The Mate 20 Lite is a respectable all-rounder, with cuts mostly in the right places
Posted May 5,2019 in Science and Technology.
WE’VE OFTEN EXTOLLED the virtues of saving big money by buying previous generation (but still good) smartphones. The Huawei Mate 20 Lite, however, makes for an even better deal: it’s only a few months old, but has already plummeted from its £380 launch price to just £250.
That’s incredibly tempting, as the Mate 20 Lite’s status as as tripped-back Mate 20 gives it as leek look and some features you don’t really see on others phones this cheap. Unlocking via facial recognition is one: there’s a ﬁngerprint sensor on the rear as well, but unlocking by simply looking at the front camera works well.
Despite containing a large 6.3in screen, the Mate 20 Lite’s 19.5:9 aspect ratio and 7.5mm thickness make sure it still feels nicely slight. This focus on thinness has compromised the camera housings, however –they’re left to poke outwards from the back, and the edges are sharp enough that they might scratch delicate surfaces if you’re not careful.
There’s no wireless charging, nor any oﬃcially rated dust or water resistance. On the bright side, you can expand the built-in 64GB of RAM by an extra 256GB if you splash out on a microSD card, and a 3.5mm headphone jack is included on the bottom edge, next to the USB Type-C port.
One of the main differences between this and the high-end Mate 20 is the display: here, it’s as imple LCD panel, not OLED. This typically means lower contrast ratios and blacks that don’t look quite as deep and inky, but it’s not bad overall. The Mate 20 Lite’s display manages a espectable 88.9% sRGB gamut coverage, while offering a sharp 1,279:1 contrast ratio. Peak brightness is a little disappointing for LCD at only 405cd/m2, but you should still ﬁnd it perfectly usable in all but the brightest sunshine. The display’s resolution comes in at 2,340x1,080, so it’s also visibly sharper than, say, the Motorola Moto G7 Power.
Annoyingly, the handset Huawei provided us was locked down with regards to what software we could download from the Google Play Store, which meant we couldn’t see how Huawei’s 2.2GHz octa-core Kirin 710 chip stands up to its Qualcomm equivalents. However, anecdotally, it’s ﬁne: the Mate 20 Lite makes short work of day-to-day Android tasks and has no issues with multitasking either. In fact, unlike most Android phones, it can show three apps onscreen at once, not just two.
Performance in games is good, too. Again, we couldn’t run GFXBench, but instead tried playing the relatively intensive Real Racing 3 and PUBG Mobile, and both ran well. It defaulted to medium graphics settings in the latter, but manually pushing things up to the high graphical setting in PUBG was still playable.
However, the Mate 20 Lite’s performance in our battery life test –which we could actually install –was middling, with a ﬁnal time of 11h 22m. That’s not terrible, but we’ve seen Huawei phones do a lot better.
Unsurprisingly, the Mate 20 Lite’s rear camera (which, as on the front, is arranged in a dual-lens setup) isn’t quite as good the P20 Pro’s, but it’s an impressive system in its own right. In favourable lighting, the composition, detail and colour capture are all excellent.
It’s as imilar story in trickylow-light conditions, with far less chroma noise than most smartphone cameras when zoomed in. Unfortunately, it also adds a little too much softness, losing some edge detail in a smeary sheen. It’s still a very good camera setup for the price, although if you speciﬁcally want great photography on a budget, the Moto G7 Power is just as effective and costs even less.
There are also some niggles with the camera’s optional features. One is, awkwardly, the top-billed AI feature, which can tell what you’re shooting (be it ac at or al andscape scene) and tag it accordingly. This sounds cool and is impressively accurate in its labelling, but it’s the next part that’s bothersome, as it automatically adjusts settings to take what it thinks will be the best shot it can muster. The results of this just tend to make photos look over saturated.
There are other little issues, too: toggling HDR mode, for example, is done on most phones by ﬂicking a virtual switch on your main camera screen. Not here: it’s hidden away as a whole separate mode along with panoramas, ﬁlters and timelapse. Such a vital tool in the photography arsenal shouldn’t be ditched here like an afterthought.
Video recording is another area that indicates the new Kirin 710 processor may not be all that hot. While you can record at 1080p at 60fps, you’ll have to drop the frame rateor the resolution if you want to use stabilisation. That’s an unfortunate pay off to have to make. We also found that, while recording video, the Mate 20 Lites truggled to focus a lot of the time, leading to often blurry footage. Even when it did lock on, it would distractingly hunt back and forth before doing so.
This lack of polish holds the Mate 20 Lite back from Recommended award status, although we’d be reluctant to grant that honour without full benchmark results anyway. There’s a lot to like here, and at a newly affordable price. If you want something a bit smarter and sharper than the Moto G7 Power, the Mate 20 Lite could prove suitable.