Huawei P8 Lite review - the balanced performer
Huawei continues its ascent in the sales charts for mobile devices, having only last year surpassed Microsoft's Lumia division. Undoubtedly, the aggressive pricing of its devices is the main reason for reaching third place in the sales chart, and while even top Huawei devices like the P8 do not yet possess the level of software and aesthetic refinement seen in phones from more established manufacturers, they are slowly and surely making up ground. Today we are going to take a closer look at the little brother of the Huawei flagship, the Huawei P8 Lite. Unlike its sibling, the P8 Lite has an amazingly low price tag starting from $175 and, at least on paper, has all the right specs for a mid-range smartphone. Read this review and see how it performs in our tests:
Packaging, design and build quality of the Huawei P8 Lite
The phone comes in a simple, white box, which has only the name imprinted on it and a large sticker with the specs on one side.
The phone is neatly sandwiched between two smaller boxes containing the charger and headset, as well as the manual and the warranty card.
No surprises as far as package contents go. Be advised that one of the boxes includes, fixed on one of its walls, the tool for ejecting the SIM trays.
All the accessories are white. The 1A rated charger is small, while the supplied headset bears a striking resemblance to the current iPhone earphones. The Quick Start Guide contains all the needed documents to get you going.
The Huawei P8 Lite comes in two colors, white and black. The design is elegant and, although the Chinese manufacturer has chosen a plastic finish instead of the metal used for its big brother, the "premium" feel is still there, thanks to the textures and colors used.
The phone is 5.62 inches (143 mm) in height, 2.78 inches (70.6 mm) in width and 0.3 inches (7.7) mm thick. When you combine it with a weight of 4.62 ounces (131 grams), it makes sense for people who want to go against the "bigger is better" trend of the last few years.
The front of the smartphone is simple, with no separate capacitive buttons or speaker grilles. Thanks to the small bezels, the manufacturer has managed to fit a 5 inch screen on the device. Above the screen you will find the earpiece, the 5 megapixel front facing camera and the proximity and light sensors. There is also a status led which is visible only when it's lit up.
A headphone jack and the secondary microphone (for noise cancelling) are the only things present on top of the phone, while the bottom houses the micro-USB charging port, the speaker and the microphone. Stereo speakers would have been a nice addition, but despite the symmetric design of the grilles, only one speaker is present.
The left side of the device is perfectly clean, with no controls. The right side houses the two sim trays, the power button and the volume rocker. The SIM trays (with the upper one alternately accepting a microSD card) are perfectly flush with the body and can only be ejected using the provided tool.
The back of the smartphone has a nice brushed finish, with a slim glass band on the upper part.
The main camera and the LED flash are placed in a corner, with no other features present.
The standard package contents are no surprise, but the elegant design of the boxes and of the smartphone itself make a very good first impression on the user. The materials and textures are carefully chosen to give a premium look and feel. The device is small and reasonably light, making it very easy to handle.
Hardware specifications of the Huawei P8 Lite
The Huawei P8 Lite comes in two different versions, one for the US markets (codename ALE-04) and one for the rest of the world, codenamed ALE-21, which is the unit we will review today. The US version is based on the Snapdragon 615 chipset coupled with an Adreno 405 graphics system, while the tested unit is based on the HiSilicon Kirin 620 chipset coupled with a Mali-450MP4 GPU. The rest of the specifications are nearly identical and although in theory the Snapdragon 615 outperforms the Kirin chipset, the differences are very small.
While the chipset may offer decent performance, the Mali graphics chip is an aging one and it might not be on the of level the 1.2 GHz Octa-core processor. We will of course put that to the test later in our review.
The unit has 2 GB of memory, which is just about average (top-end products have 3 GB) and the internal storage capacity is 16GB. The storage space can be extended with a microSD card of up to 128 GB but be advised, the dual-SIM capability of the smartphone is available only without an SD card installed, since it will occupy one of the SIM trays.
The screen is a 5 inch IPS LCD panel with a 720p resolution (720 x 1280 pixels) and thus it has roughly 294 pixels per inch. It has good viewing angles and average brightness. The pixel density is not great, but the screen looks sharp and considering the low price of the Huawei P8 Lite, there's not much more we could ask.
The camera has a 13 Megapixel BSI sensor (backside illumination, which helps in low-light conditions) aided by a dual-LED flash, but with no optical image stabilisation. It's a step down from the Huawei P8 but it's still a capable unit, able to record 1080p videos at 30 frames per second. The lens has an aperture of f/2.0 and a focal length of 27 mm. The secondary camera has 5 Megapixels and is able to record 720p videos.
The device is LTE (4G) capable and has a 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi adapter. There is no 802.11 ac available, but other than that, the regular connectivity options are there: Bluetooth 4.0 is also available, as is GPS. The Huawei P8 Lite ALE-21 has NFC, a feature not present in the US version of the smartphone. Charging and PC connections are done via the usual USB 2.0 port.
The Huawei P8 Lite has a 2200 mAh battery, which is rather small in capacity. The battery is non-removable and has no quick-charging capability.
We will test the performance of the device in benchmarks and real-life tests, but first, let's see what the Huawei P8 Lite software has to offer.
The s oftware and the user interface of the Huawei P8 Lite
The tested version of the Huawei P8 Lite came with the Android 5.0.1 (Lollipop) operating system, on top of which the Chinese manufacturer put its own customized user interface, the EMUI 3.1. While there are numerous aesthetic customizations available, you can also choose not to stray too far from the "vanilla" Android 5.0 look.
The lack of separate, capacitive buttons for Back, Home and Task Manager has its pros and cons: by moving the buttons on the screen, the user can customize the appearance and order of the buttons, but on the other hand, most of the time, the buttons occupy valuable space on the screen.
One of the biggest changes from the 5.0.1 launcher is the lack of an app drawer. What this means is that every app that is installed will be present in one of the home screens, similar to the iPhone system. While the apps can be put in folders, some users will not be comfortable with this change, especially since you can't quickly rearrange or hide apps from the home screens.
The notification area has two sections: one handles the actual notifications while the other toggles the various options. Simple and easy to use, although potentially, more actions are required to get to the needed shortcut.
A brilliant feature present in the Huawei P8 Lite settings is the Permissions section, which allows the user to individually allow or deny the permissions for each installed application, including the permissions to use the data connection. This is immensely useful for users who have a limited data plan and want to conserve their network usage over the mobile network. The same level of user interaction is also possible for application notifications, with each of the applications having separate permissions for displaying info on the lock screen, the status bar or on the home screen. Power settings also follow this trend, as the user can decide what applications will be closed when the screen is locked and what apps will be "protected".
Yet another useful feature is the Motion Control section, from which you can choose what a variety of motions and gestures do: from silencing the smartphone to rearranging your icons and starting specific apps.
As far as apps go, the Huawei P8 Lite has no bloatware and some very useful applications, the most important being the Phone Manager.
From this "command center" you can clean up the RAM, the storage, adjust the power saving settings, the permissions and notifications as described earlier and you can also block calls or messages. Furthermore, by pressing the Scan button, your phone will automatically search for issues/tips for all of the sections and allow you to individually fix them.
The smartphone has other useful apps, such as the File Explorer , the WPS Office suite and the HiCare app which provides useful links to manuals, forums and customer service.
The usual applications are present, with aesthetic customizations: calculator, calendar, voice recorder and flashlight app.
In line with the design and the hardware specifications, the software is well balanced, good looking and practical. There is no unnecessary bloatware and the level of customization and user control is well above the average.
On the next page we will see how the Huawei P8 Lite performs in benchmarks and in real-life usage scenarios.