Honor has been a key component of Huawei’s meteoric rise in the consumer smartphone market. As a challenger brand, it managed to position itself as a compelling alternative to existing, established brands like HTC, LG or Sony. The latest mainstream addition to its range, the Honor 20 lite, aims to cement the brand’s positioning but will it be enough against a resurgent Samsung and a host of newcomers, led by another Chinese behemoth, Xiaomi.
The Honor 20 Lite uses a microUSB port rather than a USB Type-C connector and thanks to an audio port, you can listen to the built-in FM radio using your wired earphones as antenna.
A large screen means with a raindrop notch dead in the middle means that the phone has a high screen-to-body ratio, great if you’re a fan of majestic vistas on. Another corner cutting exercise is the IPS LCD in lieu of the more expensive OLED screens.
There's also a downward firing speaker which can all too easily be obstructed when holding the phone in landscape mode. At 154.8 mm x 73.64 mm x 7.95 mm for a weight of 164g, it is comfortable despite the big display.
Unlike more expensive models, the fingerprint reader is located at the back rather than below the screen. Doing so helps minimize smudges on the screen.
As expected, the design of the Honor 20 Lite closely resembles that of more expensive models with an attractive colour shifting scheme. All smartphone vendors use the same strategy to trickle down the halo effect of flagship models to cheaper ones which will sell in vastly superior numbers.
The differences are subtle but still important; plastic rather than glass or metal is used on the outside which makes it a bit more of a fingerprint magnet. As one of our peers over at TechRadar puts it, “Honor 20 Lite nails the gist of a modern flagship phone (like the P30 Pro) is worthy of praise. It’s an obvious impersonation, but a good one nonetheless.”
The Hisilicon Kirin 710 is at the heart of the Honor 20 Lite and is the tenth smartphone to carry that CPU. It is an octa-core model with four A73 and A53 cores teamed with four Mali G51 IGP (integrated graphics processing) cores.
That’s backed by 4GB of RAM and 128GB of system memory; that can be increased by adding a microSD card which replaces a SIM card. Note that the Honor 20 Lite only supports Bluetooth 5.0 and doesn't offer 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which is puzzling for a mid-range smartphone. Even more so given that the other Honor smartphones in that same price bracket.
At 3,400mAh, its battery is above average although your mileage will vary when it comes to battery life depending on usage; it can also be used to charge other devices. A phone’s screen is likely to be the one component that consumes the most power and the 2340 x 1080 pixel display, does its best to keep it low despite its 6.21-inch diagonal.
Where the Honor 20 Lite is likely to turn heads is in the camera section where the smartphone packs four sensors; three at the back (24, 8 and 2-megapixel) and a front facing 32-megapixel snapper.
We haven't tested this smartphone to its limit and we believe that there's enough headroom for non-gaming tasks. Tests that we carried out using industry standard benchmarks showed that the Honor 20 Lite is powerful enough for everyday jobs.
Pure CPU performance is not far from the Mediatek Helio P70, which powers a lot of mainstream Chinese smartphones like the Blackview BV9700 Pro. The graphics subsystem however lagged far behind the G72 IGP found in the P70; that had a knock off effect on Compute and any benchmark that relied on video grunt work.
The phone runs on Android 9.0 with EMUI 9.0 overlay which we are not a big fan of. Stock Android is preferable for a number of reasons but from a manufacturer’s point of view, it removes one of the most important USPs which is having a distinct visual entity.
The screen is reasonably bright; You do not get the vivid colours or the darker-than-dark blacks but all in all, it is a good compromise for a mainstream smartphone with sharp, well-balanced pictures, albeit lacking when it comes to contrast.
There are currently nine models in Honor’s UK smartphone lineup, three of them costing between £230 and £280. At £250, the Honor 20 Lite sits between the Honor 8X and the Honor Play and while it has twice the onboard storage than either and a better camera setup, it does lack 802.11ac and has a slower CPU compared to the Play. The latter also supports dual SIM and a microSD card, a rarity at this price.
Then there’s the Redmi Note 7 from Xiaomi which sells for the same as the Honor 20 Lite. It has one fewer camera but boosts 802.11ac, a Type-C connector (rather than a MicroUSB), a bigger battery and better GPU performance. A viable alternative from a company with proven credentials but still building momentum in the UK.
The Motorola Moto G7 Plus is also worth looking at with a price tag of £240. The biggest threat to the Honor 20 Lite, however, has to be the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018). At £249, it comes from a household name and matches the Honor 20 Lite core specifications and surpassing it on some (Bluetooth 5.0, 802.11ac).
A word on the current Huawei vs US Government situation: Google has confirmed that it will support Huawei and Honor smartphones that have already been released to market and that includes the Honor 20 series (Lite, Normal and Pro). It means that you are likely to see Android 10 and 11 - with full Google Services - land on these smartphones in the future despite the ongoing ban.