- Good looking and comfortable to hold
- Front camera takes good selfies
- Comes with the latest EMUI 9.0 with Android 9 Pie
- Superb screen estate with dewdrop notch
- Kirin 710 is a powerful mid-range SoC
- The plastic back attracts scratches easily
- Way too much bloatware
- Rear camera performance is lacking
2019 has dawned upon us and Honor is already here with its first phone of the year - the Honor 10 Lite. Here’s one thing you need to know before we move on. The Honor 10 Lite is actually an upgraded version of the Honor 9 Lite (review) and not a ‘Lite’ variant of the Honor 10 (review).
With that in mind, what follows is my full review of the Honor 10 Lite after more than a week with the phone.
Honor 10 Lite design: compact and ergonomically
The Honor 10 Lite is clearly a good looking phone especially in its unique gradient Sky Blue form. However, unlike the Honor 8X , the Honor 10 Lite is actually made of plastic. It attracts a lot of scratches but thanks to the colourway, you can’t really see it clearly. On the flipside, the rear is sort of a fingerprint magnet and it becomes visible easily even at the slightest angle.
That said, if you are too worried about scratches and fingerprints, you can use the case bundled in the box to protect it. There is also a screen guard for the display in case you are wondering.
Coming back to the design, I am a fan of the form-factor and the ergonomics. Firstly, thanks to the smaller display - compared to the Honor 8X - you have a more compact phone. I found it easy to hold and use with one hand, also partly thanks due to the fact that it is lightweight. The curved back also nestles the phone in your palms comfortable. Honor has clearly nailed the ergonomics on the Honor 10 Lite.
Additionally, it has also nailed the feedback on the buttons placed on the right edge. You get a nice clicky sound when pressed that feels very reassuring. Nicely done, Honor!
The fingerprint scanner is at an easy to reach location on the rear and works pretty fast. Similarly, the face unlock works fairly fast and doesn’t unlock the phone if your eyes are closed. But the face unlock struggles to work properly in the dark.
I do have a couple of peeves with the design, though. Firstly, I don’t understand why Honor is not moving to the USB Type-C standard. It is 2019 for heaven’s sake. The second one is a minor niggle that might not annoy everyone. At the bottom, the mic and the headphone jack next to the Micro-USB port are slightly misaligned. I know and understand that internal component alignment sometimes makes it difficult to get the symmetry right. That said, I do find the lack of symmetry annoying for some reason.
Honor 10 Lite display: more screen for the buck
The Honor 10 Lite’s front fascia is dominated by the 6.21-inch IPS LCD panel with an aspect ratio of 19.5:9. Honor claims that you get 91% screen-to-body ratio as a result. While most of this can be attributed to the fact that you get a very tiny dewdrop notch, part of such a good screen estate is also a function of the small chin at the bottom.
Honor is one of the very few brands using chip-on-film technology to actually make a smaller chin. While it is not close to what Apple achieves with the curving of the AMOLED panel on the iPhone XS, it comes really close. In fact, of all the phones I have seen with a display notch in the recent past, the Honor 10 Lite is one of the very few phones with a slim chin - just like the Honor 8X. I just love it.
Also read: Apple iPhone XS Max review: big, bold, and bloody expensive
The dewdrop notch also ensures that it mostly stays out of your vision only acting as a tiny blip. Honest to god, I played more Guns of Boom on this screen more than any other phone in this price range. It doesn’t hurt that the bezels on the sides are also slim.
As for the IPS LCD Panel, the default colour temperature was a too cool. Meaning the blues were accentuated. I had to tweak it slightly in the settings to actually get it to a slightly more neutral tone. But, the panel is plenty crisp and mostly colour accurate except for the Gallery app, which for some odd reason tends to boost the colours. I think this is done on purpose to make the photos look more colourful and attractive.
The Honor 10 Lite also comes with TUV Rheinland’s acclaimed certification for safe display. Essentially, the built-in Eye Protect mode can be scheduled to cut off blue light and make it comfortably warm for reading.
Also, the display has only Widevine L3 support and that means you cannot watch Full-HD streaming content on streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime. But you won’t have a problem with the brightness levels on offer or even the viewing angles, both of which are class leading on the Honor 10 Lite.
Honor 10 Lite software: the cutting edge of EMUI
The major advantage for the Honor 10 Lite is the fact that it comes with the latest version of Huawei’s homegrown EMUI. You get EMUI 9.0.1 based on Android 9.0 Pie which hasn’t reached the Honor 8X yet. Yes, it is the same version of EMUI we saw on the Mate 20 Pro.
This is a software that is refined well over the years. For example, you get full-screen gestures that are pretty easy to get used to.
Additionally, you also get Digital Balance - an offshoot of Google’s built-in Digital Wellbeing feature. This feature lets you manage your screen time so that you don’t overuse the phone. As a reviewer, I have little use for this. Do let me know in the comments section below if you guys actually find it useful.
Also read: Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: you’ll fall in love with this phone like I did
Then there is HiTouch for Visual Shopping. Essentially, you can hold two fingers on any particular image to find a similar product for buying online. That said, the Dark Mode and the Knuckle screenshot features from the Mate 20 Pro are conspicuously absent from the device for some odd reason.
And yeah, I am still not a fan of the icons or the fact that Huawei bundles so many duplicate apps and some bloatware too. I find it still very over-bearing.
But here’s the thing, not once during my time with the Honor 10 Lite did I feel like using Hyperion or Evie Launcher. That in itself is a testimony for the refined nature of the new software.
Honor 10 Lite camera: great set of features but a weird software algorithm
One of the reasons why Honor phones are very popular is because of the feature-rich camera app. On the Honor 10 Lite, the focus is the front camera. Just like the Realme U1, the Honor 10 Lite comes with a 24MP camera that uses a Sony IMX576 sensor for capturing selfies. This is 0.9-micron pixel sensor which uses pixel binning to achieve 1.8-micron pixel size. Moreover, Honor has extended the whole AI feature to the front camera as well due to the processing power offered by the Kirin 710 SoC.
Talking about selfies, I noticed that while the Honor 10 Lite had some trouble focussing, the phone takes some good looking selfies in most situations. Under sufficient lighting, the selfies have a nice pleasing facial tone and a good amount of details. You won’t even need to look at it at 100 percent crop because it is a massive image. Having said that, at 100 percent crop the sharpness is not really there.
The portrait mode selfies are too aggressive and not really my thing. Talking about the baked in AI feature it can essentially identify some scenarios when shooting. For example, it can figure out that you are shooting indoors and do the colour correction accordingly. Honestly, I didn’t notice much difference. Thankfully, the algorithm is not boosting colours as it used to on the P20 Pro. One thing I noticed, however, is that the Honor 10 Lite defaults to the Portrait mode when you switch to the selfie camera. That’s just weird.
As for the cameras on the rear, you get a 13MP+2MP dual camera setup. The 2MP secondary camera is used only for depth sensing, which is very average by the way. There are studio lighting effects in the Portrait mode if you are into that sort of stuff. Oh yeah, you also get a separate aperture mode, which works better than the dedicated Portrait mode in my opinion. I still can’t for the life of me understand why the HDR option is buried deep in the menu.
With and without Night Mode
As for the pictures captured by the rear camera, with AI off or on, the Honor 10 Lite tends to blow out highlights because it favours a higher exposure. Every time I wanted a good usable picture, I had to manually reduce the exposure to get the right contrast. That apart, the phone does capture decent pictures with HDR on. Otherwise, the details are missing in the darker portions of the image.
Take a look at the overexposed highlights
From my low light samples, I noticed that the camera literally does a crazy amount of noise correction and there is no semblance of details that remain in the shots. It looks blurred and hazy. But, there is a dedicated Night Mode, which uses a 4-second shutter for shooting a long exposure. You don’t need to keep the phone on a tripod. I tried this mode and while the pictures look great at first glance, you zoom and you will see that it has retained noise and the algorithm has created a water colour effect. If you don’t zoom in, a lot of folks will still appreciate the pictures coming out of the Night mode. Because it brings in perceived sharpness and details where nothing existed.
Overall though, I am not convinced by the pictures captured using the rear camera. As for the videos, the less said the better. The phone can shoot 1080p videos at 60fps no less. But, the quality is lacking and there is no image stabilisation even in 30 fps.
Head to this link to check out the full resolution samples.
Honor 10 Lite performance: pretty snappy and responsive
Our Honor 10 Lite review unit comes with a Kirin 710 SoC under the hood with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. The storage can be further expanded up to 512GB using a microSD card. But note this, the slot is a hybrid SIM tray which means you will have to sacrifice the secondary SIM slot in case you want to add a memory card. Note that the internal storage is the eMMC 5.1 kind and therefore your read speeds are going to be somewhere around the 200MB/s mark and the write speed somewhere around the 150Mb/s mark.
The Kirin 710 chip is as powerful, if not more, than the Snapdragon 660. The Mali GPU especially coupled with GPU Turbo 2.0 is great for gaming performance. I noticed that I could extract more power from it for PUBG. I faced no slowdowns as such while gaming. It played just fine. I also played casual games like Alto’s Adventure and Guns of Boom with ease.
Even daily performance is good with no lags in UI or animations. It is just a very good, clean experience through and through. But I do have one complaint, the software has very aggressive memory management by default. Apps don’t stay in memory even for 10 minutes. The phone just closes it to save battery. Although, you can change that in memory management. But it could cause slowdowns.
As for the audio performance, I found that the Honor 10 Lite does a good job with good quality wired earphones. You don't get a pair of earphones in the box, though. The sound quality through a pair of wireless earphones like the OnePlus Bullets Wireless was decent too. But the streaming tops out at aptX quality. There is no support for LDAC by the hardware.
Honor 10 Lite call performance: top of the line
As for the 4G performance, I used the Honor 10 Lite with an Airtel 4G connection in Delhi NCR and had no problems with data or calls. In fact, the 10 Lite has one of the best earpieces with great quality. Despite slotting the earpiece in a slit above the notch, there is no drop in quality. Honor uses Huawei’s networking prowess to pull off such a feat. Even the Wi-Fi performance was top of the class. And with Wi-Fi Bridge on offer, you can also share your Wi-Fi network with other phones which not a lot of phones offer in this price range.
Honor 10 Lite battery: middle of the road
The Honor 10 Lite comes with a 3400mAh battery, which might feel low for folks who are used to seeing 4000mAh and 5000mAh batteries in phones in this price range. Anyway, this battery uses a 5V/2A charger, which charges it from 0 to 100 in 2 hours and 6 mins as per our testing.
It also lasts for around a full day of heavy usage with about 15 percent battery left at the end of the day. I got an average SoT of 5 hours during my usage, which is not great, but not bad either.
Should you buy the Honor 10 Lite?
This is a question, I cannot answer just yet. This review is being published on the 9th of January and the price will be announced on the 15th. I will update the verdict the moment the price is announced. Furthermore, my usual drill of comparing the Honor 10 Lite with its immediate competitors in the same price range will also be done post the price announcement.
As for the price, I know for a fact that it is bound to be lower than the Honor 8X. The lower 4GB/64GB variant should be priced around the Rs 12,000 mark if you ask me.
But, I do think that the Honor 10 Lite is still a great budget phone with the powerful Kirin 710 SoC. Moreover, if you are a selfie hound, the phone’s front camera should also serve the purpose. Let’s not forget that this one is also quite a looker. The rear camera performance is where the phone stumbles.
All in all, the Honor 10 Lite is definitely a good start for Huawei’s sub-brand in 2019.