Android Hardware Phones Reviews

Huawei Mate 20 Lite review: the best camera on a mid-range phone?

Huawei Mate 20
SAMSUNG CSC

If you’ll forgive the contradiction, premium phones just keep getting cheaper. Just look at the £350 Asus ZenFone 5. Now Huawei is muscling in on the act with its £380 Huawei Mate 20 Lite.

Why should you buy it? Huawei is going big on its photography skills, but it’s also a genuinely stylish phone. Even fashionistas would be happy to have this in their pocket.

Brief Tech Questions

When’s it released?It’s out now. £380 from Amazon and £21 per month from Carphone Warehouse.
How fast is it?It’s got the new Kirin 710 chip inside, which means it should be faster than the ZenFone 5. AKA, more than fast enough.
How long will the battery last?Huawei claims over two days for the “average” user and a very specific 1.58 days for the heavy user. 
Is it pretty?For sure. It’s slim, it’s shiny, and there are some nice colours to choose from too.
How does it unlock?With sprightly facial recognition and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader.

Huawei Mate 20 Lite review: camera quality

So Huawei is most excited about the camera, with the promise that its AI-assisted chip will recognise more scenes than ever before. Including, bewilderingly, pandas. See the photo below, which I took at a Huawei briefing, to see how it works.

This slide from Huawei’s presentation explains how the photo optimisation works

There’s no doubt that, in general, the algorithm works. It correctly identified plants and indoor lighting, for instance, although when I took a landscape photo that was one-thirds grass and two-thirds cloudy sky, it decided that was a plant too.

I also found it a bit annoying in dark conditions. It identified that this was a night scene, but told me to hold the phone still as it attempted to prolong the exposure. Tricky to do when you have jittery hands such as mine. I ended up switching off the AI for those shots, which is thankfully easy to do (press the AI button when you frame the shot).

You can see a selection of shots I’ve taken on the Mate 20 Lite below. 

As can be seen from the photos above, the Mate 20 Lite’s camera is great at capturing details and performs well in all light conditions. However, it has a tendency to make colours too vivid.

It feels more like a camera for the Instagram generation than for a purist, and it’s notable that it automatically attempts to make people more beautiful unless you tell it not to.

Huawei Mate 20 Lite review: screen quality

It’s a nice screen. It’s tall and slim at 6.3in with a 19.5:9 ratio, and even those with small hands should find it fits comfortably. 

Both indoors and outside, it looks sharp and bright. This is one of the big changes in recent years: the screens in mid-range phones are almost indistinguishable in quality from the very top models.

The final thing I should say is that the screen is again almost identical to the Asus ZenFone 5. In fact, there are so many similarities I couldn’t resist putting the two side by side:

Huawei Mate 20 Lite: a word on speed

In daily use, the Mate 20 Lite is a speedy phone. I haven’t hit any hiccups with it and never once cursed it as slow. But this isn’t the world’s quickest phone, because the Kirin 710 processor isn’t a top-of-the-range chip.

Sadly, neither Geekbench 4 or GFXBench would install on my phone, but scouring the internet for results for other phones based on the same chip suggests the Mate 20 Lite would perform almost identically to the Asus ZenFone 5.

That’s fine, but I can’t help but look wistfully over at the Honor Play with its Kirin 970 processor inside. This is around 20% faster in benchmarks, so would give the phone that much more longevity.

The good news? Huawei backs it up with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and you can add another 256GB of storage via the microSD slot.

Its battery life is good too. I typically end the day with 30% to 50% left in the tank, which is a reflection of the generous 3,750mAh battery.

Huawei Mate 20 Lite: specifications

  • 172g, 75 x 7.6 x 158mm (width, depth, height)
  • 6.3in display, 1,080 x 2,340 resolution 
  • Kirin 710 processor (four 2.2GHz cores, four 1.7GHz)
  • 4GB RAM, 64GB ROM, micro SD slot up to 256GB
  • 3,750mAh battery
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
  • 20MP (f/1.8) rear camera, plus 2MP
  • 24MP (f/2.0) front camera, plus 2MP
  • Android 8.1

Huawei Mate 20 Lite: verdict

I like the Huawei Mate 20 Lite. It’s a respectable mid-range phone with a respectable camera, and the design is top-notch. And on that note, I also like how well it handles the notch. With the Asus, you’re always aware of it due to the dotted lines that replace the notifications that can’t be squeezed in. Huawei simply makes the notifications smaller, but they’re still easy to read.

But there is a but. At £380, this phone is way too expensive. Take the Honor Play, which is actually made by Huawei as well – it’s just that the Honor is its more youthful brand. The Play is £100 cheaper, has a similar camera and screen, but also has a faster processor. That doesn’t really make sense.

Plus, if you’re willing to spend a bit more, there’s the OnePlus 6. If you’re spending almost £400 on a phone anyway, stretching another few pounds to the OnePlus probably makes sense. That investment gets you a much faster phone with a superior camera.

As I say, I do like this phone. But ultimately, it’s beauty without quite enough substance.

Read this next: Lenovo Yoga Book: the perfect sofa laptop?

Honor Mate 20 Lite £380
  • Design and build quality
  • Photo quality
  • Value for money
  • Speed
3.6

Huawei Mate 20 Lite

A nice phone but it’s soundly beaten for value by the Honor Play

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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