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Huawei P Smart Review: Familiar territory

Tempted by Vodafone’s great value deals on the Huawei P Smart? We’ve fully tested this affordable smartphone, which boasts premium features and design work, for this in-depth Huawei P Smart review.

One of the biggest trends with modern smartphones is the lean towards edge-to-edge displays. Many handsets now come packing a spacious panel with an 18:9 aspect ratio, which is more ‘stretched’ than traditional 16:9 screens (and therefore better suited to media streaming).

Lately we’ve reviewed a handful of great-looking mid-range mobiles which deliver this kind of display, for a lot less than Samsung’s Galaxy S8 (which arguably kickstarted the craze). Most of these phones come courtesy of Huawei, or rather its sister brand Honor. First we had the brilliant Honor 7X, which was swiftly followed by the also magnificent Honor V10.

Huawei released its first own-brand mobile with an 18:9 screen at the end of 2017. The Mate 10 Pro was a premium device through and through, so it’s good to see Huawei launch a more affordable handset rocking this kind of design in 2018. Step forward the Huawei P Smart, which hits the UK as a Vodafone exclusive.

I’ve been using the P Smart as my personal smartphone for the past week and here’s my in-depth review.

Read next: Best Huawei phones you can buy in 2018

Huawei P Smart review: Design

The look and feel of the P Smart is very familiar, as we’ve reviewed a number of similar handsets recently. Immediately we were reminded of the Honor 7X, although Huawei’s latest smartphone is a bit more compact. One-handed use is therefore a little easier. That said, both phones serve up some software features to help out (more on this later).

This smartphone’s screen fills almost the entire front of the device, just like the 7X. Bezels are quite narrow along the edges, as well as above and below. You just about have room for the selfie camera and ear-piece over the display, while beneath you have the Huawei logo.

Flip the Huawei P Smart over and you’ll find the rear plate is made of metal, which gives this handset quite a premium feel. That aluminium surfacing seems resistant to scratches, while the black finish hides scuffs well. Silver bands up top and below break up that dark design, while there’s little other detailing. Only a centrally positioned fingerprint sensor, as well as the jutting dual camera lenses.

Although the P Smart isn’t exactly revolutionary, following the release of those recent Honor phones, there’s still plenty of appeal here.

Huawei P Smart review: Screen and media

That edge-to-edge panel is a 5.65-inch IPS display, with 18:9 aspect ratio. It’s well sized for enjoying some shows or even movies on the go, especially as that stretched design means less letterboxing. And while many apps are yet to support 18:9 screens, Huawei has you covered. Any traditional 16:9 apps can be expanded to fill the display, with a tiny bit of cropping involved. In my experience, this didn’t hamper the running of any apps I tested out.

The 2160×1080 resolution keeps things nice and crisp, whether you’re kicking back with an HD flick or browsing photos. Detail levels are on par with rivals, while viewing angles are also nice and wide. Meanwhile colours appear natural, rather than artificially boosted, which lends a realistic quality to image reproduction.

As with pretty much any smartphone, we’d recommend donning headphones to listen to your media. You get a single mono speaker housed on the bottom edge of the P Smart, which is easily smothered by your palm or fingers when playing games or watching a movie. It’s not too powerful either, although clarity is fine. You can hook up some ‘phones via Bluetooth, or the 3.5mm jack.

A standard 32GB of storage space is available for your apps and media, although around 10GB of this was already used up on our review model by the OS and those pre-installed apps.Thankfully you can shove in a microSD memory card of up to 256GB in size, to expand the available storage.

Huawei P Smart review: Features

Like most new Android handsets, you get the latest version (nicknamed Oreo) packed onto the P Smart. This offers a typical Android experience, complete with features such as split-screen multitasking and more control over app permissions. Most of the improvements are little tweaks, to make life easier. For instance, you can now highlight a postcode inside of an email and immediately jump into Maps to see the location. Google can also securely store your login information for all of your accounts, to save you signing in fresh each time.

As always, Huawei has slathered its own Emotion UI on top of Android for the P Smart. This doesn’t change the overall design much, instead adding bonus functionality to Google’s mobile OS. Once again you have the latest version of the software; in this case, EMUI 8. This is the same UI found on the premium Mate 10 Pro, although you don’t quite get the full feature set on this budget blower.

Still, many of the best bits are present and correct. For instance, you can shrink the desktops and apps towards the bottom of the screen with a quick swipe at any time. This really helps with one-handed use, when needed. Likewise, that rear-mounted fingerprint sensor can be used as a control pad. You can answer calls, pull down the notifications bar and even take a photo with a tap or swipe of the scanner.

Check out our EMUI 8 review for all you need to know about Huawei’s funkiest features.

You also get loads of apps packed onto the P Smart, which might irritate some users. And sure, stuff like the ‘Mirror’ is completely pointless; why not just check out your beautiful mug using the selfie camera? Still, a few of them are actually handy. For example, the Tips app is a helpful guide for any Emotion UI noobs, while the Phone Manager can be used to scan for viruses and clear your storage of any crap.

Huawei P Smart review: Performance and battery life

This smartphone is powered by Huawei’s own Kirin 658 chipset, backed by 3GB of RAM. It’s a mid-range processor, designed to perform well for everyday tasks, and it certainly seems to do the job. Messing around with apps, editing photos and streaming some HD Netflix all meet with minimal slowdown.

That said, some of the more demanding Android games can be a wee bit stuttery on occasion. Plus the P Smart can sometimes get itself in a bit of a state, and seem to lock up when you try opening an app or similar. Thankfully, this never usually lasts for more than a couple of seconds before normal business is resumed.

Battery life is certainly a success, thanks to the energy efficiency of that Kirin platform. Even with regular use (including some media streaming, camera use and loads of messaging), the P Smart always lasted well over a day between charges. Play it safe and you should get a couple of days of use from the 3000mAh battery.

If you are struggling for whatever reason however, you’ll find some nifty battery saver modes that can stretch out those final few percent.

Huawei P Smart review: Cameras

Like pretty much every Huawei smartphone launched these past months, the P Smart boasts a dual lens camera setup. That main 13-megapixel lens is backed up by a secondary 2-megapixel snapper, which offers a greater depth of field for your photos. There’s also an 8-megapixel camera around the front, for selfies and such forth.

Check out our full Huawei P Smart camera review for photo and video samples and our in-depth thoughts.

Huawei P Smart review: Verdict

The Huawei P Smart is very similar to recent Honor handsets, meaning that it feels all too familiar. However, just as we loved those Honors, the P Smart also proves itself a great value smartphone, packing some sleek design, decent camera tech, awesome battery life and a solid screen – all for a price that won’t break the bank.

You can grab the P Smart from Vodafone from February, exclusively in the UK.