The trend of releasing a less-powerful-but-more affordable phone alongside a flagship handset is showing no signs of slowing down – and the Honor 10 Lite is a good example of how that model can work.
The new phone from the Chinese brand packs in a number of the hallmarks of its more heavily specified sibling, the Honor 10, but drops the cost significantly to allow those that hanker after the 10 an option on a budget.
We’ve spent a few days with the Honor 10 Lite, and while we’ve not been able to run a full suite of tests for a full review, we’ve found a lot to like about this (likely) cut-price phone.
Price and release date
The Honor 10 Lite was released in November 2018, and while we don’t know the price we’re expecting it to land at around £180 / $200 / AU$280 if and when it comes to the UK and other territories.
The Honor 10 has been on sale since May this year, so when the 10 Lite does launch it’ll be interesting to note how much it rides the wave the more heavily-specified phone has created.
It’s in the design of the Honor 10 Lite that you’ll find similar hallmarks to the other, more expensive, handsets from the brand.
The rear of the phone has the same ‘aurora’ effect that Honor and parent brand Huawei are becoming synonymous with, a gradient of shining color that shimmers in the light.
It’s not got the same level of sophistication as some higher-end Honor handsets, which shimmer with cracked light when tilted, but it’s still a striking effect when seen.
The fingerprint scanner on the rear is easy to hit, placed as it is in the middle of the phone, and the ridged edges are easily noted when extending a digit.
There are two cameras on the rear – again, not too bad for the price – and they’re slightly raised way from the body, although we didn’t really notice them getting in the way too much.
The feel of the Honor 10 Lite in the hand is one of a higher premium than you might expect for the cost, with the curved edges sitting nicely in the palm. However, there’s a definite lightness to the phone that makes it feel a little cheaper – compare it to something like the Huawei Mate series, or the Honor Magic 2 (which chucks in nearly every high spec possible from the brand) and there’s a marked difference in the feel, with the added weight offering a more premium experience.
At the the bottom of the phone you’ve got a single speaker firing downwards, a micro-USB connection and a headphone jack. While the speaker isn’t the highest quality, nor does it sound anywhere near as good as other higher-end handsets’ dual speaker setup, the inclusion of a headphone jack is still welcome and helps offset the poorer audio quality from the speaker.
Once again, Honor has decided against a QHD screen, instead opting for a Full HD display instead. It’s got the longer display, in a 19:9 format, and it’s packing in 2230 x 1080 pixels.
The LCD screen offers 415 pixel density, which isn’t far off the Retina levels you’ll get on an iPhone. It might lack the overall image quality that you’d get with an OLED display on a Samsung or Apple handset, but for the price difference we can’t say we missed elements like HDR or the like.
The fact the screen extends further to the edges of the display is going to attract a few users – there’s no notch at the top, rather a small teardrop that houses the front-facing camera.
This camera is used for selfies (obviously) and the facial recognition… while this is fast, it feels far from secure given the speed with which we managed to set up the unlocking mechanism.
The 13MP camera on the Honor 10 Lite is hugely impressive for a handset of this price. We compared it to the iPhone XS Max, and while there were times where the more expensive phone far outshone its cheaper competitor (for instance, picking up detail when in darker conditions) there were far more instances where there wasn’t a lot of difference between the two.
In mixed lighting conditions we didn’t see a huge amount of difference, and although in darker scenes the 10 Lite brought more exposure, it wasn’t a bad photo nor did it lack in color – for someone using the phone without any comparison, they wouldn’t be massively disappointed.
The 10 Lite uses the AI camera, which adds a level of processing after many photos. It will try and pick out more light, but being able to see how the photo looks with and without the effect shows there’s often very little difference between the two – although we haven’t tried all the different modes.
The front-facing camera is less impressive, thanks to the fact that there’s that horrid ‘smoothing’ effect that gives a weirdly ethereal feel to proceedings when taking selfies – it’s far from natural.
The battery life in our early tests has been pretty good so far – there’s a 3,400mAh battery pack in there.
For a phone that’s supposed to last a day on a single charge, we can’t fault that claim so far – combined with the Kirin 710 chip inside, which has the 12nm architecture and thus is meant to be more efficient to use compared to other mid-range chipsets of the same ilk.
It seems to have helped that claim, as while we’ve not been using the 10 Lite as our primary device regularly, using it as a wireless hotspot hasn’t led to a dramatic reduction in power.
As mentioned, the Honor 10 Lite is using the Kirin 710 CPU, combined with either 4GB or 6GB of RAM, alongside 64GB or 128GB of internal storage.
It’s also using Android 9 Pie out of the box, alongside the latest version of EMUI – which is a little onerous in terms of a user interface, but does pack some neat features to make the phone more usable.
There’s a phone optimizer, which does seem to help clean things up and make everything run a little smoother, and when the Honor 10 Lite does something like turn off a hotspot as it’s noticed it’s not being used, a little notification will appear to tell you why.
In terms of the raw performance, it’s not the very best out there – for instance, opening a photo you’ve just snapped takes a little longer than you might expect, and flipping between apps is slower than with a premium flagship.
There are times when you can tap an app or a notification and nothing will happen – you’ll open another app and then suddenly the former will appear. However, this isn’t the final software that we’re running, so we’d assume this will improve soon.
The Honor 10 Lite is an impressive phone… if it comes at a price similar the one it launched in China with.
Anything more than that and you’re going to start feel like you’re paying for some slight compromises in performance, but overall this is a phone that offers decent battery life, a smart camera and a slick design without breaking the bank.