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Honor 8S Review: Well-Deserved Makeover

We review the Honor 8S!

Honor updated its budget offering with the Honor 8S, a year after bringing the Honor 7S to our shores. Far from an incremental update, the Honor 8S is a total makeover from its predecessor: you get a trendy dewdrop notch, a dual-texture polycarbonate back, and updated internals that include a Helio A22 processor and double the internal storage.

With all the updates Honor made to its latest budget offering, can the Honor 8S go head-to-head against other budget phones in the market today?

A design budget phones should emulate

One of the things we really like about the Honor 8S is the dual-textured polycarbonate back. Having a mix of smooth and ribbed textures adds visual flair to the phone without compromising on durability. The design also makes the phone smudge-resistant, and also adds greatly to the handling of the device. The phone is very easily handled with one hand since the ribbed texture gives users more grip when using it.

Speaking of design, we appreciate the Honor 8S’ minuscule camera bump, which is small enough for us to comfortably place the phone flat on the table without risking scratching the lens. The metallic ring surrounding the lone 13-megapixel camera does a good job in protecting the camera lens and provides a little visual flair to the budget phone.

Tolerable notch for a budget phone

Dewdrop notches are all the rage these days so it’s not surprising that the Honor 8S sports one. The bezels are not that thin, but considering the price of the phone, it’s not bad. If notches aren’t your thing, you can opt to blackout the area via the settings menu.

As for the display itself, the colors are accurate and its auto-brightness feature works consistently.

New processor, better thermal management

One of the more important upgrades with the Honor 8S is its use of an Helio A22 processor. A big step-up over the 28nm-based MT6739 processor used on the Honor 7S, the 12nm-based Helio A22 offers higher clock speeds and better thermal management thanks to a modern manufacturing process. Speaking of thermals, the Honor 8S did not get warm even if we were multi-tasking through several apps—a big improvement over the Honor 7S.

Paired with 2GB RAM and 32GB internal storage (that is expandable), the Honor 8S performed well in daily tasks. However, the same cannot be said when it comes to gaming. We could not run Asphalt 9 with the Honor 8S—the app kept on crashing when we attempted to start a race. We had a better time with PUBG Mobile, where we had an average FPS of 24 at 75% stability. In order to attain those metrics, however, we had to tone down the graphics settings.

The Honor 8S comes with Android Pie out of the box, along with EMUI 9. You get the usual preloaded software like Facebook, Messenger, and Netflix, and it comes with around 25GB of free space by default.

As for biometrics, the Honor 8S’ face unlock is a hit-or-miss affair: while it works fine in adequate lighting, it barely works in low-light situations. On our experience, it is more practical to settle for the good ol’ PIN unlock than depending on face unlock.

Cameras are a mixed bag

We got mixed results with the photos taken using the Honor 8S’ 13-megapixel f/1.8 rear camera. While photos taken during daylight was decent with good dynamic range and accurate colors, image quality dipped significantly during low-night scenarios. Photos taken in low light resulted in fuzzy and soft images, with most of them barely usable for social media purposes even if we tried using the phone’s HDR mode.

As for videos, while you can shoot Full HD video with the Honor 8S, footage is shaky due to the absence of electronic image stabilization. You will need a selfie stick or a phone gimbal if you intend to use the Honor 8S for video recording.

Another thing we don’t like about the Honor 8S’ cameras is its lackluster camera UI, where you only have a limited set of camera modes that include regular photo and video, HDR, Panorama, Beauty, and Pro mode. We hope Honor rolls out an update to add more modes on the Honor 8S like a dedicated night mode to improve its image quality in low light and make the most out of its f/1.8 aperture.

 

Laudable battery life

While a 3020mAh battery is considered to be small by 2019 standards, the Honor 8S’ Helio A22 processor played a big factor with its power efficiency. We got an impressive 13 and a half hour score on PCMark’s battery test, and the same goes for real-life usage. On a typical day, the Honor 8S coasted through the day with around 30% juice left—which is very laudable considering the phone’s rather small battery.

The downside, however, is that the Honor 8S does not come with fast charging. Through its MicroUSB port, filling up the Honor 8S’ battery will take you a little over 2 hours.

A budget phone worth considering, but competition is tough

While budget phones at the sub-Php 6k are often overlooked at, the Honor 8S’ improvements over its predecessor prove that there are things to like about Honor’s 2019 budget offering. Things like a power-efficient processor and a trendy back panel design are much appreciated, though Honor can still improve the Honor 8S, especially with the camera UI.

As much as we like what the Honor 8S has to offer, it faces serious competition against Xiaomi’s recently-launched Redmi 7A: for Php 200 cheaper, you get an octa-core processor and a bigger 4000mAh battery at the expense of a smaller, conventional 18:9 display.

If screen size does not matter, the Realme C2 has the same price for the 2GB/16GB variant. While you get less internal storage, the Realme C2 sports a bigger 6.1-inch display, an octa-core Helio P22 processor, dual rear cameras, and a large 4000mAh battery.

Honor 8S Specs

  • MediaTek Helio A22 quad-core processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 5.71-inch HD+ IPS display, 1520 x 720 resolution
  • 32GB internal storage, expandable via microSD up to 256GB
  • 13-megapixel f/1.8 rear camera with PDAF, LED flash
  • 5-megapixel f/2.0 front camera
  • Dual-SIM
  • 3G, HSPA+, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS
  • Face unlock, USB OTG
  • 3020mAh battery
  • Android 9.0 Pie with EMUI 9.0

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