A good smartphone camera is hard to find in the budget segment. Here, manufacturers try to offer the best processors, RAM and storage because the specifications stand out. We’ve seen some smartphones that claim to be focused on the camera, like the Redmi Y1 from Xiaomi (Review), part of its Y series, which did not turn out to be excellent when we reviewed it.
Now, the Honor brand of Huawei hopes to do something better with its new Honor 9 Lite, a smartphone at a reasonable price that has four cameras. This is not the company’s first attempt at a four-camera smartphone: first, we saw how it tried to impress buyers with the Honor 9i (Review). However, the company is now taking this feature a little more familiar since the 9 Lite enters the market with a price of only Rs. 10.999 The 9 Lite does not only depend on its cameras; It also seems to verify all the correct boxes regarding specifications. Our first impressions were quite positive, and now is the time to see if the Honor 9 Lite can raise the bar in the budget segment.
Honor 9 Lite design and construction quality
The Honor 9 Lite reminds us a lot of the Honor 8 (Review), which was the company’s flagship in 2016. The curved 2.5D glass on the back has a mirror effect, which looks great. However, according to the Honor website, this effect is limited to the Sapphire Blue and Glacier Gray versions only, and not the Midnight Black version. It is similar to what we have seen with the Moto X4 (revision). The glass of the front screen curves in a similar way, and thanks to this and the rounded sides of the phone, you get a very comfortable grip. The downside of having the glass is that it can be incredibly slippery and it is certainly a pain to stay stain-free. However, the frame is made of plastic, instead of metal, which was probably necessary to keep costs down. This also makes the phone quite light, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that you have it in your pocket.
We would have loved the SIM tray to have the same colour and finish as the rest of the body, but unfortunately, it stands out a bit. Apart from that, we have no complaints about the quality of construction or the finish. The volume and ignition buttons are made of plastic but have a nice tactile feel. The SIM tray on the left accepts two Nano-SIM or one SIM and one microSD card (up to 256 GB). The 3.5mm headphone jack and the Micro-USB port are on the bottom, along with a speaker grill. Once again, it is disappointing to see Honor not adopt the new Type C standard here. It seems that Honor is only using it for its higher level offers.
The screen is another aspect of the 9 Lite that we liked. It’s a Full-HD + IPS panel, measuring 5.65 inches diagonally with the new 18: 9 aspect ratio that the industry seems to be embracing with open arms. The higher screen paves the way for thinner edges, which gives the phone a good aesthetic. There is only enough space for the front camera above the screen and a company logo below. The panel has good brightness and colour reproduction too. The higher screen may be difficult to reach with your fingers, but there are gestures to help with that, such as being able to slide down the fingerprint sensor for the notification tone. There is also a navigation base (like Assistive Touch in iOS) and a one-handed mode.
The Honor 9 Lite has a circular fingerprint sensor on the back, which is fast in authentication. In addition to unlocking the phone, you can use biometrics to protect applications and set up a virtual safe for particular files. The sensor can be used also for gestures such as taking a picture, answering a call, postponing an alarm and searching for photos. These gestures are not blocked on your registered fingerprints and work with any finger. In the box, the 9 Lite is shipped with standard accessories that include a charger, data cable, SIM eject tool and warranty information. No headphones
Honor 9 Lite specifications and features
The honor has not paralysed the 9 Lite regarding specifications and shares many of the same internal aspects as the Honor 7X and the Honor 9i, which have a higher price. For starters, we have Huawei’s internal octa-core processor called Kirin 659. The phone comes in two variants of RAM and storage. There is one with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, and another (which we have for review) with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The phone uses about 2GB of RAM on average during the day, leaving you with approximately 2GB free (for the 4GB version), which means that It seems enough. Other specifications include FM radio, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi single band b / g / n, 4G with VoLTE, USB-OTG, ambient light, a sensor, a proximity sensor, an accelerometer and a gyroscope. Interestingly, the Honor 9 Lite scored better on benchmarks than the 7X (Revision) configured similarly and the 9i. AnTuTu and PCMark Work 2.0 obtained scores of 67,914 and 5,079, respectively. GFXbench gave us a 19 fps score that is more in line with the others.
Like the recently launched flagship of Honor, the View 10 (Review), the 9 Lite is shipped with Android 8 Oreo out-of-the-box. Of course, buyers can only experience Android 8 through the custom Honor skin called EMUI 8. Here, you can have a single-layer interface or an app drawer; you can modify the animations by changing the startup screens, and swiping to the right takes you to Google Now. Huawei Share is a kind of Apple’s AirDrop for Huawei devices, and it works similarly.
The Wi-Fi + function will automatically switch between Wi-Fi and mobile data, depending on which connection is better. When we tried to connect to a newly rebooted router, we noticed that Wi-Fi + worked, as it tried to assess whether our mobile data or our Wi-Fi connection was stronger. Finally, he decided on Wi-Fi once he detected an Internet connection.
The Configuration application is well designed, and although some of the submenus have been moved, it is not too difficult to find them. You also have the option of using Huawei’s cloud services to back up your contacts, calendars, Wi-Fi credentials, SMS messages and call logs (again, similar to Apple’s iCloud), although it does not mention how much storage space you get for free. You can not back up data from third-party applications either.
You get a lot of pre-installed test games, which fortunately can be removed, and some applications that essentially link the Honor websites and the community forum.
Honor 9 Lite performance, camera and battery life
The new compilation of Honor EMUI based on Android Oreo works quite well, but it is not as agile as Android stock or even some custom compilations like OnePlus’ OxygenOS. It’s a different version of Google’s real design language, but it still looks good and is functional. Even with the 4GB RAM version, we had brief slowdowns with simple tasks, such as searching the configuration application. However, this is not a problem that we can consistently replicate.
The tactile response of the screen is good, and we had no problems with the quality of the call. The processor is potent enough to offer a smooth multi-tasking experience, and simple games work well, but heavier titles such as Asphalt 8: Airborne work with choppy frame rates. However, this phone heats up pretty easily. For example, downloading a Play Store application and listening to music at the same time made the top of Honor 9 Lite warm up a bit.
Applications that run in full-screen mode are not handled very well. In the Show submenu of the Settings application, there is an automatically generated list of all installed applications that are not “optimised” to run in full-screen mode. You can force them to stretch by flipping a lever. In some applications, you get an option to force them to run the full screen, while others that are optimised do so automatically. In the Google and Huawei applications, the navigation bar often adapts to the colour of the application, but in others like Facebook, you get a black strip at the bottom, and there is no option to hide it automatically. We noticed that some games like Asphalt 8: Airborne ran full screen by default but seemed to be stretched, and there was no option to force them to work with the standard 16: 9 aspect ratio.
The 9 Lite ships with some redundant applications, including Honor’s music and video players, in addition to Google’s offerings. The music player allows you to use audio enhancements like Huawei’s Histen sound effects, which do not seem to improve the audio’s real performance when we try it. The mono speaker gets strong, but the quality is not good. The low frequencies sound flat, and there is a small sound signature in general. The video playback is smooth up to 1080p, and even our high-resolution test files had no problem reproducing smoothly. The default video player has options to change the size of the video to fill the screen, without stretching it.
The great feature that Honor is promoting is the fact that this phone has four cameras. There is 13-megapixel primary sensors for the front and rear of the 9 Lite, with the difference that only the back is compatible with PDAF. Both cameras have additional 2-megapixel sensors to calculate the depth and apply bokeh effects when using the Portrait and Wide Aperture modes in the camera application.
Overthroughings during the day look good on the phone’s screen, following the main standards of smartphones. The autofocus is fast, and the details in landscapes are quite different. However, the colours are a bit boring, and the approach to the images reveals a slight noise in the darkest parts. In low light conditions, the 9 Lite suffers from the same problems as almost all conventional smartphone cameras. The focus is slow, and the details are blurry, especially the edges that are too sharp a bit.
The wide aperture mode allows you to adjust the aperture value (f/0.95 – f/13) before and after taking a picture so that you can adjust the depth of field. However, the blur effect is not always applied accurately, and we find that any element below f/2.0 looks like a low Photoshop job. There is also a portrait mode, which essentially does the same. You can not adjust the blur level while or after taking a photo, and there is a bokeh button that does not seem to have any real impact since the bokeh effect is applied regardless of its status. The effect is better compared to the wide aperture mode, but the edge detection is still a bit unpredictable, and the focus is slower. There is also a beatification option.
You also get a lot of shooting modes, including Professional and Panorama, as well as filters and HDR. These work decently well and are sometimes useful. You can also enable “touch capture” or have the application take a photo automatically when it detects a smile.
Video recording reaches a maximum of 1080p and the quality of the recorded video is strictly average. There is no option for electronic stabilisation, so the video is unstable, and the low-light footage lacks detail. The front camera manages to capture good selfies. The screen flash is quite effective, and along with the beauty mode, you can get some very useful images even in low light. Video recording also reaches a maximum of 1080p for the front camera, unless you have enabled beauty mode, in which case it is limited to 720p.
There are additional gestures, such as the ability to use the palm or voice to capture a selfie. You can say ‘cheese’ or have the phone take a picture when you scream at a certain volume level. Portrait mode also works well for the front camera.
The useful life of the battery worried us a bit with the Honor 9 Lite, considering that both the 7X and the 9i did not work very well in this department, and had slightly larger batteries. In our video loop test, the honor 9 Lite handled 10 hours and 3 minutes of continuous HD video playback, which is not too big. Regarding our experience in the real world, we managed to make a full charge last from morning to night while maintaining light use, with some music transmissions and a little use of the cameras. On the other hand, we noticed a drop of around five to seven percent in battery life after running Asphalt 8 for only about 10 minutes, which is worrisome. There’s no fast charge, and the included 10W adapter gets you around 60 percent in an hour. You have the option of dropping the resolution of the screen to HD + to save energy.
Buy Honor 9 Lite
The base part of the Honor 9 Lite is one of the best options currently on the market, with a reasonable initial price of $173, and a screen of 18: 9. If you are interested, you should bear in mind that the 9 Lite is superimposed with the existing offer of Honor, the 7X, which lacks additional cameras but has a metal body, a larger screen and a slightly larger battery.
The 4GB version of RAM that we reviewed feels a bit expensive since it is not a complete option. This phone looks good, but the battery life is not good, and the performance of the camera is nothing to get excited. In approximately, Rs. 15,000, you’d be better off with the Xiaomi Redmi Y1 (Review) or even the LG V30 (Review). The latter two lack the newer higher screens that are in style but offer solid performance in almost all departments.
If you are not too much in a hurry, then you may want to wait a bit for the new OnePlus 5T that was recently launched in China and should soon arrive in India at a nearby price.