Some months ago I had the opportunity to review the Honor View 10 smartphone. I was impressed with pretty much every aspect of the device and even more impressed by its price which brings it in at about half of what you pay for a new iPhone. Honor has done some amazing things with even lower cost devices, and today we’re looking at the Honor 8X.
I had this review ready to go at the end of 2018, but I wanted to wait until the dust from CES had cleared before posting. As you will see, this phone deserves all the attention it can get. In addition, for some time after it was released, the 8X was difficult to get in the US. That has now changed, and you need to look no further than Amazon to pick one up.
The 8X is surprisingly affordable with prices starting at just $259.95. One might expect a phone at that price to look and feel cheap, lack features, and be as slow as molasses. One might expect that but, if you did, you would be wrong. For under $260, you get a phone that looks, feels and functions beautifully. Sure, Honor had to make some compromises to keep the price down, but I can pretty much promise you won’t notice them if you get this phone.
The Honor 8X is composed of two pieces of hardened glass with an aluminum frame. The result is a device that feels solid and looks amazing. The back has a graded design that is subtle but takes what might otherwise be a boring slab of glass and gives it some interest. As I discovered while trying to photograph the phone, the glass front and back are highly reflective. That’s something that should be no surprise to anyone.
On the front of the phone, there is a beautiful 6.5″ screen. Yes, there is a notch at the top that houses the camera and light sensors, but it is smaller than the one on my iPhone X and really isn’t cause for concern.
In addition, there is a setting that allows you to put a black band across the entire screen’s top if the notch bothers you too much. If you do activate that setting, you will find it to be a narrow band. That means you lose the notch but don’t lose too much screen real estate. Honestly though, leave it the way it is. The notch is no big deal, and the extra amount of screen, minimal as it may be, is a good thing.
At the bottom of the phone, there is a micro USB charging port. Yes, on a device that is targeted toward the budget conscious community we are still going to find microUSB instead of the increasingly common USB-C. A small hole for the microphone, a speaker grill, and a 3.5mm headphone jack — that’s one of those tradeoffs that many people will appreciate. On the one hand, this is good news since the device maintains the 3.5 mm headphone jack. On the other hand, however, it is noticeable that there is only one speaker grill. Sadly, the mono speaker doesn’t deliver anywhere near the sound we have seen in other devices this past year. Despite that, I was surprised at how loud and clear the speaker is when playing music.
On the right-hand side, you’ll find the volume rocker and the power sleep wake button.
The back of the phone is far more interesting than the front and sides. Instead of a boring slab of glass, you get a lovely, if not subtle, design.
Honor describes it this way:
Second generation antiglare film, with to visual effects and 15 layers of rich reflective craftsmanship on the same glass back. On the left border: complex intertwined ingrained texture. On the right border: classic, unique pattern effect of honor flagship phones.
Along the lower left, there is the Honor name while toward the upper left there is an indicator that this phone has the AI camera that was present and impressed me with the Honor View 10. Above the wording “AI camera” there are a flash and dual camera lenses.
This isn’t surprising since this phone is largely marketed toward those who are using their mobile device for gaming and photography. At the center of the phone’s back, toward the top, there is a fingerprint scanner. It’s nicely placed, and while it doesn’t have the same seamlessness that Face Unlock offers, it works well and is easy to use. It is another of those tradeoffs that you won’t really notice.
The Honor 8X has a 6.5 inch borderless Full View display, a Kirin 710 chipset, GPU turbo, a 3750 mA hour battery, is available with either 64 GB or 128 GB of onboard storage, a 20 megapixel AI camera, and a 16-megapixel selfie camera. It is notable that the same processor is used here as the one found in the Huawei Mate 20 Lite.
Seamless HD full view screen, with advanced chip on film technology and special antenna design. Only 4.25 mm wide bottom border, and an incredible screen to body ratio of 91%. The display occupies nearly the entire front of the phone. With its nearly borderless design, the phone can retain the same body size as a 5.5 inch phone making for an easier grip. The 19.5 x 9 aspect ratio and enhanced visual quality show more details and offer a better cinematic experience.
The large display takes the phone into phablet territory. It also means you can have split screen mode for viewing two pieces of content at the same time.
The screen offers a number of different settings. Among them are:
- Eye comfort mode: blue light radiation is reduced to prevent eye fatigue
- Sunlight display technology: enables the display to be clearer under even the brightest sunlight
- Night mode: easy bedtime reading
One might expect a phone this inexpensive to be a dog when it comes to speed. That isn’t the case. The Kirin 710 chipset, combined with GPU turbo boosts the efficiency in graphics processing letting you get great performance while reducing power consumption.
The 8X comes with up to 128 GB of onboard storage. That could be limiting if you take a lot of pictures or shoot a lot of videos. Thankfully, the phone offers the ability to add a 400 GB microSD card for expansion. (Take that Apple and OnePlus!) Alternatively, you can use the expansion slot for a second SIM card. The choice is yours. You can have a dual-SIM world phone, or you can use a single SIM and have a massive amount of storage in your device.
It certainly is worth taking a few moments to talk about the artificial intelligence camera. I first encountered this technology with the Honor View 10 and was impressed. The fact that honor included the technology on this phone was a pleasant surprise and it has a huge impact. It means the phone is able to take far better pictures than you might otherwise expect. It also means that the phone can help you determine the type of photograph you want to take. Furthermore, it means the phone will actually get smarter as you use it.
When you first pull a phone from the box it is like every other phone of that model. In most cases what has historically distinguished one phone from another has been the wallpaper, apps and whatever case one chooses to put on the device. What the artificial intelligence allows is for the phone to actually become unique to you as the end-user as you take advantage of it. In other words, the phone you pull from the box isn’t the same phone you’ll be using in six months. It will be better. And it will be yours.
- AI dual camera captures pictures at resolutions up to 20 megapixels. Some of the features include:
- AI multi-scene recognition can identify 22 different categories of objects in images and 500 scenarios in real-time.
- AI beauty effect can adjust and retouch images based on area segmentation.
- Super night shot eliminates handshake issues with long exposure photos and supports machine learning based multiframe stabilization.
- The AI algorithms offer four different studio level portraits including soft lighting, butterfly lighting, split lighting and stage lighting.
- Super slow motion, capturing instantaneous motions: short videos can be filmed at 16 times slow-motion mode at 480 frames per second. What O-Matic and manual modes are available.
- AI sports shot, catching the best moment: with reduced shutter speed and motion detection, AI sports shot captures better action-packed images.
- 16-megapixel front camera, enabling high-quality selfies. With an enhanced ISO and supports for in one light fusion and multiframe image processing to create quality and beautified selfies with Boca effects.
- Face unlock: facial recognition allows for faster face unlock in different lighting conditions.
Honor could have cut some corners with the camera but, as this long list makes clear, they didn’t. The short version is this: when it comes to photography, the 8X pairs good hardware with serious smarts to give you a camera phone that is sure to do a great job capturing your next adventure.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Honor 8X when I first turned it on. After all, one of the main places companies can address to keep prices down is the screen. And while on paper this screen doesn’t seem to be anything worth writing home about I was pleasantly surprised. The screen is bright, sharp and colors simply pop. The default screen saver gives a really good sense of how great the screen looks. The reflection of the water is stunning and the snow-topped mountains in the background look like they are right in front of you and waiting to be climbed.
I love the fact that the entire front of the phone is taken up by the screen. I love the solid feel of the device. The two plates of glass held together by the aluminum band create a slab of glass and metal that feels incredibly solid with zero give. I appreciate the location of the fingerprint reader and find that it works quite well and with great ease when holding the device with one hand. I’m amazed by how good the screen is on a device at this price point and I’m more impressed by the way in which the phone functions. In my use, I didn’t notice any slowdowns or hiccups. Overall the experience was quite nice and one that didn’t feel like a compromise in the least.
I used this phone for a couple of weeks and was surprised by how good it is. It was so good that time and time again, I had to remind myself that this is just $260. The screen is large, bright and looks fantastic. The “smarts” deliver plenty of speed with little to no lag no matter how hard you push it. And the camera is anything but a compromise.
If you are in the market for a new phone and like the Android ecosystem, something like the Honor 8X proves that you don’t need to pay the exorbitant five-figure price that Apple and Samsung are now commanding. For under $500 you can get a phone that is truly approaching phablet size that doesn’t feel like it compromises.
Some of the other tricks the 8X has that might surprise you in a phone as inexpensive as this include:
- The ability to take a screen shot by dragging three fingers across the screen
- A step counter on the lock screen for tracking yourself without having to unlock the device
- The ability to use the fingerprint reader as the camera’s shutter button
- The ability to answer a call by simply raising the phone to your ear (people still use smartphones to make calls??)
- A range of gestures provide navigation and function shortcuts
- The ability to automatically record calls (check with the legal policies in your area before using this feature)
- And much more. So long as you aren’t easily overwhelmed, between Android and EMUI, the customization available on this phone will delight you.
When Honor first came to market the were perceived as the budget line for Huawei. They are now their own distinct company even though they are part of the larger Huawei portfolio and they’re making their mark by creating affordable phones that promise to impress. They deliver on both these counts and if you are in the market for a new android phone you owe it to yourself to check this device out!
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample of the Honor 8X
What I Like: Inexpensive; Large, bright screen; Solid build; Speedy despite not using bleeding edge CPU; Dual SIM or memory expansion, the choice is yours; Maintains the 3.5mm headphone jack
What Needs Improvement: microUSB VS USB-C; No wireless charging; Not waterproof