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Huawei P30 Lite review
Lite on price and performance
It's impossible to ignore Huawei's recent woes with Google and the US, which have made recommending any smartphone manufactured by Huawei tough. Which sucks because the P30 Lite is phenomenal smartphone for the price that takes all the best bits of the flagship P30 while cutting corners in the areas you'd expect (battery and performance).
This year’s Huawei P30 and Huawei P30 Pro were met with open arms from critics and consumers alike. Huawei had been on the right track for a while now but the P30 and P30 Pro were by far the most outstanding smartphones ever produced by the company. Some would argue it was one of the best smartphones on the market at release; stealing more favour than Apple and Samsung in some circles.
However, Huawei’s recent woes with Google and the US have given many punters reason enough to hold off from dropping dough on Huawei’s latest, especially with the recent news that the Mate 30 Pro will launch in Australia without Google.
Unfortunately, it’s the same story for the P30’s more budget-friendly alternative, the P30 Lite. Which is a damn shame because, like its flagship forefather, the P30 Lite is a cracker of a smartphone with the best bits of the P30 and only a few features missing to justify the massive discount.
What we like about the Huawei P30 Lite
We recently reviewed Huawei’s latest budget smartphone the Y9 Prime and we were over the moon with its battery life and price tag. There were only a few key features missing that the premium range boasts, most notably fast-charging and NFC compatibility.
For a little extra, you get both of these features with the P30 Lite as well as a camera that more closely resembles what the P30 and P30 Pro are rocking.
Huawei P30 Lite NFC and Fast-Charge
These two key features were missing from the Y9 Prime. Sure they can be justified by the friendlier price tag but if you’re anything like me, these two features are crucial for everyday use. Thankfully, the P30 Lite retains both NFC, for activities like contactless payment, Opal card top-ups etc, and fast-charging.
The Huawei P30 Lite ships with an 18W fast charger. In our testing, we managed to go from flat to fully charged in just under an hour and a half. That’s not as lightning-fast as more premium handsets on the market but it is manageable. And it’s got to be manageable because one thing the Lite doesn’t have going for it is battery life. More on that further down the page.
Like the Y9 Prime, you’re also foregoing the P30’s IP53-rated dust and splash protection so the P30 Lite might not people who spend a lot of time around water or dusty workshops.
What else am I missing out on when it comes to connectivity?
It won’t be a big deal for most but the P30 Lite still uses Bluetooth 4.2, whereas the P30 and the Y9 Prime use the latest technology, Bluetooth 5. Without getting into the nitty-gritty of Bluetooth technology, Bluetooth 5.0 boasts longer range and a more stable connection than 4.2.
This is especially relevant if you use wireless Bluetooth headphones with your smartphone
Huawei P30 Lite Camera
The Huawei P30 Lite’s triple-lens camera is another reason you might opt for it over the Y9 Prime. The P30 Lite is rocking a 48MP main camera, an 8MP ultrawide lens and a 2MP depth sensor. On the front, you’ve got a 24MP selfie camera and a stylish teardrop notch.
In our testing, the P30 Lite’s selfie camera struggles just as much as the Y9 Prime when it comes to portrait shots and fancy effects like stage lighting. The selfie camera struggles to separate the subject and background, even in ideal lighting.
In a normal portrait shoot, this simply results in a couple of blurred edges, particularly around lighter colours, but for effects like stage lighting, the P30 Lite massacres it.
Most people aren’t going to be experimenting too much with these modes and luckily the P30 Lite hits it out of the park where it counts; in its standard, pro, ultra-wide-angle and night modes
The P30 Lite has a higher resolution primary camera than the P30 but it’s the few key features missing with the Lite that give you a picture-perfect snap with the P30, such as optic image stabilisation (there’s also no 4K video sport for those crisp holiday videos).
Despite the quality camera, the P30 Lite is stereotypically midrange when it comes to contrast. Photos taken in auto have some very strong contrasts and punched-up colours. Some people like it that way but it comes at the cost of some finer details. You get a much better shot with HDR switched on but shooting in HDR is a manual process and not as snappy as auto.
It’s hard to besmirch the quality of the P30 Lite’s night mode. It does a good job of brightening the room when you’ve got less than ideal shooting conditions but I’ve noticed that the result isn’t as refined as it is with the P30 or P30 Pro. There’s a noticeable drop in quality and the post-processing struggles to stabilise a moving subject quite as neatly as the premium range.
Still, you’d be stretched to find a night mode quite as competent at this price.
Huawei P30 Lite Design
The Huawei P30 Lite might not sport the same aluminium frame as its premium predecessors but you wouldn’t know it at first glance. The P30 Lite has a plastic body and a slightly pronounced bezel down below but other than that, this could easily pass for a P30.
That’s great news because the P30 is a schmick looking smartphone.
If you favour style over substance, you could be rocking a below $500 smartphone with all the class of a smartphone that normally costs upwards of $800.
What could be better
For all the P30 Lite has got going for it at its price, there are still a handful of disappointments which are more pronounced when you compare them to the cheaper Y9 Prime. The biggest issues are the Huawei P30 Lite’s below-average battery life and its questionable performance.
Huawei P30 Lite battery
After the Huawei Y9 Prime’s battery life blew our expectations with nearly 3 days of usage, we were disappointed to find out the Huawei P30 Lite struggles to make it through a single day. On below-average usage, with the brightness turned down a bit, I can make it through the day no worries. But on the weekend, when I’m spamming the camera and streaming more than usual, I’ve hit about 20% by 6:00 PM.
The one saving grace is that the P30 Lite (where the Y9 Prime does not) so even when I’m running low, it’s nothing half an hour on charge can’t fix.
It has a much smaller battery (3340 mAh) than the Y9 Prime (4000 mAh) but the Y9 Prime is also a larger phone and requires more juice to power its 6.59-inch display.
We can’t be sure but it could have something to do with the difference in each phones’ chipsets, which also seems to impact the P30 Lite’s performance.
Huawei P30 Lite performance
Both the P30 Lite and Y9 Prime have a little less going on under the hood when compared to the P30. The Kirin 980 in the P30 is a powerhouse processor that is a big factor in the handset’s premium price tag.
The P30 Lite is packing the more than capable Kirin 710 but I was surprised to find it struggles with everyday functions, such as searching and switching apps and processing high-quality snaps. This was the sort of performance I expected from the cheaper Y9 Prime but to my surprise, the Y9 Prime barely struggled to keep up at all.
My expectations were completely flipped.
I can’t say for sure whether this is the cause but the Y9 Prime seems to have a slightly modified Kirin 710 chipset. The iteration found in the Y9 Prime may be better optimised. That might explain the difference in performance and extended battery life on the Y9 Prime but again, we haven’t been able to confirm that.
Whatever the case is, I’m finding it hard to recommend the P30 Lite over the cheaper Y9 Prime. Unless you’re attached to NFC and fast-charging, the Y9 Prime is just a better value proposition and what is the P30 Lite meant to be if not a better value alternative for the manufacturer’s premium range.
Where can I buy the Huawei P30 Lite?
The Huawei P30 Lite is available outright through JB HI-FI and Harvey Norman but if you're looking to order online, Huawei is selling the P30 Lite through its Amazon Australia store. At the time of writing, the Huawei P30 Lite (Peacock Blue) is selling through all three retailers at $449.
You can order the Midnight Black model from Amazon Australia but it will cost you a little extra.