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Huawei P9 lite review: the lightweight competitor

Chinese smartphone maker Huawei is now offering a third variant of the P9 and P9 Plus. The Huawei P9 lite is priced more competitively with an aim to build on the success of the P8 lite of last year. We tested this ‘upper-middle class’ smartphone to decide if it lives up to its name. We’ll dive into all the details in this Huawei P9 lite review.

Rating

Good

  • Good workmanship and capacitive screen
  • Full HD display has good brightness and color reproduction
  • Good camera and camera app
  • Very good battery life

Bad

  • Image quality can be poor in low light conditions
  • No quick-charge battery included
  • Software takes getting used to

Huawei P9 lite release date and price

Last year, Huawei launched the P8 lite alongside its flagship P8 smartphone. This year Huawei is proceeding in the same way - the only difference now that it also offers a P9 Plus next to the P9 and P9 Lite. Priced results this year following graduation: Huawei P9 lite for about $300. This is considerably cheaper than the P9, for example, which comes in at more than double the price.

The Huawei P9 lite is available in gold, white and black and was released mid-May. The P9 lite’s strong selling point is certainly its competitive price, rather than the design, feel or dual Leica cameras that the more expensive models have. If you can do without these features, then the Huawei P9 lite could be a compelling smartphone choice.

The Huawei P9 lite is currently not available in the US but if you're in the UK you can order it through one of the links below. We will have more information on US availability as soon as we find out more.

 

Huawei P9 lite design and build quality

The Huawei P9 lite design largely corresponds to the rest of P9 line. However, there are subtle differences between the lite and premium models. To ensure its competitive pricing, Huawei dropped an aluminum unibody to instead use an aluminum frame with polycarbonate back. The fact that the rear cover is made of plastic isn’t so obvious at first glance, though, as the coating gives it a metallic appearance.

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The back of Huawei P9 lite is made of polycarbonate. / © ANDROIDPIT

But what has trickled down from the premium models is the narrow band on the upper edge of the back. Again, to keep it cheap, the band does not house dual Leica cameras, but only a 13 MP camera with an LED flash. How good this camera is you can read below in the camera section. The fingerprint sensor is also borrowed from the other P9 variants.

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No 2.5D glass, but there is now a full HD display. / © ANDROIDPIT

On the front there are small differences between the P9 lite and the two dual-camera variants of P9. While the Full HD display of the P9 lite is identical to the P9, Huawei has cut a corner on the display glass. Instead of using Gorilla Glass 4, the P9 lite has a simple glass cover.

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The SIM tray accepts not only a nano-SIM, but ... / © ANDROIDPIT

On the bottom edge is a microUSB port and speaker grilles. Although they give the appearance of a stereo configuration, there is only monaural sound coming from one port. The 3.5mm headphone jack is on the top of the frame, while the SIM and microSD card slot is located on the left-side edge. Unlike the Huawei P9, the owner of the P9 lite can decide whether the internal memory runs off a microSD card of up to 128 GB capacity, or whether a second SIM card fills this slot.

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... a nano SIM and MicroSD card. / © ANDROIDPIT

Huawei P9 lite display

Last year, it was still uncommon for mid-range smartphones to be equipped with an HD display. In 2016, this is fortunately no longer the case. Huawei built a Full HD IPS panel into the P9 lite. Thanks to ‘InCell technology’, there is practically no gap between the display and glass cover. This has the advantage that little dust can accumulate, plus it also looks good.

With a screen size of 5.2 inches and a full HD resolution, the Huawei P9 lite has a pixel density of 424 ppi. Most owners will hardly see individual pixels at this pixel density. Only if you use a magnifying glass, or other magnifying devices, will the pixels be visible.

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The 5.2-inch IPS panel has a resolution of Full HD.  / © ANDROIDPIT

The Huawei P9 lite performs well with its non-OLED display. Colors are strong and the blacks and whites ​​are good. In the display settings, you can manually adjust the color temperature to your own taste. The viewing angle stability is also good; only when it is seen from an extremely flat viewing angle is a color shift visible. Such a case, however, is extremely rare because no one ever really views their smartphone display from this angle.

Color representation is the main criterion for a good smartphone display. The second is brightness. Huawei has boosted these areas with the P9 lite and, regarding brightness, it now achieves 450 candelas, versus the 353 candelas of the P8 lite. Although the IPS-Neo display of the P9 is even brighter, in direct sunlight the display of the P9 lite is still easy to read.

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The Huawei P9 uses an IPS Neo panel. / © ANDROIDPIT 

For a mid-range smartphone, the display of Huawei P9 lite beats leaves little reason for criticism.

Huawei P9 lite software

Stock Android fans might lose interest at this point because Huawei has used its EMUI UI for the P9 lite. Just as with the P9 and P9 Plus, EMUI 4.1, which is based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, also comes with the P9 lite. While Google Now on Tap is usable system-wide with this version of EMUI, Google Now cards are not

EMUI 4 1 Huawei P9 lite
EMUI 4.1 is based on Android 6.0, but visually there is nothing that reminds us of Stock Android. / © ANDROIDPIT

As is typical of Huawei and most smartphone manufacturers from China, there is a lack of an App drawer. All apps are stored after installation on the home screen, and it is left to the owner to group these into folders. But Huawei’s adjustments to Android have created numerous features that Android 6.0 Marshmallow does not have by default. This allows the fingerprint sensor to be used for not only unlocking your smartphone, but also for other actions. A swipe from top to bottom over the fingerprint sensor opens the notification shade over the display. Calls can be accepted or ended with a finger, as can selfies be shot. It is even possible to swipe through images in the gallery.

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The fingerprint sensor on the back can do more than just unlock the smartphone. / © ANDROIDPIT

Unfortunately there are also unpleasantries to report in the software. Once again, several preloaded games from Gameloft and other advertising partners chew up memory of the P9 lite. This can indeed be easily uninstall, but it would be desirable, especially with an internal memory capacity of only 16 GB, that Huawei bloatware could be deleted.

EMUI 4 1 Huawei P9 lite 2
Clearly too much bloatware. / © ANDROIDPIT

Apart from the bloatware and Huawei's own user interface, the software of the P9 lite behaves very fluidly in combination with the hardware. What's inside the Huawei P9 lite’s hardware and how it performs in benchmarks, you’ll learn in the following section.

Huawei P9 lite performance

The HiSilicon Kirin 650 found in the Huawei P9 lite is a brand new processor. It consists of an octa-core ARM Cortex A53 CPU. These eight cores are split into two groups of four cores running at different clock speeds: one set runs between 480 MHz and 1.7 GHz, the other cluster between 1.4 and 2.0 GHz.

The processor is supported by the Mali T830 graphics chip, 3 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal memory. The latter is expandable, via MicroSD cards, up to 128 GB. This setup  makes smartphones with an octa-core Qualcomm processor, such as the Snapdragon 617, look outdated by comparison – including, for example, the HTC One A9.

And in everyday life the Huawei P9 lite is quick. Very rarely does it feels like the hardware is overwhelmed; videos play without any lag, while opening up apps and switching between them is smooth.

Benchmark 1 P9 lite
The AnTuTu and Geekbench benchmarks results are quite good. / © ANDROIDPIT 

Most games also perform well, unless you’re really pressing the P9 lite with the likes of Dead Trigger 2 and Need For Speed ​​No Limits on the highest graphics settings. But even then, the reason for slowdown will not be the CPU but rather the Mali T830 graphics chip with its two cores and a maximum clock speed of 680 MHz.

Benchmark 2 P9 lite
The Huawei P9 lite performs better than smartphones carrying Qualcomm's Snapdragon 617 processor. / © ANDROIDPIT

Overheating does not appear to be a problem on the Huawei P9 lite, either. Even under heavy load, after numerous benchmarks or long gaming sessions, that Huawei P9 lite is only pleasantly warm, and this heat is distributed equally over almost the entire rear panel of the smartphone.

With the P9 lite, Huawei has built a very well balanced package of performance, power consumption and heat output. For most smartphone users, the power the Huawei P9 lite has to offer is quite sufficient. Only gamers should think twice before picking one up, because the graphics unit is prone to tantrums when pressed to perform too much.

Huawei P9 lite audio

The sound of the Huawei P9 lite is like so many other smartphones. The two groups of five holes left and right of the microUSB port suggest two speakers, but in truth there is only sound in the right group, a mono speaker. If this is blocked during playback of music or other entertainment media, then no sound comes from the P9 lite.

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Keeping up appearances: the Huawei P9 lite has only one speaker. / © ANDROIDPIT

Even if the speaker is not blocked or locked, this doesn’t give you anything. There is no design-related sound depth and at higher volumes, the speakers are simply overworked and there is distortion in the treble.

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The 3.5-mm jack microphone connection is for noise cancellation. / © ANDROIDPIT

The call quality of the Huawei P9 lite is very good. The built-in upper rack microphone for noise reduction filters out ambient noise well so that you will be understood by the person on the other end of the line – even in noisy environments.

Huawei P9 lite camera

The camera design was the biggest savings Huawei made in the device and is part of what gives it its low price. Developed in collaboration with Leica, the dual camera system, for reasons of cost, was not used in the P9 lite. Instead, it used a 13 MP main camera. At first glance, one could almost believe that Huawei has reused the camera of the Huawei P8 for the P9 lite. However, this is not the case. The image sensor of Huawei P9 lite is a third of an inch in diameter, the pixels are 1:12 microns in size and has an aperture of f / 2.0. This sounds like the Sony IMX217 image sensor and not the built-in Huawei P8 IMX278. Also, the optical image stabilizer is missing from Huawei P9 lite.

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The main camera of the P9 lite takes pictures at a maximum of 13 MP. / © ANDROIDPIT

The sensor can provide good image quality, but only the software in the form of the camera app can achieve maximum quality. With the Huawei P9 lite, one can say that the software, which is very reminiscent of the the Huawei P9, gets the maximum quality from the image sensor.

The P9 lite’s pictures seem – at first glance – sharp. But this is only true under the right lighting conditions. The quality of the photos decreases with less light and distortions start to happen. Although you cannot see the problems on your smartphone screen you can when you see them on a PC.

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The camera app integrates well with the Huawei P9 lite. / © ANDROIDPIT

To minimize distortions, Huawei has provided a night mode in the P9 lite camera app. Here, a video sequence of three seconds is recorded and takes an image with enhanced brightness and minimized distortion. This function works quite well, but it requires a steady hand or a tripod since the smartphone needs to be kept still for three seconds.

Huawei P9 lite Camera 1
The camera app for the Huawei P9 lite is almost the same as the P9 and P9 Plus. / © ANDROIDPIT

You can get even more out of the Huawei P9 lite camera when you use the Pro mode. Here you can manually adjust the ISO settings, exposure time, white balance and focus.

Although the Sony IMX214 is also designed for 4K video, the Huawei P9 lite records video in full HD. Also for video recording, an ambitious videographer can select a manual mode and alter the white balance, the focus area and the exposure.

Huawei P9 lite Camera 3
In Pro mode, the ambitious smartphone photographer can go to town. / © ANDROIDPIT

Selfie fans get a better front camera than the one that is used in the two more expensive models. Although all P9 versions shoot selfies with 8 MP, the P9 and P9 Plus has an aperture of f / 2.4 while the front camera of the Huawei P9 lite has an aperture of f / 2.0.

Overall, the camera system of the Huawei P9 lite is solid given its price of $340. Most importantly, Huawei has redesigned the camera app and given the slimmed down P9 version the Pro features.

Huawei P9 lite battery

Despite the price drop, Huawei refrained from adjusting the P9 lite’s battery capacity. As with the standard P9, the P9 lite comes with a 3,000 mAh cell. Raw battery numbers don’t tell us everything about duration and performance however: the efficiency of a smartphone’s hardware components will determine much of this.

Here is where Huawei’s 16-nanometer process Kirin 650 into play.

In AnTuTu’s battery benchmark test, the Huawei P9 lite achieved 8526 points, putting it almost at the level of a Galaxy S7 Edge in terms of statistics. The Galaxy S7 Edge has a larger battery (3,600 mAh), which might be why it edges ahead of the P9 lite, but this is still a respectable score from Huawei.

Benchmark Battery Huawei P9 lite
With a score of 8562 points in AnTuTu’s battery benchmark, the P9 lite performs almost as well as the Galaxy S7 Edge. / © ANDROIDPIT

In my personal use, after a 10-hour long working day, the device still housed a whopping 35 percent capacity in the battery (beginning at 100 percent). My day consisted of about an hour of talk time, an hour of combined games and videos, and frequent message exchanges via email, WhatsApp and SMS.

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The permanently installed battery in the P9 lite holds 3,000 mAh. / © ANDROIDPIT

Despite the strong standby times, charging the device is another matter. Although the Huawei P9 lite can receive two amps and 10 watts of power from a charger, Huawei includes only a one amp and five watt power supply with the P9 lite, which results in rather slow loading times.

Disappointing, but there is hope: our review unit was not presented in the final sales package: Huawei could well have settled on another power supply for its commercial release.

Huawei P9 lite technical specifications

    • Type:
    • Phone
    • Model:
    • Sorry, not yet available!
    • Manufacturer:
    • Huawei
    • Dimensions:
    • 146.8 x 72.6 x 7.5 mm
    • Weight:
    • 147 g
    • Battery size:
    • 3000 mAh
    • Screen size:
    • 5.2 in
    • Display technology:
    • LCD
    • Screen:
    • 1920 x 1080 pixels (424 ppi)
    • Front camera:
    • 8 megapixels
    • Rear camera:
    • 13 megapixels
    • Flashlight:
    • Dual-LED
    • Android version:
    • 6.0 - Marshmallow
    • User interface:
    • Emotion UI
    • RAM:
    • 3 GB
    • Internal storage:
    • 16 GB
    • Removable storage:
    • microSD
    • Chipset:
    • HiSilicon Kirin 650
    • Number of cores:
    • 8
    • Max. clock speed:
    • 2 GHz
    • Connectivity:
    • -
      HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.1

Final verdict

The Huawei P9 lite is a well-conceived package without serious weaknesses. The 5.2-inch smartphone is sufficiently compact and comfortable, with its 147 gram weight delivering the feel of a solidly crafted phone.

Thanks to the Full HD display, it’s a consistently good looking and enjoyable device. Power is plentiful, there are hardly any wait times, it’s a pleasure to use.

The battery life is great thanks to efficient hardware and a large battery. The camera features, including a quality app, are of the $300 class more than sufficient for recording those important life events in pictures.

The Huawei P9 lite must be looked at with a magnifying glass to identify serious criticisms. Like many Huawei smartphones, perhaps the worst that can be said about it is that it lacks some really stand-out features.

Overall, the Huawei P9 lite is a completely solid middle-tier smartphone without much in the way of fancy extras.

13 comments

Write new comment:
  • Hi, Carphone warehouse advertises the P9 with knuckle screenshot and a Where are you? feature, does this also have it?

  • Can you watch YouTube videos on Huawei P9 lite in 60fps?

  • No mention of screen mirroring or Miracast or WiFi direct... I'm looking for a phone that has screen mirroring (Miracast) and surprisingly most do NOT!

    • It has MirrorShare

      • Thanks for that...

        Is 'MirrorShare' the same as 'Wireless Display' and will I be able to use MirrorShare to connect the screen to my WDTV Live box or the NetGear Miracast dongle receiver?

        Thanks...

      • I guess it does, it connects to my samsung smart TV with no problems...

  • Hello! Good day to you all guys. Can any tell me which one has better battery life and camera performance- Huawei P9 lite or Xperia XA? Looking forward for your honest explanation. Thanks a lot!

    • Xperia XA has notoriously poor battery life. That's why it's had massive price reductions worldwide. Can't believe the same company got such amazing battery performance with the Z3 compact.

  • Yannis G3 5 months ago Link to comment

    I would appreciate it if you could mention if this is a 4G or 4G+ device (cat6 300mbps).

  • This is a design failure because the headphone jack is ON THE TOP. This prevents you from docking the phone and having it connected to a car stereo (or other stereo) and charging without manually plugging in a wire and having it dangling. Messy and pointless.

  • Which do you think should I go for? Honor 7 or P9 Lite?

  • Since when is "Software takes getting used to" a negative point...
    In essence... you are saying that if you had to come from a Nexus to a LG, you would say the same thing.
    Fact is... EMUI is probably one of the most beautiful Android UI's around, (Beats TouchWiz IMO) and it has features and functions which no other manufacturer offers, such as close mobile data monitoring... great for those of us on capped data plans.
    Going back to my main point, you cannot say that the UI of a phone is a bad point... whenever you change phones, there's a lot to get used to...

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