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Huawei Mate 20 Pro Review: Flagship by all means
Huawei Mate 20 Pro is company’s best smartphone till date. It offers excellent camera performance, brilliant display, oodles of power and a strikingly appealing design.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro has been my daily driver since last three weeks. I am using this handset extensively for everything and it feels always ready to deliver its best during camera, multitasking, gaming, and other day-to-day tasks. I have majorly used Mate 20 Pro for photography as the camera is certainly the highlight feature of this flagship smartphone. However, that doesn't mean it lacks in other departments. The Mate 20 Pro comes in a strikingly good-looking design, offers a brilliant display, speedy charging speeds and implements a lot of AI to improve your everyday smartphone user-experience.
Priced at Rs. 69,990, the Mate 20 Pro rivals Galaxy S9+, Galaxy Note 9, Pixel 3/3 XL, iPhone XR/XS, and every other premium flagship smartphone in the market. These all are widely popular smartphones from trusted brands that have ruled the markets across the globe in the last few months of the passing year 2018. Having said that, I have been asked one question several times in the last few days- Would you recommend Mate 20 Pro over above-mentioned handsets or would you personally go for Huawei over Google, Samsung, and Apple? I tried to answer this important question in the following review. Hope it helps you in deciding your next flagship smartphone.
Complete Camera phone
While there's a lot to talk about Mate 20 Pro, the camera is certainly the highlight feature of this handset. It packs in probably the most insane camera hardware on a smartphone that lets you capture every possible frame. You can take appealing bokeh shots, brilliant Black and white pictures, decent macros and good wide-angle images. In short, Huawei has designed a complete package to meet all your photography needs. Huawei has placed a visually unique camera module, which the company calls- matrix camera setup. The three camera sensors are arranged in two-by-two array to make the design symmetrical. The camera module has one 40 MP sensor working on f/1.8 aperture, one 20 MP (16mm) Leica powered ultra-wide angle lens with f/2.2 aperture and the 8 MP telephoto lens with a f/2.4 aperture value.
Decent Macro shots (20MP Leica lens)
The Leica powered 20MP ultra-wide angle lens has a shorter focal length and can be used to capture objects placed as close as 2.5cm from the lens. The super macro mode kicks in automatically as you reach closer to capture the subject, thanks to intensive AI built right into the camera system. Check out the macro sample image above for the better understanding of the output.
Good wide-angle capability
Until now, LG G series was widely popular for wide-angle photography but now the same can be experienced on a Huawei phone. The same 20MP Leica lens can be used to capture wider frames which will come handy for street and landscape photography. The wide-angle shots look good but have some issues. For instance, the images captured in wide-angle mode show minor changes in color tones and appear warmer with a red hue. Moreover, there's a slight reduction in brightness levels and overall detailing in the picture. Samsung Galaxy A9 can be a budget alternative if you want a handset with a wide-angle lens.
Brilliant Bokeh shots
Huawei Mate 20 Pro is such a wonderful device for portraits that you would ditch your DSLR for the ease-of-use and instant results. The camera app offers two modes to frame bokeh shots. You have the option to choose between standard ‘Portrait' mode and an ‘Aperture' mode. The latter gives you more control on the lens to derive the desired level of bokeh you need in your images. The standard Portrait mode gives you some interesting real-time effects; however images not always turn out good. I mostly used the ‘Aperture' mode to capture portraits as the edge detection seemed better in this mode and you also have the option to change the focus area and level of bokeh in post-processing. Interestingly, the camera setup in Mate 20 Pro can also capture decent images in low-light with a pleasing depth of field. The results are not always striking and you have to be very patient while framing the shot.
Excellent Daylight shots
The camera output is simply brilliant in daylight. You will get to see a very good contrast, vibrant colors and amazing detailing. The camera focuses in no time and also let you capture fast-moving subjects. The AI kicks in every time, optimizes the camera settings and switches to the required mode for better output. Other flagship phones in the market are not as quick and intensive to recognize objects and customize the camera settings. The pictures shot by Mate 20 Pro have excellent color reproduction, good exposure, dynamic range and mind-blowing details. I mostly shot the images in 40MP; however, the images shot in 18.8:9 aspect ratio which reduces the megapixel count to just 6MP looks equally appealing and crisp. There's one disadvantage of shooting images in 40MP. The camera software does not let you zoom in on the subjects and you would have to change the camera settings to do the same. Besides, Huawei's AI can be pretty intensive and adds a lot of artificial tones to shots. Disable the AI and capture with Auto settings for natural image output.
Low-light Camera Performance- Mate 20 Pro VS Pixel 3 XL
Low-light camera performance is another area where Mate 20 Pro shines. There's a dedicated Night mode that analyzes the scene and slows down the shutter speed to capture more light into the frame. The results show well-exposed shots with very good detailing. The camera software adds some artificial sharpness which tends to bring some noise, but you can easily correct it in post-processing. I even compared the results with the rival Google Pixel 3 XL's Night sight mode that has simply set the benchmark in the smartphone camera output. The tests showed that the images shot on Mate 20 Pro show comparatively better detailing in textures and have more contrast. The images shot by Pixel 3 XL are on a softer side but look more vivid, warmer and dramatic. I somehow liked the colors on Pixel 3 XL's Night sight mode as they appear more pleasing to eyes.
However, the camera algorithms on Huawei Mate 20 Pro better understand the individual light sources and does a better job in containing the light at its place to prevent overexposure in other parts of the image. Google's camera, on the other hand, blows the light from individual light sources and creates some unwanted whitish tone in the frame. Overall, Huawei has managed to create a slightly better Night camera but Google is not much behind and is almost at par with Mate 20 Pro. It is worth mentioning here that Google is tackling things mostly with the help of software, whereas Huawei is relying big time on its brilliant camera hardware combined with AI to deliver slightly better overall image output. It will be interesting to see how Huawei will handle things when Google will also equip its Pixel devices with more than just one camera sensor. It will be a fight worth waiting for but for now, Mate 20 Pro has won the fight in our opinion.
Feature-rich Camera app
Last but not least; Huawei's camera app is full of useful modes that can even let you capture some professional class images and videos. The AI color and Background Blur modes in Video are just brilliant and will help you capture excellent cinematic videos. The Impact filter mode, Monochrome (aperture), etc. are some modes for still photography that have made the Mate 20 Pro my favorite smartphone camera in the year 2018. Summing up all, If you keep photography in your highest regard, you will simply love the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. It has almost got everything that you would need as an amateur and a professional photographer.
Looks a lot like Galaxy S9/S9+
Let's talk about design. Huawei Mate 20 Pro comes out as a strikingly good-looking handset despite the fact that the design is not very original and feels heavily inspired by Samsung's Galaxy S9/S9+. A lot of smartphone enthusiasts actually mistaken the Mate 20 Pro for Samsung's premium Galaxy devices but quickly noticed the ‘Matrix camera' system at the rear panel. The square-shaped camera system gives Mate 20 Pro its unique identity and houses three camera sensors paired with the dual-LED flashlight. Besides, the in-display fingerprint scanner is another important design characteristic that differentiates Mate 20 Pro from Samsung's devices.
All Glass-metal design with eye-catchy gradient shades
The seamless glass-metal build of Mate 20 Pro gives a solid feel in hands but the handset is very slippery and I recommend using it with a casing. To maintain a symmetrical design, the company has placed the speaker unit within the Type C port, which slightly affects the audio delivery if the music is being played while the phone is on charging. The volume rockers and power button are placed on the right side and offer a good clicking feedback. The bottom of the phone houses a Type-C port, dual-Nano SIM card slot, and microphones. Our unit came in Twilight Blue which simply looks stunning. You also have the option to go for Emerald Green color variant, which looks equally stunning. This variant comes with ‘hyper-optical pattern' fused over glass panel that makes it less prone to smudges and also results in slightly better grip in hands.
IP68 Water-dust resistant and new NM card slot
Like some other premium flagships out there, the Mate 20 Pro is also IP68 certified for protection against water and dust. The smartphone also supports the company's custom NM card which fits in the second SIM slot. This particular setup is basically a smaller version of the regular microSD standard and can take upto 256GB memory.
Gorgeous QHD+ AMOLED Screen
Huawei Mate 20 Pro packs in one-of-the best displays in the market on a smartphone. It flaunts a crisp and super vibrant 6.39-inches QHD+ HDR enabled OLED display. The 19.5:9 aspect ratio OLED panel offers a resolution of 1,440 x 3,120 pixels. This makes for an impressive pixel count of 545 PPI. The screen is super vibrant and offers very good viewing angles making it just perfect for gaming and high-resolution media playback. I streamed the latest Mowgli on Netflix and the visual experience was just mind-blowing. On the software side, you can reduce the screen resolution to preserve battery life, enable eye-comfort mode and can also change the color tone and temperature. Overall, the screen on Mate 20 Pro is better than the new iPhones, Pixel 3/3XL and is at par with Samsung's Galaxy devices.
Conveniently placed In-display fingerprint scanner
The OLED panel on Mate 20 Pro houses an in-display fingerprint scanner and it is placed conveniently than the scanners I have tested on OnePlus 6T and Vivo's flagship handsets. Huawei has placed the in-display fingerprint scanner an inch lower from the middle of the screen making it more convenient for your thumb to land naturally on the spot. The in-display biometric scanner was mostly accurate in recognizing my fingerprint; however, its response time is not instant. I mostly used the 3D face unlock on Mate 20 Pro which is very fast and unlocks the phone even in low-light. It is also more secure than the software based face-unlock used by most of the Android handsets including OnePlus's latest devices.
How’s the new EMUI 9.0 skin?
Based on the newest Android 9, the EMUI 9.0 running on Mate 20 Pro has also come out as a refreshingly fluid and easy-to-use interface. It is also full of useful software additions with some features especially added by keeping in mind the needs of Indian users. For instance, the handset has an Indian national calendar that shows national (regional) holidays. You can also enable the Hindu calendar that displays information about Tithi, Paksha, Muhurat, etc.
New Dark mode, One-handed UI, step counter, etc.
There's a new Dark mode that turns the settings menu, phone dialer, etc. completely black. The phone's software also allows you to choose between an ‘App drawer' UI and iPhone like interface where all the app icons are placed on the different home-screens. You can also enable Always-on display, step counter, one-handed UI, motion control and a lot more for a more personalized user experience on Mate 20 Pro.
Gestures on EMUI are still a work in progress
Huawei's EMUI 9.0 also comes equipped with gestures to deliver a seamless full-screen user experience. Sadly, the user experience was not fluid and I had to shift to traditional on-screen keys controls. I used the gestures for a week to make sure that I get used to them; however, they are very cumbersome and can make you hate the UI. The gestures on Google Pixel and iPhones are far better and easy-to-use. Nevertheless, Huawei has also added some first-of-its-kind knuckle based gestures that feel bizarre to use but the execution is perfect. You can knock twice on the screen with one knuckle to take a screenshot or knock twice with two knuckles to start screen recording.
Huawei’s intuitive HiVision and Android Pie’s freebies
One very important software addition is HVision. The feature uses machine learning algorithms to help you fetch useful information from your surroundings. Once enabled, point the camera on any object and the HiVision will implement AI to recognize classical art, popular landmarks, and even food items to give you important information like calorie count. You can also use the feature within the camera to scan QR codes, run scans to identify objects for online shopping and to translate the text of a range of foreign languages. Besides, you will get to use Google's Digital wellbeing (Digital balance in settings) that offers important insights about your phone's usage pattern such as time spent on individual apps, onscreen time, the phone unlocks frequency, etc. You can minimize phone usage by analyzing the data.
Overall, as a reviewer who gets to test every new smartphone with all forms of Android skin available in the market, I would rank Huawei's new EMUI 9.0 at number ‘Three'. The first and second spot is grabbed by Pixel device's stock Android and OnePlus' OxygenOS respectively. The stock Android still comes out as the best overall user interface and OnePlus has managed to imitate it brilliantly with some additional useful features. But Huawei has significantly improved the software and the new EMUI comes out as a much better user interface than its previous iterations and other custom skins in the market.
Kirin 980 7nm chipset with 6GB RAM
Talking about the processor, the smartphone is backed by the flagship Kirin 980 chipset which is designed by Huawei's HiSilicon division. This chipset has two neural processing units to execute AI related tasks such as real-time language translation, real-time photo manipulation, and other AI-related tasks. The phone comes in 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage option and feels blazing fast. The app loads in a jiffy and not for once I felt that the handset is unresponsive and is taking time to execute a task. Kirin 980 SoC also brings along new Mali-G76 GPU and combined with the updated GPU turbo technology, the phone makes for an excellent gaming device. Here I would like to mention that playing graphically rich games for a longer duration slightly rises up the core temperature of the phone but it still doesn't affect the performance. The phone worked just fine after a 30-minute continues a session of Asphalt 9 at maximum settings.
Big battery unit and super fast 40W Power adaptor
Last but not least; the smartphone is backed by a massive 4,200 mAh battery unit which is one of the beefiest batteries we have tested on a flagship smartphone. The Mate 20 Pro was able to easily last for a day on one single charge with heavy usage. Combined with the 40 W Super Charge adaptor in the package, Mate 20 Pro delivers a solid and long-lasting battery performance.
Innovative Reverse Wireless charging
What truly sets apart Mate 20 Pro is the innovative Wireless Quick Charge feature. It is quite interesting to see what Huawei is doing with the battery and wireless technology. Huawei Mate 20 Pro supports 15W HUAWEI Wireless Quick Charge, which is capable of Reverse wireless charge, provided that the other phone supports wireless charging. You just need to enable the feature and place the second Qi supported device on the back of Mate 20 Pro and see the magic. It's a feature that can come quite handy if you carry a second device that also supports wireless charging.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro has completely impressed us with its camera, display, and design. The smartphone also offers solid battery life and swift processing and multitasking performance. Moreover, the company has offered some really innovative features like wireless reverse charging, 40W power adaptor, and impressive HDR image processing. Now comes the big question- Would you go for a premium Huawei phone or would settle down with brands like Samsung, Google, and Apple in the flagship segment. If you ask me, I would happily buy the Mate 20 Pro over the other current flagship smartphones in the market. It's a phone with the best overall camera that also gets most of the other things right. In comparison to Mate 20 Pro, Apple's current flagships stand nowhere in the camera and display department. Samsung Galaxy S9+ has got the looks and a solid display but it still lacks in camera and battery when pitted with the Mate 20 Pro.
You are left with Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL which offer equally compelling camera output but far better software performance as compared to Huawei's EMUI. Mate 20 Pro ups the ante with a better screen, superior battery backup and better overall camera features that add significant value to the overall package. If it's a fight between software- Google wins hands down; however if you can ignore some software gimmicks and love to experiment with the camera features, Mate 20 Pro is the answer. And yes, you can also save a good Rs. 10,000 which makes Huawei's flagship a better overall deal.