While it might not be a household name, Huawei is a brand people should know. As the third largest smartphone maker in the world, Huawei has put out some pretty potent handsets including the Nexus 6P, the Huawei P9, and our current favorite budget phone, the Honor 5X.
Now, the company is back at it with the Honor 8, a 5.2-inch smartphone sporting dual 12-megapixel rear cameras, a fingerprint reader, USB-C and a decidedly upscale design. What's not upscale is the price tag. The 32GB version of Honor's new phone will cost $399. A 64GB version of the Honor 8 costs only slightly more at $449.
That price tag is significant as it means the Honor 8 joins a growing number of phones — chiefly the OnePlus 3 and the ZTE Axon 7 — that challenge the notion you need to spend $600 or more to get a premium phone.
Featuring curvy glass panels on front and back, the Honor 8 feels like the lovechild between a modern Galaxy S7 and a Xiaomi Mi 5. Where Huawei spices up the formula is with a reflective coating underneath the glass that makes the phone's three color options — midnight black, pearl white and sapphire blue — shimmer and change hues depending on lighting.
The Honor 8 doesn't skimp on specs, either. It packs an octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 950 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 32GB or 64GB of onboard storage and a microSD slot with support for cards up to 128GB.
Huawei claims that 85 percent of its customers are between 18 and 35, so one of its goals for the Honor 8 was to deliver a wide assortment of photo-taking features. A simple double-click on the volume down button will open the camera and take a pic in one motion, and the dual cameras in back let you adjust the depth of field on your photos after you’ve snapped them. (You can also adjust depth of field using the camera's wide aperture mode before you take a shot.) There’s also a pretty comprehensive manual mode for photo enthusiasts who want to fine tune specific camera settings. Other modes include light painting, which lets you capture light in slow motion, and a night shot mode for automatically adjusting light exposure in low-light situations.
The 12-megapixel camera on the back of the Honor 8 features two cameras. One captures RGB images while the other picks up black-and-white data; combined, the finished product should offer vivid and crisp pictures. An 8-MP wide-angle camera is on the front of the Honor 8, all the better for squeezing in your pals for selfies.
In addition to the Honor 8’s handy USB-C port, the phone sports a 3,000 mAh battery with fast charging that Huawei says can refill 50 percent of its battery in just 30 minutes. Even so, Huawei claims that the Honor 8's battery will last more than a day of even heavy smartphone use. Our battery test will see how that claim measures up, though Huawei phones claim two of the top three slots in our list of longest-lasting smartphones.
The Honor 8 even comes with a feature recent Samsung phones have abandoned: an IR blaster. That means you can use the Honor 8 to control devices like your TV or Blu-Ray player without needing to juggle multiple remotes. One of the potential downsides of the Honor is that it still features Huawei’s Emotion UI running on top of Android 6.0, which can be a little frustrating to use for people who prefer something a little closer to the stock version of the Android OS.
The Honor 8 sports a fingerprint reader on the back. And while it promises to quickly unlock the phone, the real value of that reader could be the ability to quickly launch apps. From the phone's settings, you'll be able to pick three apps you can launch with a press, two taps, and a hold on the sensor. At the Honor 8 launch event, we saw a demo in which a single tap of the fingerprint sensor launched the Gallery app; swiping left and right on the sensor let you switch between photos. A double-tap fired up the Lyft app, while pressing on the fingerprint sensor activated the phone's flashlight feature.
Huawei's new phone also supports knuckle gestures, which let you do things like take a screenshot with a tap or launch the music or camera apps by drawing an M or C on the screen, respectively. You can also customize your own knuckle gestures.
The Honor 8 is available from major online retailers including Best Buy, Amazon, Newegg and B&H this week.