Huawei launched its Huawei P20 Lite alongside the Huawei P20 Pro back in April. The P20 Lite is priced at Rs 19,999 in comparison to Rs 64,999 for its high-end sibling. The Chinese company is taking on the competition head-on by launching a number of devices targeting consumers across price ranges. With the P20 Lite, Huawei is trying to compete in the mid-range segment by trying to bring elements from the high-end segment such as the design to attract buyers.
The P20 Lite is available as an Amazon India exclusive for Rs 19,999, and it faces competition from the likes of Vivo V9, Oppo F7, Moto X4, and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro to name a few. We have already reviewed the impressive Huawei P20 Pro, and now is the time for the P20 Lite.
Premium design in the mid range
Huawei has clearly cracked the formula of bringing premium design to the mid-range or even budget segments with its sub-brand Honor. Think Honor 10 and Honor 9 Lite. Huawei P20 Lite similarly brings a premium glass back design along with 19:9 display with the infamous notch at the top. Its glass back helps grab quite a bit of attention with people around me inquiring about what phone I was using. There is an aluminum metal frame along with the glass front and glass back that gives the device some much-needed rigidity.
One thing I would like to point out is that Huawei has added the USB Type-C port on the P20 Lite, which it not something you always see on devices in this price range. This means that the device will not turn obsolete so quickly. Rest is pretty much usual affair. The device includes a dual-camera setup with the LED flash in a vertical layout on the top-left corner on the back. Huawei has also added a fingerprint scanner at the back located at the middle to ensure that users don’t accidentally cover the camera.
P20 Lite has not ditched the 3.5-mm headphone jack, which is present at the bottom of the device along with the Type-C port and the speaker grille. You will find the nano-SIM slot on the left side of the device along with the volume rocker and the power button on the right side of the device. The notch on the display comes with the front camera sensor, speaker, proximity sensor, and even a small LED light.
There are no functional differences in the design that would drastically change your experience while using the device. You may need to invest a smartphone case or cover for the P20 Lite to avoid any accidental scratches or wear and tear on the back of the device.
Display and the notch
The P20 Lite comes with a 5.84-inch tall LTPS LCD display with 19:9 aspect ratio, and FHD+ resolution. This means that there is no OLED display with all its benefits including deep blacks and better color reproduction. However, LCD display is common in the price range. Huawei has added a notch on the top of the device for the “near bezel-less” design but despite that, the bezels on this device are significant. The viewing angles are good on the P20 Lite though the brightness takes a hit when viewed from the sides.
On the software side, Huawei offers the option to “turn off” the notch by adding a black strip on either sides of the notch, which is a good idea for people who aren’t sold with this idea. But because of the LCD panel, it is clear that the black bar has been added in software instead of being more seamless. The company has also added and enabled Eye comfort out-of-the-box to automatically change the temperature of the screen according to the time to ensure that the smartphone does not interrupt sleep. The software also allows users to change the screen resolution of the device on the fly to help conserve battery. It also comes with the option to switch between a home screen without an app drawer and with an app drawer according to your preference.
All these features are standard in almost all the Honor and Huawei smartphones. Expect the option of turning off the notch, most other features don’t really make in difference in day-to-day usage of the device. The option for turning off the notch is useful until the point app developers actually put in some effort at optimizing their apps for the taller 19:9 aspect ratio.
Performance and EMUI
The Huawei P20 Pro is a beast when it comes to performance right from software to the hardware in the areas such as gaming and photography. But the same is not true for the P20 Lite even if Huawei calls it a ‘lite’ version of the P20 Pro with minimum hardware compromises. Huawei has packed an octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 659 SoC clocked at up to 2.36GHz, and paired with Mali-T830 GPU and 4GB RAM.
The company had packed the same processor in the Honor 9 Lite and the Honor 7X, which are available for Rs 10,999 and 12,999, respectively. The company did a good job optimizing how the SoC performs on those devices, but the same can’t be said for the P20 Lite. The overall experience seemed sluggish with noticeable delay when you open apps or multitask with a heavy game in the background. I was able to reduce the sluggishness to an extent by enabling the Developer options menu in the System sub-menu in Settings, and tinkering with the speed of system animations under the Drawing section. But even that wasn’t enough to completely remove the sluggishness in the UI.
The smartphone also struggled a bit while playing games such as Breakneck, and Modern Combat 5. It however was able to handle games like Asphalt 8, and Dead Trigger 2 quite well. The device did turn warm during extended gaming sessions, but that is expected.
Moving towards the software of the device, Huawei has packed a lot of bloatware in the device along with Google apps. Most of the apps are replicated in their functionality between the in-house Huawei apps and Google apps that the company has loaded.
Watch: Huawei P20 Pro Review
Regarding other apps, it is good that quite a few of them are already there, and users don’t need to manually download them from the Google Play Store. But, it is likely that users already have their preferences, and would turn to their preferred apps instead of what Huawei is offering. The in-house bloatware apps include Phone Manager, Themes, Music, Video, Health, AppGallery, Calendar, Notepad, Honor, Weather, Calculator, Torch, Mirror, HiCare, Compass, Honor Community, and Ride Mode. The third-party apps include Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, UC Browser, Truecaller, Netflix, Asphalt Nitro, Kingdoms, Dragon Mania, Puzzle Pets, Spider-Man: Ultimate.
The device also comes with system-level app suggestions offering ads of apps that the user should install according to the apps in any folder on the desktop. Overall, most of the apps don’t really improve the experience other than ensuring that user is ready to use the device without much downloading. But, it is worth noting that most apps will anyway demand an update in the Google Play Store to improve more features or fixing issues from what is installed in the Huawei manufacturing factory. So that easy-to-use-no-need-to-download-apps-to-get-started-scenario falls flat on its face.
Camera performance and the P20 heritage
P20 Lite comes with a setup of the 16-megapixel camera sensor and a 2-megapixel sensor at the back along with phase detection autofocus, and LED flash unit. The front camera packs a 24-megapixel sensor with f/2.0 aperture.
The camera managed good images in decent lighting conditions with good sharpness and natural colors. The camera does fall short on the dynamic range with somewhat faded images in some situations. If you are someone who wants to shoot images in less than ideal condition or for example, at night, the camera on the P20 Lite, unlike the P20 Pro, falls flat face down.
The camera has focusing problems in such scenarios along with ample noise and chromatic distortion. Long story cut short, it does not take good images in less than ideal conditions. The camera did not do a good job in separating the subject from the background when shooting in the portrait mode, and the situation was constant regardless of the subject is a human or an object like a cardboard box.
Huawei has also added a lot of bells and whistles in the camera software including Wide aperture, Portrait mode, and Moving picture modes. Other modes include Photo, Pro photo, Video, Pro video, AR lens, HDR, Night shot, Panorama, Light painting, Time-lapse, Slow-mo, Filter, Watermark, and Document scan. With time you can install more modes, and they act more like plugins instead of camera modes. There is no 4K resolution while video recording, the software has the option to detect smiles and capture the image automatically, track objects to ensure that one does not lose focus, and ability to map the volume button as the shutter, zoom, or focus button.
Last but not the least, AR lens mode allows users to swap out the background of the scene with built-in background images and stickers and also add Snapchat-like filters on the face. Huawei gives the option to download more effects and backgrounds using its AppGallery.
The device comes with a 3,000mAh along with USB Type-C port. It was able to provide decent battery backup lasting me for about 8.5-9 hours on intensive usage, and 11.5-12 hours on a regular workday. Intensive usage for me includes four email accounts on sync, WhatsApp messages, 20-25 photos, gaming for about an hour or so, and listening to music for about one and a half hour.
Huawei has added Power saving mode, and Ultra power saving mode options to conserve battery along with adjustable screen resolution, and Battery optimize option where the system checks all the settings, and suggests what settings need to be changed to increase the battery backup of the device.
The company has also given Launch sub-menu in the Battery menu giving users the ability to see which apps auto-start when we turn on the device, giving them the option to turn off auto-launch for unnecessary apps.
Verdict: Is Huawei P20 Lite worth the money?
Huawei has tried to recreate the premium experience and comprehensive package that it offers with its P20 Pro, but in a tight budget. But it looks like the company fell short at the execution stage. Don’t get me wrong, the device looks good on paper with that great glass back design, and near bezel-less screen but the device falls short on performance due to what seems like problems with optimizing the operating system.
Performance is not the only place where P20 Lite leaves a lot to be desired. It also does not live up to the reputation that P20 Pro has created when it comes to the camera department. The smartphone does not take great images of anything beyond ideal lighting conditions. I am sure that the company can manage to fix both of these issues with software updates, but the two issues that I have here are just the surface level problems.
So is the P20 Lite worth your hard earned money? It is difficult to forget that you can get the same processor in Honor 9 Lite for Rs 10,999 and the Honor 7X for Rs 12,999. Shelling out Rs 19,999 or more just doesn’t cut it for me considering the only appeal is the “P20” branding, and a good design.
If you are in the market for a smartphone around the same range, I would suggest you look elsewhere unless you are a die-hard Huawei or Honor fan. Even then I would ask you to give Honor 9 Lite a spin before finalizing your purchase. For the rest, you can look at Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro, or Asus Zenfone Max M1 Pro if you want to save money else at Vivo V9, or even the Nokia 7 Plus if you can extend your budget a bit.