which is understandable to an extent as design never really is the top priority for companies in this price band, but with the 8X, Honor proves every conventional thought about budget smartphone design wrong.
With Honor 8X, the company has produced a device which not only looks premium for its price segment but can even give some high-end devices a run for their money in the looks department. The front of the Honor 8X is dominated by a 6.5-inch full HD+ display with a screen resolution of 2340 x 1080 pixels. The display is topped with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 to protect against scratches and bruises and comes with 19:5:5 aspect ratio and an impressive 91 percent screen to body ratio. On top of the display is a small notch that carries a round earpiece, front-facing camera, and proximity sensor.
One of the plus points of the front design of the 8X are the minimal bezels around the screen. We have seen many smartphones with notches and tall displays now but while everyone seems to be obsessed with a nearly no bezel scenario, there are very few smartphones that have actually trimmed down the bezels as much as the 8X has, especially in this price segment. That said, while the 6.5-inch display is beautiful and creates a good contrast, it does not seem bright enough to take super sunny days head on.
If you are already impressed with the front design of the Honor 8X, hold your horses – the best bit is yet to come. Flip the phone around and the premiumness of the device will hit you right in the face. The phone radiates premium feels. It comes with a glass back that is not only shiny and reflective but also dual textured. About one-fourth of the smartphone’s back on the left-hand side has a different texture while about three fourth comes with a different texture. Honor has called this a “visual grating effect” and claims to have used multiple layers of glass to achieve the result. Well, it certainly is a sight! On the top left, the Honor has placed the pair of rear cameras. Unlike the very popular single capsule unit which holds both sensors, Honor has opted to go with two individual circular sensors one placed just below the other. This duo is accompanied by a single tone LED flash. The cameras are also labeled as AI camera on the back while the company’s logo sits near the base, all in vertical alignment. The back also hosts the fingerprint scanner on the upper half.
Although the back is beautiful, smudges and scratches are definitely a problem with this one. Thankfully, Honor is shipping the device with a soft plastic transparent cover which not only will save your phone from scratches and smudges but will still allow the smartphone to turn heads. And if all that gloss is getting too much for you, the company has also added a bit of metal to cut through them heavy glass feels. The base of the device is divided into three segments by two lines that appear to be antenna bands. The first segment carries the 3.5 mm audio jack (yes, it’s there), the second carries the micro USB port while the third carries the speaker grille. The company has kept the top clean. The left side carries the dual card and microSD SIM card tray while the right side holds the volume rocker and power/lock button.
Measuring 160.4 x 76.6 x 7.8 mm, the smartphone is pretty tall but still sits beautifully in hand, although it is definitely going to be easier to use for those with big mitts. At 175 grams the phone also does not feel too heavy but definitely feels like it has got a bit of substance to it!
A steady performer
The Honor 8X is powered by Huawei’s in-house HiSilicon Kirin 710 processor (the first Honor device in the country to sport that chip) paired with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage. There is also a 6 GB/ 64 GB storage variant and a 6 GB/ 128 GB one. The storage on the 8X can be expanded up to 400 GB by using a microSD card – and the micro SD card slot is a dedicated one (no hybrid SIMs here). Connectivity options include 4G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and NFC. A 3.5 mm audio jack is very much present, although some might feel a little disappointed by the inclusion of a micro USB charging port rather than a USB Type C – we still do not think that is a deal breaker at this price point, though.
In terms of performance, the Honor 8X cleared most of the hurdles easily. Our experience was super smooth and the phone’s response was quick. The device handled multitasking, jumps from one application to another well. Opening multiple apps in the background did not take a toll on the general performance of the 8X and the experience remained lag-free and snappy. For gaming, Honor has paired the 8X with GPU Turbo Technology out of the box which claims to offer an improvement of about 60 percent in performance and about 30 percent better battery management. While casual games like Subway Surfer and Temple Run 2 were a treat to play, even with a number of applications running in the background, the phone did struggle a bit in the high-end gaming zone. While PUBG ran pretty well on the device and did not stutter too much, NFS No Limits crashed a few times and we also experienced the issue of frame drops while playing this game.
Face Unlock on the phone works well and is pretty fast, although it does take a lot of time to add facial details on the phone. Mind you, it does seem more comprehensive than some quick face unlocks – it does not unlock the device when the user’s eyes are shut. As for the fingerprint scanner, the device takes a while to register the fingerprint but once done, works pretty accurately.
Surprisingly sub-par cameras
The camera component has often been the flag bearer for the Honor’s X series. The Honor 6X and 7X were both promoted as great camera phones and this has not changed with the 8X either. At least in spec terms. The Honor 8X comes with dual rear cameras comprising a 20-megapixel main sensor with f/1.8 aperture and PDAF and a 2-megapixel sensor for depth sensing. On the front, there is a 16-megapixel sensor with f/2.0 aperture.
But while cameras may have been the USP of the X series, the ones present on the 8X are frankly nothing to rave about, and do not do their predecessors justice. The pictures taken with the primary camera often seemed turned out to be overexposed and seemed even artificial at times. While the autofocus on the rear camera is pretty accurate and fast, taking a picture with the 8X requires a second of steadiness, especially in low light, because there no stabilization of any kind is present. If attention is not paid, the result can often be blurry. But while detail on the pictures was mostly acceptable, what we had an issue with was the color reproduction as images produced looked too different from the real subject in terms of colors.
Taking pictures with the Portrait mode had its own share of positives and negatives. While the bokeh produced in the pictures was deep and very realistic, the feature struggled with the edges of the subject, often blurring a part of the subject or leaving a bit of background in focus, which detracted from the results. The are five main modes on the device include Aperture, Night, Portrait, Photo, and Video. Other options like Pro, Slow-mo, Panorama, AR Lens, HDR, Time-lapse including a few more can be found in the “More” section. The device has AI photography option which optimizes the settings of the phone by understanding the subject and scene that you are clicking, which sounds good on paper but in actual practice, we felt that the AI mode only added to the saturation of colors in the image. The mode can be turned off, though, and we recommend doing so.
The 16-megapixel selfie camera on the device, on the other hand, captures a lot of detail which is rare when it comes to selfie cameras especially in this price range. And well, we think it also often produced better color results as compared to the main sensor. Low light shots were not impressive on the 8X and mostly lacked detail, which is not really surprising at this price point.
Impressive battery and UI
The Honor 8X runs on a 3,750 mAh battery. That is a pretty good number, and not too distant from the 4000 mAh one on Xiaomi’s Note series. But the 8X also comes with massive 6.5-inch full HD+ display. We had feared that the display would drain a lot of the battery, but the battery life on the 8X is very impressive. The phone actually lasted a whole day on a single charge even when we pushed it, and managed to last more than a day when used moderately.
The Honor 8X is powered by Android 8.1 out of the box and is topped with EMUI 8.2.0. The layer of EMUI is what adds to the experience of the 8X and helps it stand out of the basic stock Android crowd. Over the years, the company has added a lot of new features to the skin and has improved its overall performance as well – Honor claims it does not slow down over time and it certainly has been the case in most of its recent devices. The UI brings a few third-party apps like Netflix, Facebook Messenger, and Camera360 to the phone but there is nothing overwhelming about the interface here. It is pretty clean but at the same time brings a lot to the table once you start digging a bit. That said, we would have loved to see Android Pie on the device, given the fact that it has been around for a while.
It’s got the looks…and a lot of competition!
With the Honor 8X, the company has definitely managed gain some attention, thanks to the extremely good looks of the smartphone. And when you consider its design and what it also brings to the table in terms of specs, its starting price of Rs 14,999 for the 4GB/ 64 GB variant seems a terrific deal (the 6 GB/ 64 GB storage variant comes for Rs. 16,999, while the 6 GB/ 128 GB variant can be had for Rs. 18,999), not least because design is one department where most companies try to cut corners in this price band. Yes, the cameras are (surprisingly) a letdown, which can be a deal breaker for some considering the increasing importance of mobile cameras in this day and age, but the smartphone works smoothly, has great battery life and feels great to hold and of course, flaunt. Which is not to say that it will not face a lot of heat in the market from not just well-placed veterans (now!) like the Redmi Note 5 Pro and Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1, both of which have done exceptionally well in the Indian market, but also from their successors, the Redmi Note 6 Pro and the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M2. Add the likes of the Android One Powered Moto One Power, the Xiaomi Mi A2 with its terrific cameras, and the rather gorgeous Nokia 6.1 Plus to the mix, and you can see that the Honor 8X, for all its head-turning ability, does have a lot to contend with. Its design is certainly unparalleled, but it does not quite stand as alone when it comes to performance. But there definitely is a new beauty in cell town.