Honor 8 review: All that glitters


Huawei’s Honor sub-brand has been doing well. The company has successfully expanded to Europe, dished out some good devices and built a solid reputation. Now, the Honor 8 looks to continue in building up that reputation with its unique design, dual cameras and balanced specs. But how does it fare amidst the harsh competition?

Honor 8: Design and Build

The Honor 8’s continues the tradition of Huawei devices having very good build quality. It doesn’t feel too heavy (nor too light), the glass back gives the device a very premium feel, and the overall construction of the Honor 8 feels polished.

The Honor 8’s design features a full glass back, which shines in a specific way when it hits the sun. The shiny and flashy design definitely sticks out, especially when compared to the typical metal builds on most similarly priced devices. On the rear, we have the dual camera and fingerprint sensor button, which feels great.

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The power button and volume rockers are easy to reach on the right of the device, and the textured power button makes it fairly easy to identify. The buttons don’t rattle around in place and have a satisfying click, which is great after coming from the Redmi Note 2.

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There are a few problems with this design however. While the rear glass panel looks nice, it’s incredibly slippery. I never actually felt it was going to slip out of my hand, but it would repeatedly slide off of sloped surfaces and my bed, much to my chagrin.

The glass build also brings about the age old issue of fingerprints and grime all over the device. While this is a non-issue on my white unit, the black and blue units especially seem to gather a lot of grime on their glass backs.

I’ve yet to break my unit, but that’s probably due to the soft wood flooring in my room. If it were any harder material, this thing would be wrecked in no time. While I can’t entirely blame Honor for choosing a glass build, I do wish they would’ve included a case of sorts like Huawei does with their devices.

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Overall, it’s a very nice design, though it’s not incredibly practical. If you’ve used a Samsung S7 or S6 Edge, you’ll know how it is. The slipperiness of the device may take away from it, but the glass back is undeniably beautiful. Shame it doesn’t stay that way due to grime.

Honor 8: Display

The Honor 8’s full HD IPS display is a quality panel, even including the fact that it’s not a QHD display. Colors are very lifelike, vibrant and natural while images are sharp and crisp. Viewing angles are also impressive, allowing the device to be viewed from even the most extreme angles.

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I also appreciate the device’s pre-installed blue light filter for the display. It’s a feature that should be a standard on every Android device, really. Here, it’s easily toggled from the drop down shortcut bar.

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On top of that, the display’s color temperature can be changed from the settings page, and it’s much more complex compared to the color temperature tool from earlier versions of Emotion UI. It’s quite a good display, though if you’re looking for a QHD display, this isn’t the device for you.

Honor 8: Software

Ah, here we are. Huawei’s version of Android, Emotion UI, has received plenty of flak for its flaws and problems and is pretty much infamous in the world of Android. So is it really all that bad? No, not really. Not great, but not bad.

screenshot_2016-12-06-17-20-35

The main problem that many people have is that it’s drastically different from stock Android, mainly because it doesn’t adopt Google’s material design and has no app drawer. Instead, EmUI is similar to many other Chinese UIs where all applications are placed on the homescreen and need to be sorted manually. This isn’t really a problem as much as it is a matter of subjective taste.

EmUI also comes with multiple software features. Google’s Now on Tap is available on the device, and its presence on the device is quite convenient. Also on board is Huawei’s own Knuckle Sense, which while improved from previous iterations, is still somewhat cumbersome when it comes to actual application.

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On the downside however, there’s plenty of bloatware on board for the international version. On top of Huawei’s own suite of applications, the device also comes with Google’s suite of applications AND some extra applications like the intrusive Clean Master. This is really unnecessary in my opinion. A list of the bloatware can be seen below.

  • Clean Master
  • Booking.com
  • Dropbox
  • Shazam
  • Facebook
  • WPS Office

Also, while many of EmUI’s problems have been dealt with, there are still a few more kinks that need to be ironed out like the ever present power consumption reminder that tells you to kill background apps. There’s also the issue that you can’t see certain notifications due to the text blending in with the background in the notification panel.

The settings menu holds many other functions. Aside from the prementioned color temperature tool, there’s also an option for a simple UI, a shortcut bar editor, the fingerprint sensor settings, motion controls and a bunch of other small enhancements.

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There are of course still a lot of problems. It’s an incredible hassle to reset default apps, some apps like Slack need to be adjusted in the settings menu before their notifications appear, the included icon packs are average, and the lack of any material design elements makes the overall UI feel out of place next to material apps.

There’s also the issue of updates. Within the time I received the device, I received no updates whatsoever. I understand that Honor isn’t going to iron things out as quickly as a software based company like Xiaomi, but I’d like to see at least monthly updates become the norm.

All in all, I didn’t really find EmUI as bad as people claim it is, though there’s still plenty of room for improvement. It’s no stock Android, but it’s still better than many of the skins you find on Chinese phones like Elephone’s ELE UI and Oppo’s Color OS.

Honor 8: Performance

The Honor 8’s performance is quick and snappy. The device has no issues with any of your day to day activities. Snapping pictures, browsing the web and gaming were all handed very well, almost beating out other more expensive devices like the Galaxy S7.

Memory management is good with 4GB of RAM. The Honor 8 could only keep up to 10 apps open at the same time before needing to restart them. It’s close to OnePlus 3 levels of memory management, which is very good.

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Gaming is another bag of worms. Generally, any game you’d want to play is more than playable on the device. However, once you start reaching games that demand a lot out of the GPU, they tend to stutter. Nowhere near unplayable, but it’s not up to the level of Snapdragon devices in GPU power.

So performance wise, the Honor 8 is good. There’s not much that the device can’t handle, and the things it struggles with are few and far between. While it’s not going to outspeed the iPhone 7, it’s more than fast enough to match up with its similarly priced brethren. If you’re a hardcore gamer however, this isn’t the best device for you.

Honor 8: Battery Life

Battery life on the Honor 8 is good. On performance mode and average use, I managed to squeeze out a decent 6 hours of screen time, while balanced mode added an extra hour on top of that.

In terms of usage, you’ll definitely be able through your entire day before needing a recharge. You’ll definitely need to charge your phone by the end however. This thing isn’t going to last until the next day.
screenshot_2016-12-04-22-04-15 In terms of battery settings, there’s an optimize option that cuts down on processes and reduces the power consumption of apps. Dig deeper and you’ll find an ROG display option that switches the resolution of the display to 1280×720 to increase battery life.

There’s also an extreme power saving mode which can keep the thing running for nearly an hour on 7%, alongside the already established performance and balanced options. Overall, the battery life is good. Above the average device, but below the typical battery behemoth.

Honor 8: Audio

Audio quality is a rather problematic subject when it comes to Chinese Droids. One of the most common things for a company to cut corners on is sound quality. The Honor 8 is thankfully above average in sound quality, but only just.

The bottom firing speaker on the Honor 8 isn’t the worst I’ve heard, but it’s not very good either. In terms of volume, it gets pretty loud and there’s no crackling which is great. Sound quality however is only decent with somewhat muddy bass and average clarity.

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The location of the speaker also hurts the device, with it being placed in a spot that is easily blocked by your hand in many situations. Despite all this, it’s still a fairly decent speaker, it’s just not the most enjoyable setup.

The earpiece speaker is clear, though it doesn’t get very loud. It’s adequately loud for when you’re in slightly noisier environments, but it gets tough to hear when you’re in a very noisy environment, like a stadium or a bustling mall.

Honor 8: Camera

Camera quality is another issue with Chinese devices in general, though the issue is completely different compared to audio quality’s problem. Here, the main problem is companies like to stick to whatever buzzword is popular, and market it to consumers like something incredible. Then, they fail to deliver because of poor optimization and such.

Camera quality on Huawei and Honor’s devices have been pretty consistent so far, and the Honor 8 is continuing that trend. With its dual 12MP rear cameras, it manages to shoot some pretty good pictures. It also falls into the same pitfalls as most Chinese droids, that being low light shooting.

When there’s a good amount of light, pictures come out really, really well. Clarity is good, colours are spot on and there aren’t any overexposure problems that can be seen. Turn down the lights, and then you start seeing some issues.

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As usual, the noise really starts to creep in once you begin shooting in low light, though it’s not really all too bad for a phone of this price. The clarity of low light pictures is decent, if slightly below average, though that’s compared to the top dogs of the camera world.

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The front facing camera is actually quite good, and comes with your usual slew of software features like skin smoothening and filters. The images produced are more than good enough for posting on your social account.

Video recording on the Honor 8 is limited to 1080p at 60fps, which doesn’t too bad, up until you realize there’s no OIS. While the quality of the footage is decent, it simply too shaky to be good. Which is a shame, because this camera really does have some good potential.

The camera software is very good, with most options simple a swipe away from the shooting screen. Aside from the filters and the regular slew of camera options, there’s also a refocus mode, a food mode, a professional mode and an option to add a watermark to all your pictures. Shutter speed is quick and I never found it tough to actually snap a photo.

So to sum it up, it takes great pictures in good lighting, average pictures in low light and video shooting is not fun due to the lack of OIS. I can also firmly say it’s better than the phones in its price range, and for comparisons sake I can say that it’s better than the OnePlus 3’s camera by a decent margin.

Honor 8: Camera Gallery

Honor 8: Connectivity

When it comes to connectivity, the Honor 8 has plenty of ground covered, though not all of it. The Honor 8 covers most, if not all of the important bands, meaning it should work just fine no matter where you are.

For me in Malaysia, the device worked perfectly fine and I managed to get great speeds wherever I went, though you’ll definitely want to check with www.willmyphonework.net to make sure the device works with your carrier.

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The device has dual nano-sized sim card slots, though it’s a hybrid slot so one of those will probably be dedicated to a microSD card. Speaking of which, the Honor 8 will accept microSDs of up to 256GB.

The Honor 8 supports dual-band 2.4/5.0GHz Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, with Wi-Fi Direct and hotspot capabilities. Bluetooth is v4.2, where interference issues with LTE networks should be fixed. Aside from that, there’s also NFC on board, which is good.

The satellite receiver supports GPS, GLONASS, and Beidou, so the device should be able to detect your location pretty well. The Honor 8 utilizes a USB-C port over the typical microUSB, and when connected to a computer you’ll need to change connection types through the device’s notification shade.

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Another nice addition is the IR blaster, which will allow you to control certain electronic appliances like a remote controller. So it’s got just about everything covered right? Nope. Honor went ahead and decided that FM radio wasn’t a needed function, which is why it’s not here.

Honor 8 Review: Conclusion

These days, competition is rife within the affordable flagship market. This segment, which used to be home to only a few companies, is now one of the most populated. Any device that wants to succeed needs to have something warrant purchasing it over another. Thankfully, the Honor 8 manages to this splendidly.

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The device’s objective cons are really few and far between. Most of the potential issues are simply a matter of subjective taste, like EmUI or the all glass design. The main problem with the device is its slippery build, which isn’t really much of a deal breaker.

Honor 8: Pros

  • Glass and metal construction is unique and looks good and helps it stand out
  • Build quality is good
  • Crisp, clear and colourful display
  • Performance is snappy and quick
  • Fantastic connectivity
  • Above average audio quality
  • Camera is stellar in good lighting
  • Battery life beats many devices in its price bracket
  • EmUI isn’t a disaster.

Honor 8: Cons

  • The glass build looks great, but smudges way too easily
  • Glass build is also quite slippery
  • The GPU is weaker than similarly priced devices
  • No FM radio
  • Camera is only decent in low light
  • EmUI still needs more polish
  • Updates aren’t all too frequent

So overall, If you’re looking for the most powerful device for your money, this isn’t where you should be looking. There are other devices in this price bracket that offer more GPU performance, namely the Mi5s and the OnePlus 3 (and more recently, the OnePlus 3T).

However, I still say the Honor 8 is definitely more than worth the asking price if what you’re looking for is a dependable device that looks great but won’t break the bank after you’ve purchased it. It’s got a great design, snappy performance and good battery life.

Honor 8: Phone Gallery

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52 Comments

  1. Muhammad Yasir
    December 6, 2016

    save iphone and samsung s7 , which cheaper phone has comparable low-light perf compared to these 2 ?

    • Airyl
      December 6, 2016

      Tough question. The best camera I’ve used on an affordable device is probably the Lenovo Vibe X3, which was great. After that, I’d say the Honor 8, Followed by the Mi5S (not sure about the Plus) and OnePlus 3T.

      For even more affordable devices, I really like the camera on the Honor 5X, but that phone’s not very good. The Meizu M3 Note is very good as well, though the Redmi Note 4 trumps it.

      Also, the Google Pixel is the king of low light, IMO.

      • Muhammad Yasir
        December 6, 2016

        hmmm…

        so those wishing for decimating low-light , but on a budget … should be looking at the following thought process ;

        RN4 for the absolute frugal

        while better off people will be better off buying the Pixel.

      • MattD
        December 6, 2016

        Have you taken a look to leeco cool1 dual? I’ve seen many reviews, and while with the resellers’ rom it wasn’t that great, with the official rom (or, even better, with the grossoshop one) it’s very good… I think it’s the best in the camera performance/price ratio… Perhaps I’d really like to see a review here, lately that phone had a bit of buzz around now that prices are starting to stabilize

    • yalok
      December 31, 2016

      You can get comparable to iphone 7 and samsung s7 results in low light using Nexus 5X, but battery and performance are disappointing.

  2. Jh1
    December 6, 2016

    Nice review, Airyl!

    • Airyl
      December 6, 2016

      Thanks!

  3. Rob
    December 6, 2016

    Good review, I agree about many of the things you have mentioned here. My phone also has the blue light filter and can be set to come on and off at set time and there is no reason for all phones not being able to do it. I also agree with the dual cameras, I haven’t noticed any difference on mine between using both or just the one after I discovered recently that you have to manually set it to use the secondary camera! Hopefully as the tech matures we will start to reap the rewards and older devices will also get updates to improve their dual cameras!

  4. December 6, 2016

    When I first got the LG G3 in 2013 I loved the on-screen buttons, but now I don’t like them. Especially when reading a Kindle e-book, you have to tap in the middle of the screen to bring up the buttons. My favourite button arrangement is Meizu’s single button for more than one function. The Lenovo Zuk has a similar arrangement. Three buttons at the bottom of the phone, like on Xiaomi devices is better for me than on-screen buttons but not as nice as what Meizu and Zuk offer. Unfortunately, it seems that all or nearly all of Huawei’s newer phones have on-screen buttons. That, plus higher cost and often only average battery life means that I won’t be buying any Huawei phones anytime soon. Only the Mate series has really good battery life.

    • NextHype
      December 7, 2016

      On-screen buttons are the only thing I dislike on my LG V10 for the reason you mentioned : I must tap on screen to bring the buttons back, which is annoying. Not willing to do the same mistake again, it rules out buying a Huawei phone. IMHO battery life is less important nowadays with fast charging .

  5. slartiblart
    December 6, 2016

    Two year on and I still have my Honor 6 Plus as my daily driver. I’ve had every phone I think as china phone enthusiast. Nothing comes close to the Honor 6 Plus.

    • Airyl
      December 6, 2016

      It’s really surprising how well it holds up. The camera is still one of the best.

      • slartiblart
        December 6, 2016

        Yep, sit still blows people away. Even the night shots are awesome. I think it’s because the pixel size on the Honor 6 Plus are 1.94um – it lets a lot of light in. I have people who compare with Iphones and S7’s and they are very impressed with the honor 6 plus camera. I think Huawei did a terrible job marketing this phone.

        • Airyl
          December 6, 2016

          Huawei absolutely failed at marketing the 6 Plus. Everyone I knew either had no idea it existed or thought it wasn’t a significant upgrade, which it was.

          More RAM, better cameras, dual cameras, larger battery, much better build quality, it was a great device. It was even better than the Honor 7 in a lot of ways.

          • slartiblart
            December 6, 2016

            It’s way better than an honor 7. I mean it has a 3600mah battery in a 7mm body. Where else do you find that? It started off with KitKat which was rubbish and now it’s on marshmallow and the ROM is even better now.

            Huawei definitely failed marketing this phone.

          • slartiblart
            December 6, 2016

            I took this a few days ago. Night shot is awesome. Shot on full auto. HDR off. I was actually running and this was a fast shot without me standing still.

            Excuse the imgur compression.
            http://i.imgur.com/WuQjkky.jpg

    • December 6, 2016

      Spot on! The first Dual-camera phone and it’s still great. Bought my GF one a year ago, loves it. With the EMUI 4.0 update it’s now as fast as ever.

      • slartiblart
        December 6, 2016

        Hey Steven. It wasn’t the first dual camera, it was the first good one. But yes, I can’t stop praising this phone. So much so that my brother who was an ardent apple fan sold his iPhone 6 for an honor 6 plus and loves it.

  6. Guest
    December 6, 2016

    save iphone and samsung s7 , which cheaper phone has comparable low-light perf compared to these 2 ?

    • Airyl
      December 6, 2016

      Tough question. The best camera I’ve used on an affordable device is probably the Lenovo Vibe X3, which was great. After that, I’d say the Honor 8, Followed by the Mi5S (not sure about the Plus) and OnePlus 3T.

      For even more affordable devices, I really like the camera on the Honor 5X, but that phone’s not very good. The Meizu M3 Note is very good as well, though the Redmi Note 4 trumps it.

      Also, the Google Pixel is the king of low light, IMO.

    • Guest
      December 6, 2016

      hmmm…

      so those wishing for decimating low-light , but on a budget … should be looking at the following thought process ;

      RN4 for the absolute frugal

      while better off people will be better off buying the Pixel.

    • MattD
      December 6, 2016

      Have you taken a look to leeco cool1 dual? I’ve seen many reviews, and while with the resellers’ rom it wasn’t that great, with the official rom (or, even better, with the grossoshop one) it’s very good… I think it’s the best in the camera performance/price ratio… Perhaps I’d really like to see a review here, lately that phone had a bit of buzz around now that prices are starting to stabilize

    • yalok
      December 31, 2016

      You can get comparable to iphone 7 and samsung s7 results in low light using Nexus 5X, but battery and performance are disappointing.

  7. December 6, 2016

    Great review Airyl. Those daylight shots are extremely impressive

    • Airyl
      December 6, 2016

      Thanks man.

  8. Jh1
    December 6, 2016

    Nice review, Airyl!

    • Airyl
      December 6, 2016

      Thanks!

  9. Rob
    December 6, 2016

    Good review, I agree about many of the things you have mentioned here. My phone also has the blue light filter and can be set to come on and off at set time and there is no reason for all phones not being able to do it. I also agree with the dual cameras, I haven’t noticed any difference on mine between using both or just the one after I discovered recently that you have to manually set it to use the secondary camera! Hopefully as the tech matures we will start to reap the rewards and older devices will also get updates to improve their dual cameras!

  10. Moose
    December 6, 2016

    When I first got the LG G3 in 2013 I loved the on-screen buttons, but now I don’t like them. Especially when reading a Kindle e-book, you have to tap in the middle of the screen to bring up the buttons. My favourite button arrangement is Meizu’s single button for more than one function. The Lenovo Zuk has a similar arrangement. Three buttons at the bottom of the phone, like on Xiaomi devices is better for me than on-screen buttons but not as nice as what Meizu and Zuk offer. Unfortunately, it seems that all or nearly all of Huawei’s newer phones have on-screen buttons. That, plus higher cost and often only average battery life means that I won’t be buying any Huawei phones anytime soon. Only the Mate series has really good battery life.

    • NextHype
      December 7, 2016

      On-screen buttons are the only thing I dislike on my LG V10 for the reason you mentioned : I must tap on screen to bring the buttons back, which is annoying. Not willing to do the same mistake again, it rules out buying a Huawei phone. IMHO battery life is less important nowadays with fast charging .

  11. slartiblart
    December 6, 2016

    Two years on and I still have my Honor 6 Plus as my daily driver. I’ve had every phone I can think of as china phone enthusiast. Nothing comes close to the Honor 6 Plus.

    • Airyl
      December 6, 2016

      It’s really surprising how well it holds up. The camera is still one of the best.

    • slartiblart
      December 6, 2016

      Yep, sit still blows people away. Even the night shots are awesome. I think it’s because the pixel size on the Honor 6 Plus are 1.94um – it lets a lot of light in. I have people who compare with Iphones and S7’s and they are very impressed with the honor 6 plus camera. I think Huawei did a terrible job marketing this phone.

    • Airyl
      December 6, 2016

      Huawei absolutely failed at marketing the 6 Plus. Everyone I knew either had no idea it existed or thought it wasn’t a significant upgrade, which it was.

      More RAM, better cameras, dual cameras, larger battery, much better build quality, it was a great device. It was even better than the Honor 7 in a lot of ways.

    • slartiblart
      December 6, 2016

      It’s way better than an honor 7. I mean it has a 3600mah battery in a 7mm body. Where else do you find that? It started off with KitKat which was rubbish and now it’s on marshmallow and the ROM is even better now.

      Huawei definitely failed marketing this phone.

    • Steven Fox
      December 6, 2016

      Spot on! The first Dual-camera phone and it’s still great. Bought my GF one a year ago, loves it. With the EMUI 4.0 update it’s now as fast as ever.

    • slartiblart
      December 6, 2016

      Hey Steven. It wasn’t the first dual camera, it was the first good one. But yes, I can’t stop praising this phone. So much so that my brother who was an ardent apple fan sold his iPhone 6 for an honor 6 plus and loves it.

    • slartiblart
      December 6, 2016

      I took this a few days ago. Night shot is awesome. Shot on full auto. HDR off. I was actually running and this was a fast shot without me standing still.

      Excuse the imgur compression.

  12. Zi Jin Cheng
    December 6, 2016

    Great review Airyl. Those daylight shots are extremely impressive

    • Airyl
      December 6, 2016

      Thanks man.

  13. mf1gt3r
    December 6, 2016

    Good review.

  14. mf1gt3r
    December 6, 2016

    Good review.

  15. balcobomber25
    December 7, 2016

    The Honor 8 is my primary phone it has an incredible camera if you know how to take good photos. It’s just like the P9, it’s not a good camera to just shoot on Auto mode you have to really get the settings just right. But when you do pictures can be phenomenal.

  16. balcobomber25
    December 7, 2016

    The Honor 8 is my primary phone it has an incredible camera if you know how to take good photos. It’s just like the P9, it’s not a good camera to just shoot on Auto mode you have to really get the settings just right. But when you do pictures can be phenomenal.

  17. Angry Mobile Nerd
    December 8, 2016

    1. How big is the screen?
    2. What version of Android is under the Emotion UI?
    3. What’s the CPU/GPU?
    4. How big is the battery?
    5. The camera sensor is 4:3 not 16:9 right?
    6. Is there possibly a specs section in this review that didn’t load?

    • Airyl
      December 8, 2016

      1. 5.2-inches.
      2. Marshmallow.
      3. Kirin 950/Mali T-880 MP4
      4. 3000mAh
      5. Yes.
      6. No.

      • Angry Mobile Nerd
        December 8, 2016

        Yeah it takes nice photos but the 4:3 sensor is the real turn off for me (and the screen size). I don’t understand why manufacturers are still even using this aspect ratio considering almost nothing is 4:3 anymore.

  18. Angry Mobile Nerd
    December 8, 2016

    1. How big is the screen?
    2. What version of Android is under the Emotion UI?
    3. What’s the CPU/GPU?
    4. How big is the battery?
    5. The camera sensor is 4:3 not 16:9 right?
    6. Is there possibly a specs section in this review that didn’t load?

    • Airyl
      December 8, 2016

      1. 5.2-inches.
      2. Marshmallow.
      3. Kirin 950/Mali T-880 MP4
      4. 3000mAh
      5. Yes.
      6. No.

    • Angry Mobile Nerd
      December 8, 2016

      Yeah it takes nice photos but the 4:3 sensor is the real turn off for me (and the screen size). I don’t understand why manufacturers are still even using this aspect ratio considering almost nothing is 4:3 anymore.