The Honor 9 Lite appears to be a sexy avatar of the Honor 9i with an aim to spice up the midrange smartphone segment.
Huawei’s e-sub brand Honor has been lately pretty active in the country launching a slew of new handsets all through the festive season with tempting features and affordable prices. Their recently launched Honor View 10 aims to be the OnePlus killer while the Honor 7X aims to fend off the biggies, such as Xiaomi and Samsung, in the midrange category. However, the company knows that the midrange market decides the fate of any smartphone manufacturer, which is why they have considered bringing in another option in this category with an aim to spice up things a tad bit. Meet the Honor 9 Lite.
With an all-glass body and four cameras (yes, dual cameras are now 2017), the Honor 9 Lite definitely grabs attention while sitting on the shelf with the competitors. We were excited too as the idea of an all-glass-bodied midrange smartphone is what the heart prefers, despite knowing that glass still loses out to metal in terms of durability. Therefore, we got our hands on a ‘Sapphire Blue’ 9 Lite to see if it stands a chance against the established players of the segment. While it will take some time before we give out our final verdict, here’s what we feel after spending just a few days with it.
Build and design
The Honor 9 Lite surely is a good looking midrange smartphone, just like its predecessor — the Honor 8 Lite. The 9 Lite adorns an equally beautiful, if not slightly better, aesthetics. The rear glass panel is an attention grabber and clearly stands out in a sea of metal bodied rivals. However, the Honor 8 Lite was comparatively elegant compared to the more bold ‘shiny-finish' of the 9 Lite; the latter in fact resembles the flagship Honor 9’s finish, which is certainly not a bad thing for those looking for a smartphone to flaunt their personality. It is comfortable to hold for extended sessions of texting and calling; however, like all glass-bodied phones, it tends to be slippery and requires attention if you are keeping it on the edges. We will have to wait and see how this attractive looking glass body holds up after a few days of normal usage scenarios (we are already witnessing a few smudges despite claims of the presence of an oleophobic coating).
The 9 Lite doesn’t stop there — it borrows the 18:9 LCD display from its brothers, albeit in a slightly smaller 5.6-inch real estate. In fact, the whole smartphone measures almost similar to a conventional 5-inch phone, which is a good news for those who don’t like gigantic phablets. The display seems to be adequately bright and vibrant. However, we have yet to see the display in various lighting conditions.
Specifications and performance
Sandwiched between the glass panels is the same old recipe that one will find decorating the specification sheets of the Honor 9i and the Honor 7X — a Kirin 659 chipset along with 3GB/4GB of RAM and 32GB/64GB onboard storage. However, what differs is the OS — a freshly baked EMUI 8.0 based on Android Oreo 8.0; thus making the Honor 9 Lite one of the few offerings in the midrange category to ship with the latest software.
As of now, EMUI 8.0 seems to be a sizeable improvement from the last version, going for a leaner UI in the menus and the notification shade. However, this being an Honor smartphone means that you will find bloatware decorated on the home screen. Despite a clunky theme and the unnecessary apps, EMUI manages to be swift even when multitasking with 4-5 casual apps. We haven’t noticed any considerable lags or stuttering while browsing through the interface, which may be due to the fact that it's been with us hardly for a few days. Over the coming weeks, we will put the 9 Lite through its paces to see whether the tried-and-tested hardware combo can deliver a different user experience with the new OS.
We haven’t played around with camera enough as yet but it seems that the 16MP + 2MP rear cameras do a better job as compared to the Honor 7X when it comes to snapping portrait mode. Note that the second lens is present only for capturing depth-of-field effect — it's not a monochrome sensor. Casual photos taken in daylight appear to be decent while the low light performance seems to be no different from that of the Honor 9i. Images aren't exceptionally detailed but there's very low noise visible in low light conditions.
The dual selfie camera also appears to snap good-looking selfies, although there’s a lot of post-processing going on to make you fairer than usual (Hey selfie enthusiasts, take note!).
This is one area that immediately caught our attention — the 3000mAh Li-ion unit is managing to keep the phone alive for a day under casual usage scenarios involving heavy texting, browsing the Internet and fair amount of photography. However, it took us a considerably long time (approx 1.5 hours) to top-up from around 50-60 per cent — which is disappointing, especially when provided with a bundled 2A charger. Hold on for an elaborate account of the battery life on the Honor 9 Lite in our final review around a week later.
On the whole, the Honor 9 Lite seems to be a stylish alternative to the rather conservative offerings from the competition. If Honor wants this to be a challenger to the bestsellers in the category — the Xiaomi Mi A1, Moto G5S Plus and Samsung Galaxy J7 Max, then they should come up with a competitive price tag to keep the midrange smartphone seeker happy with a compelling choice.
Keep an eye out for the final review of the Honor 9 Lite ahead.
(Also published on Deccan Chronicle)