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Huawei P20 lite Review - Beauty Made Affordable?

Nova 2i lite leaderboard
The Huawei P20 lite's beautiful and solid metal and glass design is above the competition. But, is it enough to succeed the Nova 2i? Let's find out!
Huawei P20 lite Review - Beauty Made Affordable?
Huawei P20 lite review


Display Quality

Notched FHD+ screen
Notched FHD+ screen

The P20 lite's huge 5.84-inch FHD+ FullView 2280 x 1080 resolution w/ 2.5D curved class at 432 ppi.

It has a small notch on top and larger bezels at the bottom make it a polarizing design where it will split the community to either embrace the notch and/or the bottom bezel.

Smaller notch than the iPhone X!

In our opinion, most phones with notches and with larger bezels are only an issue at first or when you lay them side by side with phones with ultra thin bezels.

After a while you get use to them and you accept them eventually. There is also an option to hide the notch if you don't really like it.

The 1080p panel is bright, vibrant and sharp at all viewing angles. But, because it isn't OLED, the black areas aren't as deep as the black bezels which is noticeable at certain angles.

The max brightness helps in broad daylight but there are situations where it can be harder than normal to read the content of the display.

As expected, it also has an accurate light sensor for auto brightness, color temperature correction, and eye comfort mode found on the display settings.

Users may also adjust the home screen style (with or without app drawer), apps that will support the full screen 18:9 display, and text size in the display settings.

Huawei also added the familiar smart resolution mode that automatically lowers the screen resolution to help save power.

Touch responses from the 10 point multitouch display are quick and accurate. We never felt that the display had issues with our gestures.

Audio Quality

Single firing speaker!
Single firing speaker!

The P20 lite has a single speaker found at the bottom of the phone. It isn't the loudest nor the bassiest speaker on a phone for the price, but it is acceptable. Our review unit in particular had an acceptable maximum volume for small rooms but would be struggle in a larger room or in an open environment. 

We hope that the low max volume is an isolated case and on our unit only.

Details are clean and crisp enough. It has respectable audio quality for watching videos and music listening. It still has distortion and grain at max volume, but it isn't noticeable unless you were looking for them.

Huawei failed to specify the DAC that was used (if there's any) on this phone. Fortunately, the audio output through your portable small headphones or in-ear monitors is good.

It was able to properly drive my favorite on-the-go IEM (in-ear monitors) with ease. My RHA S500i only needed at least 60 percent of loudness to make it shine.

As a result, we were treated with a balanced yet full sound with punchy and accurate bass, really good clarity and separation, well extended highs, and wide enough soundstage.

The phones dual mic setup is great for calls and decent for recording voices as expected.

Battery Life

PC Mark test
PC Mark test

The P20 lite has a 3,000mAh battery with Huawei Quick Charge 2.0 to light-up its large display. For the screen size, the battery capacity is isn't enough on paper. In our test, battery life is okay, but it is far from stellar. The 1080p display does takes its toll.


Okay battery performance, but with Huawei's own Quick Charge 2.0 tech!

We ran the PC Mark Battery three times on the P20 Lite and it yielded an average of 5 hours which was inconsistent with our daily usage. With a daily usage with LTE, calling, texting, Chrome web browsing, YouTube and Spotify streaming with Grab and Waze used occasionally, we were getting under 8 hours of use. 

We would unplug the phone at 8AM and get home at 5PM with 15 to 20% battery left. It got us through most of the workday but it would be a good idea to have the power bank or charger ready.

The P20 lite also loads with Huawei's familiar battery optimizations and power saving modes found on the settings.

Huawei Quick Charge uses a 2A charger that charges the phone from 0 to 100% in under 2 hours. It isn't the fastest but it is an improvement over the Nova 2i.

Camera

Dual lens setup without the Leica branding
Dual lens setup without the Leica branding

It carries a 16MP + 2MP dual lens set up at the back without the Leica branding. The PDAF is there to improve autofocus in low light. It also has a single bright flash below the dual cameras.
The camera modes
The camera modes

It has several modes like the usual camera interface with wide aperture mode (f/0.95 to f/16), 10-level face beauty mode, HDR, panorama, different filters, and the downloadable food mode.
The pro mode
The pro mode

Like the Nova 2i, the P20 lite still has a full fledge pro mode with ISO 50 to 3200, Shutter speed 1/4000th of a second to 8 seconds, white balance and metering modes.

The P20 lite has a very fast focus and shooting speed for a mid-ranger. As expected, saving photos is quick. Close-up macro shots are also possible at around 2.5-inch near. The wide mode or portrait could also be helpful in those type of snaps. The wide-aperture mode shoots bokeh shots at 8MP.

Impressive mid-range camera phone!

Most of the photos we took in daylight are impressive. As usual, it has plenty of details and good color accuracy. It has enough punch not to be saturated. Indoor shots are mostly decent and its digital zoom is one of the best in the mid-range game.

Dimly lit images and outdoor night shots have noticeable grain but this performs better than most phones in the price range.

You may also use the pro mode or the night mode for lowlight snaps. The flash could be helpful at times as well.

Note: The night mode of our unit can produce well detailed lowlight photos, but it isn't as well exposed as the night mode of the Nova 2i and Huawei GR5 2017.

Rear Camera Samples

Daylight auto 1
Daylight auto 1
Daylight auto 2
Daylight auto 2
Bokeh mode f/4.0
Bokeh mode f/4.0
Normal indoor
Normal indoor
Normal indoor 3x zoom
Normal indoor 3x zoom
Close-up indoor
Close-up indoor
Lowlight 1
Lowlight 1
Lowlight 2
Lowlight 2
Night mode
Night mode

For selfies, it goes with a 16MP f/2.0 w/ screen flash. Face detection is speedy, but it still has no AF. Fortunately, shooting and saving speed is quick.
A great 16MP selfie snapper
A great 16MP selfie snapper

In terms of picture quality, it is one of the best selfie shooters for the price. The level of detail is on par or better than the competition (V9 and F7). It also has well saturated color reproduction. Most of our selfies are very well exposed too.

Even on face beauty mode, it'll retain the important details on your face. But as expected, it can still 
over beautify you at level 4 and above.

In lowlight, the camera will struggle a little. Noise reduction will soften the images at extremely low lighting conditions, but surprisingly it doesn't have a huge color cast. 

The screen flash helps but it tends to overexpose the our faces so we prefer to have it turned off.

Lowlight selfies are impressive for a mid-ranger.

Selfie Camera Samples

Well-lit selfie
Well-lit selfie
Well-lit selfie 2
Well-lit selfie 2
Indoor selfie
Indoor selfie
Lowlight selfie
Lowlight selfie
Lowlight selfie  portrait mode
Lowlight selfie  portrait mode
Lowlight selfie with screen flash
Lowlight selfie with screen flash

For videos, the P20 lite can shoot with up to 1080p and 30 fps. The level of detail andcolors are great and autofocus speed is quick. But, it is not stabilized. It would have been great if it has EIS or OIS. It can also shoot slow-motion videos with 640 x 480 resolution.

It can also shoot 1080p selfies and 720p selfie videos with face beauty. Quality is respectable, but it isn't stabilized as well.

Video Samples


Performance

The benchmark scores
The benchmark scores

Huawei used the same processor and GPU from the Nova 2i. These are the 2.36GHz 64-bit Kirin 659 octa-core processor and the Mali-T830 MP2.

Performance is okay, but GPU is weaker than the competition.

We are disappointed by this decision, but given how Huawei focused on build quality, design, Huawei Quick Charge 2.0 and software features, they had to trade off somewhere.



This processor and GPU combination is passable at best but is blown away by he competition.

Fortunately, Huawei coupled it with a generous 4GB RAM for multitasking and 64GB of expandable storage via dedicated microSD card slot.

Gaming performance is okay. It can run most of the PUBG in low settings with mostly smooth gameplay with object and texture pop-ins. Frame rate drops in gameplay where the screen gets busy.
Oreo out of the box!
Oreo out of the box!

The other highlight of the P20 lite comes with Android 8.0 Oreo based EMUI 8.0 which sees some minor improvements over the Nova 2i. We hope Huawei will update the P20 lite to the P20 and P20 Pro's EMUI 8.1 for added functionality.

Like most Huawei phones, it has no app drawer by default, but you can activate it in the settings. It has few bloats, but most of them are uninstallable. Icons are also clean looking and it has several themes to choose from.

It still has phone manager for optimizations, health mode (fitness and health tracker), and FM Radio.

It also has both the fingerprint scanner and face unlock feature. As expected from a Huawei device, both the fingerprint scanner and face unlock are speedy and reliable.

The rest of the telephony experience is great. The P20 lite has strong and stable WiFi and LTE signal reception, Bluetooth, and GPS is useful.

It also has OTG support and now has a gyroscope which was sorely missed from the Nova 2i. You can now use this phone for apps and games that use the gyroscope extensively.

Lastly, it has a notification light where the notch is.

Pros - Beautiful and unique design with solid build, good main camera and selfie camera, pro mode for stills and videos, EMUI 8.0 skin
Cons - Huawei could have used a newer gen processor, no image stabilization for video and stills, speaker could be louder

Verdict

The Huawei P20 lite is the phone to get for those are in need good main and selfie camera with great build and design that can live without the latest and greatest mid range processor and GPU. This phone is clearly an affordable lifestyle phone.

Even though the processor and GPU is retained, Huawei improved upon the Nova 2i by adding a gyroscope, Pro camera mode, notification light, 4GB RAM, and that immersive display with a hideable notch.

So no, it isn't as shocking as the P20 or P20 Pro, but it is good enough to compete for your wallets.

Build / Design - 4.5
Display - 4
Audio - 3.75
Battery - 3.75
Camera - 4.25
Performance - 3.75
Average - 4 / 5
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