Yesterday I was another tourist, going out and doing what any tourist does – take photos of their travels. Only I was taking the same photos twice for this mega camera test.

My journey started at the crack of dawn and took me around some of the popular sights and attractions of London, and then back home to take a few final pictures as night came.

From start to finish, I travelled for almost 12 hours and walked just over 18 kilometres. Or so my Pebble tells me. Whatever the actual distance it was 20,000 steps, and my feet are sore – and then I had to compile the photos, watermark them, sort them and upload them.

The two ‘lucky’ phones for this comparison test were the Google Pixel XL and the Honor 8, my current daily driver. I chose these phones because it’s a good way to find out if you really need to shell out for the Pixel when an alternative exists for far less money.

[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 ]

Pixel XL vs Honor 8

Background

I’ve been a fan of both the Honor 8 and Huawei’s Leica-branded P9 for some time, but the camera has been hyped up so much on the Pixel, that I had to put them up against each other to see how big the difference would be, if any.

In all cases, given my time constraints (I had a lot of ground to cover), both phones were left in auto mode. The Honor 8 in the standard mode (which will pick HDR automatically when required) and the Pixel XL in auto mode, which will use HDR+ a lot of the time.

As ever, you are the judge. All views are subjective and it’s better to let the photos do the talking. Plus, as the headline suggests, get a cup of coffee ready because it will take a while to get through them all (of course you don’t have to look at them all)…

Specs comparison

First though, let’s take a quick look at the specs and the price differences. The Pixel XL phone with 32GB that I tested will set you back £719. The Honor 8 is £369.99, or less if you wait for one of the fairly frequent promotions that can knock up to £30 off, or throw in some accessories or games.

Maybe the ordinary Pixel is a more appropriate comparison given the more similar screen size, so I’ve added the specs for that too.

The humble Pixel will ‘only’ cost you £599, but that is for 32GB. You need to pay £100 more for 128GB, or be stuffed if you realise you need more later.

By comparison, with the Honor 8 it’s a case of going to Amazon and grabbing a card from 16GB to 256GB in size. Or just move one you’ve already got in your old phone.

Pixel / Pixel XL / Honor 8 Specifications

Pixel Pixel XL Honor 8
Price From £599 From £719 £369.99 or less*
Size 143.8 x 69.5 x 8.5mm 154.7 x 75.7 x 8.5mm 145.5 x 71 x 7.5mm
Weight 143g 168g 153g
Screen 5-inch 1080×1920 pixels 5.5-inch 1440×2160 pixels 5.2-inch 1080×1920 pixels
Battery 2770mAh 3450mAh 3000mAh
OS Android Nougat (V7) Android Marshmallow (V6)
Processor Snapdragon 821 Kirin 950
RAM 4GB 4GB
Storage 32GB or 128GB 32GB + 0-256GB microSD
Camera (rear) 12.3MP f/2.0 + PDAF and Laser AF, Electronic Image Stabilisation, dual-tone flash Dual 12MP f/2.2 + PDAF and Laser AF, dual-tone flash
Camera (front) 8MP f/2.4 8MP f/2.4
Video (rear) 720/1080/2160 (4K) 720/1080
Video (front) 720/1080 720/1080
Fast Charging USB-PD Huawei proprietary
Colours Black, Silver, Blue Black, White, Blue
Fingerprint sensor Yes (with pull down notification) Yes (with pull down notification & 3 function Smart Key)
Night mode Yes Yes
4G Data Speed (max) LTE Cat 12 LTE Cat 6
Wi-Fi Dual-Band with 802.11ac Dual-Band with 802.11ac

Notes & Observations

On each phone, I fired up the camera and took a single shot. No time to check and re-take, and more representative of the types of photo you might take when travelling around. The selfies are probably the only time I really took any time, again, as would be the case in normal use.

To fire up the Pixel XL camera, you double tap on the power button. It’s very quick to get the camera ready. On the Honor 8, you can set one of the three Smart Key functions to do whatever you want, so I opted for the camera to start on a single press.

The autofocus on the Pixel XL is faster than the Honor 8, but not markedly so.

All things considered, these are each excellent phones for photography – while the Honor 8 (and the Huawei P9/P9 plus) have more camera modes for when you want to take more time over your photos.

The native Google camera app is pretty simplistic and seems to be wanting to compete with Apple more than the many other Android phones that have far more advanced camera apps. This is a poor decision, as such a good camera really does need more functionality.

Third party camera apps are an obvious alternative, but with the way HDR+ works on the Pixel and Pixel XL, you lose many of the benefits by swapping your camera app.

Ready for the photos?

I hope so, and I’ve broken the galleries up into multiple pages because, well, you’ll see.

So click on each link to see the galleries in turn. Or out of turn, I don’t care!

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Written by Jonathan Morris

Writing about technology, with a focus on mobile, since the early 1990s! Former editor of What Mobile magazine, writer for The Telegraph, Stuff, Know Your Mobile, Pocket Gamer, Smart TV Radar and more. Regular Tweeter, occasional YouTuber, keen amateur photographer and forum moderator. If you like what I write, please consider deactivating your ad blocker or making a donation via PayPal to help fund this site.

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