After being sedentary for the most part of 2017, Huawei's subsidiary Honor India sprang to life with three back-to-back launches starting with Honor 7X in December, followed quickly by the flagship Honor View 10 the same month, and the budget-series Honor 9 Lite in January 2018, giving the company a head start over rival Xiaomi, which finally unveiled the Redmi Note 5 series with moderate upgrades in February.
On paper, the new Honor 9 Lite is one of the most feature-rich budget phones in the market, but does it really live up to the expectations? I used the phone for two full months and here's my take on it.
Design and display review
Honor 9 Lite comes with well-designed curved corners and smooth edges on all sides, with a metallic shell on the back. It has an extra layer of glass, exuding a mirror-like glossy premium feel. In my opinion, it is the most visually appealing phone in the budget category.
On the front, it features a 5.65-inch full HD+ (2160x1080p) screen having a 2.5D curved glass cover. It not only protects the screen from getting damaged on the edges but also adds value to the device's design.
As far as the display quality is concerned, it has a surprisingly bright and vibrant display for a budget phone. With the cinematic FullView feature having 18:9 aspect ratio, I had a delightful experience watching HD content on the Amazon Prime Video app.
Honor 9 Lite comes with Huawei's proprietary HiSilicon Kirin 659 octa-core (4x2.36 GHz Cortex-A53 & 4x1.7 GHz Cortex-A53) processor, backed by a Mali-T830 MP2 graphics engine, 4GB RAM and 32GB/64GB storage.
As far as real-time practical performance is concerned, it works smoothly, be it app-loading, switching between multiple apps and camera shooting session. It didn't show any sign of lag neither did it overheat when I played Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds, and some other low-graphics games.
It ran hot when I played graphics-rich games such as Asphalt 8, but it's not a deal-breaker, as most of the devices with metal-based shells -- even high-end ones -- show similar signs when games are played for long.
All in all, Honor 9 Lite will just work fine when doing daily chores like internet browsing, messaging, watching videos on WhatsApp without any sign of lag.
Honor 9 Lite boasts a quad-camera setup -- a 13MP+2MP pair each on the front and the back. With dual cameras, it offers advanced Portrait mode 2.0 that allows users to take Bokeh pictures with blur effects in the background.
Both the cameras take really good pictures, especially during the bright sunny conditions, but noise starts to creep in when the light fades during twilight and at night. Having said, the picture quality is above average for a phone in its price range.
With the dual cameras on the front, Honor 9 Lite has wide-angle picture-taking capability and this helps capture large group selfies, even for a person with small hands like me.
Recently, Honor 9 Lite received a new software update with face recognition support to the front-camera, making it the most affordable phone to boast such a biometric face unlock security feature.
Battery life review
Honor 9 Lite comes with a 3,000mAh battery, which lasted a whole day (active hours 6:30 am to 10:00 pm) under mixed usage during our tests.
But, if you are a heavy media content consumer, it might come up short and we recommend you to carry a power bank just in case.
As a part of the testing, I covered the routine average usage. I answered some voice calls, did some internet browsing, played a game for a while and also watched some YouTube videos with mobile data before retiring to bed.
[Note: Battery life testing is very subjective, as it depends on how the consumer uses the phone. For instance, for a user who is into heavy gaming or binge-watches video content, which requires mobile data for streaming, even a phone with 4,000mAh or more will not last more 10 hours.
But, for a user who just does normal things like internet browsing, watching multimedia content from WhatsApp for a limited time, answering or making voice calls, and tracking cricket scores on a sports app, even a phone with 3,000mAh can last a whole day.
But, based on my experience of reviewing several phones, a 3,000mAh battery is more than enough to last a full day under mixed usage]
Final thoughts on Honor 9 Lite: Heavy on features, light on price.
Honor 9 Lite exceeded our expectations during testing. I was particularly impressed by the camera, design and build quality. With the addition of the face unlock capability to the front-camera, it now offers more features than any other rival brands in the same price range.
We have no hesitation to recommend Honor 9 Lite to consumers. But, we would also like add that the device's price is very close to the Honor 7X. If you are ready to shell out a couple of thousand bucks more, go for the latter, as Honor 7X (REVIEW) also comes with a boatload of features and its build quality is really premium.
Whatever phone you choose between the two Honor phones, you will not be disappointed. Both the devices are worth your hard-earned money.
- Gorgeous design language
- Exceptional cameras (both front and back) for a phone in the budget category
- Day-long battery life
- There are no negative talking point in Honor 9 Lite. Just for nitpicking, the glossy shell-cover is a fingerprint magnet and needs to be wiped often. But, this is not a deal-breaker, as most users buy back covers with a new phone.