Positives

Stunning design
Two-day battery life
Snappy performance
3.5mm headphone jack

Negatives

Inconsistent camera performance
No IP rating
MicroUSB charging
Gargantuan size if you throw a case on it

Honor has released a number of smartphones in 2018 — perhaps too many depending on who you ask — but they all aim to offer exceptional value and build quality that punches well above their price tag. The Honor 8X fits into the portfolio as a supersized phablet model priced at €249.

Somewhat confusingly, the Honor 8X doesn’t share too much in common with 2016’s Honor 8. There’s an all-new bezel-less design and a completely different set of internal components. While the sum of the changes produces some notable upgrades, the new handset sees a number of downgrades too. We’re here to find out if the 8X can successfully build on Honor’s legacy in the affordable handset market.

Honor 8X review notes: During this review, the Honor 8X was running beta software version JSN-L21 8.2.0.120, with EMUI 8.2.0 running on top of Android 8.1 Oreo.

The Honor 8X used in this review was provided to Android Authority by Honor.

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Design

The Honor 8X looks like the quintessential Honor smartphone, featuring a glossy textured glass back finish with its dazzling light reflecting properties, metal trim, notched display, and eye-catching looks all around. The 91 percent screen to body ratio and minimal chin is undeniably impressive, giving the handset even more screen to work with that Huawei’s flagship P20 Pro. It’s a great piece of tech to marvel at that rivals the look and feel of premium flagship handsets which cost significantly more.

However, the Honor 8X is a true behemoth. While there’s plenty of screen real estate, reaching across the panel is a stretch with one hand. Combined with the glass back and sharper edges than some other large handsets, the phone can be awkward to handle at times. The thin 7.8mm profile helps, but there’s no getting around that the Honor 8X feels like a very big phone. The rear fingerprint scanner placement is perfect on a handset of this size, but the volume rocket is perhaps a little high up the phone to reach comfortably.

The bottom line is that the Honor 8X’s combination of metal and gradient glass looks and feels great. The trade-off, as always with glass, is that the phone is somewhat slippery and that doesn’t help given the handset’s awkwardly bulky size.

The Honor 8X's design is simply stunning

Display

The Honor 8X sports a 6.5-inch LTPS LCD display with a 2340 x 1080 resolution, producing a density of 397 pixels per inch. Even given the large display size, the Full HD+ resolution appears plenty sharp enough. The panel’s colors also pop with the appropriate fervor, resulting in bright and vivid images.

Given the size of the display, you’ll want to switch into a smaller text or small view mode to really make the most of it. Honor’s default makes everything, from text to images and icons, appear far too large and it’s an odd choice for such a big phone. I’ve experienced similar problems with other Honor and Huawei phones, so this could just be a personal preference. Fortunately, it’s simple enough to change to the small option in the display settings menu.

If there’s one technical fault with the display it’s with blue reproduction, which outputs a much higher color error delta than green or red. This leads to a somewhat oversaturated looking panel when using the default “Vivid” setting, but it’s only really noticeable when comparing like for like on another smartphone. Peak brightness clocks in at 470 nits, which is about average for a cost-effective handset. The phone will be fine in shady outdoor viewing, but visibility will struggling with reflections in direct bright sunlight.

Hardware

While the display and design aesthetics appear premium, the hardware specifications for the Honor 8X hover somewhere between mid- and low-end. On the processing side, there’s a distinctly mid-range Kirin 710 SoC, which offers powerful Cortex-A73 CPU cores but a lower end Mali-G51 GPU. It’s certainly not as exciting as the Pocophone F1’s Snapdragon 845 package. The handset also includes a reasonable 4GB or 6GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of internal storage, depending on the region of purchase.

The handset’s microUSB connector with USB 2.0 data speeds feels rather more dated. It’s an even more mind-boggling decision given that the much older Honor 8 supported USB Type-C two years ago. This probably won’t play well in global markets that are moving on from the old connector. Fast charging capabilities are included, but we’re capped at 5V/2A rather than the 5V/4A SuperCharge option that ships with more expensive Huawei phones.

There’s just a single bottom-facing speaker on the Honor 8X. The top mounted speaker is only used for calls. The speaker sounds fairly decent and pumps out plenty of volume, but the mono presentation is a notable drawback.

On the plus side, the phone sticks with the tried and tested 3.5mm audio jack, so your existing headphones will work just fine. There’s also a dual SIM slot, microSD card port, along with NFC and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity. The rear fingerprint scanner is highly responsive and face recognition is also very speedy, although not quite as fast as the higher-end P20 Pro.

Performance

The Honor 8X is a snappy little device when it comes to zipping in and out of applications. The inclusion of big power Cortex-A73 cores inside the Kirin 710 help elevates the phone above the feel of other low-cost handsets, offering consistently snappy performance across apps. Multitasking doesn’t pose any problems either, I never noticed the phone miss a step the whole time.

However, the phone isn’t quite up to scratch with 3D gaming performance. The Mali-G51 MP4 GPU isn’t a high-performance gaming class component and this is definitely the phone’s weakest area in the performance category. Honor does attempt to address this with its GPU Turbo technology, but it’s difficult to tell how much of an impact this has. Overall, you can still enjoy demanding games like PUBG or Fortnite — just turn down the graphics settings a notch and be prepared for a 30fps rather than 60fps performance target.

The Kirin 970 flies through apps, handling everything you can throw at it

Software

The Honor 8X runs Android 8.1 Oreo skinned with EMUI 8.2 on top. There isn’t much in the way of additional software installed out of the box, save for a selection of Honor tools like the Game Suite, Mirror, Compass, and Themes apps. Google’s apps make up the bulk of the pre-installed software.

The colorful icons and white UI elements can’t help but invoke Apple’s iOS, as does the lack of an app drawer by default. Fortunately, EMUI offers options for the app drawer, notch toggle, View Mode sizes, and text sizes under the display settings to tweak the appearance more to your tastes.

EMUI catches a lot of flak for deviating from a stock-like skin, but the software is perfectly functional and avoids any major bloat. A quick swipe down on the home screen takes you to recommended apps and allow you to search through your contacts and messages. Google Assistant functionality is located on the left on the home screen or via a long press of the home button. Apart from the deep maze of settings that’s about all there is to EMUI’s home screen.

EMUI 8.2 includes a few extra tweaks. If the traditional navigation keys aren’t your thing, Honor provides the option to switch over to the single-key navigation. It’s not unlike Google’s “pill” in Android 9.0 Pie, where you swipe the bar to perform back, home, and recent task actions.

HiTouch can be used to identify products on a page using Amazon Assistant. Just touch something on your display with two fingers at once to active it. The software’s motion controls are also rather handy, enabling features like raising the phone to your ear to automatically answer calls or flip the phone upside down to mute. App Lock and Filesafe also provide ways to keep bits of information secure behind your fingerprint.

Battery life

With a 3,750mAh battery, the Honor 8X has no problem surviving a full day with even the most demanding user. A second day of full use will be on the cards for most, although taking lots of pictures and gaming will knock a couple or so hours off the total on time. Lighter users could well extend usage well into a third day, as was the case when I only used the phone for some web browsing and music streaming.

If for some reason you find yourself short of juice, the Honor 8X packs in two power saving modes. The regular power saving mode limits background activity, reduces visual effects, and turns off email syncing to save on power. The more extreme ultra power saving mode limits the phone to just a selection of apps to greatly extend battery life up to several days.

The Honor 8X is the first phone I've owned to reach a third day of use since my Nokia 3310

Camera

There’s a familiar looking dual camera setup on the back of the Honor 8X. The primary sensor offers 20-megapixels of resolution with a f/1.8 aperture and Phase Detection Auto Focus. Video recording is capped at 1080p 60fps, so there’s no 4K recording option here.

The 20-megapixel camera offers up plenty of detail in well-lit shots and never once was trouble with finding the correct exposure. However, the Honor 8X’s processing can oversaturate colors some of the time, or at least that’s how it looks on the phone’s vivid display. Images mostly pop with vibrant colors which will look great on social media, but there’s a denoise speckling effect covering most of the pictures which takes the sheen off once you zoom in.

Honor’s big selling point with all of its recent phones are their AI camera capabilities. The Honor 8X recognizes 22 different scenarios in which it can apply custom exposure and color corrections. However, most of the results I saw simply involved boosting the color saturation even further, resulting in some almost cartoonish images. I ended up ignoring the mode.

Honor 8X food AI ON Honor 8X food AI OFF Honor 8X food AI ON
Honor 8X food AI OFF
Honor 8X sunset AI ON Honor 8X sunset AI OFF Honor 8X sunset AI ON
Honor 8X sunset AI OFF

As is often the case, low light performance is a weak spot for the Honor 8X. Noise creeps in quickly even in well-exposed images, resulting in smudged shadowy areas rather than crisp blacks. The whole situation is worsened by the lack of image stabilization, making even quick snaps likely to come out blurry let alone ones taken at night. The camera’s Night Mode patches over this issue, providing that you can stand still for anywhere between 4 and 20 seconds to capture the required exposures.

The secondary camera is used entirely for depth calculation, enabling re-adjustable aperture and bokeh after taking the picture. This second sensor has just a 2-megapixel resolution. The bokeh post processing looks fairly decent, but close examination often reveals missed areas of the image where the edge detection algorithm hasn’t quite separated the back and foreground correctly. This might be due to the limited resolution of the secondary depth sensor, and either way the technology is a bit hit and miss.

Honor 8X camera Night Mode Honor 8X camera low light Honor 8X camera Night Mode
Honor 8X camera low light
Honor 8X camera aperture close Honor 8X camera aperture mode far Honor 8X camera aperture close
Honor 8X camera aperture mode far

The front-facing camera is a 16-megapixel affair with a f/2.0 aperture. Exposure can be more of a problem here, as backgrounds often appear overblown even without a direct light source. Detail is reasonable enough in good lighting, but the camera quickly deteriorates into a noisy blur if you lose sunlight. If I hadn’t read the spec sheet, I wouldn’t have believed these were 16MP shots.

While the rest of the phone punches above its price tag, the inconsistent camera experience, unfortunately, brings the Honor 8X back down to earth with a thud.

Honor 8X Specs

 Honor 8X
Display6.5 inches
2,340 x 1,080
19.5:9 notched display
91% screen-to-body ratio
ProcessorHiSilicon Kirin 710
Octa-Core (4 x Cortex-A73 2.2 GHz + 4 x Cortex-A53 1.7 GHz)
GPUMali-G51 MP4
RAM4GB or 6GB
Storage64GB or 128GB
Battery3,750mAh
CamerasRear dual cameras:
20MP (f/1.8 aperture) + 2 MP

Single front camera:
16MP (f/2.0 aperture)
SoftwareAndroid 8.1 Oreo
Skinned with EMUI 8.2
ConnectivityWiFi 802.11 ac (2.4 and 5GHz)
Bluetooth 5
GPS
GLONASS
Network900MHz, 1800MHz, 800MHz, 2GHz
Bands 38, 39, 40, 41 (2555-2575 MHZ, 2575-2635 MHZ, 2635-2655 MHZ)
Band 1, Band 3, 1.9 GHz, I, VIII
PortsmicroUSB
3.5mm headphone jack
SIMDual nano SIM
Dimensions160.4 x 76.6 x 7.8mm
Weight175g
ColorsBlack, Blue, Red, Purple

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Honor 8X review: Should you buy it?

The Honor 8X is a tale of some quite remarkable accomplishments marred by a few unfortunate issues. At first, I thought the handset’s giant size would be the dividing factor, but the phone’s thin profile helps to minimize this issue enough that I eventually became accustomed to it.

The design is undeniably premium and unique enough that the phone is sure to stand out in a crowd. Performance, battery life, and storage options also feel a cut above your typical mid-tier smartphone. Honor has most of the major boxes checked off with the 8X.

However, the camera performance and dated hardware choices, like the microUSB port and single bottom-firing speaker, detract from an otherwise superb experience. It’s never possible to have it all at this price point, and whether the Honor 8X is for you will boil down to whether or not these issues impact how you use your handsets. Photography enthusiasts might want to give this AI camera a miss.