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Featured Review: Huawei P8 Lite

June 16, 2015 - Written By John Anon

Huawei is one of the companies who has been making big waves outside of the U.S. This is of course, thanks to their ability to offer decent spec devices, at a lower cost than most of the other bigger names. Well, like so many Asian companies, the goal of late seems to be getting into the North American market. On that note, the P8 Lite from Huawei is the company’s first main attempt at establishing themselves in the U.S. and as such, saw its own dedicated U.S. launch just a couple of weeks ago. In terms of the device, this is unashamedly a mid-range device but one which hopes to capture those seeking a more high-end presentation on a mid-range device. The P8 Lite hopes to achieve this by adopting many of the design traits of its bigger counterpart, the Huawei P8, but with less costly materials and therefore becoming available at a much more attractive price point. On this occasion, that works out to be $249.99. In reality, it is a gamble to place your bets on a more design-focused mid-range device, but this seems to be a gamble Huawei is happy to take.

Specs

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The P8 Lite is designed to be a mixture of a good looking device with decent specs, but within a certain price bracket. As such, there are some limitations with how good those specs are. To breifly recap, the Huawei P8 Lite comes equipped with a 5-inch display with a 1280 x 720 resolution. Inside, the P8 Lite is loaded with 2GB RAM and powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor (clocking at 1.5 GHz). Moving to the camera aspects of the device, the P8 Lite comes touting a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera which is coupled with a 5-megapixel front facing option. Moving to the storage capacities and the P8 Lite comes as standard with 16GB of internal storage, although there is also a microSD card slot for additional storage. Additional features on offer include 802.11 WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, 4G LTE support and NFC. Lastly, the P8 Lite comes powered by a 2,200 mAh battery and running on Android 4.4.4 (KitKat), along with Huawei’s Emotion UI 3 on top.

Hardware & Design

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The design of the Huawei P8 Lite is a mixed bag really. This is a budget range device and comes in at a budget range price. As such, the materials used are reflective of a budget device. However, that has not stopped Huawei from trying to ensure the device resembles more of a high-end look and feel. This is immediately evident once the device is picked up and in-hand. The P8 Lite comes with the look of a device at a much higher price point and this is reflected in the accents used. These included a metal-esque frame which runs the full circumference of the device. Similar to how it looks on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 or the Galaxy Alpha.

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The rest of the device is plastic in nature which makes use of a gloss front and an etched finish to the backing. In particular, the use of the etching on the back plate results in the device feeling less plasticky and also adds an element of grip to the device not often found on other plastic based devices.

In terms of connections, the P8 Lite comes with the volume button (no separation for up and down and instead one single button), the power button and both SIM slots down the right hand side of the device. Again, detail has been included here by Huawei to ensure the buttons (which are metal in feel) are tactile, which adds to the more premium feel of the device. One issue noted with the buttons though, is that they are very close together which often resulted in proving difficult to take screenshots quickly.

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The left-hand side of the device remains completely untouched with just the frame in view, while the top of the device maintains a similar level of vacancy with only the headphone socket on show. Moving to the bottom of the device and the centrally positioned micro-USB charge socket is flanked by a speaker grill on either side.

 

Software & User Experience

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In spite of this being Huawei’s attempt at penetrating the North American market, there are some inescapable aspects which need to be noted with the P8 Lite. First off and which will immediately be off-putting to some users, is that this device runs out of the box on Android 4.4.4 (KitKat). This in itself is an interesting move by Huawei as while all the recent talk has been of the next generation of Android M, this device runs on a version of android which is essentially two levels behind. Although, it is presumed Huawei will upgrade to Lollipop, this is a presumption as there are no definitive details on this as yet.

Interestingly though, in spite of this running on KitKat, it does seem as though Huawei have looked to Lollipop for their design cues and therefore, the device has an aire of Lollipop about it. This is Huawei’s own skin on top of android, in the form of Emotion 3.0 and typical of a Chinese company comes sporting some familiar Chinese UI aspects. The settings are also broken down into different categories to make it easier to navigate. These are comprised of “General” which is best thought of as the main ones you might be looking for and then also “All”, which as you would expect, is all settings.

Moving on, one of the first issues to be noted, is one which is extremely common among Chinese manufacturers. The lack of a dedicated app drawer. Instead all apps appear in view, all the time, on the app screens. That said, Huawei have adopted the use of folders out of the box and grouped elements together. Namely, the obligatory Google folder along with ‘Tools’ and ‘Top Apps’.

The rest of the general home screen appearance is rather similar to what we have seen from Huawei and other local manufacturers before and makes use of colorful and large icons. As this is KitKat, it does look a lot less harmonious and uniform compared to what we have more recently become accustomed to on Lollipop. In terms of pre-installed apps, this seemed to be quite minimal compared to what we have seen on other devices lately. However, it is worth remembering that this phone comes unlocked and as such, is out of the box free of carrier pre-installed apps.

One of the reasons as to why this device did might not have come with Lollipop could be due to Huawei wanting to show the U.S. market a number of its smaller design changes, which may not have yet been optimized for Android 5.x. That said, the international variant of the P8 Lite does come running on Lollipop. Either way, this one comes with KitKat overlaid with a Huawei skin in the form of EMUI 3.0 and it does feel very light. There are a number of additions in place by Huawei and they are interesting ones which do add some flair to the device. For instance, the notifications come with a timeline attached highlighting exactly when a notification was received. Not to mention, in spite of this being KitKat, there are a number of more advanced security features hidden within the settings, as well as the ability to change up the on-screen keys.

The P8 Lite also comes with an interesting ability to theme the device. First up there is the general ability to theme, which includes the option to download a theme and widespread apply it across your system. Typical of other carriers, this is mainly wallpaper, font and similar changes and there are a few to choose from.

On top of the more standard theming option, there is also the ability to apply a more basic theming selection available. This consists of the ability to change the homescreen style between “Standard” and “Simple”. The first is the generic and default homescreen style while the simpler option is a more (dare say) Windows Phone look and feel, with the apps replaced by tiles.

Camera

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For a budget priced mid-range device, cameras are not usually one of the better features. This is not the case on the P8 Lite though, as the camera is a very nice inclusion on a device at this price point. On offer is a 13-megapixel rear facing option which comes with an LED flash. Images taken with the P8 Lite rear camera (and without any adjustments) were of a good quality. Images were clear, vivid, and usually taken as wanted on the first attempt. Likewise, there were no major issues with the quality of the front facing images taken during testing, using the onboard 5-megapixel offering.

In terms of the camera software, the P8 Lite is a little light in the software presentation (and seems to be one of the toned down software features to the main P8 device), but that said, all the main features you would want are included. Like the ability to choose between HDR, Panorama and Best Shot (which takes 10 images simultaneously and lets you choose the one to keep). Likewise, there are also a few Huawei additions included on the software which further make the camera experience on the P8 Lite a positive one.

You can see a selection of the images taken using the P8 Lite in the gallery below.

Battery Life

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As this is designed and positioned as a mid-range device, battery life is also unlikely to be one of the big features or key selling points being touted by the P8 Lite. That said, it is not bad. The battery inside is limited in its capacity (compared to many of the flagship devices), with only a 2,200mAh battery in place. However, there were no major issues in terms of the usage of the battery which did consistently offer a full day’s use without being comprised. Screen on time was a little more debatable with about three hours on average being achieved. This was for your standard level of usage, comprised of a mixture of bouncing between WiFi and 4G, browsing, mail checking and the odd video watching.

In terms of charging, as this is a smaller mAh battery capacity device, the P8 Lite would be expected to be a quick charging device. However, this was not exactly the case. The battery on the P8 Lite took on average two hours to receive a full charge, placing the device in a very average position in terms of battery life.

Summing Up

The Huawei P8 Lite certainly has some good and bad points which overall results in the device falling very much into the mid-range category. On the positive side of things, the P8 Lite is very nicely designed and taking away the specs, does result in the device looking much more like a higher end device. However, once you factor in that the software runs on KitKat, which is quickly becoming a dated system, the P8 Lite starts to show is mid-range position. Couple this with the specs and the device begins to warrant pause for consideration. The big problem that will exist for Huawei and the P8 Lite is when the device is compared to the likes of the Asus ZenFone 2 and other recently released devices. These are likely to be priced towards the same price-point but will offer an increase in nearly all of the specs. As such, if you compare the P8 Lite to the ZenFone 2 or the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 or even last year’s OnePlus One, then the P8 Lite is not going to look like a device worth picking up.

That said, if you do just look at the device on its own merit, the fact that it comes in unlocked and only $250, this is certainly an affordable device. If Huawei do plan on updating the U.S. version to Lollipop, and soon, then for the money, this would be a good option to go for.