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Doug Paisley - Starter Home Music Album Review

Gracefully navigating the intersection of folk-rock and country, the gentle-voiced songwriter turns detailed images of domestic tranquility and promise into reflections on disappointment.
For a decade, Canadian singer/songwriter Doug Paisley has turned quiet, specific moments into inquiries on life’s larger struggles. On his 2010 breakthrough, Constant Companion, Paisley used the inevitability of endings to explore understanding oneself, the only possible “constant companion.” For 2014’s Strong Feelings, he mulled death and its uneasy relationship with life, or how their juxtaposition ripples into every wave of existence. And now, on his fourth album, Starter Home, Paisley details the chasm that separates what poet Seamus Heaney described as “getting started” and “getting started again.” These songs examine how the person you are never truly aligns with the person you want to be, especially when you stumble upon a sticking point that’s hard to move past.

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Honor 8X Review

The Honor 8X is seriously impressive, especially with a sub-£230 price tag. Here's our full Honor 8X review, complete with benchmarks.

SHOULD I BUY THE HONOR 8X?

Though it costs £229.99 in the UK, the Honor 8X looks, feels and performs like a high-end smartphone in most respects. It features a gorgeous 6.5in FHD+ bezel-less display and an eye-catching glass and aluminium design that makes it stand out amongst the competition.

It also offers high-end features like facial recognition, alongside the rear-facing fingerprint scanner, and although performance can be a little spotty in the most demanding 3D games, we've experienced very little in the way of lag in general use. 

We think it's impressive, especially with such a competitive price tag. 


PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
  • TBC
While you might assume that the Honor 8X is a high-end, premium smartphone, it actually costs less than £250 in the UK. Sporting a gorgeous bezel-less display, unique design and an impressive camera setup, the Honor 8X could be one of the best mid-range smartphones on the market at the moment.

Intrigued? You should be. Read our Honor 8X review to find out why it’s such a steal for the price.

RELEASE DATE AND AVAILABILITY
The Honor 8X is now available to buy in the UK, following an early October launch. The Honor 8X is much cheaper than it looks; it only costs only £229.99 in the UK, while those in Europe can pick the smartphone up for €249.90.

Those interested in picking up the stunning mid-range smartphone can head to the Honor Store.

DESIGN AND BUILD
Despite costing less than £230, we’d argue that the Honor 8X could take on this year’s biggest releases in terms of design. It’s a sleek minimalistic combination of glass and brushed aluminium, and sports a 6.5in display with very little in the way of bezels. In fact, it has a smaller notch than the iPhone XS and has a thin forehead and chin, helping to aid that high-end look Honor is going for.

Oh, and don’t let the idea of a 6.5in display put you off, as the slim profile and 19.5:9 aspect ratio mean that the dimensions are similar to that of a standard 5.5in smartphone - 160.4 x 76.7 x 7.8mm and 175g, to be precise. It also sports 2.5D glass that gives a satisfyingly smooth experience when swiping in from the side of the display, and the rounded aluminium frame helps the phone fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.

In essence, the engineers have really thought about the user’s comfort when designing the Honor 8X.

The most attractive feature of the smartphone – aside from the display – is the rear panel, sporting a unique shimmer that gives the phone an odd sense of depth. It’s like a cool optical illusion, and catches the light in almost any environment. If you’re on the market for an eye-catching phone, you certainly won’t find anything better for the price.

There is a downside to the stunning glass rear though; it doesn’t seem to have much in the way of an oleophobic coating. The lack of a noticeable coating means that the smartphone is essentially a fingerprint magnet, with every touch and smudge picked up by the glass body.

The eye-catching shimmer helps distract from the abundance of smudges, but if you’re like us and hate having a dirty smartphone, it might drive you a little crazy if used without a case.

The Honor 8X is available in three flavours – Red, Blue and Black – but availability varies between regions. In the UK, we only get access to the Blue and Black models, while other regions in the world get access only to the Red variant.

FEATURES AND SPECS
It’s not only a high-end design that makes the Honor 8X one of the best sub-£250 smartphones on the market, though.

Display
Let’s delve a little deeper into one of the main focuses of the Honor 8X – the display. You’ll find a 6.5in 19.5:9 LTPS display with adaptive resolution tech that allows it to switch between FHD+ (2340 x 1080) and HD+ (1560 x 720) on-the-fly to help conserve battery power without a noticeable difference. It’s toggled on by default, but for those that always want that crisp FHD+ resolution, the feature can be disabled in the Settings app.
The Notch is a common feature of 2018 smartphones, as it allows manufacturers to provide a near bezel-less display without having to compromise on tech like the front-facing camera and speaker. The good news is that the Notch on the Honor 8X is much smaller than that of the iPhone XS and the like, and if you really can’t stand the look, you can ‘hide’ it by toggling on the Hide Notch feature, which darkens the display either side of the Notch to help it blend in.

The display is crisp and vibrant and is more than enough to provide a great mobile experience, though we do think that it could be a little brighter. It’s more than enough for comfortable use in indoor environments, but even at its brightest, it’s hard to see the Honor 8X display in bright, direct sunlight.

At the other end of the scale, the Honor 8X display offers a dedicated reading mode that turns the brightness down to a rather dim 2nits. It works well, and can help reduce the strain when reading lengthy articles online as well as stopping you from being blinded when you check your phone during the night.

Internals & benchmark results
Though the Honor 8X doesn’t feature a flagship chipset, the combination of an octa-core Kirin 710 and a Mali G51 GPU provides a great experience with very little in the way of lag. It’s backed up by 4GB of RAM and 64GB/128GB of storage, extendable by up to 400GB via the microSD card slot.

Compared to 2017’s Honor 7X, the smartphone is 75 percent faster in general, though performance in mobile games has shot up 130 percent. This is, in part, thanks to a built-in GPU Turbo that boosts the performance of supported games without draining the battery life.

What does this mean in terms real-world use? The phone is more than capable for making calls, texting and browsing the net, though it’s not a perfect experience. There are times where you start to see lag when scrolling through Twitter and Facebook, and you might not be able to run the biggest 3D mobile games at the highest graphical settings, but these issues are few and far between, and performance is generally really is impressive when you consider the price tag. 

This is backed up by our benchmark results; it managed a multi-core score of 5590 in Geekbench 4, and 36fps in GFXBench T-Rex. That puts the smartphone in line with the likes of BlackBerry Key2 and the Nokia 7 Plus, and for more information on how the smartphone performed, check out our full benchmark infographic below:

Cameras & photography
The Honor 8X sports a dual camera setup on the rear, comprised of 20Mp- and 2Mp sensors, both offering an aperture of f/1.8 for decent low-light photography. Generally speaking, the images are crisp and vibrant, though we have noticed that it can blow-out in bright sunlight.

The inclusion of a dual camera setup also brings a range of features including a faux-bokeh effect for more professional looking portrait photos. The edge recognition works quite well in most situations, thanks in part to the inclusion of AI in the camera setup.

According to Honor, the Honor 8X sports an AI camera mode that can identify 22 different ‘categories’ and 500 scenes in real-time, optimising the camera settings and enhancing the quality of images depending on what is being shot. It’s not perfect though; while the AI mode can perform tasks like compensating facial lighting when the shot is backlit with decent results, other modes leave much to be desired – especially when taking shots of food.

We’ve found that, in general, the AI tends to oversaturate colours to make them more vibrant than they are. This works well in some situations, but in the below image of a Full English Breakfast we took, you can tell that the colour is too aggressive and unnatural.

The good news is that if you don’t like the AI’s choice of camera settings, you can remove it from any images taken. It doesn’t work the other way around though, so we’d recommend keeping the AI mode on and disabling it when necessary.

One area where the Honor 8X (surprisingly) excels is with night-time photography. The 8X sports a dedicated night photo mode that uses AI to eliminate the blurring of photos taken during a six-second handheld exposure, and produces something similar to what you’d expect from a smartphone on a tripod. Results have varied in our testing, but generally speaking, the performance is pretty impressive.

The front-facing camera setup is comprised of a single 20Mp sensor, but it can still perform advanced shooting modes like Portrait Mode due to the inclusion of AI. That’s not all either; despite having a f/2.0 aperture, the front-facing camera features an “enhanced-ISO” with 4 Cell fusion technology that Honor claims allows twice the amount of light to be captured by the camera, making selfies even in dark environments look great.

The video offering is a little more limited, though should be more than enough for the majority of consumers on the market for a sub-£250 smartphone; it offers 1080p HD recording on both the front- and rear-facing cameras, but at different frame-rates (30- and 60fps respectively). It can handle up to 480fps in a dedicated slow-mo mode though, if that’s more your thing.

Connectivity & security
The Honor 8X sports a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner that can also be used to access the notification shade, take photos and more. That’s not all that’s on offer though; the Honor 8X also sports facial recognition that works surprisingly well, especially when you consider that it doesn’t feature most of the tech on Apple’s iPhone XS that allows it to work in almost any environment.

The setup takes only a few seconds, and from that point you can simply glance at your smartphone to unlock it. The speed of recognition is impressive; it feels almost instant, and works in both light- and dark environments. It doesn’t work in pitch-black environments, but as long as there’s ambient light, the recognition tends to be successful first time around.

In terms of connectivity, the Honor 8X features dual-SIM support alongside dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC and GPS, and features a microUSB port for charging. You’ll also be relieved to know that the Honor 8X features a 3.5mm headphone jack, so no need to ditch those wired headphones just yet!

Battery life
The Honor 8X sports a rather large 3750mAh battery, and when combined with various power-saving features like the adaptive resolution, the smartphone comfortably lasts all-day with standard use (browsing, snapping pics, etc). We’re confident that some users could even squeeze around a day-and-a-half on a single charge if you’re not constantly using it.

When the time does come to charge the smartphone, fast-charging technology provides a speedy charging experience – around 2 hours to go from dead to full in our testing. Not bad for such a high-capacity battery!

SOFTWARE
The Honor 8X features Android 8.1 running Huawei’s EMUI 8.2, and while it isn’t exactly stock Android, we love the look of the OS. It’s simple to use, although we must admit that the Settings menu is pretty complex for novice users. EMUI brings a range of benefits to the 8X that we’ve already mentioned, including adaptive resolution, the built-in AI, hiding the Notch and much more.

One of the best features of EMUI is machine learning, which learns how you use the smartphone over time and reallocates resources depending on what it thinks you’ll be doing at any given time. The end result is a smartphone that should stay fast and responsive for longer, though of course we can’t test this until we’ve had the phone for a while!

VERDICT
We’re seriously impressed with the Honor 8X; it looks and feels like a high-end smartphone, complete with a gorgeous near bezel-less display and an impressive camera setup. It features both facial recognition and a built-in fingerprint scanner that work surprisingly well, and despite not featuring flagship internals, the performance is decent.

That’s not bad, especially when you consider you’re getting all that for under £250.

SPECS
  • 160.4 x 76.7 x 7.8mm
  • 175g
  • Dual-DIM (standby)
  • 6.5in IPS LCD display
  • 1080 x 2340, 396ppi
  • Kirin 970
  • Mali-G51
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64- and 128GB storage
  • Rear-facing dual camera setup - 20Mp + 2Mp
  • Front-facing 20Mp camera
  • 1080p video
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • microUSB port
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 3750mAh battery



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