Honor 9 Lite
REVIEW SUMMARY
Design
8
Display
7
Performance
7
Battery
6
Camera
7

Honor has been known to produce quality phones mainly with a pocket-friendly price tag. The Chinese manufacturer has recently launched its new mid-tier phone, Honor 9 Lite. It is yet another feature-packed budget smartphone from Huawei’s affordable sub-brand.

While its name suggests a cut-down version of last year’s Honor 9, the Honor 9 Lite actually has far more in common with the Huawei P Smart and the Honor 7X. With high-end features and a reasonable price tag, honor 9 lite is clearly the most tempting budget phone in tody’s competitive race for the best budget phone.

Earlier in our overview of the Honor 9 lite, we discussed the phone and its specs superficially. Here we are going for an in-depth review of the phone to see whether this is capable of being the new budget king.

Design

With a screen size of 5.65 inches, Honor 9 Lite is just about the right size. It can easily be operated single-handed. It gives you a generous amount of screen to play with while also being manageable. Honor 9 intends to provide a bigger screen in a compact body.

The optimum screen to body ratio is achieved by Honor’s inclusion of the 18:9 aspect ratio in a Fullview display. All these factors combine to shrink the bezels resulting in a 75.5% screen to body ratio.

On the front, a dual camera rests on the top bezel with a resolution of 13MP+2 MP and Honor branding on the lower bezel.

Honor-9-Lite-Front

On the back, we have a fingerprint scanner and a dual camera setup with 13 MP+2 mp camera. Fingerprint scanner rests on an ideal position where your finger hovers naturally over it so that you don’t have to stretch your fingers to reach the scanner.

The glass back of the phone is prone to smudges and gets dirty easily so you have to keep wiping it to keep it clean. You can always cover the phone with the protective case that comes along with the phone in the box.

Honor 9 Lite Back

It seems that the headphone jack eliminating trend has not made its way to the budget smartphones yet. The bottom of the phone hosts a 3.5 mm headphone jack and a micro USB along with a single speaker grill and a mic.

Honor 9 Lite Headphone jack

The power button and the volume rocker are on the right-hand side of the device and on the left we have a hybrid dual sim tray which means that either you can use two sims or you can use a single sim along with a micro SD card.

Honor 9 Lite Power button

The well built and slightly curved aluminum frame feels pretty solid. Phone’s corners are also rounded. Hypothetically, it should rest on hand pretty well but due to its sleek design and a glass back it almost slips out of hand unless you get a firm grip on it.

Honor 9 Lite weighs only 149 g and doesn’t feel bulky at all. Considering the price tag, the phone build and looks are nothing less than that of a premium flagship phone.

Display

The Honor 9 Lite has an IPS display with FUll HD+ resolution of 2160 x 1080. With a size of 5.65 inches, the display successfully produces crisp results. It has a pixel density of 428 ppi just like its flagship counterpart, the Honor 9.

The IPS display instantly makes a statement as soon as we turn it on and does not disappoint in bright conditions has pretty good viewing angles. On peak brightness level Honor 9 Lite is fairly usable even in direct sunlight.

Huawei’s IPS LCD may not be able to compete with Samsung’s OLED displays in terms of contrast and saturation but the color reproduction on Honor 9 Lite is amazing. Watching movies and media content on this screen is a pure delight because of its natural reproduction of colors, thanks to an FHD+ display.

However, the display is a bit on the cooler side with a bluish hue over it, but with an array of contrast options, you can adjust the warmth of the screen within device’s settings. An eye comfort option is also available in the settings which can be turned on for less strain on the eyes while looking at the screen for longer periods.

You can also tweak the screen resolution to 720p, which although affects the display quality, but on a positive note, it also enhances the battery life and reduces the burden on the chipset.

Software

Driving the hardware is Huawei’s latest EMUI 8.0, based on Android 8.0 Oreo, which makes the Honor 9 Lite one of the first budget smartphones to rock the latest Android OS.

At first glance, EMUI 8.0 may feel and seem like EMUI 5.1 but Huawei has done some major changes in their latest OS upgrade. One of these huge changes is the machine learning. EMUI recognizes your usage patterns and automatically boosts up the apps that you use frequently. Lesser used apps are granted very fewer resources hence conserving energy which means less strain on battery and chipset.

Customizing notifications got a lot easier in EMUI 8.0. You can now pop into settings and customize app notifications separately for each app. It also supports twin apps now which means that if you want to log into two different social media accounts, you can easily do that just by enabling App twin in the settings.

Honor 9 Lite Twin apps
App Notification settings and App twin

Phone’s performance and battery life can also be optimized by downgrading its display quality from 1080p to 720p which means it will consume less battery while compromising on screen resolution. This can be done in display settings.

Face Unlock helps to unlock phone only by users, using face recognition technology. There are some interesting bits to it. It helps to unlock without touching the fingerprint sensor on the back and also hides the notifications till phone doesn’t identify if you are looking at it.

The phone struggles to recognize the face sometimes, especially in the dark which we think can be fixed via an update from the OEM.

An eye comfort option is also included in display settings which produces a yellowish tint on the screen to lay less strain on your eyes while reading an e-book or looking at the screen for a long time.

Honor 9 Lite Display Settings
Display Tweaks in Settings

Originally, the EMUI 8.0 comes without an app drawer, those who are accustomed to it can also enable it in home screen style within the display settings. Adding to that, the EMUI 8.0 is a bloatware bin. There are different pre-installed apps that eat up phone’s resources and tend to slow down the device and result in hiccups especially while multitasking.

Performance

One of the reasons that Honor phones seem to have a low price tag with better features than their rival budget phones is that they use mid-tier processors from HiSilicon, which is owned by their parent company, Huawei. The Honor 9 Lite houses an octa-core (4 x 2.36 GHz and 4 x 1.71 GHz) Kirin 659 processor which is accompanied by 3/4 GB RAM.

The fingerprint sensor on the Honor 9 Lite may not be the fastest of all but its moderately fast and does the work. It even recognizes your fingerprint with greasy and dirty fingers and you don’t have to wake up the screen for the scanner to work.

With a chipset that is focused on power efficiency, the 9 Lite’s performance can best be described as ‘swift’. The chipset seems to comply well with daily tasks such as moderate WhatsApp usage, web surfing, video streaming and light camera usage.

The phone delivers amazing performance in these specs. Honor 9 Lite astonished us in Geekbench 4 benchmark test. Its multi-core result was 3736, which is on par with Xiaomi Mi 5 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4. In AnTuTu benchmark test, with a score of 87644, the Honor 9 Lite proved its place with the likes of Xperia X and Redmi Note 3 with Snapdragon 650.

We ran the most rigorous testing on Honor 9 lite which included extensive downloading at different platforms simultaneously in the background while multi-tasking. Although occasional hiccups occurred when switching between heavy apps but it never lagged bad enough to call this smartphone an under-performer.

However, it came as a shock when we played resource intensive games like Modern Combat 5 and Dead Trigger 2 and the phone ran smoothly in spite of a plethora of apps running in the background and mobile data turned on.

Honor 9 Lite Gaming
Dead Trigger 2 on Honor 9 Lite

While multitasking, one particularly irritating thing was that every time an app was opened from the recent menu, it refreshed and started from the very beginning. The RAM was clearly struggling to keep up. RAM management could have been better.

Extensive and resource-hungry apps also tend to heat up the phone pretty quick. This indicates that the phone is not meant to handle stress for a longer period of heavy usage. Other than that the phone works perfectly alright and is pretty fast enough for a budget phone.

Honor 9 Lite come equipped with a non-removable 3000mAh battery. Typically, the mid-tier internals, like the Kirin 659 used here, promise a lengthy battery but in our real-life usage test of the Honor 9 lite, the phone came short on that.

First thing First, we plugged in the phone at 0% and it took 2 hours 30 minutes to fully charge to 100%. That’s a long time and disappointingly, Honor failed to provide fast charge technology on the phone.

Moderate usage included browsing the internet and social media apps and downloading files on a 4G network. Streaming videos on youtube, making calls and texting were also part of moderate use test. With full brightness, the test got the battery from 100% to 85% in 1 hour.

We stretched the phone’s performance to its limit to have a better idea about its battery life on heavy use. Playing Modern Combat 5 and Dead Trigger 2, each for half an hour while all the apps running in the background resulted in the phone’s battery plummeting from 85% to 60%.

We tried to further put it to test by multitasking, gaming and downloading files on mobile data simultaneously. Doing this for 15 more mins and the battery dropped to 49%. Watching a movie in the phone’s default player and streaming YouTube videos on mobile data for half an hour after that, drained the battery to 27%.

Though the battery turned out to be quite sufficient for an average moderate user but proved quite volatile with heavy use. The phone’s battery plighted from 100% to 27% in our battery test of 2 hours 45 minutes.

Having said all that, power users on this phone may not get enough battery and might need a recharge in the evening. Whereas a light and moderate user can get a pretty decent battery life. With light use, the battery might see the second day.

Honor has introduced some of the software tweaks that help out in the longevity of battery time. These tweaks vary from adjusting the output resolution to an extreme power-saving mode, which disables most of the phone’s smart functions in order to take out as much battery life as possible.

Camera

Honor 9 Lite is the only phone that offers 4 cameras in this price range. The dual-lens setup of Honor 9 Lite consist of 13MP + 2MP both on back and front. The phone promises a lot with four cameras and quite frankly, it reaches the expectations to some extent.

The camera UI is pretty simple to use. When you tap on the camera app, it takes you to the main screen with a bunch of toggles and features on both top and bottom. To be specific, the top bar consists of toggles for flash, wide aperture mode, portrait mode, moving picture mode and front camera option, while the bottom bar houses image viewer, shutter button, and video mode.

Honor 9 lite Camera UI

By swiping to the right you can see a number of modes for the rear camera. Here you can play with Pro photo, Pro Video, AR Lens HDR, Time Lapse, Night shot, Good Food, Panorama, Light paint, Filter and more.

Swiping left on the main camera screen takes you to camera settings where you can adjust the resolution of the camera, watermark your pictures and play with other camera settings like enabling audio control, setting a timer, capture by touching the screen.

Honor 9 Lite snaps very decent pictures in auto mode. We have not seen a more well-balanced camera in this price range. The dynamic range is good with a natural color and contrast ratio. It doesn’t over saturate the colors neither does it wash them out.

Clay Pot
Auto Mode

Landscape View
Landscape Shot in Auto Mode

With a dual lens, we were hoping to see auto HDR but during our real-life test, we notice that it lacks auto HDR feature and you have to swipe to the right side to enable HDR from the modes manually. Honor should have included a toggle for HDR on main camera screen for smooth accessibility. The HDR mode on the Honor 9 lite however, pops up the colors well.

Flower Pots
HDR in Auto Mode

Both the rear cameras work in sync to give out a picture with a blurred background in portrait mode. The 13 MP camera captures the detail whereas the 2MP sensor calculates and processes the depth of field.

Rather the blurred background was better when we took pictures in wide aperture mode. We could adjust the softness of the background blur after taking the pictures which made the image look less artificial and more natural. However, in landscapes, the wide aperture struggles hard to identify which area to blur and often fails very badly. We suggest using the portrait mode and wide aperture for close objects only.

Plant Shot
Wide Aperture Closeup Shot

Flowers with Blur Effect
Wide Aperture Shot

The Pro photo mode in Honor 9 Lite also lacks adjustment of controls. More specifically, the contrast toggle is missing. Moreover, the exposure value and shutter speed are way out of sync and behave abnormally when one of them is adjusted for desired results. The photos either come too dark or too bright. Other than that the photos look very crisp and capture a lot of detail.

Plam Tree and Clouds
Picture taken in Pro Mode

The rear camera performs more than expected in low light conditions. We took the photo not only in extreme low light conditions and the results surprised us. Using HDR in low light brings out the best of the Honor 9 Lite and clear difference can spotted between the pictures.

Honor 9 Lite Low Light
Honor 9 Lite Extreme Low Light imaging without HDR (L) and with HDR (R)

The front camera also has all the modes and options except HDR, Pro photo and Pro video. Other than that, in our selfie results, we found Honor 9 Lite to be quite delivering in the camera compartment.

The front dual cam doesn’t affect the color reproduction however in full beauty mode it alters the skin tone and smoothes down the skin excessively which looks artificial. Other than that the colors reproduction is natural but on the downside, the camera loses details in the picture.

Selfie with Honor 9 Lite
Wide aperture shot without beauty mode (L) and with beauty mode (R)

With the new update, Honor 9 Lite gets an Augmented Reality lens which is pretty fun to play with wherein there are different backgrounds and filter effects to enhance the camera using experience in real-time. Although many filters and effects are added, it still needs a better facial and body recognition but we think with the push updates, it will improve.

Being a budget phone, astonishingly Honor 9 Lite is a complete package and successfully delivers a handful of smooth user experience to the extent that one might not believe it to be a budget phone. Addedly, it has got pretty cheering surprises and features under the hood.

Our Verdict

Honor 9 Lite is a refreshing breeze in a monotonous budget smartphone market. It provides a decent spec sheet at a good price.  The combination of an all-glass body in an aluminum frame with an 18:9 narrow-bezel display and decent performance make it an attractive proposition. It may not be the fastest phone in the market but considering the price, this phone is an outright choice.

The tests that we ran on the phone proved that it’s not only beautiful and elegant but delivers what it promises too. Honor 9 Lite is available in Pakistan for PKR 24,499 an at this price, it’s definitely worth a shot.

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