Honor 8 Pro review

Big and powerful but not quite perfect

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Interface and reliability

  • Android 7.0 Nougat foundations
  • Finished with heavy EMUI interface
  • Not the most refined UI

The Honor 8 Pro is powered by Google’s latest Android 7.0 Nougat operating system. Not that you’d know it by looking at or using the thing. There’s no Google Assistant, but there is Honor and Huawei’s Emotion UI.

This is EMUI 5.1, and although more refined than the company’s past efforts, it's still a slightly heavy-handed skin that’s simply not worthy of flagship phone status.

It doesn’t look too bad, the childish, cartoonish nature of past iterations is gone and instead there’s a more sophisticated if slightly basic and clipart-inspired finish. Honor’s trademark ‘Themes’ app remains, letting you tweak the interface’s look to a number of pre-set standards, and there are plenty of customisation options.

No matter how much you tweak the platform and tinker with its look, however, scratch beneath the surface and it’s still lacking compared with stock Android or some other manufacturer skins.

Firstly, there’s still too much bloatware on board. When you’re splashing hundreds on a high-end handset, you should be able to choose whether you want your phone clogged up with the likes of the booking.com app or the crap, grainy Disney Magic Kingdoms game.

Here though, it's unceremoniously thrust upon you, and it’s not the only thing. The likes of vMall, Dragon Mania and Little Big City 2 are all there to take your precious storage space too. It’s a move that cheapens the phone and, as a user, frustrates.

It’s not just third-party apps that clog things up either. Honor/Huawei’s insistence on filling its phones with its own bespoke apps, shunning many better core Android offerings in the process, is equal parts admirable and frustrating.

Yes, things have improved in recent years, these apps have got better, the whole support system more refined, but they can, at times, still feel slightly clunky. Google Fit is great, by comparison Huawei Health is basic, unattractive and lacking any real depth, just a series of clunky menus. This is just one example of many unnecessary double ups.

Emotion UI isn’t without its benefits though. There are a number of small touches, such as the pre-installed SwiftKey keyboard and a lock-screen steps counter. These nice additions are all too regularly offset by negatives, however.

There’s also no app drawer, instead, you’ll have to settle for home page after home page of apps. Again, the system lacks refinement, with many of the small touches that make the likes of TouchWiz and Sense such enjoyable interfaces to use, missing.

For the most part, however, the user experience is a fluid one. There are no misfires or missteps, no stutters or false starts, just a rapid and pleasingly fluid user experience whether you’re browsing the web, getting your Facebook fix or hitting it hard on some system intensive gaming sessions.

Movies, music and gaming

  • Weak, lifeless audio
  • Beautiful QHD screen for gaming
  • Bundled with Cardboard-style VR headset

Honor is forever banging on about how its phones are for the youth of today, the rule breakers and edgy trend-setters. If that’s the case though, you’d expect this phone to offer much better audio, because surely the youth of today like to listen to music on the move, right?

Sadly, there’s no stereo sound here, just a single, base-mounted speaker, and that's just one of the phone’s audio-based shortcomings. The speaker that is present is lacking on the audio front too.

Listening to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s Can’t Hold Us, the big bass lines are disappointingly flat, with the track lacking any punch or impact.

It’s a woefully hollow sound that hampers music listening and stops you getting fully immersed in streamed movies. The speaker’s not particularly loud either. No, the speaker doesn’t tweak out into tinny tones as you crank the volume, but neither will it help get a party going.

This woefully weak audio is a shame, and not just because sound is a crucial element of on-board entertainment. Despite the phone’s screen being beautifully attuned to on-the-move movie viewing, paired with the lifeless speaker, it doesn’t create the best streaming experience.

Plug in a pair of headphones, however, and that 5.7-inch ultra-bright QHD panel comes into its own, offering bright, immersive visuals packed with detail and combined with the sounds it deserves.

Pair this screen and the phone’s impressive chipset and you’ve got a solid portable gaming platform too. From beautiful but system-light puzzlers like Kami 2, to knocking out laps on more demanding 3D titles like Real Racing, the Honor 8 Pro comfortably handled all the gaming action we could throw at it, all without batting an eyelid.

It doesn’t stop at traditional gaming, either. What the Honor 8 Pro really has going for it has little to do with the device itself. Part of the phone’s box transforms into a Google Cardboard-style VR headset. Slot the phone in the front, and with the handset’s QHD display and oodles of processing power, you’ll be enjoying reasonably rich VR experiences in minutes.

There’s also 64GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD card, to handle all of your media needs.

Benchmarks and performance

  • Kirin 960 chipset paired with 6GB of RAM
  • Hugely impressive Geekbench scores
  • Real world usage pleasingly robust

When it comes to processing abilities, the Honor 8 Pro is an absolute joy to use. Its Kirin 960 chipset and 6GB of RAM combine to create a phone that’s perfectly fluid and fuss-free, no matter what you ask of it.

There’s no hesitation to app launches or stuttering during gaming, just a smooth, accomplished experience at all times. It’s the sort of power you won’t notice, because it’s on top of everything. There’s a beautiful fluidity to the phone made possible by is overloaded power reserves.

Running the Geekbench 4 test, the Honor 8 Pro managed an average multi-core score of 6528. That’s not just huge, it’s massive. On par with the Exynos powered version of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, and comfortably ahead of the Snapdragon option or the Huawei P10, it’s a score that puts the Honor 8 Pro truly in the mix with genuine flagship phones.

It leaves the likes of the HTC 10 and HTC U Ultra in its wake and although benchmark tests aren’t always a true representation of a phone’s real world grunt, the Honor 8 Pro’s Geekbench scores back up its effortlessly smooth performance.