Techgarage

Huawei Mate20 Pro Review: A Ton of Features make this Phone a Winner

by Pascal Landolt 01/13/2019

Imagine a smartphone battery so big that you wouldn’t know what to do with it – so big, you could share its battery power with your friends because there was still so much juice left at the end of the day. Up to now, we were happy if the battery lasted until the next chance to charge it.

With the Mate 20 Pro, Huawei has shown its confidence regarding battery life: thanks to what Huawei calls a “reverse wireless charging” function, this smartphone can also act as a charging pad for other devices. But that’s just one of the many features the manufacturer has built into its current top smartphone.

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Over the past few months, as we tested the Huawei Mate 20 Pro in daily life, some features proved extremely valuable while others struck us as needing to go back to Huawei’s design board for improvement. So just how good a daily companion does the Huawei Mate 20 Pro make for you to take on the fresh new year 2019?

Huawei Mate 20 Pro – Best Features

Huawei Mate 20 Pro Front

Currently number two on the global cell phone market, Huawei wants to enter its “Mate” series in the race for the Android throne. While Huawei’s P20 Pro, introduced in the spring with designer colors and the novelty of three camera lenses, was convincing mainly in the lifestyle domain, the Mate 20 Pro now also aims to satisfy power users.

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These features set the Huawei Mate 20 Pro apart from most other phones currently available:

– Large 6.4-inch curved AMOLED screen
– Fast charging via USB-C: 70 percent in 30 minutes
– Latest Kirin 980 chip with neural processing unit (NPU)
– Triple camera with macro function
– Fingerprint scanner in display

The Screen – Impressive, with a Mind of Its Own

With the Mate 20 Pro’s generous AMOLED screen at 6.4 inches and a resolution of 3120 x 1440 pixels, photos and videos practically light up, and reading website text is easy. But the gently curved edges still don’t make up for the prominent black bar at the bottom of the screen. The same is true of the notch that frames the Mate 20 Pro’s selfie camera and facial unlock technology. As we all know, the notch is “en vogue” with many smartphone manufacturers right now and should be considered a temporary fad, but I’m really excited for it to be replaced by a more subtle design choice soon.

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The other thing that takes some getting used to is the device’s 19.5:9 aspect ratio, which results in the screen being rather narrow and long. This makes it hard to type messages using two thumbs since the keyboard is pretty hemmed in. In spite of that, the Mate 20 Pro’s screen size allows for a particularly good fit for your hand.

There’s one more point that we need to discuss on this topic: The Mate 20 Pro actively adapts the screen colors to the content and also dims some content without the user being able to do anything about it. So a white website is quickly tweaked to look grayish, probably to save on battery life. This effect is particularly noticeable when you close an app and the OLED display adapts to the home screen again. Oh, yes – and if you’d rather not use this function, you have to turn off the brightness auto-adjustment feature every time you reboot the device. It’s like your smartphone is constantly imposing its own will onto you.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro Side red button

The Battery – Big enough to Share

On to the Mate 20 Pro’s party trick: with this cell phone, the power flows both ways. The inductive rear panel allows the Mate 20 Pro to charge wirelessly with up to 15 watts of charging power. But this way, it can also provide energy to other devices, making it a Qi charging pad when on the road. The Mate 20 Pro stores its energy in its built-in rechargeable battery with 4200 milliampère-hour (mAh) capacity.

This feature is one that you’ll rarely resort to in your everyday life. Transmitting your power to other smartphones is a very slow process and is also coupled with additional charging losses. But for recharging smaller gadgets like wireless headphones, the battery sharing feature makes perfect sense.

Assuming you keep all the battery capacity for yourself, Huawei promises you enough power for two days of intensive use. That’s not always possible to reproduce in practice, but it’s reassuring to know that even after a long day, you can still make it home with your battery at more than 40 percent. During intervals in the socket, a 40-watt charger ensures fast charging via USB-C port – your battery should be back to two-thirds of its capacity within half an hour.

Kirin 980 – What Does the New Processor Deliver?

The Kirin 980 chip is an in-house development by Huawei and should be faster than the competition in a lot of categories. Specifically, the new system on a chip (SoC) features a 7-nanometer design and built-in artificial intelligence processor, the so-called neural processing unit (NPU).

Also noteworthy is the chip that’s responsible for connecting to a mobile network that supports LTE Cat 21. That means download speeds of up to 1.4 gigabits per second, which according to Huawei is enough to stream a video in 4K.

Camera – Triple Setup with Artificial Intelligence

Huawei Mate 20 Pro Back Black

So far, the main use for the artificial intelligence provided by the Kirin 980 processor has been for the images taken by the Mate 20 Pro with a triple setup of Leica lenses. The chip constantly analyzes the type of object in the image and optimizes the individual components. For example, the AI computing power will optimize snapshots taken in difficult light.

The first lens is for wide-angle shots and the second for telephoto zoom shots, while the third is an ultra wide angle lens that now makes it possible to take macro photos as close as 2.5 centimeters away. That means you should be able to approach flowers, butterflies, or other tiny objects and still get sharp shots.

No less impressive is the 3X optical zoom, which can be magnified digitally to 5X. The macro lens also yields wide-angle landscape shots with its 0.6X zoom.

Security – A Ton of Scanners

Users have lots of ways to protect their Mate 20 Pro from unauthorized access. One of these is a fingerprint scanner invisibly installed under the display glass. As an option, users can also identify themselves through a password/pin or face recognition. If you want, you can also store your passwords in the central, secure password vault, a kind of digital safe.

In day-to-day life, the fingerprint scanner in the display has proved to be an especially quick and efficient way of unlocking the phone. Gone are the days of doing finger acrobatics to find the hidden surface on the back and avoid smudging the camera lens at the same time. Definitely a feature that could and should be used by other manufacturers and models in the future, even if it doesn’t yet always function flawlessly.

Other safety and security features are equally commendable. The Mate 20 Pro is protected from water and dust in accordance with the IP68 standard. And to ensure that important data remains secure if the device is damaged, this cell phone also has comprehensive cloud-based backup options.

It Could Be Better Still

Huawei Mate 20 Pro USB C

Up to now, the specs for the Huawei Mate 20 Pro read like a checklist of lots of wishes fulfilled. But we wouldn’t be Techgarage if we didn’t have a couple of suggestions for improvement by the Huawei developers.

It’s possible to upgrade the generous amount of built-in memory at 256 gigabytes (GB), although not with a conventional micro SD card but only with Huawei’s own new card format, termed “nanoSD.” Huawei cites the reason as being the need for extra-fast memory, and for users, this has been a needlessly expensive drawback. In the meantime, though, microSD cards with fast data transfer rates have become available. Still, Huawei is not alone in its decision: larger technology manufacturers in particular often resort to tricks involving expensive accessories.

Fans of the original, “pure” Android experience will also be disappointed in the Mate 20 Pro. As before, Huawei pushes its own EMUI interface on Google’s operating system. This is neither visually attractive nor particularly efficient.

And then there’s the overall design of the Mate 20 Pro. While the device has been carefully crafted and gives a high-quality impression in your hand, the combination of a notch, a wide edge at the bottom of the screen, and curved side edges is questionable. It comes across as neither Innovative nor fresh. A smartphone that’s convincing on so many levels should also have a unique appearance, and not look like it took all the questionable design choices from its competitors and unified them in one device.

What about the “Non-Pro” Mate 20?

The “non-pro” version of the Mate 20 stands somewhat in the shadow of the Mate 20 Pro. Compared with the Pro model, the screen of the Huawei Mate 20 has a diagonal of 6.5 inches, forgoes the curved edges, and uses an IPS LCD screen instead of an OLED display. In an initial, brief hands-on test, we found ourselves convinced by the much smaller notch and an aspect ratio that gives the screen a larger appearance. This makes the Mate 20 the real insider tip among Huawei’s new models. In a next step, we’ll be taking a closer look at this model too.

Bottom Line – Huawei’s Giant Strides

It’s amazing how quickly Huawei has been moving on the smartphone market. Back in the summer of 2018, I got to test – at the time, still writing for Bluewin – the exclusive CHF 2’000 Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS cell phone, and I rated it “one of the best smartphones yet” because of its advanced features. Now, just a few months later, those same features such as the in-screen fingerprint scanner, luminous OLED display, and high-quality workmanship are already present in the mainstream model.

The few flaws, some of them on the software side, are also unlikely to tarnish the overall picture of the Mate 20 Pro, thus earning Huawei’s current Mate model a top-tier place among Android smartphones.

For the price of CHF 999 for the Mate 20 Pro and CHF 899 for the Mate 20, users get an Android phone that provides a lot. It’s refreshing that Huawei isn’t stingy with features but instead is trying here to combine as many as possible in one device.

Pascal Landolt

Pascal Landolt

Pascal is a Tech Enthusiast and passionate Storyteller – and combines those two passions as Co-Founder and Editor at Techgarage. He currently lives in Zug, but actually calls the whole world his home.

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