The Huawei P20 Pro has not only proved that it can compete with the big boy competition from Apple and Samsung, but it can beat them in many ways. Three cameras really are better.
Huawei has recently establish itself in the premium market with the likes of the Mate 10 Pro, moving up from the previous value smartphones. They were of high quality, and had all the features you’d expect from an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S. But not quite feeling as luxurious as the higher end smartphones.
The P20 Pro has a 6.1in full HD+ OLED screen, with tiny bezels rivalling Apple’s iPhone X and Samsung’s Galaxy S9+. It also has a notch in the top, there is a cutout in the screen that houses a 24-megapixel front-facing camera, the earpiece speaker and various sensors.
The screen is bright and colourful, although not quite as pixel dense as rivals, and text is not quite as pin-sharp when viewed side-by-side. It’s a beautiful display, but not quite as good as the Samsung or Apple offerings.
Huawei’s fingerprint scanner unlocks the phone and authenticates payments very quickly indeed.
Huawei has kept its best-in-class fingerprint scanner on the front, squeezed into an oval shape at the bottom of the screen. The back is glass with curved edges that blend neatly into the rounded and polished metal band around the sides. The camera modules stick out the back similar to an iPhone X.
At 7.8mm thick and 180g in weight, the P20 Pro feels thin with and luxurious. Matching up well to the competition.
The P20 Pro is also water resistant to IP67 standards, meaning up to 1m of water for up to 30 minutes – so it will cope with the accidental dip in the toilet or bath.
Huawei P20 Pro: Specifications
- Screen: 6.1in FHD+ OLED (407ppi)
- Processor: octa-core Huawei Kirin 970
- RAM: 6GB of RAM
- Storage: 128GB
- Operating system: EMUI 8.1 based on Android 8.1 Oreo
- Camera: Triple rear camera 40MP colour, 20MP monochrome, 8MP telephoto, 24MP front-facing camera
- Connectivity: LTE, Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2 and GPS (dual-sim available in some regions)
- Dimensions: 155 x 73.9 x 7.8 mm
- Weight: 180g
Huawei P20 Pro: Charging ability
The P20 Pro fast-charges via its USB-C port, which is flanked by speakers.
The P20 Pro has the same processor and memory configuration as the Mate 10 Pro – Huawei’s own Kirin 970 octo-core processor and its neural network processing unit – and as such is as fast and powerful as the earlier handset, keeping up with its main rivals.
The P20 Pro lasts significantly longer than both Apple and Samsung’s best between charges. The P20 Pro consistently lasted over 40 hours on a single charge without having to activate any power saving features. That was with two sims in it, using the smartphone as a primary device, browsing and using apps for six hours a day with hundreds of push emails and messages, an hour or so of watching Amazon prime, navigating in Google maps here and there, shooting around 25 photos and listening to about four hours of music via Bluetooth headphones.
There’s no wireless charging, but the P20 Pro charges pretty fast using the supplied power adapter and USB-C cable, also there is no headphone socket included.
Huawei P20 Pro: EMUI 8.1 Software
EMUI 8.1 is Huawei’s best Android experience yet, with lots of customisation options.
The P20 Pro runs Huawei’s modified version of Android called EMUI 8.1, based on Android Oreo 8.1, it's up to the minute tech.
It is similar to EMUI 8 running on the Mate 10 Pro – there is a Google Feed on the home screen and it offers the option to have an app drawer or force every app to have an icon on the home screen very much like Apple’s iOS.
Various power-saving features are built in, including a system to keep rogue apps from destroying your battery life. Huawei’s ultra power-saving mode can significantly extend the battery life by disabling functions and limiting the number of apps you can use, if you really need it to.
Notifications and other icons easily fit either side of the notch in the screen viewed in the status bar, which by default is either transparent or colour-matched to the content on screen.
The P20 Pro has a notch in the top of the screen containing the front-facing camera, earpiece speaker and sensors.
The big difference between the approach Huawei has used v that of Apple for the iPhone X is that when content or apps are displayed on the screen the area either side of the notch is blocked off so that it doesn’t intrude into what’s on-screen.
Huawei P20 Pro: Camera
The P20 Pro is the first smartphone to three cameras on the back, all working in conjunction to provide a multi-layered camera experience.
The primary camera is a large, 40-megapixel colour camera with an f1.8 lens, along with a 20-megapixel monochrome camera with an f1.6 lens and an eight megapixel telephoto camera with an f2.4 lens.
The system automatically uses a combines the cameras on the back to produce each shot. The monochrome camera adds extra light, detail and depth information, while the telephoto camera increases the zoom magnification.
The combination produces excellent results. In good light it shoots images that are simply stunning. In low light the P20 Pro works well too, routinely producing better images than its rivals.
But it is the hybrid zoom that really sets the P20 Pro apart. Many dual-camera smartphones offer up to a 2x zoom. However, the Huawei P20 Pro offers up to 5x hybrid zoom, with steps all the way up and a button to switch between 1x, 3x and 5x zoom. Images shot at 3x and 5x zoom are very good too.
The P20 Pro has the best hybrid zoom in todays market.
There are plenty of modes to play with, including portrait and aperture modes, a monochrome mode that uses the dedicated camera, and an excellent long exposure night mode, which works very well even when handheld.
The P20 Pro also captures very good video, including up to 960fps slow motion, and has a “Pro” mode with plenty of settings to for the keen photographers to delve into, RAW capture is also available.
The camera shoots 10-megapixel images by default, but you can go up to the full 40-megapixel size, which is an amazing feature on a smartphone.
Huawei’s built-in camera AI performs real-time object recognition to detect the subject and switch to the appropriate mode or scene. In most circumstances it does an excellent job, but occasionally it would get caught between scenes, such as “leaves” and “bark” when trying to shoot a large tree in average light.
The front-facing selfie camera also works well, producing well detailed and lit shots, you can opt for beautification effects, such as the face-shaping “perfect selfie” mode.
Huawei P20 Pro: Overall
- The back of the phone is beautifully smooth and rounded in the hand
- The P20 Pro popped up a message to say it would shut down in 30 seconds when the battery hit around 2%, so best be quick to charge it
- Huawei claims its built-in AI will keep the P20 Pro running as fast on day 365 as it does on day one, time will tell
- Face recognition on the P20 Pro is super quick
- The twilight colour option is beautiful and really stands out against the competition
- 4G performance is a cut above, holding onto a usable LTE signal in places most other devices struggle to connect
- Bluetooth connectivity to a set of wireless earbuds didn't quite match the standards of the Samsung Galaxy S9+
- The bottom stereo speakers are surprisingly good for a smartphone
- It has Dolby Atmos, but unfortunately Bluetooth headphones aren’t supported
Huawei P20 Pro: Price and competition
The Huawei P20 Pro costs £799 at Amazon with 128GB of storage.
It measures well to the competition, the 6in Huawei Mate 10 Pro with 128GB costs £699, the 6.3in Samsung Galaxy Note 8 with 64GB of storage costs £869, the 6.2in Samsung Galaxy S9+ costs £869 with 128GB of storage, the 6in Google Pixel 2 XL with 64GB costs £799, the 6in Honor 10 View with 128GB costs £450, and the 5.8in iPhone X with 64GB costs £999.
Huawei P20 Pro: Verdict
With the P20 Pro Huawei has produced a smartphone that I would recommend over competitors. While not cheap at £799, in some ways you get a better experience than with its rivals.
But the P20 Pro is genuine value for money; it is a direct attempt to outdo the big boy competition at the top-end of the smartphone market. The Mate 10 Pro was great, but Huawei has produces a real winner with the P20 Pro.
It’s a fantastic-looking phone that feels better than rivals in the hand, with superior battery life and has a one of the best cameras available, offering useful features that others can’t match.
There’s no wireless charging, no headphone socket, EMUI can be a bit buggy and security updates can be a little hit and miss. But it’s refreshing to see a company genuinely competing with Apple and Samsung at the high end of the market.
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