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The Honor 8 Pro is Huawei’s new flagship killer

Why it matters to you

Want a high-end smartphone but you're not enthused about paying big bucks for the privilege? The Honor 8 Pro may be the answer.

Chinese brand Huawei’s phones occupy every hue of the pricing spectrum. On the high end, there’s the cutting-edge, top-of-the-line P10 with Leica-certified lenses, and on the low end is the $250 Honor 6X, which eschews a lot of the former’s bells and whistles in favor of bargain basement pricing.

Huawei’s new Honor 8 Pro, which the company announced on Wednesday, sits somewhere in the middle.

It’s the latest addition to Huawei’s Honor sub-brand, which maintains a careful balancing act between competitive hardware and palatable pricing. The Honor 8 Pro launched in China as the V9 earlier this year, and begins shipping to Europe in April of this year for 549 euros. And unsurprisingly, it’s an improvement upon its predecessor (last year’s Honor 8) in almost every respect.

That’s evident right away. The Honor 8 Pro eschews the Honor 8’s all-glass design for a curvy aluminum, navy blue unibody (black, gold, and other colors with launch later this year). Gone is its predecessor’s textured back panel, replaced with a minimalist matte finish. Just like its predecessor, the Honor 8 Pro is slim, sleek, and easy on the eyes.

A Gorilla Glass 3 shields the Honor 8 Pro’s 5.7-inch Quad HD (2,560 x 1,400 pixels) display and conceals Huawei’s homegrown Kirin 960, which packs four cores humming away at 2.4GHz and four low-power cores that operate at 1.8GHz. It’s paired with a whopping 6GB of RAM (up from 4GB), 64GB of internal storage expandable via MicroSD slot, and a 4,000mAh (up from 3,000mAh) battery that supports fast charging. Huawei said it’ll last two full days of light use.

There’s more to the Honor 8 Pro than meets the eye. It’s running the latest version of Huawei’s proprietary Emotion UI (5.1), which uses machine learning to optimize performance — it can predict when you’re going to update the Facebook app, for example, so it loads faster than it otherwise would. Huawei said a special mix of algorithms and automatic storage-cleaning will keep the Honor 8 Pro at 80-percent efficiency (or better) after 500 days of use. There’s a new blue light filter, and Highlights, a camera feature co-developed with GoPro that creates video stories from pics and clips in the Honor 8 Pro’s gallery.

Huawei is heavily emphasizing virtual reality this time around. The Honor 8 Pro’s box transforms into a cardboard viewer, and the phone comes pre-installed with the Jaunt VR app.

If there’s anything the Honor 8 Pro skimps on, it’s in the camera department. It trades the Huawei P10’s shooters for dual, f/2.2 aperture 12-megapixel sensors with a wide aperture mode that captures bokeh and a black-and-white monochrome filter. The front camera is an 8-megapixel model.

There is some stiff competition at the Honor 8 Pro’s price point. It’s contending with the Axon 7 and OnePlus 3T, both of which come in under the Honor 8 Pro’s asking price. But considering the next step up is (the P10) premium, it’s not a bad compromise.