Honor 8X review: Big screen, premium design at an affordable price
Honor is among a very few brands that pays as much attention to design as it does performance. The company has launched a number of affordable mid-range smartphones this year such as the Honor 9N and Honor 9 Lite that bring appealing designs while at the same time offer dependable performance. The Honor 8X can certainly join that list as well. The phone has been launched in India with a starting price of Rs 14,999 and going up to Rs 18,999 for the top-end variant.
As an affordable mid-range phone, the Honor 8X touts a massive 6.5-inch display on a compact form factor. It also highlights a unique double texture design on the back for a more attractive look that will allow it to stand out from the crowd. Additionally, the device also gets some AI features baked in thanks to a Kirin 710 chipset. The Honor 8X packs in a lot of features, which is important in a segment that is extremely competitive right now. But do all the features work in its favour? Read on to find out.
The Honor 8X is really all about the design, much like every other Honor phone. The device screams premium the moment you hold it. This is largely because of the 2.5D glass on the front and back and a smooth, curved aluminum frame in between. The rear panel is quite unique as it brings a dual tone design. While a large portion of the back has a reflective glossy look, there is a thin strip on the left side that gives a matt-like finish. On this strip you have the dual cameras and the Honor branding. It certainly makes the phone stand out and gives it a very unique look, but it's also a very subjective design. It does take a while getting used to this dual tone design, but it's nice to see Honor mixing things up like this.
Depending on the angle you view it in or how light hits the panel, you'll notice curvy reflective lines on the glossy portion of the panel. The rear panel also hold a fingerprint sensor which is at a good length and is really snappy at unlocking the device. The buttons on the side give a nice tactile feel and the SIM tray will support two nano SIM cards and a microSD card. On the bottom, you get a single speaker grille, 3.5mm headphone jack and a microUSB port.
At 175 grams, the Honor 8X is a bit on the heavier side of thing. That being said, the device feels good to hold and isn't as large as you would expect a phone with a 6.5-inch display to be. That being said, it is still not as compact as to reach the top edges of the screen with one hand. The phone is really solid all around and won't bend if pressure is applied on it. I do feel the buttons could have been placed a little higher, especially the power button which is closer to the middle and will require you to adjust your hand.
Honor has significantly reduced the bezels all around to accommodate the large display. You only see a notch on top and a very slim chin bezel, allowing for over 90 per cent screen-to-body ratio. It's actually one of the thinnest chins you'll find in this segment.The display comes with a FHD+ (1080x2340) resolution. This is a pretty vibrant and sharp display with good brightness levels both indoors and outdoors.
It is also a very oversaturated display which can be both good and bad. Good because the colours really pop and a high contrast helps the display look lively, which is what you want especially while watching videos on YouTube or other streaming platforms. It is also bad because the pictures you take with the camera are going to look pretty jarring at times, but we will talk more on that in a bit.
The display is wide and immersive and as a consumer you will enjoy watching videos or playing games like PUBG and Asphalt. The notch on the top is easy to forget about after a while as the software is largely optimised so it never intrudes into the content.
Performance and software
The Honor 8X is powered by Huawei's own octa-core Kirin 710 AI chipset. This is offered with up to 6GB of RAM, which should be more than enough for your multitasking needs. It is great to see a chipset that is not a Kirin 659 powering a mid-range Honor phone. The new Kirin 710 SoC is noticeably faster and more powerful than the outgoing processor. Clocking at 2.2GHz, it also makes it faster than the Snapdragon 660 chipset, at least on paper. But the speed is noticeable as I was able to breeze through the UI swiftly. Opening and loading apps were pretty fast as well and I barely noticed any stutters while browsing through social media apps like Facebook and Twitter.
The unit I received had 4GB of RAM and the device managed to handle multitasking well, although EMUI tends to kill some background apps to free up memory and improve battery life, so you may find this annoying at times. The 6GB RAM variants should deliver a better experience as far as multitasking goes.
While the chipset is snappy for most day-to-day tasks, it isn't the best for playing graphic intensive games like PUBG or fast-paced games like Asphalt 9. By default, PUBG will run on medium graphics, which is fine for the most part as you won't notice any significant lags. But if you crank up the graphics to a higher setting, the game will start to stutter. Similarly, racing games like Asphalt 9 will start to show drops in frame rate as well. In both cases, a Snapdragon 660 chipset performs noticeably better. There's also a GPU Turbo feature that will kick in on selected games (PUBG is one of them) that bumps up performance and energy efficiency.
The Honor 8X ships with Android 8.1 Oreo with EMUI 8.2 on top. If you are familiar with Honor or Huawei phones, you should feel right at home with EMUI. It's a pretty layered skin which comes with a lot of the company's own custom apps from Gallery to Music to camera. The icons are large and chunky, making the software look and feel a little dated.
There are a few preloaded apps as well such as Facebook, Netflix and a game as well, all of which can be uninstalled. Additionally, you also gets apps like Ride Mode and Party Mode, Honor Club and HiCare, among others. Apart from a fingerprint sensor, the Honor 8X also supports fast Face Unlock. You also get the option to hide the notch if you're not a fan. EMUI also offers gesture navigation which isn't as smooth or animated as compared to an iPhone X, and it will take a while to get used to it.
The dual cameras on the back comprises of a 20-megapixel primary sensor with f/1.8 aperture and a 2-megapixel secondary sensor for depth sensing. On the front, the Honor 8X houses a 16-megapixel sensor inside the notch. The cameras are heavily backed by AI and there's an AI mode that is activated by default although you can toggle it off easily. My experience with the camera has been quite middling. Because of a very oversaturated display, any picture captured in daylight will look jarring. The colours are loud and contrast levels are high, especially with AI mode switched on, which means photos will look far from natural. They will look fine on a computer, but how often do we really transfer photos from a mobile to the computer.
I took a few pictures indoors with artificial lighting around and found that the camera smoothes out images and tries to reduce noise with the help of AI. You will see a notification asking you to keep your hand still for a few seconds after taking a picture in low-light. Selfies captured indoors showed a fair bit of over processing which resulted in chalky selfies. The cameras are pretty average, and it's the oversaturated colours that will likely put you off the most.
The Honor 8X comes with a 3,750mAh battery which is decent. As my daily driver for a week, I managed to get a full day worth of battery life on most days with average usage. This included messaging, social media browsing and some amount of video streaming. The days I tested gaming performance was when the battery dipped quite a bit, requiring me to charge the device by 6pm.
Charging up the device from zero to 100 per cent takes about two hours as the Honor 8X lacks fast charge support. The box comes bundled with a 10W microUSB charger.
Should you buy the Honor 8X?
The Honor 8X safely takes its place as one of the better phones in the Rs 15,000 segment. It really shines in two main areas - design and display. Honor, much like HMD, prides itself in offering some attractive looking affordable phones. The glass and metal design looks great and the dual tone finish on the back adds a unique flavour that makes the phone stand apart. The immersive-ness of the display is great for media consumption, but keep in mind that it is also a very saturated panel which can feel a bit too much for the eyes at times.
The Honor 8X finds itself surrounded by phones like the Nokia 6.1 Plus, Motorola One Power, Redmi Note 5 Pro and Mi A2. These phones offer an all-round experience making things hard for the Honor 8X. Hard but not difficult as the Honor 8X manages to stay strong in the design department and that 6.5-inch display is the biggest you'll find in the this segment.