The Huawei Mate 20 Pro offers the longest battery life we have seen in a smartphone this year
HUAWEI MATE 20 PRO REVIEW • £899.99
- FOR – Industry-leading battery life • The most flexible array of cameras on a smartphone • Lush 6.39-inch display • Fast and secure facial unlocking • Blisteringly fast performance
- AGAINST – Huawei’s EMUI Android skin leaves you with unnecessary bloatware • NO 4K recording at 60-frames-per-second • Selfie camera smoothes skin even with beauty mode turned off
Huawei took the smartphone market by storm when it launched the P20 Pro and the Chinese tech giant is attempting to cause another seismic industry shift with the launch of the Mate 20 Pro.
While the Chinese firm insists its P-line of devices exists completely separately to its Mate series, the truth is the Mate 20 Pro is in many ways a successor to the P20 Pro with it offering a swathe of features you won’t find on this older flagship.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro released on Friday, October 26, and simply cannot be ignored for all it does right.
For everything your phone can do, this can do it better.
So, if you think the Mate 20 Pro is for you here’s Express.co.uk’s full review.
Design and display
On paper the Huawei Mate 20 Pro follows standard smartphone in 2018 procedure.
That is because it is made from a front and rear glass panel that sandwich together an aluminium frame.
But in person the Huawei Mate 20 Pro oozes elegance thanks to the device’s curved edges and slick touch to the hand.
What differentiates the Mate 20 Pro from other flagship smartphones on the market though is its unique coats of paint.
In typical Huawei fashion the hardware arrives in a Twilight colour that is instantly striking and exudes a different shade depending on what angle light strikes it.
But even Huawei’s standard black model, that we tested for this review, does not conform to smartphone norms.
Instead the back of the device looks more gunmetal grey and is tantalisingly sleek.
This, combined with the red lock button, makes the Huawei Mate 20 Pro stand out, even if it does take clear inspiration from Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Apple’s iPhone Xs.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro is powered by a Kirin 980 processor that is built on a 7-nanometre process
The camera cutout on the hardware is unlike any other with three lenses and a flash protruding ever so slightly from the flagship’s rear panel.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro most notably forgoes any kind of speaker at the bottom of the device with the firm opting to have audio fire from the USB-C port at the bottom of the device.
The design decision means it is far more unlikely that your hand will slip and cover the path of audio while watching video in a landscape orientation.
Unfortunately a headphone jack is also absent on the Mate 20 Pro, however Huawei has thoughtfully included a dongle and USB-C headphones in the box.
While the buds are nothing to write home about, they are a nice touch and can be used as a last resort if your Bluetooth headphones ever run out of juice.
Huawei has also included a case inside the Mate 20 Pro’s packaging for those that do not want to risk scratching the back of their new device.
While the clear plastic cover will certainly not provide much protection against drops on hard surfaces, it helps to cement Huawei as a brand that values consumers spending £900 on a smartphone.
The screen on the Mate 20 Pro is stunning and is all the more immersive thanks to the incredibly small bezels that surround it.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro comes pre-installed with Android 9 Pie
Whatever your phone is capable of, chances are the Mate 20 Pro can do it better
The Chinese firm’s flagship comes with a 6.39-inch AMOLED panel that displays content at a 1440p resolution.
Colours on the device look vibrant, blacks look incredibly deep and everything from websites to YouTube videos appear packed with detail.
HDR 10 support means watching content that takes advantage of the technology provides a superb viewing experience.
The top of the display does feature a notch, but thankfully the design compromise is fairly minimalist.
The only time it is noticeable is when viewing video in full screen; here you lose some content in exchange for an unwieldily cutout.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro offers by far the most flexible camera system on the market
Put simply, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro offers the longest battery life we have seen in a smartphone this year and the Chinese manufacturer should be heavily commended for delivering such accomplished life.
The grand 4,200mAh battery housed inside the phone is gargantuan, allowing us to ease through a day of intense usage.
After spending two hours consuming streamed YouTube content in HD quality, over an hour on WhatsApp and another five hours on other applications, we still finished the day with 30 percent battery left.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the first phone in a long time we have not had to charge at least once during the day to keep it going.
Draining the Chinese flagship is a tall order and requires a concerted effort in order to do so.
Huawei is clearly aware of its battery superiority and has installed the Mate 20 Pro with a new feature it is dubbing “wireless reverse charging”.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s main sensor produces incredible photos with vast levels of detail retained
This allows the Mate 20 Pro to wirelessly power other devices that lay on its rear panel.
Such an addition is not only incredibly innovative by the Chinese tech giant, but it is truly useful.
During our testing of the device we went out for a meal with friends; one of them realised his phone was only sitting on 18 percent battery with much of the day still to go.
So for the entirety of our starter, main course and dessert his device was charging on the Mate 20 Pro.
Huawei has delivered a truly revolutionary feature here that is actually practical and not just a gimmick to show off when you first pick up the device.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro comes with a 6.39-inch AMOLED panel that displays content at a 1440p resolution
Huawei Mate 20 Pro is powered by the firm’s own Kirin 980 processor that is built on a 7-nanometre process.
Ahead of the flagship’s debut, Huawei insisted the chipset was more capable than Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 present in a number of Android handsets that debuted this year.
The Kirin 980 provides a noticeable step-up from the Snapdragon 845 and, combined with the Mate 20 Pro’s 6GB of RAM, offers rapid performance across Android 9 Pie.
Opening applications is blisteringly quick and during our testing the device never seemed close to breaking a sweat even when under the most intensive of loads.
What’s more, we have to credit the phone for consistently remembering to pick up where we left off in our applications.
Unless the software was designed to shut off after being closed, such as a mobile banking app for instance, we always found the Mate 20 Pro was able to pick up exactly where we left off.
The latest version of Google’s operating system, Android 9 Pie, is pre-installed on the hardware.
However, Huawei have once again opted to cover it with an EMUI skin that will certainly take time to adjust to, even for the most esteemed Android aficionados.
The Mate 20 Pro trumps the Pixel 3 with its shot diversity
The software has a number of niggles that we personally would like to see addressed in the future.
Multitasking has been revamped with applications being stacked in a row format.
The change is appreciated and provides a clear view of the content open in each.
However, if you tap the app window button on the Mate 20 Pro, the phone will automatically fling the software you were just using off to the right hand side, placing a different one front and centre.
This meant if we hit the Android multitasking button and wanted to go back into the app we were just using, we were transported into another entirely.
Such a change appears to be a move from Huawei to help you jump into multiple apps at an instant, but ultimately it is more annoying and strange than functional.
If you choose to have your apps located in a drawer, you need to have an app drawer icon present on your home screen to access it rather than simply swiping up for instance.
Additionally Huawei has once again crammed the software with a ton of bloatware apps that simply do not hold a candle to their Google counterparts.
While this would not be so much of a problem if Huawei simply let you uninstall the software you do not need, instead it forbids you from removing some of its proprietary apps.
That means if you prefer Google’s clock app for instance, you are forced to have two pieces of clock software sitting in your drawer.
While such a complaint may seem trivial, when this is the case for a score of other apps, it quickly becomes frustrating.
Deleting pointless tools such as Huawei’s “Mirror” app that essentially provides a worse way to take selfies than on the phone’s own camera software is also incredibly tedious.
In terms of software, Huawei should not only allow users to precisely pick and choose what applications they want installed, but they should also understand their hardware would run even better if it was not filled with pointless software.
It is worth noting Huawei’s EMUI skin has come a long way since its debut, but it still needs noticeable improvements to catch up to lighter Android skins such as Oxygen OS in terms of intuitiveness and functions.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro most notably forgoes any kind of speaker at the bottom of the device
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s notch is the most justified on any Android device thanks to the front-facing camera array that allows for face unlocking.
This flagship delivers the best compromise of fast and secure recognition on any phone running Google’s software.
While the Mate 20 Pro is still outclassed by the iPhone here, it does launch a valiant challenge to Apple’s latest and greatest.
Audio on the Mate 20 Pro sounds great thanks to the stereo speaker system present that has become pretty much standard on most leading flagships.
The placement of the rear speaker inside the USB-C ports means we never accidentally covered it with our hands.
However, it is worth noting the audio from the Mate 20 Pro sounded slightly more tinny than we would like and did not get as loud as rival devices on the market such as the Google Pixel 3 XL.
Huawei’s standard black model of the Mate 20 Pro does not conform to smartphone norms
Huawei Mate 20 Pro offers by far the most flexible camera system on the market thanks to its triple-array of snappers that are each incredibly capable.
The device comes with a 40-megapixel main sensor that is joined by a 20-megapixel wide-angle and 8-megapixel telephoto lens respectively.
The main sensor produces incredible photos with vast levels of detail retained, but it just misses out on ousting the Pixel 3 from its smartphone camera throne.
Overall the Mate 20 Pro is not able to deal with HDR shots quite as effortlessly as Google’s offering; for the most part instances saw the sun slightly more blown out on the Huawei.
But where the Mate 20 Pro trumps the Pixel is with its shot diversity.
The wide-angle sensor present allows for much more to be crammed into a shot and is a saving grace when you are struggling to fit a subject into a frame on the standard lens.
Unlike the telephoto tools present on a number of other flagships, we found ourselves using the wide-angle lens with regularity.
While the wide-angle system does mean you need to compromise slightly on the quality of your shots as the 20-megapixel sensor is certainly not as capable as the 40-megapixel main lens, the shot differentiation it provides is certainly worth the trade-off.
We found ourselves using the wide-angle lens on the Mate 20 Pro with regularity
Huawei Mate 20 Pro has a 20-megapixel wide-angle camera system
Colours in photos can be slightly exaggerated on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro
The wide-angle system on the Mate 20 Pro offers unprecedented shot differentiation
Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s camera allows you to get incredibly close to subjects
The wide sensor also doubles as as macro lens that allows you to get incredibly close to subjects with immense clarity.
Add to all of that a telephoto system capable of delivering a 3-times optical zoom and you have the best combination of cameras on a smartphone right now.
Colours in photos can be slightly exaggerated on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, but overall this is a camera system that consistently delivers laudable shots.
Artificial intelligence (AI) plays a big part in the camera system and is presented as a “master AI” toggle in the application’s settings.
The tool advertises itself as a way to have the best modes automatically selected for the user.
This means the device should switch to a wide-angle lens by itself if it detects the subject is not fitting into the main lens, or moving to the macro system when you get incredibly close to an object.
During our testing we found the AI worked extremely well and once it identified an object and adjusted its settings accordingly, colour and focus was not drastically altered.
We found Huawei’s AI was extremely helpful for subtly tweaking or photos to make them look more pleasing.
The wide sensor also doubles as as macro lens that allows you to get incredibly close to subjects
Such a move seems geared towards social media sharing, but it can easily be turned off if the user would rather have a more true to life photo.
The most disappointing aspect about the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is its front camera.
On paper the snapper should be vastly competitive with other flagships on the market.
But ultimately the 24-megapixel sensor smoothes subject skin over far too much to be appealing, especially in low-light conditions.
During our usage selfies lacked detail and were far too soft, most notably when using the device’s HDR mode.
That is not to say the Mate 20 Pro’s front camera is unusable, but it certainly does not live up to its tantalising spec sheet.
The most disappointing aspect about the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is its front camera
Video on the Mate 20 Pro is a class act, but it certainly doesn’t oust the iPhone Xs from its video throne.
The Chinese flagship can record 4K video in up to 30 frames-per-second and we found video to be sharp and colours were colder than on rivals such as the Galaxy S9.
Stabilisation is great and during our testing the microphone did a decent job at picking out our voice in a busy environment.
However, the admission of 4K at 60-frames-per-second will be a deal-breaker for some that enjoy buttery smooth video.
Artificial intelligence (AI) plays a big part in the Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s camera system
In the UK at least, Huawei has made purchasing the Mate 20 Pro incredibly simple.
That is because there is only one model of the hardware available that delivers 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage for £899.
While storage can be expanded by up to 256GB, Huawei has introduced its own NanoMemory cards for the device, meaning microSD cannot be used here.
The idea of having a smaller storage footprint is great, getting your hands on a NanoMemory card is ultimately more difficult and expensive.
And the change in format means you cannot simply move all your files from your old microSD card onto your new Huawei handset.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro comes with a 40-megapixel main sensor
Whatever your phone is capable of, chances are the Mate 20 Pro can do it better.
The Chinese flagship is by far the most innovative of 2018 thanks to its futuristic in-display fingerprint reader, surprisingly functional reverse wireless charging feature and flexible array of cameras.
In a period where smartphones appear to be struggling to introduce industry-altering innovations and noteworthy changes, the Mate 20 Pro gives consumers a score of great features to get excited about.
Huawei hasn’t been shy in taking inspiration from other manufacturers in its delivery of the Mate 20 Pro, but the device’s insistence on upping the ante in every regard means it simply outclasses a number of its rivals.
If Huawei’s P20 Pro spiked your interest in Huawei, the Mate 20 Pro is taking things to the next level. Those wanting the ultimate Android device would be wise to pay it plenty of attention.