Huawei Mate 20 Pro key specs
Dimensions: 157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6 mm
Weight: 189 g
Screen: 6.39-inch, 19.5:9, 538 ppi (1,440 x 3,120)
CPU: Kirin 980
Battery: 4,200 mAh
Cameras: 40MP + 20MP + 8MP rear / 24MP front
OS: Android 9.0 Pie, EMUI 9.0
Welcome to T3's Huawei Mate 20 Pro review. I've been testing out the phone now for a couple of weeks and what follows is my considered take on the new flagship.
And, for those who want a quick, immediate take away from this review, then you can consider the Huawei Mate 20 Pro to be a triumph. It's the most impressive, complete phone Huawei has ever produced and, simply put, it is one of the most impressive phones I have ever tested, easily going head-to-head with the two other smartphone titans of 2018, the Apple iPhone XS Max and Samsung Galaxy Note 9.
And it manages this amazing feat as the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is many things. It's a hardware powerhouse. It's a next-gen feature showcase. It's a DSLR camera killer. And it's Huawei's swaggering, no-holds-barred entry to the top table of smartphone makers.
Most of all, though, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro succeeds as it is a phone you'll simply fall in love with. The whole package is so premium, slick and complete, with the phone holding nothing back from you, that you're never left thinking what could of been, or that the grass may be greener on another device.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is a triumph of engineering expertise and raw, unfettered ambition, and if you're looking for a new flagship phone in 2018 then you'd have to be stark raving mad not to consider it.
For those who want the full, extended Huawei Mate 20 Pro review then read on.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: price, models, and availability
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro, in the configuration that T3 tested, retails in the UK at Carphone Warehouse for £899 SIM free.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is available to pre-order now, with phones being shipped on October 26, 2018.
If you currently pre-order the Huawei Mate 20 Pro from select retailers, which are wide-ranging and include Amazon, Argos, Currys PC World, and Carphone Warehouse, you can claim a free Huawei Watch GT and Wireless Charger. You can check out details of the deal here.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is also available to pre-order on contract. Three currently has the phone available with unlimited data, minutes and texts in the configuration tested for £49 up front, and then £49 per month over a 24-month contract.
Lastly, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is available in a variety of colourways at launch, which differ depending on region, and include Black, Twilight, Pink Gold, Midnight Blue and Emerald Green.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: design and build quality
The first thing you notice when you take the Huawei Mate 20 Pro out of the box is that it looks very similar to Samsung's summer 2018 flagship, the Galaxy S9.
The precision curved glass design employed here by Huawei is a total stunner, with the smooth curves of the 3D glass melding perfectly with the phone's thin, cool-to-the-touch frame.
Huawei stated that it felt it has "built a design that is truly iconic" in the marketing run-up to the Mate 20's release and, while you can't say the design is groundbreaking, it successfully builds on the already luxe one employed on the S9.
The Mate 20 Pro feels heavier in the hand than the S9 (it is, too, 189 grams compared to Galaxy S9's 163 grams) and thanks to its subtlety impressive hyper optical pattern tech on the backplate, looks more premium as well.
Notch-lovers will be pleased to see that you get an ultra thin bezel on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, too, which helps imbue the phone with a small dollop of Apple iPhone XS, while the very clean finish, with only a bottom-mounted USB Type-C port and SIM card slot, as well as right-mounted volume rocker and colourised power button, breaking the device's lines.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: screen, hardware, and performance
GeekBench 4 benchmarks - Huawei Mate 20 Pro
RenderScript Score: 6,242
Battery Score Estimate: 5,225
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro's screen follows the engorging trend seen in the industry over the past couple of years, with the phone equipped with a large 6.39-inch OLED panel.
Now I know that not everyone likes big-screened phones, but I'm a total sucker for them, and have been in seventh heaven as of late thanks to phones like the HTC U12+, Samsung Galaxy Note 9, and iPhone XS Max delivering big, bombastic displays.
So I warmed very quickly to the Mate 20 Pro's panel, which I can confirm is another stunning smartphone screen. The curved OLED is physically a thing of beauty, while its tall and spacious 19.5:9 aspect ratio, warm and rich HDR capabilities, and crisp 1,400 x 3,120 resolution with a stupidly sharp 538 ppi, means that anything displayed on the phone is beautiful, too.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro's screen quality was most evident when watching high-resolution, HDR content from Netflix and Amazon, with detail high, colours vivid, and contrast marked.
I was particularly impressed with the screen's colour reproduction, which would (as we will see later on in the review) make viewing captured photos taken on the phone's camera surprisingly engaging.
In terms of hardware, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro comes with a powerhouse core hardware suite. The 7nm Kirin 980 CPU, for example, is the fastest mobile processor in the world, and combined with a generous 6GB of RAM the phone returned very strong benchmark scores in GeekBench 4 (see nearby boxout).
Indeed, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro's multi-core score of 9,714 outstrips the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, which only posted 9,016 in the same test.
And that very strong core hardware leads to, unsurprisingly, very strong performance across the device, with Android 9.0 Pie and EMUI 9.0 running like they're on steroids, and apps and games running flawlessly.
Mobile fighting game Tekken, for example, not only downloaded, installed and booted up like lightning, but also ran like an absolute dream, with zero slowdown in terms of frame rate and almost instantaneous load times.
As I have noted before, I expect all flagship mobile phones to run apps and games like this very well, and by and large they all do, however it is still good to know that the Huawei Mate 20 Pro absolutely has you covered in this area, and will almost certainly do so for years to come.
Elsewhere in terms of hardware, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro I tested came with 128GB of storage space, which I feel is par for the course in terms of flagship phone, and a large 4,200 mAh battery (see battery section below for more details).
Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: camera system
I loved Leica-made triple camera system on the Huawei P20 Pro, so had very high hopes for the array of lenses installed on the Mate 20 Pro.
And after some substantial testing of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro's camera system (see images below) I can confirm that it is among the very best on the market.
Hardware-wise you get another triple lens setups on the rear of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, with a 40MP f/1.8 wide-angle lens partnering a 20MP f/2.2 ultra wide-angle and 8MP f/2.4 telephoto lens.
And around the front you get, what I think is totally crazy, a 24MP f/2.0 selfie camera.
For a taste of the detailed, rich-colour, high-contrast photos capable of being taken with these lens check out the Mate 20 Pro image gallery below, as well as additional images further down the feature.
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Backing up this very impressive raw camera hardware is a plethora of DSLR-level high-tech support systems and software. The camera system on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro supports autofocus, laser focus, phase focus, contrast focus, and artificial image stabilisation, as well as coming with advanced dual tone flash and, in terms of the front camera, 3D depth sensing.
These features come into play through the Huawei Mate 20 Pro's user camera software system, which allows for a very, very impressive selection of shooting modes and features.
Photo, Night, Portrait, Video, Pro, Panorama, Monochrome (the dedicated monochrome camera as used on the P20 Pro has been removed, though), Time-lapse, Light painting, Watermark, Underwater and more shooting modes are at the user's fingertips and, from my testing, I was incredibly impressed with how fast, responsive and intuitive the Mate 20 Pro's camera system is.
Within each shooting mode there are also plenty of additional options, too, which allow you to add filters, tweak numerous beautification settings, alter colour balance, and actuate various levels of zoom, including flicking on the phone's powerful new 0.6x zoom macro mode.
This macro mode allows you to get up to within 2.5cm of an object and retain focus, which combined with the raw lens power, leads to some stunningly detailed shots.
And, speaking of zoom, I was quite impressed with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro's ability retain a decent level of detail and deliver shots that aren't too grainy when capturing at its maximum 5x zoom. Check out the images below to demonstrate what I mean, with the first image taken at the standard 1x zoom, and the second taken at 5x.
One of the biggest draws, at least for me as someone who likes going on countryside walks, is the Huawei Mate 20 Pro's Ultra Wide Angle lens, which allows you to really take some impressive, distortion-free panoramas.
I don't know about you, but I've never really rated the panorama shooting mode on many phones, as they almost always deliver images that are distorted and, if we're being honest, completely useless as pieces of art. Do they capture the full enormity of the scene? Yes. But they don't do it in a way that you'd want on your wall at home.
In contrast, though, by the Huawei Mate 20 Pro packing a dedicated 120-degree ultra wide-angle lens, you can literally select to shoot in a 18.8:9 aspect ratio, then stand back and capture a distortion free landscape that, also, is far better lit and features far richer colours and enhanced detail.
Penultimately on the Mate 20 Pro's camera, I feel it is important to mention just how darn good the phone was at shooting scenes with huge differences in light and dark, with shadows rich and gradiated, and illuminated objects remaining vibrant in colour and not washed out. The image above I feel demonstrates this clearly - just look at the various levels of lighting captured on the dry stone wall…
Lastly, as I feel like I really should, I can confirm that the Mate 20 Pro's 3D Qmoji do exactly what (young people?) want, allowing you to map your facial features onto a series of cartoon animal avatars (see above video). If this is your bag then you won't be disappointed.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: battery and audio
I, as well as many other editors I know who review phones for a living, have been complaining about mobile phone battery life for literally years now, with the elephant in the mobile industry room being that even new flagship phones don't deliver batteries that can last more than a day, realistically, with moderate usage.
Which is why I was very enthused to see that the Huawei Mate 20 Pro comes loaded with a very large 4,200 mAh battery that supports 40 W SuperCharge support. This is even bigger than the unit installed in the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and, after some real world and benchmark testing (see above boxout), I can confirm that it is one of the better units on the market.
I consistently got over a day and a half battery life out of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro on a single charge, and if I used the phone lightly, that stretched out to two days. I feel this isn't the ideal scenario, of course, with a two-day plus life the realistic goal to aim for in the industry, but it is certainly a step in the right direction and I felt confident that the phone was not going to be left bricked by lack of juice.
Where the Mate 20 Pro's battery system really shines, though, is in its world-first ability to reverse wireless charge other Qi-enable devices. By simple flicking a option on in the phone's system settings, you can simply place another wireless Qi charging device on the Mate 20 Pro's backplate and it will pass charge to it. The fact that this feature works so well, and is so easy to use is seriously impressive, and Huawei should be given plenty of plaudits for making it a reality.
Audio-wise, 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, which allows movies and music to be enhanced providing you are using a pair of wired headphones.
I found audio playback on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro through its stereo speaker system to be, for a phone, loud and quite deep, although once more I have to say I would be lying if I said that I would like to listen to my music like this.
We've got very, very high standards at T3 in terms of audio reproduction and, simply put, the very minimum I would want if listening to music on the Pro is a decent auxiliary speaker (one the best Bluetooth speakers, for example) or top pair of wired or wireless headphones (best wired headphones and best wireless headphones, for those who are interested).
With a quality pair of cans on, though, I enjoyed listening to music (a home-made Grosse Pointe Blank soundtrack anyone?), listening to podcasts (Talking Simpsons FTW!) and streaming media.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: software, security, and OS
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is one of the very first phones to come packing the Android 9.0 Pie out of the box (the Sony Xperia XZ3 was the first) and, as I mentioned in the XZ3 review, is a major boon as it is cleaner and faster than Oreo.
The 9.0 Pie OS is partnered on the Mate 20 Pro with Huawei's own light EMUI 9.0 skin, which following suit, is also far leaner than its last incarnation.
Menu systems have been consolidated and simplified (10 per cent reduction, overall), while tapping app response is up and starting app response, too.
With a "back to nature" theme, EMUI 9.0 also now comes with a variety of more modern, user-focused features as well, such as the Digital balance tool that allows you to track the amount of time you spend on the device. You can also enable screen time management if you want to get serious about stepping away from the phone.
One of the absolute knockout features on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, though, is its integration of an in-screen fingerprint reader. Regular readers of T3.com will know that this has been one of the Holy Grail, most wanted advancements in the mobile phone space for a few years now, with Samsung at one time thought to be the company that would bring it to mass market first.
In the end, though, it has been Huawei to grab the accolade, with the Mate 20 Pro's fingerprint sensor completely hidden in its screen. The best bit? It works perfectly. Fast and consistent, as well as totally invisible, it is the new gold standard for fingerprint security.
If that wasn't enough, though, in terms of high-level security features, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro also comes packing a Face unlock function, too. This isn't quite the level of the biometric system employed on Apple's iPhone XS, but it is fast and worked consistently for me on test.
Finally, the Mate 20 Pro comes loaded with a selection of Huawei apps and tools, which in my opinion vary in usefulness. Some more notable examples include Huawei Health, HiCare, AppGallery and Translator. Regardless of their individual importance to me, though, I feel it is important to note that I did not feel they strayed into bloatware territory.
Overall, the software experience delivered by the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is very clean and fast, which is especially nice considering it doesn't run vanilla.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: verdict
I test a lot of phones at T3.com and many come and go without leaving a lasting impression. Flagship phones today are, in general, all pretty good and while that means you now rarely get an out-and-out stinker, it does mean that many offer the same things or deliver the same weaknesses.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro, though, has bucked this trend. Right away I realised that I held something very special in my hands, an Android phone that not only delivers state-of-the-art hardware and software, but also that intangible X-factor and hyper desirability that, traditionally, has been the domain of Apple alone.
And when you've got a device that not only packs the world's fastest CPU, but also one with some genuine sit-up-and-take-notice features like a fantastically executed in-display fingerprint reader and futuristic reverse wireless charging ability, it's easy to see how the Huawei Mate 20 Pro rises above the me-too melee.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is a truly stunning flagship phone that more than matches the prowess and style of any other smartphone available today in 2018. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is a phone that you'll simply fall in love with. Chapéu Huawei, chapéu.