Huawei P9 Lite review: Close to budget brilliance

Price when reviewed

So how do these figures compare to the more expensive P9 phones, and other handsets in the price bracket? I’m glad you asked.


sRGB gamut coverage

Peak brightness


Huawei P9 Lite

1,080 x 1,920




Huawei P9

1,080 x 1,920




Huawei P9 Plus

1,080 x 1,920




Moto G4

1,080 x 1,920




Samsung Galaxy J5

720 x 1,280




A couple of notes for those – the P9 Plus and J5 both use AMOLED screens, meaning their contrast is essentially perfect, and have great colour reproduction – but peak brightness typically doesn’t reach as high as IPS displays. Still, as you can see, the P9 Lite holds its own, with an excellent screen compared with its rivals, especially in terms of sRGB coverage when compared with its chief rival at this price point, the Moto G4.

Huawei P9 Lite: Performance

And things continue impressively into all-round performance, too. For the price, you can’t really argue with the specifications. Inside the P9, there’s a 2GHz octa-core Kirin 650 chip running the show, backed by 3GB of RAM. There’s only 16GB of internal storage, which feels a touch stingy, but it does have a microSD slot, which takes away the pain somewhat.

This translates to a phone that performs really nicely, with apps running smoothly and performance that’s generally more than adequate. It doesn’t feel as smooth to use as flagship phones, but for less than half the price you shouldn’t be expecting miracles.[gallery:5]

But how does it compare exactly? Here’s what we found when we compared the P9 Lite to the same handsets as above. First, in Geekbench, which measures processing performance, and then in GFXBench, which, as the name suggests, measures GPU output in average frames per second based on a reasonably intense game simulation.

Geekbench 4 (single-core)

Geekbench 4 (multi-core)

GFXBench Manhattan 3 (onscreen)

GFXBench Manhattan 3 (offscreen)

Huawei P9 Lite





Huawei P9





Huawei P9 Plus





Moto G4





Samsung Galaxy J5





Discounting the two other P9s – which, lest we forget, are £259 and £359 more expensive – the P9 Lite holds its own extremely well against its rivals. It’s faster than both the Moto G4 and the Samsung Galaxy J5 in processing power and graphical performance.

Unfortunately, this is the high water mark of the review, and it’s all downhill from here. Huawei makes two mistakes with the P9 Lite and how you use your phone will decide how big a deal this is for you.[gallery:7]

The first point is that the battery life is bad. Really bad. We test every phone we review using a looped 720p video in airplane mode, with the brightness set to 170cd/m2, and then measure how many hours the handset lasts. The vast majority of phones we look at comfortably break into double figures, but the Huawei P9 Lite died shortly after crossing the nine-hour mark. To compare that with our other two recommended bargains, the Moto G4 has good stamina, lasting 13hrs 39mins in the same test, while the Samsung Galaxy J5 pushed on for a further 17hrs 50mins before giving up the ghost.

Huawei P9 Lite: Camera

The second problem with the P9 Lite is the camera. It isn’t very good, either. Something clearly has to suffer with the drop in price from the P9 to the P9 Lite, and it seems to have disproportionately fallen on the camera to make up the difference. Gone is the Leica-manufactured snapper; in its place is a disappointingly mediocre generic one.huawei_p9_lite_camera_test_shots

It’s a 12-megapixel snapper, and unfortunately the pictures not only suffered from blurred detail, but also lacked any real vibrancy, with everything taking on a gloomy, underexposed tone. This seemed to be the case with or without the camera’s HDR mode.

In lower light indoors, things got even worse. Images proved grainy and lacking in detail, and while the flash helped a little, the camera clearly isn’t a selling point for the phone. This is a demonstrably worse camera than the Moto G4.

Huawei P9 Lite: Verdict

This has very much been a review of two halves: the first section could be fairly summed up as “glowing”, while the second could charitably be summarised as “needs improvement”. So what should you believe? Well, a lot depends on how you use your phone.

If you don’t take many photographs, than an iffy camera won’t really be a problem for you. Likewise, if you’re so serious a photographer that you have your own DSLR on you at all times, then this shouldn’t stop you considering the Huawei P9 Lite. The battery is a concern, but as Huawei has stuck with the venerable micro-USB port, you’re not likely to ever be too far away from somewhere where you can top up your phone.[gallery:8]

And, if you’re happy with those sacrifices, then the Huawei P9 Lite is a great choice. It doesn’t feel like a £190 phone. Performance wise, it pushes elbows in front of both our other budget favourites – the Moto G4 and Samsung Galaxy J5 – with impressive ease. Both those handsets are getting on a bit, of course, and no doubt the next editions will open the race up once again, but for now, for performance seekers on a budget, the Huawei P9 Lite is the phone you need.

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