Goondu review: Honor 9 Lite looks good for its price

May 15th, 2018 | by Alfred Siew
Goondu review: Honor 9 Lite looks good for its price

The Honor 9 Lite impresses with a sleek finish and simple interface. PHOTO: Alfred Siew

If you want to see how far your dollar can stretch when it comes to buying a budget smartphone, look no further than the Honor 9 Lite. 

If I hadn’t told you it costs S$259, you’d be surprised that modest amount can get you flagship-like design and a more-than-competent engine under the sleek finish.

First, a little about Honor for folks in Singapore who are not familiar with it. It’s essentially a Huawei brand that has grown so big that its phones are now sold independently by its own resellers around the world.

If you’ve liked the mirror finish in recent Huawei phones, then the Honor 9 Lite will be welcome as well. The sharp blue finish on the phone is smart yet practical.

Yes, there are fingerprint marks but not as bad as on many others (the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, I’m looking at you). Just make sure you don’t keep it in the same pocket as your keys – it scratches easily, I can tell from experience.

The mirror finish is impressive for a budget phone. PHOTO: Alfred Siew

Looks-wise, I’m also impressed with the slim bezels. With a frontal design that is filled up mostly with the 5.65-inch screen, the 9 Lite is impressive.

The display isn’t too shabby at this price, either. The 2,160 x 1,080 Full HD+ resolution should work fine unless you prefer the Quad HD resolution on many flagships, though you do miss some of the vibrant colours on more costly rivals.

Under the hood, you get decent hardware as well. The Kirin 659 octa-core processor plus 3GB of memory combine for an able engine. Unless you’re into really demanding games on the go, the 9 Lite should cope with most everyday apps you throw at it, like Facebook or Chrome.

Slim bezels in a price-conscious design. PHOTO: Alfred Siew

There’s a modest 32GB of storage onboard (of that, almost 7GB is used up by the firmware). That’s not a lot of space so it’s a good thing you can pop in a microSD card for your songs and photos.

If there’s one thing that’s not up to date, it’s the old micro USB port at the bottom, instead of the current USB-C version. No biggie, I guess, but it just means bringing an extra cable on the road. Some laptops also don’t have micro USB ports any more, so you can’t just plug in and juice up.

In the imaging department, the Honor 9 Lite works fine as well. In fact, the dual-lens front camera which sports a 13-megapixel sensor and a 2-megapixel sensor, will let you fire away with a selfie with a panoramic background.

The dual-lens setup in both front and back cameras mean you get four lenses in all. PHOTO: Alfred Siew

For selfie queens and kings out there, this is something that will come in handy, especially when taking in the backdrop, say, at a scenic spot.

Or, if you prefer, you can also fire away with the background blurred out, with the hardware bokeh effect offered on the phone. Nothing like a narcissistic shot, I guess.

The main camera system also uses two sensors – 13 megapixels and 2 megapixels. There’s an advanced wide-aperture mode that lets in more light so images can be brighter, when needed.

A little too saturated for my liking. PHOTO: Alfred Siew

A mixture of yellow light and natural light at the end of a day. PHOTO: Alfred Siew

Decent exposure with the light filtering through from a setting sun. PHOTO: Alfred Siew

Shot in dim light at night. Colour seems a bit off. PHOTO: Alfred Siew

Shot in dim light at night. Needs to be brighter. PHOTO: Alfred Siew

One thing that does bother me is the slightly red hue in some items I shot. This is not uncommon on many mobile phone cameras nowadays, which go for a more saturated look. I personally prefer a neutral, cooler look.

For a budget phone, the 9 Lite is limited in how well it performs in low-light conditions. Unlike Huawei flagships, it doesn’t sport all the fancy photography tools, and this shows when the sensors are starved of light.

I find the colours a little off when I try shooting items in dim yellow light at home. The images also need a bit of post-processing because they are a little too dark.

One thing I do like is that the 9 Lite comes with Android 8.0. The latest operating system is paired with the EMUI interface that Huawei users will be familiar with.

That’s a good thing because it’s generally lightweight and zippy when switching apps. You also get a lot of options in terms of appearance, for example, in choosing an app drawer or doing without one.

On the whole, you’d say Honor has a budget winner on its hands. The 3,000mAh battery easily lasts past a day, even with Wi-Fi turned on. And you can watch a couple of movies on the phone without juicing up the phone.

A good deal for the money. PHOTO: Alfred Siew

If you’re looking for a cost-friendly phone, you can hardly go wrong with the Honor 9 Lite. For most everyday uses, other than demanding games, you’d be happy with what the phone can do. Plus, it has good looks to match.

The Honor 10, to be unveiled today, will gain even more traction for the Chinese company. Meanwhile, the 9 Lite will delight those seeking a good bargain in a phone.



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