The Huawei Mate 20 Pro Deserves All of the Superlatives

GearDiary The Huawei Mate 20 Pro Deserves All of the Superlatives

Imagine a smartphone that manages to tick every one of your “what I want/need” boxes. I’m guessing that the Huawei Mate 20 Pro would come very close to doing just that. Packing a 6.39″ screen, a fast Kirin 980 processor, a fantastic Leica camera array, and many other features, there is much to celebrate in Huawei’s latest flagship Android smartphone.

Included in the box are the handset, a pair of Type-C USB earphones, an EU wall charger, a Type-C USB cable, a SIM tray eject tool, a quick start guide, a clear TPU protective case, a warranty card, and a Type-C USB to 3.5 mm headphone jack adapter.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro Specifications:

  • Size: 157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6mm
  • Weight: Approx. 189 g
  • Color: Emerald Green, Midnight Blue, Twilight, Pink Gold, Black
  • Display: Huawei FullView Display; 6.39″ curved OLED; 19.5:9 DCI-P3 HDR display; 2K+ (3120×1440); High color saturation; High contrast ratio
  • Chipset: Kirin 980; Dual-NPU
  • CPU: 2x Cortex-A76-based @2.6GHz; 2x Cortex-A76 @1.92GHz; 4x Cortex-A55 @1.8GHz
  • GPU: Mali-G76 720MHz
  • Operating System: Android P-based EMUI 9
  • RAM and Storage: 6GB+128GB
  • Maximum Expandable Storage: 256GB via Nano-Memory Card
  • Camera: Leica Triple Camera: 40MP (Wide Angle 27mm, f/1.8); 20MP (Ultra Wide Angle 16mm, f/2.2); 8MP (3x Telephoto 80mm, f/2.4, OIS); Front camera: 24MP (f/2.0, FF)
  • Dual SIM: Yes
  • Battery: 4200mAh (Typical Value)
  • Charging: 40W HUAWEI SuperCharge
  • Water and Dust Resistance: IP68

I was given a review sample of the Mate 20 Pro in Twilight, which is one of the most visually stunning color combinations that has ever been baked onto a device; we first saw it on Huawei’s P20. Twilight is a cross between a deep navy (almost black) bottom that transitions into a shimmery purple and then teal at the top of the device; pictures don’t do it justice.

The Hardware

The Mate 20 Pro measures 6.21″ tall by 2.85″ wide by 0.34″ thick, and it weighs 6.67 ounces. The front and back are composed of glass, and the sides are aluminum. I enjoy how those front and rear 3D curved edges feel in my hand and under my fingers; the phone is solid, yet it feels refined. I’d hate to drop it, however, so that included TPU case is a nice bonus.

The Mate 20 Pro is thin enough for one-handed operation, and it has a balanced length that makes it feel larger than most without being unwieldy. There are no sharp edges anywhere; the Mate 20 Pro is smooth, and you’ll enjoy having it in your hand.

GearDiary The Huawei Mate 20 Pro Deserves All of the Superlatives

I’m used to the iPhone X series’ notch, so the size of the Mate 20 Pro’s notch isn’t anything I’m not used to. Some may find it too wide but hidden in the Mate 20’s notch, there is an impressive array of tech which includes: a dot projector, the 24-megapixel RGB front-facing camera, the speaker, the flood illuminator, the proximity sensor, the ambient light sensor, and the Infrared camera.

GearDiary The Huawei Mate 20 Pro Deserves All of the Superlatives

On the left side, there are no buttons. But while we are here, let’s take a look at the 3D curved sides of the Mate 20 Pro and how they call to mind the Infinity Display found on Samsung’s top-tier Galaxy devices. I’m guessing a lot of people will see the resemblance.

GearDiary The Huawei Mate 20 Pro Deserves All of the Superlatives

On the bottom, there are two microphones straddling a USB Type-C sync & charge port which also serves as the headphone jack and the bottom speaker. More on that, later.

To the right of the Type-C port, there is a new style nanoSIM tray which can either hold the #2 SIM card or the new Huawei Nano-Memory (NM) Card on its backside. I’m not yet sure how I feel about Huawei introducing a new, proprietary memory card. It seems like a late 90s Sony move, doesn’t it? At the Mate 20 press conference, Huawei was touting the NM Card as being 45% smaller than a microSD card. The issue, at least for me, is that we’ve yet to hear what the price and availability for these cards will be, nor have we yet heard what their maximum capacity will be. The Mate 20 Pro comes with 128GB user memory, so hopefully, that will be sufficient for most users — at least until the new NM cards are out.

GearDiary The Huawei Mate 20 Pro Deserves All of the Superlatives

Note the two antenna bands; they blend in nicely with this color.

On the right side, there is a shiny contrasting red power/reset/screen-on/screen-off button under the volume rocker. It looks like a nod to Leica, actually.

GearDiary The Huawei Mate 20 Pro Deserves All of the Superlatives

There is a microphone on the top right side (or on the left in this picture) and that larger circle on the top left side (right in the photo) isn’t a 3.5mm headphone jack, it’s an Infrared blaster.

GearDiary The Huawei Mate 20 Pro Deserves All of the Superlatives

The two antenna bands are a little bit more obvious at the top of the device, but the blue and black look nice together.

Even though this isn’t the decadent leather-wrapped €1695+ Porsche Design Mate 20 RS, you still have the three circular Leica lenses and LED flash set in a distinctive 2×2 grid located on the rear of the device; that grid replicates Porsche’s classic and distinctive four-point headlight design, which you can see in the pictures below.

The camera lenses are as follows:

  • Top right Leica lens is the 27mm wide-angle 40-megapixel sensor (f1.8)
  • Bottom right Leica lens is the dedicated 17mm 20-megapixel 16mm ultra-wide angle lens
  • Bottom left Leica lens is the dedicated 52mm 8-megapixel telephoto lens (3x Telephoto 80mm, f/2.4, OIS)

GearDiary The Huawei Mate 20 Pro Deserves All of the Superlatives

The included TPU case properly covers all sides and corners of the phone with cut-outs present for the ports and rubber covers over the buttons; it isn’t fancy, but it works well and showcases the phone’s unique coloring.

So let’s look at some of the Mate 20 Pro’s features …

In-Screen Fingerprint Unlock

Sure, you can use a PIN number or face unlock, but that’s so 2017. In 2018, you can now touch your finger to the fingerprint shown on the screen, at which point the in-screen DPS (Dynamic Pressure Sensing) Technology fingerprint reader will cause the screen to light up as proper recognition occurs and unlocking commences. Back to the face unlock for a moment … the Mate 20 Pro uses a 3D depth-sensing camera, so when using face unlock things like a new beard, glasses, weird faces, or a hat won’t matter — the Mate 20 Pro will quickly recognize you and unlock itself. Whichever way you decide to secure your phone; it will just work.

GearDiary The Huawei Mate 20 Pro Deserves All of the Superlatives

The Camera

The Mate 20 Pro has a “thinking lens”, which is able to use AI to recognize and adapt to what you are pointing the camera at; Huawei says that at this time, the AI camera can recognize over 500 different types of scenes. By doing so, the camera can adjust the colors, brightness, and contrast “automatically and precisely” to give you your best shot. The main settings for the camera are Aperture, Night, Portrait, Photo, Video, Pro, and More; here’s a little bit of information about each:

Aperture: This mode adds a nice bokeh effect around the item you are focusing on; a slider will pop up to allow you to adjust the blur.

Night: Using an advanced AI Image stabilization, Night mode helps you “shoot blur-free and focused handheld photos in low-light. It also balances high-contrast scenes to present incredible images in every setting.”

Portrait: This setting is a lot of fun to play with, whether you are doing a selfie or using the rear camera. You can add effects to the photo, adjust the skin smoothing setting, thin your face, or add warmth to your subject’s skin as needed. Stage Lighting is probably my favorite setting, as it highlights the face and torso of your subject, plunging everything else into a total blackness that makes it look like a professional headshot.

Photo: While you can set the camera to take 40-megapixel photos, leaving it on the [4.3] 10MP setting allows you to take advantage of all of the lenses in conjunction. When you first point at an object, there will be a 1X at the bottom of the display. Tapping that or sliding your finger across the bottom of the screen will take you from 1X (a normal wide photo) to 3X (a nicely zoomed photo) to 5X (a higher zoom), and 0.6x ( a super wide zoom).

Video: The camera is able to use AI 4D to automatically recognize when to focus on a particular object. A new Cinema Mode is able to render effects onto your video in real-time. One of the cool new effects (AI Portrait Color) resembles the way Sin City was shot — where most of the scene is in black and white —  but the object you are focussing on is in color. When shooting at 720p, you have the option of applying beauty levels from 0 to 10 on your subjects using the front or back camera; shooting in 1080p FHD allows you to turn on the AI zoom which automatically adjusts the zoom level to keep your subject centered. Video effects include AI color, background blur, vintage, suspense, and fresh.

GearDiary The Huawei Mate 20 Pro Deserves All of the Superlatives

Pro: Pro allows you to manually adjust your ISO, S, EV, AF, white balance. Again, you can set the phone to take 40MP photos, but leaving it in 10MP allows you to get the benefit of all of the lenses. In this setting, you can also shoot in RAW.

More: More is where you will find the options for slow-mo, panorama, monochrome, AR lens, light painting (a cool effect that allows you to add traffic tails, create light graffiti, a silky water effect, and star trails), HDR, time-lapse, filters (there are 9 to choose from), 3D panorama, various watermarks (they can add location, temperature, and other stamps to your photos), a document scanner, underwater mode, Good Food mode (sharpens and brightens), and Download (where new skills will appear as they are released).

I hope that my description of all of the camera settings is making it clear that the Huawei Mate 20 Pro camera can go from point and shoot to ridiculously full-featured, but it is also ridiculously good.

Here’s are some photos that were taken while I was traveling in London and NYC; click any one to open the gallery, and once in, you can click the “view full size” option to see their detail.

The Leica Ultra-Wide Angle Lens does a great job of getting as much into the picture as possible, but it is also very useful for extreme close-up shots; you can get as close as 2.5cm from your subject.

GearDiary The Huawei Mate 20 Pro Deserves All of the Superlatives

The Mate 20 Pro excels at night shots, too.

GearDiary The Huawei Mate 20 Pro Deserves All of the Superlatives

Simply put, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro camera is one of the best cameras available on any current smartphone.

Using the Mate 20 Pro for Media

Let’s talk about using the Type-C port as a speaker for a moment. While it does save room and make for a very clean bottom edge on the phone, you will notice a little bit of sound muffling when a Type-C cable is plugged into the port if you are using the speaker to listen to audio; it’s not bad or super noticeable, just a little muffling. The front speaker is also used, so that does provide a bolstered stereo sound effect.

When watching videos (this is the new show, Bodyguard, on Netflix), the video is sharp, smooth, and simply gorgeous. The video doesn’t completely fill the screen, however; you can see that there is a bit of a larger border on the right side, which would usually be the bottom of the phone.

GearDiary The Huawei Mate 20 Pro Deserves All of the Superlatives

That bar can easily be removed by hitting full-screen mode, but you may get a warning that not all video is compatible.

GearDiary The Huawei Mate 20 Pro Deserves All of the Superlatives

The Battery

The Mate 20 Pro has a huge 4,200mAh battery that should easily last you all day long with heavy use. The Mate 20 Pro features Huawei’s latest 40W SuperCharge technology, which can charge the phone from 0-70% in just 30 minutes; the Mate 20 Pro also includes 15W wireless quick charging (which is currently double the industry standard). The Mate 20 Pro has one more charging trick up its sleeve, though: It can utilize wireless reverse charging, making the phone itself able to be used as a wireless charging pad to charge another wireless charging device.

Performance

The Mate 20 is the first phone to support LTE Cat 21 with speeds up to 1.4GB/second, and both Mate 20 devices are powered by Huawei’s best and fastest processor yet – the Kirin 980. Huawei says that the Kirin 980 “offers a 20% improvement when it comes to speed, and a 40% improvement when it comes to power efficiency.”

The Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro runs the Android Pie-based EMUI 9.0; EMUI 9.0 is more refined and intuitive, less complex, and easier to navigate — especially with one hand. Huawei says that the Mate 20 Pro’s system responsiveness is 47% faster than the Mate 10 Pro; starting an app is up to 51% faster, and apps in use are up to 42% smoother. If you are using a resource hogging app or game, you can enable Performance Mode which will likely drain your battery faster but will give you a boost of speed when needed. 

Performance Mode is activated by entering Settings, clicking on Battery, toggling Performance Mode on. You’ll likely want to toggle it back off after you’re done, though.

The good news is that if you want the best smartphone available anywhere, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro should be on your shortlist. The bad news is that it will not be released in the US. If you can find one, the price should be around €1,049.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro retails for €1,049 (~$1,189), and it is available directly from the manufacturer and from other retailers (outside the US).

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample

What I Like: Fast; Powerful; Long-lasting battery; Great design with no sharp edges; Gorgeous screen; Excellent battery life; Excellent camera; In-screen fingerprint reader; Fast and accurate facial recognition; Lots of bells and whistles to please the techies; IP68 water and dust resistance; Fast wireless charging capable

What Needs Improvement: Doesn’t use a standard microSD memory card; The bottom speaker is also the USB Type-C port, so sound may muffle a bit if the cable is plugged in; It’s expensive and hard to find if you are in the US


About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
I've had a fascination with all types of gadgets and gizmos since I was a child, beginning with the toy robot that my grandmother gave my brother - which I promptly "relieved him of" in 1973. I'm a self-professed gadget magpie. I can't tell you how everything works, but I'm known world-wide for using a product until I have a full understanding of what it does, what its limitations are, and if it excels in any given area — or not.