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Honor Pad 8 review: A surprisingly cheap 12in tablet

The iPad has had it too good for far too long. It’s a simple fact: Android tablets aren’t as popular, whether that’s due to the limitations of Google’s operating system or an Achilles heel in the specs list, Apple’s entry-level iPad reigns supreme with every new release.

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It’s the value tablet to beat, that much is clear, but that doesn’t stop manufacturers like Honor from having a go at taking the top spot. Announced at IFA 2022, the company’s latest tablet, the Honor Pad 8, is a good chunk cheaper than the basic iPad. But is it worth avoiding any potential headaches by paying extra and going the Apple route instead?

Honor Pad 8 review: What you need to know

The Honor Pad 8’s specifications get it off to a strong start against the iPad. The display is larger, for starters, measuring 12in from corner to corner, with a total resolution of 2,000 x 1,200. The tablet’s base storage is doubled, too, with a generous 128GB; there’s twice as much RAM at 6GB; and faster 66W charging is as well.

There’s no option for LTE connectivity, however, and it entirely lacks the iPad’s entourage of keyboard, case and stylus accessories. And while I might be spoiling things a little, the Honor Pad 8’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 680 processor isn’t in the same league as the A13 Bionic found inside the 2021 iPad 10.2in.

Honor Pad 8 review: Price and competition

These concessions can be somewhat excused as soon as you learn how much it costs. The 128GB ‘Blue Hour’ model with 6GB of RAM is the only configuration currently available in the UK, and this is priced at just £270.

To put that into perspective, the £319 10.2in iPad mentioned above is the cheapest in Apple’s repertoire, but this only gets you 64GB of storage. Apple doesn’t sell a comparable 128GB option, but you can quadruple the space to 256GB for £459.

Android tablets are few and far between, but we recently reviewed the Xiaomi Pad 5, which also found itself facing off against the iPad. It’s £100 more than the Honor Pad 8 at £369, but for your money you’re getting a 120Hz Dolby Vision display with a higher resolution and a speedier Snapdragon 860 chipset.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is still hanging in there, too. It’s smaller than the Honor Pad 8, but it comes with a free S Pen stylus and costs the same as the Honor Pad 8 at £269.

Honor Pad 8 review: Design and key features

The Honor Pad 8 is a gigantic slab of metal and glass. Its unibody construction isn’t out of the ordinary, but the clean-cut edges, brushed aluminium rear and rounded corners do look rather swish. Weighing only 520g, it’s not too heavy, and an added bonus is that it’s also thinner than the 2021 iPad at just 6.9mm.

The huge 12in display dominates the front of the tablet, with narrow 7.2mm side bezels and a generous screen-to-body ratio of 87%. A small 5MP selfie camera is situated on one of the long edges, and this supports face unlocks, which in my tests worked without a hitch.

What’s strange is that the Honor Pad 8’s display only supports capacitive stylus inputs, which isn’t great news for digital artists. If you already own an active stylus, such as an Adonit or Meko pen, then you won’t be able to use those here. The tablet also lacks any official IP rating, so you’ll want to keep it away from the bath or the drizzly British weather, and there’s no microSD expansion or LTE options, either.

The good news is that the eight “large cavity” DTS X stereo speakers delivered an impressive level of sound in my tests. Music was punchy without sounding distorted, with a clear distinction between instruments in classical tracks, and audio in games was clear and spacious.

The 5MP (f/2.2) rear camera does the job well enough in a pinch, but images lack detail and the sensor clearly struggles in low-light conditions. The selfie snapper is much the same, although in this mode I did notice a brief delay in what was shown on screen when recording video, which was a bit odd.

Honor Pad 8 review: Display

The star of the show is the Honor Pad 8’s giant 12in display. It might be a fairly unremarkable IPS panel with a 60Hz refresh rate, but the total pixel count of 2,000 x 1,200 is significantly higher than resolutions you typically see on tablets at this price.

Image quality is rather good, too. There aren’t multiple display modes to choose from, but by default, the Honor Pad 8’s screen achieved a gamut coverage of 94% and a total volume of 98.7% when tested against the sRGB colour space. With an average Delta E (colour variance) score of 1.65, you can’t really ask for better colour reproduction at this price.

Except there are a few niggles. As this is a basic IPS panel, the Honor Pad 8 isn’t certified for HDR playback, and the relatively low contrast ratio inherent to IPS technology means that some video content on Netflix, Prime Video or YouTube can look rather dull, too.

In an ideal world, it might have been nice to have multiple colour modes, with the option to switch between them depending on the type of content you’re viewing. A 90Hz or 120Hz panel would have been welcome, too, although this is a bit of a stretch considering how little the tablet costs.

Honor Pad 8 review: Performance and battery life

The Honor Pad 8 is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 680 chipset alongside 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. This is a low-cost processor favoured by budget smartphone makers including Xiaomi and Realme, and in practical terms it doesn’t do anything remotely special.

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Performance is precisely as you’d expect for an affordable tablet. General navigation, app launches and boot times are reasonable, but the Snapdragon 680 starts to struggle if you ask too much of it. For instance, the Honor Pad 8 does support multi-tasking split-screen views, but you have to be careful which apps you decide to run side-by-side. Google Maps was a no-go, for instance, with performance becoming noticeably jittery.

Backing up these findings are the Honor Pad 8’s Geekbench 5 performance results. A score of 356 in single-core processing and 1,452 in multi-core sees it narrowly edge in front of the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, but the 2021 iPad is still twice as fast.

Meanwhile, the Honor Pad 8 really struggles when it comes to gaming. The high resolution display has a small part to play here, but even the GFXBench 1080p offscreen Manhattan 3 test produced a weak average frame rate of 22fps. You’ll either have to stick to simplistic 2D titles or put up with sluggish frame rates in 3D games.

Battery life puts things back on track, with the Honor Pad 8 achieving a total score of 13hrs 39mins in our in-house video rundown test. That’s not bad at all, beating the 2021 iPad by over 30mins, and it’s stamina enough for a long-haul flight without having to worry about battery levels. When it does run out of juice, the Honor Pad 8 benefits from rapid 66W charging via USB-C.

Honor Pad 8 review: Software

As is tradition, you can’t review an Android tablet without complaining about the software experience. While iPadOS has come along in leaps and bounds over the years, Android’s big-screen experience still feels like an afterthought.

Despite running Android 12 with Honor’s Magic UI 6.1 skin plastered over the top, the Pad 8 sadly isn’t much different. Multi-window support is welcome, but otherwise it functions exactly the same as any Android smartphone. The app icons are also scaled to the resolution of the display rather than the size, and they look far too big on the homescreen as a result.

Still, at least the Honor Pad 8 isn’t hamstrung with a restricted version of Android like Huawei’s mobile offerings. All the Google apps are there, and the entire Play Store library is at your fingertips. There weren’t any bloatware apps pre-installed on my review device, either, which is always a big bonus.

Honor Pad 8 review: Verdict

The Honor Pad 8 is every bit as good as many other Android tablets that came before it, and with reliable battery life, a colour-accurate display and solid build, it does a lot right. However, its foibles are too great to ignore.

The lack of HDR and microSD expansion are irksome, but the real deal-breaker here is the same thing that has plagued Android tablets since their inception: Android simply isn’t a patch on iPadOS, and it has a long way to go in order to catch up.

Android devotees may be willing to overlook such things – after all, this certainly is a lot of tablet for the money – but for everyone else, there’s little reason not to buy an iPad instead.

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