What is the Huawei Mate 20 Lite?
Huawei announced the Mate 20 Lite at the tail end of this summer, making it the first ‘Lite’ model in its premium Mate range. Essentially it is an entry level into the Mate series and a stripped back version of the Mate 20 Pro, announced last week.
With the Mate 20 Lite Huawei is aiming to appeal to the mid-range of the market by offering some of its flagship features.
On one hand, introducing the Mate 20 Lite makes sense, bringing it in line with the P range where we currently have the P20 Pro, P20 and P20 Lite. But on the other hand, Huawei already has a solid mid-range series under its Honor brand.
One might be tempted, for instance, to go for the Honor Play, which is about £100 cheaper than the Mate 20 Lite and is arguably a more robust phone. The difference, though, is in the camera. The Mate 20 Lite camera inherits the sophisticated AI technology and dual camera setups on both the rear and front.
Could this phone then be the best mid-range option for photographers? We put it through its paces for our Huawei Mate 20 Lite review?
The Huawei Mate 20 Lite’s primary rear camera boasts a 20-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8 lens, and a secondary 2-megapixel camera for depth.
On the front of the phone is another dual camera setup, with a 24-megapixel f/2.0 camera and a 2-megapixel secondary unit.
Both camera setups employ Huawei’s innovative AI technology, which can ascertain your scenes and adjust the camera settings accordingly. Huawei’s AI can tell if you’re shooting a waterfall or snow; it can even tell whether you’re photographing a cat or a dog.
The Mate 20 Lite uses a Kirin 710 chipset with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. There is also a headphone jack, a microSD card slot and it charges via USB Type-C.
It’s got a 6.3-inch Full HD display, and powering it is a 3,750mAh battery, which is bigger than you normally get in a phone at this price point.
There’s also a handy feature called Smart Resolution, which automatically jumps from the native resolution of 2,340 x 1080p to 1,560 x 720p in order to save battery life.
At 172g, the Mate 20 Lite has some heft behind it. It is a phablet after all, but it feels heavy in your hand.
The glass on the 6.3-inch display is thick, and there is very little bezel. The phone is just 7.6mm thick and boasts an elegant metal body with rounded corners
The shiny back is a little prone to fingerprints, but nothing too terrible. Like other Huawei phones, the Mate 20 Lite feels like it could probably withstand a few knocks.
The Mate 20 Lite’s front cameras sit at the top of the handset in the notch, while the dual rear cameras are positioned in the upper middle of the back. Beneath these is a fingerprint scanner and on the side are power and volume buttons.
The software inside the Mate 20 Lite is equally solid. If you’ve used other Huawei phones, the Mate 20 Lite uses the same camera app. A simple tabbed menu lets you navigate between modes, and all your exposure settings are set using a slider at the bottom of the screen.
Overall, it’s very intuitive to use.
Having used the Huawei P20 Pro and the Mate 10 Pro for the past year, I’ve come to really appreciate the company’s AI and the image quality produced by those phones. The Mate 10 Lite carries on this tradition.
While it may not have the Leica lenses like the P20 Pro, the Mate 10 Lite produces very nice images with rich, vibrant colours and a nice level of detail. The camera produces very strong images in good light, but also copes very well in low light as well.
The phone’s autofocusing reliably found my subjects, though in lower light it was less successful and I needed to focus manually. I also found the Object Tracking mode a little spotty. It worked well for a few seconds, but then seemed to give up and I would need to re-engage it.
Holding down the shutter button, though, sends the camera into burst mode and I was able to pan with my subjects quite easily.
The AI engine – which now recognises 22 different scenes with more than 500 subjects between them – works very reliably. I did find the results from some scenes, though, just a bit too garish. Blue Sky mode, in particular, was guilty of this. Colours looked a bit too oversaturated.
I found in these instances I was turning off the AI mode. This is easily done by tapping the X next to the name of the mode in the bottom of your screen.
Tapping the More section on the main menu, I found myself using the Pro mode for the most control and flexibility. In Pro mode I could add up to +/- 4EV exposure compensation or set shutter speeds from 30secs up to 1/4000sec. You can also adjust the metering, ISO, white balance and AF modes.
In the More section you’ll also find an HDR mode, Panorama, Light Painting, Slow-mo, Time-lapse, 3D Panorama, Portrait and Aperture modes.
There is also a Night Mode, but in my tests it didn’t prove anywhere near as capable as the similar mode on the P20 Pro. I wasn’t able to get many sharp images with it.
I spent a week in Italy with the Mate 20 Lite shooting largely in bright light and in high-contrast scenes, and the colours it can produce are fantastic. Skies were never washed out and highlights were well-controlled. Looking at my images at 100%, I noticed very little noise and a nice amount of detail.
Overall, though, the Huawei Mate 20 Lite offers a superb amount of control and produces very nice images for a phone at this price point.
Below is a selection of sample photos shot with the Huawei Mate 20 Lite.
The Huawei Mate 20 Lite is a solid enough phone with a nice range of features, but this review is for photographers interested in its camera. For £379 at the time of writing you can get a smartphone camera with Huawei’s novel AI technology and a decent amount of manual control. And it can produce some really beautiful images with a nice amount of detail.
However, the Mate 20 Lite sort of seems like it doesn’t really have a place to me. Consider its siblings. The Huawei P20 Pro is simply astonishing. Its camera is so good that none of the next-generation offerings from Apple or Samsung have been able to top it. The only phone that looks capable of usurping its image quality crown is the new Huawei Mate 20 Pro. And when you consider that I’ve seen the P20 Pro for sale as cheap as £550, it’s probably worth spending the extra cash for that stunning Night Mode and other features. What’s more, the OnePlus 6 is also in the same ballpark.
But if your budget is firm, the Mate 20 Lite will serve you well. The AI in Photo mode will impress you, and all of your images from the everyday snaps to your travels abroad will look fantastic.