Under the hood
Unlike most smartphone makers Huawei isn't using Qualcomm's SnapDragon processors to power the Honor 8. Instead it understandably used its own Kirin 950 SoC, which carries eight cores, half of which run at 2.3GHz and half at 1.8GHz, all backed up by 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM.
Performance-wise this SoC works really well. Operations are smooth and flowing, there were no holdups with apps, and it handled video with aplomb. Huawei claims that the processor is also optimized to extend the battery life, and it appears to work.
On that subject, the Honor 8 has a 3000 mAh lithium-polymer power pack which it claims gives 360 hours of standby time and nine hours of online video streaming. On the streaming side we got about 7.5 hours but for general use the phone will easily last out a day with ergs to spare.
As for recharging the Honor 8 has a fast charge mode that the makers claim will give you a 50 per cent charge in 30 minutes. In practice it takes a few minutes longer than this, but the entire unit charged from dead in an average of 87 minutes.
The Honor 8 does cheat a bit when it comes to the charging cable. It uses a Type C USB connector, which saves having to put it in the right way around, but the USB spec is still the 2.0 version, so you do lose out on 3.0 transfer speeds.
As for storage, there is the $399.99 version for the 32GB model and $449.99 for the 64GB version, but Huawei has also included a microSD card slot in the SIM card tray that can boost this to 256GB. It's a pity more manufacturers don't support microSD and personally, I feel this makes the Honor 8 a much more attractive option.
Knuckling down to the UI
As for software, the Honor 8 runs Android 6.0 with the company's EMUI 4.1 skin on top that looks like it has taken its design specifications from iOS rather than more traditional Android builds.
The phone takes an average of 23 seconds to boot from cold and the UI is reasonably responsive, but Huawei has included a rather odd "knuckle mode". If you press hard on the screen and draw a letter (c for camera, e for the internet, m for music and so on) then the app automatically launches, and you can also use knuckle pressure to take screenshots.
There's also a refreshing lack of bloatware on the phone, at least on the review units. Because Huawei is selling direct to consumers online there's no need to bundle in lots of crapware to keep the telecoms firms happy and that's a welcome relief.
The phone can be ordered from Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo Video, and Newegg, as well as from Honor US as well, and preorderers before September 3 (in the US) get a $50 gift card that drops the price down further. That makes it a very compelling phone for the price.
So, the acid test – would I buy one with my own money? The amount of kit you get for the price makes it a very attractive proposition and the camera and storage options count heavily in its favor. That said, the shipped UI isn't that handy and the glass fascia – while tough – gets too dirty too quickly.
Overall I'd be very tempted by the Honor 8, since it mixes good enough tech with some very nice features. It certainly beats anything Samsung can put out at that price point, but the OnePlus offers better hardware for only a few extra bucks. The Honor 8 is a very tempting design and it's clear that Huawei is serious about winning over the price-conscious buyer. ®