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Huawei P Smart (2017) review: Price cuts makes the P Smart a tasty proposition

Christopher Minasians
29 Nov 2018
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
229
inc VAT

The P Smart isn’t a bad phone and this price drop makes the package even more appealing

Pros 
Impressive 18:9 display
Good build quality and design
Inexpensive
Cons 
Mediocre performance
No dual-lens selfie camera
Poor battery life
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Announced in December 2017, this budget 18:9 smartphone (since updated with a 2019 P Smart) goes head to head with the Honor 9 Lite, a near-identical smartphone that was released by Huawei’s own subsidiary, Honor. In this review, I'll compare the two phones and see if the P Smart is worth its £229 price tag.

READ NEXT: The best budget smartphones

Huawei P Smart review: What you need to know

The P Smart is a stylish smartphone with a 5.65in, 18:9 display. It features a dual-lens rear-facing camera, and runs Android 8 Oreo; inside there’s an octa-core processor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage.

It sounds like a promising recipe. Before you get too excited, though, be aware that the Honor 9 Lite matches all of this, and additionally features a dual-lens front camera that results in sharper, more colour-accurate selfies. It also achieved a longer battery life in our video benchmark test – and it’s £30 cheaper.

READ NEXT: Honor 9 Lite review: A great budget phone with an 18:9 display and a dual front-facing camera

Huawei P Smart review: UK price and release date

At the time of writing, the P Smart is exclusive to Vodafone. It can be found on contract from £18 per month (with a £9 upfront cost), which includes unlimited texts, 250 minutes and 250MB of data. It's also available for £229 when bought with any Big Value Bundle or Pay as you go 1 TopUp.

The Honor 9 Lite, for comparison, is cheaper at £199, SIM-free and unlocked. Other alternatives in this price range include the Moto G5S, and the Nokia 6; there’s also the cheaper Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X, but that’ll need to be imported in from China.

Best Huawei P Smart contract and SIM-free deals

Huawei P Smart review: Design

Budget phones have come a long way in terms of design. Long gone are the days of ugly bricks; the Huawei P Smart looks as elegant as any flagship handset, with rounded edges reminiscent of its older sibling, the Huawei P10. Though antenna lines are visible, they smartly complement the phone’s design.

The P Smart comes in a range of four colours (black, blue, gold and rose gold), but right now only black is available in the UK. It looks tasteful, though it does tend to pick up fingerprints.

On that note, Huawei has gone for a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, which I found perfectly responsive and easy to use. Keeping up with recent trends, there’s also a dual-lens camera at the back, with dual-LED flash. At the front, a single selfie camera sits atop the elongated 5.65in display.

On the left-hand side, there’s a dual-SIM slot, which will alternatively take a single SIM and a microSD card, to add up to 256GB of storage. At the bottom, there’s a micro-USB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a single downward-firing speaker.

READ NEXT: Honor 7X review: The new mid-range smartphone king with an 18:9 display

Huawei P Smart review: Display

The P Smart’s 5.65in IPS display has a resolution of 2,160 x 1,080, for an aspect ratio of 18:9. This is becoming a popular shape, and it’s good that you don’t have to pay a premium to get it.

It looks good, too. Our i1 DisplayPro colorimeter measured an impressive peak brightness of 600cd/m2, so you’ll have absolutely no trouble viewing it even in the brightest sunlight. That’s a step above even the Honor 9 Lite, which achieved 570cd/m2.

Colours meanwhile look vibrant, and with a contrast ratio of 1,500:1, the P Smart makes for good video playback. I do suspect that some dynamic contrast is at work, as the brightness drops a little (to 570cd/m2) when displaying colours other than white. Still, the screen isn’t oversaturated and doesn’t suffer from any noticeable colour shift when viewed at extreme angles.

READ NEXT: Motorola Moto G5S review: Is this the best budget smartphone yet?

Huawei P Smart review: Performance and battery life

Packed inside the P Smart’s aluminum shell is an octa-core 2.36GHz HiSilicon Kirin 659, partnered with 3GB of RAM. That’s plenty of power for everyday tasks and light gaming – but don’t expect it to cope with graphically intense games such as Asphalt 8: Airborne. In use, Android 8.0 Oreo (with Huawei’s EMUI 8 customisations) feels very fluid, and it helps that the phone doesn’t come filled with bloatware. There are a few pre-installed apps, including Facebook and Instagram, but these can simply be uninstalled if you don’t want them.

^ Geekbench 4 results

^ GFXBench results

As the Geekbench 4 and GFXBench benchmarks show, the P Smart’s performance is overall on par with other budget phones. It’s some way behind the mid-priced Honor 9, but that has more powerful internals, and a 16:9 screen that means it has less work to do in the gaming benchmark.

^ Battery benchmark

Our testing did throw up one disappointment, however: the Huawei P Smart’s 3,000mAh battery lasted a mere 7hrs 48mins in the Expert Reviews video benchmark. That’s a fair bit short the 9hrs 9mins achieved by the Honor 9 Lite, and even further behind the 9hrs 47mins of the Honor 7X.

READ NEXT: Best phone battery life 2018: The BEST smartphones put to the test

Huawei P Smart review: Camera

If you’re shooting in daylight, the P Smart’s dual-lens 13+2-megapixel camera does a great job of capturing clean, sharp pictures. As the image below illustrates, there’s plenty of detail, even in low-contrast areas. Colour reproduction is good too: the distinctive light of a gloomy day in London is well represented in an image that’s neither oversaturated nor washed out.

Sadly, as with many low-cost phones, camera performance isn’t so great in low-light conditions. HDR processing helps a bit, though, brightening up the image and suppressing image noise. For example, in the image below (shot with HDR disabled), you’ll see a grainy vase and lots of noise around the colourful pens at the right-hand side.

^ Without HDR

Turn on HDR and the image drastically improves. There’s much less image noise and the entire scene is brighter and better balanced.

^ HDR enabled

With flash enabled, shadows and image noise are completely eliminated.

^Taken with flash enabled (HDR off) 

Around the front there’s a single 8-megapixel selfie camera; it does an acceptable job, with relatively good detail and colour accuracy. It’s nowhere near as vibrant or sharp as the results you get from the rear camera, though; this is one big advantage of the Honor 9 Lite, which has a dual-lens 13+2-megapixel camera on the front as well as the back.

Huawei P Smart review: Verdict

The Huawei P Smart is an impressive budget smartphone. With an 18:9 aspect ratio, an attractive design, a decent set of cameras and a blisteringly quick fingerprint reader, there’s lots to like about this handset.

Unfortunately, Huawei seems to have shot itself in the foot by putting it up against the Honor 9 Lite. That phone – made by Huawei’s own subsidiary company – has a better selfie camera, plus a longer-lasting battery. It’s also arguably prettier, and it’s around £30 cheaper. That makes it impossible to recommend the P Smart; it’s a decent phone, but you can do better for the money.

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