Honor 9 Lite Review: Another brilliant budget blower?

The Honor 9 Lite is another great value Honor smartphone, although we’re wondering if the company needs to launch quite so many handsets. Here’s our in-depth Honor 9 Lite review, so you know how this blower compares with its siblings and rivals.

Honor 9 Lite review: Design

Although it’s called the Honor 9 Lite, this mobile shares more design DNA with the likes of the Honor 7X and Honor V10. That display once again practically fills the phone’s front panel, with only a slender surround (‘Fullview’, as Honor terms it). Considering the similarly slender asking price, the Lite is certainly a looker.

Of course, you don’t get quite the same premium finish as the Honor 9. Gone are those subtle curves and fine detailing, replaced with a flat back that doesn’t feel quite as palm-pleasing. All the same, I like that glossy surfacing combined with matte edges, all shaded with Honor’s signature blue colour. The shiny rear picks up scuffs and prints in no time though, so keep a cloth handy.

Note that you can also pick up the Honor 9 Lite in black or grey finishes. But come on, that blue is freaking gorgeous.

This ‘Lite’ handset is a lot larger than the flagship device, at 5.65-inches. That means it’s quite tricky to use one-handed, despite the slender bezels surrounding the display. Thankfully Huawei’s EMUI 8 software helps out in this area, as we’ll touch on later.

Honor 9 Lite review: Screen and media

The standard Honor 9 rocked a 5.15-inch display with a conventional 16:9 aspect ratio. In comparison, the Honor 9 Lite expands this to a 5.65-inch panel, with a ‘stretched’ 18:9 aspect ratio.

I was certainly happy enough using the Lite model to enjoy some flicks and shows on the go. That spacious screen and the reduced letterboxing make for a comfortable watch, even for extended periods. The Full HD+ resolution keeps visuals sharp. And while colours don’t quite pop, you can fiddle around with colour temperature in the settings menu to suit your preferences.

Audio blasts out of a dinky mono speaker housed on the bottom edge of the 9 Lite. This is perfectly fine for watching some YouTube on the go, although it tends to get drowned out in louder environments. Thankfully you have a 3.5mm jack and Bluetooth 4.1 support for connecting some headphones when needed.

As for storage, the Lite model packs in just 32GB of space for your media and apps. Thankfully the phone’s storage can be expanded using microSD memory cards, up to 256GB in size.

Honor 9 Lite review: Features and OS

Like other recent Honor handsets, the Honor 9 Lite packs in Huawei’s Emotion UI software on top of Android Oreo. EMUI 8 adds a whole heap of bonus features, which mostly help with everyday use.

You can check out our full EMUI 8 review if you want to see our in-depth coverage of these features. In a nutshell however, the likes of the one-handed mode and gesture controls make handling the Honor 9 Lite that little bit more comfortable. You can customise pretty much every part of the software to your liking.

And Honor has included quite a few first party apps, including pointless stuff like the Mirror and more useful bits like the Phone Manager. The latter allows you to monitor your battery, storage and data usage, while also including virus scan and number blocking features.

You’ll find a fingerprint sensor slapped on the back, for quickly and securely unlocking to your desktops. This falls naturally underneath your fingertip when you snatch up the handset, helped by the indentation. Best of all, it’s one of the most responsive scanners we’ve used. Tap your digit and you’ll almost instantly be ready to rock. Most full-priced premium devices, including Samsung’s Galaxy S9, can’t boast the same performance.

Honor 9 Lite review: Performance and battery life

The Honor 9 Lite is powered by the modest Kirin 659 chipset, backed by 3GB of memory. This still proves fine for everyday use, although I certainly saw plenty of little pauses as I opened apps and returned to the phone’s desktops. That said, the latest games run with a smooth enough framerate. The Honor 9 Lite can certainly cope when it matters most.

As for battery tech, the Lite model has a 3000mAh cell stuffed inside. Thanks to the energy efficient nature of the Kirin platform, that’s big enough to keep you going all day long, even with quite intensive use. Battery drain is reassuringly minimal when the phone is hibernating. Only blasting through games on your commute or toilet break will make a serious dent.

And if you do find yourself struggling, the EMUI 8 overlay serves up all kinds of features to help. As well as the Power Saving Mode and Ultra Power Saving Mode, you get the likes of a battery optimisation feature. This culls any apps that are sucking juice in the background, to give you longer life when needed.

Honor 9 Lite review: Cameras

On the back of the new Honor 9 Lite, you’ll unsurprisingly find a dual lens camera. In this case it’s a 13-megapixel primary lens, backed by a 2-megapixel second lens for depth perception.

However, more surprising is the front-facing camera, which also boasts two lenses with those same exact specs. You can shoot up to Full HD 1080p video using both the front and back snappers, while Honor has crammed in loads of bonus camera features to boot.

Check out our in-depth Honor 9 Lite camera review for photo and video samples and our full thoughts.

Honor 9 Lite review: Verdict

The Honor 9 Lite is a solid budget smartphone, offering full functionality for media lovers who want a big-screen experience on the move. Of course, there’s not much to differentiate it from other recent affordable Honor and Huawei smartphones. That dual lens selfie camera doesn’t offer much of an upgrade over a single lens experience, while the phone itself is almost identical to the Honor V10, Honor 7X and Huawei P Smart in many respects.