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Honor 8 First Impressions: Can it stand out with looks alone?

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The honor 8 is finally here in Malaysia and it is their most premium smartphone yet. The previous honor smartphones were known for offering top specs for far less money. For its latest flagship, honor doesn’t want to be just another cheap alternative. Instead, it wants to be a desirable choice for its premium design and build quality.

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The exterior looks nothing like the previous honor 7. It is predominantly glass and held together with a nice metal frame. Like Samsung’s latest flagships, it gets a reflective material underneath which looks stunning when light is reflected. The sides feel nice to hold with its rounded edges. Overall, it does look like a cross mix between an iPhone 6 with a Galaxy S6/S7. Of course like most glass based smartphones, it is quite a fingerprint magnet.

With a 5.2” full HD display, it isn’t too big and it feels right in the hands similar to its previous honor 7. Under the hood, it has a Kirin 950 Octa-Core processor that’s mated to 4GB of RAM. Although it isn’t the newer Kirin 955 that powers the current Huawei P9, the Kirin 950 feels more than adequate for all your multi-tasking needs.

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It’s no secret that the honor flagships are often regarded as the affordable versions of Huawei’s P models. For the honor 8, it gets a similar dual-camera set up with one sensor that shoots in monochrome while the other unit shoots in colour. Both cameras are 12MP f/2.2 shooters but unlike the P9, it doesn’t get the full Leica experience. Instead, it gets Huawei’s camera UI like the Mate 8 but it still comes with a host of features including pro camera modes.

From our quick use, it performs just as snappy as the P9 and the black and white shots turned out quite similar as well. For selfie lovers, the front 8MP f/2.4 camera works rather well and you also get a wide range of beautification features.

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Like most devices today, it also gets a fingerprint scanner at the back. It looks and feels like the home button from an iPhone and you can press it to perform a customised action. This doubles up as an action key which was first introduced on the honor 7.

As for the fingerprint unlocking, setting it up is rather quick and it works reliably well thanks to its 4-layer fingerprint scanner that recognises 3D ridges of your fingertips. The honor 8 also supports dual-SIMs and it also accepts microSD cards with its hybrid slot.

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The honor 8 gets a decent 3,000mAh battery and it also uses USB Type-C, a first for the honor brand. A fast 9V2A charger is also provided with both 32GB and 64GB storage models that claims to give you 47% charge in just 30 minutes. Out of the box, it runs on Huawei’s own EMUI interface on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

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For the price of RM1,699 for 32GB and RM1,899 for 64GB, this is the most expensive honor device yet. With its upmarket build materials, it isn’t realistic to compare this to its RM999 honor 6 that was launched 2 years ago. Honor Malaysia emphasises that they don’t want to compete on specs alone as they want to move up the ladder with sophisticated design and stunning looks. To complete the premium experience, honor is also providing one-year one to one swap warranty plus a 3-months screen crack protection.

The closest rivals would be the ZenFone 3, OnePlus 3 and possibly the Huawei P9. They are equally well equipped and you can get them under the RM2,000 mark. So where does the honor 8 fit in this already competitive space? For me, I’ll probably get the OnePlus 3 for its raw specs but for those who prefer something different in a crowded world of metal smartphones might just find the honor 8 as an appealing alternative. We’ll be getting a review device so stay tuned for our full review.

Alexander Wong