With the 10 Lite we get a dewdrop display, an astounding screen-to-body ratio and AI cameras all at a budget-friendly price.
With 2019 underway, the bridge between flagship smartphones and more affordable options are expected to narrow down significantly. This year, we will see what were once considered as flagship features will now suit everyone’s pockets and give you value for money features that were inadmissible in the past.
In 2018, Honor had a solid year and kept launching products that were sure-fire hits. Each and every handset launched was aimed at a target audience and were met with resounding success. The brand’s budget models managed to disrupt a market that was dominated by Xiaomi and their flagship handsets created a stir with its unique features such as GPU Turbo that made a sizable impact in a country where the consumer is the undisputed king. Honor managed to successfully tread a path where only a few brands are able to, by launching handsets with killer features and keeping its price down to a minimum. This was evident with the success of the Honor 9 Lite as it managed to sell over 1.5 million units and is still counting.
This year, in what may be the first at this price point, Honor has launched the 10 Lite with a waterdrop-style notch (named as dewdrop notch) and implemented features that are absolutely rare at this price point, such as AI-enhanced cameras, an SoC based on a 12nm process and EMUI 9.0 on top of Android 9 Pie.
While the competition in this price segment is fierce, we break down whether this smartphone should be your next purchase or if you should just give it a pass.
When it comes to designing smartphones, very few brands can compete with Huawei and its sub-brand Honor. The Honor 10 Lite borrows heavily from Honor 10, yet features design traits that give it its own unique identity. Honor is a specialist at subtly differentiating its handsets yet eschewing the same design language which wins it plaudits across the globe.
Easily mistaken for glass, the Honor 10 Lite utilises a plastic back that definitely doesn’t look delicate, but isn't. However, to keep costs down to a minimum and for added durability, the brand has used a toughened polycarbonate shell that features premium aesthetics.
The design resembles a gradient effect that’s seen on the top-of-the-line Mate 20 but does not have the same level of finesse as seen on the brand’s higher-end handsets. This is not to say that the design is lacking, and by no means it does. It has the similar shimmer effect although toned down a bit in comparison to the handsets made with glass. Needless to say, but just based on the design; the handset appears more costly than it is.
The rear plays home to the twin cameras, LED flash and the fingerprint scanner. Reachability for the scanner is easy and this is all down to the overall size. The cameras feature a minuscule bump but not so much as seen in comparison to other brands. This allows it to lie on a flat surface without any wobble. Lastly, the Honor branding is found here and a point of note is that this will be the last handset from the brand to feature the logo in lowercase. Future Honor handsets will all make way for the new uppercase Honor branding.
While using the device, we found that in hand it feels quite premium and it doesn’t belong in this price bracket. The curved edges on the rear make for comfortable gripping and it sits easily in the palm. While we loved the way it rested in our hands, the lightweight can either appeal or repel. The fact that it’s so light may make you believe that its quite delicate which in no way is the case. However, the lack of heft does make it feel a bit less premium. This can either be a pro or a con whichever way you look at it. For us, lighter is better as it allows using it for extended periods of time without experiencing any wrist fatigue.
At the top, we find the hybrid SIM tray slot and the noise cancelling microphone while the bottom features a 3.5mm audio jack, a micro USB charging port and a downward firing speaker. Honor’s decision to not use a Type-C port here is not just down to market segmentation, but also practicality and cost. There is wider access to micro USB charging cables available currently as most portable devices still use it for charging. This allows you to easily charge it at the most inopportune moment without stressing for the yet uncommon Type-C cable. The volume rockers and the power button is located on the side which is pretty tactile. We wish that the power button had a textured finish as it would make it easier to discern from the others, but not a major issue here.
A point to mention is that though Honor has shrunk the notch down to the bare minimum, they have not foregone the notification LED from up there. This useful notification light is located at the bottom of the screen and it is unobtrusive. If you’re wondering if the brand has sacrificed the earpiece in favour of an all-glass front, then you’ll be pleased to know that it's been included above the notch on the device’s forehead. These subtle inclusions make the handset all the more appealing.
Overall, though the build has some drawbacks in terms of a premium heft, we find that Honor has done a lot to achieve this beautiful design while still keeping the price very competitive.
The display is the main USP of the Honor 10 Lite and rightfully so. At this price point, this handset is the first from the brand to feature a dewdrop notch display. The smartphone astounds us with an impressive 91 per cent screen-to-body ratio and we get far more display real estate due to the chip-on-film screen technology which has reduced the bottom bezel to a mere 4.7mm. As of now, just a handful of brands have achieved this technology and with Honor paving the way, we expect many more manufacturers to adopt this technology for achieving a significantly vast screen-to-body ratio.
Honor has added a 6.2-inch IPS LCD display with a U-shaped notch that also allows for the impressive screen-to-body ratio. For all the notch haters, this can be hidden by just navigating through the settings. The display features a 2340 x 1080 resolution with a 19:5:9 aspect ratio and a pixel density of 415ppi.
The screen has an eye care mode that’s TUV Rheinland certified, this means that it will filter out blue light to relieve visual fatigue. However, with this mode on, the display will have a warmer tint that may not appeal to most. But, it’s a feature that’s always welcome in a smartphone in this day and age where we are constantly glued to it for almost every waking moment.
Out of the box, the handset features a rich display with vivid colours. There was absolutely no over-saturation visible with colours appearing crisp and natural. Using the handset to binge watch TV shows was an enjoyable experience and even though it does not feature an OLED display like some of the bigger brands, we have to take the price point into consideration and we certainly get a bang for our a buck. While using the handset in direct sunlight we observed that the display got really reflective and using it was a cumbersome experience.
The Honor 10 Lite runs Android 9 Pie based on EMUI 9.0. This means you get Google’s latest OS and all the features that go with it as well as being customised with Honor’s skin. Honor’s custom UI has been a point of contention to most as it came with features that didn’t exactly make a splash with the wider audience. With EMUI 9.0, Honor has doubled down on the overall software experience and kept things to a minimum without sacrificing any of the features that make their OS what it is.
Once the phone is unlocked, you are greeted with all of the preinstalled apps which include a healthy mix of Google’s as well as Honor’s apps. If you aren’t a fan of the standard layout, you can easily switch it to a Home screen with an app drawer. It's nice that Honor has added these customisable tweaks which make it easy for every user to find their most comfortable layout as a lot of people out there tend to favour the app drawer.
As with other Honor handsets, you will find some bloatware here in the form of HiCare, AppGallery, HONOR Club, and others. There are also third-party apps such as Vigo Video, Messenger, Camera360 and Netflix. Also for those who love FM Radio, there’s an app for it as well although your headphones need to be plugged in to use it. While some of the apps that come pre-installed can be deleted, it’s rather annoying that others can’t be uninstalled to save on the valuable storage.
As this handset runs on Android Pie, you also do get the new gesture-based navigational features. Also, we get the very useful Digital Balance feature which monitors how much time you spend on your handset and it also gives you the option to set your daily screen time, set app limits and a bedtime mode where it greys the screen and restricts access to apps after you designate when its time for bed.
The camera app also features HiTouch that’s accessed through the camera app. This is similar to Google Lens and you can use it to shop for the product online you select for on your screen. However, we found that this app is still a work in progress and in future versions it should get more accurate in successfully identifying the product you choose.
An interesting feature found here is AI communication. If a call is taken on public transportation or at a noisy restaurant, the AI mobile communication technology will increase the quality of the call for loud environments.
The Honor 10 Lite comes with the new home-grown HiSilicon Kirin 710 SoC and the brand has certainly outdone themselves by fitting this processor in a handset that falls in this price point. The chipset is made on TSMC’s 12nm process technology and comes loaded with an octa-core CPU with four Cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.2GHz while the other four Cortex A53 cores being clocked at 1.7GHz. Also, the Kirin 710 chipset makes use of ARM’s Mali-G51 GPU that offers a smoother overall running and gaming experience. For photography, the SoC supports AI enhanced scene recognition which also plays a part in the improved low light shooting. The processor is paired with 4GB or 6GB LPDDR4X RAM that helps in increasing the overall processing speed. Alongside it is 64GB of onboard storage which can be expanded up to 512GB more by using a micro SD card. This allows you to keep a plethora of data on your phone without needing to ever delete it. The handset also sports the brand’s GPU Turbo tech that enhances graphic performances while keeping the device’s power consumption to a minimum.
We ran some synthetic benchmarks and during the Geekbench 4 test, the single-core score received was 1525 points while the multi-core test produced a score of 4798 points. In the AnTuTu benchmark, it received a score of 129680 points and in the PCMark test, it got a score of 6031 points. These scores best those produced by rival chipsets used on smartphones in this price range.
While using this handset we ran trending games such as Asphalt 9 and PUBG and it didn’t falter at all. During gameplay, we didn’t observe any lag or stutter and it held its own even after an hour of continuous gaming. So, this handset can handle graphic intensive games as well as heavy photo or video editing apps without any heat building up. With GPU Turbo, the battery didn’t take much of a hit either and still managed to last a full workday. Multi-tasking apps here is as smooth as it is on a higher-end device and we faced no issues whatsoever. Apps that had been in the background were able to retrieve information instantly; so, job well-done Honor.
The primary selling point here is the AI-powered cameras. It features a dual-camera configuration on the rear with the primary sensor being a 13MP shooter with phase detection autofocus while the secondary 2MP sensor is for depth sensing. The 13MP camera has a wide f/1.8 aperture that’s able to take in a lot more light which will be beneficial for low light shooting.
The camera app is Honor’s own creation and its use is pretty straightforward. When in the normal photo mode, you will find the AI shooting mode as well as the moving picture mode. In this pane, we also find Huawei’s HiTouch feature that uses machine learning to help with shopping.
At the bottom, we find the different shooting modes which include Aperture, Night, Portrait, Photo, Video and More. Additional shooting modes available are Pro, Panorama, AR lens, Light Painting, HDR, Time-Lapse, Filter and Stickers.
With AI on, some of the colours looked a bit overexposed and some added sharpening. A neat feature of when the AI shooting mode is implemented is that it detects the scene within milliseconds and optimises the shot with the best possible outcome.
Upfront, the Honor 10 Lite uses a 24MP camera. Images shot with this lens produced some stellar results with great colour accuracy. We see this being used as a phone for all the Instagram-ready moments especially for those who take a lot of selfies. With the AI mode turned on, there was an improvement, but nothing drastic.
In low light situations, we noticed that the handset takes a bit of time to focus and there is a fair amount of image grain. Also, in images captured at dusk, there is a significant loss of detail.
To sum it up, the camera does a decent job with daylight and selfies. However, if its night photography you’re after, the images captured here are good enough for sharing and alike.
Honor has pitched in a 3400mAh battery here and it has performed well for us thus far. The battery life is aided by the Kirin 710 SoC which features a 12nm process that’s more efficient and performs better than competing handsets in this price range. While casual gaming, streaming, listening to music as well as accessing IM apps and social media, the battery managed to last us a whole day.
While battery life is solid, we would have liked it if there was some fast charge tech added here to get us a quick top up when running out of juice.
The Honor 10 Lite is priced at Rs 13,999 for the 4GB variant while the 6GB version is priced at Rs 17,999 and it is loaded with features and sports a design that makes it an appealing buy. We are left with a lasting impression as it comes with a stylish back that doesn’t look anything like plastic, a dewdrop notch that gives us a larger viewing experience and a battery that lasts! Playing games and watching videos on this is a pleasure and the fact that it comes with a speedy processor makes us love the handset that little bit more. If we are nitpicking, the only slight drawback is the lack of premium heft. If you can look past that, you get a lightweight Android 9 powered phone that runs cool even after some meticulous gaming.