Huawei's sub-brand Honor flooded the smartphone market with multiple offerings last year. The company focussed mainly on the budget segment, with good designs and efficient hardware. We also got the Honor Play, a powerful gaming-centric smartphone aimed at budget-conscious buyers. The first smartphone for 2019 from the Chinese manufacturer is the Honor 10 Lite. It is powered by the relatively new Kirin 710 SoC and has a big display with a small dewdrop notch. What is interesting is that the Honor 10 Lite price in India puts it in a hot segment, where multiple manufacturers are already exchanging blows. Can the Honor 10 Lite deliver the knockout punch? We review it to find out.
Honor 10 Lite design
You know this is an Honor phone when you first look at its glossy back panel. Honor is known to use this kind of finish on its devices, and the Honor 10 Lite comes in three different glossy colours: Sapphire Blue, Sky Blue, and Midnight Black. We had the Sapphire Blue variant for review, and it reminded us of the Honor 8X (Review) and the Honor 9N (Review).
While the back does attract a lot of attention, it also picks up smudges very easily. Honor ships a transparent case in the box which helps with this. The 10 Lite is the first smartphone from Honor with a dewdrop notch. The tiny notch sits in the centre at the top of the display and only houses the selfie camera. In order to make the notch this small, Honor has moved the earpiece towards the frame of the smartphone. The notification LED has been moved to the bottom bezel, and you'll only notice it when it lights up.
The front is dominated by a 6.21-inch display surrounded by thin bezels all around it. Honor claims that the chip-on-film screen technology it has used enables it to avoid having a thick chin by curving the layer with the circuitry downwards. The frame as well as the back of the phone are made out of plastic and don't feel premium to the touch. This might be an attempt to keep the cost and the weight of the device down.
The dewdrop notch on the Honor 10 Lite
Honor has positioned the power and volume buttons on the right. The power button is easy to hit but you might have to shuffle the phone in your hand to reach the volume buttons. The left side of the phone is bare, as the SIM tray now sits on the top alongside a secondary microphone. We fear that the placement of the secondary microphone might confuse people into pushing the SIM ejector tool into this hole instead of the SIM tray itself.
At the bottom, the phone has a Micro-USB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, the primary mic, and a bottom-firing loudspeaker. Honor ships a 10W charger in the box to top the phone up. The Honor 10 Lite has a dual camera setup at the back along with a single LED flash and the fingerprint scanner. Honor has curved the sides of the phone which makes it comfortable to hold.
Honor 10 Lite specifications and software
Honor claims that the 10 Lite has a 91 percent screen-to-body ratio thanks to its big display. The 6.21-inch panel has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and a full-HD+ resolution. There is no mention of any sort of protection for the display, so you may want to be careful while handling the device. Honor does pre-apply a screen protector which should keep it safe from minor scratches.
Powering the Honor 10 Lite is the Huawei Kirin 710 SoC, which is also seen powering phones like the Huawei Nova 3i (Review) and the Honor 8X. It is an octa-core processor based on a 12nm process and is clocked at 2.2GHz. The Honor 10 Lite comes in 4GB RAM and 6GB RAM variants, though storage remains the same at 64GB with both.
If you aren't satisfied with the storage, you can expand it by up to 512GB using the hybrid dual-SIM slot. If you aren't expanding storage, you can use two Nano-SIMs. The device has support for dual 4G VoLTE. Other connectivity options include Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, GPS, and GLONASS.
The Honor 10 Lite is powered by a HiSilicon Kirin 710 SoC
The 10 Lite is the first smartphone from Honor to ship with Android Pie out-of-the-box. Our review unit was running EMUI 9.0.1 on top with the November security patch. It's similar to what we have seen with previous versions of EMUI but it does have a few additions. The first is the Digital Balance app, which is similar to Digital Wellbeing on stock Android. It gives you a breakdown of how you have spent your time on this smartphone.
You'll also find a screen management setting that lets you limit screen time in general or for specific apps. Finally, it has the option to switch the screen to grayscale when it's bedtime. As a parent, you can also set screen time and app restrictions here, and secure them with a passcode.
Just like most other recently launched smartphones, you get the option to enable gestures-based navigation. This hides the standard Android navigation bar, and you have to swipe to navigate instead. There are other gesture controls such as flip to mute and three-finger screenshot. Honor has also baked in theme support which makes it easy for you to change how the UI looks, right from the icon pack to the lock screen style and font.
Honor 10 Lite performance, battery life, and cameras
The Kirin 710 is capable of running the day-to-day tasks without breaking into a sweat. Our review unit was the variant with 4GB of RAM, and we found that it was capable of delivering a smooth experience for day-to-day use. We did not find any lag or stutter, and the phone could multitask easily.
During our use, we found the fingerprint scanner to be slow to unlock the smartphone. The Honor 10 Lite also has a face unlock feature which uses the selfie camera. Face recognition was faster than the fingerprint scanner and worked in most lighting scenarios.
Honor 10 Lite packs dual 4G VoLTE support
We put the Honor 10 Lite through a couple of benchmarks to see how it fares. In AnTuTu, the phone scored 1,29,535, and it also managed 1539 and 5502 in Geekbench 4's single-core and multi-core tests respectively. The phone managed 36fps in GFXBench T-Rex and 13fps in Manhattan 3.1. In 3DMark Slingshot, it scored 947, and it maxed out in 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme. The Kirin 710 scores higher than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 in CPU benchmarks but falls behind in GPU tests.
The Honor 10 Lite ran games like PUBG Mobile at the Medium setting with the graphics at Balanced and Frame Rate set to Medium. With these settings, we did not notice lag while gaming. We observed that the battery drain was 11 percent after 36 minutes of PUBG Mobile.
The 3400mAh battery in the Honor 10 Lite lasted for 11 hours and 20 minutes in our HD video loop test. Our usage consisted of an active WhatsApp account, about an hour of gaming, 50 minutes of navigation using Google Maps and a few YouTube videos, and we were still left with 46 percent at the end of 24 hours. Honor does not supply a fast charger in the box, and the standard 10W charger is slow to charge the phone.
Honor has gone with a dual rear camera setup for the 10 Lite consisting of a 13-megapixel primary camera and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. For selfies, you get a 24-megapixel shooter that sits in the notch. The camera software is similar to what we have seen on other Honor phones, and the company boasts of AI for both the primary as well as the selfie cameras.
There are Aperture, Night, Portrait, Panorama, Pro, and Time-lapse modes, apart from the usual photo and video modes. HDR is a different mode instead of a quick toggle, which would have been preferred. HiVision, the AI feature we have seen on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro (Review), is also available, but is limited to identifying objects, translating text, and scanning QR codes.
The Honor 10 Lite is quick to focus and can meter scenes correctly. With the AI mode enabled, the smartphone could detect what it was pointed towards. The output in this mode, however, was too saturated. While skies looked bluer and grass looked greener on the phone's display, this made shots look more artificial overall.
Tap to see full-sized Honor 10 Lite camera samples
In several instances, we noted that photos taken without AI were better than ones taking using the AI mode, with this behaviour particularly noticeable with macro shots. The Honor 10 Lite also managed decent separation between the subject and the background.
Portrait mode on the Honor 10 Lite did not deliver good results. Edge detection wasn't accurate, and the phone did not blur backgrounds completely in a few instances. In landscape shots, the Honor 10 Lite failed to capture details in objects at a distance.
Low-light performance too was below average. If AI is enabled, it enables night mode automatically which keeps the shutter open for longer. This resulted in blurry shots if the subjects moved at all. Photos taken at night did not have much noise, but missed out on details.
The selfie camera has beautification enabled by default, which will smoothen faces. You can switch it off completely or tweak the level of beautification. There's a Bokeh mode as well, which lets you blur backgrounds. However, it does not let you tweak the level of the blur.
Video recording maxes out at 1080p for both the primary as well as the selfie cameras. You also have the option to record footage at 60fps with the rear camera. However, this phone lacks image stabilisation which results in shaky output.
The lower priced variant of the Honor 10 Lite is yet another smartphone in the very competitive sub-Rs. 15,000 price segment. In order to stand out, the 10 Lite sports a glossy finish. It also is the first phone from Honor to have a dewdrop notch and to ship with Android Pie out-of-the-box.
The Kirin 710 SoC is powerful and does manage to stand up against the Snapdragon 660 SoC which is quite popular in this segment. Where the Honor 10 Lite falters are its cameras. It faces stiff competition from the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2 (Review), the Realme U1 (Review), and the Xiaomi Mi A2 (Review), which recently got a price cut. While the 4GB/ 64GB variant is worth considering at Rs. 13,999, we think the 6GB/ 64GB variant priced at Rs. 17,999 is much less appealing compared to other options under Rs. 20,000.