Let me put it this way, when someone hypes up something or someone by pin-pointing at a characteristic, your expectation multiplies, and then just ‘average’ doesn’t do any good. That’s what Honor India did with the new Honor 8C’s camera.
At a private briefing on 20 November, Honor sat me and a few other journalists down and briefed us about the Honor 8C smartphone. Honor told us that there are two things about the phone that they are very proud of — the battery and the camera. Well, I wouldn’t say anything against the battery, but I kind of have a bone to pick when it comes to the camera.
I spent exactly a week using the phone as my daily driver, and I replicated it with all the (perspective) wallpapers I like to use on my primary phone, all the apps I am obsessed with, and the ones I am not obsessed with (and I just like to keep them in my phone). I was watching my youzhe videos on YouTube, shows on Netflix and Prime videos when I travel, and Apple Music runs for almost the entire rest of the day. And with all this heavy daily usage of the phone, here’s what my experience has been with the new Honor 8C.
I am breaking our regular order of review-writing, but I want to address the battery of the Honor 8C first, which impressed me the most. The Honor 8C is fuelled by a 4,000mAh battery, with a promise from Honor to offer a full day of battery life. I usually don’t like to quote a company’s claims in my review, but this has surprisingly been bang on. Ever since I started using the phone, I charge my phone only on alternate days.
I also noticed that the drop from 100 percent battery to 95 percent isn’t very quick. I have faced that with my Samsung Galaxy S9, and the Apple iPhone 6S, which barely ever remains at 100 percent. After unplugging it you open one app and the battery is immediately at 99 percent, and thus begins the de-fuelling journey of that battery. With the Honor 8C, however, the charge didn’t drain too quick.
On the other hand, the Honor 8C somehow failed to handle the pressure of a low battery. I mean, at 3 percent the battery started to warn me that the device would power down in 30 seconds. Honestly, this felt like one of those moments, while playing basketball, the ball would be flying towards my face, but instead of pulling it together and stepping aside, I would just stand there, freak out and freeze. And bam!
Having said that, the battery life on the device is pretty great, and would definitely last you about 36 to 48 hours, depending on your usage. Even on the PC Mark Battery Life 2.0 test, the phone got result of 9 hours and 7 minutes. But if you compare this to Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro's battery life, which also has a 4,000 mAh battery, that gives you a slightly better result in terms of the PC Mark Work 2.0 benchmark scores, that comes to 10 hours 35 minutes.
Supporting the battery is a USB 2.0 charger. I have mostly charged my device overnight, but in a little over an hour and a half, the phone gets fully charged from zero to 100 percent.
Build and Design: 8/10
The Honor 8C features an interesting design considering that it has been designed entirely out of plastic. It comes in two colour variants, which is, black and blue. The black is pretty vanilla, but the blue variant, which I have been using, looks quite nice. It has darker shades along the sides and a lighter blue in the middle, and when you tilt the device to one side, you can see vertical glow-lines, that give the back a matte-finished look. Indeed, it is the same finish which keeps the back smudge-free unlike most smartphones available in the market today that feature glossy glass back panels.
The phone’s body blends seamlessly with the screen on the front, which makes it very comfortable to grip on to. It’s also a reason why the large 6.26-inch display, feels manageable in my tiny hands.
The 8C sports the volume rocker and the power button on the right edge, with a mono speaker and port for the USB 2.0 at the bottom one. The left edge houses the SIM tray that allows you to use two numbers at the same time, along with support for dual-VoLTE.
The top edge features the 3.5 mm jack. At the back, on the top right sits the dual-camera setup of the phone. Instead of the usual single bump that sports the multiple-sensors in one place, the Honor 8C has allotted individual protrusions to the two cameras. However, the recess around these sensors isn’t too much to actually make the device wobble when you place it on a flat surface.
Right below the camera sensors sits the LED flash, and on its right is the fingerprint sensor.
The Honor 8C features a 6.26-inch LCD display with a resolution of 1520 x 720 pixels (HD+, since it has a notch).
The Honor 8C is powered by a Qualcomm’s brand-new Snapdragon 632 SoC, which is accompanied by 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of onboard storage. There is another variant of the device, which comes with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage. Both the variants can further be expanded up to 512 GB.
For photography, the Honor 8C sports a 13 MP + 2 MP setup at the back and a single 8 MP sensor up front. Both the selfie and rear cam are accompanied by an LED flash.
The Honor 8C runs Android 8.1 Oreo, which is layered with Huawei’s custom EMUI 8.2. Fuelling the device is a 4,000mAh battery with a USB 2.0 port for connectivity and charging.
The smartphone features a 6.26-inch notched IPS LCD display, with a 1520 x 720 pixels HD+ resolution. The display offers an 81.9 percent screen-to-body ratio, and a 19:9 aspect ratio. The colours produced on it are quite accurate, as in maintaining the correct tones on the display.
One very interesting detail I realised while writing down my review was that the Honor 8C's display notch never bothered me. Like I don’t remember the notch getting in the way while watching videos or playing games. So I quickly picked up the phone and started to really pay attention to the notch, and I played a video from F.R.I.E.N.D.S and zoomed the video to fit the screen. And that’s when I realised that when you play videos on the Honor 8C, the phone’s UI automatically hides the notch to create a straight-up black strip.
Besides that, under bright lighting conditions, the display adapts the brightness pretty well, keeping text perfectly legible. While Redmi Note 6 Pro offers an equally good display, but my colleague Shomik Bhattacharjee reviewed the phone he found that "at full brightness, text can be a little difficult to read when under direct sunlight". So the Honor 8C despite its low resolution seems to slightly better on this front.
Honor also lets you tinker a bit with the display’s colour temperature manually, OR you can also use the TÜV Rheinland certified Eye-Comfort mode (or night mode), which when enabled, automatically adjusts the tint of the screen to keep your eyes comfortable. You can even schedule the time when you want the feature to be enabled.
OS and Software: 6/10
The Honor 8C runs Android 8.1 Oreo, which is layered with Huawei’s custom EMUI 8.2. The smartphone’s OS comes with features like dual-Bluetooth connection, an option to hide the notch, a simple mode, which removes all the bloat from the UI, and a DND mode in the game suite that keeps calls from interrupting your gaming session.
The app drawer wasn’t free of bloatware when I unboxed the device. It had some 12 Huawei apps, the entire Google apps suite and a few more apps pre-installed. However, like I mentioned the Simple Mode which offers a simplified interface, is a pretty good option Huawei gives you in case you want to skip on extra features and go with the basic interface instead.
When it comes to the experience, however, there were moments when I was yearning to get done with the review so I could go back to my own smartphone. With the software up to date to BKK-AL10 184.108.40.206 software version, the device gave me quite some trouble with lag and slow response times. The device also seems to slow down in the camera app, which I will discuss in detail in the Camera section of the review.
In my seven-days of living and breathing with the Honor 8C, I noticed videos lagging while I was connected to a strong Wi-Fi network, my Google Maps app lagged too, with the two apps taking while to launch. I faced a similar issue with Instagram, with the app sometimes crashing unexpectedly too.
The phone also hung a bunch of times while I was switching apps. I had to then go back to the main menu and then open the app I wanted to switch to.
I also noticed a low response time of the UI when I was clearing background apps. The screen would just freeze there for a second, with the entire action fast forwarded the next second.
While this is a long list of complaints, this is Honor’s first attempt with a Qualcomm chipset so I’m expecting upcoming software updates to fix these issues. But for now, it’s not a pretty sight!
In comparison, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro is the first smartphone to run MIUI 10 out of the box and it has dramatically improved the smartphone experience. The MIUI 10.0.4 version is also based on Android Oreo 8.1 and its gestures are fluid and intuitive.
I pretty much made it clear at the opening of my review that despite being a highlight of the device, the phone’s camera did not impress me. So here it goes!
The Honor 8C has a dual-camera setup at the back with the combination of a 13 MP and a 2 MP sensor, and it is almost as if the phone’s camera in a moody adolescent.
The phone does fine in bright lighting conditions, but here are a few things that bothered me:
- Laggy camera app
- Low-light capability seems poor, with the camera artificially brightening the centre of certain pictures
- The camera takes a while to focus on the subject and sometimes the focus isn't very clear in the final images.
- Focussing is also a problem sometimes when shooting at night
The camera app lagged to the point of irking me sometimes. I would tap on the capture button and then picture would actually click five seconds later. I literally counted that, by the way.
This means, if you like to click pictures on the go (like normal humans do), you can just forget about the Honor 8C. Because till them time the phone’s camera app would respond, you would have missed that moment you wanted to capture, 400 years ago. Sometimes switching between the camera and video mode can also be a trouble. I really hope Huawei fixes these issues in a software update soon.
The front camera of the Honor 8C, on the other hand, is decent in the day time, and comparatively does better in low-light too, owing to its ‘Soft Flash’. With the Honor 8C, Huawei has launched what it calls the Soft Flash, which lets you adjust the brightness of the front flash to three levels. So even when you are clicking in the dark or in a low light, your face can still be well-lit.
As for the picture quality, the images produced are sharp, but sometimes over-saturated. The AI mode does a good job with adjusting the colours of the picture and in certain images you can really tell the difference between the regular and AI shot. However, in very bright lighting conditions, there is sometimes very little change made to the images in AI mode too.
On the Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro, the camera is first of all better in terms of responsiveness itself. For instance, the touch to focus works flawlessly on the phone, the app doesn't lag or hang, and the camera quality especially in terms of the low-light one is comparatively superior.
You can check the Flickr slideshow below to see some of the images clicked from the Honor 8C.
Well, at this point, there I have mentioned a bunch of times about the device lagging at many places, so that in itself takes some points off in the Performance section of this review. However, here I do want to point out that the phone has not once heated up in the time I spent with it. While smartphones with plastic bodies usually do not heat up easily, the Honor 8C barely warmed up even when running benchmark tests. I also played a lot of Candy Crush, Word Puzzle, Prince of Persia and Need For Speed: No Limits, with the DND for Gaming mode on. Interestingly, the phone only slowed down a bit when I was playing Prince of Persia and Need for Speed, my experience with the rest of the games were flawless.
The graphics and textures while playing games were decent. The battery drain while playing these games wasn’t too much either. While Candy Crush and Word Puzzle barely managed to dent the battery life, it drained somewhere around 16 percent while playing Need For Speed: No Limits and about 8 percent while running Prince of Persia. Further, the Honor 8C has a mono speaker setup. The audio is pretty loud and doesn’t crack at high volumes. The cellular calling experience on the device was pretty great too. The speaker is well placed on the notch and gives out clear call audio.
Verdict and price in India:
Is the phone good-looking? Yes.
Does it have a big display to binge shows while on-the-go? Yes, and it’s a good one.
Does it have a great battery? Absolutely.
And camera? Holy-Moly, here’s the pickle!
With the Snapdragon 632 chipset, 4 GB of RAM, dual-cam setup at the back, 4,000 mAh battery, and a price tag of Rs 12,999, the Honor 8C stands directly in competition with the Realme 2 (from Rs 9,499 onwards) and the just launched Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro (from Rs 13,999 onwards).
While I am confident that the device can take on its competitors in terms of battery life, the Honor 8C needs some dramatic updates to its UI to make it smoother, and the camera may after all not be its highlight with its low-light capabilities to be blamed.
If camera is your primary need, in this segment I would suggest you go for the Redmi Note 6 Pro. But if all you need is a device that doesn’t incessantly cry for a charge, you can go for the Honor 8C. However, in that case, with a few extra thousands, you can also look at the Motorola One Power with a 5,000 mAh battery.