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Huawei Mate 20 Lite Review: Hands-on Impressions

Huawei gives us a sneak peek of the upcoming Mate line with the new Mate 20 Lite, revealed at IFA 2018. Here's what we think after testing it out in person.

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
  • £379 (about $500)
Huawei took to the stage at IFA 2018 to unveil the new line of Mate 20 phones… well, phone, as for some reason the company has chosen to only reveal the Mate 20 Lite, with the expected Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro presumably to follow soon.


It’s a slightly odd strategy, but one that probably serves the Mate 20 Lite itself quite well, as it’s freed from comparisons to faster (and pricier) siblings and instead gets its own time in the spotlight. Here’s what we thought after trying it out for ourselves.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The good news is that the Mate 20 Lite is out very soon in the UK. It’ll be on sale at Carphone Warehouse and Vodafone from Wednesday 5 September for £379, with EE also set to stock the phone from October onwards.

That price is £50 more than the recent P20 Lite, and puts the Mate 20 Lite directly up against the £399 Honor 10 - currently our pick for the best mid-range phone around. That’s stiff competition, and the Mate 20 Lite will have its work cut out for it making a dent in the increasingly crowded mid-range market.

DESIGN AND BUILD
Following on from the P20, it’s no surprise to see that the Mate 20 Lite boasts a big, notched display - though it’s actually a slightly wider notch, a necessary change to cram in dual selfie cameras.

The rest of the design is pretty typical for 2018 really. With an 81 percent screen-to-body ratio, Huawei has kept the build fairly condensed despite the 6.3in display, measuring 158x73mm - and just 7.6mm thick.

The rear of the phone is glass, and features another two camera lenses in the centre, bordered by the trademark Mate brushed metal stripe. Despite the glass there’s no wireless charging here, nor is there any waterproofing, but you do at least get a headphone jack.

We thought the Mate 20 Lite was only available in black, but it also comes in a nice stylish blue option as well.

SPECS AND FEATURES
Right, so that’s what the Mate 20 Lite looks like - let’s get into the nitty gritty specs stuff now.

Screen
First up, that big 6.3in display. It’s Full HD+, clocking in at 1080 x 2340 in a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, which means it manages a very respectable pixel density of 409ppi.
It’s an LTPS LCD display, which makes sense for the price, and from our brief time with it the screen seemed bright with a decent colour range. It’s always difficult to really assess a screen after such a short time with it, but it doesn’t look like there’ll be much cause for complaint.

Processor, memory and storage
Here’s where things get slightly more interesting. The Mate 20 Lite is the second phone powered by Huawei’s Kirin 710 chip, an octa-core processor with four cores running at 2.2GHz and another four running at 1.7GHz.

It’s likely a far cry from the performance of the Kirin 980 - which we expect to underpin the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro - but it should offer solid mid-range performance, especially paired with 4GB of RAM as it is here. Still, it's slower than last year's flagship Kirin 970, which you can find in Honor phones including the otherwise similar Honor Play, which is a full £100 cheaper.

The Mate 20 Lite will also include support for GPU Turbo, graphics optimisation tech that should make supported games - including PUBG - run faster and with lower power consumption.

As for storage, it’ll come with 64GB built-in, expandable with microSD up to another 256GB.

Connectivity and audio
As we mentioned earlier, you get a headphone jack (hooray!), along with USB-C for charging and data transfer. There’s also Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (but only version 4.2, not the more recent and reliable 5.0), though sadly no support for NFC, which rules out using Google Pay.

As for security, there’s a fingerprint scanner on the rear of the phone, or you can use the dual selfie cameras for the slightly less secure face unlock, which will now work no matter what angle you hold the phone at, meaning you can use face unlock in landscape mode.

Beyond the inclusion of the headphone jack, Huawei is also touting the inclusion of Histen 5.0, its latest audio system, which will supposedly deliver immersive 3D sound over headphones in case that’s your sort of thing.

Cameras
The cameras are what Huawei is really pushing with the Mate 20 Lite, especially the front-facing ones, seemingly in an effort to expand the Mate brand beyond business users.

The dual selfie lens are 24MP (f/2.0) and 2MP, with the latter primarily intended for depth sensing to pull off the bokeh effect.

That’s an awful lot of camera just for selfies, and it’s naturally backed up by a suite of AI-driven software stuff, including automatic (optional) beautification, AR overlays, animated emoji, and portrait lighting. Huawei is even packing in every possible way to take a photo, with options to take a shot by tapping on the screen, smiling, or using gesture controls.

To show off its commitment to the selfie, Huawei has actually packed more megapixels into the front of the camera than the rear - on the back you just get 20MP for the main lens and a similar 2MP backup, though the lower f/1.8 aperture might give the rear camera the edge.

AI stuff has been amped up here too. The now familiar scene recognition is back, automatically adjusting settings and apply post-processing depending on whether the photo is of a dog or a sunrise, but Huawei has added four new scenes to bring the total to 22 - though we do question how much use you’ll get out of additions like ‘ancient building’ and the genuinely baffling ‘panda’.

Battery Life
Huawei is also bigging up the phone’s battery life. With a 3,750mAh battery inside it should last a while, with Huawei claiming that the average user will get 2.3 days out of it, with even a heavy user lasting 1.5 days.

We’re not convinced it’ll last quite that long - we haven’t seen many 3,750mAh devices comfortably beat two days - but it should do a pretty decent job regardless, and the inclusion of fast charging (though not Huawei’s top tier super charging) it should be pretty easy to top up.

SOFTWARE AND APPS
Along with Android 8.1, the Mate 20 Lite will ship with Huawei’s EMUI 8.2 skin. Manufacturer Android skins are always a bit of a thorny issue, and EMUI has its fair share of detractors. It does give you a decent amount of control though, and there are a few design choices gently borrowed from Apple that make it an easy transition for anyone coming from an iPhone.

The new additions in version 8.2 are fairly minor, and mostly the sort of AI tweaks we’ve already discussed like scene and object recognition (now expanded and improved in the gallery app too), improved automatic switching between 4G and Wi-Fi depending on signal strength, and the option to hold down on an image of a product to automatically find it on Amazon.

SPECS
  • Android 8.1 Oreo with EMUI 8.2
  • 6.3in Full-HD+ (2340x1080) 19.5:9 IPS display
  • Kirin 710 processor ((4x2.2 GHz Cortex-A73 & 4x1.7 GHz Cortex-A53)
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB storage
  • microSD card slot (up to 256GB)
  • 4G LTE
  • Dual or single SIM (dual uses microSD slot)
  • Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX HD
  • Fingerprint sensor (rear)
  • GPS
  • 20MP (f/1.8) + 2MP rear camera
  • 24MP (f/2.0) + 2MP selfie camera
  • USB-C
  • 3750mAh battery
  • 158.3x75.3x7.6mm
  • 172g
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