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Honor 20 Lite: Not Interesting But Actually Pretty Great

I won’t lie, I wasn’t interested in reviewing the Honor 20 Lite. after all, it’s not too dissimilar to the Honor 10 Lite I reviewed earlier this year, it’s also pretty similar in ways to the Huawei P30 Lite from earlier this year, and I will admit, it did taint my initial impressions of the Honor 20 lite, but I’ve come to the realisation that this is bringing the base experience up and the price down, which I can’t be that mad at.

Honor 20 Lite
+ FOR
  • Great Performance
  • Awesome battery
  • Lovely design
- AGAINST
  • MicroUSB
  • Front Camera is weak
  • Very Plasticy

Buy on Amazon – £219

Honor 20 Lite review

Disclaimer: Honor provided us with this unit for the purposes of a review, the device belongs to Honor and is returning to them shortly after this review is published. No money has changed hands between Honor and MobileTechTalk and Honor is not seeing this review before it goes live. Our Unit received no software updates during this time and was used on the Three UK network in the Southeast of the UK.

Specifications

  • 6.21” LTPS IPS Screen
    • 19.5:9 Aspect Ratio
    • 2340×1080
    • 83.1% Screen to Body Ratio.
  • HiSilicon Kirin 710 SoC
    • 4x Cortex A73 @ 2.2Ghz
    • 4x Cortex A53 @ 1.7Ghz
    • Mali-G51 MP4
    • 12nm FinFET TSMC
  • 4GB RAM (LPDDR4X?)
  • 128GB eMMC
    • Up to 1TB MicroSD (uses second NanoSIM slot)
  • Android 9 Pie with EMUI 9
  • 24mp Main Camera
    • F1.8 Aperture
    • PDAF
  • 8mp Ultrawide Camera
    • 13mm effective focal length
    • F2.2 Aperture
  • 2mp Depth Sensor
    • F2.4 Aperture
  • 32mp Front Facing Camera
    • F2.0 Aperture
    • 0.8µP pixel size
  • 3400mAh Battery (Li-Po)
  • 10w “Fast” Charging
  • MicroUSB
  • NFC!

For a more complete spec sheet head on over to GSMArena here.

Hardware

Honor 20 Lite Review

Design has never really been an area where Huawei or Honor have struggled, and especially since they decided to embrace weird and make their phone in gorgeous gradients and colour palettes, and the Honor 20 Lite isn’t any different here, with a monolithic black front dominated almost entirely by screen, the gorgeous back which transitions from a metallic purple to a blue, and the almost electric blue frame of the phone, this phone is stunning to look at in this Phantom Blue, but if you want something more subdued, there is the more classic and boring Midnight Black.

Honor 20 Lite Review

So I mentioned that the front is mostly covered by the screen, there is a small chin at the bottom, and there is a small “dew-drop” style notch at the top, and I’m fine with both of these decisions, this small chin at the bottom actually gives you somewhere to anchor your thumb or pink that doesn’t obscure the screen too much, and the dew-drop notch doesn’t bother me, it’s not wide, if Honor wanted to not have a notch they would have needed to increase the top bezel which would have crashed with the visual aesthetic of the bottom. Hole punch cut-outs in LCDs are still a work in progress in my opinion and also come with a high price tag, so the dew-drop notch is the perfect compromise.

Honor 20 Lite Review

Taking a look around the chassis starting at the bottom, we have the I/O and speaker. A 3.5mm headphone jack is present for those that still value it, and sadly, the MicroUSB port is still here, years after its death, in full zombie mode. The main microphone is also down here with the speaker too. Flipping 180 and looking at the top of the phone has the SIM and SD tray and the secondary noise-cancelling microphone. That SIM Tray uses 2 NanoSIM (4FF) with the secondary NanoSIM slot having the extra space required to optionally hold a MicroSD card, none of that fancy Huawei NanoMC stuff here.

Honor 20 Lite Review

As is becoming more common, the left-hand side of the phone is barren, with the right-hand side having the power and volume rockers. I want to give Honor props here, the volume and power buttons here are really nice. Tactile without being hard to press, not wobbly, not mushy, just very nice buttons. Lastly, we have the rear of the phone with the gorgeous gradient from top to bottom, in the top left of the rear we have the camera module with all 3 cameras, with the LED flash outside of the module just beneath it. The Fingerprint sensor is located on the rear in a comfortable place and has a matte texture. My issue with the fingerprint scanner is that it is really slow, as in archaically slow, slower than some in-screen fingerprint scanners I’ve tried (albeit more accurate).

Honor 20 Lite Review

Something I haven’t really touched on so far is that this is all plastic. The frame is all polycarbonate, as is the rear panel, all the buttons and the screen even has a pre-applied plastic screen protector. Whilst I’m not usually bothered by plastic, it does feel a bit cheap here, I think it partly has to do with the glossy nature of the plastic, but also the fact that this device is pretty light at 164g. It doesn’t flex much, which is nice and gives the devices a bit more of a premium feel, but that’s about it. With something looking as nice and premium at the Honor 20 Lite does, the stark difference when you actually hold the thing is a little jarring.

Software

Software-wise, the Honor 20 Lite is pretty boring, it’s Android 9 (yay) with EMUI9. Interestingly, this still uses EMUI9 and not Honor’s slightly customised MagicUI. One thing I want to blast Honor for here is the security patches, the Honor 20 Lite is still on the March 1st security patch, that is 4 months out of date. Just because you’re paying less for a phone doesn’t mean you should automatically get a less secure phone.

Android 9 is still Android 9, all the benefits that come with that are in tow, such as Project Treble, Digital Wellbeing etc. and EMUI 9 is still EMUI 9, it’s more refined than earlier versions with a more cohesive design and faster performance.

EMUI isn’t automatically the “Eurgh, no no no” that it once was. Sure, EMUI isn’t for everyone, and I understand that. it isn’t my favourite piece of software either, but it does bring certain features to the table that stock doesn’t, it also has a really nicely polished camera app and has a software ecosystem that includes something no other OEM offers, a desktop backup and restore with HiSuite, something that cannot be overlooked in my opinion.

 

EMUI also comes in tow with Huawei’s custom file system to speed things up and it’s really noticeable, the Kirin 710 isn’t slow by any means but the Honor 20 Lite most certainly feels faster than its price tag suggests, and that is in part to EMUI.

You can not like EMUI, that is fine, aesthetically it isn’t the most cohesive or well put together UI, I won’t disagree with you, but discarding some genuine improvements because you dislike the UI seems silly when there is a lot you can do within Android to change the aesthetics more to your liking. You can change the Launcher (I use Action Launcher), you can use a different messenger app, browser, calendar and Camera, heck you can even use an entirely different virtual assistant, so you limit your exposure to EMUI, and that’s fine too, that’s Android, you making it what you want, even if it doesn’t come that way from the factory.

Performance

Shockingly good, genuinely surprising. I’ve been a fan of the Kirin 710 since its announcement, the fact we’ve got midrange chips that are using the same configuration (minus the GPU) of Flagships from 2 generations ago is absolutely baffling to me.

If you need a bit of a reminder, the HiSilicon Kirin 710 is comprised of 4 ARM Cortex A73 chips clocked at 2.2Ghz, those are paired with 4 ARM Cortex A53 cores at 1.7Ghz, these are combined with the ARM Mali G51 MP4 (MP4 means it has 4 GPU cores) the G51 is the new-ish Bitfrost Architecture, which made waves in power and efficiency which, when put hand in hand with the fact that this SoC was made on TSMC’s 12nm FinFET manufacturing process, means this can boost high and keep power draw low, everything you want.

I’ll post some screenshots of benchmarks here, but I really don’t think it’s necessary, the Kirin 710 in the Honor 20 Lite has enough juice to keep up with 95% of things day to day, it struggles with imaging in low light (it really slows the device down) and   gaming isn’t going to be PCMR level, but PUBG runs about as well as it does on every other device here if that is what you want.

 

Camera

I’m torn here because the camera setup here isn’t bad, but it is wasted potential in my opinion. The system is comprised of a 24mp main camera, an 8mp ultrawide camera and a 2mp depth-sensing camera. 

Honor 20 Lite Review

First off, get rid of the depth-sensing camera. It doesn’t add enough functionality or quality to justify it is cost, both in physical terms and space terms, secondly, I would use a main sensor with fewer, larger, pixels (maybe a 16mp one) and include either a telephoto camera or boost the quality of the ultrawide. Because sadly there is a drastic difference in quality between the main and ultra-wide cameras.

I would love to say that the camera system is standout here, but it isn’t, it is merely pretty good for it is price. Whilst Huawei has made strides to make it is processing and AI more natural and not as oversaturated as before, but Honor… isn’t there yet. The AI in particular on Honor phones is still very close to just ramping the saturation up and bringing the highlights a smidge down. This might be what you want, and Honor is selling a large enough number of phones that it doesn’t feel the need to change anything soon.

I was a bit disappointed in the ultrawide camera on the Honor 20 Lite, I’m glad it is there, and I’d rather have this than just a main and telephoto, but the difference in quality between the main and wide-angle is very jarring. Colours are different, very little perspective fixing is done so you get a lot of fish-eyeing. Once again, I’m glad it exists and is here, but I wish they’d spent more time on the software tuning for the feature.

I do want to check in with the front-facing camera though as this is another strange area for me, the resolution has gone up but at the expense of everything else, even sharpness. Colours are laughably washed out, there is some serious overexposure issues and the fixed focus seems to have a much narrower range than others. It also has minuscule pixels because there are so many of them, but I can’t see any evidence of pixel binning. There is no reason for this to be a 32mp camera when an 8mp autofocus camera with a wider aperture would have done better in every way other than the spec sheet.

Lastly, the video recording, I haven’t got much to say, except that you should not expect too much, because it’s about same as the Honor 10 Lite I tried earlier this year. Focus is generally fine, but it struggles with exposure swings and annoyingly, the 60fps footage actually looks better than the 30fps footage, and you all know how much I hate seeing humans in 60fps.

Battery

This is where the Honor 20 Lite shines, Battery life is stunning and specifically Idle battery life, there was 2 days wherein I was sick and barely touched the phone, less than 30 minutes screen on time in those 2 days, the phone lost 8% battery over that time, that is absolutely nuts.

Having a 3400mAh battery will do that for you, it’s just not an issue about will it last the day, because the answer is yes, the question is usually how far into the second day can I get, and then it becomes a game.

The issue is, once again, that wretched MicroUSB connector for charging. It’s old, it’s slow, it is more limited in every way and the only benefit it had, which was cheaper cables, is being eroded as you can now buy USB-C cables from Poundland here in the UK. This is a cheap, lazy and unacceptable move at this point, I’ve said it about practically every phone from Honor over the last year, I hope they start listening soon.

Lastly, the charger itself is limited to 10w, 5v2a, not a lot, especially when you’re getting up 3400mAh, but the charging curve seems to work very well for the first 40% of charging, so it is less of an issue than it otherwise could have been.

Conclusion

Overall, the Honor 20 Lite isn’t a bad phone, but it’s not an interesting one either. But not everything has to be super interesting. You’re getting a fast phone with great battery, a lovely design and a good (if a bit dim) screen, it’s making the bare minimum of what a phone should be better, for less money, but the Honor 20 Lite does some things I really dislike, starting with that wretched MicroUSB connector, and then with the depth-sensing camera on the back and the stupid resolution camera on the front, it’s a mismatched phone.

I’m tempted not to recommend the phone based on those 3 items alone, but those are subjective Issues that I have with the phone, not everyone will. The other issue is pricing, whilst this can currently be had for £219, the MSRP is £249, that is £70 more than the critically acclaimed Redmi Note 7 from Huawei. are you getting £70 less phone? i don’t think so. you’re getting a weaker SoC, weaker Battery, but otherwise, it’s hard to see why I’d pick this.

About Domenico Lamberti

Technology has been a big part of my life for years, whether it be ripping the family computer apart to see how it worked, playing with the new phones that Dad brought home from work. Senior Reviewer for MTT.

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