Huawei's sub-brand Honor has been very aggressive in India of late, with numerous smartphone launches across multiple price segments. The Honor 8C arrives just six months after the Honor 7C, and features a sizeable 4,000mAh battery, an expansive 6.26-inch display with an aspect ratio of 19:9, AI-enhanced cameras, and Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box. The first phone with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 SoC under its hood, the Honor 8C is offered in two variants: one with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage priced at Rs. 11,999, and the one we have on hand, with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, which retails for Rs 12,999.
The Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 15,000 segment is incredibly cut-throat and is populated by capable smartphone such as the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 (Review), Nokia 5.1 Plus (Review), Xiaomi Redmi 6 Pro (Review), and Realme 1 (Review). Let's see if the Honor 8C can compete with such heavy hitters.
The body of the Honor 8C is all plastic and the build quality is satisfactory, but this smartphone does not feel as premium as its glass- and metal-backed rivals. In fact, even the older Honor 7C (Review) has a metal backplate with plastic inserts on the top and bottom.
This phone is also a bit too tall to be used comfortably with one hand. The notched display is not exactly borderless, and the chin is pretty significant. There is an option in the settings menu to mask the notch, which basically darkens the screen area on either side of it. Users can choose between on-screen buttons and EMUI's gestures, which we found to be slightly difficult to use.
The glossy plastic back attracts a ton of fingerprints and makes the phone very slippery. A soft TPU case is included in the box. It's not of the highest quality, but does help protect the phone from scratches and improve grip. The retail box also includes a 10W charger and a Micro-USB cable. A headset is not included, which might disappoint a few users.
The rear panel houses the vertically stacked cameras and a centrally located fingerprint sensor. Honor has tried to replicate the color gradient used on its pricier glass-backed offerings such as the Honor 10 (Review), but hasn't succeeded fully. The black and blue gradient on the back of our review unit looked a little garish to us.
The left of the smartphone houses the SIM tray, which has two Nano-SIM slots and a dedicated microSD card slot. The right side is home to the power button and volume rocker, both of which are small but tactile. On the bottom of the phone is a Micro-USB port, flanked by the primary microphone and a speaker that is loud but tinny. The secondary microphone and 3.5mm headphone jack are placed on the top. The use of a Micro-USB port is a disappointing at a time when the industry has started transitioning to the USB Type-C standard.
The Honor 8C is powered by Qualcomm's new 14nm Snapdragon 632 SoC, which has four high-performance cores and four cores tuned for power efficiency. The review unit we tested was the top-end variant with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, priced at Rs.12,999. A cheaper variant with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage is also offered, which has been priced at Rs. 11,999. Both support storage expansion via a microSD card (up to 256GB).
The smartphone has a sizeable 4,000mAh battery and runs EMUI 8.2 atop Android 8.1 Oreo. Connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, GLONASS, a Micro-USB port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. It supports dual SIMs (Nano) and both can simultaneously latch onto 4G networks.
There's a 6.26-inch HD+ (720x1520 pixels) TFT IPS LCD panel up front with an aspect ratio of 19:9. The display is nothing to write home about. While the viewing angles are decent and colours are punchy, the maximum brightness level is not enough, and text and images appear fuzzy due to the HD+ resolution, which is a bit low for a screen of this size.
First-party applications are built to accommodate the notch, and EMUI allows you to stretch third-party applications that do not natively support the 19:9 aspect ratio.
Performance is a bit of a mixed bag. The smartphone handles day-to-day use quite well but struggles a bit when pushed. We also experienced slight lag and stutter while navigating around the UI and scrolling through heavy websites in Chrome. As the Honor 8C is the first smartphone with the Snapdragon 632 SoC, it's hard to say whether the performance issues are a result of this processor or a lack of optimisation on Honor's part.
Games like Asphalt 9 and PUBG exhibited a few dropped frames here and there, but were playable on the whole. You will need to reduce the graphics settings though. The Honor 8C managed 103,258 points in AnTuTu, 1265 and 2465 respectively in Geekbench's single-core and multi-core tests, 5,673 in PC Mark's Work 2.0 benchmark, 14fps in GFXBench Manhattan 3.1, and 36fps in GFXBench T-Rex.
Face recognition is almost instantaneous when there's an adequate amount of light, but you do need to point the smartphone directly at your face. In low light, the phone increases the screen brightness so as to illuminate your face before attempting to scan it, and this helps to a degree. We also found the fingerprint sensor to be quick and accurate.
The Honor 8C runs Honor's EMUI 8.2 custom skin atop Android 8.1 Oreo. EMUI is feature-packed but feels cluttered and has plenty of bloatware. There's an odd mix of Google's own apps and Honor's as default. For example, there's the Chrome browser and Android's default messaging app, but the Dialer, File Manager and Gallery are Honor's custom versions. Facebook, Messenger, Netflix, and Camera 360 come preinstalled, along with a bunch of first-party apps from Huawei such as HiCare, Huawei Health, Themes, Honor Store, and Honor Club, which require a ton of permissions to run.
On a positive note, EMUI also has a one-handed mode, a powerful theming engine, and the ability to run two instances of the same application. There is no information as of now regarding any potential Android P update for this phone.
The Honor 8C lasted 14 hours and 30 minutes in our HD video battery loop test, which is quite impressive. Real-world performance was solid as well, with the smartphone powering through a day of moderate use. EMUI has a host of power-saving features, one of which reduces the screen resolution when you're running low on power. The smartphone does not support quick charging, and takes more than two and a half hours to charge fully when using the included 10W charger.
On the imaging front, the Honor 8C features a 13-megapixel primary rear camera with an aperture of f/1.8, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor with an aperture of f/2.4. At the front, the Honor 8C has an 8-megapixel fixed-focus camera with an aperture of f/2.0. Both the front and rear cameras feature single-LED flashes.
The iOS-inspired camera app is well laid out and has a fully featured Pro mode, which allows you to alter the ISO, exposure, shutter speed, and white balance. The smartphone can recognise certain objects or scenes being shot, and optimise image settings accordingly. At the moment, the smartphone can detect 22 different types of objects and over 500 types of scenes. We were not too pleased with the AI enhancements on offer. Most photos shot in AI mode were oversharpened and had oversaturated colours. With AI turned off, photos taken in adequate light had more natural colours and a reasonable amount of detail. The wide aperture mode allows you take shots with depth-of-field effects, which are above average with decent edge detection. However, the image quality is a bit behind the competition.
In unfavourable lighting situations, the photos we took with this phone came out looking dark and murky, and the autofocus also struggled at times. The AI enhancements can help the app set itself to pull in more light, but the level of detail suffers and plenty of noise creeps in.
The front camera is also just about adequate. In our experience, most images were soft and overexposed. Low-light performance was also quite poor. The front LED flash helps to an extent, but images lack detail, are over-sharpened, and have inaccurate colours. A beauty mode is available for both the front and rear cameras, but the results appear very artificial. AR stickers are also supported, and these are well implemented. Video recording maxes out at 720p for the front camera while the rear one is capable of 1080p recording. Our test videos lacked detail and were shaky due to the lack of any sort of stabilisation.
The Honor 8C does little to stand out in a segment populated by highly competent smartphones such as the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 (Review) and Nokia 5.1 Plus (Review). Honor has tried to deliver a solid all-rounder, but in doing so, has produced a phone that does not excel in any particular area.
This phone does not look or feel as premium as its rivals. Its low-light camera quality is disappointing, general performance is a mixed bag, and the user interface is cluttered. There are a few spots of sunshine - the battery life is solid, there's a dedicated microSD card slot, and the fingerprint sensor is fast and accurate. Manufacturers including Xiaomi, Nokia, Asus, and Realme have raised the budget smartphone game, and Honor needs to do more if it wants to come out on top.