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HONOR 10 Lite review: When stellar design isn't enough
The budget mid-range segment is a tough one to compete in. While Xiaomi rules the roost, Honor and Realme have been playing hard and fast to close the gap. HONOR’s first phone for 2019, the HONOR 10 Lite, combines great aesthetics with mid-range specs. Add to that a competitive price point and you’re looking at an interesting option for budget smartphone seekers. Is it any good though? We try to find that out in our HONOR 10 Lite review.
HONOR 10 Lite review: Design
There’s no doubt that the HONOR 10 Lite is a gorgeous looking phone. A quintessential HONOR device, it builds on the design language of the HONOR 8X and ticks all the checkmarks for 2019 design trends.
The first thing you notice when you pick up the phone is the eye-catching glossy back. The colour gradients shift as you move the phone and, in the right light, it looks downright stunning. Suffice it to say that the phone looks way more premium than competing devices like the Redmi Note 6.
The company has opted for an all-plastic build similar to the HONOR 9 Lite. The use of plastics might make the phone a bit more resilient to drops, but the back is a magnet for scratches and scuffs. You are going to have a really tough time keeping this one clean. HONOR bundles in a basic TPU case and we would highly recommend using that.
Ergonomics on the HONOR 10 Lite are on point. Despite having a large 6.2-inch display, the 19.5:9 aspect ratio goes a long way in making the phone easier to hold. The longer display fits very comfortably in the palm of your hand and reaching out to the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner as well as the volume and power buttons is a cinch. Talking about buttons, placed on the right-hand side, the volume rocker and power button are both sufficiently clicky and have reassuring feedback.
The choice of a micro USB charging port is perplexing.
That’s not to say that the hardware is perfect. The choice of a micro USB charging port is perplexing. When we brought this up in our briefing with HONOR, the company claimed that they didn’t want to alienate existing users who have invested in micro USB cables. We think USB-C cables are prevalent enough and moreover, cheap enough for the company to encourage users to migrate. But hey, at least the phone sports a headphone jack!
Over at the bottom, the phone has a single bottom firing speaker that gets pretty loud. The sound quality from the speaker isn’t particularly great and sounds very shrill if you turn it up loud. If you are using the speaker while gaming, your hand will likely cover the speaker and muffle the sound.
The HONOR 10 Lite achieves a screen-to-body ratio of over 90 percent by making use of an LTPS LCD panel. The chip-on-screen technology has allowed HONOR to move most of the display driver silicon behind the screen and allows for a slimmer chin. Couple that with the waterdrop notch and you’re looking at a phone that puts the screen front, right and center.
The Full HD+ resolution panel is par for the course and looks crisp. High-resolution content from YouTube looks plenty good though you won’t be able to stream Full HD videos from Netflix as the phone does not have support for Widevine L1.
HONOR tends to use screen panels that err towards oversaturation. On the HONOR 10 Lite, this tends to be the case with the default Vivid mode. The colour tuning in Vivid mode has a pronounced skew towards cooler temperatures leading to a noticeable blue tint. Switching over to the normal colour mode fixes this. The built-in display customization utility is quite robust and allows you to make granular changes towards warmer or cooler shades. Worth a mention is that the ‘eye-comfort mode’ on the device has been certified by TUV Rheinland. The mode cuts out blue light from the screen which should help reduce strain on your eyes.
While we don’t have a definitive figure for how bright the screen goes, it was sufficiently bright for indoor use. Outdoor visibility can be hit-and-miss due to how reflective the screen is.
Earlier on in this HONOR 10 Lite review, we talked about how the phone builds upon the hardware of the HONOR 8X. The phone uses the exact same chipset and the performance doesn’t stray too far either.
The Kirin 710 SoC is a decidedly mid-range processor and offers a combination of four Cortex A73 cores and four Cortex A53 cores clocked at 2.2 GHz and 1.7 GHz respectively, arranged in a big.LITTLE configuration. This is paired with 4GB or 6GB of RAM depending on the variant you opt for. Storage on both variants is 64GB which is perfectly adequate for a mid-range smartphone. You can expand that further via the microSD slot.
While the phone has dual SIM capabilities, it makes use of a hybrid SIM slot.
While the phone has dual SIM capabilities, it makes use of a hybrid SIM slot. What this means is that you can either slot in dual nano-SIM cards or give up one slot to expand storage via micro SD. The phone supports VoLTE on both the slots. There are other interesting additions too, like the ability to share a WiFi connection over a local hotspot. This can come in handy if you’re in a hotel or conference allowing access to just a single device. The phone will let you connect your laptop or other devices by sharing the WiFi network over a hotspot. Nifty.
Day to day performance is alright but nobody would mistake the HONOR 10 Lite for a high-performance or gaming device. On occasion, the phone would stutter or drop a frame while navigating through the interface. It’s not too bad though and for the most part, the phone remains zippy as you switch between apps.
Aggressive memory management plays spoilsport.
Multitasking performance is not that great and the phone tends to be very aggressive with memory management. We would often have to restart a game minutes after jumping between apps. Not something you’d expect from a phone with 6GB of RAM.
The Kirin 710 chipset used by the HONOR 10 Lite is more powerful than the Snapdragon 660 often seen on Xiaomi’s phones but it pales in GPU performance. Despite having GPU Turbo, a low-level graphics processing framework that smoothens out framerates, gaming performance wasn’t anything worth writing home about. In PUBG, the phone could not hold a steady 30FPS with the graphics settings at medium and we observed texture pop-in while playing the game.
Talking about network performance, I live in an area with very poor network coverage but the HONOR 10 Lite easily managed to latch on and more importantly, hold on to Airtel’s network. Phone calls sounded loud and clear over the earpiece and I rarely experienced any call drops. If you’re looking for a smartphone that excels at calling, the HONOR 10 Lite should definitely rank high on your list.
Like many other Chinese smartphones, the EMUI 9.0.1 on the HONOR 10 Lite takes inspiration from iOS for its general design. The software skin is built on top of Android Pie and doesn’t use an app drawer by default. You can, however, pop into the settings to switch over to an app drawer based interface.
Once you get over the mild tackiness of the knock-off icons, the interface and general implementation isn’t all that bad. In fact, HONOR has done a pretty good job implementing features likes gestures for navigating around the interface.
You’ll find a fair few preinstalled apps on the phone including those for HONOR Club, HONOR Care, Health, HUAWEI App Gallery, Themes, a Phone Manager, Compass, Phone Clone, Party Mode and Ride Mode. There’s even an app for toggling emergency services related settings. Most of these cannot be uninstalled.
Then there are the obvious knock off features like Digital Balance which copies the Digital Wellbeing functionality built into Android 9.0. Or how about HiTouch that lets you identify objects within an image and purchase them via Flipkart.
Moving on, the phone has support for face recognition to unlock your device. It worked reasonably well even in not so great light and was more often than not, faster than the standard fingerprint based unlock.
The last few years have seen dual camera modules become standard across product categories and the HONOR 10 Lite is no exception. First things first, the switch to a vertical orientation for the camera is a small but refreshing change to the design. The rear camera module itself has a 13MP sensor that is combined with a 2MP depth sensing module.
The 13-megapixel takes decently detailed shots as long as there’s sufficient ambient light. The built-in AI mode has a tendency to oversaturate colours which is fine if you like to edit your shots before posting them online. You’ll probably want to keep it switched off if you are looking for authentic looking colours.
The camera doesn’t do too good a job in brightly lit situations and tends to blow out highlights. The AI mode can trigger HDR when it feels like it but there is no direct toggle for forcing it on. You’ll have to slide all the way into a separate tab to activate HDR mode.
Portrait mode on the HONOR 10 Lite is strictly average and does a rather poor job at identifying edges. There are a few built-in options for studio lighting effects but they don’t make up for the poor image quality. The feature comes across as a gimmick and we wouldn’t really advise using it.
Low light imaging is where most entry-level phones falter. Unfortunately, the HONOR 10 Lite too does quite poorly. The camera app adds an excessive amount of noise reduction to the image giving the final shot an almost blurred look. The resulting images are usually unusable. Switch over to the dedicated night mode and things improve a bit. The mode uses a 4-second exposure with electronic stabilization to improve exposure and detail levels in the shot. The resulting images are usually brighter and over sharpened which makes them look fine on the phone’s screen. Zoom into the image though and you’ll observe an almost watercolour-like effect that blurs out fine detail.
The front-facing camera on the HONOR 10 Lite uses a 24-megapixel sensor. The idea here is to use pixel binning to improve image quality. Even with all beauty modes turned off, images usually turned out a bit soft. Portrait mode with the front-facing camera did a very poor job at edge detection and we can’t really recommend using it. Unfortunately, the front-facing camera defaults to portrait mode every time you switch it on.
Video recording on the HONOR 10 Lite tops off at 1080p 60fps though there is a wider 18.9:9 aspect ratio available too. There is no stabilization at all, electronic or optical, because of which camera shake is very evident in footage.
The HONOR 10 Lite has a 3,400mAh battery which might come across as disappointing to a lot of users. The phone competes in a category where 4,000 and even 5,000mAh batteries are the norm and no manner of software optimization can make up for significantly larger cells.
Over the course of the review, the phone delivered an average of 6 hours of screen on time. The usage pattern involved a mix of watching videos, social media and a few phone calls. Gaming takes a decent bite out of the battery with a 20-minute PUBG session burning through almost 10% charge. It’ll last you a full day and then some depending on your use case but avid gamers will likely be disappointed.
|HONOR 10 Lite
HiSilicon Kirin 710
ARM Mali-G51 MP4
Expandable to 512GB via microSD
Rear main: 13MP f/1.8
Front: 24MP f/2.0
3.5mm headphone jack
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz/5GHz)
LTE with VoLTE
GPS / GLONASS
Android 9.0 Pie
Dimensions and weight
154.8mm x 73.64mm x 7.95mm
Should you buy the HONOR 10 Lite?
As one of the first smartphones to be launched in 2019, the HONOR 10 Lite brings most of the features that people care about. Be it the premium looking design, water drop notch or the good enough internals, this is a phone that looks fresh.
The camera performance, however, leaves you disappointed and as Xiaomi gets ready to up the ante with the 48MP camera-toting Redmi Note 7, HONOR is bound to feel the heat. The 3,400 mAh battery too isn’t quite the best in segment.
Priced between rupees 13,999 rupees (~ $200) and 17,999 rupees (~$250) for the 4GB RAM and 6GB RAM variants, the HONOR 10 Lite doesn’t quite earn our sure-shot recommendation. The phone doesn’t have much more than looks going for it. With both realme and Redmi expected to launch aggressive competitors, prospective buyers should have ample options in the coming weeks.