The Mate 20 Lite has two cameras on the back – one 20MP primary shooter with an f/1.8 aperture, and one secondary 2MP camera that is only for depth sensing. That means there is effectively just one lens when shooting normal photos – so there are no zoom or ultra-wide options.
The big thing, however, is the AI-enhancement. This can be enabled through a simple button in the camera app which is labelled ‘AI’ – as you can see above. This then uses Huawei’s AI technology to automatically detect various scenes and objects – including animals, food, flowers etc – and enhances the image accordingly. As with the Honor 10, even if a particular object isn’t recognised, the AI still makes some adjustments to the photo to (hopefully) make it look better.
This may or may not be your cup of tea, but it is worth pointing out that if you shoot with AI mode turned on, you can turn it off for each photo when viewing images with the gallery app. Just tap the same little AI icon above each photo and the enhancements will be removed, leaving you with your original image.
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Looking at the images above, if we start by analysing the general photo quality – with AI turned off – I would say the Mate 20 Lite is decent but not spectacular considering its price. Photos look quite sharp and have plenty of detail which is more than can be said for some mid-range cameras, but dynamic range is quite poor out of the box. Low-light photography is also not very impressive – detail quickly goes out the window in darker environments, while there is quite a lot of visible noise present.
Still, photos taken in good light are certainly decent – and I have to say the AI processing can improve things, some of the time at least! Take the photos of my dog – with AI off, they look quite dark and under-exposed. AI bumps the shadows up, though, and you get a much clearer and brighter image.
Where the AI doesn’t work is with greenery and flowers. Here, the processing just over-does the saturation and images look quite fake. I’m not too keen on the extra saturation applied to low-light shots as well, as it only makes the ISO noise look worse.
For £379 it would be unreasonable to expect too much from what is essentially a single lens setup, and most of the time the Mate 20 Lite will give you very usable photos. Every now and again, though, you will take a photo or two that just reminds you this is indeed a lower mid-range smartphone.
For its battery, the Mate 20 Lite uses a 3750mAh cell. This isn’t quite as big as the 4000mAh units we have seen from other Huawei flagships, but it is certainly very impressive for this market segment.
In practice, I found it definitely helped elevate the Mate 20 Lite above the likes of the Honor 10 or the ASUS ZenFone 5. I would easily be able to use the phone all day – typically with between 4.5 and 5 hours screen-on time – and get into bed with at least 30% battery life remaining. It’s not quite as good as the Mate 10 Pro, but again – for this price, it is very impressive.
The Mate 20 Lite also sports Huawei’s 18W Quick Charge via the included charger, and I found after a 30 minute charge I gained 29% battery capacity. This isn’t great, but considering a fully charged battery should last even the most demanding users at least a full day, it is not a huge problem.