Honor 9 Lite

The Honor 9 Lite made its debut in the Indian market on 17 January to become the second quad-camera smartphone from the company. It was Honor’s fourth launch after Honor 9i, Honor 7X and Honor View 10 within four odd months. This clearly shows the company’s approach of staying ahead of the competition by making its way to the market earlier.

Many would question why Honor launched two phones in similar price range –
the Honor 7X and the 9 Lite in such short span. There could be two reasons – either Honor wants to put in more variety under the most popular price segment, or, the company wants to target specific customers.

The Honor 9 Lite undoubtedly is one of the most popular phones under the 15K price bracket right now, thanks to the four camera setup. But it grabs eyeballs because of its sleek glass design that makes it stand out against the competitors. 

Beauty isn’t enough in a phone, especially when it has to compete against the likes of Mi A1, Redmi Note and Moto G series. It requires serious all-round balance of everything to beat such competition. So, does the Honor 9 Lite 4GB variant have the all-round balance one is looking for? 

Let’s find out in this review. 

Honor 9 Lite price and release date

  • Honor 9 Lite launch prices start from Rs 10,999

The price for the Honor 9 Lite in India starts from Rs 10,999 for the 32GB variant while users will have to shell out Rs 14,999 for the 64GB variant. The smartphone is available exclusively on Flipkart from 21 January through a flash sale.

Additionally, users will also be able to select between Blue and Black colour options.

The Honor 9 Lite has an impressive design.

Design and display

  • Glass unibody looks premium
  • 5.65-inch Full HD+, 18:9 aspect ratio display

The Honor 9 Lite is made out of glass and metal, that is certainly the most premium looking phone at Rs 10,999. Although the variant we have tested comes at Rs 14,999, but the design remains the same on both. 

The phone follows a similar design as the Honor 9. It has a same glass and metal design language with curved edges. It has no physical navigation buttons on the body, but the round fingerprint sensor is on the back.

The blue variant of the phone looks stunning with that sleek and shiny finish. But glass, as always, is prone to smudges and scratches. So, you have to keep cleaning up your phone to keep it neat.

There's a 2.5D curved glass baked on the front and back, which subtly blends with the curve on the sides. Despite having a slippery body, the back glass sticks to the palm while using. Also, the narrow profile of the phone makes it good for one-handed usage. 

Huawei’s EMUI runs on the Honor 9 Lite.

The front of the phone looks neat, thanks to minimal bezels and body colored speaker grill. The display stretches to the extreme edges of the phone, which is another factor that makes the phone look premium. Back is reflective, so much that you can fix your hair by using it like a mirror. 

The Honor 9 Lite feels like a well-built phone in hand, and the feel is nothing less than a flagship. If you look at current phones in this range, you'll probably end up calling the 9 Lite the best among all. But if you are someone who's not fond of blingy design and like it simple, then your opinion might differ. 

Overall, it is a good design to flaunt without spending a lot. It feels solid, key placement makes sense, and all the ports are in place. 

It has dual-cameras on the back and front.

Huawei has done a great job in cramming a 5.65-inch display in a limited space, which automatically chops off extra bezels around the display. Hence, making it look more immersive and catchy.

The FullHD+ (2160×1080 pixels) IPS display provides a great overall experience,  and we found it to be vivid and sharp. It fits 248 pixels per inch in that 18:9 display, which is the reason why details appear sharp and distinctive.

To my surprise, the display produced accurate whites unlike most Honor phones, where display is shadowed by a blue tint. The display offers 570nits of luminescence, which results in great sunlight legibility for a phone of this range. Since it is an IPS LCD panel, it does not match up to the brightness and depth of contrast on an AMOLED panel. 

It allows you to downscale the resolution to 720p, and you can also tweak color temperature accordingly. 

The only issue with 18:9 displays is app compatibility. Most apps and content are available for 16:9 displays, but you can enable full screen from settings to stretch the content. Stretching definitely helps but it also crops some part of the visual. 

Battery life

  • 3,000mAh battery lasts a day in light usage

The 3000mAh battery in the Honor 9 Lite lasted around 7 hours on PC Mark battery test. While the PC Mark scores are impressive, the phone in casual usage lasts close to one day but struggles if used for more than basic tasks. Meaning, if you are a heavy user of social media apps, YouTube or games, the phone will require a charge much before the day ends.

Sadly, there is no support for fast charging, which is disappointing. Also, Honor should have gone with a USB Type-C port instead of microUSB for data syncing and charging. 

Since, there's no fast charging supported on the phone, the 10W charger takes around 2 hours 25 minutes to charge from 0 to 100%. 

It offers battery saving modes and resolution adjustment to boost the battery life. Those concerned for battery life have an alternate to save some juice when the phone is not in use. 

If we look at the existing competitors of the Honor 9 Lite, both Redmi Note 4 and Mi A1 perform better in battery department. 

Camera

  • Dual camera setup: 16MP + 2MP
  • Good performance in well-lit conditions

As mentioned, the USP of this phone is its quad-camera module. It has two cameras on the back and two on the front, both have a pair of 13MP primary sensor and 2MP sensor to capture depth. The key role of dual cameras on both sides is to capture portrait shots as expected.

Looking at how Honor is touting the camera on Honor 9 Lite, it competes directly with the current best– Mi A1. We compared both the phones side by side, where the Mi A1 won the camera battle without a hitch. 

The Honor 9 Lite can click some good pictures in daylight, but it was inconsistent. The Honor 9 Lite fails to produce true-to-source colors, and they often look under-saturated. But it still does a good job at reading the scene and adjusting light.

In artificial light, the Honor 9 Lite captures vibrant and punchy colors and reads with considerable amount of details. The only issue here is with the white balance, which the Honor 9 Lite often messes up.

Portrait shots in day light from the Honor 9 Lite look good, but it misjudges the edges in some photos. Also, when compared to the Mi A1, the burring effect on the Honor 9 Lite looks unnatural.

The autofocus speed in normal mode is snappy, while it slows down a little in portrait mode. Like most other budget phones, the Honor 9 Lite cannot be trusted in low-light, especially when the light source is far from the subject.

Front camera on this phone is the best among its competitors. The dual camera setup does a good job at producing punchy colours and tones. Selfies look attractive and it also has a bunch of modes to make you look good. 

The Honor 9 Lite has clean and easy to use software. It offers a bunch of modes and settings that can be accessed simply by swiping left or right from the main screen. This has all the basic functions, enabling easy controls. But 40% of the screen is covered by black borders, which leaves limited space for the viewfinder. 

You get the camera switching button, flash controls, wide-aperture mode and moving picture mode on top of the screen. Whereas, the gallery shortcut, shutter button and video switch is at the bottom. 

It also has a Pro mode that lets you tweak settings like ISO, exposure, focus etc. There's a pro video mode, night shot, time-lapse, filters, watermark, light painting, panorama and more. It also has shortcuts for touch to capture, capture smiles and object tracking. 

Camera samples

Software and UI

  • Android 8.0 Oreo based EMUI 8.0
  • Full of features 

Honor 9 Lite comes with Android Oreo out-of-the-box with Honor’s custom EMUI 8.0 on top. It is a highly customisable skin that allows you to enable or disable app drawer, tweak animations, use themes and more. Android Oreo also brings additional features like picture-in picture, smart text select, deeper notification management and more.

Swiping right on the home screen takes you to Google Now. Swiping over on-screen navigation keys shrinks the screen to launch one handed mode.

It also has some nifty features like WiFi + that switches between networks, depending on which one is stronger. Huawei share lets you share data over WiFi, more or less like AirDrop in Apple or Mi Drop in Xiaomi.

EMUI 8.0 brings host of features and customisation options. Having said that, the UI is heavy and it is nowhere close to stock Android. There are a bunch of pre-loaded apps including a music player, gallery app, mail app and more Huawei suite of apps. While you can remove some apps and games, there are many that cannot be uninstalled.

So there are some good really interesting features on the phone but it's full of bloatware. Also, the heavy overlay of design and animation tend to slow the phone eventually. 

Performance and specs 

  • Kirin 659 processor performs well throughout a day
  • 3GB/4GB RAM and 32GB/64GB internal storage

The Honor 9 Lite is powered by Huawei’s own Kirin 659 chipset, which has been a standard in the new mid-range phones from the company. The phone has a 3GB and a 4GB RAM variants with 32GB and 64GB storage respectively. 

In real world usage, the phone performed decently. Initially, we tried opening more than 16 apps in a go, and the phone handled it effortlessly. 

Games like Asphalt 8 or Modern Combat 5 run without a hiccup. There's hardly any sign of heating, but we noticed occasional lags while scrolling through Facebook wall, and switching between and launching a few apps. 

In my overall usage, the phone was pretty snappy. It is well optimised, boots quickly, runs all popular apps without a hiccup, and unlocks quickly. 

We must note that the review is for the 4GB variant, but the 3GB variant may show different results. It may slow down sooner than the 4GB variant but it's evident that it'll feel fluid out of the box. 

Verdict 

If you are looking for a phone under Rs 11,000, the Honor 9 Lite is a great option. There’s no other phone that can offer such premium design, latest software and a decent quad-camera setup at this price. But the 4GB variant gets to face some competiton from the Mi A1, which is better than the Honor 9 Lite in many ways. The 4GB variant is not a bad phone but it seems a little expensive considering the flaws it has. The battery life isn’t great and the rear camera performance isn’t exciting either. If you can wait, then you must watch out for the successor of the Redmi Note 4 in this range. 

Who’s it for? 

The Honor 9 Lite is best suited for those who need a phone that looks too good for its price without any compromises. It is a decent package of all features overall, but not the best if battery life is a concern.