DESPITE the heavy rains last Tuesday night, there were two back-to-back smartphone launches that we just couldn’t miss. Honor was unveiling four new devices at XYLO while Xiaomi was having a livestream watch party at Manduca Taberna for the announcement of its Xiaomi 13T series. So, we had to shuffle back and forth between the two venues, which thankfully were both in BGC.
For Honor, it was about filling in the gaps of its budget lineup, and the Honor X5 Plus, Honor X6a and Honor 90 Lite hopes to entice more users to the brand with its more affordable prices. Xiaomi, on the other hand, sent some Leica love to its popular T series to make an even more formidable flagship killer. I’ll do a full review of the Xiaomi 13T Pro in the next couple of weeks, but for now let’s talk about Honor’s new smartphone trio.
BUDGET POWERHOUSE: Priced at P5,490, the Honor X5 Plus is a good choice for those getting their first smartphone, or people who need a reliable backup device. The X5 Plus has a 5200mAh battery that promises an incredible two-day battery life. It also features a big 6.56-inch display with Dynamic Dimming technology, designed to reduce eye strain during extended use and a 90Hz refresh to make sure that everything feels smooth and responsive touch to your interactions. You also get a 50MP dual camera setup which can take good photos depending on the lighting, and 5MP Front Camera that tries its best to make you look as fresh as you can. It has a MediaTek Helio G36 Octa Core processor that’s paired with 4GB RAM and 64GB of Storage. Honor says you can save up to 12,000 photos, 5,000 songs, or 45 movies and supports up to 1TB MicroSD card expansion storage, so you can pretty much store your entire digital life on the phone.
Meanwhile, the Honor X6a offers affordable elegance with its stylish design and a range of useful features for an enhanced user experience at P6,990. It’s about the same size as the X5 Plus with its 6.56-inch display that also has a 90Hz refresh rate and Dynamic Dimming technology. You do get an extra camera lens with its triple camera system that also has a 50MP main sensor + depth camera + macro camera.
Photo quality is very similar to the X5 Plus and mainly depends on how good your lighting is. The front camera is a 5MP shooter. You also get the same Helio G36 processor and 4GB RAM but double the storage at 128 GB (expandable up to 1TB via microSD). The device is powered by a 5,200mAh battery, which can last for up to 17.8 hours of video playback or 13.5 hours of browsing on a single charge.
Our full reviews of the X5Plus and X6a are already up our website and I’m also currently testing the Honor Pad X9, which has an 11.5-inch Honor FullView Display, six-speaker audio system, 128GB storage, and a P11,990 price tag. It even comes with a free Honor keyboard worth P2,499.
For this week, we’ll be focusing our attention on the Honor 90 Lite 5G, which the brand hopes will capture the same attention as its sold-out predecessor with its “lighter” P12,990 price tag.
DESIGN AND BUILD: While it may not push the boundaries of smartphone design innovation, the Honor 90 Lite 5G manages to strike a balance between style, function and ergonomics resulting in a device that is not only visually appealing but also comfortable to use.
The Honor 90 Lite showcases a boxier design in contrast to the curved rear panel and display of its sibling. This departure gives this Lite version a distinct and more conventional appearance with flat sides, a metallic-finished rear panel, and a flat display. Honor’s twin-reflex camera module design returns yet again albeit in a slightly tweaked version. You get two color options, Cyan Lake and Midnight Black, though I prefer the more eye-catching cyan hue as its finish is also less prone to fingerprint smudges. Despite its plastic material, the build quality is okay, but I do have to point out that taking off that silver sticker on the back of the phone was a pain and it can leave quite a sticky residue so be careful.
DISPLAY AND SOUND: The Honor 90 Lite has a 6.7-inch, Full HD+ 1080 x 2388 resolution, and a 90Hz refresh rate adding a heightened feel of fluidity to the user experience with smoother animations, improved touch responsiveness when navigating the device and interacting with apps.
Unfortunately, to keep the price down, Honor opted for a flat, IPS panel on the front instead of a curved AMOLED panel like the one on its more expensive brother. This puts it at a disadvantage over similarly-priced phones that have AMOLED displays. Still, the display quality is relatively good. The choice of an IPS display results in more accurate color reproduction and wider viewing angles, making the device solid for various content consumption and multitasking scenarios. The display’s brightness ensures good visibility but it does struggle under bright sunlight.
Moreover, the Honor 90 Lite’s display holds a TUV Rheinland Low Blue Light Certification, a feature that’s particularly beneficial for users who spend extended hours on their smartphones.
For audio, extra volume mode can be activated for media playback and audio/ video calls, which is louder and clearer to the ears. Do note that it doesn’t have a headphone jack though, but there is an 3.5mm adaptor included in the box.
CAMERAS: The main reason to buy the Honor 90 Lite is definitely its 100MP camera, and for most of the time it delivers on its promise. Looking at the two oval-shaped modules, you’ll find the 100MP main shooter with a f/1.9 aperture and PDAF. The lower part is shared by the 5MP ultra-wide camera and 2MP macro camera. The ultra-wide camera was a good choice and useful but a 2MP macro lens is never good. They should have just ditched it in favor of an even better wide cam.
The camera can take great shots in brightly lit scenes and you can even compare it with photos taken by phones that cost twice as much. Images default to 25MP resolution via pixel binning and you get plenty of details and colors that pop.
There is, however, a noticeable drop in quality in low light, and you might want to switch to night mode for those really dark areas—do note you need to have steady hands as you have to keep it still for about 5 seconds otherwise you’ll just get blurred images. I suggest you bring a mini tripod or a phone stand where you can lean it on.
The 16-megapixel selfie camera takes good selfies, but again you have to take note of the lighting, use the screen flash, and lower the skin filters—unless you are going for that AI sportscaster look.
PERFORMANCE AND BATTERY: Under the hood of the Honor 90 Lite, you’ll find the MediaTek Dimensity 6020 chipset that plays a pivotal role in delivering a smooth and efficient performance. This 7nm-based processor strikes a balance between performance and power efficiency, ensuring that the device can handle various tasks while conserving battery life.
With its combination of an octa-core CPU and a Mali-G57 GPU, everyday tasks like web browsing, social media usage, and app launching are executed swiftly, providing a responsive and snappy user experience. It’s well-suited for multitasking, allowing users to switch between apps with ease.
It runs Android 13 with Honor MagicOS 7.1 that adds smart features like Honor Share for speedy file transfers, and Scan Document for automatic text recognition in photos, boosting productivity.
FINAL WORD: The Honor 90 Lite 5G tries to live up to the reputation of its more premium sibling offering a good camera system, respectable overall performance, good battery life and a fairly nice-looking design. At P12,990, the Honor 90 Lite 5G offers a combination of premium features and a very impressive camera system, making it a compelling option for those who want an all-around device for daily use without breaking the bank.