These are the best Android phones for power users

A photo of a man using the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, one of the best phones for power users.

Smartphones are incredibly useful tools no matter which way you look at them, packing plenty of features into a compact form factor. But what if you specifically need a device for productivity purposes? Or maybe you need a Swiss Army Knife that offers a feature for every eventuality?

There are plenty of Android phones for power users out there, so here are the devices you should be adding to your wishlist.


Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Samsung Experience Homescreen

Our 2018 Best of Android smartphone of the year is also one of the best Android phones for power users too, and there are plenty of reasons why.

The integrated S-Pen stylus enables some nifty functionality, such as controlling your presentations (if your phone is connected to an external screen) and jotting down notes. The former is a pretty handy use-case too, reducing the need to lug your laptop to work for that pitch meeting.

Editor’s Pick

The Galaxy Note 9 also offers a 4,000mAh battery that should give you plenty of juice for the day (with some to spare). It also marks the biggest battery in the Note range yet, while trouncing the Galaxy S9 Plus.

Core specs are cutting-edge too, offering a Snapdragon 845 or Exynos 9810 chipset, 6GB or 8GB of RAM, 128GB or 512GB (!) of expandable storage, and a 6.4-inch 1440p OLED screen. Toss in IP68 water resistance, a headphone jack, and wireless charging, and you’ve got one of the best flagships of the year. Just make sure you look around for a good deal, because the device starts at $999.


Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro took an “everything and the kitchen sink” approach, cramming almost every imaginable feature into its frame (save for a 3.5mm port). The biggest highlights are the triple rear camera setup (ultra wide, normal, telephoto), reverse wireless charging, and an in-display fingerprint sensor, but it also packs a few more useful features.

The 4,200mAh battery is probably the largest you’ll find in a mainstream flagship phone today, giving you a day and a half to two days of usage. But it also packs the fastest charging you’ll see, period, going from zero to 70 percent in just 30 minutes. So if you over-slept or simply don’t have time to fully charge your phone, it’ll work particularly well.

The biggest downside is that the phone ordinarily starts at 1,049 euros (~$1,217), making it $200 more expensive than Samsung’s flagship phablet. The lack of a headphone jack is also disappointing, but it’s tough to argue that you aren’t getting one of the better phones for power users and productivity in general.


Google Pixel 3

Google’s latest phone doesn’t have the biggest battery, the most storage, or the most cameras, but it has one massive advantage over Huawei and Samsung’s phones. Yep, you’ll be getting stock Android as well as the latest and greatest updates.

Read: Here are the best smartphones running stock Android

Even if you don’t care for pure Android, it’s tough to argue with Google’s commitment to feature and security updates. The company generally commits to two years of feature updates, and three years of security patches. The latter should provide for some peace of mind if you need a (figuratively) bullet-proof phone in your line of work.

But the Pixel 3 series also stands out thanks to its camera experience, offering a 12MP single rear camera and a dual-camera pairing up front. The Mountain View company’s photography efforts also earned it a gong in our best of Android awards.


OnePlus 6T

OyxgenOS Android Skin

OnePlus had a stellar 2018, and this is in large part due to the excellent critical and commercial reception to the OnePlus 6T. The phone definitely makes a few compromises compared to the more expensive devices on the list, but it’s tough to argue against its inclusion nonetheless.

The OnePlus 6T offers a speedy Snapdragon 845 chipset, 6GB to 8GB of RAM, and 128GB to 256GB of storage. This puts it on similar footing to the OnePlus 6, but the brand has also tossed in an in-display fingerprint sensor and a 3,700mAh battery (compared to the older phone’s 3,300mAh pack). 

But one of the best things about the phone is its OxygenOS skin, offering a feature-filled yet lightweight take on Android. Toss in the company’s commitment to updates and the developer community, and you’ve got another phone worth adding to the list.


BlackBerry Key2

blackberry key2 held in hand

Was there ever any doubt that the BlackBerry Key2 would make the list? TCL’s 2018 device cracks a nod based purely on the fact that it has a QWERTY keypad — a rarity in this day and age. Sure, virtual keyboards are often faster for many people, but the ability to assign apps to specific keys is pretty smart.

The phone also has a dedicated shortcut key (be it for the camera shutter, Play Music or Google Assistant), LG-style system profiles that change your settings depending on location, and a 3,500mAh battery that keeps on chugging. In fact, reviewers Jimmy Westenberg and David Imel both said they averaged between five and seven hours of screen-on time, while Jimmy said he’d regularly end the day with 40 percent capacity remaining.

Now if you consider a power user to be someone who needs the fastest, the Blackberry Key2 obviously doesn’t hold its own as well in this department. The addition of a mid-weight Snapdragon 660 chipset, 6GB of RAM, and 64GB to 128GB of expandable storage makes for a big improvement over the KeyOne‘s budget specs. But it’s far from a performance beast. Still, if your definition of a power user is someone who lives on his or her phone and needs it to fuel their productivity, the Key2 is hard to beat. 


Do you know of any other great phones for power users? Give us your picks in the comments! 

Three months with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro: Still worth the money

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is certainly one of the most popular flagship phones of 2018, and it isn’t hard to see why, thanks to its stacked spec sheet.

We were pretty happy with the phone in our original Huawei Mate 20 Pro review back in October, but how does the phone hold up to real-world usage? Well, I ended up buying one shortly after release, and here are my thoughts after using it since then as my daily driver.

For this real life Huawei Mate 20 Pro review I used the single-SIM (LYA-L09) model in Twilight running on the Cell C network in South Africa, packing 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It’s running EMUI 9.0.0 with build number 9.0.0.171 (C316E11R1P16) and the December 2018 security patch.

Hardware

The twilight back of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.

The good

The Mate 20 Pro’s overall design is still aesthetically pleasing after all this time — at least when it’s out of my flip case. Between the curved OLED screen, relatively thin form factor, and the Twilight glass back, it certainly feels like a premium device. I would’ve loved to see the hyper-optical pattern back here, with its neat texture and oleophobic nature. Speaking of oleophobic, the Twilight back definitely attracts prints, but keeping it in a cover is a simple solution.

Since I started using the Mate 20 Pro, I’ve dropped it a couple of times, but always while using the flip case. Thankfully, the phone doesn’t look worse for wear for the most part. I’ve also taken the phone into the pool several times for a few selfies (don’t judge) and it hasn’t shown any signs of trouble. So it doesn’t seem fragile if you take the proper precautions.

The bad

Durability is pretty solid then, but I have noticed that a super-slim rubber lining of sorts (between the display and bottom frame) has appeared and received some wear in the bottom left corner. I’m not sure if this lining is related to water resistance, the display, or something else, but it’s definitely odd. For what it’s worth, I only noticed it when shooting the linked photo.

Editor’s Pick

The Mate 20 Pro’s notch was one of the dominant design decisions back at launch, and it felt out of date even back then. I’ve hidden the notch since I received the phone, and the only time I see it briefly is when swiping down the notification shade. However, the addition of 3D face unlock means even a “removable” notch is a small price to pay. I enabled the notch at the time of writing this Mate 20 Pro review for the fun of it, and all I can say is I’m sure glad I can hide it.

Aside from the notch, I also shared the feelings of our own Bogdan Petrovan in his original Mate 20 Pro review on the power and volume keys being too close together. My initial time with the phone saw me accidentally taking screenshots (or hitting volume) when I meant to press the power button. Fortunately, I’ve adapted pretty well since then, and haven’t given it a second thought.

The ugly

Something I didn’t get used to, however, is the lack of a 3.5mm port. I would usually switch between listening to stuff on my work laptop and the phone, but the constant dongle juggling made me think it was only a matter of time until I lost the adapter. Since USB-C is a mess right now, you’re better off going with Bluetooth or using 3.5mm-equipped headphones via the dongle.

Software and performance

image of huawei mate 20 pro review unit in hand

The good

Performance is one of the biggest factors to look out for in a longer term review, as the phone’s storage tends to get clogged up. The Mate 20 Pro still feels just as fast as the day I received it. Whether you’re flicking through home screens, hitting the home button during a game, or scrolling in Chrome, I never really saw any jerkiness or slowdown. The same applies to games, as Hitman Sniper, Nascar Heat Mobile, and PUBG all turned in smooth performance.

This speed extends to 3D Face Unlock, which is still extremely fast and accurate in almost every condition. Just make sure to toggle the setting that requires eye contact to unlock the phone, so people can’t unlock your phone by pointing it at your face while you sleep.

Read: 10 features from other platforms/ROMs/skins we want in stock Android

EMUI itself tends to get a lot of hate from Android enthusiasts due to Huawei practically tweaking everything. It’s been toned down lately, and the Mate 20 Pro’s skin isn’t nearly as offensive it used to be. Between the app drawer toggle and Google feed, you should actually feel at home if you’re coming from a Western brand. It’s got handy features like scrolling screenshots, app and file locker integration, screen recording, a dark theme, and a Samsung-style password vault.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has certainly enjoyed software support too. I’ve received at least two significant updates since launch. The first update delivered AI video filters and AI Zoom, while the second offered improved photo quality and biometric authentication. My unit still doesn’t have updates like the one with a dedicated super macro mode, but I hope my network catches up soon.

The bad

I occasionally noticed Chrome reloading after a while, as I juggled about half a dozen apps in the recents menu. It never occurred often enough to be an inconvenience, let alone a major annoyance, but it’s not something a power user would expect from a flagship with 6GB to 10GB RAM.

What’s more annoying is face unlock seems to occasionally have a weird glitch where it takes me to the lock screen, even when I’ve set it to immediately unlock the phone. It doesn’t happen even 10 percent of the time — maybe once a week . Hopefully Huawei knows about this, because I feel like I’m questioning my sanity trying to reproduce the issue.

Huawei has tweaked the behavior of the recents menu, and it takes some getting used to.

EMUI also has a weird quirk when multitasking. Hitting the recents button doesn’t only minimize the app you’re currently in. Instead, the current app gets minimized and the phone automatically puts the previously used app in the center (rather than the current one). If you’re in the gallery, then launch WhatsApp, then hit the recents key, the recents menu will put the gallery front and center. It was very jarring at first, but it’s interesting and I’ve mostly gotten used to it. However, the lack of a toggle for this behavior is disappointing, especially if you’re coming from, say, any other Android phone.

Camera

The back of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, showing a camera bump.

The good

One of the biggest reasons to get the Mate 20 Pro is its versatile triple rear camera setup, which offers a camera for each situation. Being able to go wide or get a closer shot is certainly extremely handy.

Photos taken by the Mate 20 Pro deliver plenty of dynamic range, vibrant colors and a healthy level of resolvable detail in most conditions. Use the standard camera at night and you’ll get pleasant results — even before you switch to the light-sucking Night mode.








The other two rear cameras are pretty great during the day as well. The phone’s zoom capabilities allows you to get Instagram-worthy shots you might not get on other phones, thanks to the 3x zoom factor (as opposed two 2x on standard telephoto cameras) and the 5x hybrid zoom option. Meanwhile, the ultra wide angle rear camera can deliver some great, vibrant daytime results too. You’ll want this if you’re a keen traveller (or if you want an eye-catching perspective in general).

Switching to the front, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s selfie camera often surprised me with its dynamic range. The so-called AI HDR feature meant it coped very well in backlit scenes like sunsets.

The bad

Aside from the aforementioned dynamic range, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s 24MP front-facing camera isn’t particularly great. Images can be pretty washed out during the day, and a healthy level of detail isn’t always guaranteed. You can get some bright shots at night, but I often found low-light selfies lacked detail (being blurry or having that smeared effect). You can still get decent results when the sun goes down, but you’ll need to take plenty of shots to get that one keeper. The Pixel 3 series this is not.

Moving to the rear, the standard camera is an excellent performer when the light goes down, but ultra-wide and zoomed in results are noticeably worse. This isn’t unexpected, but you will definitely see noise and a lack of detail when zooming in or going wide at night. That isn’t to say that you can’t get some pleasant shots in these situations, but you’ll want to take a shot with the standard camera too. Trying night mode with these cameras will usually deliver a brighter shot, but also reveals a ton of noise.

Editor’s Pick

Sticking with the rear, Huawei’s underwater mode is a neat but flawed addition. The mode lets users take photos in a pool with your volume keys, and locks down the screen to prevent water-based interference. It doesn’t do a perfect job keeping the screen locked, but a bigger problem is the inability to use the other cameras or tweak video quality settings. It works well enough for a day in the pool nonetheless, but it could’ve been so much more.

The final minor complaint I have with Huawei’s camera is its Master AI mode. It’s generally reliable and delivers some helpful prompts, but it’s high time the company gives us more granular control over the mode. The ability to toggle what the mode suggests, as opposed to simply turning it off, would go a long way to catering to photographers of every skill level.

The ugly

The company added an AI Zoom feature for video after launch, and it didn’t take long for me to realize it’s pretty pointless. I used it to film friends at a skate park and it often lost track of the subject. This seems to be a distance-related issue, as it often lost the subject when they moved away from the camera. Still, you’re better off controlling the zoom yourself — the automatic option can be more trouble than it’s worth.

Read: Team AA — What would we like to see from smartphone cameras in 2019?

Huawei also promised 3D scanning capabilities after launch, via a 3D Live Maker app. Unfortunately, it’s awful beyond words. The app calls for you to place the object on a table and then hold the phone in landscape orientation, at 45 degrees above the object. Once you’ve managed to convince the app everything is in order, you can click the button to start scanning. Unfortunately, the scanning process is incredibly buggy (with constant flickering), and the progress bar doesn’t seem to progress very far. I’ve given it a go several times and still haven’t finished a single scan.

In-display fingerprint sensor

The good

Huawei’s latest take on in-display scanning is definitely faster than other devices I’ve tried (namely the Mate RS and Vivo V11 Pro). It’s also quite accurate once you get a hang of the sensor’s location. I seldom had issues with my fingers going unrecognized.

The bad

The in-display fingerprint sensor is clearly less convenient than the traditional rear scanners of earlier devices. Between the lack of tactile feedback, the small focus area and the slightly slow nature, it’s definitely still early days for the tech.

I’ve largely grown accustomed to it, much like how I got used to the Galaxy S8‘s weird scanner placement. If you gave me a Mate 20 Pro with a standard rear scanner (the Mate 20 X, I guess?), I’d go after that in a jiffy.

Battery life

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro charger.

The Huawei SuperCharge adapter, included with every Mate 20 Pro, delivers some ridiculously fast charging speeds.

The good

Bogdan felt that the battery experience was the real selling point in his Huawei Mate 20 Pro review, and I agree. At 4,200mAh, the Mate 20 Pro beats most of its arch-rivals in sheer capacity.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro generally has no problem lasting for a day and a half.

Real-world endurance is to be commended as well, as six hours of screen-on time is usually the bare minimum I’d get (with auto-brightness and a dark theme). However, more conservative usage (i.e. less YouTube and gaming) generally put me past the seven hour barrier. To give you a better idea of typical usage, the phone generally has no problem lasting a day and a half. In fact, I often got away with charging my device mid-morning as I never doubted that it would be off come alarm-time.

Speaking of charging, the addition of 40 watt fast charging fills up the battery from empty in just over an hour. You can reach 70 percent juice in just 30 minutes. I never really felt anxious about needing to leave the house soon and with the battery at 40 or 50 percent.

The bad

Huawei decided to use the USB-C port for one of the speakers, pumping out audio from this port. It’s a pretty interesting move, but muffles audio when charging. The earpiece speaker does a great job picking up the slack, but you’ll definitely notice the reduced volume if you’re listening to something soft to begin with.

The ugly

Reverse wireless charging is a neat feature, but its slow charging speed means quickly topping up a friend’s phone isn’t really an option. You’re better off using this for earbuds with a wireless charging case, and your friend is better off charging his phone via a wired charger for five or ten minutes.

Am I happy with my Huawei Mate 20 Pro?

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro certainly brings a stacked list of features. It’s one of the better no-compromise smartphones out there. Between the flexible camera setup, ridiculously fast charging, long endurance, great face unlock, and powerful chipset, the phone definitely held up well after three months. It’s even received several significant updates since then, showing Huawei isn’t content to leave it in the lurch.

Editor’s Pick

Several annoyances from our original review remain, like the inconsistent image quality (especially with the selfie camera and for close-up shots), and the lack of a 3.5mm headphone port. The company could also give us more granular control of the Master AI mode, as personalized AI camera recommendations seem like an overdue next step.

Personally, after using it as a daily driver and paying for it with my own money, I still think the Mate 20 Pro is an incredible phone. In fact, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s biggest problem after three months is that the next Huawei flagship is set for a reveal soon. The P20 Pro delivered a superior camera experience and offering the same battery size as the Mate 10 Pro. If you like the idea of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, it wouldn’t hurt to wait six weeks or so to see what else Huawei has up its sleeve.

For everyone else, however, it’s tough to have buyer’s remorse when you’ve got a versatile phone that doesn’t need an overnight charge.

NEXT: OnePlus 7 — Here’s what it needs to take on the best

And that’s a wrap. Thoughts on this long-term Huawei Mate 20 Pro review? Let us know in the comments!

Three months with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro: Still worth the money

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is certainly one of the most popular flagship phones of 2018, and it isn’t hard to see why, thanks to its stacked spec sheet.

We were pretty happy with the phone in our original Huawei Mate 20 Pro review back in October, but how does the phone hold up to real-world usage? Well, I ended up buying one shortly after release, and here are my thoughts after using it since then as my daily driver.

For this real life Huawei Mate 20 Pro review I used the single-SIM (LYA-L09) model in Twilight running on the Cell C network in South Africa, packing 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It’s running EMUI 9.0.0 with build number 9.0.0.171 (C316E11R1P16) and the December 2018 security patch.

Hardware

The twilight back of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.

The good

The Mate 20 Pro’s overall design is still aesthetically pleasing after all this time — at least when it’s out of my flip case. Between the curved OLED screen, relatively thin form factor, and the Twilight glass back, it certainly feels like a premium device. I would’ve loved to see the hyper-optical pattern back here, with its neat texture and oleophobic nature. Speaking of oleophobic, the Twilight back definitely attracts prints, but keeping it in a cover is a simple solution.

Since I started using the Mate 20 Pro, I’ve dropped it a couple of times, but always while using the flip case. Thankfully, the phone doesn’t look worse for wear for the most part. I’ve also taken the phone into the pool several times for a few selfies (don’t judge) and it hasn’t shown any signs of trouble. So it doesn’t seem fragile if you take the proper precautions.

The bad

Durability is pretty solid then, but I have noticed that a super-slim rubber lining of sorts (between the display and bottom frame) has appeared and received some wear in the bottom left corner. I’m not sure if this lining is related to water resistance, the display, or something else, but it’s definitely odd. For what it’s worth, I only noticed it when shooting the linked photo.

Editor’s Pick

The Mate 20 Pro’s notch was one of the dominant design decisions back at launch, and it felt out of date even back then. I’ve hidden the notch since I received the phone, and the only time I see it briefly is when swiping down the notification shade. However, the addition of 3D face unlock means even a “removable” notch is a small price to pay. I enabled the notch at the time of writing this Mate 20 Pro review for the fun of it, and all I can say is I’m sure glad I can hide it.

Aside from the notch, I also shared the feelings of our own Bogdan Petrovan in his original Mate 20 Pro review on the power and volume keys being too close together. My initial time with the phone saw me accidentally taking screenshots (or hitting volume) when I meant to press the power button. Fortunately, I’ve adapted pretty well since then, and haven’t given it a second thought.

The ugly

Something I didn’t get used to, however, is the lack of a 3.5mm port. I would usually switch between listening to stuff on my work laptop and the phone, but the constant dongle juggling made me think it was only a matter of time until I lost the adapter. Since USB-C is a mess right now, you’re better off going with Bluetooth or using 3.5mm-equipped headphones via the dongle.

Software and performance

image of huawei mate 20 pro review unit in hand

The good

Performance is one of the biggest factors to look out for in a longer term review, as the phone’s storage tends to get clogged up. The Mate 20 Pro still feels just as fast as the day I received it. Whether you’re flicking through home screens, hitting the home button during a game, or scrolling in Chrome, I never really saw any jerkiness or slowdown. The same applies to games, as Hitman Sniper, Nascar Heat Mobile, and PUBG all turned in smooth performance.

This speed extends to 3D Face Unlock, which is still extremely fast and accurate in almost every condition. Just make sure to toggle the setting that requires eye contact to unlock the phone, so people can’t unlock your phone by pointing it at your face while you sleep.

Read: 10 features from other platforms/ROMs/skins we want in stock Android

EMUI itself tends to get a lot of hate from Android enthusiasts due to Huawei practically tweaking everything. It’s been toned down lately, and the Mate 20 Pro’s skin isn’t nearly as offensive it used to be. Between the app drawer toggle and Google feed, you should actually feel at home if you’re coming from a Western brand. It’s got handy features like scrolling screenshots, app and file locker integration, screen recording, a dark theme, and a Samsung-style password vault.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has certainly enjoyed software support too. I’ve received at least two significant updates since launch. The first update delivered AI video filters and AI Zoom, while the second offered improved photo quality and biometric authentication. My unit still doesn’t have updates like the one with a dedicated super macro mode, but I hope my network catches up soon.

The bad

I occasionally noticed Chrome reloading after a while, as I juggled about half a dozen apps in the recents menu. It never occurred often enough to be an inconvenience, let alone a major annoyance, but it’s not something a power user would expect from a flagship with 6GB to 10GB RAM.

What’s more annoying is face unlock seems to occasionally have a weird glitch where it takes me to the lock screen, even when I’ve set it to immediately unlock the phone. It doesn’t happen even 10 percent of the time — maybe once a week . Hopefully Huawei knows about this, because I feel like I’m questioning my sanity trying to reproduce the issue.

Huawei has tweaked the behavior of the recents menu, and it takes some getting used to.

EMUI also has a weird quirk when multitasking. Hitting the recents button doesn’t only minimize the app you’re currently in. Instead, the current app gets minimized and the phone automatically puts the previously used app in the center (rather than the current one). If you’re in the gallery, then launch WhatsApp, then hit the recents key, the recents menu will put the gallery front and center. It was very jarring at first, but it’s interesting and I’ve mostly gotten used to it. However, the lack of a toggle for this behavior is disappointing, especially if you’re coming from, say, any other Android phone.

Camera

The back of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, showing a camera bump.

The good

One of the biggest reasons to get the Mate 20 Pro is its versatile triple rear camera setup, which offers a camera for each situation. Being able to go wide or get a closer shot is certainly extremely handy.

Photos taken by the Mate 20 Pro deliver plenty of dynamic range, vibrant colors and a healthy level of resolvable detail in most conditions. Use the standard camera at night and you’ll get pleasant results — even before you switch to the light-sucking Night mode.








The other two rear cameras are pretty great during the day as well. The phone’s zoom capabilities allows you to get Instagram-worthy shots you might not get on other phones, thanks to the 3x zoom factor (as opposed two 2x on standard telephoto cameras) and the 5x hybrid zoom option. Meanwhile, the ultra wide angle rear camera can deliver some great, vibrant daytime results too. You’ll want this if you’re a keen traveller (or if you want an eye-catching perspective in general).

Switching to the front, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s selfie camera often surprised me with its dynamic range. The so-called AI HDR feature meant it coped very well in backlit scenes like sunsets.

The bad

Aside from the aforementioned dynamic range, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s 24MP front-facing camera isn’t particularly great. Images can be pretty washed out during the day, and a healthy level of detail isn’t always guaranteed. You can get some bright shots at night, but I often found low-light selfies lacked detail (being blurry or having that smeared effect). You can still get decent results when the sun goes down, but you’ll need to take plenty of shots to get that one keeper. The Pixel 3 series this is not.

Moving to the rear, the standard camera is an excellent performer when the light goes down, but ultra-wide and zoomed in results are noticeably worse. This isn’t unexpected, but you will definitely see noise and a lack of detail when zooming in or going wide at night. That isn’t to say that you can’t get some pleasant shots in these situations, but you’ll want to take a shot with the standard camera too. Trying night mode with these cameras will usually deliver a brighter shot, but also reveals a ton of noise.

Editor’s Pick

Sticking with the rear, Huawei’s underwater mode is a neat but flawed addition. The mode lets users take photos in a pool with your volume keys, and locks down the screen to prevent water-based interference. It doesn’t do a perfect job keeping the screen locked, but a bigger problem is the inability to use the other cameras or tweak video quality settings. It works well enough for a day in the pool nonetheless, but it could’ve been so much more.

The final minor complaint I have with Huawei’s camera is its Master AI mode. It’s generally reliable and delivers some helpful prompts, but it’s high time the company gives us more granular control over the mode. The ability to toggle what the mode suggests, as opposed to simply turning it off, would go a long way to catering to photographers of every skill level.

The ugly

The company added an AI Zoom feature for video after launch, and it didn’t take long for me to realize it’s pretty pointless. I used it to film friends at a skate park and it often lost track of the subject. This seems to be a distance-related issue, as it often lost the subject when they moved away from the camera. Still, you’re better off controlling the zoom yourself — the automatic option can be more trouble than it’s worth.

Read: Team AA — What would we like to see from smartphone cameras in 2019?

Huawei also promised 3D scanning capabilities after launch, via a 3D Live Maker app. Unfortunately, it’s awful beyond words. The app calls for you to place the object on a table and then hold the phone in landscape orientation, at 45 degrees above the object. Once you’ve managed to convince the app everything is in order, you can click the button to start scanning. Unfortunately, the scanning process is incredibly buggy (with constant flickering), and the progress bar doesn’t seem to progress very far. I’ve given it a go several times and still haven’t finished a single scan.

In-display fingerprint sensor

The good

Huawei’s latest take on in-display scanning is definitely faster than other devices I’ve tried (namely the Mate RS and Vivo V11 Pro). It’s also quite accurate once you get a hang of the sensor’s location. I seldom had issues with my fingers going unrecognized.

The bad

The in-display fingerprint sensor is clearly less convenient than the traditional rear scanners of earlier devices. Between the lack of tactile feedback, the small focus area and the slightly slow nature, it’s definitely still early days for the tech.

I’ve largely grown accustomed to it, much like how I got used to the Galaxy S8‘s weird scanner placement. If you gave me a Mate 20 Pro with a standard rear scanner (the Mate 20 X, I guess?), I’d go after that in a jiffy.

Battery life

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro charger.

The Huawei SuperCharge adapter, included with every Mate 20 Pro, delivers some ridiculously fast charging speeds.

The good

Bogdan felt that the battery experience was the real selling point in his Huawei Mate 20 Pro review, and I agree. At 4,200mAh, the Mate 20 Pro beats most of its arch-rivals in sheer capacity.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro generally has no problem lasting for a day and a half.

Real-world endurance is to be commended as well, as six hours of screen-on time is usually the bare minimum I’d get (with auto-brightness and a dark theme). However, more conservative usage (i.e. less YouTube and gaming) generally put me past the seven hour barrier. To give you a better idea of typical usage, the phone generally has no problem lasting a day and a half. In fact, I often got away with charging my device mid-morning as I never doubted that it would be off come alarm-time.

Speaking of charging, the addition of 40 watt fast charging fills up the battery from empty in just over an hour. You can reach 70 percent juice in just 30 minutes. I never really felt anxious about needing to leave the house soon and with the battery at 40 or 50 percent.

The bad

Huawei decided to use the USB-C port for one of the speakers, pumping out audio from this port. It’s a pretty interesting move, but muffles audio when charging. The earpiece speaker does a great job picking up the slack, but you’ll definitely notice the reduced volume if you’re listening to something soft to begin with.

The ugly

Reverse wireless charging is a neat feature, but its slow charging speed means quickly topping up a friend’s phone isn’t really an option. You’re better off using this for earbuds with a wireless charging case, and your friend is better off charging his phone via a wired charger for five or ten minutes.

Am I happy with my Huawei Mate 20 Pro?

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro certainly brings a stacked list of features. It’s one of the better no-compromise smartphones out there. Between the flexible camera setup, ridiculously fast charging, long endurance, great face unlock, and powerful chipset, the phone definitely held up well after three months. It’s even received several significant updates since then, showing Huawei isn’t content to leave it in the lurch.

Editor’s Pick

Several annoyances from our original review remain, like the inconsistent image quality (especially with the selfie camera and for close-up shots), and the lack of a 3.5mm headphone port. The company could also give us more granular control of the Master AI mode, as personalized AI camera recommendations seem like an overdue next step.

Personally, after using it as a daily driver and paying for it with my own money, I still think the Mate 20 Pro is an incredible phone. In fact, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s biggest problem after three months is that the next Huawei flagship is set for a reveal soon. The P20 Pro delivered a superior camera experience and offering the same battery size as the Mate 10 Pro. If you like the idea of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, it wouldn’t hurt to wait six weeks or so to see what else Huawei has up its sleeve.

For everyone else, however, it’s tough to have buyer’s remorse when you’ve got a versatile phone that doesn’t need an overnight charge.

NEXT: OnePlus 7 — Here’s what it needs to take on the best

And that’s a wrap. Thoughts on this long-term Huawei Mate 20 Pro review? Let us know in the comments!

Huawei Mate 20 Pro camera review (Video!)

This is the one you’ve been waiting for. Today we are taking a look at the Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s camera performance. Is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Huawei has built quite a reputation in smartphone photography, so its latest and greatest entered the market with high expectations. Its triple-camera array, Leica lenses, high-resolution sensors, and wide feature set certainly put it out to be among the best, at least on paper. We are here to find out if the amazing spec sheet translates to equally stunning shots.

I took it out for a spin across continents, taking into account different settings, scenarios, lighting situations, moods, and environments. Here’s what I found.

Photos have been resized for quicker loading times, but that is the only editing these images have undergone. If you want to pixel peep and analyze the full resolution photos, we have put them in a Google Drive folder for you.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro camera specs

  • Main cameras
    • Wide angle: 40MP, f/1.8
    • Ultra wide angle: 20MP, f/2.2
    • Telephoto: 8MP, f/2.4
    • Autofocus: Laser focus, phase focus, contrast focus
    • Image stabilization: AIS (Huawei AI Image Stabilization)
    • Flash: Dual LED
    • Video: 4K at 30fps, FHD+ at 30fps, FHD at 60fps, 720p at 30fps
  • Front camera
    • 24MP, f/2.0
    • Support 3D Depth Sensing Camera
    • Video: FHD+ at 30fps, FHD at 30fps, 720p at 30fps

Huawei Mate 20 Pro camera app

Fans of Huawei smartphones will feel right at home with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. It uses the same interface as the P20, P20 Pro, and other popular handsets from the Chinese manufacturer.

Editor’s Pick

I happen to like the app for its abundant features and ease of use. Unlike camera applications from other manufacturers, everything is pretty straightforward here. Aperture, Night, Portrait, Photo, Video, and Pro mode sit clearly between the viewfinder and the shutter button. Selecting the “More” option brings up advanced features like Watermark, Time-lapse, AR lens, Slow-mo, Document scanning, HDR, Panorama, and even Underwater (which requires a special case).

It’s all there; no feature is hiding in the settings menu or using weird secondary buttons. The only feature Huawei put in an odd location is the HiVision mode, which can scan QR codes, barcodes, texts, products, and objects. The mode can scan text to see a translation, point at a product to see shopping options, and more. It is quite fun and worked perfectly every time.

The rest of the app is pretty straightforward, but it can get a bit crowded. A lot of features have been thrown into this phone and the UI takes a hit. The few onscreen options change in every mode, and the settings can get confusing, since they also adapt to your current mode. However, the learning curve isn’t as complex as with other smartphones.

So many features have been thrown into the Huawei Mate 20 Pro that the UI takes a hit.

Edgar Cervantes

Master AI is less reliable, though. It can recognize the type of image you are shooting and automatically apply software enhancements to best fit the shot. I like what it can do when it gets things right. Shots with plenty of sky in the frame will get a more vibrant blue hue. Throw plants into the frame and the greenery will get more vibrant. You can learn more about it in our explanation post.

Regardless, I found it got things wrong about 25 percent of the time. Sometimes it thought I wanted to capture text when there was just large writing in the background. Sometimes it went into wide mode when I didn’t want it to. I decided to keep Master AI off (you can toggle it in the settings). It is a cool enhancement feature many of you will enjoy if you can get past its inconsistencies, but I prefer tweaking my images manually.

  • Ease of use: 8/10
  • Intuitiveness: 7/10
  • Features: 10/10
  • Advanced Settings: 10/10

Score: 8.8


Daylight

Daylight picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Daylight picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Daylight picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Daylight picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera

Smartphone cameras get the best results in broad daylight, when the shooter doesn’t need to struggle for light. Direct sunlight can also make shots harder to judge though, as even mid-end cameras can output awesome photos with the right exposure.

More light also means stronger shadows, which usually tests the camera’s dynamic range. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro seems to have been great at recognizing differences in exposure and automatically turning HDR on. We can mostly see this in images one, three, and four.

The first image looks very uniform, equally exposed across the frame. There is plenty of detail in the clouds, as well as around the trees and grass. The third and fourth images show detail where I didn’t think they would, given the high contrast in light and direct sunlight within the frame.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is doing very well in the Daylight section, but not much better than the other great camera smartphones out there. The true differences will shine in other sections of the review.

Edgar Cervantes

My only real complaint in this section is that the second image is underexposed. It shows plenty of detail in buildings and moving cars, but it’s a bit dark. That’s disappointing, especially considering some of these images where actually taken in slightly darker environments.

Otherwise, colors are vibrant, detail is abundant, and dynamic range is quite surprising. So far the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is doing very well, but not much better than the other great camera smartphones out there. The true differences shine in other sections of the review.

Score: 9/10


Color

Color picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Color picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Color picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Color picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera

Are those shrimp in the first image? Maybe mini lobsters? Whatever they are, they look appetizing, likely because their red hue really pops. The vibrant red stands out, almost to the point of looking artificial. This issue isn’t repeated in the other images, though, where bright colors pop without giving off an over-edited appearance.

The blue Porsche 911 GT3 RS is easily the best car I have driven in my life, so I am glad the picture does it justice by making it look shiny and vibrant.

Edgar Cervantes

The blue Porsche 911 GT3 RS is easily the best car I have driven in my life, so I am glad the picture does it justice by making it look shiny and vibrant. I also love how you can appreciate the water droplets and green grass. The same can be said about the fourth image, where the colors are uniformly vibrant, yet natural.

Even in foggy London, the yellow containers and bright red double deckers manage to stand out without looking out of place. Huawei seems to have found a way to make colors pop and still look natural, at least most of the time. However, even though vibrance and saturation are acceptable, these images’ contrast does lean more toward the heavier side.

I will say the second and fourth images look a tiny bit under-exposed, though. If you look at my face, you can see signs of over-softening and lack of detail. You can barely see detail in my beard. So while, colors are nice, I wish the camera got more detail.

Score: 8.5/10


Detail

Datail mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Datail mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Datail mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Datail mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera

Fans of the Huawei P20 Pro will find something very important lacking in the Huawei Mate 20 Pro specs. The monochrome sensor is not in the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and it’s a feature many of us will certainly miss, because it added all the detail to the legendary P20 Pro photo quality. The Monochrome mode is still there, but it no longer uses a dedicated sensor. It essentially just turns a regular photo black & white.

Where is the monochrome sensor? It’s not in the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and it’s a feature many of us will miss.

Edgar Cervantes

The effects of a monochrome sensors are complex, but I will try to simplify it. Camera sensors are made of photosites, which capture light information. In color sensors, individual photosites only record one of the three specific basic colors (red, green, or blue). Meanwhile, in monochrome (black & white) sensors, photosites grab all light information they can, resulting in more minute detail.

The Huawei team swears software optimization can replicate the same level of detail as the monochrome sensor, but I disagree. I could see much more detail in Huawei P20 Pro shots.

Landscape mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back cameraIt’s not like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro can’t capture good detail, it’s just that the P20 Pro was exceptional. This one seems at least on par with the other high-end smartphones, when it comes to photo detail. Zoom into the locks, bird feathers, or wood. You will notice the image has been both over-softened and over-sharpened. This will result in a photo that looks great from afar, but all detail goes away once you look closer. I mean, just look at the 100 percent crop to the right. It is so over-softened it straight up looks like a painting.

I have to give Huawei a lower score in this section. Not exactly because it did badly, but because it took a step back by getting rid of the monochrome sensor. Replacing it with a super wide-angle lens, though, might bring some feature you will love, like macro functionality (more on that in a bit).

Score: 7/10


Landscape

Landscape mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Landscape mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Landscape mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Landscape mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is especially good at landscape photography. Its great dynamic range ensures a uniformly exposed frame, vibrant colors, and high contrast, and that super wide-angle lens really keeps everything is in frame.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is especially good at landscape photography.

Edgar Cervantes

The second image wouldn’t have been possible without the super wide-angle lens. There’s some distortion, but it made for the right composition. I was in a London Eye cabin, so I couldn’t really step back to get more into the frame. It was either the deformed edges or nothing!

As we mentioned in the Detail section, zooming in is where it all goes downhill. Otherwise, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro can take some great landscape shots, especially if you need to go wide and really get it all in frame.

Score: 8.5/10


Portrait mode

Potrait mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Potrait mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Potrait mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Potrait mode picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera

Portrait mode simulates the bokeh effect (officially known as “blurry background”). We often see this effect in DSLR cameras using lenses with a wide aperture and shallow depth of field. Phones can’t do this naturally, so they use multiple lenses to figure out distance between the foreground and background in relation to the subject, and artificially add blur to things at farther distances.

The main issue with this is phones often do a bad job outlining the subject, getting confused about what is really in the distance. This results in blurring areas that shouldn’t be, or leaving background parts in focus. Sadly, this happened with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. It is most obvious around the wind pipes and the glass behind David, where some spots are left in focus when they shouldn’t.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro can definitely take a nice shot in portrait mode, but it will get things wrong often. Gotta keep an eye on its mistakes!

Edgar Cervantes

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro portrait mode does a really good job when it gets things right, though. There are no significant mistakes in image one and four, and they look rather nice. The camera recognizes how far something is and blurs accordingly. In the image of me sitting in front of the ocean, you can see the beach is more blurred out than the boardwalk (which is closer to me).

In summary, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro can definitely take a nice shot in portrait mode, but it will get things wrong often. Gotta keep an eye on its mistakes!

Score: 7.5/10


HDR

HDR picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
HDR picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
HDR picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
HDR picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera

High dynamic range (HDR) is used to evenly expose a frame with multiple levels of light. Traditionally it’s done by mixing photos taken at different exposure levels. The end result is an image with reduced highlights, increased shadows, and more even lighting.

In this phone HDR can be left in auto, turned off, or forced on. For this set of images we forced HDR on, just to make sure we got the best results.

When I first tried my hand at HDR on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro I was near the London Eye. I didn’t exactly walk out surprised, as plenty of detail under the tree was lost in the shadows. I was quite impressed by the high dynamic range mode once I started to play more with it, though.

I was especially impressed by the second image, which, despite having direct sunlight in the frame, managed to show quite a bit of detail around the people’s clothing, furniture, beach, and other elements. Of course, it’s all relative. We can really see it all in the image, but we were surprised to see much more than a silhouette. Given the circumstances, the phone did extremely well.

Furthermore, the picture of the stone bus decoration really showed us how much the camera can really do when you force HDR on. That dark alley was pitch black to the naked eye. Sure, the camera had some issues figuring out the white balance, but we also pushed it to its farthest limits.

Score: 8.5/10


Low-light

Night picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Night picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Night picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Night picture sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera

In and of itself, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro does alright darker environments with its regular auto mode. You know the deal — higher ISO, wider aperture, and slower aperture can degrade the quality of the photo, affect the depth of field, and blur the image. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has a little something up its sleeve, though.

Editor’s Pick

The phone’s Night mode will take multiple shots at different exposures, then grab the best from all images and turn them into a single, improved low-light shot. It actually works wonders. Exposure itself will be similar, but in Night mode images lack motion blur, noise, and other elements often seen in low-light shots.

As you can see, outdoor low-light photos look crisp and well exposed, with plenty of detail in both the shadows and highlights. Go to extremely dark situations and you can still somewhat appreciate the subjects, like we see in image two. It’s not the best shot, by far, but it is really good considering the situation. What mostly affects it is white balance.

Score: 9/10


Macro

Macro shots sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Macro shots sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Macro shots sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera
Macro shots sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro back camera

That super wide-angle lens is really cool for getting more content in the frame, but I for one am more excited about its macro photography capabilities. The new super wide-angle camera makes it possible to focus on your subject even as close as 2.5cm from the camera!

A super wide-angle lens is really cool, but I am more excited about its macro photography capabilities.

Edgar Cervantes

When you want to take a macro shot, just zoom out to 0.6x and close in on your subject. I could focus in on water droplets, a decaying lock, a tree, and a stuffed animal. The amount of detail you can get from such a close distance is stunning.

READ: 40MP shootout: Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Nokia Lumia 1020

It sure is a fun feature to have! Detail is nice, but this gives you a level of functionality you won’t really find in other smartphone cameras. That is why it gets a perfect score.

Score: 10/10


Selfie

Selfie with Huawei Mate 20 Pro front camera
Selfie sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro front camera
Selfie sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro front camera
Selfie sample with Huawei Mate 20 Pro front camera in low light

To some of you, selfies are what smartphone cameras are all about. If you really care for selfie quality, you should probably look elsewhere. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s front-facing camera gets the job done, but it is far from being a main contender in the selfie department.

Editor’s Pick

With enough light you get nice results, like in image one and three. My skin is detailed, you can see much of my beard’s hair strands, and colors are nice.

Things stop looking so nice once the sun goes down, though. Just look at the last photo. There is no detail in the hair and the shot is very softened. The second shot even shows signs of motion blur.

Selfies will come out alright if you put enough effort into them, but we expected more from what Huawei claims to be the best camera smartphone in the industry.

Score: 7.5/10


Video

A beautiful sunset is a great test subject for a camera. There is usually plenty of detail to see in the sand and water. Not to mention the contrasting brightness does a great job at testing dynamic range in video. As you can see in the video below, people quickly turned into silhouettes when pointing the camera at the sunset.

Turn around to take a look at the boardwalk and it all changes, though. There is plenty of detail in the people, wood, and shrubbery. Colors are vibrant, yet well balanced (unlike the Huawei P20, which saturated colors to hell). Image stabilization isn’t exactly the best we have seen, but it is pretty good considering I am not the smoothest walker out there.

Score: 8.5/10


Conclusion


Huawei Mate 20 Pro rear triple camera setup

Overall score: 8.4

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is a great camera and it might deserve a higher score, but I came into this review with high expectations. The Huawei P20 Pro had great detail and stunning colors — it was overall an amazing camera.

I am disappointed by the fact that I actually believe the Huawei Mate 20 Pro to be a step down in terms of camera quality.

Edgar Cervantes

I actually believe the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is a step down in terms of camera quality, mostly thanks to the absence of the monochrome sensor (which brought more detail to images) — that’s disappointing. I for one would give up the macro capabilities and the wider angle lens for more detail in general images. Those features are really cool, but I think they’re fads many will forget about after the hype dies down.

Regardless, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is still among the best cameras out there, and we know some of you will believe it to be the king of smartphone cameras. You wouldn’t necessarily be wrong — it’s a seriously good performer. Dynamic range (and HDR) is up to par with the latest and greatest. It seems Huawei finally found a way to make colors vibrant without giving them an over-saturated, fake look. You can get stunning results in low-light with Night mode. If you are into macro photography, you can get some amazing results I never thought possible on a smartphone.

It’s not a bad investment, but I’m going back to the Huawei P20 Pro right after I am done with this review (which is now).

Huawei Mate 20 Pro update brings better face unlock, more natural colors in AI mode

Huawei Mate 20 Pro camera app.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is arguably the most feature-packed smartphone in the last 12 months, offering everything from a triple camera setup to reverse wireless charging. The company has delivered several noteworthy updates too, and it’s not quite finished yet.

Huawei has just issued another update, labelled 9.0.0.171, according to GSMArena. Huawei’s new update weighs in at 482MB, so what does it bring to the table?

For starters, the company has optimized face unlock for “certain scenarios.” In plain English, this should mean facial recognition is better in tricky conditions. But the improvements go beyond facial unlocking.

Huawei has also tweaked photo quality when using the Master AI option, saying photos should now have “more natural, authentic colors.” For what it’s worth, our own Bogdan Petrovan didn’t notice a big difference between AI and non-AI shots in his Mate 20 Pro review. Nevertheless, Huawei’s camera app also lets you switch between three color modes, so you can always go for a more saturated appearance if you prefer.

Editor’s Pick

The camera tweaks don’t stop there, as Huawei has also fixed discrepancies between the preview and the actual photo, as well as the camera failing to launch in “certain scenarios.”

Finally, the Chinese manufacturer has included Google’s December 2018 security patches in the update. You might have to wait a few days or weeks to see this update, especially if you’re on a carrier version of the Mate 20 Pro.

It marks the latest in a series of updates for the late 2018 flagship. Previous updates have enabled AI Zoom, better in-display fingerprint scanning, improved photo quality, and several video-related effects.

NEXT: Xiaomi MIUI camera app teardown reveals ultra wide angle support, beauty mode for body

Huawei Mate 20 Pro update brings better camera quality, faster biometric unlocking

A photo of a man holding the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.

  • The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has received another system update, coming in at 523MB.
  • Notable changes include better face unlock, faster fingerprint unlocking, and better photo quality.
  • Huawei’s update also includes the November 2018 security patches.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro already received a meaty update over a month ago, but the Chinese brand isn’t finished for the year, as it’s delivered another significant update.

The update, listed as version 9.0.0.142 (build number C316E11R1P16), weighs in at 523MB and made its way to our personal device. And it brings plenty of improvements to the table.

A Mate 20 Pro system update notification.
A Mate 20 Pro system update notification.

For starters, Huawei has improved face unlock performance in “certain scenarios,” while the in-display fingerprint sensor should be faster too.

Other noteworthy tweaks include improved photo quality, better positioning in Google Maps, and a bug fix for Google Messages not displaying a notification badge. Finally, the update also brings Google’s November 2018 security patches.

Editor’s Pick

Huawei’s phone is probably the most feature-packed device of 2018, delivering a triple-camera setup, IP68 water/dust resistance, reverse wireless charging, and an in-display fingerprint sensor. In fact, our own Bogdan Petrovan said “you won’t find a more desirable phone on the market right now” in his Mate 20 Pro review.

The stacked list of features wasn’t enough for the device to win our smartphone of the year award though, as the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 walked away with the gong. Nevertheless, Huawei’s device earned awards in the performance and battery categories.

NEXT: 15 best local multiplayer games for Android

Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs LG V40: which wide-angle camera is best?

Huawei P20 Pro vs LG V40 cameras

If you’re after a mobile photography powerhouse, the new Huawei Mate 20 Pro and LG V40 ThinQ both offer compelling triple-camera setups designed to give serious photographers that added flexibility. Both offer wide-angle shooting options, something that’s become one of the most popular camera features packed into high-end smartphones.

LG has been experimenting with wide-angle lenses for a few generations now, so it has plenty of experience here. The Mate 20 series is Huawei’s first entry into the field. Let’s break down how they stack up.

Wide Angle Camera Specs Huawei Mate 20 Pro LG V40
Resolution 20 megapixels 16 megapixels
Aperture f/2.2 f/1.9
Pixel Size 1.0µm 1.0µm
Sensor Size 1/2.7″ 1/3.1″
Auto Focus PDAF & Laser NA
Equivalent Focal Length 16mm 16mm

On paper, there’s very little in it. Both offer an equivalent focal length, have 1.0um pixel sizes, and there’s not much detail difference between 16 and 20 megapixel images either. The LG V40 has a slightly wider aperture, hinting at a lead in low light performance. However, the Mate 20 Pro includes autofocus technology, which should make it more flexible for both near and distant shots. Let’s dive into some samples.

Also read: Google Pixel 3 camera shootout

Fitting more into the frame

The whole point of a wide-angle lens is to fit more into the picture than your regular camera. So how much more can you squeeze in versus both of these phones’ main sensors?

Both the V40 and Mate 20 Pro’s main cameras offer an equivalent focal length of 27mm, widening to 16mm when switching over to the wide-angle lens. As such, both cameras widen out their field of view by a virtually identical amount and should offer virtually identical frames.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro main camera (27mm) Huawei Mate 20 Pro wide-angle camera (16mm) Huawei Mate 20 Pro main camera (27mm)

Huawei Mate 20 Pro wide-angle camera (16mm)

LG V40 main camera (27mm) LG V40 wide-angle camera (16mm) LG V40 main camera (27mm)

LG V40 wide-angle camera (16mm)

The LG V40 offers a field of view of about 107 degrees. Although the Mate 20 Pro shares the same 16mm equivalent focal, it has a slightly larger sensor and therefore a slightly wider field of view. We can see this slight extra width in our example shots above and the ones below. It’s not a huge difference — maybe a few degrees — but the Mate 20 Pro does fit a tiny bit more in the frame.

Wide-angle lenses offer a “step back” from the regular sensors. Both cameras perform their duty well enough in that regard. Colors are bright and vivid, though more so with the V40, and exposure is pretty good in most scenarios too. It’s only when we begin pixel peeping that major differences appear.

Lens quality is hugely important

While both cameras look pretty good on paper, we still need to find out the quality of both lenses. This is particularly important with wide-angle lenses, as light capture without distortion and image curvature around the edges are more important here. The less-than-ideal lighting conditions of the rainy day are a pretty good way to see how the cameras perform in the real world. Here are a couple of full frame examples.

LG V40 Huawei Mate 20 Pro LG V40

Huawei Mate 20 Pro

LG V40 Wide-Angle Full Frame Huawei Mate 20 Pro Wide-Angle Full Frame LG V40 Wide-Angle Full Frame

Huawei Mate 20 Pro Wide-Angle Full Frame

At full frame, there isn’t too much to tell between them. There are some exposure and color balance differences, but nothing you probably couldn’t even out in post. However, cropping into the details reveals some major differences in image quality. Let’s start with the center focal point of the picture.

LG V40 100 percent crop Huawei Mate 20 Pro 100 percent crop LG V40 100 percent crop

Huawei Mate 20 Pro 100 percent crop

Editor’s Pick

While the Mate 20 Pro may be a tad aggressive on the sharpening, it captures a lot more detail on both the brickwork and trees than the V40. This isn’t a megapixel issue, as these are 100 percent crops and the difference between the 20 and 16 megapixel images should be negligible. The V40’s lens setup just doesn’t allow for enough light and detail capture, which results in much lower resolution looking images than its sensor suggests. We can also see aggressive use of denoise across the V40’s image, which rubs out a lot of the detail too.

Overall, the V40 appears smudged by comparison and is almost out of focus on the background trees. This focusing issue has been a consistent problem in my experience with the camera, owing to the lack of autofocus. The focus and detail situation is even worse at the camera’s edges.

LG V40 100 percent crop Huawei Mate 20 Pro 100 percent crop LG V40 100 percent crop

Huawei Mate 20 Pro 100 percent crop

Here, the V40’s lack of focus is far more obvious. There’s no detail capture on the nearby wall or ivy, and it’s a similar situation when examining the distant bushes too. Few users will crop in on these wide-angle shots (you’d be better off using the main sensor), but serious photographers probably won’t be impressed when they come to print out these pictures.

While the lack of focus isn’t such an issue on a small smartphone screen or social media post, the loss of detail and poor focusing is much more apparent on larger displays and high-quality printouts.

Both lenses also suffer from some chromatic aberration (purple tint on high-contrast areas) towards the edges of their lenses. This is not unexpected for smartphone lenses, but the LG V40 still comes off worse in this regard too.

Few are ever likely to crop or blow up wide-angle shots, but when you do the results are night and day.

Super macro and low light

While not the main reason many will want a wide-angle camera, the Mate 20 Pro has an extra ability to focus in as close as 2.5cm in super-macro mode. So if you want to take some super close up pictures and capture fine details, the Pro’s wide-angle camera can actually be more useful than its main 40MP shooter.

The LG V40 doesn’t offer any autofocusing technology for its wide-angle camera, and the Mate 20 Pro offers both PDAF and laser options. The result is that the Mate 20 Pro can focus on super close up objects, while the V40 can’t.

LG V40 Huawei Mate 20 Pro LG V40

Huawei Mate 20 Pro

This certainly isn’t a major use case for most people who will be shooting with a wide-angle lens. However, the Mate 20 Pro’s support for super macro shooting certainly makes it the more flexible shooter for the more serious photographer.

Low light is more likely to be a common use case for these cameras.

LG V40 Huawei Mate 20 Pro LG V40

Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Related

While the Huawei Mate 20 Pro might be a winner in terms of daylight clarity, the LG V40 is by far the better wide-angle camera in low light. Huawei doesn’t apply any of its usual low light trickery to the wide-angle camera, and as a result, the pictures come out very dark, lacking in color, and blurred from the combination of long exposure time and denoise algorithm.

The LG V40 take a little longer snap its pictures, hinting at some HDR magic to help boost the exposure. Although the result is still rather noisy, the V40 managed to capture much more color in low light. Even with HDR on, I couldn’t get the Mate 20 Pro anywhere near as good as the LG V40 in every low light situation I tried.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the better performer, but only just

The LG V40’s wide-angle camera is great for typical smartphone snaps. You’re unlikely to notice the focus or detail issues when viewing pictures on a smartphone screen or compressing them down for social media. The camera does its job, providing extra width for pictures just when you need it. It’s not the main camera after all.

The LG V40’s lack of autofocus lets the camera down when we go pixel peeping

Compared to the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, the LG V40’s wide-angle camera clearly isn’t as consistent or as flexible in most instances. The Mate 20 Pro isn’t perfect — the company’s heavy use of sharpening won’t be to everyone’s tastes — but it captures more detail and has better focusing capabilities. However, it is noticeably worse in low-light situations. If you’re regularly capturing wide-angle shots in the evenings you might want the V40.

Overall, the Mate 20 Pro is the better wide-angle camera in daylight, which is when most people will be capturing their wide-angle snaps. This might seem like a very harsh comparison, but we’re talking about $1000 smartphones boasting some of the best cameras in the business. The LG V40 cuts corners with its lack of wide-angle autofocus that might end up being a bugbear for those looking to get the most out of their camera.

Next: Best of Android 2018: The best Android smartphone cameras

Huawei Mate 20 Pro teardown: great phone, poor repairability

A disassembled Huawei Mate 20 Pro . iFixit

  • Gadget repair website iFixit has given the Huawei Mate 20 Pro a repairability score of four out of 10.
  • The website criticized the use of glue for the front and back glass panels.
  • It also criticized the presence of more flex connectors than average, increasing the repair time.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is certainly in the running for 2018’s best smartphone, packing loads of features into its frame. But those hoping to do some DIY repairs might be disappointed by the device.

Prominent repair website iFixit has disassembled the new flagship, giving it a four out of 10 score for ease of repairing. This is the same disappointing score as Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, and the LG G7. Then again, at least it’s not as bad as the Essential Phone‘s abysmal one out of 10 score.

The website’s criticism focused almost entirely on the phone’s glass design. It called out Huawei for its use of glue on the front and back glass panels, saying this increased the chances of glass breaking when opening up the device. Speaking of glass breaking, a screen repair will mean “a lot of disassembly while battling tough adhesive.”The Huawei Mate 20 Pro with its display detached from the body. iFixit

The screen-related complications don’t stop there, as it’s suggested that a broken screen will necessitate replacing the in-display fingerprint sensor too (and vice-versa). In other words, you’d better buy a great case or make sure the device is insured against accidental damage. The motherboard also uses more flex connectors than your average phone, the outlet noted, which means you’ll be spending more time repairing the device.

Editor’s Pick

It’s not all bad, however, as iFixit praised the use of modular components that can be replaced independently. Battery replacements aren’t needlessly complicated either, as you only need to remove the back panel and frame. Finally, the website welcomed the use of standard Phillips screws, as opposed to proprietary screws that require more specialized tools.

Do you take ease of repair into account when buying a smartphone? Let us know in the comments.

NEXT: New Nokia 9 leak gives us our best look yet at penta-camera beast

Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: The phone for power users

Let’s get it out of the way. You’ll probably want to buy the Mate 20 Pro. It’s sexy, it’s powerful, it’s one of the best phones you can get right now. The real question is if you should pay no less than 1,050 euros (~$1,205) for the privilege of owning it. Or should you “settle” for one of the many great alternatives and save some money in the process?

It’s not an easy question — we’ll spend this in-depth Huawei Mate 20 Pro review trying to answer it. Buckle up!

huawei mate 20 pro twilight variant

About our Huawei Mate 20 Pro review

I wrote this review after spending around ten days with a Mate 20 Pro review unit supplied by Huawei. The phone (model LYA-L29) was the Twilight dual-SIM version, with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It ran EMUI 9.0 out of the box, with the October 2018 security patch and build number C432E10R1P16. I used it mostly on my home Wi-Fi network, as well as Orange Romania’s 4G+ network.

Technically, the software on the review unit was non-final, but Huawei said it’s indicative of the final release software. According to the company, features like 3D Live Object Modeling and AI Color, will roll out to the phone over the next weeks. We will update this Mate 20 Pro review when these features become available.

My colleague David Imel spent a similar amount of time with another Mate 20 Pro review unit. You can watch his video review at the top of this post.

What’s in the box

huawei mate 20 pro retail box

usb type-c headphones that are bundled with the huawei mate 20 pro twilight
the supercharge fast charger brick bundled with the huawei mate 20 pro

The Mate 20 Pro comes in a simple black box with a charger, a pair of white USB Type-C earbuds, a USB Type-C-to-3.5mm audio adapter, and a basic silicone case.

Editor’s Pick

The charger can go up to 40W and it’s very fast (more about that later). The transparent case will do fine for the first few days, but it gets very grimy so you’ll probably want to pick up something nicer. The wired earbuds look a lot like Apple’s. They are very light and they don’t insulate noise from outside, but they sound surprisingly good, with nice bass and clear highs. Definitely give them a try before you throw them in a drawer.

Design and build quality

Huawei is one of the elite few phone makers competitors tend to copy. The company has been putting out great designs for years, even while its software has struggled to keep up. That doesn’t mean Huawei shies away from copying others when it suits it. The Mate 20 Pro embodies both approaches: the front takes cues from Apple and Samsung, and the back is uniquely Huawei.

Huawei Mate 20 screen

The Mate 20 Pro’s front looks like every other flagship that launched this past few months. There’s a big notch up top — not as big as the Pixel 3 XL’s thankfully — with rounded corners and thin bezels on the sides and bottom. The edges of the screen curve down into a thin aluminum frame, much like the Galaxy S9 Plus.

The Mate 20 Pro’s triple-camera boldly positions Huawei as a design leader

The symmetrical tapered edges of the phone are also very Samsung-like. The thin power button and volume rocker are on the right-hand side. They’re nice and responsive, but placed a little too close together, and can result in accidental screenshots. On all color options, the power button is a lovely orange-reddish hue. It’s a nice accent that gives the phone more personality.

the colored power button on the side of the huawei mate 20 pro twilight

The back of the Mate 20 Pro is dominated by the square camera module. Huawei calls it “Simply Iconic” and boasts about the resemblance it bears to the headlights of certain luxury cars, particularly Porsche.

back of huawei mate 20 pro twilight with water droplets on it

Editor’s Pick

I personally love it. It’s fresh and it instantly sets the phone apart from anything else out there. Others will hate it — I heard the term “kitchen stove” from a couple fellow reviewers. Regardless how you feel about it, the Mate 20’s triple camera is a big, bold statement meant to show Huawei is a design leader, not a follower. It remains to be seen if others will embrace this design, as triple cameras go mainstream.

Color options

The Mate 20 Pro is available in five versions: Pink Gold, Midnight Blue, Emerald Green, Twilight, and Black. My favorite is Emerald Green, which is a gorgeous bluish-green hue. Emerald Green and Midnight Blue both have a textured pattern on the back, but you won’t really notice it unless you scratch the surface with your fingernail, which gives off a satisfying rattling noise. The texture helps stave off fingerprints, which are a pain on the non-textured color versions. Regardless, it’s still glass, so you’ll want a good case on it. Twilight and Pink Gold feature Huawei’s distinctive shifting paint jobs. I am not a fan personally, but if you enjoy attention, these are the versions to get. Finally, Black is just black.

Mate 20 Pro in Midnight Blue and Emerald Green held in hand

Mate 20 Pro in Midnight Blue and Emerald Green

The Mate 20 Pro is a relatively hefty phone. It weighs 189 grams and I found myself having to shift it around after holding it in one hand for more than a few minutes. The good news is it’s narrow enough to use with one hand without constantly worrying about dropping it. It also feels very nice in the hand, thanks to the thin rounded sides.

Display

The OLED screen on the Mate 20 Pro is expansive, beautiful, and bright. I had no problems using it at roughly 40 percent brightness indoors.

the front of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro showing the notch

The tall 1,440 x 3,120 format is a mixed blessing. You can use the 6.39-inch phone with one hand, but at the same time it can be hard to balance it in the palm of your hand — especially if you prefer the classic navigation bar instead of navigation gestures.

The Mate 20 Pro’s OLED screen is expansive, beautiful, and bright.

If you really care about high pixel densities, make sure you go into settings and change the resolution to QHD+. Otherwise, the phone uses the default Smart setting, which changes the resolution dynamically in order to save power. In my experience, I didn’t see any real difference between QHD+ and Full HD+, so the latter is a good compromise between power consumption and image quality.

the curved screen of the huawei mate 20 pro twilight

By default, the Mate 20 Pro uses the Vivid color setting, which amps up the colors. You can switch to Normal, for a more true-to-life experience, and also customize the color temperature, from cool to warm and everything in between. There’s also a setting to automatically adjust colors based on ambient light, offering a “paper-like experience,” but I really didn’t see a difference.

Deep in the display settings you’ll find a way to “hide” the notch, basically turning the area around the notch black at all times. It’s great if you find the notch an eye-sore, but it won’t do anything about the cramped status bar, which is the biggest offense I take when it comes to notches. At least Huawei put the notch to good use. The black strip houses the front-facing camera, the earpiece (which doubles as a secondary speaker), and the emitters and sensors for the 3D face unlock system.

huawei mate 20 pro with notch set to hidden
huawei mate 20 pro with visible notch

Core specs

Just like smartphone design, smartphone specs have been converging — especially at the high end of the market. However, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro stands out for a couple of reasons.

Read: Huawei Mate 20 and 20 Pro specs: There’s a clear winner

The Mate 20 Pro runs on a Kirin 980 processor, designed by Huawei’s own HiSilicon division. That alone makes the Mate 20 Pro stand out from virtually all other 2018 Android flagships, which use Snapdragon 845 chips from Qualcomm.

huawei mate 20 pro review - core specs

Huawei’s control over the processor allowed it to focus heavily on AI. The Kirin 980 has two neural processing units (NPUs) designed for real-time photo manipulation, live translation, and other AI-reliant tasks. AI is used in multiple areas of the Mate 20 Pro, but most users will only interact with the AI imaging features. We’ll talk more about them in the camera section of our Mate 20 Pro review.

Editor’s Pick

The Kirin 980 is an octa-core chip built on the state-of-the-art 7-nanometer manufacturing process, which packs transistors closer together, resulting in better performance and smaller power consumption compared to older processes.

The Mate 20 Pro is available with 6 or 8GB of RAM and 128 or 256GB of storage, depending on the market. The phone comes with a new type of expandable storage called Nano Memory, instead of the popular microSD. We don’t know many details about this new type of memory card, other than it supports capacities of 256GB and write speeds of up to 90MB/second.

The problem is Nano Memory has no obvious benefits for consumers (unless it turns out it’s much cheaper than microSD) and one obvious disadvantage: you can only buy it from Huawei. While the company’s CEO told Android Authority Huawei wants to make Nano Memory an industry standard, no other company has pledged to support it so far.

huawei mate 20 pro twilight with empty hybrid tray for nano memory and SIM

Because the card is exactly the same size as a nano-SIM card, Huawei was able to use a tiny, double-sided hybrid tray for SIM and memory, saving internal space in the process.

Nano Memory is a Huawei exclusive for now

Side note: Huawei placed a microphone right by the Mate 20 Pro’s SIM tray. Make sure you don’t poke your microphone with the SIM tool, like this hapless reviewer did.

Huawei Mate 20 USB Type C port

Performance

The Mate 20 Pro runs just as smoothly as you would expect from a current high-end phone. I haven’t encountered any lag episodes worth mentioning, though David noticed a few snags on his unit, especially when switching apps. Performance during gaming and general use was blazing fast.

Blazing gaming performance and snappy general use.

Let’s talk about benchmarks for a minute. Huawei was recently caught gaming benchmark results by setting its phones to “Performance Mode” when running popular benchmarking apps. This peak performance wasn’t actually accessible in real life applications, as Huawei programmed its devices to throttle themselves in order to save power. After the news broke, the company pledged to drop this misleading practice and to make the Performance Mode accessible to all apps as part of EMUI 9.

The Mate 20 Pro lets you enable Performance Mode from the battery settings and it has a noticeable effect, but only in benchmarks.

Running AnTuTu with Performance Mode on and off results in a massive difference. Without it, the Mate 20 Pro barely manages to rank among AnTuTu’s top ten fastest phones, scoring between 240,000 and 280,000 points. With Performance Mode enabled, my Mate 20 Pro review unit hit over 304,000 points, ranking first and beating dedicated gaming phones like the Asus ROG or Xiaomi Black Shark.

huawei mate 20 pro review antutu benchmark with performance mode on and off

Left: Performance Mode off. Right: Performance Mode on.

In non-benchmarking use, I haven’t seen any real improvements in the speed or smoothness of the Mate 20 Pro with Performance Mode on. Considering this mode has a noticeable impact on battery life, most users will want to keep it off.

Other hardware features

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the first major, mainstream phone with an in-display fingerprint sensor. We’ve previously seen the feature on Vivo phones, and OnePlus is getting ready to release the OnePlus 6T with an in-display fingerprint reader at the end of the month.

Huawei’s implementation works very well, and it’s definitely a step up over the Vivo X21, which I reviewed back in May. The phone unlocks very fast, though it’s still not as fast as some conventional fingerprint readers. The only times I had issues with the reader was when touching it with the sides of my thumb — in these cases, I had to press harder for the fingerprint to register.

in-screen fingerprint reader showing on the screen of the huawei mate 20 pro twilight

You probably won’t need to use the fingerprint reader much if you enable the face recognition function on the Mate 20 Pro. The phone projects an array of infrared dots on your face, forming a 3D map that is compared to the reference data collected during setup — similar to the iPhone X’s feature.

The feature is usually fast and accurate, though a little inconsistent. Sometimes, the phone unlocks almost instantly, others times it takes one or two seconds. It’s not a huge issue, but it’s a little jarring when you have to wait.

Editor’s Pick

Biometric authentication works with the App Lock and PrivateSpace features, as well. App Lock lets you lock access to specific apps until the phone detects your face or fingerprint — great for keeping kids out of sensitive apps. PrivateSpace lets you set up a completely separate workspace that opens when you use a specific fingerprint. You could use this function to hide stuff from prying eyes or simply to keep your work and personal apps separate.

face enroll screen on huawei mate 20 pro

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro features IP68 dust and water resistance. The phone has an IR blaster at the top, and the preloaded remote control app is pretty good. Finally, the dual-SIM tray lets you use two cellular services, but only one of the SIMs can be used for data or voice calls at a time.

Battery and (very) fast charging

Without doubt, the battery is the highlight of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. If you care about battery life primarily, this phone is worth the premium for its huge battery and fast charging alone.

The Mate 20 Pro features a 4,200mAh battery — about five percent more than the Galaxy Note 9, 22 percent more than the Pixel 3 XL, 27 percent more than the LG V40 ThinQ, and 32 percent more than the iPhone XS Max. Battery life depends on other factors besides the capacity of the battery, but it’s hard to argue with these numbers.

The Mate 20 Pro is worth the premium for its record-setting battery and extremely fast charging alone.

I routinely got more than 7.5 hours of screen-on time out of the Mate 20 Pro, with medium usage, auto-brightness on, Performance Mode off, and the dark UI theme. With heavier usage, including gaming, running benchmarks, and more YouTube streaming, I got between six and seven hours of screen-on time. Light and medium users will probably only need to charge every two or two and a half days. Even if you’re a heavy user, this phone should easily last you a full day and then some.

huawei mate 20 pro review twilight screen on time battery statistics

The Mate 20 Pro charges incredibly fast with the 40W charger included in the box. Huawei says its goes from zero to 70 percent in 30 minutes. In my testing, it was even faster, hitting 73 percent in 30 minutes. The phone charges five percent every two minutes and doesn’t get exceedingly hot in the process.

We’ve seen fast-charging phones before, but the Mate 20 Pro also has the largest battery out of any mainstream device. That it charges so fast with the bundled charger — no need to spend extra on a separate one — is especially impressive.

charging graph huawei mate 20 pro twilight

As an aside, according to Huawei’s CEO Richard Yu, the company could have put an even bigger 4,500mAh battery on the Mate 20 Pro, but opted for the 4,200mAh unit in order to make the 40W charging possible.

The Mate 20 Pro is the first phone on the market to support 15W wireless charging. I wasn’t able to test this, but Huawei claims it’s significantly faster than the iPhone XS Max and other competitors.

The icing on the cake is the reverse wireless charging. You can use the Mate 20 Pro to wirelessly charge any Qi-enabled device. Just turn the feature on in the settings, place the device you want to charge on the back of the Mate 20 Pro, and off it goes.

However, reverse wireless charging is pretty slow. With a Galaxy S9 Plus, it took a few minutes for each percent of battery life. It’s a little finicky, too. You need to align the two devices closely, and charging stops if you move them too much around. You won’t be able to just throw the two phones in a pocket and forget about them.

galaxy s9 plus reverse wireless charging from huawei mate 20 pro

You’ll need to enable reverse wireless charging from battery settings every time you use it, as it auto-disables to save power if you don’t use it for a while. Also, you won’t be able to use it when battery life is below 20 percent.

It may be tempting to dismiss reverse wireless charging as just a cool party trick, but we all know how stressful an empty battery can be. In those situations, every little bit of juice helps.

Sound

There is no 3.5mm audio jack on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. It’s one of the very few legitimately important features missing from the device. The bundled USB Type-C earbuds are pretty decent, and you can also use your favorite headphones with the bundled adapter.

usb type-c earbuds shipping with the huawei mate 20 pro

The Mate 20 Pro has two speakers cleverly hidden in the USB Type-C port and the earpiece. The one in the Type-C port is the main one, and gets a bit louder. Surprisingly, it only gets muffled a little when you plug in the Type-C cable to charge the phone.

The phone gets decently loud, though not as loud as the Galaxy S9 Plus. Sound is a little tinier than the Samsung flagship as well.

Don’t miss: The best headphones with USB Type-C

Camera

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro camera has plenty of great features and a few strong points, but also some weaknesses.

The Mate 20 Pro features three cameras on the back: a primary 40MP one with f/1.8 aperture; a telephoto 8MP with f/2.4 aperture and OIS; and a 20MP ultra-wide with f/2.2 aperture. On the front, there’s a single 24MP camera.

the three cameras on the back of the huawei mate 20 pro twilight

It’s a highly versatile camera system that lets you shoot everything from macro details to long-distance, zoomed-in scenery. It can be great in skilled hands, but can also turn out some mediocre shots if you just shoot in auto.

It’s an impressively versatile camera that lets you shoot everything from macro details to sweeping scenery

David got some great shots out of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. He noted he usually needed to lower the exposure manually, as the phone tends to overexpose in order to extract more details out of shadows.






I, on the other hand, just point and shoot in auto mode. I occasionally struggled to get good pics in low light.



The Mate 20 Pro is not terrible in low light auto mode, but I was expecting better. My Pixel 2, with its single camera, does a better job. It’s possible that Huawei’s auto algorithms are not as good as its hardware, and image quality could improve with future updates. If that happens, we’ll revisit this Huawei Mate 20 Pro review.

Inconsistent image quality aside, the Mate 20 Pro is a powerful camera phone. I love how you can switch between the different lenses with a simple swipe.

camera screen on huawei mate 20 pro

The wide-angle camera is great when you need to get more stuff in one shot, be it more people, an entire room, or a sweeping landscape.

It’s also great for taking close-ups: In wide-angle mode, the Mate 20 Pro can focus on objects that are just a couple of centimeters away from the lens. That’s a unique feature on smartphones, as far as I know. If you enjoy macro photography, you’ll love this phone.

Macro shot of moss on a tree taken on Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Macro shot of moss on a tree

The telephoto lens’ 3X optical zoom is great for framing nice portraits or for closing in on distant details. You can zoom up to 10X in total, and it’s way better than what most phones can do.

huawei mate 20 pro zoom in sample

Left: 1X. Right: 10X.

Portrait mode is pretty great and you can couple it with the 3X optical zoom for a more powerful effect. Using aperture mode, you can play with the depth of field after you take the shot and you can also apply filters — e.g. make the background black-and-white, but keep the subject in color.

portrait taken on Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Night mode is meant for very dark conditions — you need to hold the phone as still as possible for four seconds, while the camera captures multiple frames at different ISO values and combines them into one image. It could help you get a picture in otherwise unshootable conditions.

Stage Lighting shot on Mate 20 Pro

Stage Lighting shot on Mate 20 Pro

The selfie camera is pretty good, though pics sometimes turn out too soft. You can play with some silly tools to spruce up your selfies, including an Apple-style stage lighting option.

There are many other camera features and options, like monochrome, live video filters, AR lens, light painting, time-lapse, and even an underwater mode. The camera app itself is well designed and easy to use.

You can also choose to enable Huawei’s Master AI mode from the camera settings. It attempts to recognize and apply the best settings for each scene (e.g. cat, historic building, greenery, clouds). I didn’t see a huge difference with or without it, but your mileage may vary.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro camera is feature-packed, powerful, and versatile. If you take the time to learn it inside out and tweak your settings for each scene, it will reward you with some great results. Let’s just hope Huawei works on the auto algorithm for low light.

Full resolution camera samples are available in this Google Drive folder.

Software

The first Huawei device I ever used, the Ascend Mate 7, had pretty bad software. It was busy, unpolished, and a little ugly. Four generations later, the software on the Mate 20 Pro is much improved. There are still some small issues and Huawei still needlessly copies Apple in some areas, but overall I really enjoy using the Mate 20 Pro.

The phone runs EMUI 9.0, based on Android Pie. Kudos to Huawei for offering Pie out of the box.

front view of huawei mate 20 pro twilight

You can choose between the conventional three-key navigation bar, a gesture-based interface, or a navigation dock. I liked the gesture-based interface the most: swipe up from the bottom to go to the home screen, swipe up and hold to go to recent apps, swipe from either edge to go back. It’s intuitive and easier to use on a tall phone than the navigation bar, though it tends to interfere with apps where you swipe from the sides to open menus, like Sync for Reddit or Slack.

You can choose between using an app drawer or just dumping everything on the homescreen. The app drawer itself looks great. The quick settings menu is pretty and functional. The settings section is generally intuitive — reorganized for EMUI 9 — though some settings are hidden in unexpected places.

huawei mate 20 pro twilight showing app drawer

You have lots of customization options, including my personal favorite, a system-wide dark mode that looks great on the OLED screen and also helps save battery.

Dark mode looks fantastic and helps save battery.

I recently started using Digital Wellbeing on my Pixel 2 to cut down on my phone usage, and I was happy to see similar functionality on the Mate 20 Pro. It’s called Digital Balance, and it actually has a few extra features, like granular usage statistics and a limit on your daily total screen time. Fun fact, I unlocked the Mate 20 Pro over 600 times in the making of this review, or every 16 minutes on average.

huawei mate 20 pro with open quick settings drawer

I noticed a number of small bugs and usability issues. Even with media volume set to zero, there’s a tiny “click” sound when loading autoplaying content in apps like Twitter or Chrome. You can’t swipe back from the app drawer. On the home screen, you can’t tap the names of apps to open them, but weirdly you can in the app drawer. The 3D emoji — an Apple feature Huawei basically cloned — are janky and sometimes fail to record your facial expressions. I also spotted a couple typos in the UI, though nothing egregious. We’ll revisit these issues once Huawei rolls out the promised update in a few days.

My Mate 20 Pro review unit came preloaded with a few Huawei utilities, as well as two third-party apps — eBay and Booking.com. In other words, bloatware isn’t too bad, though that tends to vary from market to market.

huawei mate 20 pro with a game on the screen

All in all, EMUI 9 is not flawless, but it’s clearly an improvement over previous versions. I still think the Pixel line has a better, more intuitive, and easier to use UI. That I’m even comparing them should be taken as high praise for Huawei.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro review conclusion: Is it worth the money?

The Mate 20 Pro is a powerful, feature-packed, exciting phone. It looks gorgeous, it feels great in the hand, and it runs solid software. It charges wickedly fast and can chug along for days on a single charge. Its biggest issue is the inconsistent low-light image quality, but even that is offset by the sheer versatility of its cameras.

I personally love the Mate 20 Pro and I think you will love it too. But… I didn’t have to pay for the phone I reviewed. Would I spend 1,050 euros on a Mate 20 Pro? I don’t think I would, only because I wouldn’t spend that kind of money on any phone.

Lots of people don’t mind paying a premium for true quality. If you only change your phone every two or three years, it makes sense to get something nice. If you’re like that, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is probably the best phone you can get today.

Perhaps the most desireable phone on the market right now.

Other phones may beat the Mate 20 Pro in specific areas. The Pixel 3 XL can take better pictures with less effort. The V40 has better sound. The Note 9 is just as powerful and comes with the S Pen, a headphone jack and a non-proprietary memory slot. These are all great phones for power users, just like Huawei’s flagship. But then the Mate 20 Pro has a 40MP main sensor, good wide angle and telephoto lenses, reverse wireless charging, 40W rapid charging, 3D face unlock, an in-screen fingerprint scanner, and crazy battery life. Where other phones lean on one great special feature to justify their price tags, the Mate 20 Pro has a bunch of them.

Bottom line, you won’t find a more desirable phone on the market right now.

Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro

A note on U.S. availability

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro may be a great phone, but it’s not good enough for the U.S. government. Suspicions over Huawei’s alleged ties with the Chinese government have caused an almost complete ban on the company’s smartphones in the U.S.

Huawei confirmed it would not be selling the Mate 20 Pro in the States, forcing would-be customers to look into importing a unit from other countries. That’s definitely an option, but prices of imported phones tend to be higher than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, potentially making the Mate 20 Pro even more expensive.

If you decide to import one or pick one up directly from an overseas store, make sure to check the supported bands (you can in see them in the specs table below) against the bands used by your carrier in the area you live.

Which variant should you choose?

Editor’s Pick

If it’s an option, we suggest getting the dual-SIM model, with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, in either Emerald Green or Midnight Blue (fewer fingerprints). While some markets will get the model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage as an option, the 6GB/128GB variant should be good enough for most users. You might be tempted to choose the slightly cheaper Mate 20 instead – while they look similar, the Mate 20 has a poorer screen, a less impressive camera, slower charging, and comes with a lower water resistance rating.

Full specs

  Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Display 6.39-inch curved OLED
3,120 x 1,440 resolution
538 ppi
19.5:9 aspect ratio
DCI-P3
Processor Huawei Kirin 980
Octa-core CPU (2 @ 2.6GHz, 2 @ 1.92GHz, 4 @ 1.8GHz)
Dual NPU
GPU Mali-G76 720MHz
RAM 6GB/8GB
Storage 128GB/256GB
NM (nano memory) card slot
Battery 4,200mAh
40W Huawei Supercharge
Can be used as a wireless charger for other Qi-enabled devices
15W wireless charging
Cameras Rear:
Main: 40MP sensor, f/1.8 aperture
Second: 8MP 3x telephoto sensor, OIS, f/2.4 aperture
Third: 20MP ultra-wide sensor, f/2.2 aperture, 16mm focal length equivalent
Front: 24MP RGB sensor
Network LYA-L29:
Primary SIM card:
4G LTE TDD: B34 / B38 / B39 / B40
4G LTE FDD: B1 / B2 / B3 / B4 / B5 / B6 / B7 / B8 / B9 / B12 / B17 / B18 / B19 / B20 / B26 / B28 / B32
3G WCDMA: B1 / B2 / B4 / B5 / B6 (Japan) / B8 / B19 (Japan);
3G TD-SCDMA: B34 / B39
2G GSM: B2 / B3 / B5 / B8 (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz)
Secondary SIM card:
4G LTE TDD: B34 / B38 / B39 / B40
4G LTE FDD: B1 / B2 / B3 / B4 / B5 / B6 / B7 / B8 / B9 / B12 / B17 / B18 / B19 / B20 / B26 / B28
3G WCDMA: B1 / B2 / B4 / B5 / B6 / B8 / B19
2G GSM: B2 / B3 / B5 / B8 (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz)

LYA-L09:
4G LTE TDD: B34 / B38 / B39 / B40
4G LTE FDD: B1 / B2 / B3 / B4 / B5 / B6 / B7 / B8 / B9 / B12 / B17 / B18 / B19 / B20 / B26 / B28 / B32
3G WCDMA: B1 / B2 / B4 / B5 / B6 (Japan) / B8 / B19 (Japan);
3G TD-SCDMA: B34 / B39
2G GSM: B2 / B3 / B5 / B8 (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz)

Connectivity 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (wave2), 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
Bluetooth 5.0, BLE, SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC and HWA Audio
Type-C, USB 3.1 GEN1
Type-C earjack
PC Data Synchronisation
IR blaster
GPS (L1 + L5 dual band) / AGPS / Glonass / BeiDou / Galileo (E1 + E5a dual band) / QZSS (L1 + L5 dual band)
NFC
Biometric security In-display fingerprint sensor
Dot projector, TOF proximity sensor, flood illuminator, and an IR camera for face-unlock
Headphone jack No
Dimensions 157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6mm
189g
IP rating IP68
Software version Android 9.0 Pie with EMUI 9.0
Colors Pink Gold, Midnight Blue, Emerald Green, Twilight, Black

Huawei Mate 20 series: Quick overview

Something manufacturers do to sell more phones is launch “families” of phones with similar names and looks, but very different specs (and manufacturing costs). Huawei launched five Mate 20 phones, ranging from mid-range to super-premium, clearly hoping the prestige of the flagships would rub off on the cheaper models. Here’s a breakdown, for clarity:

  • Mate 20 LiteMid-range, cheaper processor, 2017 design. 399 euros (~$455)
  • Mate 20Great core specs, but lots of features missing compared to the Pro variant. 799 euros (~$925)
  • Mate 20X – Huge screen, geared towards gamers and power-users.  899 euros (~$1,045)
  • Mate 20 Pro – The top mainstream model, full of bells and whistles. 1,049 euros (~$1,215)
  • Mate 20 RS Porsche DesignLimited-edition luxury version of Mate 20 Pro, with leather back and extra storage. 1,695 euros (~$1,965)

That concludes our Huawei Mate 20 Pro review. Let us know what you think about the phone and our impressions.

Read next: Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro: Where to buy, when, and for how much

We asked, you told us: The Note 9 is for power users, but the Mate 20 Pro is a close second

Huawei Mate 20 fingerprint reader

With the release of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, there’s finally an Android smartphone made for power users that competes against the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. With that said, we decided to ask all of you if you would rather buy the Mate 20 Pro or the Galaxy Note 9.

Spec-for-spec, the two handsets are almost identical. Both feature QHD+ displays that are over six-inches in size, high-quality CPUs, and 6GB of RAM — although the 512GB Note 9 model comes with 8GB. Other than the software experience that either manufacturer installs on its phones, the only significant differences is the inclusion of the headphones jack and S Pen found with the Galaxy Note 9.

Which is the better power user phone: Huawei Mate 20 Pro or Galaxy Note 9?

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Results

As you can see from the four polls that we ran, the Galaxy Note 9 barely beat out the Mate 20 Pro. Coming in with an average of 55 percent of the votes, Samsung’s flagship keeps it power user Android smartphone crown.

Unsurprisingly, it appears that the deciding factor for a majority of the voters came down to the standout features found in each device. For Galaxy Note 9 voters, they stated that they preferred the Samsung Experience, S Pen, the high-quality display, and the headphone jack. Mate 20 Pro voters overwhelmingly commented most about the larger 4,200mAh battery and how power users required the longer battery life.

Noteworthy comments

Here are some of the comments from across the polls – many stern in their vote for the Galaxy Note 9 or Mate 20 Pro:

  • Huawei mate 20 Pro is better for power user because of its new Kirin 980 processor based on 7nm manufacturing process.
  • the note 9 at least it’s doesn’t have that god dammed fugly notch!
  • How can you possibly consider the Note 9 a power user’s phone? Samsung Experience is awful, and is way too locked down to actually do anything.
  • though the mate 20 pro is a beast,it still can’t match the smartness of a bluetooth s pen ;that’s why we call it note
  • Mate by far. Samsung devices have terrible battery life and they always lag. Hell I’d put my Mate 10 Pro up against the Note 9 in the battery department.
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 9 for me, personally. Mainly due to the fact that it and every future Samsung Note device most likely will be available here in the USA on my current carrier, Verizon Wireless.

And then there’s those that voted based on the fact that they never used a Huawei phone before:

  • My vote is kind of flawed because I own a Note 9, currently using it, and I’ve never used a Huawei; any Huawei.

That’s it for this week, everyone. As always, thanks for voting, thanks for the comments, and don’t forget to let us know what you thought of the results below.