Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: Best of the flagships?
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has landed. We’ve been using it daily since launch so here’s our review.
I have been living with Huawei’s latest flagship phone, the Mate 20 Pro, for some weeks now. I have already given my first impressions but what is the smartphone like after the honeymoon period has passed? Read on to see my long-term test thoughts.
I was totally hyped when I first got my hands on the Mate 20 Pro. It looked and felt so good. Taking a few snaps and short video clips and I was suitably impressed. At that point, I was prepared to declare the Mate 20 Pro as being the most impressive phone that Huawei has ever produced. So, if you’re considering one of the two other smartphone titans of 2018, the Apple iPhone XS Max and Samsung Galaxy Note 9, give me a moment.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro design
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro looks and feels like a Samsung Galaxy S9, but better. Was that a sharp intake of breath I heard? Well, you’d better buckle up as there’s more where that came from.
When first lifting the new Huawei out of its box it feels like you’re holding something special. In fact, in the little enclave of press folks gathered, there were plenty of knowing nods to one another. Let’s face it; the precision curved glass design sets the theme for the rest of the device — those smooth curves of the 3D glass stretching seamlessly over to merge with the phone’s thin metallic frame.
Huawei bigged up its claim that they had “built a design that is truly iconic”. Yes, the square lens placement on the phone’s rear is unique, but I’d argue that Samsung was here first with the overall design. That said, Huawei has taken that and improved it with a more luxurious flare.
Holding a friend’s S9 in my hand and the Mate 20 Pro in the other, the Sammy feels quite lighter (163 grams compared with the 189 grams of the Mate 20 Pro) and the Huawei feels more quality for it. Additionally, on my Emerald Green model, the hyper optical pattern tech on the backplate adds yet more premium exclusivity to the handset.
Notch-lovers rejoice! The new flagship boasts an ultra-thin bezel. Yes, it does mean that the Mate 20 Pro has a bit of Apple iPhone XS about it. However, the very slick finish only has a bottom-mounted USB Type-C port and SIM card slot, as well as a right-mounted volume rocker and colourised power button, breaking the device’s lines.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro perfomance
Mate 20 Pro screen
The Mate 20 Pro’s 6.39-inch screen has a resolution of 1440 x 3120, and it’s gorgeous. The 19.5:9 OLED panel packs in 538 pixels per inch (ppi) as well as boasting HDR.
Even though this could be classed as a rather large screen, it never feels that way. Not only is it comfortable to hold, thanks to the tapered edges, but it’s a joy to behold. The curved OLED is a thing of beauty, and the long aspect ratio means there’s plenty of screen space. Add to that the rich HDR capabilities, and crisp 2K+ resolution with sharp 538 ppi, means that everything looks good.
Slip on some high-resolution, HDR content from Netflix or Amazon and impress your friends. Sit back while they marvel at all that detail, the vivid colours and impressive levels of contrast.
Colour reproduction is also remarkable, which not only helps with the videos but also makes viewing your photos taken using the phone’s equally impressive camera super sweet.
Mate 20 Pro hardware
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is rocking some excellent hardware muscle. Firstly, the 7nm Kirin 980 CPU is the fastest mobile processor in the world. Furthermore, that chip is hooked up to a generous 6GB of RAM.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro was awarded a multi-core score of 9,800. That score totally bests the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, which showed 9,016 in the same test. Additionally, the Huawei currently sits at the top of the AnTuTu ratings although my personal device ranked number 10.
It’s all well and good having a powerful engine, but you’ve got to get that power to the track. In other words, power is nothing if it isn’t useful. Thankfully, the Mate 20 Pro’s robust hardware package translates to super smooth performance. Android 9.0 Pie and EMUI 9.0 are silky, and apps and games run without hiccups.
Tekken, Asphalt 9, PUBG Mobile and Darkness Rises all run exceptionally well. Additionally, downloading and installing these titles was done in no time at all.
Granted, you would expect a brand’s flagship blower to be able to run apps and games without any hassle. However, it’s not only good to know that the Mate 20 Pro does indeed achieve this, but that it should be able to do so for a good few more years too.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro I have here has 128GB of storage space, which is what should be the going rate for a top phone. There’s also a humongous 4,200 mAh battery keeping the lights on – more on that later.
Mate 20 Pro camera
As well as the looks, the feel and the power, Huawei is pretty proud of the cameras on their flagship phones. The Mate 20 Pro is another case in point. The latest smartphone builds on the already legendary system found on the Huawei P20 Pro.
The Huawei P20 Pro’s triple-Leica set-up is excellent and saw many people leaving their DSLRs, not to mention compact cameras, at home. So, I was excited to see what the Mate 20 Pro could do.
What you get here is another triple lens grouping on the rear of the range-topping Huawei. The trio consists of a 40MP f/1.8 wide-angle lens partnering a 20MP f/2.2 ultra wide-angle and 8MP f/2.4 telephoto lens to bring far things closer.
Also, around the front, there’s an equally impressive 24MP f/2.0 selfie snapper. This camera also takes care of face detection duties as well as 3D-scanning.
Backing those Leica lenses up are the likes of autofocus, laser focus, phase focus, contrast focus, and artificial image stabilisation. Additionally there’s advanced dual tone flash and, on the front-facer, 3D depth sensing.
Modes, filters and settings
I have been very impressed indeed with how fast, responsive and intuitive the Mate 20 Pro’s camera system is. There are many modes to assist your shooting. The selection of modes includes Photo, Night, Portrait, Video, Pro, Panorama, Monochrome (unlike the P20 Pro, all three lenses on the Mate 20 Pro are colour), Time-lapse, Light painting, Watermark, Underwater and so on. The main thing is that the camera is extremely fast, responsive and intuitive.
As if all that wasn’t enough, there are also plenty of additional options such as filters, beautification settings, colour balance, and so on.
The macro mode allows you to get up to within 2.5cm of an object and retain focus. It doesn’t take long till you’re snapping things up close like a pro.
It’s not just close work that the Mate 20 Pro is handy with either.
Calling the 5x zoom in to play still manages to retain a decent level of detail.
The Ultra Wide Angle lens is pretty special too for those that love architecture as well as the great outdoors.
Also, night time shots. O. M. G!
Having a day job and also being in a band means that most of my outdoors time happens after dark – especially now. Thankfully the Mate 20 Pro has taken the P20’s night photography skills and improved them. I have been consistently amazed by the quality of the snaps I get at night. No tripod, no manual settings – just point, click, wait a few seconds and pow! Great night photography.
One thing that all these modes have in common is that the phone has the ability not to wash areas out in intense light. Moreover, areas in shadow are still treated fairly with graduated shading as well as good contrast.
Pointless but cute
Finally, and I was going to ignore this bit but thought I had to mention it, the Mate 20 Pro’s 3D Qmoji. It’s pointless, fun, and also is a demo for the 3D mapping from the front camera.
For those unfamiliar with Qmoji, this feature turns your face into one of the available cartoon animal avatars. It is very slick – albeit pointless.
Video has also been tweaked on the Mate 20 Pro. Now you get five new cinematic-style filters, enabled by the Kirin 980’s dual-NPU A.I. chip. That powerful processing means that the phone can show real-time effects as you film. The two most interesting are Background Blur and A.I. Colour. Background Blur adds a bokeh effect to your video, while A.I. Colour sets the background in black and white while keeping the subject in colour. However, for those to work, the Mate 20 Pro needs to detect a face. The other three are general filters for more atmospheric videos.
Mate 20 Pro stamina
The previously mentioned 4,200 mAh battery in the Huawei Mate 20 Pro has the lasting power to get through a day, two if you’re not hammering like I generally do. Also, it can slurp juice wirelessly at 15W. However, plug it into the SuperCharge plug and cable you get recharging at 40W which means from flat to 70% in 30 minutes.
My favourite trick with the Mate 20 Pro is helping my inevitably iPhone-armed buddies out with some charge via this phone’s world-first ability to reverse wireless charge other Qi-enabled devices. All you have to do is activate an option in the phone’s system settings and then unfurl your cape as you’re about to be a hero. Now, place another wireless Qi chargeable device on the Mate 20 Pro’s backplate, and it squirts electricity to it. It is such a great feature it’s one of those where you’re left wondering why nobody else thought of doing it. Hats off to Huawei for this one!
Mate 20 Pro audio
You might be aware of my work with StereoNET UK. I mention that only to underline that I take my audio very seriously.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro supports a wide variety of file formats, including MP3, MP4, 3GP, OGG, AMR, AAC, FLAC, WAV, and MIDI. The phone also supports Dolby Atmos for mobiles, too. The onboard stereo speakers are decent, as far as phone speakers go. However, to get anything worth enthusing about, it’s time to whip your dongle out. Yup, the Mate 20 Pro has joined the legion of the portless when it comes to headphones. Huawei does
Moreover, when jacked in, the quality is pretty darned good. I listen to a great deal of music as well as the occasional podcast, and I have had no reason to diss the Mate 20 Pro.
It’s also worth mentioning that the phone sports aptX HD Bluetooth. I recently used this to sling audio to a Cyrus ONE HD integrated amplifier, and I can honestly say that I’ve not heard Paul Young sound so good.
Mate 20 Pro software
Huawei’s light EMUI 9.0 wraps around Android 9.0 Pie. The Android/EMUI team is much cleaner than in its last incarnation. The Mate 20 Pro is also one of the first phones to come rocking Pie straight out of the box. This operating system is a marked improvement over Oreo.
It’s great to see that Huawei has simplified the phone’s menus. Additionally, app tap speed and app opening speeds are much swifter.
A further feather in the cap for this phone is the in-screen fingerprint reader. This neat accomplishment has been an oft-whispered grail-like engineering wish in the mobile phone arena for a few years now. Most people expected Samsung to be the first over the line with it, but it is Huawei who has brought it to the masses.
Being first is all well and good but what makes this innovation noteworthy is that it works brilliantly. So, not only do you get a hidden fingerprint scanner, it’s fast, accurate and does the job beautifully even if you have damp digits.
While we’re chatting about security features, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro also comes packing a Face unlock function, too. Perhaps not the level of the biometric system employed on Apple’s iPhone XS, but it is fast and hasn’t failed me yet.
There were some early teething troubles such as audible clicks when scrolling through Facebook when the phone was silent, but they disappeared with an update.
Overall, the software experience delivered by the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is fast and fuss-free, something that cannot be over emphasises when not dealing with vanilla Android.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro review conclusion
Flagship phones these days are generally excellent. They might have their foibles, and some are eye-wateringly expensive. However, on the whole, they do a good job day in, day out. That said, they can also be much of a muchness.
I can safely say that right from unboxing the device it felt that this phone wasn’t just another slick marketing tool.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is a phone that not only delivers state-of-the-art hardware and software, but it has that something special that appears to have only been the reserve of Samsung and Apple for far too long.
You not only get a stunningly desirable piece of hardware, but you also get the world’s fastest CPU, an excellent in-display fingerprint reader and mind-bending reverse wireless charging skills. Throw in a superb camera system, and you can see that Huawei are no longer following the leaders, they intend to be the leaders. If you’re considering treating yourself with a new flagship phone, you would be daft to ignore the Mate 20 Pro.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro price and availability
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro retails for £899 SIM-free and is available in Black, Twilight, Pink Gold, Midnight Blue and Emerald Green.
Carphone Warehouse are doing a Black Friday deal. They’re offering the Huawei Mate 20 Pro with 100GB Data for £36pm + £29.99 upfront. Click here to find out more!