Interface and reliability
- Newest version of Android is great
- EMUI interface is heavy
Like all Honor phones, the Honor 9 Lite runs EMUI, Huawei's custom skin on top of Android. In the past this hasn't proven popular with users, as it's significantly heavier than stock Android, and it also pre-loads a number of third-party applications.
What's good about the Honor 9 Lite's Android offering is that it's the latest version, Android 8, and it's paired with EMUI 8, the most stable version of EMUI to date. The pre-loaded third-party bloatware can also be uninstalled.
The EMUI experience is highly customisable. You can switch the app drawer on or off, change your themes or transitions, customise the home screen grid size and manipulate your notification and quick toggle options to suit your needs.
The core layout is typical Android: home screens, a Google screen on the left and a pull-down notifications bar at the top. You can also pull the notifications bar down with a vertical swipe on the fingerprint scanner, perfect for anyone with smaller hands. A double tap of the scanner will subsequently clear all notifications.
The Honor 9 Lite reliably ran all the apps we tested, from Netflix and Amazon Kindle to Google's own suite of services.
Each app gives you the option to customise whether it displays in 18:9 or 16:9 ratio, while within video apps such as Netflix and YouTube a feature that enables full-screen video makes a huge difference, eliminating black borders even if the content isn’t perfectly formatted.
With no force-closures of apps or out-of-the-blue resets in our week with the Honor 9 Lite, stability wasn't a problem, although the chipset's lack of power occasionally reared its head with a few dropped frames here and there.
- Kirin 659 is good for general tasks
- Very occasional slowdowns
Huawei's own HiSilicon sub-brand makes the Kirin 659 chipset that powers the Honor 9 Lite. It's a mid-range chipset paired with a mid-range amount of RAM – 3GB – and these combine to punch exactly where you'd expect a £199 smartphone to.
Benchmarking on Geekbench returned a multi-core score of 3,696; far from being a powerhouse, the Honor 9 Lite does what it needs to do without too many flourishes - although, usefully, one of the flourishes is comfortable split-screen multitasking.
Video playback was smooth at up to Full HD resolution; 4K MKV files were too tall an order, even when using third-party apps, but given the screen’s resolution that isn't a drawback per se, just a reflection of the power limitations here.
Wi-Fi and signal strength were spot-on in our tests, as was fingerprint scanner reliability. Memory read/write speeds were on the slow side, so transferring big files and general data-heavy tasks won’t be zippy, but provided you don't mind waiting the Honor 9 Lite did at least prove reliable in our tests.
Connections and storage
- Micro USB feels outdated
- All other key connections are present
Connectivity on the Honor 9 Lite is competitive in the sub-£200 price-range.
While the micro USB port holds it back compared to a USB-C port, as found even on some cheaper phones, such as the Wileyfox Swift 2, the fact that it offers dual-SIM support, or an optional microSD expansion slot in place of the second SIM slot, is a bonus.
The phone also has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC and GPS, so will support low-energy Bluetooth devices and Android Pay, and can give you accurate tracking when you're running or plotting a route.
32GB of onboard storage is also fair given the price of the Honor 9 Lite, although it may not be enough for heavy gamers who need to install apps on the phone's internal memory.
For average users, though, it will be ample, and the fact that the bloatware can be uninstalled means that over 20GB of the storage is available – significantly better than on some other current 32GB phones, such as the Sony Xperia XA2.
The addition of a memory card slot means the internal storage can be bumped up by 256GB, so even if you fill the 32GB of included storage with photos, videos and music an inexpensive microSD card will give you plenty more space.
Movies, music and gaming
- Excellent screen for movies and reading
- Underpowered for intense 3D games
One area in which the Honor 9 Lite does excel is playing video. The screen is bright and sharp, and is an excellent aspect ratio for watching films on.
Streaming services are plentiful on Android, and the split-screen multitasking capability works well when simultaneously running multiple apps, including more demanding services like YouTube.
The fact that the phone runs Android 8 is also handy when it comes to picture-in-picture video. This enables you to open a floating window in apps that support the feature, like VLC and YouTube Red.
A 3.5mm headphone jack is present, so whether you opt for wired or wireless headphones, no dongles will be needed.
The only drawback when it comes to multimedia is gaming. Thanks to the mid-range chipset and possibly the slow built-in storage, intense 3D games like Injustice 2 drop too many frames to make for a smooth experience. Lighter 3D games, such as Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition, perform a bit better, and 2D games should be no problem.
It's also easy to cover up the speaker when holding the phone in landscape orientation, so make sure you’re wearing headphones if possible if you want a decent sound experience when watching or gaming on this thing.