Huawei P30 Lite Review: Lighter on your wallet, but too light on battery power

Posted: 2 July 2019 3:14 pm News

The Huawei P30 Lite has the style of its bigger siblings, but not much else to recommend it.

Quick Verdict:
The Huawei P30 Lite cuts the price markedly, but the compromises it brings, especially in battery life, mean that other mid-range phones are a better bet.

The good

  • Design looks nice in blue
  • Range of camera lenses
  • Headphone jack
  • MicroSD expansion

The bad

  • Poor battery performance
  • No NFC
  • EMUI is messy
  • Huawei's Android future is still unclear


Amidst its ongoing fight with the US government, Huawei Australia launched the low-cost Huawei P30 Lite into the country. As the name suggests, it's a lower-cost alternative to the company's excellent Huawei P30 and Huawei P30 phones, with much of the style but toned-down camera and processor features.

Within the mid-range space, it's a fair phone, but its lacklustre battery life is a real problem.


Huawei P30 Lite

Huawei P30 Lite: Design

  • Available in black or blue finishes
  • Plastic body, but comfortable to hold
  • LCD screen is a step down from the P30's OLED
  • Headphone jack, but weirdly offset at the base

The Huawei P30 Lite is, of course, designed to emulate the look and feel of its bigger siblings. Within the mid-range price point that it sits, this means that it has a certain sense of style, but that very much depends on your colour choice.

It's available in either black or blue finishes, or, if you're the marketing type, "Peacock Blue" or "Midnight Black".

The Peacock Blue is the looker of the bunch, with a definite callback to the "Twilight" tone of the Huawei P20 series. I've tested with the more sedate Midnight Black model, which can't help but feel a little cheap by comparison.

Black plastic phones are always fingerprint magnets, and without that shifting colour tone that you get with the blue, it almost feels under-designed. It's exactly the same problem I had with the standalone LG V50 ThinQ. If you asked someone to draw a phone with a teardrop notch, chances are they'd draw something that looks a lot like the Huawei P30 Lite.

The display is a 6.15-inch Full HD+ LCD, and it's noticeably less vibrant than the OLED you get on the Huawei P30, even though it's the same resolution.

The Huawei P30 Lite features the same teardrop notch design at the front, but there's no in-display fingerprint reader to be found. Instead, that's located around the back of the Huawei P30 Lite, relatively high up. It's almost as if Huawei's been taking notes from the way Samsung used to place its fingerprint sensors because it's annoyingly close to the lens array. Expect to wipe away a few finger smudges while you get used to its positioning.

You do get a full 3.5mm headphone jack, but it's one that mildly annoys me for the smallest of design reasons. The problem is that it's not properly centred at the base of the Huawei P30 Lite and is instead sitting towards the bottom of the frame. It's a tiny design note, but every time I plug in a set of wired headphones, I'm reminded of how it looks like it's breaking the lower frame of the phone.

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Huawei P30 Lite

Huawei P30 Lite: Camera

  • Triple lenses are good for this price bracket
  • Good range of shooting modes
  • Video quality is still a weak point for Huawei

The camera quality of the Huawei P30 series is a key selling point for those phones. At the time of writing, the Huawei P30 Pro remains the best camera phone I've ever tested, and it's not even particularly close. That raises the bar for the Huawei P30 Lite because Huawei's so very clearly trading on that good reputation for camera quality.

However, expecting a phone that's a clear $1,000 less than the flagship to perform in a similar fashion would be foolish. The Huawei P30 Lite packs in a 24MP f/1.8 wide-angle lens, an 8MP ultrawide lens and a 2MP lens that's used, as so many mid-range phones do, for depth effects.

Where the P30 Pro thrills, the P30 Lite only really ever feels adequate, and sometimes even misses the mark for what I'd like to see out of a mid-range phone in 2019.

There's certainly scope for shot composition between the standard and ultrawide lenses. As an example, here's a daytime shot of Sydney's Darling Harbour with the standard lens:

Huawei P30 Lite Sample Photo

And here it is again with the wide lens, capturing more of the scene:

Huawei P30 Lite Sample Photo

Huawei uses what is basically the same camera app you find on the full-fat P30 phones on the P30 Lite, right down to the multi-exposure "night" mode for low-light shooting. It's an unusual inclusion at this price point, but it's also markedly limited by the P30 Lite's lack of optical image stabilisation. You get a fair degree of noise in most shots, and unless you directly prop the P30 Lite up on a tripod, it's not uncommon to get a fair bit of shake as well. If low light is important to you in the mid-range, it's still well behind the Google Pixel 3a, even though that's only a single-lens phone.

Huawei P30 Lite sample photos

Huawei P30 Lite Sample Photo

Huawei P30 Lite Sample Photo

Huawei P30 Lite Sample Photo

Huawei P30 Lite Sample Photo

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Huawei P30 Lite

Huawei P30 Lite: Performance

  • Kirin 710 is resolutely mid-range
  • 128GB of memory and microSD support returns
  • Lacks NFC support
  • Android 9, but the upgrade path is anything but clear

If Huawei's going to call the Huawei P30 Lite a member of the P30 family, then I'm going to compare it to its pricier siblings as well as to more mid-range options. Here's how the Huawei P30 Lite compares using Geekbench 4's CPU test:

Not surprisingly, the Kirin 980 in the P30 and P30 Pro best the P30 Lite. It's also marginally behind the Snapdragon 670 found in the Google Pixel 3a and even the Snapdragon 636 in the Nokia 7.1.

On the 3D visuals front, the Huawei P30 Lite stacks up almost exactly as you'd expect a mid-range phone to perform. 2G game titles are fine, but if you shift into more complex 3D works, it can quickly get bogged down. Here's how it compares using 3DMark's Slingshot Extreme test:

The Huawei P30 Lite lacks any kind of NFC support, which is disappointing. If you're keen on mobile payments via Google Pay, you'll have to look elsewhere.

The Huawei P30 Lite packs in an impressive 128GB of RAM onboard, which is quite high for a mid-range phone. What's substantially more surprising is that it also supports microSD expansion if you need more storage space.

Buy a Huawei P30 or Huawei P30 Pro and your only expansion option is Huawei's own expensive nm memory cards. It seems odd that the cheaper P30 Lite should be so flexible when the flagship phones are so limited.

The software-shaped elephant in the room is the ongoing question of how much support the Huawei P30 Lite (or any other Huawei Android phone) will have from Google in the future.

At the time of writing, the tensions between China and the US that have led to Huawei being blocked from trading with US companies appears to have softened markedly. However, there's little detail on what that actually means for phones like the P30 Lite. It seems likely that Google Play store access may be retained, but whether we'll see future security updates or full upgrades to Android Q or beyond is still up in the air.

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Huawei P30 Lite

Huawei P30 Lite: Battery life

  • 3,340mAh battery delivers way lower battery endurance than expected
  • Fast wired charging

Huawei has serious form in delivering good battery life on its P series handsets. That's partially due to very aggressive memory management that means you've often got to tweak setting to ensure important apps aren't closed off. That's still a part of the Huawei P30 Lite's recipe, and I was hopeful that the use of an LCD screen and that lower-power Kirin processor might give us a new mid-range battery champ.

Sadly, the Huawei P30 Lite trended sharply in the opposite direction. Here's how it compares using Geekbench 4's battery test:

It's the same story in day-to-day usage, too. Full-day battery life is feasible on moderate use, but if I went heavy on the P30 Lite, it depleted its battery far more rapidly than I would have liked. This isn't just Huawei being a victim of its own success here because the P30 and P30 Pro are so very good. The Huawei P30 Lite simply isn't that good a performer even up against mid-range handsets at similar price points.

You can at least top up the battery relatively quickly with the supplied fast charger. The plastic body of the Huawei P30 Lite means that wireless charging is a non-starter.

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Huawei P30 Lite

Huawei P30 Lite: Should you buy it?

  • Reasonable value but not a standout the way Huawei's other P-series handsets have been
  • Worth waiting until the Google situation becomes more apparent

The Huawei P30 Lite is a fair mid-range option, but it's not really anything more than that. App performance is decent but not stellar, and the same is true of its camera. The overall design is much nicer in blue than black, and the battery life is well below what you'd want out of a mid-range 2019 handset.

That makes it a tough phone to recommend, and especially right now when it's not clear at all what kind of future Android/Google path Huawei's going to tread. At the very least, if you're keen, it's going to be worth waiting until it's clear that it'll get continued Google Play store access and preferably updates to Android itself.

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Huawei P30 Lite: Pricing and availability

Huawei P30 Lite

Huawei's cheaper P-series phone

The Huawei P30 Lite combines triple cameras and its own stylish P-series design in a highly affordable phone.

Promoted

The Huawei P30 Lite sells outright for $499 in Australia in Peacock Blue or Midnight Black finishes.

Huawei P30 Lite: Alternatives

If your budget can stretch to it, our mid-range pick at the moment is Google's Pixel 3a, available either outright or on contract terms:

Google Pixel 3a

Google's Pixel for the masses

The Google Pixel 3a provides the best of Google at a lower price point than its flagship Pixel phones.

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You could also consider the Nokia 7.1, an excellent mid-range option with the benefits of the Android One platform:

Nokia 7.1

Nokia's HDR-ready Nokia 7.1

The Nokia 7.1 offers a superior display along with the power of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 636.

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Or you could consider Motorola's Moto G7 Plus:

Motorola Moto G7 Plus

Motorola's Plus-featured phone

The Motorola Moto G7 Plus is the Moto G7 with added camera quality and a faster processor.

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Specifications

Huawei P30 Lite Specifications

OS Android 9
Display size (inches) 6.15
Display resolution (pixels) 2312x1080
Pixels per inch (PPI) 415
Processor Kirin 710
Height (mm) 152.9
Width (mm) 72.7
Depth (mm) 7.4
Weight (g) 159
Battery size (mAh) 3,340
Wireless charging No
Internal storage 128GB
MicroSD expansion 128GB
Fingerprint scanner Yes
RAM 4GB
Water resistance N/A
Rear camera (1) resolution 24
Rear camera (1) aperture f/1.8
Rear camera (2) resolution 8
Rear camera (2) aperture
Rear camera (3) resolution 2
Rear camera (3) aperture
Front camera (1) resolution 32
Front camera (1) aperture f/2.0
Front camera (2) resolution
Front camera (2) aperture
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Network category speed Category 12
NFC support No
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