Hands on: Honor 10i review

Also known as Honor 20 lite.

What is a hands on review?
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Early Verdict

The Honor 10i is a fine addition to Honor’s remarkable budget line up and offers just enough new and exciting features to help it stand out from the sea of budget phones flooding the market. It has a great display, decent performance and a triple camera setup can take good shots but lack of USB-C and inferior build quality are disappointing.

For

  • Feature rich
  • Great value for money
  • Gorgeous design and comfy in-hand feel

Against

  • Plastic build
  • Average battery life
  • Middling performance

Honor’s venerable budget line has been disrupting the budget and mid-range smartphone markets for quite some time now. The latest, Honor 10i (known as Honor 20 lite in some markets) is positioned to provide solid mid-tier photography to snap happy millennials and all the shutterbugs out there looking for a decent camera phone on a tight budget.

The Honor 10i continues Honor’s tradition of offering high-end features on a budget phone. It sports a 32MP camera on the front and a triple camera setup - the first on a phone under AED1,000 - with an ultra wide angle lens on the back. The phone also has a good Full HD+ display and an eye-catching design that makes it look more expensive than it is.

But Honor has cut a few corners to make this happen. From the mediocre build quality to lack of USB C, it’s clear concessions have been made but whether that puts a damper on the overall phone experience is something we’ll find out in our in-depth review.

Honor 10i release date and price

The Honor 10i is up for pre-order now with the phone hitting shelves across the UAE on 24 April. It’s priced at attractive AED 999 which gets you 4GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage.

You’ll have three color choices, the gradient finished phantom red and phantom blue as well as a more subtle and classic black. Considering the feature set of the phone, it’s great value for money and even gives Huawei’s own recent P30 lite a run for its money. 

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

Design and display

The Honor 10i is an elegant phone at first glance. It’s got all the key Honor design elements from a bold gradient finish, a curved 3D body that meshes not so seamlessly with the frame and a simple understated Honor logo at the bottom.

The triple camera setup sits neatly in a vertical array on the top left and there’s an easy to reach fingerprint scanner in the middle. The buttons on the side feel very plastic and cheap but they get the job done. 

On the bottom you’ll find a speaker grille that blares fuzzy and echoey audio. Right next to it is an outdated micro USB slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack for all your wired headset needs. 

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

Flipping over to the front, you’ll find a 6.21-inch screen with 2340x1080 resolution which results in a crisp 415 ppi. The bezels around the display are small and the dewdrop notch that houses the selfie camera gives the phone a 90% screen to body ratio.

Color reproduction and brightness are above average for an IPS LCD panel at this price point making it a delight to watch videos on or to read text. 

The phone has a decent and comfy in-hand feel. It’s light at just 164g and its 154.8 x 73.6 x 8mm profile makes it comfortable for one-handed operation. However, as gorgeous as the phone looks you do notice the cheap and plastic build as you roll your fingers around it and the prominent edges from the back to the screen stick out discernibly.
 

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

Honor’s decided to stick to the Kirin 710 as their go to processor for budget phones. It’s a decent chipset capable of handling AI tasks but underperforms to its Snapdragon 600 equivalent found in similarly priced Android phones. 

Initial GeekBench 4 scores results are underwhelming where the Honor 10i managed to score 1544 and 5454 in single and multi-core tests respectively. While the results are far from impressive it doesn’t mean the phone can’t hold its own against a heavy workload. 

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

With the little time we’ve had, we tried to stress the phone as much as we could and tested out a couple of demanding games. The phone was able to handle almost everything we threw at it including several tabs on chrome and over 20 apps running in the background. It surprisingly also held up well as we raced through Asphalt 9 with no noticeable lags and very little overheating.

The Honor 10i runs Android 9 out of the box with Huawei’s EMUI 9 skin on top. EMUI 9 brings a lot of features to the table and the Kirin 710 manages to keep up with most of them. The fingerprint unlock and face unlock are super fast. EMUI 9 also brings AI smarts for the camera app, battery optimization options and a variety of other features and customization options to make navigation easy. 

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

Tripe camera setup

The Honor 10i’s main value proposition is the array of cameras it packs and their AI capabilities. A 32MP f/2.0 selfie snapper is present on the front and capable of taking photos in a variety of lighting conditions. 

The triple camera setup on the back boasts a 24MP main camera with f/1.8 aperture and a Quadra CFA sensor that boosts light sensitivity, an 8MP, f/2.2 120 degree ultra wide angle lens and a 2MP f/2.4, depth sensor for bokeh accompanied by an LED flash.

The main camera can also shoot 1080p video at 30fps and results are adequate enough to share on social media but if you’re looking to capture smooth and detailed video, you’re going to have to look else-where.

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Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar


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Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar
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Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

Initial results have been decent and on the mark for a phone at this price point. With enough light around, steady hands and a patient thumb you can eke out some detailed shots. The ultra-wide angle lens is a great addition that allows you to capture more of a scene but it does warp the image on the sides. 

You can also zoom up to 6x to snap an object that’s far away but be prepared to see some loss in detail and grainy results. Night mode is also nice to have but pictures usually turned out murky and and noisy- and the camera app takes ages to snap in low light.

Speaking of the camera app, it supports AI in spades across the board. From multi-scene recognition that can identify 22 categories of objects and 500+ scenarios to QR code and calorie count recognition, the Honor 10i brings you all the features usually found in more expensive Honor and Huawei phones.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

Early verdict

Like most Honor phones in the past, the Honor 10i pushes the boundaries of what a budget handset can deliver. It’s a gorgeously designed phone with a good screen, zippy performance and packed full of features. 

The ultra wide angle lens is a welcome addition and the triple camera setup can take some decent shots which is great if you’re just getting into smartphone photography. Performance is snappy allowing you to do most moderate tasks without a hitch and the battery is decent enough to last you a full day of use. 

On the flip side, the build of the phone feels cheap, the Kirin 710 chipset feels outdated and the lack of USB-C in 2019 is disappointing. But at this price point, they seem small trade-offs for a phone that offers good value compared to the sea of budget phones out there including Huawei’s P30 lite. 

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.