Every time we come across a handset that’s both brilliant and cheap, we get more than a bit giddy. The Honor 10 Lite epitomises what smartphones should strive to be — it can do everything you need it to do well (enough) and it won’t bankrupt you in the process.
The Honor 10 Lite is without a doubt one of the slickest-looking phones Honor has released. It’s relatively slim and pocket-sized (depending on your pocket), and has a near bezelless display onboard.
We know what you’re thinking. “But can I buy an Honor phone with all the current Huawei/Android woes?” Good question. But we now know that Huawei will still push out Android updates for smartphones currently in rotation. So you can still get in on some pocket-friendly Honor goodness.
At only R4,500 this is likely the best value budget phone on the market right now. We put the Honor 10 Lite through a serious hands-on test, using it as our primary phone for long enough to know that everyone deserves a phone this good at this price.
Don’t touch the valuables
With the display locked and completely dark, it’s kinda hard to tell it apart from many current flagship devices… especially its big brother, the Mate 20 Pro. It’s slim and sleek and shiny as all hell.
Around back, it looks like a single sheet of glass, with the signature Honor sheen to it. Only this isn’t your typical metal and glass sandwich, because that would be too expensive. The 10 Lite is made from plastic, unfortunately. Plastic that’s a magnet for fingerprints and feels noticeably less than premium once you get it in your hand.
But not to worry! Like we’ve seen with many smartphones in current months, you’ll receive a phone cover in the box. So, even if it looks much less impressive, you’ll be able to keep your brand new phone safe from ‘accidental’ drops (we saw you fumbling your phone with oily slap-chip fingers — don’t lie).
There’s no denying the Honor 10 Lite looks the part, though. We’ve definitely seen uglier phones (ahem, Hisense). The screen here fills almost the entire front of the phone, with a teardrop-style notch the only interruption. And that’s just to make room for the selfie camera — the Honor 10 Lite’s pride and joy.
Hail the ship to the ports
We can see a few clear giveaways that this isn’t a flagship. On the bottom of the screen, you’ll find a teeny bezel (that never really bothered us), and the back camera sensors don’t really sit flush with the device. But that’s easily fixed with the cover, so it really didn’t impact us that much.
You do at least get a responsive fingerprint sensor, and even a headphone jack (oh, hells yeah) — but it sits next to a microUSB charging port. It’s 2019, guys. Can we all just agree it’s USB-C all the way from now on? Minus 10 points for this one.
Just look at that… saturation!
The 6.21in IPS screen is brilliant and edge to edge — isn’t that what basically everyone wants right now? It also boasts a 2,340 x 1,080 resolution, which is exactly what we’d expect for this number of randelas. But you know what? For basic day-to-day, you won’t have any complaints. Also being IPS, it defos lacks the impact of OLED, and even LCD, but it’s still good. Especially with darker, higher contrast images.
We don’t know what Honor does before packaging their phones though, because out of the box, the display is way too vibrant. Switching the colour temperature from ‘Vivid’ to ‘Normal’ in the Display Settings helps tone things down, but it also shifts the colour balance a little too far into the blue end of the spectrum. We ended up going back to the almost carnival-like ‘Vivid’ setting.
Two’s not a party with these sensors
A R4,500 phone with two rear camera sensors? Yeah, it’ll look like you have a funny-looking P20 Pro to other people, but your images will be severely lacking.
Turns out only one of the sensors actually does the job (the 13MP one) — the other one is only there for backup when you decide to take some portrait snaps (the 2MP, F/1.8 one). The second snapper is used purely for calculating depth, so is useless if you’re not using the bokeh-portrait mode. Which we strongly advise against. It should work fine on objects with defined lines — which excludes humans.
Honor also plays up the camera’s AI-capabilities. No, it’s not AI, it’s called scene detection and it’s mildly useful. It does help to boost colour saturation and sharpness when it recognises a particular type of shot. Though sometimes it can get carried away with ramping up the vibrancy. We’re detecting a pattern here.
The standard rear camera is super iffy, even in a well-lit room. We have some professional advice to lay on you here — use the Night Mode if your images are coming out sketchy. It’s essentially a more basic version of the one seen in the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. It snaps a series of pictures and overlays them to form clearer, brighter shots. You will inevitably lose some quality in the process, but the images generally looked better with this setting enabled — both in day and night.
The front camera talks a big game with its huge 24MP pixel count, but it’s not all that good, to be honest. We still prefer using the office Huawei P20 Pro for selfies. Soz guys, it’s not that great, but generally acceptable for personal use (aka the selfies you never really post on Insta).
There’s supposedly enough resolution here for the Honor 10 Lite to detect your face and unlock the phone, but it was pretty inconsistent. And we won’t trust just any phone with face unlock as a general rule, so we hung onto the fingerprint sensor to unlock this one.
Not nippy enough
Unfortunately, power is the Honor 10 Lite’s big downfall, probably just because we expected it to run much more smoothly with a Kirin 710 CPU under the hood. Or we’re just way too demanding on our smartphones… which is kinda our job.
It might also be because our review version only has 3GB of RAM accompanying the generally great CPU. It’s also possible to get a 4GB and a 6GB RAM version. We would advise getting one of the latter if you like to keep sane while running multiple tasks.
Joking aside though, we have used much slower smartphones in the same price bracket, so this isn’t actually a real let-down. You’ll get plenty of processing power and nippiness if you’re running simple tasks or browsing Instagram all day. It can also easily run non-demanding games (like our current favourite, Bricks Ball Crusher). We only experienced a crashed app once in the review period, which isn’t bad at all.
64GB of onboard memory is plenty in a budget phone, and you can always add extra if you find yourself running low. Honor has sensibly opted for microSD, instead of parent company Huawei’s proprietary NanoMemory format, which typically costs twice the price for the same capacity and is pretty hard to come by locally.
It’ll last you long enough, mkay?
Like most of the specs on the Honor 10 Lite, the battery is generally… average. It’s got a 3,400mAh battery, and a decidedly relaxed CPU running the show. Which means (in layman’s terms) you can expect it to comfortably last you through the day.
If you manage to keep off Facebook or Reddit for most of the day, you’ll make it into a second day. If you used to own a phone with a 4,000mAh battery, you might feel like the battery is lacking. But for its size, the Honor 10 Lite really surprised us.
Honor 10 Lite Verdict
A phone is something you use every day, it should be able to do a set list of things and be there when you need it. This little dude is hella sturdy, looks pretty schweet, and has a lot of features on offer for its price.
Also, you won’t be able to share charging cables with your friends’ USB-C phones. But hey, at least your microUSB cables will get another life.
If you don’t mind waiting a split second or two to load apps, can make do with a slightly sub-par camera, and don’t have R20k to spend on the latest flagship, the Honor 10 Lite is ready to become your next best friend. At R4,500 it’s a whole lot of phone.
The Honor 10 Lite epitomises what smartphones should strive to be -- it can do everything you well and it won’t bankrupt you in the process.