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Honor 9 Lite Review - Budget Quad Cam Beast

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Honor's first product in its return to the Philippine market is the Honor 9 Lite, an affordable smartphone equipped with interesting feats for its price.
Honor 9 Lite Review - Budget Quad Cam Beast
Meet Honor 9 Lite

The Honor 9 Lite goes with a premium metal and glass design, modern 18:9 screen with tiny looking bezels, capable mid-range grade chipset, legit quad camera system to enhance your mobile photography game, and a killer price tag of just PHP 7,990!

Too good to be true? Here's our full review!

Honor 9 Lite Specs

Display: 5.65-inch FHD+ FullView 2160 x 1080 resolution w/ 2.5D curved class at 427 ppi
CPU: 2.36GHz 64-bit Kirin 659 octa-core processor
GPU: Mali-T830 MP2
RAM: 3GB
ROM: 32GB expandable via microSD card slot up to 256GB
Back Camera: 13MP f/2.2 + 2MP w/ PDAF and LED flash
Selfie Camera: 13MP f/2.0 + 2MP w/ screen flash
Battery: 3,000mAh
OS: Android 8.0 Oreo w/ EMUI 8.0
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, 4G LTE w/ VoLTE, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, A-GPS, dual SIM (hybrid)
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic
Others: Fingerprint sensor, face unlock, Colors: black, blue, gray, white
Dimensions: 151 x 71.9 x 7.6 mm
Weight: 149 g
Price: PHP 7,990

Disclaimer: This is a borrowed unit from Honor Philippines for our honest take.

Unboxing / Accessories

Unboxed!

The package of the Honor 9 Lite include a regular 5V/2A USB wall charger, USB to micro USB data/charging cable, SIM ejector tool, clear plastic case, and the paper documents.
Unfortunately, it has no earphones included inside.

Hopefully, Honor will include that basic freebie next time.

Build Quality / Design

Premium build!
Premium build!

The Honor 9 Lite is one of the very few with true premium metal and glass construction found at this price point.

Premium build and design, budget price tag!

Its frame with nice chamfered edges is made out of sturdy yet lightweight aluminum metal and it has legit 2.5D glass material at the back and in front.

Honor just failed to indicate if it has Gorilla Glass for added protection against scratches It has no screen protector avoid unwanted damages on your screen as well.

Fortunately, the unit we have still doesn't have any scratches on all sides.

To further protect your phone, just put the clear case included in the package.
Nothing on top
Nothing on top
Headphone jack slot, mic, and speaker below
Headphone jack slot, mic, and speaker below

Hybrid slot at left
Hybrid slot at left
Power button and volume rocker at right

Design-wise it reminds us of a smaller yet slightly higher-end version Huawei Nova 2 lite despite the more affordable price tag. It is also way better looking than the likes of OPPO A83 and Xiaomi Redmi 5 in terms of looks.

Instead of acrylic glass-like plastic, Honor one upped everyone by using a real glass material at the back of the Honor 9 Lite.

The paint finish is better than most sub mid-range phones too. In addition, this device is quite small for a phone with big 5.65-inch screen and slim at just 7.6 mm.

The camera bump at the back is far from thick and annoying as well.

The phone is also quite good to hold. To our surprise, it is far from slippery in the hands. However, it is prone to fingerprint smudges as expected.

All the ports and buttons are on familiar placements. There's an LED light indicator in front, fingerprint scanner is at the back, the speaker and 3.5 mm headphone jack are found below, and the power button and volume rocker are easy to reach at the right side of the phone.

Display Quality

Sharp screen, but with black borders
Sharp screen, but with black borders

The Honor 9 Lite has a 5.65-inch 18:9 screen. As a result, it has a taller and wider viewing experience versus your traditional 16:9 phone. It still has tiny black border bezels though.


Wide viewing experience, small bezels!

It also has an FHD+ 2160 x 1080 resolution. It can provide you with sharp and crisp images and videos. Color temperature is on the warm side like other affordable Huawei phones. It also has enough contrast and deep enough blacks for an IPS display.


In terms of brightness, it can go bright enough to be legible even for outdoor use.


On the display settings, there's an option for auto brightness mode, color temperature mode, eye comfort mode to lessen blue light, view mode to adjust the size of font, and choose your screen resolution.


Lastly, this device has full 10 points of touch.

Audio Quality

At the bottom, this phone has a single down firing speaker. It can produce clear and crisp audio for a budget phone. There are times where it'll sound kinda full sounding. The separation between the vocals and instruments would be audible too.

Loudness is average when inside a quiet room. But, it won't be that loud for outdoor use. It is far from great, but for the price, this speaker is nice enough.


The good side is it doesn't have much distortion on max loudness mode.


For headphones, quality is actually better than what I expected from an affordable phone! It can go quite loud to drive some multi-driver in-ear monitors and low powered headphones.


Output is balanced with well separated details. Moreover, it can produce good amount of bass when needed.


The single mic of this device is respectable. It is decent for both calls and recording audio.


Battery Life

Decent battery scores!
Decent battery scores!

This phone boasts 3,000mAh of juice. On paper, it isn't that big for a phone with large 5.65-inch FHD+ panel and Kirin 659 SoC.


Above average battery performance!

But in our test, it is one the average side of battery performance. It clocked 8 hours and 29 minutes of work battery life in our PC Mark battery test.


Screen on time we got is also better than expected at 4 hours and 46 minutes.


Under our heavy usage with 4G data or WiFi all the time, we recorded 18 hours and 7 minutes of total use. Not bad!


Charging time is a bit slow even with the use of the 5V/2A charger at 2 hours and 30 minutes in total.


Camera

Dual cam at the back
Dual cam at the back

The Honor 9 Lite is one of the few with a legit quad camera system. It has two cameras at the back and two cameras in front. It has an identical camera setup to its cousin, the higher-end Nova 2i.

Camera interface
Camera interface

It goes with the same dual selfie setup, but it is a bit lesser in pixel size at the back versus the Nova 2i.
Plenty of camera modes
Plenty of camera modes

At the back, it has a 13MP f/2.2 + 2MP dual camera setup with PDAF and LED flash.

It goes with the usual wide aperture mode (f/0.95 to f/16), portrait mode with bokeh and 10 level face beauty mode. It also has an the moving picture mode that works like the live photo of Apple. You will also find the settings of the flash on immediately on the screen too.


When you swipe right, you'll see the hidden photography settings of the phone. It has the pro photo, AR lens (cute stickers), HDR mode, panorama, light painting (tail light trails, light graffiti, silky water, star track), filter, and water mark.


You may also download the good food mode and document scanner.


The pro photo mode will allow you to manually adjust metering, ISO (50 to 1600), shutter (1/4000 to 8s), EV (-4 to +4), focus, and white balance.


In terms of picture shooting ability, this handset is one of the most capable for the price. It can easily go toe to toe with our favorites like the OPPO A83 and Nova 2 lite.


Focus speed and saving time is fast enough. It can also focus closely on subjects 3 inches near under well-lit conditions.


Picture quality in daylight is as good as advertised. It can deliver crisp and well detailed images with balanced colors. There are times where you'll experience some sort of oversharpening, but for the price it is still much better than the kinda soft looking images from some similarly priced devices.


Bokeh quality using both the wide aperture and portrait mode is also respectable. Edge detection is still hit or miss. But, this time it is a hit most 6 out of 10 times. Not bad!


The bokeh is still artificial like other phones, but it is more natural looking than other affordable phones. Background blur is actually close to the quality of the Nova 2i in our opinion.


Zoom performance is arguably the best at this price point.


Indoor performance is also decent. Yes, there is a dip in quality versus daylight shots, but it is still quite good for a budget device.


Lowlight performance is also decent. It has less noise and loss of details versus most similarly price phones except the OPPO A83.


Camera Samples

Normal
Normal
2x zoom
2x zoom
Well-lit shot
Well-lit shot
Close-up natural bokeh
Close-up natural bokeh
Wide aperture mode f/4.0
Wide aperture mode f/4.0
Wide aperture mode f/4.0
Indoor f/4.0
Indoor dim shot
Indoor dim shot
Lowlight 1
Lowlight 1
Lowlight 2
Lowlight 2

For selfies, the 13MP f/2.0 primary sensor + 2MP depth sensor reminds us of the Nova 2i.

It still has the portrait mode with bokeh and 10 level face beauty, AR lens, and several filters.


Shooting quality is also as good as the Nova 2i from our memory. Face detection and shooting speed has decent speed.

It also has a tap to focus function if you are on portrait mode. The AR lens is fun to use. It can add cute stickers on your selfies.

It isn't the widest selfie cam around, but it can easily fit 4 to 6 people in one frame.

The Honor 9 Lite's dual selfie cameras is arguably the best in its class. It has good exposure, colors, and contrast most of the time. Details are often sharp than soft as well.

The bokeh mode is also as clean as the cameras at the back. It is very enjoyable to use. The face beauty mode is not that aggressive on level 1 to 3.

But be careful with its face beauty mode, it could really blur your imperfections anything above level 3.

Indoor and lowlight selfie performance is also quite good for the price. Exposure and white balance are still mostly okay. It will just have more grain than your daylight selfies.

However, unlike the Nova 2i, it doesn't have a dedicated LED flash anymore. Fortunately, its screen flash has decent performance for lowlight selfies.


Selfie Camera Samples

Daylight portrait mode
Daylight portrait mode
Indoor selfie
Indoor selfie
Dim selfie
Dim selfie
Lowlight selfie with screen flash
Lowlight selfie with screen flash

For videos, both the back and front cameras can record up to 1080p 30 fps in quality. It has no EIS or OIS for stabilization, so expect your videos to be a shaky if your hands are not steady or you do not have a gimbal or tripod.

For selfie videos, it has a mode where you can shoot 720p beautified videos.

Video Samples


Performance

High scores!
High scores!

Like the higher-end Nova 2i and P20 lite, the Honor 9 Lite runs with the mid-range grade 64-bit Kirin 659 octa-core chipset paired with Mali-T830 MP2 GPU.


At PHP 7,990, it is the most affordable device that runs with the Kirin 659 chip.


Really high scores for the price!

But, unlike those two higher-end above-mentioned Huawei devices, the Honor 9 lite arrived with smaller 3GB RAM and 32GB expandable storage.

For the price, that is understandable. The 3GB RAM and 32GB ROM config is still the average size of RAM and ROM at this price point.


As a result, the phone has very high benchmark score. It got an AnTuTu score of 88K and Geekbench multi-core score of 3.7K! That's higher than the 82K score of the OPPO A83.


But in real life, it isn't as smooth as the benchmark scores suggest. It isn't as snappy as the Nova 2i and P20 lite in performance. The OPPO A83 with lower score is also a bit smoother in my opinion.


Why? There are times where opening of apps is a bit slow. There are also times where it isn't that snappy when you open the camera app and if you will switch from an app to another. Maybe Honor can fix this issue via software update.



For gaming, its can handle most of the light games with ease. Heavier games like NBA 2K18 and PUBG are playable on low settings too. Thermal management is average. It gets warm, but far from hot.

The clean looking EMUI 8.0 skin
The clean looking EMUI 8.0 skin

On the software part, it loads with Android 8.0 Oreo OS out of the box. It is paired by the Huawei-made EMUI 8.0 skin. As expected, it is a heavily skinned UI.
Phone manager and health app

But unlike some skins from the past, it doesn't have much bloats. It is also rich in features. It goes with the phone manager to optimize your phone, several themes, and the health app that tracks your steps and fitness.

You may also choose your home screen style. It may come with or without the app drawer.

As expected, the fingerprint reader of the Honor 9 lite is very fast and snappy. It works 9 out of 10 times. It even has gesture controls to show the notification panel and browse photos. It can also be used to take photo or video, answer calls, and stop the alarm.
Face unlock works!
Face unlock works!

The face unlock also works. It isn't as fast the OPPO A83, but it works 8 out of 10 times even in lowlight. Not bad at all.

The rest of the telephony experience is average for the price. The GSM and 4G LTE signal reception of this device is great, Bluetooth works, it has OTG, gyroscope sensor for VR/AR is present, and it has OTG.

Pros - Legit premium build, good battery performance, best cameras for the price, Oreo out of the box, budget price tag

Cons - Fingerprint smudge magnet without the case, RAM management could have been better

Verdict

The Honor 9 Lite is a SOLID affordable phone. It arguably has the best looking design and most capable cameras in its class. This is the phone to get if you are an aspiring mobile mobile photographer on a budget.

For us, even if it has some minor flaws, the Honor 9 Lite is totally worth it for PHP 7,990 only.


It will be available exclusively between 12AM to 12PM on May 15, 2018 through Honor's official Shopee PH store.


Build / Design - 4.5
Display - 4
Audio - 4
Battery - 4
Camera - 4.25
Performance - 4
Average - 4.125 / 5
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