We’ve been looking at Honor devices for years here at MobileTechTalk, whether it be the flagships like the Honor 6 Plus or the entry-level devices like the 7s, so we are always happy to check out their new “Lite” device. We got an early look at the Honor 10 Lite, and boy, it offers a lot of bang, for not a lot of money.
- Lovely Screen
- Great design
- Stellar Battery
- Good performance
- Surprising camera
- EMUI9 is buggy
- Second camera is near useless
Disclaimer: Honor UK provided us with this Honor 10 Lite for review. We were able to use the 10 Lite for 3 weeks pre-release. In this time the 10 Lite received not Firmware updates nor Security patches. I (Dom) used the 10 lite on the UK Three network in the southeast of the UK.
- 6.21” IPS LCD
- 2340×1080 (19.5:9)
- “Dew Drop” notch
- HiSilicon Kirin 710 SoC
- 4x Cortex A73 @2.2Ghz
- 4x Cortex A53 @1.7Ghz
- Mali G51 MP4 GPU
- 4GB/64GB version
- 6GB/128GB version
- 13mp Main Camera
- 2mp depth sensing Camera
- 24mp Selfie camera
- 3400mAh battery
- 5v2a Charging
- 3.5mm headphone jack.
- Android 9
For a more in-depth look at the Honor 10 Lite’s Specs, head on over to the GSMArena page here
From a design standpoint, Honor did a lot right here. The Honor 10 Lite, especially in the Sky Blue colour, is really rather pretty, looking far more expensive than it’s £199.99 price tag would suggest.
Up front, the Honor 10 Lite, like most 2018 phones, has a notch, but the notch in the 6.21” display of the 10 Lite is really rather small, Honor calls it a dewdrop notch, but I think it looks more like a receding hairline, but at this point we’re just splitting hairs (pun intended) This is a much smaller notch than what people are used to. We saw the initial notch with the iPhone X, and that was super wide, we then saw smaller ones like on the P20 Pro and the G7 ThinQ, and even smaller ones like the one on the Essential PH-1, the one on the Honor 10 lite is very close in size to the Essential PH-1’s notch. I have never really cared that much about notches, for one I’m not staring at the top of the display all that often, and most notches are made so they do not intrude into the actual screen, they just reside in the status bar area, so if you have an app that doesn’t actively colour code the status bar, which they’re allowed to do, it just shows up black. This isn’t actively hiding the notch behaviour, this is just normal behaviour for Android when the developer doesn’t try to colour match. It also happens on the home screen if you use a dark or graduated wallpaper. If that still just isn’t enough for you, Huawei gives you the option in EMUI to hide the notch. It blacks out the entire top so you can’t see it.
Above the screen is the teeny tiny earpiece speaker, once again, much like Essential did with the PH-1, Honor has moved the earpiece up into the little space between the display and the chassis. This teeny tiny slit of an earpiece kind of exemplifies the “Don’t judge a book by its cover” phrase, as wow is this surprisingly good. For some reason during this review period, I had to make a lot of phone calls, whether they be network-based traditional calls, or VOIP calls through apps like Hangouts, Whatsapp, Telegram etc. The earpiece on the Honor 10 Lite kinda blew me away. Calls were sufficiently loud, nothing too crazy there, but the range of sounds seemed to be broader than most anything else I’ve used. Whether you make a lot of phone calls or not, it’s nice to see Huawei/Honor still putting this much effort into things. Sadly, the earpiece doesn’t double as a speaker in landscape mode, otherwise, it would have been perfect.
Below the screen, there is nothing, well apart from a sneakily well-hidden notification LED that is, sadly not centred. One of the reasons this is so impressive is that I don’t really have to mention a chin because there isn’t really one. Honor has once again implemented the CoF (Chip on Film) tech to take the smarts of the screen that is usually hidden in the black bezel, put it on a flexible film, and bent it under the screen, this gives the appearance of a much more expensive device, and also gives the front a more uniform design, no negatives to me.
Checking out the rest of the chassis, up top we have the secondary microphone used for noise cancelling and the NanoSIM and the MicroSD slot. Flipping 180 and looking at the bottom, we see the I/O, the dreaded MicroUSB port as well as the still loved 3.5mm headphone jack, along with the main microphone and the speaker. The speaker is fine but on the lower end of fine. It’s tinny at anything about 70% and doesn’t get as loud as I’d like anyway, and, of course, it’s mono, not stereo.
The Big issue for me is the continued use of MicroUSB. 3 years ago, it was understandable to not have it, it was new, quite expensive, not many places to buy inexpensive cables etc, I get it. 2 years ago it was less understandable, but some of those reasons still applied. A Year ago, it was getting annoying, as we’d seen plenty of other OEMs adopt USB-C on their lower end hardware, and in late 2018, Early 2019, It’s getting absolutely ridiculous. Not quite a deal breaker yet, but it is at the point where In conversation, the fact it uses MicroUSB is brought and up and frowned upon. It’s not even that MicroUSB is just old (though, it is) It’s also just not a good connector. It is fragile, it is mono-directional, has a Limited amount of pins without moving to the cumbersome MicroUSB 3.0 port. The only benefit to keeping it around is that the parts are cheap and that people still have the cables, this is a poor reason to keep this despicable port around.
The left-hand side of the phone has nothing at all, seriously, it’s bare. The right-hand side has the Power button and volume rocker. These buttons are a tad higher than I’d like and are wobblier than I’d. From what I understand this is near final, if not Final hardware, so this is a little disappointing.
Lastly, the rear. Like most Honor phones, the dual camera module is in the top left with the flash beneath it, along with the “AI Camera” branding that I think is, at this point, overused. The bottom left of the phone has the (old) Honor logo so that when held in landscape (like a camera) the Honor Logo is in the correct orientation. Lastly, in the top middle is the fingerprint sensor. It’s in the right place, it’s accurate, but it is noticeably slower than other Huawei fingerprint scanner, I assume this is a bug that can be fixed with future software OTA though.
I really am a fan of the design of the Honor 10 Lite, It’s narrow enough to feel comfortable despite the large screen, and it is really quite pretty, especially in the Sky Blue colour. It is all plastic, don’t let Honor try to fool you, but it is not creaky plastic, do I wish it felt a bit more substantial? Sure, but what would have had to give way on the rest of the phone to do that?
I have spoken at length about how I feel about EMUI, so I’ll try not to spend too long on that here, but Android 9 Pie on the Honor 10 Lite is awesome, and with it comes EMUI9, the newest version of Huawei and Honor’s custom user interface. I have to give Huawei and Honor credit where it is due. It would be easy to ship your cheaper phones with older software such as Android 8.1, but they didn’t, and I thank them for that.
EMUI9 isn’t as much of an upgrade from EMUI 8.1 as Android is from 8.1 to 9, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any differences. Probably the most noticeable off the bat, but the least interesting is the change in the ‘recents’ menu. The new ‘recents’ menu has horizontal cards representing apps instead of the vertical scrolling Rolodex that was there before. Fun fact if you’ve not been paying attention or are just new here. This is actually a throwback to the old EMUI3 Days, though this is a nicer implementation for sure.
Instead of harping on about aesthetic changes, I’m going to talk about some of the usability and experience changes with this release, and sadly, not all of them are good. For a while, it seemed like Huawei was getting better with things like their memory management. But when I was using the Honor 10 Lite, I had so many issues with apps closing in the background, or when the screen was off, more so than other devices, even other Huawei devices, like my P20 Pro and Mate 10 Pro don’t have this.
Some of the better changes in EMUI9 and Android 9 are things like Digital wellbeing, something that gives you an insight into your phone usage, what apps you use most, how much screen time etc. and also ways to curb your usage such as screen time limits etc. I have other devices with Android 9 but on the Honor 10 Lite, I purposefully set it up to see how good it actually is. Is it annoying, is the setup harder than it should be etc. and wow was it easy, also I spend way too much time on Twitter and Instagram.
Another new introduction in Android 9 is gesture navigation, but Huawei has forgone using Google’s navigation gestures for their own, and whilst Google’s are somewhat problematic, at least they do not break some core UI paradigms of Android, such as the hamburger menu. In Huawei Gestures a simple swipe up takes you home, a swipe up and hold takes you into recents, and a swipe on the left or right edge of the screen takes you back. This, in theory, is fine, except that swiping up for home, flashes the recent screen first, making you think you executed the wrong gesture. The other issue is that you can’t choose which side (left or right) the back gesture works on and because Android uses the hamburger menu interface quite often, sliding in from the left to open those menus often makes you go back. You might not think you use those apps often, but two of them are the Google Play Store and the Twitter app, as well as many others. This is such an issue for me as a leftie that I had to switch back within the hour of trying to force myself to use it.
Stability wise, there are some other issues which I’ve encountered on 5 different devices all running a different version of Android 9 and EMUI9, most of which have to do with the recents menu, the most baffling one is a weird blue hue that comes across the display every now and then. It’s only confined to the recents page, and once you enter into the app or go to the home screen, it goes away. It also isn’t there every time you open the recents menu, just randomly shows up a few times a day. I’ve found this bug on my P20 Pro on Pie, my Mate 10 Pro, a Mate 20 pro and a Mate 20, as well as speaking to other reviewers with this device, the fact the same issue is happening on multiple devices with multiple builds but only on Huawei devices means this is an EMUI issue. The other is more of a nitpick, wherein if you go into the recent menu and try to jump into an app that isn’t in the focus point (the centre app, not one of the 2 partials either side) it just craps the bed and jumps back to the home screen.
I hate to crap on Honor’s software, as it’s the easy thing to do. It isn’t the prettiest, it’s very influenced by iOS etc, but in this case, there are some pretty annoying bugs and some things (like the gestures) that just don’t seem fully thought out, which kinda bums me out, as I was actually just starting to not detest EMUI.
This was actually better than I was expecting. After using the Honor 8X and being somewhat disappointed by it, the camera on the Honor 10 Lite was somewhat surprising. I’m still not a fan of the idea of having a secondary camera that’s sole purpose is to sense depth, whether it be a lowly 2mp sensor like here or the much more impressive ToF (Time of Flight) sensor on the View20, because it feels to me that the only benefit to those is slightly better (if at all) portrait shots, which isn’t the vast majority of what people will do on their phone. Drop the second sensor and budget a little more to the primary sensor, or give it a better lens.
The 13mp+2mp setup on the Honor 10 Lite is, as I said somewhat surprising, I was ready to go into this being super meh about it, but on the train back from my pre-brief, I took a shot of the London Eye out of the Window of a Moving train in HDR mode and damn, I was blown away by the shot that came out. It isn’t the smoothest, sharpest, most colour accurate photo ever, but as MKBHD’s video pointed out, that isn’t always what people want in a photo, sometimes they just want colour or contrast, and for the most part, this delivers.
The App used is the standard Huawei/Honor camera app and it’s fine, but I think at this point they’ve added so many features to it that it’s not only become computationally bloated but also feature bloated. The amount of presets on the main screen is kinda nuts and feels like most could be hidden in the “more” tab. Aside from that, the settings menu seems to be adequately populated for the most part and easy to navigate. My problem though is the performance, changing modes takes longer than it should, switching to the front camera takes longer than it should, the only thing that seems snappy is when it turns on and off the AI optimizations, which is weird. After trying 5 times to take a portrait shot and it either crashing the app or locking the phone up, I gave up trying to take any portrait shots on the Honor 10 Lite, but I can’t imagine they’d be very impressive even if I did.
The front camera was more interesting to me. The 24mp native sensor is remarkably large, but then I found out why, Honor does pixel binning (also called pixel Fusion by Huawei) to combine the data from 4 pixels into one larger pixel, and for a quick refresher in photography, the bigger the pixel size, the more light it can absorb, the more light it can absorb, the better the low light photos, the better contrast etc. so in doing this, Honor takes the 24mp camera and makes it 6mp, and whilst that sounds like you’d take a big downgrade in quality, you’re going from 0.9 micron pixels to 1.8 micron pixels. The one big issue though is the lack of Autofocus. On a device so focused on selfies, I think that including Autofocus would have been a better inclusion than the secondary camera on the rear.
Overall, the Honor 10 Lite’s camera surprised me. It’s not the best, it still gets spanked by most others in most areas, but in it’s price range, it’s pretty impressive, and of course, like practically every other phone on the market, if you’ve got enough natural light, and want to compose your shot, you can get some amazing shots with this phone, but for running and gunning and quick snaps, It leaves a little to be desired.
The HiSilicon Kirin 710 is quickly becoming one of my favourite chips. To think, this is, on the CPU side anyway, practically a Kirin 960, the Flagship CPU from only 2 years ago, powering phones costing upwards of £600. Now, this chip, which is very comparable in different ways and more impressive in others, is in a phone coming in at £199.99!
Would I have preferred that Huawei (Who own HiSilicon) used newer CPU μArch in this chip such as the A75/76 and A55? Sure, they’d perform better and use less power as well as being more flexible, but they’re also newer, meaning buggier on the development side, also it would be costlier. Sure the Kirin 710 loses to the Snapdragon 710 in a few places, but you’re going to find more devices with the Kirin 710 in it from what I’ve seen as Qualcomm have done an Intel and priced that chip out of the market.
Performance on the Honor 10 Lite was snappy and predictable for about 90% of the time, I rarely felt like it was struggling to keep up with me, it never lagged behind my fingers when typing, and when doing voice to text it didn’t miss a beat as some other £200 devices do. One aberration with this is that because it was pre-release firmware, I was unable to install benchmark applications on the Honor 10 Lite, not from the Play Store, nor by installing the APK directly, so whilst I do not care about Benchmarks, I know there are people who do, so I am telling you why there are none here.
Where you really expecting anything else? It’s a 3400mAh battery, paired with a 12nm SoC with some overzealous battery saving features.
Apart from the first day, which was a worst-case scenario of lots of travelling, going into and out of signal due to the London Underground, not starting with a full battery, GPS mapping, lots of WiFi hopping, and, of course, just playing with the phone too much, I was able to get at least 2 days of use from the Honor 10 Lite, which is great, because that bloody MicroUSB port made charging the thing a bloody pain. Not only does the phone use the ancient connector, but it also tops out at 5v2a charging, 10w in 2018/2019 is slow charging, and when the battery is as large as it is here, a fast charger is almost mandatory. I’m not saying go crazy and put the 40w Supercharger from the Mate 20 Pro in there, but even 15w USB-PD with USB-C would have been better and allowed you to use a plethora of USB-PD peripherals that even Supercharger owning phones can’t utilise. Yet another reason why going for USB-C would have been better.
Network and Radio
I was somewhat disappointed here. Whilst the network reception on the Honor 10 Lite was fine, the 10 Lite has some of the worst Bluetooth and GPS Radios I’ve tried in a while, and I’m someone who uses a BlackBerry KEY2 on the daily (by choice) and that is known to have a horrific Bluetooth radio in it. Headphones which I usually have no problem with, such as my Anker Soundcore Liberty Lite’s or my TicPods Free, started to dip in and out of connection often, killing the battery on the buds in no time, and using my Be Free8’s was just impossible unless the phone was on the desk directly in front of me, which sucks, as I like to use those whilst walking.
What’s weirder? The Honor 10 Lite seems to have the most overactive NFC radio In any recent phone I’ve used. I have one of the McLEAR Payment NFC rings on my left middle finger, and on more than one occasion, I’ll try to reach something on the top of the display, and the act of tightening my hand to not drop the phone is enough for the phone to see it, read it, and open up Huawei Wallet.
When on 4G I was having a great time, Good speeds, reliable network connection, which makes the poor Bluetooth and GPS signal just so weird to me.
Overall, I really like the Honor 10 Lite, sure it does some things that bug me, like the Camera just being slow. Sure it does some things that really irk me, like using MicroUSB and having poor Bluetooth reception. But at the price point, you’re getting a lovely design, Crazy good battery, really good performance, a Lovely screen and the newest version of Android.
Just as the title says, the Honor 10 Lite is so close to being an Instant Purchase, Let’s hope Honor feel like listening to us for the Honor 11 Lite.