Huawei P30 Lite hands on review

Stunning design and versatile camera setup on a budget

What is a hands on review?
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Image credit: TechRadar

Early Verdict

The P30 Lite sheds a lot of what makes its higher-end siblings stand out but manages to deliver premium design and a versatile triple camera setup on a budget. Middling battery and chipset aside, Huawei might have another budget hit on their hands.

For

  • Striking design
  • Generous storage
  • Good selfie camera
  • Good value for money

Against

  • Mono speaker
  • Average battery
  • Middling chipset

Huawei officially launched its P30 range, and in some regions this includes a budget variant dubbed P30 Lite that will be offered alongside the more expensive P30 and P30 Pro

As the name suggests, the P30 Lite discards several key features from the higher-end P30 phones but aims to retain the spirit of the P30 series by offering a high-end striking design alongside an adept camera setup. 

Apart from the teardrop notch and the colorful back designs, the P30 Lite has little in common with its siblings. The specs are watered down from the P30 and P30 Pro to include more middling internals like Huawei’s mid-range Kirin 710 chipset and a modest triple camera setup. But competition, thanks mostly to Huawei, is stiff in the budget market. 

Does the P30 Lite have what it takes to stand out and be the king of value phones?

Huawei P30 Lite price and release date

The P30 series of handsets go on sale April 11 in the UAE, and Vodafone UK has said it will be available "soon" in the UK, but we don't yet know when we can see it in most other regions. 

Being the most affordable member of the series, the Huawei P30 Lite will be available for AED 1,099 (roughly $300, £230, AU$415).

That gets you 4GB RAM and generous 128GB internal storage which is great value for money. 

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

Design and display

The P30 Lite looks similar to most Huawei phones launched recently, and has a slim and light profile. It’s got a curved 3D glass on the back that makes it sit more comfortably in your hands, though we're not fans of the glossy, cheap looking frame around the body. There’s a fingerprint sensor on the rear and a protruding camera bump that houses the phone’s three sensors.

The volume rockers and power button are tucked away on the right. They feel plastic-y and are the second indicators of the phone’s budget origins. On the bottom you’ll find a modern USB-C port and a single downward firing mono speaker that’s blatantly inferior but can be ignored in lieu of a 3.5mm headphone jack where you can plug in your wired headphones. 

We received the vibrant Peacock Blue color for review with the signature Huawei gradient finish that goes from blue to purple and looks great. One of the most striking features about the design on the back is the elongated inverted S that shimmers when it catches some light and makes the phone look more premium than it is. But as it the case with most glass backs, the P30 Lite takes on fingerprints and smudges all too easily requiring regular wipe-downs.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

Flipping over, you’ll find a large 6.15-inch full-HD LCD display that takes up just a little over 84% of the front. The bezels are thin on the sides and the corners are elegantly rounded off, though there is a bit of a chin at the bottom.

Watching videos and viewing content on this screen has been a good experience so far. The display is stunning for a budget phone with ample brightness, crisp quality but not too sharp and great color reproduction. The dewdrop notch is a lot less intrusive than the wider notches we’ve seen on other phones and mostly stays out of the way. 

Sure, the IPS LCD panel might not be as punchy as QHD displays on higher-tier smartphones or the AMOLED screens Samsung is now offering on its budget Galaxy A range, but it punches well above its weight against most phones in this price mark.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

Triple camera setup

Shutterbugs will be happy to find a capable triple camera setup on the rear that consists of a 24MP main sensor, than can capture bags of details, a 2MP depth sensor, for bokeh effects, and a 8MP ultra-wide camera, which allows you to cram in more scenery. 

The stand out is the front snapper which features a generous 32MP sensor. It can capture good amount of details and the on board AI beautification allows for quick selfies. While some prefer this, the processing is a little too much for our taste. You can also blur out backgrounds by enabling bokeh through the camera app or add in depth after the photo is taken.

EMUI 9 also features a myriad of AI effects and image recognition to add a touch of flair but more often than not photos end up looking over-processed and unnatural. The camera app is also chock full of features and up to par with Huawei’s higher-priced offerings. The AI scene recognition is able to identify objects even when there’a a lot going on and the bokeh on the rear camera is quick to kick in.

Initial results are impressive, especially when there’s a lot of light around but don’t expect to be blown away. Even with ample lighting, there’s noticeable loss in details and noise creeps in much too often resulting in unwanted murky blobs. 

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

Performance, EMUI 9 & Battery life

Hardware is where the P30 Lite shows its true budget nature. It sports Huawei’s mid-range Kirin 710 chipset that’s found in phones like the Honor 10 Lite and Honor 8x. While the phone will be able to keep up with average day to day use, don’t expect to seamlessly jump back and forth between power hungry apps or play any demanding games without hiccups. 

On the upshot, the P30 Lite runs Android 9 out of the box with Huawei’s cleaned up EMUI 9 skin. It includes a lot of features that you can enable to make your life easier such as gesture support, performance and battery optimisation and a neater settings menu you can access these easily.

Battery on the P30 Lite is on the smaller side at just 3,340mAh, but with modest internals the battery likely won’t be taxed as much. We predict the phone’s tank will last a day’s worth of moderate use, including streaming videos and scrolling through social media, but we’ll be sure to put the battery through its paces during our full review.

Early verdict

Huawei has muddled the distinctions between budget and mainstream phones so often that we’re rarely surprised when the company puts out a competent low-priced phone that punches above its weight. That P30 Lite pushes that envelope just a tad bit further by offering a highly polished design, great screen and a proficient camera setup with AI smarts to boot. 

Performance and gaming on the phone will likely hold you back but the phone can handle most tasks well enough for casual users. You can easily get a days worth of moderate use with the conservative battery capacity and if you happen to run out of juice the phone can charge up relatively quickly with the bundled fast charger.

Overall, the P30 Lite seems like a worthy addition to Huawei’s already crowded budget line up, and brings an interesting mix of specs and hardware into the mix, especially for those who are cash strapped. But in a sea of great budget phones, it does little to stand out in any unique way and we’re curious to see where it will land after we’re done with our in-depth tests. 

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.