❤ Huawei Honor 10 Lite

 

 

The Honor 10 Lite is the latest addition to the brand’s mid-range lineup and it hopes to ride on the success of the original Honor 10. So how did Honor go about making a Lite version of a phone, which is already somewhat of a Lite version of the flagship Huawei P20?

Well, for one, the feature set has been trimmed across the board starting from the chipset, going through the camera and ending with the connectivity set. But that doesn’t mean this is a bad phone.

 

 

 

 

The Honor 10 Lite is still an embodiment of the great value phones we’ve come to know the brand for. For about 30% lower price tag than the original Honor 10, the 10 Lite has the same size battery, a larger screen with a smaller notch, the memory is now expandable via a microSD slot and right from the get-go it comes out with the latest Android 9 Pie. In comparison, the Honor 10 still hasn’t got an update to Pie yet.

Honor 10 Lite specs:

  • Body:154.8 x 73.6 x 8mm, 162 grams, plastic back panel and side frame.
  • Screen:6.2″ IPS LCD, 1080 x 2340px resolution (19.5:9); ~415 ppi.
  • Chipset: HiSilicon Kirin 710 (12nm) chipset: octa-core CPU (4x Cortex-A73 Gold @2.2GHz + 4x Cortex-A53 @1.7GHz); Mali-G51 MP4.
  • Memory: 3GB LPDDR4X RAM, 64GB or 128GB built-in storage, microSD slot support (takes the second SIM slot).
  • OS: Android 9.0 Pie; EMUI 9.0.
  • Rear camera: 13MP f/1.8, 26mm (wide) PDAF, 2MP depth sensor, LED flash; [email protected]/60fps.
  • Front camera: 24MP, f/2.0, 0.9µm, [email protected] video recording.
  • Battery: 3,400mAh, 5V/2A 10W charging.
  • Connectivity: Dual-SIM; LTE-A, Cat.12/13 (600Mbps/150Mbps); microUSB 2.0; Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac; GPS; Bluetooth 4.2.
  • Misc: Rear-mounted fingerprint reader, FM radio.

Anyway, the bar is set quite high for the 10 Lite as the Honor 10 and the Honor Play are some of the most competitive propositions in the upper midrange offering great performance at tempting price points. We will see if the Honor was able to strike a good balance with the 10 Lite. Let’s start with an unboxing.

Unboxing the Huawei Honor 10 Lite

The handset comes in a modest box containing the usual user manuals, the SIM ejection tool, the microUSB charging cable and, of course, the charging adapter.

We didn’t expect much else but Honor also provided a transparent silicone case that fits the 10 Lite perfectly and doesn’t hide the rather fresh color gradient paint job on the back.

 

 

 

 

The step back from the USB-C port on the Honor 10 to the slightly outdated microUSB was the first clue we got that we’re dealing with a cheaper device. We also couldn’t help but notice that the charger is not the 22.5W fast charger supplied with the Honor 10 but rather a 10W one.

 

 

Design

Naturally, the Honor 10 Lite borrows some design traits from its more expensive sibling – the Honor 10 – while offering some unique details. Also, as one would expect, the Honor 10 Lite misses on the premium materials and instead relies only on plastic for the body. That doesn’t take away anything from the looks, though.

 

 

 

 

On the front, the smartphone surprises with great screen-to-body ratio with considerably more screen real estate thanks to the move of the fingerprint reader at the back and the narrower notch at the front. While the Honor 10 has a wide, standard-looking notch, the Lite has a matching “Lite” notch. Some may call it a waterdrop and it does look like one to some extent. The side and upper bezels are thin and symmetrical but the bottom one surprised us the most. It’s one of the smallest ones we’ve seen, especially at this price point and also houses a subtle LED notification light. It looks awesome when it lights up.

 

 

 

 

As we go around the sides, we can see the power key and the volume rocker on the right side – both easy to reach. They have some wobble but compensate with a tactile clicky feedback.

 

 

Honor 10 Lite from the sides

 

 

The SIM card tray and the noise-canceling microphone reside on the top while the bottom houses the 3.5mm audio jack, the loudspeaker grille and the microUSB connector for charging and data transfer. We can’t think of a reason why they would choose a microUSB instead of USB-C.

We hope there was actual technical reasoning behind this decision and not mere market segmentation. We’ve said it many times before, manufacturers should all move towards a single power and connectivity port for the benefit of the consumers and this can’t come soon enough so releasing a brand new phone with microUSB ports is clearly not a move in the right direction.

 

 

 

 

As we already stated, the back panel of the phone is made of plastic and houses the rear-mounted fingerprint reader and the dual-camera setup. However, the plastic doesn’t take away from the looks and the silver/blue gradient color looks pretty cool. Also, fingerprints are visible only at an angle.

 

 

 

 

The back panel isn’t curved but it’s not protruding either so no sharp edges press against your palm when holding the device. Speaking of handling, the smartphone is pretty easy to use with one hand – it feels quite compact and lightweight and for some reason, it’s not slippery. In fact, the side frame feels a bit rubberized to some extent making it even easier to hold. The phone handles really well for a 6.2-inch device.

 

 

 

 

To be honest, you can’t expect high-end build materials from a such an affordable device and plastic was expected to be the main order of the day. Nevertheless, Honor managed to focus on what’s important here – usability. The plastic sides and back are more likely to withstand drops as the plastic is more shock-absorbent than glass and metal.

 

 

Honor 10 Lite from the front and back

 

 

And by skipping on the glass, the phone is even lighter and grippier. Keep in mind, though, that the plastic is easier to scratch than glass so keep that case on or be careful where you put it.

 

 

 

 

Bright IPS display with a minimalist notch

The Honor 10 Lite features a rather generic IPS LCD panel with a small minimalist notch on the top, which isn’t obtrusive at all and you can still hide it if you want to. We’ve noticed a slight “light bleed” around the edges of the notch and you can notice it when only when the background is bright, like white, for example.

 

 

 

 

Anyway, you’ve got a standard 1080 x 2340 pixels resolution at your disposal at a tall 19.5:9 aspect ratio and around 415 ppi since the diagonal is 6.21″. Just for the record, the standard Honor 10 has a significantly smaller 5.84-inch display and a shorter 19:9 aspect ratio so here’s one reason to opt for the Lite if you are after a larger display.

As far as performance is concerned, the display scored decently in our tests and it’s just what you’d expect from a midranger.

The peak brightness is 441 nits in Vivid mode while the less-bluish Normal mode produced a lower number hovering around 390 nits. However, the Normal mode offers considerably more accurate color reproduction with an average dE2000=2.7.

In Vivid mode, the screen has a slight bluish tinge in whites and grays. Blue, red and green are slightly over-saturated as well. The average dE2000 in this mode is 4.6. That’s still good, but not as stellar as the Normal mode. In day-to-day use, however, we preferred using the Vivid mode as it looked way punchier than Normal, which had a slightly less contrasty look.

 

Display test 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Honor 10 (Vivid) 0.326 508 1558
Huawei P20 Lite 0.27 482 1785
Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite 0.322 468 1453
Honor 10 (Normal) 0.32 449 1403
Motorola One (P30 Play) 0.254 447 1760
Honor 10 Lite 0.344 441 1282
Nokia 7 plus 0.254 432 1701
Honor 8X 0.346 427 1234
Xiaomi Mi A2 0.277 420 1516

 

For everyday use, the max brightness of 441 cd/m2 is perfectly fine. Obviously, it’s not the brightest panel out there but it does the job perfectly well considering the price point.

Unfortunately, our sunlight legibility score is far from stellar due to the overly reflective screen glass.

Battery life

The phone sports a decent 3,400 mAh battery – just like its more expensive sibling – so we expected similar results in our tests from the start.

We were surprised to see that the 3G talk time was considerably longer than what we got on the Honor 10. Other than that, the web browsing and video playback runtimes were pretty close. Judging by the overall score, we can say that battery life is good and a bit over the average for its class.

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, the handset doesn’t support any type of fast charging and the charging brick included in the box says the supported output is just 5V/2A or in other words – 10W. A 30-minute charging session from a flat battery would net you 33% of the battery capacity.

Loudspeaker

The loudspeaker returned an excellent result. Even though it’s just one speaker with a single grill, the phone managed to produce quite a lot of noise so you are probably going to hear the phone ringing even in crowded and noisy environments.

 

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Nokia 7 plus 67.5 71.3 79.7 Good
Honor 8X 67.1 72.9 81.6 Very Good
Huawei P20 Lite 66.3 71.5 84.9 Very Good
Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite 67.5 77.8 77.6 Very Good
Honor 10 69.3 72.6 87.3 Excellent
Honor 10 Lite 70.0 73.8 87.0 Excellent
Motorola One (P30 Play) 79.2 74.7 85.1 Excellent
Xiaomi Mi A2 89.5 72.2 89.8 Excellent

 

Audio quality

The Honor 10 Lite had an okay performance with an active external amplifier, delivering an output of below average loudness, but perfect accuracy.

Headphones degraded the volume further, while also introducing some frequency response shakiness, intermodulation distortion and a moderate amount of stereo crosstalk. All in all a performance not worth writing home about even for a mid-ranger.

 

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Honor 10 Lite +0.01, -0.03 -90.2 90.2 0.0048 0.015 -82.7
Honor 10 Lite (headphones) +0.64, -0.40 -83.7 88.8 0.0061 0.830 -51.3
Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite +0.04, -0.04 -93.5 93.4 0.0011 0.0070 -93.4
Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite (headphones) +0.45, -0.18 -93.4 93.4 0.021 0.457 -54.9
Honor 8X +0.01, -0.04 -92.3 92.4 0.0041 0.0085 -80.7
Honor 8X (headphones) +0.45, -0.54 -92.2 92.8 0.0084 0.492 -51.5
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) +0.02, -0.02 -93.1 92.9 0.0026 0.0089 -92.5
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) (headphones) +0.25, -0.17 -91.4 91.6 0.115 0.306 -55.4
Nokia 7.1 +0.02, -0.06 -91.0 88.6 0.0021 0.016 -94.4
Nokia 7.1 (headphones) +0.05, -0.03 -93.8 89.6 0.0019 0.034 -54.9
Huawei Mate 20 lite +0.01, -0.02 -94.7 94.7 0.0013 0.0086 -73.1
Huawei Mate 20 lite (headphones) +0.12, -0.09 -93.8 93.8 0.0035 0.115 -71.7
Pocophone F1 +0.01, -0.02 -93.6 93.6 0.0010 0.0069 -93.8
Pocophone F1 (headphones) +0.65, -0.08 -91.2 92.5 0.0082 0.359 -50.3

Android 9.0 Pie with EMUI 9.0 on top

As one would expect, the Honor 10 Lite comes with Huawei‘s user interface EMUI and on contrary to a lot of midrangers out there, the device comes with the latest and greatest from Google – Android 9.0 Pie. The UI is also updated to its latest version although, there aren’t any major differences compared to the older EMUI 8 with which we’ve tested the vanilla Honor 10.

Like all EMUI-driven devices, you can set up a magazine lockscreen style that changes the picture every time you wake up the screen. Sliding from the bottom will bring out quick shortcuts to some commonly used utilities and you can re-arrange, add or exclude to your liking. We found it to be useful and a bit annoying at the same time because there were times when we just wanted to unlock the phone but bring out the menu instead.

 

 

 

 

Unlocking the phone will bring you to the Home screen where you will find all of the installed and system apps. There’s a toggle in the settings menu that lets you choose between the standard layout or a Home screen with an app drawer. This is a really neat option to have as some people prefer the app drawer.

Swiping to the right from the home screen will bring you to Google Feed and by swiping downwards will let you search in your app library.

As for the notification shade, there’s an option in the settings menu that enables a swipe gesture on the fingerprint reader and really helps a lot with the one-handed operation. Also, it works really well. No more reaching for the top bezel when using this tall 19.5:9 screen.

And as for the notification shade – it’s nothing out of the ordinary. It can fit three rows with five quick launch icons for each row and right under the icons, you will find the screen brightness slider.

Opening up the settings menu will greet you with the usual sub-menus and features that you would find on most EMUI-based phones. There are a couple of useful options in the “Home screen settings” such as themes, the option to choose between an app drawer or the standard app arrangement on the Home screen as well as the option to toggle off the Google Feed.

The “Display” sub-menu is rather basic with little to no options in there. You’ve got the Eye comfort option that limits the blue light emissions during the night, choose between Normal or Vivid color modes and adjust the screen resolution – you can lower it to HD+ (720 x 1560) but our numerous tests from the past show little to no difference in the battery savings if you opt for the lower resolution setting.

More importantly, the option for disabling the notch is buried deep in the Display menu and we didn’t find the option swapping the navigation software buttons for gestures.

Moving on to the “Battery” section, you will find plenty of stats and a moderate amount of options to play with. There’s a normal power saving mode and “Ultra power saving mode”. The latter strongly limits the device’s capabilities and lets you use only a handful of essential apps, disables background processes, animations and turns of radios. The battery usage menu will give you all the information you’d need – you can see which apps and hardware components drained the battery since your last charge.

We found the “Digital balance” in the Settings menu quite nifty. You can track how much time you spend on your phone and which apps you used the most.

The “Security and privacy” menu lets you set up a fingerprint, enable face detection, set up “Find My Device” option, etc. The fingerprint setup process is pretty straightforward but it also brings some additional features like the option of taking a photo with the fingerprint reader in the camera app, stop the alarm, answer a call, browse photos in the gallery and as we already mentioned, bring down the notification panel. The latter is quite useful and works 9 times out of 10.

The fingerprint itself performs excellently as well – it doesn’t take a lot of time to recognize your finger but it lags a little when unlocking.

The face detection works just as good and there’s an option in there that enables instant unlock when it detects your face or requires a slide before unlocking. Of course, both lock methods can be used not only for unlocking the device but also a set of apps to your liking.

And last, but not least, comes the “Smart assistance” menu that takes you to the so-called “Motion control”. The latter enables motion gestures like flip-to-mute or raise-to-wake.

With every heavily-customized software come a few pre-installed system apps. In this case, they are generic tools like FM Radio app, Calculator, Calendar, Music, Videos, Clock, Notepad, Email, Files (file browser) and a Phone Manager that gathers some important functions in one place.

As you can see, even for this price, the Honor 10 Lite offers plenty of features and bonus points for the up-to-date software. But we did notice some small annoyances over the course of our testing. For instance, the radio icons appear in the upper left corner of the screen due to the insufficient space around the notch.

Also, the UI doesn’t feel as responsive or fluid as it should be. The Kirin 710’s CPU is more than capable chipset so we guess it’s all down to pending software optimizations.

Aside from that, the UI is highly customizable and you can adjust a lot of settings to better suit your needs though we have to admit, the Honor 10 has a few extra software features on top of what’s available in the 10 Lite.

Performance and benchmarks

The Honor 10 Lite comes with the new in-house mid-range SoC, the HiSilicon Kirin 710. It incorporates an octa-core CPU in a 4/4 arrangement – 4x big 2.2 GHz Cortex-A73 cores and 4x smaller and more efficient 1.7 GHz Cortex-A53 cores. The GPU is Mali-G51 MP4 and the whole SoC is based on a newer 12nm manufacturing process.

When it comes to memory, our unit runs with 3GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. However, there are versions with 128GB of storage and 4 or 6GB of RAM.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t benchmark the performance of our review unit due to system limitations imposed by the software it shipped with. We are guessing it might be one of the earlier builds and Honor just doesn’t want it benchmarked at this stage. Still, we recently reviewed the Honor 8X and since they share the same Kirin 710 chipset and the screen resolution, we suggest you check out its performance figures as they should be identical to those by the Honor 8X.

Regular 13MP main shooter aided by a 2MP depth sensor

The Honor 10 Lite carries a dual-camera setup on its back – the main camera is 13MP and has a wide f/1.8 aperture and phase detection autofocus. The secondary 2MP sensor is only used for depth sensing when scene depth information is required such as when shooting portraits with artificially defocused backgrounds.

 

 

 

 

The front camera that sits on the notch is 24MP with a narrower f/2.0 opening.

Of course, no one expects the Honor 10 Lite to be the best photography performer considering the price range but some basic camera capabilities should be in order. We hope to see it do just as well as the recently reviewed Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite as both phones fall into the same category. Let’s dig into the daylight, indoor and night samples right after a brief review of the camera software.

Camera software

The default camera app is pretty easy to handle. In the default camera mode, you will find the AI and Moving Picture toggles as well as the so-called HiTouch feature that uses machine learning to recognize objects, although we found it to be a hit and miss. The settings icon in the upper right corner leads you to more advanced options like resolution, GPS tag toggle, capture smiles or the option to open up the camera by double pressing the volume down button.

Swiping to left or right will switch between the camera modes – video, portrait, night and aperture. Each mode is self-explanatory and in the “More” section, you will find AR lens, time-lapse, panorama, HDR, stickers, pro, light painting, and filter. Those are self-explanatory as well.

Interestingly, the Auto HDR option was nowhere to be found in the default camera app but then again, not all phones in this price range use the HDR stacking with great success. Actually, quite the opposite. Still, you have the manual option of turning it on so you can toggle it on and off when you feel the need.

Just a quick tip, if you plan on using the bokeh/portrait effect on an object, try using the “Aperture mode” – you might find it produces better results than the standard Portrait mode.

In selfie mode, the camera app offers similar features as the main camera mode – there’s the portrait mode, video recording and AI function.

Image quality

Overall, the Honor 10 Lite takes okay photos with pleasant colors.

The photos have a lot of noise even in daylight. The noise-suppression seems to be working overtime and we still get grainy shots.

The dynamic range is also something that could have used some improving judging by the clipped highlights and HDR does only half of its job – it does open up the shadows but overexposes the highlights. However, the detail was good while the HDR introduced a little bit more sharpening without going over board.

The AI didn’t do much for us – it saturated some of the colors and we can notice some oversharpening here and there. The camera app prompted us with a message when it recognized some of the subjects like a pet or a flower but this didn’t change any of the shooting settings noticeably.

Portraits

Our initial impressions from the Portrait mode were quite positive – the level of resolved detail was impressive, colors were punchy and the edge detection was generally fine.

What we didn’t expect, however, is the background defocusing to fail at random spots. You can notice the “unnatural” de-focus in the first photo.

Selfies

Seflies were underwhelming as well – since there’s no autofocus, it’s hard to find the right focus distance, there’s not enough sharpness for a 24MP camera, it lacks good dynamic range and colors are a bit washed out.

The AI mode helps with the colors to some extent.

Low-light samples and Night mode

As expected, the general graininess of the photos, which we observe in the daylight photos, only got more prominent in low-light situations and a lot of the detail gets lost to noise suppression. And since there’s no OIS, the occasional camera shake makes things even worse.

When the AI is turned on, the camera app prompts you with a message that you should keep your hands still because the algorithm is working on sharpening the photo. In reality, there’s little to no difference between the AI photos and the normal ones.

However, the Night mode produces largely different results. It seems that the software tends to oversharpen things without taking care of the noise and the latter becomes even more visible even though this means less noise suppression and less smudginess. We guess that if you are not into pixel peeping, you wouldn’t mind the extra noise, but you would definitely appreciate the clearer photos and better dynamic range the Night mode shots offer.

Video recording

Surprisingly, the handset doesn’t offer any kind of 4K video recording and defaults at [email protected] However, there’s optional [email protected] recording but neither mode offers any kind of video stabilization. As a result, videos appear quite shaky if you shoot handheld. But you do have the option to choose between H.264 and H.265 encoding, which is nice.

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve noticed that the issue with dynamic range is prominent in the videos as well – highlights are too bright while dark areas appear darker than they should. Detail is okay though, at least in 30fps mode. If you crank it up to 60fps, a lot of detail will be lost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Competition

The Honor 10 Lite has a lot to offer but it’s not perfect. And the competition in the mid-range segment is fierce and it takes more than a pretty face to win the hearts of the practical consumer. It would be up to you to decide whether the particular feature mix and pricing is down your alley, but we’ll list a few other phones you may want to consider before making a final call.

 

 

 

 

While looking at possible alternatives, we tried to narrow the choice down a bit and it appears that most of the competition is rocking Qualcomm’s chipsets, which in turn means they offer better GPU performance. Still, the Kirin 710 is built on a smaller 12nm node and offers better CPU performance and power efficiency in return.

 

 

Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite • Huawei Honor 8X • Xiaomi Mi A2 (Mi 6X) • Nokia 7 plus

 

 

There is another Lite phone which stands out among the competition and that’s the Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite. We found it to be among the top performers in its class with its Snapdragon 660 chipset but it also has a decent screen, good battery life, and noticeably better camera experience – an area in which the Honor 10 Lite fails to impress.

Another decent alternative to the Honor 10 Lite lies within the company’s portfolio – the Honor 8X. While both phones are close siblings, we can easily recommend the Honor 8X due to the extra screen space, the better battery life, and the more consistent camera performance. And the chipset is also the same if you are happy with what the Kirin 710 offers.

Next down the list is the Xiaomi Mi A2 – a phone for the purists. You get a clean Android UI, swift updates as part of the Android One program, and it’s got comparable hardware. However, it drags behind the 10 Lite when it comes to screen quality and battery life.

And while we are on stock Android, it’s hard to miss the Nokia 7 Plus with a good camera, better than average battery runtimes and capable Snapdragon 660 chipset.

Verdict

Unfortunately, in an overcrowded midrange segment the Honor 10 Lite doesn’t really stand out with anything exceptional. It’s a decent all-rounder but it’s a tough one to recommend when taking into account what the competition offers.

The 10 Lite is definitely not a phone for the more pretentious users. The rather uninspiring camera quality and the not-so-fluid software kept us from giving the phone a good score. That target group should probably stick with the Honor 10 or Honor Play for their wishlists. The only areas where the Honor 10 Lite is a match for its more expensive siblings is screen quality, loudness, and battery life. If these aspects are all that’s important for you in a smartphone, you might as well save yourself some money and get this one instead.

 

 

 

 

Pros

  • Good ergonomics and nice grip.
  • The loudspeaker is loud indeed.
  • Above average battery life.
  • Decent large screen.
  • The Kirin 710 is a good performer.
  • Customizable and feature-rich UI

Cons

  • Plasticky build.
  • No fast charging.
  • Underwhelming camera performance.
  • No video stabilization and no 4K video recording.
  • We’ve seen more responsive EMUI implementations.
  • Dated microUSB connector instead of USB-C.