Honor 9 Lite: Honor’s new budget phone has an 18:9 display and a dual front-facing camera

Last year’s Honor 9 firmly planted the company’s flag on UK shores – and its arrival was met with thunderous applause. The mid-range handset provided some much-needed competition for the excellent OnePlus 5, and at only £300, if you did decide to splurge it was a decision that wouldn’t weigh heavily on your bank balance.

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So, following its successes – as day so surely follows night – Honor has announced something a even more remarkable for 2018. Yes, Honor launches are a dime-a-dozen these days, but this one is particularly intriguing and as the new year begins to find its feet, the Honor 9 Lite should be at the top of your radar.

Honor 9 Lite: What you need to know

The Honor 9 Lite is the firm’s latest budget smartphone. Designed to undercut flagships like Apple’s iPhone X by a huge margin, and even mid-rangers like the Honor 9 and OnePlus 5T, it takes advantage of an octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 659 – the same chipset found in the Honor 7X – and includes 3GB of RAM and 32GB of expandable storage.

What’s special about the Honor 9 Lite is that, unlike its regular alternative, the Honor 9 Lite includes both 13- and 2-megapixel front-facing cameras, as well as another pair of cameras on the rear. And, unlike the Honor 9, it also has an 18:9, 2,160 x 1,080 resolution display on the front. That’s pretty darn fancy for a £200 phone.

Honor 9 Lite: UK price and release date

The Honor 9 Lite launches for a measly £200 on 9 February. At that price, we’re looking at pitting it against the likes of the Moto G5S – which has recently seen a price cut to just £200 – the Nokia 6 (£190, and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X (£150),provided you can find a grey import seller in the UK.

Honor 9 Lite: Design, key features and first impressions

Look past its irritatingly misspelled “Lite” moniker for a second, and you’ll spot that the Honor 9 is nothing of the sort. No doubt about it, this is a fully-fledged smartphone, with flagship-rivalling DNA at its core.

First, you’ll spot that 2,160 x 1,080 5.65in IPS display on the front – with a pixel density of 428 PPI, it’s plenty sharp enough for even the most exacting eyes. This is the first time Honor has included such an all-display handset, and the Honor 9 wins the award for the cheapest 18:9 smartphone on the market. And as for our first impressions regarding quality, well, it’s bright and clear, which is precisely what you’d want. You’ll just have to await the arrival of our review unit before we can get into the nitty-gritty of colour accuracy and contrast ratios.

The handset itself inherits a similar design to the Honor 9, in that it incorporates a mirrored “2.5D” curved glass rear. It’s certainly glitzy – launching in Sapphire blue, Midnight black and Glacier grey – and it really looks like something a phone that should be retailing at two or even three times the price.

In a bizarre case of musical chairs, the fingerprint reader has now reappeared on the back of the phone. Obviously, this is to accommodate the massive display on the front, but I also feel like this is Honor adjusting to user feedback. The Honor 9 moved its fingerprint reader to the front, and it didn’t go down so well with fans.

Elsewhere, the volume rocker and power button sit side-by-side on the right edge, with a microSD card and nano-SIM tray on the left. Cast your eyes downward and you’ll spot the solitary Micro USB port for charging and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

On the inside, though, the 9 Lite is almost identical to the Honor 7X. Inside, you’ll find an octa-core 2.36GHz HiSilicon Kirin 659 powering the whole show, working in tandem with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, which is expandable up to 256GB via microSD. Expect performance to be decent, if nothing to get particularly excited about

Where it shows real promise, however, is for photography: we’re hoping for big things from the dual-camera setup on the rear. It isn’t as generously well-specced as its older sibling, but the 13- and 2-megapixel rear-facing snappers should do just the job for taking quick pics and Instagram snaps. And in an interesting turn of events – unlike the Honor 9 – this “Lite” version incorporates a similar dual-camera arrangement on the front as it does on the back.

Honor 9 Lite: Early verdict

Clearly, the key to the Honor 9 Lite’s appeal lies in its price. At just £200, Honor’s latest budget handset is an outright bargain and, while I haven’t had the opportunity to properly put it through its paces, I’m quietly optimistic that this may turn out to be one of the best budget smartphones in 2018.

Its competition may be talented, and equally hungry to dominate that all-important price point, but the 9 Lite’s pixel-packed 18:9 display may prove to be the biggest trick up its metaphorical sleeves – its rivals are going to have to work hard to keep this smartphone down. 

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