Honor’s latest budget phone looks fantastic, but it’s not enough of a step up from its predecessor to justify the price
- Stunning design
- Takes excellent selfies
- Impressive battery life
- Mediocre low-light camera performance
- micro-USB port rather than Type-C
- No faster than last year’s Honor 10 Lite
Last year’s Honor 10 Lite was, as the name implied, a cut-down relative of the Honor 10 and Honor View 10 – and a jolly good smartphone it was too. Now the Honor 20 Lite borrows something of the design of the Honor View 20 – currently selling for £445 – and once again trims the features to bring the cost down. The question is: has it struck the right balance between price and performance?
Honor 20 Lite review: What you need to know
The Honor 20 Lite is similar to the 10 Lite, but with a few key upgrades. It now has a 24, 8 and 2-megapixel rear-facing camera setup, up from the 13 and 2-megapixel cameras on the 10 Lite; internal storage has been bumped up from 64GB to 128GB; and the RAM is up from 3GB to 4GB. The Chinese manufacturer has also managed to better its previous design – the 20 Lite has a brighter, more alluring aesthetic.
A lot remains the same, though. The 20 Lite still sports a 6.21in Full HD+ IPS display with a teardrop notch and is powered by the same octa-core Kirin 710 processor. At the bottom, there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack – which is good news – and a micro-USB charging port, which we’re less delighted about.
Honor 20 Lite review: Price and competition
The Honor 20 Lite will be available from 15 May at Amazon, Argos, Carphone Warehouse, John Lewis and Very. Its launch price of £250 is a bit more expensive than its predecessor, though: the 10 Lite was released late last year for £200 and is now available for a very tempting £170.
There are a few decent rivals in the same price range as the Honor 20 Lite. The larger Honor 8X and Huawei Mate 20 Lite use the same processor and cost a modest £200 and £250 respectively. There’s also Huawei’s latest budget smartphone, the P30 Lite, which costs £329; it has a similar spec to the Honor 20 Lite, but with a 48, 8 and 2-megapixel rear-camera setup, and a USB Type-C port.
Motorola’s latest G-series phones are also excellent budget options: the G7 can be found for £220, while the G7 Plus is £270. One advantage of these phones is that they run an untampered-with installation of Android 9 Pie, while the others (including the Honor 20 Lite), use Huawei’s custom EMUI overlay.
If you’re into gaming, Xiaomi’s Pocophone F1 for around £300 is also well worth a look – its Snapdragon 845 processor gives it a serious boost when it comes to 3D performance.
Honor 20 Lite review: Design and features
The Honor 20 Lite is one of the best-looking sub-£300 phones we’ve seen, with a graded “Phantom Blue” design that’s reminiscent of the 10 Lite’s “Sky Blue” colour scheme. If colourful phones aren’t your thing, a sober “Midnight Black” variant is available, too.
Look a bit more closely at the back and you’ll spot a fingerprint sensor located a third of the way down the back of the phone, with the triple-camera setup to the side. The camera housings stick out slightly from the rear plastic, but this doesn’t cause a problem (unlike with the Huawei P30 Lite, whose protruding lenses cause it to rock around when placed face-up on the desk).
Along the edge, a dual nano-SIM card tray can be popped out. You can also use the secondary SIM card slot to fit a microSD card, adding up to 512GB of additional capacity to the phone’s already pretty generous 128GB of internal storage.
Along the bottom, you’ll find a speaker grille, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro-USB port. Unfortunately, this means that (like its predecessor) the 20 Lite doesn’t support fast charging, which the Moto G7 and Huawei P30 Lite both support: the manufacturer claims it’ll take two and a half hours to fully charge the internal 3,400mAh battery.
Another disappointment is that the Honor 20 Lite lacks support for 5GHz Wi-Fi: it’s 2.4GHz only, which means you can’t take advantage of fast 802.11ac connections. NFC is present, however, allowing you to make contactless payments from your phone.
Honor 20 Lite review: Display
The Honor 20 Lite features a 6.21in Full HD+ (1,080 x 2,340) IPS display. The bezels are small and the front camera is neatly situated in a teardrop notch (or, as Honor calls, it a “pearl-like dewdrop”), so the screen-to-body ratio sits at around 90%. The screen is much like the one on the Honor 10 Lite, and a tad bigger than the 6.15in panel on the Huawei P30 Lite.
For a budget phone, the Honor 20 Lite’s display is surprisingly good. Colour reproduction is pretty accurate, as indicated by an average Delta E of 1.47 and a maximum of 3.27 (the closer to zero, the better). Indeed, the 20 Lite beats the 10 Lite’s Delta E score of 3.2 and 6.13 respectively, and the P30 Lite’s score of 2.55 and 4.88. It also achieves better coverage of the sRGB colour space, so it looks a touch more vibrant than other phones in this price range.
It’s pretty bright as well, with a peak brightness of 327cd/m² in “Normal” mode, although the 10 Lite and P30 Lite achieve 366cd/m² and 416cd/m² respectively. You can give the display a bit of extra pop by switching from the “Normal” colour mode to “Vivid”; this boosts the peak brightness to 387cd/m², but at the expense of colour accuracy.
Honor 20 Lite review: Battery life and performance
The Honor 20 Lite’s battery life is very good. With the display brightness set to 170cd/m², the phone gave us an impressive 12hrs 47mins of video playback on a full charge. That’s better than almost any competitor in this price range – only the Xiaomi Pocophone F1 lasted longer – and it goes some way to mitigate the lack of fast charging.
CPU performance is less outstanding, although still perfectly respectable. There are plenty of phones out there that use the 2.2GHz octa-core Kirin 710 processor, and it’s no surprise to see that they all perform very similarly.
It’s a similar story with gaming performance: again, the Honor 20 Lite performs reasonably, but doesn’t stand out from the crowd. And it certainly can’t compete with Xiaomi’s Pocophone F1, which dominates the gaming field thanks to its Snapdragon 845 processor.
Android itself comes all wrapped up in Honor’s (or Huawei’s) EMUI 9 overlay. This is based on Android 9 Pie, and adds a few potentially worthwhile features, such as three-finger screenshot and the virtual shopping assistant, HiTouch. Overall, though, we prefer the clarity and cleanness of the stock Android experience found on the Moto G7 Plus.
READ NEXT: Huawei Mate 20 Lite review – shining Lite
Honor 20 Lite review: Camera
The Honor 20 Lite features a triple camera setup, comprising a main 24-megapixel f/1.8 sensor, plus an 8-megapixel ultrawide and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. That sounds impressive for a phone this cheap, but in practice, the Honor 20 Lite is outperformed by the Huawei P30 Lite’s 48-megapixel main sensor, and by the Moto G7 Plus’ 16-megapixel setup.
The images above were taken within seconds of each other, and really highlight the differences in quality between the three phones. The Honor 20 Lite’s 24-megapixel image is rough and blurry, with the tree on the left-hand side smearing and chimneys lacking definition. The AI mode certainly helps, but it slashes the resolution to 12-megapixels.
The Huawei P30 Lite produces a far cleaner image, exploiting its huge resolution to capture much more detail, while Motorola’s Moto G7 Plus generates a rich, vibrant image that’s perfect for social media.
The Honor 20 Lite also struggles in indoor and low-light conditions. Here, the Moto G7 Plus does a far better job of capturing the detail in the bear’s fur and maintaining colour accuracy throughout the image. The 20 Lite’s Night mode can help with outdoor scenes, but in this case it just makes the image look chunky and over-sharpened.
Photographically speaking, the Honor 20 Lite’s most distinctive feature is its ultrawide mode, but the results are limited by the 8-megapixel sensor. Details of the red brickwork go amiss on the centre building, while the trees in the background are further blurred – problems that the regular camera, in AI mode, doesn’t suffer from at all.
^Honor 10 Lite AI mode
^Honor 10 Lite ultrawide mode
What impressed me most about the Honor 20 Lite was its front-facing camera. The 32-megapixel sensor manages to capture plenty of detail with a good tonal balance. In the image below, my facial hair isn’t the least bit blurred, the background is nicely defocused and the overall colour balance is pin-point perfect.
By comparison, the Huawei P30 Lite, with its 24-megapixel sensor, outputs a slightly warmer colour tone, while the 12-megapixel selfie camera on the Moto G7 Plus generates an excessively smoothed image that’s annoyingly lacking in fine detail.
READ NEXT: Motorola Moto G7 review – the King no more?
Honor 20 Lite review: Verdict
The Honor 20 Lite is an incremental update over the 10 Lite and it’s hard to complain about that. From the doubled storage to the improved cameras, it’s a better phone.
The problem is the price. If the Honor 20 Lite cost the same as its predecessor, we might be looking at a winner. But, at £250, it’s competing with Motorola’s Moto G7 Plus, which delivers fantastic camera results and a clean, stock Android interface. The Honor 20 Lite’s only real advantage is the extra storage and the fact that it looks prettier.
The 20 Lite is also only £50 cheaper than the insanely quick Xiaomi Pocophone F1 – my pick for gamers – and the Huawei P30 Lite, with its USB Type-C interface and 48-megapixel rear-facing camera. If you’re on a tight budget, meanwhile, the Honor 10 Lite is still one of the best budget smartphones out there and at £170 it’s a lot cheaper. That’s the problem with the Honor 20 Lite: it isn’t a bad budget phone at all, but next to its predecessor, and its rivals, it currently looks distinctly overpriced.
|Processor||Octa-core Hisilicon Kirin 710 (4×2.2GHz, 4×1.7GHz)|
|Screen resolution||2,340 x 1,080|
|Rear camera||23-megapixel, 8-megapixel, 2-megapixel|
|Dust and water resistance||N/A|
|3.5mm headphone jack||Yes|
|USB connection type||microUSB|
|Memory card slot (supplied)||microSD (up to 512GB)|
|Dual SIM||Yes (shared with microSD)|
|Dimensions (WDH)||154.8 x 73.6 x 8mm|
|Operating system||Android 9|