(Pocket-lint) - The Honor 20 Lite might purport to be part of the Honor 20 family - there's also the standard and Pro model - but, really, it's not. This more affordable handset certainly has a fancy gradient finish to the rear, but overall design and internals make it a wholly different device.
Which, by and large, is the point: the Lite is a phone with an accessible price point, making it a great SIM-free choice, while delivering a strong feature set that includes a triple camera setup.
But with discussion around Honor (and its parent company Huawei) a hot topic at present - there's likely to be an alternative operating system coming in the future as a result of US trade wars - are the lures of, say, the Moto G7 Plus more compelling?
Design and screen
- 6.21-inch LCD screen, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 1080 x 2340 resolution
- Rear positioned fingerprint scanner
- Micro-USB charging, 10W
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- 155 x 74 x 8mm; 164g
At first sight you wouldn't think the Honor 20 Lite is a budget phone. Indeed, it has many of the hallmarks of a pricier and more complete handset. It's large, for starters, with that 6.21-inch screen dominating the face, without there being excess bezel and only a small dewdrop notch to the top where the front camera is housed.
Further inspection maintains initial inspection too. We've been using the phone for a working week and its slim profile (8mm) paired with solid build makes for a strong look. The only downside, really, is the choice of a Micro-USB socket to the bottom - foregoing the more recent, easier-to-connect and faster USB Type-C port that most phones have these days. But at least there's a 3.5mm headphone port.
Given the price point you can't expect the fanciest of features, so while there's no in-screen fingerprint scanner here, the rear-positioned circular scanner works just fine (although we find it a couple of millimetres too high up the body for our preference). The other Honor 20 models have a side-positioned scanner, which works better, but that position won't be suitable for all.
The Lite's screen is an LCD panel, again befitting of this price point. While there's no OLED panel for perfect blacks, the overall colours and brightness from this Honor phone is perfectly capable. It doesn't have irritating excessive auto-dimming like the Redmi Note 7 either, which makes for a better user experience overall. And if you don't like that notch then it can be hidden using software to make a screen-based black-out bar to the top.
Performance and battery
- Hisilicon Kirin 710 octa-core processor, 4GB RAM
- 128GB storage, microSD expansion
- 3,400mAh battery capacity
Here's where the Lite differs considerably compared to its Honor 20 cousins. Under the hood you'll find a Kirin 710 processor and 4GB RAM, which is perfectly capable for a mid-level phone, but the very same as you'll find in the year-older Honor 10 Lite. So there's no uplift in terms of performance between the older, cheaper device and this newer one.
Not that many people buying this phone will really notice. The Honor 20 Lite can cut through all manner of apps, not just lightweight ones. We've been playing South Park: Phone Destroyer in much the same manner as we would on a flagship (loading and download times are just longer), while the usual browsing, email and such like is fully functional.
However, as this is a mid-range processor, it'll sometimes causes small delays. Bring up a list of apps allowed to be full-screen in the settings menu, for example, and there's a bit of "thinking time" while that list loads. Sometimes switching from one app to the next takes a little longer than you might expect too - but we're talking fractions of a second, which will only be something those used to a higher-level experience will really notice. In isolation, then, the 20 Lite is up to task.
Longevity is fairly good too. We come to this phone after using the Moto One Vision and find the Honor has greater longevity from its (slightly larger) 3,400mAh battery capacity. We've been hitting around 15 hours of use in Performance Mode before getting to a battery alert level - which is spot on for a single day's use without any holding back. If you want longer there are battery saver modes to help, or pay a bit more cash and get the Honor 20 proper - which lasts even better still.
About that software
- Android Pie 9, EMUI 9 software skin
At present Honor uses Huawei's EMUI software over the top of Google's Android operating system. This Honor doesn't have the more recent Magic UI 2 skin that other Honor phones use. Not that all this matters, really, as it's widely expected that in the future the company will be using the rumoured HongMeng operating system - ditching Android altogether, given how its hand has been forced by US trade wars.
How you see all that will depend on your confidence in the company. We see no reason for HongMeng to be a drag - indeed, reports are already saying its speedier than Android - so long as developers are willing and ready to get their popular apps onto the platform (remember Windows Phone and how that struggled? Well, yeah, HongMeng could end up in the same boat - but we hope it doesn't). Seeing as Huawei is the second largest producer of smartphones in the world, that seems like good incentive to us.
Right now, however, you don't need to think and/or worry about this really. Honor has confirmed support for current Android OS, including the next-gen Android Q system, so there's a good 18 months plus of use from this device in the most up-to-date state possible. Unless you're a diehard Android fan who wants ongoing support - in which case you won't be looking to buy a budget phone anyway.
As it stands, we think EMUI is a perfectly usable solution too. Some dislike it for its over-keen notifications, separate Huawei ID/Stores (sometimes duplicating Google apps), but it also adds some great things like App Twin to run personal/business accounts on WhatsApp and more, all within the one software space. And you can also use it as an Apple iOS-style all apps over homescreens, pure Android-style app drawer, or combination of the two for your convenience - depending on how you like the homescreen layout.
- Triple rear camera: 24MP f/1.8 main; 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide; 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor
- 23MP front-facing camera, f/2.0
One of the Lite's major features is its triple camera system, comprising standard and ultra-wide lenses, alongside a depth sensor. In many regards, therefore, you can think of it as dual camera: you can either shoot wide or very wide-angle, with the depth sensor used to enhance various shooting modes.
It's such modes which are one of the Honor 20 Lite's strengths. Whether you want point-and-shoot, have full manual control, use handheld multi-exposure night mode, or take blurred-background portraits or other effects, it's all available to select with ease. The only criticism here is that this amounts to a lot of choice, making for a more complex Camera app than, say, you'll get with the Google Pixel 3a.
Results from the Lite are generally pleasing: in good light there's plenty of detail from that 24MP sensor, but the wide-angle sensor isn't quite as up to task, with considerable lens distortion and a lacking in the same fine quality across the image.
For low-light you can expect to see a lot more image processing, thus results are less detailed, but the night mode is very capable of taking multiple exposures and combining into one good-looking shot. There are some imperfections here, as suffered from subject movement, for example, but on a phone screen this mode's shot look fairly magical.
Flip the phone around and the front-facing camera offers a massive 23-megapixels, so you can be sure to catch every blemish in those selfies (and then smudge them out with Beauty mode, but of course).
The Honor 20 Lite is an affordable and well designed phone, bringing good looks with ample performance for the price. No, it's no more powerful than the year-old 10 Lite, but the design has edged forward to be even more appealing.
At £249, there's a lot for your money, including a capable camera system all things considered, and all-day battery life without any concern. Thing is, with the likes of Xiaomi's Redmi Note 7 offering a lot of the same for less money, or Motorola's G7 Plus providing a cleaner software experience for a smidgen less cash, this Lite is somewhat squeezed by its competition.
All said, if you're looking to grab a SIM-free handset that'll do you proud through more or less whatever you throw at it, the Honor 20 Lite is perfectly capable.
Moto G7 Plus
It's chunkier and not as flash by design, but with a price that's now marginally cheaper than the Honor and has a cleaner overall software experience, the G7 Plus is a solid affordable phone choice.
Redmi Note 7
Visually similar, yet a fair chunk cheaper, the Redmi (which is Xiaomi's budget brand) is a capable alternative - but the software experience is far buggier than the Honor's at present.