Huawei P30 Lite review: Attractive and affordable, with excellent cameras

Pros

  • Bright, colourful and attractive backplate
  • Excellent 48MP triple camera system
  • Option for MicroSD or second SIM
  • 3.5mm headphone jack

Cons

  • Average-quality IPS screen
  • Disappointing battery life
  • No IP rating for dust/water resistance

Huawei’s P30 Pro is a stunning handset, and was a genuine pleasure to review. But at a minimum price of £899 (inc. VAT), it isn’t for everyone. The P30 is also a possibility, of course, with a lesser specification and a lower price of £699. But if you want an up-to-date Huawei handset at an even more affordable price, there’s the 6.15-inch P30 Lite, which costs £329. Naturally there’s a much-reduced set of features compared to the Pro and standard models, but this is still a very serviceable smartphone.

Like so many of today’s handsets, the Huawei P30 Lite has a slippery, curved glass back. It comes in black and white versions as well as the colour-changing blue I was sent for review (it runs from turquoise through to violet). Hark back just a couple of months to the Honor View 20 for an example of very similar styling. The backplate curves into a separate blue frame, which itself then curves into the front of the handset.

huawei-p30-lite-back.jpg

The 6.15-inch P30 Lite has three cameras and a fingerprint reader at the back. This 159g handset runs on Huawei’s mid-range Kirin 710 chipset with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage (expandable via MicroSD card). 

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Unlike the P30 Pro and P30, which both have IP ratings (IP68 and IP53 respectively), the P30 Lite has no formal dust/water resistance certification.

The Huawei P30 Pro and P30 have in-screen fingerprint scanners, but here the scanner is on the backplate, positioned very conveniently for both left- and right-handed users. The phone also has face unlock if you prefer to use that. Both authentication methods work well.

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It’s nice to see a 3.5mm headset port on the bottom edge of the phone, as plenty of people still use a traditional headset with a 3.5mm jack. There’s also a USB-C charge connector here, and a single speaker grille. Sound quality is reasonable, with fairly good bass tones, although treble is rather harsh so the mix for music listening is not ideal. Top volume is rather quiet, but fine for personal listening.

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The speaker location on the bottom edge is impractical when you’re viewing view landscape-format content — gaming or video watching, for example — as it’s all too easy to cover the grille with your palm and muffle the sound. This isn’t just a problem with the P30 Lite: it’s now the norm for speaker grilles to be on the bottom edge. Given that today’s handset aspect ratios are designed in large part for more effective landscape use, this speaker-muffling issue is increasingly important. Time for handset makers to rethink speaker positioning, we suggest.

The SIM slot sits on the top edge, and this phone supports two SIMs or a single SIM and a MicroSD card (not Huawei’s proprietary Nano Memory Card). There is 128GB of internal storage, with 15GB used out of the box.

huawei-p30-lite-in-hand.jpg

The display is an IPS LCD rather than the more vibrant OLED seen in the more expensive P30 and P30 Pro.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The 6.15-inch screen has a resolution of 2,312 by 1,080 pixels (415ppi), giving a now-standard aspect ratio of 18.7:9. There is a bit of visible bezel below the screen, but the top and long edges are pretty much bezel-free. A tiny notch around the front camera leaves space for plenty of notifications and icons to either side.

So far, so standard. But Huawei has stepped back from OLED and instead gone for an IPS LCD panel, which doesn’t have the same ‘pizzazz’. Sit this handset next to an OLED model and the contrast is stark, with the P30 Lite seeming dull by comparison. Still, with just the P30 Lite in your hand, you’ll probably be happy enough — although the default brightness on auto settings is a little low for my taste.

You can tweak the colour temperature between Normal and Vivid, with the latter pushing up the screen’s ‘pop’ factor, and further fiddle with colour temperature by using a circular colour panel. The screen is made from aluminosilicate glass, which has strength properties but is not Gorilla Glass.

Whereas the P30 Pro and P30 are powered by the top-of-the-range Kirin 980 chipset, the P30 Lite uses the rather less powerful Kirin 710, with 4GB of RAM. This means it turns in a less impressive benchmark performance. Like the other two P30 handsets, the Lite has a Performance Mode that punches out a little more power and also, surprisingly, a touch more battery life too.

Under Geekbench 4, the P30 Lite delivered an average multi-core score of 5198 with Performance Mode enabled and 5175 with it switched off. The single-core scores were 1567 and 1539 respectively. These results are close to those delivered by the Sony Xperia 10 Plus

The P30 Lite’s 3340mAh battery kept it going for 6 hours and 23 minutes under Geekbench battery benchmark in Performance Mode, while it could only manage 5 hours 43 minutes with Performance Mode switched off. Either way, battery life is unimpressive. This is one of the few handsets I’ve reviewed recently that’s struggled to get me through a working day without needing a power boost.

Fast charging is supported, although it’s nowhere near the standard in the P30 Pro. The Lite model will give you a full charge in ‘about 105 minutes’ according to Huawei’s website, while the P30 Pro can charge up to 70 percent in 30 minutes (and the OPPO Find X can do 75% in 35 minutes). There’s no support for wireless charging.

The P30 Lite’s cameras may not be up to the groundbreaking level of the P30 Pro’s quad camera system, but three rear cameras on a handset in this price range is a real novelty, and their capabilities are very impressive. You get a 48-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8 wide-angle lens, an 8MP ultra-wide-angle camera and a 2MP camera to provide the obligatory bokeh effect. The front-facing selfie camera has a 24MP sensor and an f/2.0 lens.

The Huawei P30 Lite runs on Android 9.0 Pie with EMUI 9.0.1 providing the tweaks that Huawei favours. There’s nothing offensive here, although Huawei does like to include its Gallery and Music apps, its own App Gallery and its own Health app. If you don’t like these apps, just drop them all into a folder and forget about them.

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The 6.15-inch P30 Lite, next to the 6.1-inch P30 and the 6.47-inch, quad-camera P30 Pro, which both have in-screen fingerprint sensors.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Conclusions

The P30 Lite is the most affordable of the three P30-series smartphones, which should give it some appeal. Rather than cut back across the board to hit its price target, Huawei has delivered an attractive industrial design and an above-average camera system, at the expense of screen technology and battery capacity. If you’re happy with these trade-offs, the Huawei P30 Lite is a good buy.

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