While most of the media and expert attention is often saved for more flagship smartphones, the mid-range market still remains the largest segment of smartphone with great potential to increase in market size going forward. It’s for this reason that many larger OEMs have started to focus on delivering more value for customers in this segment to stand out from the rest, with the likes of Samsung, LG, Sony and Huawei all also playing in this space.
The Honor brand has been around as long as Huawei’s flagship P range and has grown to the point where the company made the decision to rebrand the Honor lineup under its own badge to focus on providing better quality and marketing for consumers. In the form of the recently launched Honor 10 Lite, there was a clear focus on delivering great performance with great features and aesthetics, matched by a great price. On its own, the mid-range smartphone is great, but how does it stack up against the competition as well as some of the more flagship units available in 2019?
Build and Design
During the Honor 10 Lite’s launch event, the team spent a significant amount of time on two aspects of the smartphone, one of which is its build and design. There’s a reason for this. For the most part, it looks and feels great. With a frame measuring just 8mm thick and weighing in at 162g, it compares well against even the flagship units. The majority of the unit has been built from plastic, keeping the weight down. While the rear may look and feel like glass, it’s also plastic, very good plastic. There are also some handy additions such as the pre-fitted screen protector as a courtesy. The unit also includes a fingerprint scanner on the rear, which is positioned in the middle below the camera. It works well, too, with good accuracy.
Despite its large screen, the 10 Lite is designed well enough so that it feels comfortable in hand regardless. In addition to this, there are also a number of colours to choose from including Sky Blue, Midnight Black and Sapphire Blue. These colours are similar to that of last year’s range of Huawei smartphones. The layout is pretty straight-forward, with the power button and volume rocker on the right-hand side, two cameras on the rear, downward-firing speakers and a headphone jack. There are, however, two major downfalls on the design. The unit still sports a microUSB port for charging. In 2019, this is a big no-no. With the majority of mid to high-end smartphones sporting the, now standard, Type-C port, having separate cables will start to clutter your desk space again. The second issue is the two camera bumps, which means the device doesn’t lie flush on the table. Thankfully, there is a rear cover included in the box, which, when added, creates a flatter rear surface.
Overall, the Honor 10 Lite is both a good-looking smartphone, as well as feels good in hand.
Screen and Display
The Honor 10 Lite sports a massive 6.21” screen, which is quite significant for a midrange smartphone. With a screen-to-body ration of over 83% as well, the design is also quite good with the minimal bezel to speak of. The unit sports a Full HD+ FullView IPS LCD panel fitted under the glass protection. With a resolution of 1080x2340px and pixel density of 415ppi, it makes for a pretty good screen as well. For almost two years, the notch was the standard front-facing camera option of choice, which has been reduced to something significantly smaller in the Honor 10 Lite, switching to the round ‘Dewdrop’ approach.
The colours on the screen are bright and bold. There are a number of options in the settings to change things up. These options include adjusting the colour temperature as well as the night mode with the Eye Comfort setting. While it may be a little down on the more premium devices in terms of resolution, you won’t easily notice any major differences. There are a few small improvements that could be made, such as with the angled viewing, but with predominately single-person viewing, it’s not a major concern. The biggest difference between the screen on the 10 Lite and the more premium smartphones is the contrast for which devices like the Galaxy S10 and P30 ranges have much deeper blacks.
As with the Huawei P30 and Mate 20 smartphones of late, the 10 Lite can switch functionality of the device to use gestures to switch between apps instead of the onscreen buttons. This provides additional real estate on the screen for better viewing. It takes a bit of getting used to at the start, but the ‘larger’ screen makes it worth it.
Performance and Battery Life
Being a midrange smartphone, there would surely be areas where Honor would have to cut some costs. The first of these cost-cutting techniques came in the form of the predominately plastic frame. The second area is in the form of the chipset. The Honor 10 Lite sports a Kirin 710 SoC under the hood, the same that are fitted to the recently launched Huawei P30 Lite – or the Honor 8X for that matter. The chipset has an Octa-core (x4 2.2GHz Cortex-A73 and x4 1.7GHz Cortex-A53) with a Mali-G51 MP4 GPU. There a quite a few variants of the device when it comes to both RAM and internal storage, which includes a 64/128GB with 6GB RAM, 64GB with 3/4GB RAM, or 32GB with 3GB RAM. The unit I received for review was the 64GB with 3GB RAM, which delivered more adequate performances.
For conventional, everyday usage, the Honor 10 Lite does a really good job, even while multitasking and the likes. More often than not I would browse with multiple tabs open in the browser and then switch to run other apps or games without needing to clear the system memory. Throughout all the testing, there is only really one area where the unit underperformed, that being the more graphically-intensive games. Computationally, the games loaded fast enough, but when it came to actually rendering more sophisticated graphics, there was noticeable lag at times in games like Fortnite. That said, it wasn’t the case across all games. What’s interesting, however, is that Honor has formerly stated that they will offer their own version of the GPU Turbo 2.0 update as seen on the Huawei devices, which may boost these performances and make the device a real winner.
When it comes to the overall battery life, the unit faired really well. With its non-removable, Li-Po 3400mAh battery, the Honor 10 Lite could easily surpass a single day worth of usage. At times during testing where the device was used as a second device instead, it lasted three to four days. When switched to my daily driver, the longest I could eke out was close to a day and a half with average usage. Even on the days where I used it more frequently, while using the camera apps, GPS and social media, it comfortably took me through a standard workday with no stress.
Software and Camera
Another of the features taken from the parent OEM is the version of Android 9.0 Pie pre-installed on the Honor 10 Lite. It includes the same EMUI 9.0.1 running on the P30 Pro and their other flagship units. This addition makes the UX on the 10 Lite very slick with the Digital Balance spin Huawei has developed. This allows users to track their usage throughout the day and use AI features to minimise your daily usage as well as introduce Bedtime mode to ease your usage as bedtime approaches, using features such as reducing the volume, screen brightness, blue light and the likes. The biggest omission from the version of EMUI on the 10 Lite over the P30 range is the ‘one-handed’ optimisation, although this isn’t a significant loss in the end.
Another of the big highlights from the launch event was the Honor 10 Lite’s cameras, both the front and rear-facing. In fact, more emphasis was placed on the 24MP selfie-camera than what’s fitted to the rear. The front-facing camera includes quite a few additional features over conventional selfie-cameras, including a pro-mode and the likes. The enhancements to the front-facing camera also makes for better facial recognition and unlocking, although not as smooth and effortless as the fingerprint sensor. As is always the case with modern selfie-cameras, there are a lot of beautification tools in self-portrait mode, additionally being able to offer some bokeh effects with blurred backgrounds, as well as noise reduction in low-light conditions. At the end of the day, the quality of the 24MP camera isn’t as significant as one would expect even with the AI scene enhancements, but there are sufficient tools on hand to make the difference compared to similarly-priced smartphones.
Despite its dual-lens camera on the rear, there’s very little to discuss about the camera on the whole. The most significant features on the camera is the use of the AI-enhanced scenes, which can make images really pop with bold colours, while also missing the mark with poorly adjusted scenes on the odd occasion. For this reason, it would be better to take three or four snaps at a time to make sure that all is in order in the end. The biggest drawback on the unit is the lack of low-light capabilities on the rear-facing camera. While it does have a Night Mode in the camera app, there are quite a few instances of noise and graining in the shots. Still, compared to other midrange units, the results are superior to most in the end.
The Honor 10 Lite isn’t the best smartphone around, but it goes a long way to beating when it comes to one of the best midrange devices around. With a retail price of just R4,599, there’s a lot going for it to make it worth anyone’s while. Apart from the missing Type-C support and one or two smaller concerns, there’s a lot to love about the unit. There will be significant improvements with the soon-to-be-released GPU Turbo 2.0 for gaming enhancements, which will boost some of the stats in its favour. With a lot of emphasis placed on looks and the selfie-camera, it ticks a few boxes for users in this space, which makes it a really good buy in the end.
The Honor 10 Lite takes the midrange market to the next level, more than able to compete with the higher-end smartphones on a number of features, while still offering a sub-R6000 smartphone.