The Huawei P30 Lite's tech may not be class-leading in every respect but this is one of the most expensive looking phones you can get at the price.
- Fantastic glass and metal build
- Eye-catching finish
- Masses of storage
- Solid performance
- Good main camera
- Battery life doesn't match Huawei's best
- Night photos are only passable
- Review Price: £329
- Kirin 710 CPU
- 128GB storage
- 6.1-inch 2313 x 1080 IPS LCD screen
What is the Huawei P30 Lite?
The Huawei P30 Lite is the lower-cost version of the Huawei P30. It’s half the price.
In the trade-off you lose the 2x zoom camera, get a less capable main camera and a less powerful CPU. But at £329 the Huawei P30 Lite is a great deal.
Until you start shooting photos in dark conditions, there are few signs this is a “Lite” phone. Well, aside from its headphone jack, now usually missing from top-end phones. Who doesn’t like a headphone jack?
Editors Note: Due to the recent retraction of Huawei’s Android license, future Huawei and Honor phones won’t be able to access Google Play Services and as a result many Android apps including YouTube and Gmail. Both Huawei and Google have confirmed Huawei and Honor phones, like the one in this review, will continue to have access for this time being. Until we know more about the situation we’re leaving the scores on all our Huawei reviews, however as the situation changes we’ll revisit this.”
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Huawei P30 Lite – Design
Huawei was one of the original masters of affordable metal and glass phones. You’ll find a few more plastic ones in its line-up today. But the Huawei P30 Lite is almost indistinguishable from one of its more expensive mobiles.
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Its back is curved glass. The sides are glossy aluminium. And its display borders look as trim as an iPhone XS’s.
The Huawei P30 lite is also wrapped up in an eye-catching finish. Purple at the bottom blends into blue at the top, and light casts an S-shaped swirl across its back. This is a looker, as long as you are game for some colour.
Huawei also makes the P30 lite in black, if the bright gradient seems a step too far.
A much lower price makes the P30 Lite a more accessible phone than the brilliant P30 Pro I used just before this review. Its shape is more accommodating too. Several millimetres shorter and narrower, it fits in hands and pockets that bit more easily.
You have to dig fairly deep to find ways the Huawei P30 Lite has been dumbed-down. It has 128GB storage, for instance, but that’s still a huge amount for a phone.
Size aside, there’s three exterior aspects that separate it from the P30 Pro. The side buttons are plastic (or at least plastic-coated) rather than metal, there’s a tiny sliver of plastic between the front glass and aluminium, and there’s no official water resistance. Don’t rinse this phone.
There are positives to being a cheaper phone in 2019 too. The Huawei P30 Lite has a headphone jack and a rear finger pad rather than an in-screen one. These tend to be more reliable, and are often quicker. This one is very quick.
Huawei P30 Lite – Screen
The Huawei P30 Lite has a 2312 x 1080 pixel screen, an aspect ratio of 19.25:9. Once again, the design is the most impressive element.
As the display pushes into each corner, it looks more advanced than some flagship phones of just a year or two ago. Its teardrop notch only bites a small chunk out of the screen. And, as ever, you can block the notch with a black bar if you like.
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Colour and contrast are a rung below the P30 and P30 Pro, but why would you expect anything else? Image quality for games, films and apps doesn’t suffer much as a result either. Colour looks punchy, text looks sharp.
Brightness is the one aspect that still seems a step down, having used the P30 Pro for several weeks beforehand. The P30 Lite has a bright enough backlight to make high-contrast content look clear when outdoors on a sunny day, but this is not an ultra-bright screen.
It is an HDR display though, and you can choose whether to have “vivid” or more laid-back colour.
At the price I have no major complaints. You don’t tend to get 700+ nits of brightness at £300, after all.
Huawei P30 Lite – Software
The Huawei P30 Lite runs Android 9.0 and has the same custom Huawei interface as phones like the P30 Pro.
You may have heard the Huawei interface is bad. It was, at one point, but it’s now one the better third-party interfaces, arguably outstripping HTC’s and LG’s once you apply a tweak or two.
I only make a couple of alterations to the Huawei phones I use. Firstly, I bring back the app drawer. The Huawei P30 Lite does not have one as standard, but you can add a drawer in settings.
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The phone’s default wallpaper is a bit of an assault on the eyes too, but you can obviously fix that in a couple of seconds.
This software is otherwise more than sound. It runs well, and there are plenty of customisations on offer if you go looking for them. Funnily enough, Google tweaked its own vanilla settings menu recently, adding more prominent icons. It now looks more like Huawei’s.
Huawei P30 Lite – Performance
The Huawei P30 Lite has a Kirin 710 processor, designed by Huawei subsidiary HiSilicon.
This is an octa-core CPU with a true mid-range core structure. There are four Cortex-A73 cores and your Cortex-A53s. Cheaper phones tend to have eight lower-power Cortex-A53s.
Its obvious rival is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 710, which has six cores rather than eight. The Snapdragon’s cores are newer, but the sheer number of them lets the Huawei P30 Lite slightly outperform the rival Google Pixel 3a Lite in the CPU-heavy Geekbench 4 benchmark. It scores 5316 points (1548 per core), to the Pixel’s 5100-odd.
Power is a little less impressive where it matters most in real terms: the GPU. The Kirin 710 has a quad-core Mali-G51.
This is not as punchy as the Adreno 615 or 616 used by some rivals. It’s about as low-powered a GPU can get and still provide decent 1080p performance.
The Huawei P30 Lite is significantly weaker than even the lower-end Adreno 615, seen in the Pixel 3a XL. It scores 837 (1365 using the Vulkan API) in 3D Mark’s Sling Shot Extreme test, to the Pixel 3a XL’s 1630 (1542 using Vulkan).
How does this pan out when playing games? PUBG will only play at “Medium” visuals, not “High”. And a real GPU-melter like Ark: Survival Evolved demands significantly cut-down graphics to run well.
All lower mid-range phones like this do, but the Pixel 3a XL lets you push the visuals more. It plays PUBG at “High” settings, for example.
Not much of a gamer? Don’t worry about the Huawei P30 Lite’s uncompetitive GPU. But Huawei does need to sort this going forwards. Mid-table Qualcomm Snapdragons are just too good at this point.
At almost all levels, Qualcomm CPUs beat Huawei’s HiSilicon chipsets and Samsung’s Exynos-es.
Huawei P30 Lite – Camera
The Huawei P30 Lite has three rear cameras. It’s the most eye-catching part of the phone, apart from its shiny back.
Huawei’s reasoning is obvious. This is how to make the P30 Lite seem a true part of the P30 family. It even has an ultra-high resolution main camera, just like its pricier siblings.
The Huawei P30 Lite has a 48-megapixel main sensor that takes 12-megapixel images by default. This lets it use four pixels for every one in the final photo.
Above it sits a 13-megapixel ultra-wide and a basic 2-megapixel depth sensor. There’s no zoom lens here.
More bad news? The main camera isn’t a match for the P30 Pro’s, even if it is significantly higher resolution. Pay for that top-end phone and you get sharper images, and an actual reason to shoot at full resolution at times. There’s virtually no meaningful additional detail captured at 48MP here, compared to standard 12-megapixel resolution.
However, this is still a great camera, particularly for the price. Until you go pixel peeping, the Huawei P30 Lite’s images look sharp, bold and vivid. They also have Huawei’s renowned dynamic range enhancement. Colour is flatter than the Pixel 3a XL, but noise handling is great and so are detail levels.
One part truly disappoints. The Huawei P30 Lite has a dedicated handheld Night mode just like the higher-end Huaweis, but it’s not particularly effective. In pricier Huawei phones it brings out cloud contours in black skies, dramatically improves colour reproduction and make images look as though they were taken with a “proper” camera mounted on a tripod.
Here, your night images look quite pedestrian. They may still be slightly above average for a £300 phone, but that Huawei magic is just not here. Once again it’s beaten by the slightly pricier Pixel 3a phones.
However, you do get a serviceable ultra-wide camera. It has a basic 13-megapixel sensor that is not incredibly detailed and becomes noisy in dimmer light, but a different view is still a useful creative tool. Some sample images:
These are crops from the above scene, using the P30 Lite and P30 Pro
Night image quality isn’t even close to the P30 pro, or Pixel 3a XL
Video capture tops out at 1080p, 60 frames per second. There’s no 4K mode. And if you use the 60fps mode (rather than 30) you lose all-important image stabilisation. This is a typical lower-mid range video shooter.
There are more compromises here than you might have hoped. But the selfie camera is great. It has a 24-megapixel sensor and can render a lot of fine facial detail even in dim indoors light.
Huawei P30 Lite – Battery life
Ready for some more compromises? The Huawei P30 Lite’s battery doesn’t get close to matching the stamina of the Huawei P30 Pro, which can last two full days if you go easy on it.
It has a 3340mAh battery, a bit small for a phone with a 6.1-inch screen.
That said, in my experience it beats the Exynos Samsung Galaxy S10 we get in the UK. It tends to finish the day with around 15% charge, after a good few hours of podcast streaming through the day.
Three hours of YouTube video streaming takes 29% off the charge level, suggesting it’ll last for 10 hours of such streaming.
It’s no battery warrior. But it does the job just fine.
Should I buy the Huawei P30 Lite?
If you want class and some high-end surface thrills at a sensible price, the Huawei P30 Lite is one of the best phones you can buy. I enjoyed using it a lot. It’s not too big, feels great and looks like a cutting-edge phone.
Masses of storage and a good main camera add a little depth to this appeal.
Real enthusiasts will find a few holes when they look deeper. The Pocophone F1 offers much more power for less money and the Pixel 3a take much better night photos for a little more.
Still, we can’t complain too much about a phone that looks this expensive, but is actually not that expensive at all. If you’re not too bothered about the rear glass, consider the Honor 20 Lite too. It is similar, but has a plastic rear and costs significantly less.
The tech may not be class-leading in every respect but this is one of the most expensive looking phones you can get at the price