The P smart 2021 has a contemporary, if not an overly distinctive design. With its plastic back and midframe, the handset has no poshness aspirations but doesn't look or feel cheap either.
Over on the front, the 6.67-inch display is surrounded by a black border that's thicker than what you'd find on a flagship yet entirely in line with competing efforts in the P smart's segment. In fact, the 6.67-inch Poco X3 NFC and Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro have virtually identical bezels and footprints as the Huawei handset. The smaller 6.5-inch Realme 6 and 7 are understandably ever so slightly more compact in footprint, but as bezels go, the P smart 2021 is like every other phone in its price range.
There's a punch-hole cutout for the selfie camera centered at the top end of the display (waterdrop notches are so 2020). It's on the big side of average, but the pre-installed screen protector's sloppy application is more annoying.
Huawei doesn't specify the type of glass used to cover the display, and with the US-China trade clash, it's probably not coming from Corning anyway. We're not into the habit of introducing grooves of any depth into displays (voluntarily, at least), so we can't speak as to its scratch resistance. A screen protector is a good idea on any display regardless of trade name or price, however.
Our review unit is the Crush Green colorway, and it's not unlike the P40's Deep Sea Blue we had at the office earlier this year - it could fool you at a passing glance. Two more color options are available on the P smart - Blush Gold and Midnight Black.
The Honor 10X Lite that we just got in the mail, while closely resembling the P smart 2021, does have a different finish on its back. It's more satin than gloss, and it's another type of Green too - Emerald, as opposed to Crush.Huawei P smart 2021 (left) next to Honor 10X Lite
The camera cluster on the P smart 2021 includes 4 modules stacked vertically - so one more than the P40, though these aren't remotely of the same caliber. A single LED flash keeps the lenses company, and there's just a '48MP AI quad-camera' insignia, but no Leica badge or lens specifics - it's no flagship, the P smart.
The assembly sticks out only a little, and while the phone will wobble a bit, it's the slightest of wobbles and likely wouldn't bother anyone but the most extreme wobble haters. We wind it negligible.
The plastic frame is colored to match the back hue and has a matte finish. The frame itself doesn't pick up fingerprints, though the glossy back is a more serious offender in this respect - keep a soft cloth handy if you'd like to have your P smart 2019 smudge-free.
Since the handset uses an LCD, an under-display fingerprint sensor is out of the question. Rear-mounted capacitive sensors, on the other hand, aren't fashionable (unless you ask Google, but that's a different topic), and this leaves the P smart 2021 with a side-mounted reader built into the power button on the right.
It's placed in a flattened portion of the frame, so it's easy to find by feel, but it's also where your right thumb falls naturally, so there won't be much searching for it anyway. It also works with a left index finger - and we'd say it's about as reliable as the other way around, which isn't always the case with these side-mounted solutions.
The volume rocker above is plastic too, but clicks positively, no complaints.
On the opposite side of the phone is where you'll find the card tray. It's a triple slot that can accommodate two nano SIMs and a microSD cards. So you're getting a dedicated memory expansion slot, and it's the right kind of memory, as opposed to the NM Huawei tries to push with its high-end phones.
The USB-C port is centered on the bottom of the phone with the trio of audio bits around it. The loudspeaker is on the one side, the primary mic, and the 3.5mm headphone jack on the other. Up top, there's just a secondary mic - sadly, no IR blaster on the P smart 2021.