- Funky design
- Face unlock
- Expandable storage
- Seen it all before
- Cheaper Honors offer a similar experience
The Huawei P20 Lite is a more budget-friendly version of the standard P20 flagship phone, offering stripped-back specs and some surprises. Here’s our full Huawei P20 Lite review.
Diet versions of popular foodstuffs are rarely satisfying. Forget all that low calorie nonsense, give me a bacon bap deep fried in lard any day of the week. Yum.
And it’s often the same story for ‘Lite’ versions of beefy flagship phones. Those premium specs are usually stripped back and the best features yanked out. What are you left with? A flaccid device that’s about as sexy as your granny’s undercrackers after an all-night horror marathon.
Which brings us onto the Huawei P20 Lite, the wallet-friendly version of Huawei’s new P20 smartphone. We really like that 2018 flagship, so does the Lite version manage to retain its charm and super-smart software? Well, there have been some sacrifices to trim the asking price, of course. Yet the Lite does boast some features deprived of even the more expensive P20 handset.
Huawei P20 Lite review: Design
Stick this Lite model side-by-side with the standard P20 and casual bystanders will struggle to notice much of a difference. The budget handset once again sports a spacious screen, which stretches close to almost every edge. That’s helped in part by the notch up top, which houses the selfie camera and earpiece.
However, when you actually clutch the two phone, the difference is obvious. The P20 Lite is considerably lighter than its sibling, although thankfully not so much that it feels like a toy. Squint close and you’ll notice little differences in the build quality too – more obvious seams, and less premium touches. Likewise, there’s no Gradient colour option here. Although at least you get a choice of four distinctive hues, with some suitably bright options to select from.
We still quite like the glass-and-metal construct of the Lite version, even if it doesn’t dazzle like its super-expensive brethren. Of course, that glossy rear still scuffs up a storm, and there’s no water resistance to speak of. Not even the measly ‘drip resistance’ of the P20.
Interestingly, Huawei has shifted that fingerprint sensor from beneath the display to around the back of the phone. We actually prefer this positioning, as the scanner falls naturally beneath your finger when you pick up the Lite. It’s just as responsive and effective as the standard P20’s sensor too, unlocking the phone in the blink of an eye.
Huawei P20 Lite review: Screen and media
That 5.84-inch TFT screen is a little bigger than the P20’s RGBW display, and once again you get a Full HD+ resolution to keep visuals nice and crisp. The stretched 18.7:9 aspect ratio means no letterboxing when kicking back with a flick either, although the top portion of the display is blacked out so that notch doesn’t intrude.
It’s a perfectly fine mid-range screen, although not as customisable as the P20’s panel. There’s no vivid mode to adjust the colour vibrancy, for instance, although images appear to be naturally reproduced. There’s also no Natural Tone mode to automatically adjust the colour temperature based on ambient conditions, and strangely the option to hide that notch from your desktops is also missing in action.
Still, for everyday use the P20 Lite offers a sharp and satisfying view. And there’s good news for fans of wired headphones too, as this handset delivers a 3.5mm jack – something culled from the other P20 smartphones.
That’s not all, either. The Lite handset is the only new Huawei phone to offer expandable storage, so you can boost that 64GB of internal space by a further 256GB.
Huawei P20 Lite review: Features
Although the P20 Lite sports the slightly older version 8.0 of Huawei’s own Emotion UI, you’ll still find plenty of great software features packed away inside.
The likes of the one-handed mode and other shortcut tools help to speed up everyday use, and although there’s no fingerprint gesture support to replace that on-screen navigation bar, we didn’t really miss it.
We’re also impressed that all of the security features found on the flagship phone are present and correct on the Lite. Facial recognition is once again supported, so you can unlock the handset if your fingers are otherwise unavailable, even when conditions are dark. Very few budget blowers support this tech right now, so it’s always good to see on a non-premium phone. And you once again get full encryption and alternative desktop options, to hide away your sensitive bits.
Huawei has also shoved on plenty of its own apps. Some of these are a bit pointless, but we like the Phone Manager which serves up plenty of helpful little tools. And Health is pretty good if you want to track how many miles you need to walk to burn off those deep fried lardy bacon baps.
For a closer look at the P20 Lite’s software, go check out our in-depth tips and tricks guide.
Huawei P20 Lite review: Performance and battery life
When it comes to performance, the Huawei P20 flagship is a bit hit-and-miss. In general it was perfectly nippy, but we saw a few little stammers here and there when using certain apps.
The P20 Lite packs a modest mid-range Kirin 659 chipset, although you get the same 4GB of memory crammed inside of that shiny chassis. Once again, some apps such as Google Maps occasionally struggle, and there’s a clear pause when flicking between apps at times. However, for your everyday running, the phone does a decent enough job. And we even managed to play some fairly demanding games such as PUBG with a decent frame rate, albeit on the low graphics settings.
The 3000mAh battery happily delivers over a day of life per charge, as long as you don’t absolutely hammer the phone with gaming and movie streaming. With more conservative use you can see a full 36 hours of play time before you need to plug the Lite in.
Huawei P20 Lite review: Cameras
Although this Lite handset sports a dual lens camera, just as the standard P20 does, that hardware has been changed up considerably.
The original P20 featured a 20-megapixel f/1.6 monochrome lens, plus a 12-megapixel f/1.8. RGB snapper. In comparison, the Lite serves up a primary 16-megapixel f/2.2 lens, backed by a basic 2-megapixel shooter with f/2.4 aperture. That means less detail captured in each shot, while the Lite’s optics can’t suck up as much light.
Also conspicuous by its absence is the Leica branding which was slapped on the back of the proper P20 – another sign that this is a more budget snapper.
All the same, the P20 Lite performed well for everyday shooting. That Portrait Mode isn’t as spectacular and you can’t shoot 4K or Super Slow Motion video either. However, for simply snapping your existence and sharing with the world, it’s perfectly capable.
Check out our full Huawei P20 Lite camera review to see all of our samples and hear our in-depth thoughts.
Huawei P20 Lite review: Verdict
Although the P20 Lite sports a similar look to the fully-fledged P20 flagship, there are tons of differences between the two. The display isn’t as customisable, the dual-lens camera lacks that wow factor and battery life isn’t quite as strong.
All the same, this smartphone is perfectly fine as an everyday blower, even up to the challenges of online gaming and capturing good-looking photos of your wretched offspring. The main problem is that it’s not really much different to a whole load of recent Honor handsets, such as the Honor 9 Lite or the Honor V10. Besides that notch design, very little stands out – even the V10 already did facial recognition.
You can grab the Huawei P20 Lite right now from Vodafone, from just £18 per month (with £99 up front). Check out Voda’s P20 Lite deals for more info.