Huawei is one of the few smartphone manufacturers that has been able to grow over the past few years, despite increasingly strong competition. The P9 Lite shows that this growth is underpinned by high product quality and very good value for money. However, at first glance you notice that product design is not a strength of the Chinese company. The 7.5-mm thin smartphone sits nicely in the hand thanks to a chamfered frame and a back that arches to the very edges, but the overall impression is not very premium. This is also down to the matt and slightly textured plastic that dominates the casing. Although optically taking after the €500 P9 flagship model, the plastic back cannot hold a candle to the metal suit. A solid mid-range offering is brought to the table that reflects the price - not less, but also not more.
The smartphone has a great finish with Huawei not pulling any punches, the same can be said of the technical features. The display measures 5.2 inches and shows 1920 x 1080 pixels, ensuring a very sharp image. The brightness and contrast quality are also impressive, especially given the price. Under the display, an octa-core chipset sets the pace: the Kirin 960, which was first introduced at the start of 2016 by Huawei's subsidiary HiSilicon. It is manufactured using the modern 16 nanometre process, which, despite the high clock speed of the two quad-core clusters (2/1.7 GHz), only requires moderate energy consumption. The performance obviously does not reach the same heights as expensive, high-end smartphones, but is totally adequate for everyday use, particularly given the meaty 3 GB of RAM on hand. The operating system reacts quickly to inputs in every situation, while we have yet to come across any lag or blackouts. Huawei has installed the current 6.0.1 Android version, which is complemented by the EMUI user interface. The current latest versions are used in both instances, so Huawei is not palming off customers with old software.
- Bright display with full HD resolution
- Good camera features
- Hybrid slot (second SIM or micro SD)
- Fingerprint sensor
- Android 6 with lots of extras
- Very good wireless capabilities
- Very good battery life
- Overly plastic design
- Software support is better with other manufacturers
However, this could change when Google releases a new Android version in autumn. In contrast to companies like Sony and Lenovo, good, long-term software support is not a trademark of Huawei's. The EMUI interface, which has little in common with Google's native Android, is appealing with its optics and menu structure liken to that of the iPhone. The Chinese company has worked out some improvements that Android is not able to offer, for example a telephone manager that allows a range of system optimisations. We particularly liked the incorporation of the rear fingerprint sensor into operating the phone. When you swipe over it while in the picture gallery you can look through photos, while a swipe from top to bottom expands the status bar. However, this extra is deactivated ex-works, so to use it you have to go into the settings (under "Fingerprint ID") and flip two virtual switches. The sensor also offers an excellent detection rate and reacts very quickly to touches.
Huawei has gone for a 13-megapixel camera from Sony that delivers a quality expected from this class range. That means a high dynamic range and poor lighting conditions quickly show up the P9 Lite. Try not to set your expectations too high here. The 8-megapixel front camera is impressive with its high-quality pictures, proving to be the best in the test area. The menu structure is also a pleasure, allowing you to access all settings with a single swipe of the finger. The professional mode lets you experiment with a variety of parameters, from white balance to manual focusing. Videos can be recorded maximum in HD and blur quite fast. However, the P9 Lite makes a good overall impression in this area.
While the P9 Lite's battery has the same capacity as the P9 (3000 mAh), the battery life is much longer. Moreover, an impressive 8:24 hours of mixed use catapults this new entry into the top third of our battery life list. There are not many mid-range phones that can do this. The wireless features are also satisfying, scoring very highly in all three networks. In addition, the P9 Lite is dual-SIM capable thanks to a hybrid slot that allows you to add either a micro SD or a second SIM card. To sum up, this all suffices for a "very good" mark and a place at the top of our leader board, particularly above numerous other phones that are much more expensive. It looks like Huawei has scored a real hit with this one.