The Mate 20 Lite feels like a premium flagship when it is resting in the palm of your hand
HUAWEI MATE 20 LITE • £379.99 (as tested)
- FOR – Incredibly premium build • Gorgeous 6.3-inch display • Serviceable cameras • Quick performance • Excellent battery life
- AGAINST – Filled with Huawei’s signature bloatware • Unhelpful AI features • Face unlocking is not as refined as it should be • Single speaker can be blocked easily
Huawei Mate 20 Lite immediately deceives you into thinking it boasts a much higher price tag than £379.99 thanks to its incredibly premium build.
The Mate 20 Lite does not break the mould in terms of smartphone design in recent years; it touts two panels of glass that sandwich together an aluminium frame.
But the Mate 20 Lite feels like a premium flagship when it is resting in the palm of your hand; nothing about the design warrants a puzzled look or the slight feeling of resignation, instead the quality-feeling glass panels and smoothed frame give off the aura of care and precision that is incredibly appreciated.
At times the phone can feel extremely slippery however, so while it flaunts a purposeful aesthetic, some owners may feel obliged to put a skin or case on the hardware.
The 6.3-inch display present on the Mate 20 Lite is gorgeous and a testament to how far panel technology has come in recent years.
While the screen is only 1080p in resolution, it oozes a density of 409 pixels-per-inch that make consuming movies, YouTube videos and TV shows an absolute treat.
Vibrant colours pop, the panel gets extremely bright and can be viewed at almost any angle.
One of the only downsides about the display is Huawei’s decision to opt for LCD technology rather than OLED, meaning blacks are not as deep and colours overall are not as rich.
However, such a decision can be forgiven on a device that costs less than £400.
A controversial notch is present on the top of the display but Huawei have provided the option to make it less noticeable in the settings menu.
Huawei have included a headphone jack on the Mate 20 Lite and should be commended for such a decision at a time many users are not fully invested in the Bluetooth ecosystem.
A single speaker sits at the bottom of the budget device and gets extremely loud.
The 6.3-inch display present on the Mate 20 Lite is gorgeous
And thankfully turning the volume up does not result in tinny or distorted audio.
While the speaker on the Mate 20 Lite will not be replacing your favourite Bluetooth accessory anytime soon, it is perfectly capable.
The only downside to the audio blaster is its location; when watching movies or playing games we habitually covered it, meaning all music briefly quietened down to a whisper until we moved our hand away from the speaker.
A fingerprint sensor has been mounted on the rear of the hardware underneath the two camera models and it works exactly how you would expect it to.
Unlocking the device is incredibly fast and it only fails to detect a finger on the rare instance it might be wet for instance.
Huawei Mate 20 Lite comes packing the Chinese firm’s own Kirin 710 chipset
Huawei Mate 20 Lite comes packing the Chinese firm’s own Kirin 710 chipset, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage.
And an additional 256GB of memory can be added thanks to the hardware’s support for a microSD card.
Mate 20 Lite comes pre-installed with Android 8.1 Oreo and not Android 9 Pie that is currently available on Pixel devices and the Essential Phone.
Performance on the Mate 20 Lite is incredibly snappy with the hardware capable of not only running the newest and best games, but also handling a multitude of applications in the background.
Stuttering is few and far between on the hardware and while booting up software is not as quick as Android flagships that boast more powerful internals, the smooth experience provided is incredibly laudable and breaks the stigma that truly budget devices should have to make major performance sacrifices to attain low price tags.
Huawei has also done a great job of adopting some of the more nuanced but incredibly handy features present on other Android hardware.
4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage are present inside the Mate 20 Lite
One of the most useful of these is the ability to swipe down on the fingerprint scanner to bring down the phone’s notification tray.
Such a feature was incredibly well-received on both the Google Pixel 2 and Samsung Galaxy S9 and it will surely be no different with the Mate 20 Lite.
Despite a few nice touches, Huawei has once again covered the Android operating system with a skin that is sure to be divisive.
The Chinese firm has made it a tradition of filling its products with duplicate applications that simply do not hold a candle to anything Google has to offer.
This results in the phone being filled with bloatware that is not necessary and makes things feel overly complicated.
While other manufacturers such as Samsung and LG have also been guilty of similar acts, Huawei takes it to another level by offering seemingly pointless applications such as its “Mirror” software that acts as more annoying way to take a selfie.
Huawei Mate 20 Lite comes with a headphone jack that is greatly appreciated
While most of these apps can be quickly disposed of, the process of having to sort through Huawei software is a problem that did not need to exist in the first place.
And while watching content can be incredibly satisfying on the lush 6.3-inch display, some applications such as Amazon Prime Video seemed to be poorly optimised for it.
This meant when viewing films we were unable to completely fill the screen and take advantage of the colossal LCD panel in some instances.
While fixes for such problems could arrive in a future update, it is still a problem early adopters of the Mate 20 Lite face.
The rear fingerprint scanner on the Mate 20 Lite is commendably responsive but unfortunately the hardware’s facial recognition software is not nearly as accurate.
Mate 20 Lite was able to recognise my face in a variety of instances and is one of the few phones that was able to use the functionality while I was walking, but the technology present here only serves to show Apple is still leaps and bounds ahead of the competition in making this a viable and reliable method of unlocking.
Consuming movies, YouTube videos and TV shows is an absolute treat on the 6.3-inch display
The Huawei Mate 20 Lite has proven itself to be somewhat of a battery titan.
A 3,750mAh pack is housed inside the hardware and performed admirably during our testing.
In fact, after six and a half hours of streaming HD movies on Amazon Prime Video the Mate was still sitting with 20 percent of its battery life left.
Such a result would be welcomed from the latest and greatest flagships, but in the case of the Mate 20 Lite it showcases the hardware’s longevity and ability to fly through a day of usage with ease.
And as is the case with most other Android smartphones, the Mate 20 Lite gives myriad options to increase battery performance further.
Users have the ability to let the phone optimise its own battery management, turn the resolution of the display down to 720p and can completely eliminate certain background applications to give the Mate 20 Lite even longer legs.
It is unfortunate then that Android 9 Pie is not present on the hardware as the headline Adaptive Battery feature in the operating system could have allowed the Mate 20 to deliver truly jaw-dropping longevity.
A single speaker sits at the bottom of the budget device and gets extremely loud
The Huawei Mate 20 Lite boasts a 20-megapixel main sensor on its rear and a 2-megapixel depth-sensing lens to help with bokeh effects in addition to delivering AI capabilities the Chinese firm touted when it announced the budget device.
Photos on the Mate will not come anywhere close to matching the P20 Pro that can deliver excellent photos in almost every scenario, but they can be surprisingly pleasant to view on the 1080p LCD screen.
While precise details are not retained when you zoom all the way in, the Mate 20 Lite does do a good job of taking photos that can instantly be shared on social media without fear of overwhelming blur or grain.
Colours are certainly exaggerated but overall the Mate 20 Lite delivers a primary sensor that is capable of taking decent photos.
The hardware can also capture Portrait Mode shots with its rear sensor duo and we found for the most part the device was fairly accurate at applying bokeh in the correct areas.
There were a handful of times the effect was overcooked slightly, but overall the rear sensor is capable of delivering a sharable shot if you take enough time to line everything up correctly.
Selfies taken on the Mate 20 Lite come out looking colourful and pack in more detail than expected
Portrait Mode shots are more hit and miss with some bokeh covering the arm or shoulder of subjects
The Huawei Mate 20 Lite has proven itself to be somewhat of a battery titan
The AI features Huawei has been keen to boast about merely serve to add unneeded exuberance to photos that already look exaggerated.
During our testing we decided to forgo the AI mode entirely.
Mate 20 Lite also features two front-facing cameras; one that is a whopping 24-megapixels and the other that is a 2-megapixel depth sensor.
Selfies taken on the Mate 20 Lite come out looking colourful and pack in more detail than you would expect.
Portrait Mode shots are more hit and miss with some bokeh covering the arm or shoulder of whoever is taking the snap.
During our testing we found without bokeh effects turned on the phone had the tendency to blur the background slightly anyway which did not produce noticeable ugly asterisks, making auto our go-to selfie mode.
Overall the Mate 20 Pro delivers a primary sensor that is capable of taking decent photos
Huawei have unabashedly attempted to replicate two of the iPhone X’s headline features and the firm fails in delivering either.
First of all the Mate 20 Lite allows users to take photos with “stage” and “classic” lighting that essentially attempts to cast a dramatic background effect to isolate the subject in question.
However the phone consistently failed to produce a cutout that was even worth keeping on its internal storage, let alone sharing on social media.
Then there are what Huawei is calling “Qmoji” GIF’s that not only stumbles in trying to replicate the functionality of Apple’s popular Animoji software, but it completely falls flat.
Lacking facial technology results in the generic character models failing to properly replicate animations.
This is certainly an example of Huawei desperately trying to latch on to Apple’s success on this front rather than it trying to expertly innovate in its own right.
Photos on the Mate will not come anywhere close to matching the P20 Pro
The Huawei Mate 20 Lite manages to redefine the term “budget smartphone” thanks to its incredibly premium design, gorgeous display and snappy performance.
Mate 20 Lite offers customers a plethora of functionality that be harnessed all-day long thanks to its laudable battery life for a £379.99 price tag that is incredibly difficult to argue with.
The cameras on the hardware are competent enough as long as you do not try to take advantage of some throwaway features that have no right being on the device in the first place.
And while the overly-complicated software is frustrating to make your own, once it is tamed things are manageable even for the newest of Android users.
Everything the Mate 20 Lite offers makes it an absolute steal for its incredibly minimal cost; the hardware manages to do enough right at a price tag that is lower than staunch rivals such as the OnePlus 6 that take performance, camera quality and display quality up another gear.
The Huawei Mate 20 Lite manages to redefine the term ‘budget smartphone’
But while the Mate 20 Lite is incredibly hard not to recommend to anyone looking to jump into the Android ecosystem for the first time or for people wanting a smartphone on a budget, it is worth waiting to see what Huawei has in store for its mid-range Mate 20 device that will be announced on October 16.
The Chinese firm has made it a tradition of delivering its product line in three categories; one that is aimed at a budget market, one that is decidedly mid-tier and the final that is unabashedly premium.
The Mate 20 will surely feature slightly snappier performance, a greatly-improved camera system and a display that could pack in better technologies.
For that reason alone it is worth waiting to see what Huawei is going to offer with its Mate 20 and what the price will be before picking up the Mate 20 Lite.
With that said, the Mate 20 Lite is still an incredibly capable and commendable phone for the price in its own right.