Huawei P Smart (2017) review

The P Smart offers an 18:9 screen for the budget buyer

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Battery life

  • 3,000mAh battery lasts a day but won't stretch to two
  • No fast charging

The Huawei P Smart has a 3,000mAh battery, which is a good capacity for a phone of Full HD+ resolution. In our experience the phone lasts a full day without issue, including a few hours of podcast streaming, some web browsing and many WhatsApp checks.

However, it doesn't quite reach the heights of Huawei's top performers like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and Huawei P20 Pro. While we found we usually had some juice left to take us into mid-morning on day two, the Huawei P Smart is not a phone we could get to last a full two days of normal use.

Read more: Huawei P Smart - recension

Playing back a 90-minute 720p video at maximum brightness takes 22% off the charge level, which is not bad but worse than the Moto G5S. That lost just 16%. The newer Moto G6 was comparable though with a drop of 21%.

It also lacks true fast charging. 'Turbo' chargers either use higher-than-normal voltage or current to replenish a phone's battery very quickly but the Huawei P Smart's just uses the standard 5V, 2A plug.

More expensive Huawei's use the company's SuperCharger, which provides over double the power transfer rate.

Camera

  • Poor low-light performance
  • Background blur on both cameras
  • Decent daylight image quality

The Huawei P Smart has two cameras on its rear. Huawei has made more dual camera devices than just about any other manufacturer, but this is one of its lower-end setups.

There's a 13MP main sensor and a low-resolution 2MP one to provide depth information. Some dual camera arrays are used to improve image quality, add zoom or even a wide-angle view. The Huawei P Smart's is just for wide aperture shooting, letting you blur out the background or foreground for a dramatic effect.

Using a low-res depth sensor means the unseen 3D map the Huawei P Smart makes of a scene is rudimentary. As a result, edges tend to get confused and you end up with odd-looking photos unless your subject is reasonably close, simple and is well-separated from the background.

We can't fault the phone for trying, though, as it'll apply pretty dramatic blur to almost any scene. It just won't always do it that well.

The Huawei P Smart also lacks the artificial intelligence scene processing of some high-end phones. However, it does have a good stab at managing scenes with tricky brightness levels, applying post-processing to make each look right.

Your day-lit photos will look great on the Huawei P Smart's own screen. Opening them up on our color-calibrated monitor, though, it's clear the phone only has entry-level hardware. Fine details look vaguer than they would seen through a high-quality 12MP phone camera and dynamic range is just okay.

The Huawei P Smart does not handle night shooting well. It's slow to take photos, dark scenes will often appear severely underexposed, and when they are not they'll either look very soft or noisy.

At the price the Huawei P Smart's camera is fine, but it does not set any new standards.

Phones like the Honor 10 and OnePlus 6T have much better cameras, a reason some may want to spend more.

As in other Huawei phones, there are many extra modes. These include HDR, time lapse, light painting and a pro mode that gives you control over parameters like shutter speed, ISO and exposure. You'd need to use a tripod to get the best out of the latter, though, as there's no stabilization to let you slow down the shutter without ending up with blurred shots.

Around the front, the Huawei P Smart has a single 8MP selfie camera. It's a good one too, producing natural-looking skin tones and good detail with reasonable lighting.

There's also a selfie background blur mode that uses software smarts rather than a second camera. As with the rear blur effect, the outlines aren't always perfect, but are usually sound enough.

Camera samples

Image 1 of 14

Dynamic range enhancement hasn’t left this church looking entirely realistic but has brought out the detail and colour in the brickwork.

Dynamic range enhancement hasn’t left this church looking entirely realistic but has brought out the detail and colour in the brickwork.

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Image 2 of 14

You wouldn’t know from a glance, but this is a church: night shooting is a problem.

You wouldn’t know from a glance, but this is a church: night shooting is a problem.

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Image 3 of 14

The blur mode has made this goat look quite dramatic. But check out the anomalies in the background trees.

The blur mode has made this goat look quite dramatic. But check out the anomalies in the background trees.

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Image 4 of 14

This may not be a super-powered camera, but you can take some decent macro-adjacent nature shots.

This may not be a super-powered camera, but you can take some decent macro-adjacent nature shots.

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Image 5 of 14

Here we see the phone’s dynamic range enhancement in effect again, bringing out the leaf detail without overexposing the sky.

Here we see the phone’s dynamic range enhancement in effect again, bringing out the leaf detail without overexposing the sky.

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Image 6 of 14

There’s a nice warm tone to this image, but higher-end hardware would handle the contrast to the left side of the screen and the shadow detail of the far-away trees better.

There’s a nice warm tone to this image, but higher-end hardware would handle the contrast to the left side of the screen and the shadow detail of the far-away trees better.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 7 of 14

Low-light images can look very soft. Like this one.

Low-light images can look very soft. Like this one.

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Image 8 of 14

The camera has really struggled with the high contrast of the tree branches against the bright cloudy sky, but the image looks bright enough.

The camera has really struggled with the high contrast of the tree branches against the bright cloudy sky, but the image looks bright enough.

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Image 9 of 14

Look closely and you’ll see the limits of the camera sensor’s dynamic range and detail retrieval here.

Look closely and you’ll see the limits of the camera sensor’s dynamic range and detail retrieval here.

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Image 10 of 14

Taken using the bokeh mode, this shot is a bit of a mess in terms of the parts that are and are not blurred, but shows the P Smart will try to apply it in just about any scene.

Taken using the bokeh mode, this shot is a bit of a mess in terms of the parts that are and are not blurred, but shows the P Smart will try to apply it in just about any scene.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 11 of 14

Here’s what the background blur feature is really about: bringing out fine detail by obliterating that not in the subject.

Here’s what the background blur feature is really about: bringing out fine detail by obliterating that not in the subject.

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Image 12 of 14

Here’s the same scene again with the background blur mode disabled.

Here’s the same scene again with the background blur mode disabled.

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Image 13 of 14

In an attempt to keep the sky properly exposed, the tree detail appears crushed into black. You can bring it back with manual post-processing, but the low quality of this detail demonstrates the limits of the sensor’s dynamic range.

In an attempt to keep the sky properly exposed, the tree detail appears crushed into black. You can bring it back with manual post-processing, but the low quality of this detail demonstrates the limits of the sensor’s dynamic range.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 14 of 14

This shot would look better with raised mid-tones. The P Smart seems to have avoided this to make the sky look bluer, but the whole scene would look more realistic with this tweak.

This shot would look better with raised mid-tones. The P Smart seems to have avoided this to make the sky look bluer, but the whole scene would look more realistic with this tweak.

Click here to see the full resolution image