Our Verdict

Honor 8 is the fanciest-looking Android phones out of China, with an awesome light-refracting glass design and high-end specs. Its dual camera captures photos that are better than its mid-range competition, though the overall software can be a confusing mess sometimes and its rivals provide a better value when it comes to storage and screen real estate.

For

  • Alluring reflective glass design
  • Neat fingerprint sensor gestures
  • Better-than-expected dual camera

Against

  • Illogical software choices
  • No OIS on the camera
  • Competition is a better value

The Honor 8 is the shiniest smartphone we’ve ever reviewed, with extremely reflective glass that gives off an Aurora-like effect as it bounces light around at all different angles.

This eye-catching Android phone will make you stand out in a crowd, even if its 5.2-inch display is rather flat next to the curvy Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. It’s elegant in its own unique way.

Better yet, for anyone buying a cheap phone, Huawei’s budget-friendly Honor sub-brand brings a lot of the same specs and performance as Samsung’s devices, but at a mid-range price.

Honor 8 review

Honor 8 costs the same as the recent ZTE Axon 7 and OnePlus 3, and similarly only works on GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile in the US. The OnePlus 3T is in the same class.

It’s therefore automatically the third wheel due to its later launch date. And illogical software choices – like no app drawer – make it the “Oh, we’re not with him” oddball of the group.

Honor 8 review

That’s okay, it does other things right. Like the Huawei P9 that never made it Stateside, it thinks outside the box with inventing gesture shortcuts and a dual rear camera that provides sharper than average mid-range photos.

There’s also an IR blaster so your phone can become your TV remote and a rear fingerprint sensor that can be customized with all sorts of single and double-tap shortcuts.

The Honor 8 relies on these novel features to differentiate itself beyond its light-diffracted good looks. Let’s find out if it’s enough to become your next shiny new object.

Price and release date

  • Unlocked price is $399 in the US, and £369 in the UK
  • Only compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile in the US
  • But you won’t find it in normal carrier stores in the US

You won’t find the Honor 8 in carrier stores in the US and can’t buy it on a device payment plan. It’s available at full price through Best Buy, Amazon and Huawei directly.

Honor 8 review

It costs $399 in the US and £369 in the UK, both SIM-free and with 32GB of internal storage. A 64GB configuration costs $449 and is only sold in the US. Honor 8 supports microSD cards and adoptable storage, so this may not matter if you’re in the UK and need extra space.

The good news about paying full price is that it’s off-contract and completely unlocked. Be warned, this phone is only compatible with a AT&T or T-Mobile nanoSIM cards in the US, not CDMA networks like Verizon and Sprint. 

On top of that, Best Buy is the only one carrying the more alluring Blue Sapphire color in the US due to a timed exclusive. It’s worth jumping through all of these hoops, though, for that color.

Design

  • 15 layers of nano-etched glass gives off a reflective glow
  • Slippery and can collect very fine scratches
  • Bump-free design, even with two cameras on back

Honor 8 is the best-looking glass phone we have ever tested next to the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. That’s because it doesn’t just reflect like a mirror, it captures and diffuses light.

Honor 8 review

Like moving spotlights at a fancy Hollywood premier, this phone bounces long rays of light off of its glass back and waves them back and forth as you move it. It’s a true showman in a world of pale-colored aluminum phones.

This Aurora-inspired effect is accomplished with 15 layers of glass and nano-etched color filters that diffract light at different angles. Most glass phones have six to eight layers.

Drawing even more attention to the intricate light rays is the fact that the Honor 8 has a smooth, bump-free design. There’s no camera bump whatsoever, even with two cameras on the back.

Naturally, that means the Honor 8 is an incredibly slippery smartphone. Put it on what looks to be a flat train seat next to you and you’ll soon find out how truly horizontal that seat is (or isn’t). The Honor 8: part phone, part leveler tool.

Honor 8 review

The good news is that despite its ultra-sleek glass body, the phone’s size is easy to handle at 146 x 71 x 7.45mm, and a weight of 153g. You can operate it easily in one hand without discomfort.

You really don’t want to have to resort to buying a case for this shimmering smartphone, which comes in Sapphire Blue, Pearl White or Midnight Black. There’s also a Sunrise Gold color, but it doesn’t appear to be available in the US and UK. It’s likely limited to Asian markets.

Honor 8 review

There are only two reasons to even think about getting a case: This glass phone is a fingerprint magnet and it can take on very fine scratches. Like the Jet Black iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, you can only see them in certain light, but they could build up over time if you’re not careful.

Honor 8 doesn’t use Gorilla Glass, but a very similar Nippon Electric Glass. Using the phone without a case, we didn’t experience any damage or large scratches. Just one faint blemish on the back when posing it on the sidewalk. It’s held up pretty well overall.

You won’t soon forget that this is an ‘Honor’ phone, either. Huawei printed the name on both the front and back of the handset. Luckily, the screen bezel is pretty narrow (especially along the sides) and the phone uses space-saving on-screen soft keys instead of dedicated capacitive buttons.

The Honor 8 makes us proud to be holding a cheap Chinese phone in our hand. That doesn’t always happen with inexpensive Android phones. This one shines like a diamond.

Display

  • 5.2-inch 1080p LCD looks good, even with fewer pixels than rivals
  • Auto-brightness didn’t always kick in, leaving us to manually change it
  • Can adjust color temperature to make it less unnaturally blue

Behind the Nippon Electric Glass-protected display glass is a 5.2-inch screen with an LCD that remains solid at 1080p. It doesn’t need a Quad HD resolution to stay competitive at this size.

It’s bright enough to use outdoors in sunlight and, sliding the brightness slider all the way down, the screen gets so dim that menus are barely visible. That’s great if you’re in a pinch for battery life.

Honor 8 review

There’s just one complaint: we found ourselves having to manually adjust that brightness slider one too many times when reviewing the Honor 8. The auto-brightness didn’t kick in right away.

There’s no way to fix the ambient light sensor, be we did find a remedy for the phone’s unusually saturated, blue screen, as if this was the anti-Night Shift mode phone. 

Huawei includes a number of software tweaks and among them is the ability to finely adjust the color temperature. It’s a relief if your eyes begins to strain. Otherwise, everything looks extra white, like Huawei applied Crest White Strips to give the display an unnatural teeth whitening glow.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Swider is TechRadar's gadget-savvy, globe-trotting mobile editor in Los Angeles. As an expert in iOS and Android, he owns over 120 phones that someone keeps setting the alarms on – simultaneously. He received his journalism degree from Penn State University and is never seen without his TechRadar headphones.