It goes without saying, Huawei has had little-to-no presence in the United States until it partnered with Google to make the Nexus 6P. Not long after, the Chinese-based company announced plans at CES 2016 to bring devices to the region. The Honor 5X is the major device that the company is bringing to the U.S., but we’re also seeing smaller handsets, such as the GX8, a variant of the international G8.
There aren’t many differences between the G8 and GX8, except for that the GX8 has all of the necessary bands to work on U.S.-specific networks. It may not be as high-end as the Honor 5X, but the GX8 is still an impressive and fast device. Its Qualcomm-made Snapdragon 615 processor is no slouch, putting it up there next to many other popular mid-rangers out there, such as Samsung’s Galaxy A line of devices. However, with many other manufacturers already having a heavy presence in the mid-range market, is there any room for Huawei and its GX8?
That question is difficult to answer, but Huawei has both good and bad things going for it.
Huawei’s GX8 measures in at 152 x 76.5 x 7.5mm. Truth be told, this is a chunky device. It was most notable when I received my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and put the two side-by-side. The Galaxy S7 Edge has a 5.5-inch display, making it a large smartphone already; however, it isn’t thick in the least, which is something I’d really like to see other smartphone makes work towards. I love handsets with big displays, but sometimes the form factor can be unwieldy, and that’s my problem with the GX8. On the other hand, it’s light sitting at a meager 167g.
The handset is fairly comfortable to hold. There are a few points where it can become a strain on your hand, though. For instance, when trying to use the handset with a single hand, you can’t quite reach your finger all the way across the screen. If the form factor had been a little thinner, this wouldn’t be much of a problem. It also features a fingerprint scanner on the back of the device, which is another straining area. My finger sits comfortably by the camera, and dragging it down to use the fingerprint scanner is a bit of a strain. The front fingerprint scanner found on that of the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge is much easier to use, in my opinion. It certainly isn’t a problem for some, as many love it on the Nexus 6P as well as the GX8 international variant, the G8.
As far as button placement goes, you have a sort-of standard setup. The SIM tray is on the left, while the power button and volume rocker is on the right. These did take some getting used to, as Huawei seemed to do the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing, as in placing the volume rocker above the power button. It’s not really a problem, as it does just take some getting used to.
Next, you’ll find the micro-USB port at the bottom set in between what seems to be two speaker grilles (more on this later). Lastly, around the back, you have a 13MP camera that’s raised from the smartphone quite a bit. Next to it is your dual-LED flash, and below that setup is the fingerprint scanner.
Overall, it’s a nice looking device, but the large form factor is frustrating.
The Huawei GX8 features a 5.5-inch (1920×1080) IPS LCD display, a Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor, 2GB or 3GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, a 13MP rear camera, a 5MP front camera, a 3,000mAh battery (non-removable), a fingerprint scanner, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, and Bluetooth 4.0.
Huawei went with a a 5.5-inch IPS LCD (1920×1080) display in the GX8, and it features a crisp 401 pixels per inch. At 5.5-inches, there’s a lot of real estate here for reading articles, watching movies, video, and even playing games. It all looks very crisp and detailed; Huawei’s GX8 doesn’t miss a beat here.
On the other hand, it might not be for those that aren’t a fan of LCD panels. Super AMOLED provides a beautiful vibrancy not easily found in other types of panels. Still, the display offers some great viewing angles, color reproduction is quite accurate, and it performs quite well in daylight.
While the display is great for multimedia, you’re not going to experience great sound when watching video or simply listening to music. The speaker is able to provide clear and crisp sound, but at a hushed tone, as the volume never gets very loud. In fact, I found it almost impossible to hear any video when others were talking in a different room. I found this surprising, as there seemed to be two speaker grilles at the bottom of the device. Turns out, only the right grille produces sound, while the left one is there purely for aesthetics.
On the other hand, performance is top notch. Huawei included an octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor in this handset, and it does nothing but fly. I haven’t found the smartphone to have any sluggishness, despite only having 2GB of RAM. I would recommend purchasing the 32GB model, which comes with the 3GB of RAM, though. There have been times that the GX8 has gotten pretty close to its 2GB cap, but that can easily be solved by closing some applications you aren’t using. Having that extra 1GB of RAM onboard means you don’t have to hassle with it, really.
Once again, it’s not a sluggish smartphone. It really does fly. I’ve played games like Asphalt 8 and watched video in 1080p; the GX8 is able to handle it with ease. Not only that, but I frequently jump between different Hangouts accounts to keep up with multiple conversations while playing a game or watching a video or movie. It didn’t bat an eye, and that’s impressive, something worth applauding Huawei for.
I found the Huawei GX8 to be quite efficient with its 3000mAh battery, In the first couple of days of use, I was able to eek out a good two days worth of usage out of the smartphone. I attest this to not using apps that take up a lot of juice in the background, such as Facebook, Messenger, and Twitter. I don’t use any of these applications occasionally, though most people do, so I installed them for testing purposes. Once installing and using them, the GX8’s battery only lasted a day, though it was able to last well into the evening. It’ll easily get you through a work day and leave enough for play afterwards.
This time around I decided to play Netflix for a substantial amount of time to see just how long it’d last playing video. I was able to get around six hours out of constant use on a WiFi connection. I imagine it’d be much worse on LTE or even 4G.
Overall, the battery held up nicely and was able to get me through the day with ease.
The Huawei GX8 is running Android 5.1 Lollipop, but has its EMUI 3.1 skin atop. Unfortunately, Huawei really misses the mark as far as software goes. It is a tad better as far as looks go when you change the stock theme, but the for the most part, it’s glitchy and hard to get used to.
In my week or so with the smartphone, the GX8 has told me that Google Play Services was missing on numerous accounts, whereas it wasn’t and was completely up to date. Even though it was completely up to date, it wouldn’t let me use applications like YouTube and Gmail. But, after reloading those applications, I would get another notification saying that Google Play Services wasn’t installed, yet it would let me click “OK” and continue using YouTube and Gmail. Other time it had me click “Update”, yet it would do nothing but let me continue using the app. Suffice to say, it’s very glitchy at times.
The other frustrating thing with the Huawei GX8 is that there’s no app drawer. It’s quite annoying, largely because of the sheer amount of preloaded bloatware on the smartphone. All of this unwanted bloat now ends up on your home screen without any way of getting rid of it. The smartphone itself actually takes up a little over 8GB of storage, leaving the user with about 7.50GB to use.
And what I found particularly strange is that Huawei turned the Amazon shopping application into a system application, making it yet another app that cannot be removed. With rumors of Google ditching the app drawer on the horizon, I really feel like the app drawer is a necessity, at least so that we can pretend all of this bloat isn’t on our smartphones.
I’m sincerely disappointed in the software of this device, largely because of the amount of bloat on the phone. There’s just so much that you’ll never use that it doesn’t make sense to keep on your home screen. There is the option of disabling some of it in the Application Manager, but then you run the risk of stopping some other major applications from working (e.g. text messaging).
The Huawei GX8 has a 13MP rear camera as well as a 5MP front camera. The rear camera takes some nice photos where there’s a lot of light, but it severely under-performs when in low-light scenarios. This is the boon of many smartphone cameras, but still frustrating as you aren’t always going to have perfect lighting.
When you are in good lighting, the Huawei GX8 is able to take some above average photos. I’ve included a handful of samples below, both in low-light and standard lighting scenarios. Be sure to click on the images to get the full resolution.
As far as the camera app goes, you get your standard set of features, such as filters, time lapse, and some other options aimed to “beautify” selfies and food pictures. However, that’s about it when it comes to Huawei’s Camera app. It certainly isn’t filled to the brim with features as you might find on many of Samsung’s Galaxy devices and even LG’s recent devices, such as the G4 and V10.
I’m a bit disappointed in the overall camera experience, but it’s still neat to have when you find yourself wanting to remember a moment with a decent picture.
The GX8 is a stellar smartphone on paper, but when it comes to real-life use, it’s frustrating. It’s only $300, which is really nice for an Unlocked smartphone. On the other hand, the software is one of the major parts of a smartphone, the aspect that you’ll interact with the most, and it being dodgy at best really isn’t a good selling point. But, if you don’t mind looking past EMUI and some of its pitfalls, you could really save yourself some money going off-contract while still having some decent hardware specifications.
The biggest problem with Huawei’s smartphone as a whole is EMUI, but they still put some good hardware under the hood. Next to the Honor 5X, the Huawei GX8 is one of the company’s latest efforts to bring a smartphone to the US.
Huawei is truly the new kid on the block when it comes to smartphones in the US, and if you want to give the company a try, the GX8 is low risk at its price.
Is it worth it as a daily driver? For me, it wasn’t. But, it might be to someone else.