Confused? You may well be, but ultimately what you get here is a stylish mid-range offering powered by an octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 655 chipset and sporting a 1080p 5.2-inch screen, all for less than £200 (around $245/AU$320).
The handset is running Android 7.0 and comes with NFC, as well as a large 3,000mAh battery with fast charging, a fingerprint scanner and dual SIM support, so on paper there’s a lot here for the money, but does it stand up to low-cost rivals like the Lenovo P2 in practice?
Design and display
- Glass front and back with a plastic frame
- Bright full HD 5.2-inch display
While it's hard to argue that any smartphone is truly unique in terms of appearance these days, it's pretty easy to see where Huawei is getting its inspiration from.
The rounded edges of the P8 Lite 2017 instantly call to mind the iPhone 7, as does the 2.5D "arc" glass used on the screen.
Flip the device over however and it's impossible not to think of the Google Pixel, especially with that rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. It's quite possible that the P8 Lite was in development before either of these handsets broke cover, but there's no denying that it shares a lot of the same design language.
However, while those phones – and Huawei's leading flagships – make use of metal bodywork, the P8 Lite betrays its budget status with a plastic frame.
This runs around the edges of the phone and gives it a slightly cheap feel, but this is mitigated by the fact that it has tempered glass on both the front and the back, calling to mind the LG Nexus 4 from a few years ago.
While we weren't brave enough to conduct our own drop test, it goes without saying that having glass on both sides means you'll ideally want to clad the 2017 P8 Lite in some kind of protective case. Those shiny surfaces are magnets for smudgy fingerprints, too.
Huawei has kept things simple when it comes to inputs. The power and volume buttons are located on the right-hand side of the phone, while the aforementioned fingerprint scanner is on the back.
On the bottom edge there's the micro USB port (not Type-C, we’re sorry to say) and to the right of this is a mono speaker. To the left there's another grille, but we’re assuming this contains the in-call microphone as there's certainly no speaker behind it.
On the top-left edge of the P8 Lite 2017 you'll find the SIM tray, which has two slots – one of which can be used to house a microSD card, if you so wish.
Dual SIM support is a neat extra if you have two different contracts – one for business and one for personal use – but it's something which is more popular in Huawei's native China than over here, at least for the time being. Finally, on the top edge of the phone we have the 3.5mm headphone socket.
Full HD displays aren't that common on smartphones costing less than £200 (around $245/AU$320), which is what makes the P8 Lite's 5.2-inch, 1080 x 1920 resolution screen all the more surprising.
Of course, the number of pixels you can cram into a screen means nothing if the panel isn't up to scratch, but thankfully the display on the P8 Lite 2017 is excellent.
The auto-brightness setting can be somewhat aggressive at times and makes the screen look quite dull, but at full brightness it's positively striking, with bold colours and sharp contrast. Viewing angles are also superb.
Interface and reliability
- Runs the latest version of Android
- Overlaid with Huawei’s feature-packed UI
Not only does the Huawei P8 Lite 2017 benefit from the very latest version of Android – 7.0 Nougat, in case you were wondering – it also showcases Huawei's custom skin, known as Emotion UI 5.0 – or EMUI for short.
Like any other custom Android skin, it sits on top of Google's own software, bringing its own customization and embellishments to the table.
Some of these are quite subtle – such as the way freshly-installed app icons ‘shimmer’ to denote that they're new – while others are more significant, such as the handy way the full settings menu pops out from the left of the screen no matter which settings sub-menu you happen to be in, or the way you can toggle between having all of your apps in a drawer or placed on separate home screens, iOS-style.
EMUI 5.0 also has special gestures associated with the fingerprint scanner, which can be used to perform certain actions. For example, swiping down on the scanner when the phone is unlocked will pull down the notifications shade, and you can move through your photo gallery by swiping from side to side.
The scanner itself is very fast and accurate, and we didn't encounter any issues with getting it to recognise our fingerprints. That might not sound like something to write home about, but budget Android phones do tend to suffer from ropey scanners.
Huawei has also included an ‘eye comfort’ mode, which apes the Night Shift feature of iOS, where blue light is filtered out to present an image which is easier on your eyeballs.
When it comes to customisation, EMUI allows you to tinker with what information appears in the notification shade and the arrangement of the navigation buttons that appear at the bottom of the screen.
To cap it all off, the ‘Smart Assistance’ menu comes loaded with options, such as the ability to flip the phone to mute incoming calls, a scheduled power on/off time and even a floating circular options menu, which includes navigation commands and shortcuts to recent operations.
EMUI also has battery management features, one of which informs you when an app is consuming too much power in the background, all of which adds up to a feature-packed if sometimes slightly cluttered interface.
Movies, music and gaming
- 1080p screen is good for films and games
- Internal speaker isn’t great
- A microSD card is near essential
Having a good quality 1080 x 1920 screen makes a big difference when it comes to digesting movies and games on the go, so the P8 Lite 2017 is a surprisingly versatile media device.
The rock-solid viewing angles and excellent colour replication really bring films and games to life. There were odd times when 3D games stuttered ever so slightly in intense sequences, but overall there's little to grumble about here.
For music, the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone socket means you can use your existing cans – Huawei hasn't joined Apple in ditching the connection yet.
If you prefer to listen to your tunes via the phone's built-in mono speaker though then you might find the lack of bass off-putting. As is the case with pretty much any mobile phone speaker, it lacks power and is only really good for talking over speakerphone or playing your ringtone.
Those who like to store as many tunes as possible in their phone's internal memory might find the 16GB of memory limiting, but you can boost this using the second SIM card tray, which doubles as a microSD card slot.
This is pretty much essential, as the phone's firmware and core apps occupy 6.55GB of the base storage and cannot be deleted.
Performance and benchmarks
- Performs well in most circumstances
- Solid benchmark scores
The Huawei P8 Lite 2017 is packing the same HiSilicon Kirin 655 chipset as its stablemate the Honor 6X, as well as the same amount of RAM: 3GB.
This shouldn't come as a massive shock, as the two phones are similarly-priced, and the good news is that the P8 Lite 2017 performs well in a wide range of conditions – no mean feat when you consider that the chipset is having to push pixels on a full HD display.
In benchmark terms, the phone scored 57068 in AnTuTu, while in Geekbench 4 it posted a single-core score of 764 and a multi-core score of 3134.
When you consider this is a sub-£200 (around $245/AU$320) phone, those are quite passable scores, putting the P8 Lite 2017 in the same power bracket as the likes of the Moto G4 Plus, which scored 3047 in Geekbench, and the Honor 6X, which scored 3275.
- 3,000mAh battery lasts over a day
- Fast charging juices it up in around an hour
Despite the full HD screen, the Huawei P8 Lite 2017 has more staying power than we expected.
The non-removable 3,000mAh battery was more than adequate when it came to getting us through a full day, and on some days we were able to eke more than a day's usage out of a single charge, provided we kept demanding tasks at a sensible level.
Despite the fact that it uses the old micro USB standard, the 2017 P8 Lite supports quick charging – just like the previous model – so you can fully top that power cell up in around an hour.
- 12MP rear-facing camera focuses fast
- Both front and rear-facing cameras can capture 1080p video
While it may lack the dual-camera appeal of the Honor 6X, the P8 Lite 2017's 12MP snapper is still pretty agreeable for a device in this price range.
The sensor comes with a decent autofocus, but no optical image stabilisation. That means that while the phone is relatively quick to lock onto your subject and capture the image, photos and videos are prone to camera shake.
As with most cameras, performance drops when you're shooting in darkened environments, with focus time increasing and camera shake becoming more of an issue.
But in good lighting the results aren’t bad, and stand up well to similarly priced handsets, with plenty of detail and accurate colours on show.
For selfie addicts, the P8 Lite 2017's front-facing 8MP camera is more than up to the task of capturing your best duck face, while both cameras are capable of recording 1080p video. They can’t match the 4K footage you’ll be able to capture on some phones, but we wouldn’t expect that at this sort of price.
Swiping from left to right over the viewfinder reveals a large menu packed with options, the most interesting of which is the 'pro' photo mode, which allows you to mess about with settings such as white balance and ISO.
There's also a 'pro' video mode, which offers similar levels of user control for recorded footage. The P8 Lite 2017's camera app also offers HDR, panoramic shooting, time-lapse, light-painting, document scanning and slow-motion video.
As is the case with Samsung's phones, it's possible to download more shooting modes to augment this already impressive selection.
Mid-to-low range Android phones have certainly come a long way in a relatively short space of time, but the P8 Lite 2017 represents a real step forward for this price bracket. The full HD screen is excellent, the Kirin 655 chipset offers plenty of power and the 3,000mAh battery can deliver over a day of decent usage.
The downsides are low internal storage and the plastic frame, but neither of these really impact the phone's appeal too greatly, and in the case of the former you can always use one of the SIM card slots to install a microSD card for extra storage.
For under £200 (around $245/AU$320) the P8 Lite is something of a bargain.
Who's this for?
While it doesn’t challenge those devices in every aspect of its feature set, it offers a premium-feel experience which makes the modest price tag all the more surprising.
Should you buy it?
If you don't mind a plastic-framed handset – and having to shell out for a near-essential microSD card – then the P8 Lite 2017 comes very highly recommended indeed.
Opting for a budget-price phone usually means compromising on some features, but outside of bleeding edge stuff – like 4K video recording for example – the Huawei P8 Lite 2017 feels like it's supplying a premium experience, but at a fraction of the price.
The Huawei P8 Lite 2017 is competitively priced, but there's no shortage of similarly accomplished phones in this bracket, such as the following three.
One of the few other budget Androids which boasts a full HD screen, the Moto G4 also runs Android Nougat, and it’s a near vanilla version of the OS, which is the purest and arguably best way to experience it.
All that and it’s even slightly cheaper than the Huawei P8 Lite 2017, but it lacks a fingerprint scanner and NFC, making the P8 Lite a slightly more attractive proposition overall.
- Read our full Moto G4 review
Another low-cost Android phone with a 1080p screen, the Lenovo P2's display really is worth writing home about and the metal design is really eye-catching.
It also has a massive battery, giving it several days of life, but the camera is disappointing and it's something of a beast in terms of overall weight. Still, if you’re not a big smartphone snapper it’s well worth considering instead of the P8 Lite 2017.
- Read our full Lenovo P2 review
If you don't mind ordering your phone direct from China and jumping through some hoops to set it up, then the Mi5 is another worthy alternative to the P8 Lite 2017.
It has a powerful Snapdragon 820 chipset, 1080p screen, fingerprint scanner and USB Type-C, which makes for almost flagship specs, all for a mid-range price. It’s the better phone, but it’s also a bit more expensive and not as easy to get.
- Read our full Xiaomi Mi5 review
First reviewed: March 2017