Honor is continuing to launch smartphones throughout the pandemic and the ongoing US sanctions that prevent it from using Google Mobile Services, depriving it of a vital selling point that has forced the company to innovate and throw its weight behind Huawei’s Mobile Services. With all this in mind, Honor has just launched the 10X Lite which is an improvement on the Honor 9X Lite launched in April 2020, around seven months ago. It retails for around £155 direct from Honor Saudi Arabia where it was launched a few days ago; no dates for UK/US/EU launches have been announced yet.
Holding the Honor 10X Lite, you wouldn’t think that this is an entry level smartphone. It is relatively big and heavy - but not in a bad way. Having a 6.7-inch display - almost as large as some tablets out there - means that Honor’s newest member was never going to be a midget. At 77 x 166 x 9.3mm for a mass of just over 200g, it feels well built; the “midnight black” model that we tested has a plastic back that you’d easily mistaken for glass.
The phone is also available in Emerald Green and Icelandic Frost and opts for a smoother, rounder, more traditional, no-frill look with curves everywhere. The front is adorned with what Honor calls a “FullView” display; basically a large screen that gives the Honor 10X Lite a screen-to-body ratio a smidgen above 90%. An 8-megapixel front-facing camera sensor perturbs the otherwise totally spotless display.
The rear houses four camera sensors protected by a thin layer of glass that protects them: there’s an ultrawide camera, a macro lens, a depth assist Camera and a 48-megapixel main camera for everyday moments, every single one of them being assisted by the onboard AI processing unit.
A Type-C USB port and a 3.5mm jack are located at the bottom of the device, next to a downward firing speaker grill. The SIM tray can be found on the left while on the opposite side are a volume rocker and the power button that doubles as a fingerprint reader.
The Honor 10X Lite probably has the best hardware in this price range (less than £200). A HiSilicon Kirin 710 octacore processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB onboard storage, a 2.6-megapixel display, five camera sensors totaling 66.2-megapixel, a huge 5,000mAh battery and a 22.5W “SuperCharge” power adaptor that, the company claims, will charge the battery to almost 50% from dead in 30 minutes.
The best part? The Honor 10X Lite can also be used as an emergency power bank via its reverse charging feature. The rest of the specification includes Bluetooth 5.1, Wi-Fi 5 plus NFC.
Performance and in use
The biggest issue with the Honor 10X Lite and with every current Huawei/Honor phone is the lack of Google Mobile Services (GMS), the bundle of applications that include the likes of Gmail, Google Drive, Chrome and most importantly Google Play. For all purpose and intent Huawei Mobile Services, which runs on the Honor 10X Lite, doesn’t offer anything near what Google proposes and that is sadly the reality right now. Should you however want to experience HMS, you will need to register first.
As expected, it runs on Android 10 with Magic UI 3.1 - Honor’s own take on Android’s user interface. Honor has added some useful features, like a floating window that makes the most of Android 10’s ability to multitask and GPU Turbo 3.0 which uses some proprietary wizardry to accelerate “the overall graphics processing” performance using “AI algorithms and hardware integration” according to Honor.
There’s also an eBook mode that optimizes your reading experience with the intelligent auto-adjustment of the color temperature that turns your display to monochrome. We love the fact that the 10X Lite can run two 4G SIM cards (in dual standby) and one microSD card simultaneously.
As for general performance, it turns out that the phone performs - without any surprise - admirably without any hitch. App loading was fast and while we didn’t do any gaming, generic web browsing and the odd typing was perfectly fine.
There’s plenty of Huawei-only apps: Beam, Share, Private DNS, Assistant, Optimizer, GameCenter and Petal Search amongst many. A word on third-party bundled apps: the main ones included on our test smartphone were Curve, Amazon Shopping, ASOS, Office Suite, Snapchat and Starling.
The obvious first competitor is the £160 Honor 9X Lite. It is slightly smaller, has a slightly faster processor but runs Android 9.0, has a smaller battery, an older Bluetooth version, a micro USB connector and lacks extra camera sensors found on the 10X Lite.
The second competitor is surprise, surprise, the £160 Honor 20 Lite. Launched in 2019, it has a faster processor, a far better front facing selfie camera but a worse rear camera setup. Otherwise, it has the same set of weaknesses as the 9X lite.
If your budget extends a bit further, then consider the £180 Honor 9X which has a motorized front facing camera and, like all the other models listed here, comes with Google Mobile Services (which includes Google Play and other quasi essential applications).
On paper and if you put the lack of GMS aside, the Honor 10X Lite delivers an exceptional value for money ratio thanks to stand out specs like a quartet of sensors led by a 48-megapixel rear camera, a massive 5Ah battery and a 22.5W fast charger. The rest of the hardware configuration as well is nothing to be sniffed at and, taken together, Honor’s latest entry level candidate sets the bar high, very high, for what a value smartphone in 2021 should look like. If you can live with the set of Huawei Mobile Services and AppGallery and are looking for an affordable, yet capable device, then by all means the 10X Lite should be high on your list.