Honor 8 Lite Review: Is Beauty Only Skin-Deep With this Phone?
After a somewhat slow start, Huawei’s sub-brand Honor has gone from strength to strength in the past year, adding the dual-camera toting Honor 6X and Honor 8 to their portfolio – phones we took quite a liking to.
The latter was priced a shade under Rs 30,000 which limited its audience, ergo the stripped down (and appropriately named) Honor 8 Lite.
Lose the dual camera, tone down the internals and package a ‘Lite’ offering – is this enough for the Honor 8 Lite to make a mark in the hyper-competitive sub-20,000 bracket or are the compromises simply far too many?
A Lite version it may well be, but the Honor 8 Lite speaks the same design language as the Honor 8, and so in a segment that’s replete with metal unibody design phones, the Honor 8 is glass-and-metal sandwich.
Glass on the rear, 2.5D curved glass on the front and brushed metal side panels give the Honor 8 Lite a classy premium feel, and the phone looks downright gorgeous compared to most in its price segment.
The glass adds weight and glossiness to the package, not to mention an annoying affinity to fingerprints – no smudge resistant display on offer here. It may feel slippery to some, but for the most part, the phone sits well in the hand. Of course, more glass equals more fragility, so there’s that.
The rear fingerprint sensor, which is extremely snappy (too snappy, perhaps?) allows you to have touch-sensitive gesture control, to swipe through pictures in the gallery, to pull down notifications and the like.
Much like the Honor 8, there’s a 5.2-inch full-HD IPS LCD display on the Lite, which pushes out vibrant and sharp images in most lighting conditions, but takes a hit in direct sunlight.
The phone is powered by Huawei's own octa-core Kirin 655 chip paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, the latter expandable upto 128GB if you’re willing to forgo the second SIM slot.
Performance is acceptable for the most part, and is on par with Snapdragon 625 phones with similar amounts of RAM, but there are the rare lags and stutters while pushing the phone under heavy multi-tasking.
Making its debut on the Honor 8 Lite is the company’s latest iteration of Emotion UI version 5.0, which is based on Android 7.0 Nougat and is a noticeably cleaned up version of its former self.
You can opt for the app drawer to unclutter your home screens, run two versions of apps via Dual Apps, and there are some nice touches like SOS calling (designate contacts to be reached in emergencies) and the ability to include local Indian calendars into the regular calendar app.
During setup, you’re recommended a bunch of apps to install but thankfully, nothing you can’t disable and uninstall later.
So yes, this is a Lite affordable version of the Honor 8, but the exclusion of the dual-camera setup is a bit disappointing, especially when you consider that the cheaper 6X gets the dual-camera treatment. As a result, there is none of the two-sensor smarts which defined the Honor 8/6X in their segments, which is a bit of a pity.
With the solitary 12-megapixel camera, you get good images in well-lit daylight conditions, although images are occasionally overexposed till you get the hang of this camera.
The camera packs in good levels of detail, even in low-lit shots, but it lacks any sort of image stabilisation tech, which means you have to be very steady while shooting shots in the evening.
Stepping down from the USB Type C on the Honor 8 to micro-USB on the Lite isn’t the issue – plenty of phones are taking that call to avoid forcing users to move to the new standard. It’s the lack of fast charging on the unit. With the bundled 5W charger, it takes well over 3 hours to fully charge the phone.
Battery life on the 3000mAh battery is average, and it should last the average user a full day’s worth of use, without needing the activate the various power saving modes.
Why Buy It?
The Lite makes a good showing, with a good balance of features and aesthetics, but its pricing at Rs 17,999 means it compares with Honor’s own 6X and the Redmi Note 4, both of which offer good performance and the Redmi Note 4 has a class-leading battery life.
For any brand, the 15-20 grand segment is dangerous territory to operate in, since most consumers come to the discussion expecting a lot more than good looks and a pretty new UI. The Honor 8 Lite is a bit ‘light’ on the value for money proposition, I’m afraid.
(Tushar Kanwar is a technology columnist and commentator and has been contributing for the past 15 years to India’s leading newspapers and magazines. He can be reached on Twitter @2shar.)