07/12/2018 3:22 PM IST | Updated 14/12/2018 11:07 AM IST

Huawei Mate 20 Pro Review: A True Premium Flagship Phone

Despite the stiff competition at the premium end of the market from Apple, Samsung, and OnePlus, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro manages to stand out with next-gen features.

After lurking in the shadows in the smartphone market over the past several years, instead letting its Honor brand hog the limelight, Huawei has come out strong this year and nowhere is it more evident than its latest Mate 20 Pro flagship. Packing stellar hardware and a bunch of next-gen features into a cohesive, downright gorgeous unit, the Mate 20 Pro delivers a complete package and easily goes head-to-head with the Note 9, the Pixel 3 XL and the iPhones XS, showing them a thing or two in the process. This is Huawei's confident, pull-no-punches entry into the premium smartphone space and if you're on the lookout for a 2018 flagship, it would be a travesty not to consider this one strongly.

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Mate 20 Pro Pros

Design: It may arrive in an almost nondescript black box with some Leica branding, but the Mate 20 Pro makes one of the best first impressions the moment it's out. The design is somewhat reminiscent of the S9 series, with the precision curved glass melding seamlessly into the phone's thin metallic frame and a rear panel on the 'Twilight' variant that blends blue and black into a stunning looking color gradient. Whether you pick the Twilight or textured Emerald Green (less of a fingerprint magnet), the Mate 20 Pro is an incredible looking phone, with the look made even more distinctive courtesy the triple camera setup in the square shaped module on the rear. What's even more striking is that the phone manages its rather handy dimensions while still packing in a large 4200mAh battery.

Tushar Kanwar
The phone has a very unusual camera layout and a striking color.

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Display: The Mate 20 Pro offers a massive 6.39-inch display packing a suitably high 1440x3120-pixel QHD+ resolution. The OLED panel means that blacks are inky black and colors are punchy, and there's a limited feature always-on mode. The notch isn't particularly deep, but it is wide to accommodate the sensors for the infrared-based 3D face unlock, which works plenty fast no matter how well your face is lit. There's also an in-display fingerprint sensor, which works fairly well albeit with the mild but discernible lag each time you use it. At least the face unlock is fast, so you don't really need the fingerprint scanner most of the time.

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Camera: Huawei's switched out the monochrome lens for a much more useful wide-angle 20MP f/2.2 camera alongside the 40MP f/1.8 sensor and an 8MP f/2.4 3x optical zoom camera. The primary shooter combines four pixels into one and shoots images that are rich in detail and spot on in terms of exposure. Some may like the Master AI which auto detects scenes and switches modes/colors accordingly but it was still a bit too aggressive for my liking.

Tushar Kanwar
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is able to take good looking photos even when the lighting isn't ideal.

The wide-angle setup is one of the best implementations of a wide-angle shooter and has a side benefit of allowing super-up-close macros as well. Given sufficient light, the telephoto sensor produces surprisingly detailed and clear images and even goes all the way to a hybrid 5x zoom without adding in much noise or losing too much detail. Even when the sun goes down, the Night Mode performs admirably, maybe not as freakishly brilliant as the Pixel 3's but a close second. If anything, the 24MP selfie camera disappointed in low light, lacking in sharpness and clarity.

Tushar Kanwar
The Mate 20 Pro's ultra-wide mode opens up a scene.
Tushar Kanwar
The Mate 20 Pro lets you go from ultra-wide to normal to telephoto, affording a huge 3X optical zoom.

Performance: The Mate 20 Pro is the first phone with Huawei's 7-nanometer Kirin 980 SoC which, when mated with the 6GB memory (plus 128GB storage), handles multitasking and heavy games with ease, even at the highest settings. Benchmarks reveal numbers above the Snapdragon 845 and lower than Apple's A12 Bionic, but what really matters is that you get uncompromised performance for the money. Where the Mate 20 Pro pulls ahead is its remarkable battery performance, which lasts well past a full day of heavy use on a single charge on maxed out performance settings (display set to QHD+, Performance Mode in battery settings). It tops up equally impressively with the bundled charger – the Super Charge feature takes the battery from 0 to full in only an hour and 10 minutes. Interestingly, the phone can act as a wireless charger itself and charge any Qi compatible device off the back of this phone.

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Mate 20 Pro Cons

Design Quirks: As much as Huawei's gotten right with the design, the Mate 20 Pro has its share of design oddities. The main speaker, for instance, sits inside the USB Type-C port so the sound is mildly muffled when you're charging the phone. The dual-SIM tray is rather unique as well – it accommodates 2 Nano SIMs or a single Nano SIM and a new 'Nano Memory' card on the other side – and while pushing new standards is all very well, Huawei could certainly have included one in the box since it isn't easily available to begin with.

Tushar Kanwar
The phone's screen is a selling point, although there are a few strange quirks in the overall design.

EMUI: Huawei has made some rather big strides in EMUI 9.0 (based on Android 9.0 Pie), decluttering the overly complex menus and improving the responsiveness across the board. Even so, it’s still in need of refinement around the gestures and the unnecessarily complicated camera UI, not to mention some of the first-party app icons are still hungover from the time when EMUI was particularly iOS inspired.


Huawei Mate 20 Pro Specs

Chip: 8 cores 2.6 GHz Huawei HiSilicon KIRIN 980

Memory: 6GB

Storage: 128GB

Display: 6.39 inches, 538 ppi, OLED

Camera: 40 MP primary, 20 MP ultrawide and 8MP telephoto Rear Camera, 24 MP Front Camera

Battery: 4200 mAh with Super Charge 2.0 and USB Type-C v3.0 support