Honor 9 Lite hands-on review

HUAWEI SIDEKICK Honor today unveiled its first handset as part of its fresh “Lite” series, the Honor 9 Lite.

Featuring a new “quad camera” set up, the device boasts two dual HD cameras, one on the front and one on the back, giving selfie fanatics something to cheer about.

Despite being the “Lite” version of the Honor 9, the Chinese smartphone firm says some features, such as the 5.65in FullView HD Display (FHD+) display, are actually better than in the flagship version of the device.

We got our mitts on the phone at a launch event in London on Tuesday to find out how good this new smartphone really is, and if it lives up to its older sibling, the Honor 9.   

As the name suggests, the Honor 9 Lite is strongly based on the firm’s flagship Honor 9 smartphone, looking almost identical at first glance. This is because it touts the same glass case with a nano-scale optical coating, giving it that typical Honor mirror-like effect and immediately distinguishing it from its rivals. 

What we loved about the handset right away was that its super light to hold. Weighing just 149g, it’s a pleasure to use and we can imagine you’d not even notice it in your pocket. It is, however, a little thicker than we would have liked, measuring 7.6mm, it feels a little on the chunky side, but it’s what can be expected from a mid-range device like this.

While it might be a nice tough, the glossy glass design can be a little annoying and proved to attract every finger smudge known to man during our time with it. 

There’s also Fingerprint Identification 4.0 baked-in, which Honor said allows a 0.25s ultra-fast fingerprint unlock to ensure access to your device quickly and safely. We weren’t able to set this up and try this out yet in our hands-on but it’s something we’ll put to the test in a full review.

In terms of display, the Honor 9 Lite features a 5.65in 18:9 FHD+, made from 2.5D glass, which Honor said is an upgrade from its flagship Honor 9 as its “close to the 21:9 ratio used in cinemas, giving users a movie theatre-like widescreen experience when watching videos”.

We can see why they’d say that, as the display is truly stunning. It’s super bright and vibrant. One thing to note, though: Honor also describes the display as “bezel-less” but not by our standards. Compared to the likes of LG and Apple’s bezel-less phones, the Honor 9 Lite is still a long way off. It is, however, a very nice, responsive display that we’d be happy to tap on for long periods.

Software and performance
Running the Android 8.0 operating system with Honor’s EMUI 8.0 UI skin on top, the Honor 9 Lite is powered by a 16nm octa-core Kirin 659 chipset and 3GB RAM. Honor says we should be excited by this because it has an upgraded clock rate up to 2.36 GHz and “a fully enhanced” graphics processing unit (GPU).

It’s hard to know how this translates into real-world performance when playing around with the device during a short hands-on, but it seemed incredibly nippy throughout use and gave us no reason to believe Honor has used a low-performing processing unit to cut costs.

However, this could all change once you start loading the handset with apps, as our performance tests were conducted on a freshly-installed OS.

One of the biggest features Honor touts on the 9 Lite is its quad camera set-up. This comprises of a dual-lens 13MP and 2MP camera offering on both the front and back, so your selfies are on bar with your food photos.

Honor said the dual front camera features a wide aperture of f/2.0, with one sensor capturing image details, whilst the other gathers depth of field information, producing professional-looking images with natural “bokeh effects” on both the front and the back (the natural blurring of the background as seen in the iPhone X).

Nevertheless, in our short tests, we were very impressed with the performance of the phone’s snappers, and a quick test of both yielded impressive results. Although the automatic beauty mode might require a retune when first used, as it does tend to want to blur the hell out of your face to make you look better. Anyway, images are clean and colours are strong. All great things and surprisingly premium feeling for a mid-range device.   

First impressions
The Honor 9 Lite is very typical of Honor; the same metallic blue appearance that sets it apart from other phone manufacturers, but this time we see some welcome additions such as the super lightweight design and high end features like the quad cameras, complemented by an impressively large display; all for a mid-range price point (we are told).  

The handset will be available for purchase from today for just £199.99 from online retailers such as Amazon, Argos, Very, and John Lewis. µ

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