Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: One of the best Android flagships this year
Huawei is the second biggest seller of smartphones in the world, overtaking Apple recently and just behind Samsung. Huawei is also one of the more consistently innovative companies in recent times.Yet things haven't worked out so well for the company in India in the past. It is looking to turn things around with its comeback this year and it got off on a pretty good note with the P20 Pro. This motivated the company to launch the Mate 20 Pro, which is also the first Mate-series phone to launch in India.
Priced at Rs 69,990, the Mate 20 Pro is by far one of the most feature-rich phones of 2018 and getting through all the small and large details that make up this flagship has been challenging and interesting at the same time. From the outside, the Mate 20 Pro is a stunning piece of machinery, while on the inside we have the new Kirin 980 SoC running the show, and much more. But are all the features worth your time and money? Read on to find out.
The Mate 20 Pro is probably one of the best-designed phones of 2018 and I can see why. Huawei has taken a few pages out of Samsung's playbook, combined it with current trends to create the Mate 20 Pro. So, you get a Galaxy S9-like design as well as a phone with a notched display, in-display fingerprint sensor and gradient colour finish. It's a great formula to go with, which is why the Mate 20 Pro works.
The phone comes with a 3D curved glass on the front and back that blends into a thin metal frame that's reminiscent of the Galaxy S9. The frame is in fact thinner than the Galaxy S9, making it sleeker. If you were to look at the Mate 20 Pro and Galaxy S9 side-by-side, you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two phones. It's the rear panel that really sets the Mate 20 Pro apart. There's a gorgeous, glossy gradient texture on the back that comes in a Twilight colour, which is what we got as our review unit. The transition from blue to purple to black is smooth, seamless and exquisite. The phone is also offered in an equally stunning Emerald Green as well.
The rear panel offers a nano-coating which significantly reduces slippery-ness as well as fingerprint smudges. You could hold the phone on an open palm at an angle and not worry about the Mate 20 Pro sliding off. It helps in adding a better grip to a phone that could easily be as slippery as any other glass-backed phone. It's the little details like this that makes the Mate 20 Pro a real work of art. The frame sees a dual SIM tray on the top as well as an IR blaster. There's a red-coloured power button on the right side, which looks really nice. The bottom of the frame sees a USB Type-C port and no headphone jack.
Interestingly, the Mate 20 Pro shows no sign of speaker grilles, but Huawei has found a pretty clever way of hiding this. There is a speaker within the earpiece on the top and under the Type-C port on the bottom. So you get Dolby Atmos stereo speakers, without actually seeing them. All of this basically means fewer open ports for this IP68-rated device.
The other notable feature on the rear panel is the triple camera setup that is arranged in a square, which Huawei calls a matrix design. It looks clean and doesn't take up a lot of space on the back as compared to the Galaxy A7's vertically-aligned triple camera system. The squarish black box that houses the cameras is visually prominent and gives the Mate 20 Pro its own unique look.
The Mate 20 Pro gets a large 6.39-inch (1400x3120) OLED display on a form factor that is compact enough to sit comfortably in the hand. The curved display bleeds into the edges like the Galaxy S9 so scrolling through the UI feels like it rolls out from one end to the other. There is a pretty wide notch on the top that houses an array of sensors like dot projector, IR sensor, ambient light, IR cameras and the selfie camera. Most of these sensors are used to enable 3D facial recognition and for enhanced depth sensing for selfies as well.
The limited bezels around the display are insignificant and forgotten because you'll be enamoured by a stunning curved OLED display with a sharp 2K+ resolution and an impressive 538 ppi pixel density. It's one of the best display panels you'll find this year with excellent contrast, vibrant colours and plenty of detail at maxed out resolution. HDR videos on Netflix and Prime Video look crispy and detailed with nicely saturated colours that pop on screen.
Performance and software
The Mate 20 Pro is powered by Huawei's newest Kirin 980 flagship mobile chipset. This is the world's first 7nm-based chipset that was announced at IFA this year, following which Apple released its own 7nm A12 Bionic chipset with the iPhone XS. Huawei's chipset succeeds the Kirin 970 and promises to offer better performance and power efficiency as well as dual NPU for advanced AI computation. The Mate 20 Pro performs great in benchmarks, easily surpassing the Galaxy S9 in multi-core scores.
This chipset is combined with 6GB of RAM, which means the phone should practically fly no matter what you throw at it. And indeed multitasking is a breeze on this device. The Mate 20 Pro is incredibly snappy and opening and loading apps. It is extremely smooth while browsing the UI and it handles graphic intensive and fast-paced games like PUBG and Asphalt 9 without breaking a sweat.
What makes the experience all the more smooth is the new EMUI 9 based on Android 9 Pie. Our review unit was on the October Android security patch, so it will be interesting to see whether Huawei pushes out timely updates for the device in the future. Huawei's new EMUI 9 is more minimalistic in design to make it easier to navigate and find what you're looking for. It and offers new gesture controls, which is not as smooth as the gestures that Apple offers with its new iPhones. Swiping right to go back a page can get pretty frustrating as EMUI 9 does not offer the most intuitive way to go about it. But the UI as a while definitely looks cleaner and far less cluttered than past iterations of EMUI.
You get a feature called Digital Balance which is essentially Android Pie's Digital Wellbeing feature, which allows you to get an overview of how much time is being spent of apps as well as ways to reduce the time spent on the device.
The Mate 20 Pro offers an in-display fingerprint sensor much like the Vivo Nex. Setting up your fingerprint takes a while longer than it would for a physical sensor. Once the setup is complete, you can place the finger on a specific point on the display for the sensor to recognise and unlock the phone. It is slower than traditional fingerprint sensors, but faster than most other phones with an in-screen fingerprint sensor. However, the sensor failed to recognise my finger on multiple occasions and is pretty inconsistent. There's a very snappy facial recognition feature that will likely be the prefered way of unlocking the device if the in-display sensor is too slow for you.
Coming to the biggest highlight of the Mate 20 Pro - its Leica-branded triple rear cameras. Huawei knowcked it out of the park with the triple cameras on the P20 Pro and the Mate 20 Pro follows in the same footsteps. It offers a matrix camera setup on the back, which is basically because the cameras are placed in a square with three sensors and a fourth LED flash. This is led by a 40MP primary wide-angle lens with f/1.8 aperture, a 20MP secondary 120-degree ultra wide-angle lens with f/2.2 aperture and an 8MP telephoto lens. The cameras support both laser and phase autofocus and AIS (Huawei's AI-based stabilisation).
There is a slight difference between the P20 Pro and the Mate 20 Pro in that the former offered a secondary monochrome lens while the latter gets an ultra wide-angle lens. This means, you will be able to capture a wider field-of-view on the Mate 20 Pro. You can also switch between wide-angle and 3X optical zoom with a tap. You get modes like Portrait, Night, Aperture, Pro and there's even an Underwater mode, because why not.
The cameras on the Mate 20 Pro are simply stunning. I had a lot of fun capturing photos in daylight and at night using all three sensors, and they are all useful. In fact, unlike the Galaxy A9 (2018) which offers an ultra-wide lens that works poorly in low-light, the Mate 20 Pro's ultra-wide lens does wonders in all lighting conditions. The ultra-wide lens really comes in handy when you want to capture more area in a photo without having to walk further away from the subject. Even in low-light conditions, the 20MP sensor retained a lot of detail and kept noise levels at a minimum.
The 40MP main sensor captures exceptional photos in daylight, offering a lot of detail, balanced exposure and really wide dynamic range. The camera manages to capture great photos even in high-contrast scenes with barely any noise. The telephoto lens supports 3x optical zoom, which will let you take some tricky zoom photos. The camera system also supports ultra macro shots that really lets you get in close to a subject, all the way up to an incredible 2.5cm, to capture some stunning and detailed shots.There is almost nothing the cameras cannot do and you get plenty of options to satisfy even pro photographers out there.
The AI-based scene detection is pretty spot on at detecting scenes and adjusting the camera settings in daylight. In low-light conditions, scene recognition doesn't always work well, but it does try. I appreciate the phone's ability to recognise whether a scene requires a depth-of-field shot or ultra wide-angle shot and will automatically change the mode. But it is a feature that I was annoyed with the most as well because there were times when I did not want to take a bokeh shot and had to keep switching back.
Huawei has offered something special with the battery inside the Mate 20 Pro. It's absolutely stellar if I have to summarise it one word. The Mate 20 Pro's 4,200mAh battery refuses to give up on you no matter what you throw at it. A full day worth of messaging, taking a lot of photos and videos to test the cameras, social media browsing and streaming videos only managed to consume 60 per cent battery life by bedtime. I was able to go over a day and a half on most days with the Mate 20 Pro, which is fantastic.
On top of that, the Mate 20 Pro supports SuperFast fast charging up to 40W. With the bundled 40W charger, the Mate 20 Pro charges up faster than most phones right now. The Oppo R17 Pro is perhaps the only phone that tops it. Staying true to Huawei's promise, the Mate 20 Pro charges to 70 per cent in just 30 minutes. The speed slows down after 80 per cent to preserve the battery life, but the phone still charges to 100 per cent in under 1 hour. Huawei has also launched a 15W wireless charger that can be purchased separately.
Should you buy the Huawei Mate 20 Pro?
Huawei has pulled out all the stops in creating the Mate 20 Pro. This is not only the company's best phone to date but it is also one of the best smartphones right now. Huawei has managed to create a phone that is stunning not just from the outside but from the inside as well. Huawei is hoping that the Mate 20 Pro offers just about everything one could hope for in a premium flagship, and it truly it does.
If you're planning to spend Rs 70,000 on a smartphone, you can be rest assured that the Mate 20 Pro will offer the most bang for your buck. It is loaded with features that will keep you hooked and wondering days after buying the device. There is really not a lot that one can faulty with the device. It gets a stunning curved display, a unique gradient design, some of the best cameras on a phone, a terrific battery life and a beast of a chipset. That pretty much nails everything about a smartphone and the Mate 20 Pro is easy to fall in love with.