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We approach the end of the year and, as it is custom, it’s time for the new devices of the Mate family to come out: before the launch of this flagship we got the Huawei Mate 20 Lite (Check on Amazon.com), a great mid-range smartphone, but the flagships are a different beast altogether: the Huawei Mate 20 and Huawei Mate 20 Pro (Check on Amazon.com) sit at the top of the range and are surpassed only by the Huawei Mate 20 RS Porsche Design (Check on Amazon.com), which is based on the Pro and introduces an extra premium finish. Together with these smartphones, the big Huawei Mate 20X, a device with a 7.2-inch display, designed for gaming, has also been unveiled.
In this review, we will test the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, which is the most exciting option for most users, and also the most innovative technologically speaking. This is an upgrade of the Huawei P20 Pro (Check on Amazon.com), which had already made some ripples in the photographic sector when launched. With its night mode and 40MP super-sensor, the P20 Pro has actually managed to surpass everyone else in terms of photographic quality by combining algorithms with its three sensors and three high-quality optic lenses. We also find three capable cameras on the Mate 20 Pro, but the way in which it tries to improve both quality and versatility, change drastically.
Read more: Huawei P20 Pro review: almost perfect
In this model we find in fact three new lenses with different focal lengths:
- A standard 27mm one: 40MP sensor, f/1.8 lens, PDAF/laser. The main camera uses a 40MP sensor, combined with a standard lens with a 27mm focal length equivalent to a 35mm at f/1.8 aperture. It’s the one that does most of the hard work in most cases, and it can be used both at full and at 10MP resolution, combining the power of A.I. in both cases.
- An ultra-wide 16mm one: 20MP sensor, f/2.1 lens, PDAF/laser. The second module is a new addition to the line-up, something we hadn’t seen on the P20 Pro. We have an ultra-wide-angle camera that allows you to frame a large field of view, which is good for shooting close-up items, buildings, or landscapes, with a more imaginative point of view.
- Lastly an 80mm telephoto lens with a 5x Zoom: 8MP sensor, f/2.4 OIS lens, PDAF/laser. The telephoto lens allows for 5x optical zoom and is combined with an 8MP sensor smaller than the other two (1/1.4”). In this case, we also have the optical image stabilization that is absent from the other cameras. The ultra-wide camera doesn’t need stabilization, while the main one uses the AI. The rear camera is now situated inside a box at the back’s center, accompanied by the dual-tone LED Flash.
We also have a new 7nm SoC that handles all the computational operations of the device: The renown HiSilicon Kirin 980. The Mate 20 Pro is the first Android smartphone to use a 7nm SoC. Needless to say, it is currently the most powerful Android smartphone on the market, with the processor that implements three different clusters: the main one uses 2 Cortex-A76 cores with an operating frequency of 2.6GHz, and is matched to a secondary processor with another 2 Cortex-A76 cores, with a slightly lower operating frequency of 1.92GHz. We also find a third cluster with four Cortex-A55 cores, designed for power-efficient operations, with an operating frequency of 1.8GHz.
The Kirin 980 CPU is also combined with a dual NPU (Neural Processing Unit), so we now have two units dedicated to machine learning calculations and Artificial intelligence. The A.I. is used for various improvements, from device performance optimization over time to face recognition. The Mate 20 Pro’s A.I. allows you to have an exquisite point-and-shoot experience with the Camera app and otherwise impossible video footage.
There are two versions: one with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of embedded storage, while the top of the range has 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage. And there is something new here also: the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the first smartphone on the market to support a new type of memory card: called an NM Card (Nano Memory Card), designed by Huawei and aiming to become the market’s standard. The NM Cards are available in denominations of up to 256GB, and support a data transfer rate of 90MB/s. In shape and size they are equivalent to a Nano-SIM, and this makes Dual-SIM devices simpler.
For the rest, the new top-of-the-range Huawei smartphone uses a huge 6.39” HDR10 OLED display (DCI-P3), with an aspect-ratio of 19.5:9 and a notch. The notch houses the new 3D Depth Sensing system that can identify the user’s face, and track his eyes and movements, and there’s also a 24MP camera that works in conjunction with the other components. The display supports a Quad HD+ resolution of 3,120×1,440 pixel, with a pixel density of 538PPI. This device also supports dynamic resolution, so that it can automatically improve power consumption when you don’t need such a high pixel density.
And we haven’t finished with the new features just yet: The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the first smartphone to use a 4G LTE Cat. 21 modem, with the ability to download up to 1.4Gb of data per second, while uploading at 200Mbps. It supports 802.11ac Dual-Band Wi-Fi connections, also in MIMO mode, and has Bluetooth 5.0, an infrared port, GPS, NFC and the cherry on top, one of the fastest chargers in the industry thanks to the 40W adapter (10V/4A) included in the box: it’s big, not huge, but really heavy. Spoiler alert: the Huawei’s massive 4.200mAh battery can be recharged from 0 to 100% in just one hour!
Finally, we have a USB Type-C port for charging, no 3.5mm audio jack (but there is the adapter included), only one speaker (but with great volume). The Smartphone sits well in your hand: it has a symmetrical shape with round angles in the back and in front with the “double edge” screen. It has a very small chin, and on top only the notch. The side frame is almost totally non-existent, while the buttons (on/off and volume rocker) are on the right. Our review specimen, the Midnight Blue one, has a red power button, and a blue frame at the top, which gradually turns to black further down.
E-MUI and user experience
Before using the device you must unlock it, of course. There are two different, but both good ways to do it: the fingerprint sensor and the face recognition. Although both already implemented in the mobile world, Huawei0s approach is still innovative. The fingerprint sensor is situated under the glass of the display, and is positioned a little higher than typical: it is fast, but not lightning fast, and performs its duty reliably even when your fingers are wet. It’s a bit hard to spot it the first few times, since there’s no tactile feedback as for the location for the sensor. You quickly get used to it, however.
Then there is the face recognition with the “3D Depth Sensing” technology: through a series of sensors included in the notch and the front facing camera the Mate 20 Pro can scan your face and identify the user. Does it work? It’s very good and extremely fast: there have been cases of false positives, but this could also happen with the fingerprint sensor, that can be duped in a much simpler way. And although in terms of speed you can compare it to Apple’s Face ID, there’s still a lot way to go in terms of reliability: the Mate 20 Pro cannot recognize us when you wear a pair of shades and when the light conditions are not perfect. It works flawlessly however even at night or when you wear a pair of reading glasses.
Which one to use then? Isn’t having two systems unimportant and redundant? The extraordinary thing about Huawei’s face recognition is its speed: sometimes we tried to unlock the device using the fingerprint sensor but the device had us already recognized by just looking at the phone. The fingerprint sensor is for those rare times that the face recognition fails. The two systems therefore work well together. Please note that third party apps use the fingerprint sensor for access and not the face unlock.
Software wise the Mate 20 Pro dresses the typical EMUI of the Chinese giant, now fully mature both in terms of functionality and optimization. The smartphone is characterized by a seamless flow, both when using the interface and when in 3rd party apps. App reactivity and speed are at a very high level, on par with the best of the best Android devices on the market, and we haven’t had any trouble with stability.
The user can also customize the method for on-screen navigation, deciding between the typical on-screen Android buttons or using gestures and thus taking advantage of the huge screen area.
Multitasking is also reliable: in short, the user experience is at a high level, with lots of features and great performance.
Last but not least the autonomy: the Mate 20 Pro has a battery life of one day and a half even when stressing the device. It can reach two days with normal use.
Performance, display, autonomy: technical analysis
Let’s move on to the technical analysis and outline what we have seen so far using the device daily. We have seen a particular behavior concerning benchmark performance: the Performance mode that can be turned on in the Power setting is quite real, and does allow you to gain significant results during testing. There is no distinction in standard use, but by activating it, we have managed to achieve much higher results in many benchmark suites. It seems that Huawei has chosen once again to focus on energy efficiency over pure performance, and it is a decision that – given the overall snappiness of the device – we welcome favorably.
The Mate 20 Pro is likely to use a very conservative CPU frequency management while in default mode, pushing its Kirin 980 only when you turn on Performance Mode. The device does not tend to heat up in a significant way under either of these two settings: it becomes hot at the top, but even during the super-fast recharge we did not find any problem in this regard. However, the Kirin 980 is slower than Apple’s A12 Bionic, both on the CPU and GPU side. Huawei’s SoC is the fastest processor available today on an Android phone, by combining the 7nm processor architecture with the new dual NPU features. The storage compartment is also worthy of mention: the integrated memory on the Mate 20 Pro is the fastest in the world, scoring big numbers when copying random data.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s display is an excellent quality OLED capable of achieving 450cd/m² of maximum brightness in manual mode, but when the brightness sensor detects a strong ambient light switches on a mode that is inaccessible to the user. This is to offer the best possible visibility in every possible circumstance, even under direct sunlight, where the most important thing is visibility: with our device we measured a maximum brightness of 609cd/m², similar to that of many top-of-the-range rivals. The viewing angles are also pretty good, with only a slight shift in brightness. Huawei will set the screen at Full HD+ resolution by default, and thus prefers – once again – efficiency over performance. Anyway, the differences between Full HD+ and Quad HD+ are really hard to see during standard use.
The default color calibration is also good: there are two modes, one more “intense”, which is the default setting, the other more natural, but the user can tweak the display as he likes. The color saturation of the panel is great, able to cover the DCI-P3 color profile and go even a little further. The white point shifts towards the cooler shades, as is the case with the last-gen OLED displays.
Lets now address the autonomy: the new Huawei flagship can rely on a large 4,200mAh unit, capable of – under normal use – lasting for up to two days. With intense use you will return home at night with 30 to 40 percent remaining battery. The autonomy is good but what surprised us is the charging speed: we measured it with the device turned on and with various applications running in the background while having multiple push notifications on and it recharged the phone from 0 to 100% in just 63 minutes. No smartphone has ever achieved a similar result. Also surprising are the intervals in which this smartphone recharges.
In just 10 minutes we were already at 25%, while after 20 minutes we were already at 50%. In 30 minutes we reached 71%, which means a full day of quite intense use. The 40W wall charger really makes the most out of the recharge process: it heats up a bit, but after 63 minutes of use the phone was only slightly warmer.
Similarly important is the ability to use the large built-in battery in order to wirelessly charge other smartphones, by simply placing them onto the Huawei Mate Pro 20. In the past, we had seen other devices turn into power-banks, but they required a charging cable and it’s not easy to have one with you all the time. With the Mate 20 Pro Huawei removes this limitation.
As we have previously stated, the three cameras work in unison to gift this device improved image quality and flexibility. The camera app also has a wide range of filters, effects and shooting modes: various and creative HDR modes, effects (even in AR), a Night mode that produces great images with an excellent image stabilization and the possibility to shoot at 40 or 10MP, both with A.I. support, that recognizes the scene and sets it up accordingly.
And there are also filters for videos, in real-time, capable of simulating a bokeh effect, which is not perfect but still sufficiently credible. This camera module is, in our humble opinion, the most complete camera on a smartphone.
We compared the Huawei Mate 20 Pro with some of its most worthy rivals. Unfortunately, the Google Pixel 3 XL was not in our office during testing so we had to settle for a comparison between the iPhone XS Max (Check on Amazon.com), the Galaxy Note 9 (Check on Amazon.com) and the OnePlus 6 (Check on Amazon.com). Note that using the best possible light conditions, all smartphones offer a quality image, with the OnePlus 6 that has an edge in terms of details due to the high resolution of its sensor. At night, however, the Mate 20 Pro comes up short compared to the other models, and the iPhone XS Max is the one that stands out offering the best image, even though subject to noise. When using the zoom the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, thanks to its 3x telephoto lens, is able to capture a little more detail than the competition. Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s image quality is comparable to that of other flagships, offering a clear image. Under sub-optimal light conditions though, it lends its side due to the lack of optical stabilization. In these cases, the Night Mode comes to the rescue.
We were also very convinced by the ultra-wide-angle camera, in our opinion superior in terms of detail and overall image quality compared to the other top-of-the-range devices, like the LG G7 ThinQ (Check on Amazon.com) and to the Asus Zenfone 5Z (Check on Amazon.com).
Night Mode is the secret weapon of the Mate 20 Pro’s camera app. It works just like a tripod without the extra hassle. By enabling it, the phone takes a number of photographs with different exposure times, and then blends them together, trying to cancel out as much movement as possible using the A.I. The end result is incredibly good.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is a complete, reliable, powerful smartphone, capable of rivaling the top devices on the market. A flagship device that leaves nothing to chance. The display uses a high-quality AMOLED panel produced by BOE, with excellent color saturation and full support for the DCI-P3 color space. The SoC is made in-house and is the first one to take full advantage of the 7nm production process. It’s more powerful than the Snapdragon 845, a little less than the A12 Bionic, and offers exquisite reaction times and fluidity at all times.
The Mate 20 Pro is an excellent device equipped with fast, reliable and useful authenticating systems, and offers one of the most complete and best quality cameras, with a variety of features, even though the wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle lenses are not optically stabilized. Night mode is the camera’s most interesting feature. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro also offers an excellent reception, good audio quality, with strong volume and microphones that capture the user’s speech even at a good distance.
It’s a device that doesn’t have any real flaws. The price is undoubtedly very high, starting at (Check on Amazon.com), and the Huawei devices usually lose value at an increased pace. There is no audio jack, but an adapter is included. These are all minor flaws, of an otherwise perfect device that has gained our vote and that in a few months’ time could be so affordable to become a best-buy.