The Huawei P Smart is Huawei’s latest budget device offering, which surprisingly leans more towards a premium smartphone, especially when it comes to looks and design. I’ve used and owned many budget devices, but none have been quite as nice as this one. It was first released in the U.K, in February exclusively to the Vodafone network for a limited time. It can be bought for as little £179.95 sim free from Argos at the time of this review.
Huawei P Smart Review: Design
Huawei seems to have gone above and beyond the realms of expectation, with the design of this budget device. In a move similar to something from Apple, they have crafted the Huawei P Smart from a single block of Aluminium, which is in all honesty amazing. No plastic here, just good old solid metal. Also, present on the rear at the top and bottom of the phone is that famed antenna line that has presented itself across most premium smartphones. Of course, the use of Aluminium does mean there are some drawbacks, such as how easily the device can be scuffed and marked. I’ve had my review unit for about 3 weeks and what was once a shiny new phone, is already showing signs of wear from being kept in pockets.
The matt black paint finish looks really good and provides a smooth surface for your hand to grip. It is, however also a grease magnet, that picks up most surface residue quite easily. That said a quick wipe will get rid of the mess until you put it down again.
Taking up its rightful space at the front of the P Smart is a 5.65-inch IPS LCD screen. Instead of the typical 16:9 panel, the P Smart instead uses an 18:9 panel, which means it has been stretched horizontally, which means less bezel and more on-screen space.
Located above the display is a front-facing 8-megapixel camera for video calls and selfies. Next to this is the earpiece speaker, the one you use for phone calls. Also present is a small LED status light for notification purposes. What’s really impressive about this area is just how little bezel has been used to house these three things. Talking of which there’s also barely any bezel running down the sides of the display. For a budget phone, this comes as a welcome shock.
Turn the phone over and there you will find the center-mounted fingerprint scanner, that can be used to unlock the phone from a sleep state. At the top is a dual camera setup consisting of one 13-megapixel shooter and one 2-megapixel shooter complete with an LED flashlight.
Running down the right-hand side of the phone are the volume rocker and power button. Both are finished with a smooth matt black paint and respond quite well to pushes while providing a click to tell you the button push is successful. On the opposite side is the sim tray with room for a micro sim and a microSD card.
The bottom is home to a 3.5mm audio jack, a microphone, the loudspeaker, which is pretty good, but not as good as some others I have used and quite surprisingly a microUSB charging port. I actually have to say I’m quite happy to see the trusty old microUSB charging port still in use as it means there’s still some use for any old microUSB cables lying around.
Huawei P Smart Review: Screen
When it comes to budget smartphones, the screen is usually one of the places that a company spends little time or money on. With the P Smart, however, it appears that Huawei has actually put some effort into its display. For a start, they have opted to go for an ultra-tall 18:9 panel, which offers more on-screen space, when compared to the typical 16:9 panel, found on most phones. With a resolution of 1080 x 2160, it offers HD+ that provides vibrant colors and rich, clear to read text.
Brightness is really good, even outside in the sun. As you would expect, there is a brightness adjustment setting, for finding the optimum brightness for your needs. It also has the feature I love on most phones and that is the Auto brightness feature, where the phone will automatically adjust the brightness according to the surroundings.
Viewing angles can be a bit troublesome, when outside in the sun. To beat this pesky issue, you’ll have to ensure you are holding the phone at a level with your face. Inside this isn’t really an issue at all.
Huawei P Smart Review: Software and Performance
Fresh out of the box, the Huawei P Smart comes running Android 8.0 (Oreo), which is currently the latest consumer ready Android version. If you have any knowledge on Huawei, you’ll know they ship their phones with a skin on top of Android, the skin is known as the Emotion U.I and it’s not exactly popular amongst the media or consumers, for good reasons. One being that Huawei has completely done away with a dedicated app drawer and instead has made the home screen the app area (think of iOS and you’ll understand what I mean).
There are a few things I like about the U.I, such as how easy it to access settings, and how clear everything is, but overall the Emotion U.I simply feels awful and lacks in many places. I feel that by adding a proper app drawer, things would be a bit better.
Thankfully the Android Ecosystem allows you to choose from a number of different launcher replacements, all available from the Play Store. So if you do find the Emotion U.I to not suit your taste, you can always go to the Play Store and find something different.
Given that the P Smart launched with Android 8.0, I see no reason why Huawei wouldn’t update it to Android P when it’s finally out. Don’t take my word for it though as I can’t 100% guarantee that they will, but as it’s a new device, it does seem unlikely they would leave their consumers out of the P action.
For a mid-range device, the Huawei P Smart really is a shocker in terms of performance. Not only does it look like a premium phone, it performs like one too, even though its insides are nowhere near as powerful as what you would find in a premium high-end device. Running the show is the HiSilicon Kirin 659, a SoC that is produced in-house by Huawei themselves. It consists of an Octacore processor (4×2.36 GHz Cortex-A53 & 4×1.7 GHz Cortex-A53) combined with a Mali-T830 MP2 GPU. Running alongside this SoC is 3GB of RAM (with the 32GB model) or 4GB of RAM (with the 64GB model).
Having used the phone for many different purposes, from browsing the web to watching videos, to playing games and everything that makes a phone, well a phone, I have experienced just how well it performs under different situations. It takes the load with ease, when multitasking, thanks to that 3GB of RAM and some decent memory management under the hood. Multitasking for me includes playing music, while gaming or browsing the web. With this phone, I can have several applications running in the background, and I wouldn’t even realize, as the experience remains smooth throughout. A few applications did suffer from a bit of lag and by this, I’m talking about some of the bigger games that use a lot of power, that said they were still playable and enjoyable.
Running the phone through a Geekbench test, gave some pretty good results which are almost on par with some high-end devices released between one to two years ago. For the single-core test, the P Smart scored 941, while in for the multi-core test it scored 3706.
Huawei P Smart Review: Battery
Powering the P Smart is a 3000mAh battery. By today’s standard, this isn’t particularly large but given that the specifications of the phone are modest, anything larger really isn’t necessary. The battery in this phone is capable of providing a full days use as I have learned. For me, a full days use can include phone calls, texting, browsing the web and playing games at moderate levels. I have been able to do all of this with a full battery when I wake up at 6 am and still have in excess of at least 20% by the time I go to bed in the evening, which is often after 11 pm.
A full charge from 0% to 100% takes roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes, which isn’t too bad. There’s no fast charging, which isn’t a big issue for me, but maybe for some. I would have liked to see wireless charging though, given that the phone sports a full metal body.
Huawei P Smart Review: Camera
Low priced smartphones have to suffer somewhere, it’s just how it goes, so it’s no surprise that the P Smart’s dual rear camera setup, is good, but not great. You certainly won’t be using it take any award-winning shots that for sure.
Taking shots outside in the daylight does yield some pretty decent results. With photos being clear and crisp and definitely worthy of sharing with the world, in other words, your family or friends on Facebook. Details are minimal but still noticeable, which makes outdoor shots look pretty nice.
Inside or in low light situations, the quality suffers. Details become less and clarity is lost slightly, even when using the built-in flash as a lighting source. Adding a bit of light from a light bulb or something similar does give slightly better results, but still nothing decent.
The front-facing camera works well for video calls and selfie-taking. It’s not the best and does lack clarity, but if you just like to take silly photos of your face with a dog filter on it, through Snapchat then it’s good enough.
Huawei P Smart Review: Overall
Huawei has really pulled a rabbit out of a ht with this one. It’s an amazing little device that impresses in many areas. Right from the premium design to the premium-like performance, it’s a stunning low-priced device that feels like it should cost just a bit more. That said it does suffer in some places, such as the Emotion U.I and the camera when it comes to taking low light photos. Those two points aside, it has literally become one of my favorite phones.
- Attractive sim free price
- Premium design
- Latest Android version (at time of review)
- Good battery life
- Emotion U.I needs a lot of work
- No wireless charging
- Poor camera, especially in low light situations