Roku Streaming Stick Plus review

There was a time when, if I wanted to watch a movie at home, I needed to get a copy on a VHS cassette! Then came DVDs, and VHS went the way of the dodo. But that was then, and now DVDs look almost prehistoric due to streaming services. We stream movies from services like Amazon Prime or Netflix. We watch videos on YouTube and we catch up with our TV viewing via TV streaming services like Hulu or iPlayer.

Watching streaming video on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop is easy. You just point your web browser at the relevant website. But what about on your TV? If you have a “smart” TV, then it probably has built-in apps for YouTube, Netflix, Plex, etc. It might also have access to Amazon Prime and Google Play Movies & TV.

But how do you watch streamed video on a not-so-smart TV? Or on a TV that has an app missing for one of the services you use? Roku, that’s how!

Roku has a range of “players” that connect to the HDMI port on your TV and allow you to use services like YouTube, Netflix, and Google Play Movies & TV directly on your TV. I have been testing out one of the more high-end players, the Roku Streaming Stick Plus.

Here’s my Roku Streaming Stick Plus review.

Setup

In the box you get the Roku Streaming Stick Plus itself — which connects directly to the HDMI port on your TV — as well as a Roku remote control, a USB power supply to power the stick, the USB power cable, and a USB extension cable in case your main outlet isn’t close to your TV. The USB power cable is proprietary, as it has some extra receiver tech built into a small capsule part way along the cable.

The physical setup is easy. You put the Streaming Stick Plus into the HDMI port of your TV, connect the USB cable to the stick and the power supply, and then plug in the power supply. If the space around the HDMI port is tight, then you will need a male-to-female HDMI cable, sometimes known as a “port saver” or a HDMI extender. You don’t get one in the box, but apparently Roku will send you one for free.

Your TV will probably switch automatically to the new HDMI input. If it doesn’t, you will need to select the right “source” using your TV’s remote.

Now you need to configure your Streaming Stick Plus. First, you may need to pair the Roku remote with the Roku stick. Then you need to connect the Stick Plus to your Wi-Fi network. A list of available networks will be shown and then, using the remote control, you can pick your network. You will also need to enter the Wi-Fi password using an on-screen keyboard and the remote. It’s a little laborious, as you have to pick each letter individually using the remote, but you only ever need to do this once, so fear not!

Along the way you will be able to pair the Roku remote with your TV, so you can control the volume and power using the Roku remote.

At this point, the Roku will check if there are any software updates available. They will be downloaded and installed accordingly.

Next, the Roku Streaming Stick Plus needs to understand what type of TV you have, what type of resolution it supports, and what type of HDMI connection you have. I found that all the automatic tests for this worked flawlessly and it guessed the configuration correctly.

Once the Stick Plus is talking to your remote, network, and TV correctly, you need to activate the device. This means you need to use a smartphone or a PC to connect to Roku’s website (using the website address shown on your TV).

You will need to create a Roku account if you don’t already have one. After that, you will need to enter the shown unique code from your Stick Plus. Once the activation is completed on the Roku website, the Stick Plus will automatically move onto the channel setup phase.

The biggest problem with the whole setup process is that you must enter some form of payment details to progress any further. This step is mandatory and can’t be skipped. Payments are accepted via credit/debit cards and via PayPal. While it is possible to use Roku without ever incurring any charges, the service asks for these details so that you can “easily rent/buy movies on demand or try popular streaming channels.”

I double checked with Roku and unfortunately this stage can’t be skipped. This might be a dealbreaker for some people. However Roku did add that “you will never be charged without your explicit consent.” In fact, there are several warnings before you actually make a purchase, meaning it is nearly impossible to be charged by accident.

Roku’s players borrow the vocabulary of broadcast TV, so each streaming service is called a “channel.” During the channel setup phase, you select different services from the list of available services. Popular services include Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play Movies & TV, and Plex. There are also simple games which can be added, plus some media apps like wallpapers from the popular photos sites, or playing video from any DLNA servers on your network.

Usage

Using the Stick Plus is simple enough. The remote is a “point anywhere” device, which means it doesn’t need to be pointed directly at the Stick Plus. If you think about it, that’s quite handy because the dongle itself is probably around the back of your TV!

To watch a channel you just select it from the main channel UI and it will load an app. Then, you will be presented with the relevant UI for that service. In other words, YouTube looks like YouTube, Netflix looks like Netflix, and so on!

Also read

The biggest headache is when you need to search for content inside the channel. If you are looking for a certain video clip in YouTube, then you need to go to the search function and then peck away at the remote to find and enter each letter for your search term.

Thankfully, there is also a remote Roku app for Android. The remote app mirrors the functionality of the physical remote, but it also adds new capabilities. For example, the home screen allows you just to tap the channel you want (without having to navigate to it with the direction keys); there’s also the ability to use the on-screen keyboard to enter text directly on the Streaming Stick Plus.

My favorite functionality of the Roku app is the “Private Listening” feature. With Private Listening, the audio from the Roku doesn’t come out from the TV, it is rerouted to your smartphone. This means you can plug headphones into your smartphone and listen to what is being streamed. Great for those who live in busy households!

Performance

As you would expect from a device designed specifically for streaming video over the internet, the Roku Streaming Stick Plus is very good at streaming video over the internet.

During my time with the Roku Streaming Stick Plus, I never noticed any glitches or lags that would be attributable to the stick itself (sometimes my internet connection can be a little temperamental).

The Streaming Stick Plus sets itself apart from many other sticks/dongles (from Roku and others) in that it supports 4K at 60 frames per second, it supports HDR, and it has 802.11ac dual-band MIMO Wi-Fi, with an enhanced wireless receiver that offers up to 4x range.

Obviously, to watch 4K movies, you need a 4K TV, plus the source needs to be 4K. Likewise for HDR, you need an HDR-compatible TV and the content needs to be in HDR. For both 4K and HDR, your TV needs to support HDMI HDCP 2.2.

Alternatives

The Roku Streaming Stick Plus costs $59.99. 

If you don’t need 4K or HDR support, then Roku also offers the standard version of the Streaming Stick sans the “plus” for $49.99. It supports 1080p and also has built-in 802.11ac dual-band MIMO Wi-Fi. If you don’t need 802.11ac, then the Roku Express also supports Full HD and uses 802.11 b/g/n. You can pick up a Roku Express for just $29.99.

Besides Roku’s offerings, there are alternatives from Google — Chromecast Ultra — and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick. Then there are also a plethora of no-name Android media boxes.

The verdict

Streaming is a big part of how we consume media in our household. We actually haven’t watched broadcast TV for a couple of years and our satellite receiver is no longer connected to the TV.

However, we do have lots of streaming devices. I think it is fair to say that the Roku Streaming Stick Plus is one of the most comprehensive and yet easy to use devices that I have tested. Compared to the other devices we use in our house, the Roku has the advantage that it isn’t from Google or Amazon. Google’s Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV are probably the most popular streaming devices for Android users, but the two companies also happen to be rivals (Amazon Video vs Google Play Movies & TV; Google Home vs Amazon Alexa; etc). That means each would prefer you to stick within the confines of its walled garden. For example, Amazon Video isn’t compatible with Google’s Chromecast. Roku doesn’t suffer from this problem and is able to offer support for a full range of services including those from Amazon and Google.

If you have Google and Amazon subscriptions, maybe the Roku is the easiest way to get the best of both worlds.

Affiliate disclosure: We may receive compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. See our disclosure policy for more details.

Huawei Mate 20 X review: Android gaming, super-sized

Gaming phones are suffering something of an identity crisis.

On the one hand, you have phones like the Asus ROG Phone and Nubia Red Magic Mars — handsets that have been built from the ground-up to look, feel, and play like a pocket-sized, handheld console.

On the other, there’s the traditional Android flagship brigade which has slowly begun adopting a handful of gaming-centric features, such as the Samsung Galaxy S10’s Unity optimizations and cooling system.

Huawei Mate 20 X vs Nintendo Switch

The distinction between a dedicated gaming phone and a top-spec phone that just so happens to be pretty good for gaming is more vague than ever.

Having tentatively dipped its toes into the gaming waters via its sub-brand with the Honor Play, Chinese giant Huawei is going all-in with the Mate 20 X — a 7.2-inch monster phablet Huawei infamously claimed is a better portable gaming machine than the Nintendo Switch.

But is the largest member of the Mate 20 family a true gaming phone or just another pretender? Find out in this Huawei Mate 20 X review!

About this Huawei Mate 20 X review

I wrote this review after spending two weeks with a Huawei Mate 20 X review unit supplied by Huawei. The phone (model EVR-L29) ran EMUI 9 (build number 9.0.0.113) and Android Pie with the October 2018 security patch. I used it mostly on my home Wi-Fi network, as well as O2’s 4G network in the U.K. Technically, the software on the review unit was non-final, but Huawei said it is indicative of the final release software.

Huawei recently announced that a new variant of the Mate 20 X is on the way with 5G support. However the version we’ve reviewed is the original model released in late 2018.

Design

Huawei Mate 20 X vs OnePlus 6T vs Google Pixel 3 XL

Huawei Mate 20 X (middle) vs OnePlus 6T (left) vs Google Pixel 3 XL (right)

Let’s get right down to it: the Huawei Mate 20 X is absolutely massive.

Large phones are nothing new, but the Notes, Pluses, XLs, and Max’s have nothing on Huawei’s behemoth. At 174.6mm tall and 85.4mm wide, the Mate 20 X engulfs other phablets and larger-sized phones in side-by-side comparisons.

The Mate 20 X immediately reminded me of the super-duper-sized phones of yesteryear, like the Sony Xperia Z Ultra, Samsung Galaxy W, and Huawei’s own MediaPad X2. The most relevant modern comparison is the Honor Note 10.

There are practical issues with carrying a “mobile” phone that’s this huge.

As with the Note 10, the Mate 20 X benefits from Huawei’s FullView display design, which decreases the amount of redundant bezel space and maximizes the screen real estate — and let me tell you, there’s a lot of screen to play with.

It seems a little redundant to criticize a phone whose whole existence is basically defined by its gargantuan build, but there are practical concerns when carrying around a “mobile” phone that’s this huge.

The simple fact is the Mate 20 X is a two-handed smartphone. If you can wrestle the phone into the right position, those with larger hands will just about tackle sending a quick message or hitting the back button with a single thumb. But, unless you’re ET or Freddy Krueger, there’s no way you’re reaching the notification bar without drafting in another palm. Huawei has added a One-Handed UI mode to combat this issue, but that does require a few extra gestures just to perform simple actions.

It narrowly passed the pocket test when I was wearing jeans, but my coat and bag pockets couldn’t contain the Mate 20 X’s sheer mass without exposing the frame and part of the display.

Huawei Mate 20 X vs Google Pixel 3 XL

Huawei Mate 20 X vs Google Pixel 3 XL size comparison

If you’re thinking of buying the Mate 20 X, my advice would be to either handle it first or at least cut out a bit of cardboard with the same dimensions for a scale. While it still feels big to me, I could quite happily use it as my daily driver without much issue. That’s a different case entirely for my partner who, despite usually preferring larger phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note and Pixel XL series phones, quite literally couldn’t get to grips with it.

Unlike other products that clumsily try to appeal to gaming fans, there are no pulsing LED strips, gaudy accents, or glowing logos to be found. Instead, the Mate 20 X is an almost identical replica of the vanilla Mate 20 only with inflated dimensions. It has the same divisive square camera module, “waterdrop” notch, rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and even the same red-accented, textured power button.

Related: Huawei Mate 20 vs Mate 20 Pro: Past meets future

The phone is surprisingly thin relative to its overall size at just over 8.2mm. While it’s a lot heavier than your regular flagship phone at 232g (for comparison, the Mate 20 weighs 188g), the weight distribution is fairly uniform so it won’t tip in your hand.

This is helped by the curved glass and tapered aluminium frame, though there’s no escaping it’s an incredibly slippery customer, even in spite of the etched diagonal lines on the rear panel. I had similar concerns with the Mate 20 Pro, but that same smooth, glossy finish paired with the Mate 20 X’s extra size and weight is a hazardous combination.

Huawei Mate 20 X review unit bottom

The Mate 20 X has a dual-SIM slot on the left side and a power button and volume rocker on the right. On the bottom is USB Type-C port and speaker, which is joined by a second speaker on the top of the phone next to an IR blaster and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The unit I’ve been playing around with is the Phantom Silver version, which is exclusive to the Mate 20 X within the wider Mate 20 series and has a metallic tinge and green and purple hues. The phone is also available in Metallic Blue.

Display

Huawei Mate 20 X in hand

Remember when tablets with 7-inch displays like the Google Nexus 7 seemed so much larger than our phones? The Mate 20 X adds an extra 0.2-inches onto that in a much smaller overall form factor and hits an intimidating ~87.6 percent screen-to-body ratio.

Putting aside the fact it can be cumbersome to handle a phone this large, the actual display is a joy to use whether you’re playing a game, taking a photo, or just flicking through a thread of massive WhatsApp speech bubbles.

The AMOLED panel delivers suitably deep blacks and rich colors, although Huawei oversaturates everything a little out-of-the-box. Thankfully, you can tweak the color mode, temperature, and schedule a blue light filter in the display’s settings menu.

Huawei Mate 20 X vs Nintendo Switch 2

Huawei Mate 20 X (bottom) vs Nintendo Switch (top) display comparison

The Mate 20 X outputs at 1,080 x 2,244 as standard, but this can be manually dropped to HD+ (720p). You can also ask the phone to adjust the resolution automatically to save power.

Compared to the Mate 20, the Mate 20 X upgrades from LCD to AMOLED, although it’s disappointing to see Huawei stick with Full HD+ rather than Quad HD like the Mate 20 Pro. You’ll still have to peek closely to see those pixels, but if 1080p and 381ppi sounds low for a screen that’s 7.2-inches, that’s because, frankly, it is.

This is by no means a poor display, however. It’s bright enough to play mobile HDR content and the 18.7:9 aspect ratio means you won’t always be plagued by black borders in landscape mode.

Finally, if the notch is something that’ll bother you, Huawei has included the option to black out the notification bar.

Performance

It may well be surpassed when the rumored Huawei P30 series hits the market, but for now the Chinese giant’s most powerful silicon is still the Kirin 980.

We already know from our extensive tests that the Kirin 980 — paired with a Mali-G76 GPU with a 10 core configuration — is an incredibly capable SoC and that carries over to the Mate 20 X’s performance. It also doesn’t hurt that the largest member of the Mate 20 series comes with 6GB RAM as standard.

It should be noted that the benchmark results that follow were obtained with “Performance Mode” turned off. Huawei got into a bit of hot water last year for enabling the mode as standard during benchmark tests leading to overinflated scores. The mode can be toggled on in the Battery menu (for baffling reasons only the EMUI designers will ever know), although I’ve yet to see any meaningful performance improvement or higher battery drain with it turned on.

uawei mate 20 x geekbench benchmark
uawei mate 20 x geekbench benchmark
uawei mate 20 x geekbench benchmark

The Mate 20 X came out at 3,337 in the Geekbench 4 Single-Core test and 9,813 in the Multi-Core test. For comparison, the Asus ROG Phone scored 2,521 and 9,224. The regular Mate 20 scored 3,371 and 9,891.

uawei mate 20 x antutu benchmark
uawei mate 20 x antutu benchmark

The Mate 20 X struggled in the Antutu tests, resulting in a score of 273,720 — well below Xiaomi’s Black Shark gaming phone (291,099) and the ROG Phone (288,715). The screenshot on the right shows the leap when Performance Mode is turned on, which is almost identical to what we found when reviewing the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro.

uawei mate 20 x 3dmark benchmark
uawei mate 20 x 3dmark benchmark
uawei mate 20 x 3dmark benchmark

Things improved slightly with 3DMark, but the 3,873 Sling Shot Extreme result still falls well below even the demonstrably cheaper Pocophone F1 (4,216).

Gaming

Huawei Mate 20 X games

So we know the Mate 20 X is a powerhouse phone with an enviable specs sheet, but what is Huawei’s new gaming phone actually like to play games on?

Let’s start with the good stuff, starting with that gargantuan display.

It sounds obvious, but playing Android games on a screen this large is ridiculously enjoyable. Sure, you can technically play Android games on larger screens with Android TV boxes, tablets, Chromebooks, and even PCs via an emulator, but when it comes to playing Play Store games on an Android phone, the Mate 20 X has a clear advantage over the competition.

Editor’s Pick

Virtual buttons and sticks are far easier to use with more space between them, menu text is clearer, and you’ll likely spot tiny design and art details in your favorite games that you’ve never noticed before.

I mentioned earlier that if you squint you can see the drop from QHD to FHD+ and while it is noticeable up close, it’s far from a deal breaker.

A lot of the graphical blemishes and visual artifacts that get exposed on the enlarged screen can’t be blamed entirely on Huawei either, as so many games on the Play Store (mostly 3D games and especially Unity/Unreal ports) are terribly optimized for larger displays. The best visual results come from games with unique, colorful art design like Brawl Stars, Alto’s Odyssey, and Agent A.

As for gaming features, the Mate 20 X has a cooling system with a vapour chamber and graphene film Huawei calls SuperCool. Huawei says this is more effective than other cooling solutions and I’m inclined to believe it as the phone never got hot enough for me to really notice despite extended play sessions.

The Mate 20 X’s stereophonic speakers are a bit lacking in the bass department but they do lend the phone an added immersion factor over other phones when gaming. Unfortunately, the speakers’ placement on the top and bottom of the phone is far from ideal. Unless you flip the phone to rest on its right side you’ll cover both speakers with your palms and even then it’s very easy to muffle them with your index fingers. With this much real-estate to play with it’s a crying shame Huawei didn’t opt for front-facing speakers.

There’s also plenty about the Mate 20 X that will appeal to video game fans in general. Watching YouTube and Twitch is a dream. I’ve watched hours of Overwatch League VODs on my Huawei Mate 20 X review unit and you’re as likely to spot big brain plays from esports pros on the Mate 20 X’s large screen as you are a PC monitor. The 3.5mm headphone jack also makes using voice comms apps like Discord far less awkward.

Huawei Mate 20 X media

#IonThePrize

There’s just one fairly major problem: the Mate 20 X isn’t really a gaming phone.

If you weren’t aware Huawei had marketed the phone as a Switch-killer, there’s no way you’d guess it has any gaming features at all at a glance. The fact that gaming is now the fifth subsection of the Mate 20 X’s official store page is telling — it may be a solid phone for gaming, but Huawei never truly designed it specifically for playing games.

It all starts with the UX, which buries all gaming options into a web of sub-menus and doesn’t provide any extra apps or software tweaks you can’t also find on any recent Huawei/Honor phone. Aside from the aforementioned cooling system, it’s the same story on the hardware front too.

We’ve recently seen phones hit the market with intuitive game library apps, trigger buttons (both physical and pressure sensitive), variable refresh rates, and apps that measure CPU/GPU clock speed and frame rate counters. The Mate 20 X has none of these.

This would almost be acceptable if the phone could take on the best gaming phones in the performance stakes, but for gaming the Mate 20 X’s Kirin 980 setup is inferior to pretty much every Snapdragon 845 phone I’ve tested and will be massively outmatched by the upcoming wave of Snapdragon 855 handsets. For all Huawei’s bluster, there’s still a significant gap between Mali and Adreno graphics — this is something we’ve delved into on several occasions here at Android Authority.

GPU Turbo has become Huawei’s get out of jail free card.

While it’s far from a dreadful experience to play Android games on the Mate 20 X, there are noticeable frame rate drops in graphics-intensive games like Fortnite, as well as more minor issues like lagging menus in Pokémon Go. Likewise, while GPU-hungry emulators like Dolphin can technically run Gamecube games on the Mate 20 X, the experience is almost always too choppy to get any enjoyment out of it.

Of course, this isn’t the case if you play one of the six games supported by Huawei’s GPU Turbo technology (now GPU Turbo 2.0), which boosts power efficiency and delivers higher frame rates.

GPU Turbo has become Huawei and Honor’s get out of jail free card for delivering phones that are ostensibly gaming phones like the Honor Play, but the same technology is already available on a heap of phones (many cheaper than the Mate 20 X) from both Chinese brands.

With three MOBAs (Vainglory, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Arena of Valor), two battle royales (PUBG Mobile, Rules of Survival), and a single sports game (NBA 2K18), there’s also a crippling lack of variety in the minuscule number of games that enjoy GPU Turbo support.

Read more: 10 best game apps for Android

The millions of other games on the Play Store are stuck with basic Game Booster optimizations that simply don’t offer tangible improvements. The Game Booster option is also hidden away in EMUI’s maze of menus under AppAssistant, which you’d never find without having to use Settings search. Once you do find it you have to provide a ton of (slightly questionable) permissions to get it to even run.

It’s even worse for Performance Mode which, as previously mentioned, gets lumped in the Battery section. It’s almost like the Mate 20 X’s UI has been reversed engineered to be a gaming phone. Because it has.

Huawei Mate 20 X Android games

My final gripe is the lack of shoulder buttons. Much like the lack of front-facing speakers, the Mate 20 X has more than enough bulk to accommodate a pair of triggers that’d make playing shooters infinitely more enjoyable.

Huawei’s solution at launch was an attachable, left-sided controller with a thumbstick, D-Pad, and a single trigger button, but the peripheral isn’t included with the phone and is nowhere to be found through Huawei’s official store or recommended retail partners.

Thanks to a preset in AppAssistant, I learned the accessory is called the Betop G1 which can be bought at Amazon in the U.K. via a third-party retailer for 37.99 pounds ( ~$50). I haven’t tested it myself, so buy it at your own risk.

Hardware

Huawei Mate 20 X camera

Huawei has made great use of the phone’s size in the battery department by cramming in a mighty 5,000mAh cell. Even with every setting I could possibly think of turned up to max and put under heavy usage for games and video streaming, the Mate 20 X review unit almost always hit 1.5 days before hitting zero.

With an average screen-on-time of 12-14 hours during my tests, if you’re only using the Mate 20 X for social media and browsing the web there’s a good chance you could easily squeeze two or possibly even three full days out of this beast.

Editor’s Pick

The Mate 20 X supports Huawei’s SuperCharge technology for fast charging, but rather than the 40W version enjoyed by the Mate 20 Pro the Mate 20 X is stuck with regular 22.5W charger.

It also doesn’t support wireless charging or the Mate 20 Pro’s reverse wireless charging functionality.

On the biometrics front, the rear fingerprint sensor may be a little hard to reach but it’s fairly accurate and much faster than any in-display alternatives currently available. The Mate 20 X also supports face unlocking. However, without the fancy 3D mapping sensors on the Mate 20 Pro, what you’re getting here is a less secure, software-based variant.

The Mate 20 X comes with 128GB internal storage as standard, although this can be expanded up to 256GB by taking up one of the dual-SIM tray slots. Unfortunately, the Mate 20 X only supports Huawei’s proprietary nano memory cards which cost twice the price of an equivalent standard MicroSD card.

Aside from the headphone jack and handy IR blaster, the only other notable hardware feature is the IP53 rating for protection against dust and splashes of water. If you want full water resistance you’ll have to stump up the extra for the Mate 20 Pro’s IP68 rating.

Software

Huawei Mate 20 X EMUI

Huawei’s software has come a long way in recent years, culminating in the Android Pie-based EMUI 9.0.

There’s plenty to like if you prefer heavily customizable Android skins and neat tweaks that build on Pie’s solid foundations. These include excellent gesture controls, a system-wide dark mode option, and Huawei’s own take on Google’s Digital Wellbeing called Digital Balance.

EMUI 9.0 doesn’t feature an app dock as standard, which means your homescreen will be a bit cluttered if you’ve downloaded a bunch of games. Thankfully you can add a dock in Settings, but as with everything in EMUI’s cluttered menus, actually finding the option is an exercise in frustration (it’s in Settings > Home screen & wallpaper > Home screen style, in case you get lost).

One feature you will want to find is One-Handed UI, which lets you temporarily shrink the screen size to something far more manageable in a single hand. This is accessed by swiping diagonally from the bottom corner of the phone, or by swiping left or right on the home button if you’re using three key navigation.

The Mate 20 X also has software support for Huawei’s M-Pen, but the stylus doesn’t come with the phone as standard.

Having used Huawei phones in the past I knew what I was getting myself into with EMUI 9.0. I also knew it wouldn’t be too long before I’d switch to a different launcher (in this case Nova) so I could distance myself as much as possible from the illogical menus, duplicate apps, bloatware (who uses a Mirror app, seriously), and the pointless HiBoard feed.

Huawei is definitely on the right track with EMUI 9.0, but it still stumbles on the basics.

Camera

Huawei Mate 20 X camera 2

The Mate 20 X features an identical square-shaped, triple-lens camera module to Huawei’s flagship Mate 20 Pro, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it delivers a solid and incredibly versatile photography experience.

Those three cameras are a primary 40MP lens (f/1.8 aperture), an 8MP telephoto camera (f/2.4 with OIS), and a 20MP ultra-wide shooter (f/2.2 aperture). The selfie camera, meanwhile, is a single 24MP camera (f/2.0).

huawei mate 20 x camera sample statue
huawei mate 20 x camera sample statue 3x zoom
huawei mate 20 x camera sample statue 5x zoom

The setup enables up to 3x optical zoom and 5x hybrid zoom, detailed bokeh-style portrait shots, as well as impressive ultra wide shots to get more scenery or family members in a single frame. That’s a lot of options to work with and the Camera app lets you switch between the three lenses with quick taps or a single swipe.

huawei mate 20 x camera sample normal
huawei mate 20 x camera sample wide angle
huawei mate 20 x camera sample 5x hybrid zoom

The Mate 20 X’s 40MP sensor uses pixel binning to combine four physical pixels into one large 2µm pixel for better light capture and dynamic range. The resulting 10MP shots are mostly fantastic. Below are some sample shots and you can see the full resolution versions here.

While the camera can overexpose shots from time to time — particularly in lower light — the Mate 20 X produces vibrant, colorful images without switching from Auto mode. There’s also a fully kitted-out Pro mode if you want to manually tweak white balance, color temperature, and more.

huawei mate 20 x camera sample star wars figures

huawei mate 20 x camera sample cat
huawei mate 20 x camera sample models

The Mate 20 X camera also has Huawei’s patented dual NPU-powered Master AI mode that picks from a host of pre-selected shooting modes based on the subject. I haven’t really seen much benefit from using it, but when the phone tells me my cat is a cat it’s pretty impressive nonetheless.

The comprehensive photography package is rounded up by more superfluous modes like monochrome, AR lens, light painting, time-lapse, and much more, as well as beauty and lighting options for Portrait mode. It can also shoot video at up to 4K Ultra HD (3,840 x 2,160) quality.

huawei mate 20 x camera sample selfie
huawei mate 20 x camera sample selfie 2

The only real downer I have on the Mate 20 X’s photography suite is the selfie camera which has a tendency to wash out images. Turning off the AI HDR mode helps slightly but it still lacks detail and is nowhere near the same standard as the rear shooter.

Specs

  Huawei Mate 20 X
Display 7.2-inch curved AMOLED
2,244 x 1,080 resolution
346ppi
18.7:9 aspect ratio
Processor Huawei Kirin 980
Octa-core CPU (2 @ 2.6GHz, 2 @ 1.92GHz, 4 @ 1.8GHz)
Dual NPU
GPU Mali-G76 MP10
RAM 6GB
Storage 128GB
NM (nano memory) card slot for memory expansion
Battery 5,000mAh
22.5W Huawei Supercharge
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
Security Rear fingerprint sensor, face unlock
Headphone jack Yes
Dimensions 174.6 x 85.4 x 8.2mm
232g
IP rating IP53
Software version Android 9.0 Pie with EMUI 9.0
Colors Phantom Silver, Midnight Blue

Price and availability

The Huawei Mate 20 X is available in the U.K. priced at 799 pounds (~$1,049) and selected European countries where it retails for 899 euros.

Wrap up and competition

Huawei Mate 20 X main

Initially described as the “best portable mobile gaming machine” on the market by Huawei’s CEO, it’s notable the Chinese juggernaut gradually softened its gaming-centric marketing for the Mate 20 X over time, instead focusing on the phone’s size and specs.

This should’ve been the approach from the outset, as the Mate 20 X is a bonafide media monster with an eye-popping display, killer camera, 1-2 day battery life, and enough raw power to handle almost anything you can throw at it.

Yet, those outlandish launch claims still linger in the memory and the Mate 20 X doesn’t get anywhere close to delivering on Huawei’s originally ridiculous promises that it’d crafted the ultimate gaming device.

Unless you really, really love PUBG Mobile, there’s a wider variety of games that will run more smoothly on any suitably powerful Snapdragon 845/855-powered handset. If you want a phone entirely designed for gaming on the go, however, the Asus ROG Phone is still the best gaming phone money can buy.

The Mate 20 X is a bonafide media monster.

There’s also competition from within from the Mate 20 Pro. For an extra 150 euros, the Pro model has a higher resolution display, improved waterproofing, reverse, wireless, and faster charging, and upgraded biometrics. Likewise, if you have cash to burn, Huawei’s $2,600 Mate X folding phone is on the horizon with its even larger 8-inch fold-out display.

With all that said, there’s definitely a niche market for the Mate 20 X. It’s the closest a phablet has come to balancing both the usability of a smartphone and a truly tablet-like screen so far.

I already know I’ll miss that colossal display as soon as I pick up a regular-sized smartphone, even if my pockets might be a little less sad to see it go.


What do you think of our Huawei Mate 20 X review? Let us know your thoughts on the giant phablet in the comments.

Affiliate disclosure: We may receive compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. See our disclosure policy for more details.

Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite review: A solid competitor to Apple’s low-cost iPad

side of Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite

The Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite is a tablet the whole family can share. With multiple user profiles, parental controls, and eye-protection for kids, the M5 Lite aims to be the focal point of your home’s mobile entertainment center.

Editor’s Pick

Huawei is pitching the MediaPad M5 Lite as an ideal around-the-house companion. The hardware falls in line with Huawei’s current design language, just as the software does with the company’s EMUI concept. What’s particularly interesting are the additional tools Huawei is making available to parents, who can take greater control over their kids’ screen time.

Is this tablet a fit for your family? Let’s find out in our Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite review.

Handy hardware

Tablets are great for consuming media. The slate form factor capably bridges the divide between watching video on phones, which can be too small, and watching on laptops, which can be awkward. Kids often take to tablets naturally, as if the product category was conceived just for them. My daughter seized upon the M5 Lite and preferred it to her Chromebook for catching up on her favorite YouTube channels.

homescreen of Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite review unit

I find tablets with 7- or 8-inch screens to be ideal for portability and usability, but 10-inch screens are often more cinematic. The M5 Lite has a 10.1-inch screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio. This gives the tablet an oblong look compared to tablets that have a 4:3 screen. The Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite’s dimensions are on par with those of the $329 Apple iPad, meaning it is about the size and shape of a comic book.

This is no piece of Playskool plastic.

Despite aiming the Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite at younger users, the tablet is sculpted from fine materials. An attractive metal chassis forms the rear surface and side edges. Diamond-cut chamfers catch the light and the sand-blasted aluminum has a nice texture. The front panel is all glass, of course. The glass is fitted snugly into the chassis and boasts a rounded shape along the edges. The M5 Lite is not ruggedized, so a case may be in order to keep it safe(r) from clumsy hands. Huawei didn’t skimp on the design or the materials; this is no piece of Playskool plastic.

Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite front

The controls are a mix of good and bad. The buttons for waking the tablet and adjusting the volume are on the right side. My daughter thought they were easy to find and use. A tray on the left edge allows you to boost storage via microSD memory card or add a SIM card for cellular data.

The problem is the headphone jack.

First, let me say that I’m grateful that there is a headphone jack. Huawei’s pricier MediaPad M5 Pro doesn’t have one. Huawei put the jack on the M5 Lite’s left edge, all the way at the bottom. Any headphones you plug into the jack will stick out sideways and get in the way of your hand position as you try to hold the tablet. This location also makes the jack susceptible to damage from pressure. To make matters worse, the USB-C port is right next to headphone jack. I don’t think Huawei thought this through.

Huawei MediaPad 5 Lite corner with headphone jack and usb type-c jack

The screen is good, but not great. It has 1,920 by 1,200 pixels, which is Full HD. The pixel density comes in at 224ppi, which is well under the 264ppi offered by some competing tablets. This means the MediaPad M5 Lite’s display isn’t quite as sharp as I’d like it to be. The LCD panel puts out plenty of light for easy viewing in most conditions, like the couch or the back seat of a car. Color is not as accurate as it should be. The entire displays skews a bit cool, so whites often have a blue tint to them. This isn’t an issue when you’re watching videos; it’s more noticeable when browsing the web or using Google apps.

Silly software

Huawei cooked up some special stuff for families. An app called Kids Corner lets kids have their own space on the tablet, all while falling under the watchful eye of their parents.

Our Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite review unit runs Android 8 Oreo and is skinned with Huawei’s EMUI 8. EMUI is a pretty heavy-handed skin and can be annoying at times. The OS is capable and includes all features with which Android users should be familiar, such as multiple home screen panels, Google Feed, an app drawer, the quick settings shade, and so on. I like that Huawei allows you to pick from several different home screen styles.

screenshot showing Huawei MediaPad 5 Lite's homescreen

If you have kids aged 10 or up, I’d let them use the standard Android UI. They won’t like the Kids Corner mode, which is for younger tots.

Kids Corner is not just a setting, but an entirely separate mode of operation. As a parent, you’ll have to first set it up, complete with different profiles for different kids. You can control which apps kids are allowed to access, how long they’re allowed to use the tablet, when the blue light filter kicks on, and so on. Each kid can record his or her own fingerprint and instantly unlock it and go to their profile. Another tool helps parents prevent kids from holding the tablet too close to their eyes. It can be set to near, medium, or far. Depending on the setting, the M5 Lite will alert the viewer to back up a little if they get too close. This is meant to prevent strain on young and growing eyes.

Kids Corner sounds like Sesame Street.

Once the tablet has been put into Kids Corner mode, it cannot revert to standard mode without the parental PIN code. This means your kids can’t sneak out of Kids Corner and access other parts of the UI.

There’s one problem: Kids Corner sounds like “Sesame Street”. There’s a really annoying soundtrack playing in the background that’s all nursery-rhyme style. It definitely did not resonate with my daughter, who is 12. She complained it was for little kids.

Proficient performance

The Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite holds up well enough to daily use, but it’s obviously not a high-end machine.

Huawei selected its own Kirin 659 processor. This octa-core engine is supported by 3GB of memory. I wish it had 4GB. The tablet tended to get a bit warm after viewing video for about 30 minutes, though it never became uncomfortably hot. The Kirin 659 can handle basic media playback with no trouble at all. Music, movies, and books all loaded quickly and streamed smoothly over WiFi. It’s not as capable when it comes to games. Tetris won’t tax it, but high-quality racing games such as Asphalt will have the MediaPad M5 Lite begging for mercy.

Huawei MediaPad 5 Lite in natural light

I’m disappointed with the storage. It ships with just 32GB. The system consumes a full 13GB, leaving you with just 19GB for your stuff. This shouldn’t be much of a problem if you’re using the M5 Lite to stream content via WiFi at home, but it can become an issue if you plan to use the device offline, such as in the car or on an airplane. The good news is you can supplement the built-in storage with a microSD card up to 256GB.

Intense games will have the MediaPad M5 Lite begging for mercy.

Battery life is excellent. The tablet contains a 7,500mAh battery and it is good for more than 10 hours of video and gaming. The included charger can top up the battery fully in just under three hours.

Harman Kardon helped Huawei tune the four speakers. The M5 Lite delivers stereo and multi-dimensional sound with plenty of gusto. The speakers can be pushed pretty hard, though sound suffers from distortion at louder volumes. It leans a bit toward the treble-y side of things; it could use more bass.

rear view of Huawei MediaPad 5 Lite

The Bluetooth, WiFi, and GPS radios kept me connected with no problem.

The camera is good enough for grainy video chats and silly pix with the kids, but that’s about it.

Huawei MediaPad 5 Lite placed on art album

Final thoughts: Who is the Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite for?

Huawei created a compelling tablet for families in the MediaPad M5 Lite. It’s a well-crafted piece of hardware with only a few foibles. I wish the screen were just a bit better and the headphone jack were pushed to another part of the chassis. The Android 8 operating system and Huawei’s EMUI 8 ran smoothly and weren’t overly annoying. The kids’ software, while certainly powerful and enabling for parents, is aimed at very young kids and comes off as babyish. I wish Huawei had a Teen Corner in addition to Kids Corner.

The good battery life means the M5 Lite will run as long as your kids do, and, should it get lost under the couch for a week or two, still have some juice left.

Editor’s Pick

At $299 it’s a solid competitor to Apple’s $329 iPad. For Android families who want a capable machine for entertaining the household, the Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite is up to the task.

That concludes our Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite review. Will you buy this tablet?

Affiliate disclosure: We may receive compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. See our disclosure policy for more details.

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).

JLab Epic Air Elite review: True-wireless earbuds with few compromises

JLab Epic Air Elite: The earbuds surrounded by water on a black table.

The IP55 JLab Epic Air Elite earbuds can withstand both dust and water.

There are few places more appropriate for truly wireless earbuds than a gym, which is exactly where the JLab Epic Air Elite feel most at home. The ear hook design is similar to that of the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100, but these sport a more svelte build. While $150 is substantial, the Epic Air Elite remains more affordable than its comparable competitors.

The full review is available at our sister site, SoundGuys.com.

What is JLab Epic Air Elite like?

JLab Epic Air Elite: The case open with the earbuds placed inside. The removable micro-USB to USB-A cable is detached from the case on a white table.

The charging cable is integrated into the case and is easy to remove for on-the-go charging.

Based on appearance alone, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish the Epic Air Elite from its predecessor the Epic Air. Both feature glossy touch-capacitive panels, a rubberized ear hook shape, and ergonomically angled nozzles. Where the Elite iteration diverges is with its reliable connectivity, a feat for true wireless technology.

The earbuds remain connected without signal skips within the listed 10-meter range, which can be attributed to the Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0 support. While there aren’t many shortcomings of these earbuds, you could cite the lack of high-quality Bluetooth codec support as an issue. In all fairness, these are workout earbuds, not studio headphones, so audio streaming quality likely takes a backseat to bass emphasis, connectivity, and a stable fit.

Due to the malleable ear hooks, stability is excellent. The IP55 earbuds stay secure while running, jumping rope, and during calisthenic exercises. To get the best fit, take a moment to experiment with the array of included earbuds. JLab provides eight pairs, and the wrong size can negatively impact sound quality and fit.

To get the best possible fit and sound quality, take a moment to test out which of the provided ear tips best suit you.

Battery life with these earbuds is excellent as the 2,600mAh charging case provides an additional 32 hours of playback. Standalone playback time for the earbuds is also exceptional at 5.16 hours according to SoundGuys’ objective testing. While the charging case takes up a bit of room compared to others, it can charge your smartphone, justifying the large size. Similar to the JLab JBuds Air, the microUSB charging cable is integrated into the case and wraps around the edge.

Related: Why true wireless connectivity is so bad

How do the earbuds sound?

JLab Epic Air Elite: A woman wearing the earbuds against a black background.

The JLab Epic Air Elite provide a bass-heavy sound, which is often preferred for exercise.

The JLab Epic Air Elite earbuds are as you’d expect workout earbuds to sound: bass-heavy. JLab provides listeners with three EQ options: JLab signature, balanced, and bass boost. Even with the balanced mode activated, which is the default preset, the low-end is audibly exaggerated.

That said, even with the emphatic bass emphasis, mid-range frequencies remain distinguished. There’s a bit of auditory masking as clarity isn’t the greatest, but again, this is forgivable since most listeners are using these earbuds to stay pumped during a workout, not to appreciate the nuances of a classical piece.

Perhaps the only disappointment regarding audio reproduction has to do with the treble response. If your music library contains a lot of cymbal crashes and violin solos, you may be surprised by how difficult it is to perceive treble frequencies with these earbuds.

Should you buy the JLab Epic Air Elite?

JLab Epic Air Elite: Top-down image of the earbuds with a Nintendo Switch controller in the bottom right corner of the image.

Listeners benefit from Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0, facilitating a 30-meter connectivity range.

Those interested in spending a bit more on workout earbuds but feel intimidated by the Bose SoundSport Free’s $200 price tag will enjoy these. Battery life and connectivity are stellar, and while the physical appearance may not be eye-catching, it’s discreet and sophisticated for the workout variety. If you’re enticed by these but feel it’s not worth spending $100-plus on exercise ‘buds, then the company’s Fit 2.0 may be more financially viable. Ultimately, though, the JLab Epic Air Elite is a great compromise with few compromises.

Next: Best workout earbuds 2019

Affiliate disclosure: We may receive compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. See our disclosure policy for more details.

Fitbit Charge 3 review: Fitbit is getting really good at this (Update: On sale!)

Update, February 5, 2019 at 4:39 p.m. ET: The Fitbit Charge 3 is on sale through Valentine’s Day 2019! Right now you can buy the standard Fitbit Charge 3 for just $129.95, while the special edition Charge 3 with Fitbit Pay support costs just $149.95 ($20 off). Just use the offer code CUPID at checkout.


Fitbit is synonymous with the term “fitness tracker,” and the Charge line has a lot to do with that. Fitbit Charge devices are some of the most popular fitness trackers in the world, likely because they strike a good balance between features and price.

Let’s find out if this new entry keeps that up in our Fitbit Charge 3 review.

Fitbit Charge 3 review notes: This review was originally published October 17, 2018.

I’ve used the Fitbit Charge 3 as my main fitness tracker for two weeks. The Google Pixel 2 XL was my smartphone companion of choice for the duration of this review.

Show More

Design

fitbit charge 3 review design display

My favorite part of the Charge 3’s design is its versatility. It doesn’t look too sporty or classy, and the standard silicone band strikes a good balance between the two.

It also feels much nicer than any other Fitbit I’ve used. It almost seems cliche to describe a device as “premium” anymore, but that’s really how the Charge 3 feels. All the bands are really nice, the quick release latches are much less finicky than the Fitbit Versa’s, and the tracker itself is like a hybrid of the Fitbit Ionic and Charge 2. It takes the Ionic’s build quality and mashes it up with the Charge 2’s aesthetic.

Nothing about the Fitbit Charge 3 feels cheap.

The Charge 3 looks and feels much nicer for two reasons: the new display and the lack of a physical button.

Gone is the tap-based navigation from the Charge 2. The Fitbit Charge 3 now has a full touchscreen OLED display, so it feels more like a smartwatch than any other Charge device. It’s still a monochrome display, but the resolution has been improved so text and animations look crisp and readable. I’ve had no issues with outdoor visibility either. In fact, keeping it on auto-brightness is a one-way ticket to getting blinded if you move your arm in the middle of the night. This screen can get bright.

fitbit charge 3 review design watch straps

fitbit charge 3 review button
fitbit charge 3 review strap band
fitbit charge 3 review bands

In place of a physical button, there’s a new inductive button on the left side of the case. It’s a pressure-sensitive area on the case that reminds me a lot of the “buttons” on the HTC U12 Plus, but way less horrible. This acts as the back button, and how you turn off the display. Most of the time, I press it too hard and the screen just comes right back on. I still haven’t really gotten the hang of it, even after a few weeks of using it.

If we’ve learned one thing from HTC, it’s that button substitutes don’t make for a good user experience.

On a positive note, the lack of a physical button means it was easier for Fitbit to make the device water resistant. The Charge 3 is resistant to depths of 50 meters (5ATM), which is on par with fitness trackers from Garmin, Misfit, and others. This is a big step up from the Charge 2’s “splash resistance.”

Fitness and health tracking

fitbit charge 3 review exercise relax apps oled display

Just like we have mid-range smartphones, we also have mid-range fitness trackers. Fitbit’s Charge 3 falls right in between cheap, bare bones trackers and high-end, expensive wearables. It may not have things like built-in GPS (more on this later), but you still get things like 24/7 heart rate monitoring.

Also read: Fitbit Ionic review | Fitbit Versa review

The Charge 3 can track 20 different exercise modes, such as running, biking, pool swimming, weight lifting, interval workouts, hiking, and more. The full list can be found here. If you find yourself taking part in an impromptu workout, Fitbit’s SmartTrack will kick in and start recording the exercise after about 10 minutes. The feature works just fine for me, but it’s worth mentioning Valentina Palladino of Ars Technica had some issues with SmartTrack not kicking in.

It’ll also keep track of your steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes, heart rate, and sleep — par for the course with most fitness trackers these days. Most of these tracked metrics — including steps, calories, and active minutes — are very much on par with other competing fitness trackers like the Garmin vivosmart 4 and vivosport. However, distance tracking won’t be all that accurate since there’s no built-in GPS module.

fitbit charge 3 review run tracking excercises

You can connect the Charge 3 to your smartphone’s GPS — via Fitbit’s Connected GPS feature — if you don’t mind taking your phone with you on a run. If you want to run phone-less, you won’t get detailed or accurate distance or pace metrics

I can’t help but think including GPS wouldn’t be a big deal for Fitbit. It’s not like it would make the Charge 3 overly bulky (Garmin’s vivosport has a GPS and it’s even thinner!), and, come on — this is Fitbit. It’s going to sell a ton of Charge 3s. I really don’t think a slight price increase would stop people from buying it.

With all that said, saying your product costs less than $150 is much nicer than saying it costs less than $200. You have to exclude GPS to hit that price. I guess I’m just the type of person that would pay more for it.

fitbit charge 3 review heart rate monitor sensor purepulse

Fitbit claimed the PurePulse heart rate sensor on the Charge 3 has been “enhanced” for better accuracy when measuring things like calorie burn and resting heart rate. I originally thought this was sort of a throwaway line during the Charge 3 announcement, but I think the heart rate sensor has actually been improved this time around.

Take a look at my recent treadmill run. I wore my trusty Polar H10 heart rate strap, Garmin Fenix 5, and the Fitbit Charge 3.


Fitbit Charge 3

Surprisingly, all three devices reported the same max heart rate, ~162bpm, at about the same time in the workout. All three devices also caught most every major dip or rise in the workout. Wrist-based heart rate sensors are often slow to catch up to chest straps, but the Charge 3 performed wonderfully. Of course, you’ll want to buy a heart rate chest strap if you want the most accurate readings.

I also compared calorie details for a few workouts with all three of these devices, and I have no problem saying the Charge 3 is a good calorie counter, too. It’s consistently within 10 calories burned of the Fenix 5 and H10. Not bad.

If you ask me to recommend a good sleep tracker, I’ll pretty much recommend a Fitbit every time. Fitbit’s app is just so good at clearly laying out your total time awake and time in REM, light, and deep sleep. It also gives you a 30-day sleep average and a benchmark to compare against other people your age and gender. As for the accuracy of the Charge 3’s sleep tracking, I’m pretty sure it’s accurate (I am asleep during this time, after all), and haven’t noticed any big outliers.

fitbit charge 3 review sleep tracking sleep stages
fitbit charge 3 review sleep tracking sleep stages
fitbit charge 3 review sleep tracking sleep stages

A Sleep Score feature is coming soon to the Fitbit Charge 3. I haven’t had the chance to try it out (the beta launched in November), but the idea sounds pretty cool. Basically, your Fitbit will give you a nightly score based on your sleep quality and how much sleep you’re getting. It’s a small feature, but it could make understanding your sleep habits over time easier.

With the launch of the Sleep Score beta, Fitbit will also activate the Charge 3, Versa, and Ionic’s relative SpO2 sensors. When activated, these sensors will monitor for disruptions in your breathing and include that information in your Sleep Score. They also have the long-term potential to help discover early signs of sleep apnea, but that won’t happen for a while.

Editor’s Pick

This contrasts with Garmin’s vivosmart 4, which uses its pulse ox sensor to give users real-time estimates of blood oxygen levels, as well as tracking it during sleep.

Female Fitbit users will be happy to hear, just like on the Versa and Ionic, female health tracking is available on the Charge 3. This lets you track your menstrual cycles and understand how it affects your health. I haven’t been able to test this out on the Charge 3, but you can read all about it right here.

With the announcement of the Charge 3, Fitbit also said it would introduce new dynamic health insights to the Fitbit app “soon.” That feature still isn’t available, but when it rolls out, the app will give you personalized tips and tricks to improve your activity, heart rate, and sleep.

fitbit charge 3 review charger battery life

Fitbit claims the Charge 3 can last up to seven days on a single charge. In my experience, it’s only lasted six days, but that’s with it monitoring heart rate 24/7, wearing it every night to sleep, and tracking four to five exercises a week.

Fitbit Charge 3 specs

  Fitbit Charge 3
Display Touchscreen OLED
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Battery 7 days
Lithium-polymer
Memory Saves seven days of motion data, daily totals for past 30 days, heart rate data at one-second intervals during exercise tracking and at five-second intervals all other times
Sensors 3-axis accelerometer
Optical heart rate monitor
Altimeter
Vibration motor
Relative SpO2 sensor
NFC for Fitbit Pay (special edition only)
IP rating 5ATM
Smart features Call, text, calendar, email, music control, and much more
Quick replies (Android only)
Compatibility Android, iOS, Windows
Dimensions Small: 139.7 – 180.3mm
Large: 180.3 – 220.99mm
Colors Black / graphite aluminum, blue gray / rose gold aluminum, lavender woven / rose gold aluminum, frost white sport / graphite aluminum

Smartwatch features

fitbit charge 3 review notifications smart features

With the arrival of the Ionic and Versa, it’s clear Fitbit is now focused on competing in the smartwatch game. Luckily for us, the focus on smartwatches is bleeding over to its other fitness trackers.

The Fitbit Charge 3 is like a fitness tracker-smartwatch hybrid. It can receive all your smartphone notifications, and the company has now rolled out its quick reply feature to the tracker. Do note that this is only available on Android smartphones though.

Fitbit’s focus on smartwatches is great news for people who are only interested in fitness trackers.

Also, notifications are much easier to read on the Charge 3 than devices with narrower screens like the vivosmart 4.

fitbit charge 3 review notifications smart features
garmin vivosmart 4 review app notifications

The software on the Fitbit Charge 3 is wonderful. It’s not the same version of Fitbit OS as the Versa or Ionic, but it’s similar. You still swipe down to get notifications, swipe up to access the Dashboard, and swipe left to select the Exercise, Relax (on-device breathing guidance), Timer, Alarm, Weather or Settings apps. In a future update, Fitbit will bring Calendar and Leaderboard apps to the tracker as well.

It feels weird to geek out about fitness tracker software, but I don’t care. The Charge 2’s UI was a huge headache, and the Charge 3 is much more intuitive. The new touchscreen display makes it much easier to sort through menus and select different options, too.

fitbit charge 3 review timers alarms apps

Fitbit is also working with a handful of companies to bring third-party apps to the Charge 3, similar to the apps available for the Versa and Ionic. Don’t expect a full-fledged app store on the Charge 3, but a few of Fitbit’s major app partners will likely release Charge 3 apps sometime soon.

You can even pay for things with the Charge 3. That’s right, Fitbit Pay support is here. Unfortunately, it’s not available on every model.

This is something I just don’t understand. Fitbit is trying to get people to use its contactless payment service, so only including it in the special edition model and charging $20 more for it is strange.

The Fitbit app

fitbit charge 3 review fitbit app google pixel 2 xl

The Fitbit app is fantastic. It’s designed intuitively, looks great, and it’s super easy to find what you’re looking for.

The app’s home screen, or Dashboard, consists of a snapshot of the current day’s activity, complete with shortcuts to see things like steps taken, calories burned, and intensity minutes. Below that, you’ll see a shortcut to view any activity recorded that day, as well as the previous night’s sleep, your current heart rate,  and weight, water, and food logs.

fitbit charge 3 review app screenshots
fitbit charge 3 review app screenshots
fitbit charge 3 review app screenshots
fitbit charge 3 review app screenshots
fitbit charge 3 review app screenshots

My biggest gripe with the Fitbit app is the lack of a proper calendar view. In Garmin’s app, you can easily see all your activities/health stats in a month-view calendar, so it’s easy to see how many days you’ve exercised in a certain week and so on. With Fitbit’s app, you can only scroll through your history day by day. It’s not very helpful. Now, you can see a month view calendar from the Exercises screen, but you can’t actually click on any of those days to get more information.

If anything, the Fitbit app emphasizes simplicity and social features at the expense of hardcore fitness data.

One other complaint — pretty much my only other complaint — is that the data screens for each of your tracked metrics (heart rate and calorie burn data) are very hard to read in the app. You can’t click to expand any of your stats, and the Fitbit app doesn’t use landscape mode. You have to go to the Fitbit Dashboard website to get in-depth details.

Fitbit’s app is one of the more social fitness apps out there. The Challenges section lets you compete with friends at certain locations, or participate in challenges alone. There’s also a Community tab in the app that’s basically a mini social network. You can join groups, share photos, comment of people’s posts, and more. It’s also a great way to stay motivated if you’re struggling to get up and go to the gym.

Related: Fitbit vs Garmin: Which ecosystem is right for you?

The Fitbit app also plays nicely with dozens of third-party fitness apps. That means if you’d like to keep using your favorite workout app — like MyFitnessPal or MapMyRun — all your fitness data recorded with your Fitbit will automatically sync with your health and fitness app.

Gallery

Price and availability

The Fitbit Charge 3 is available now from Fitbit.com, Amazon, and many other retailers for $149.95. The model with Fitbit Pay is $20 more at $169.95.

Should you buy it?

Absolutely.

Fitbit knocked it out of the park with the Charge 3. At under $150, you’re getting an attractive, accurate, and feature-packed fitness tracker. The display is awesome too, and it’s water resistant. This is also one of the more accurate fitness trackers I’ve used in recent months.

This is one of the most polished devices Fitbit has ever made.

There are only a few things missing.

A lot of people (including myself) aren’t thrilled with the lack of GPS, but it helps bring down the cost at least. If you absolutely need GPS, you should check out the Garmin vivosport — it’s just $20 more and sports a thinner profile. Additionally, with all the features that still haven’t launched yet (third-party applications, Sleep Score, and dynamic health insights), the Charge 3 almost feels like a beta product. Don’t get me wrong, the features that are here are great, but this is one of those “fine wine” devices. It’ll get better with age.

If you’re looking for one of the best activity trackers in this price range, look no further than the Fitbit Charge 3.

Next: Best Fitbit alternatives: Garmin, Misfit, Samsung and more

Huawei MateBook 13 review: A beautiful, premium laptop targeting Apple’s MacBook Air

Right now, Huawei’s biggest hurdle is public perception — the news is hard to avoid. However, the bottom line is Huawei also makes great products. The Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro are great examples, but there’s more to the company than mere phones.

It also offers Windows-based laptops like the new MateBook 13, something you need right now. Why? Keep reading our Huawei MateBook 13 review to find out.

Huawei MateBook 13 review
Huawei MateBook 13 review

The model supplied for this Matebook 13 review includes Intel’s Core i7-8565U processor, though the company sells a second version with the Core i5-8265U chip. Complementing the Core i7 is Nvidia’s GeForce MX 150 discrete graphics chip, which isn’t in the Core i5 version. Rounding out the Huawei Matebook 13 review unit is 8GB of LPDDR3 memory at 2,133MHz, 512GB on a NVMe PCIe stick-shaped SSD, and a one-touch power button with a built-in fingerprint reader located in the top right corner of the keyboard area.

Available now through Amazon and Newegg, the MateBook 13 packing Intel’s Core i7 retails for a decent $1,299, while the Core i5 model is a lower $999. You can also purchase both versions through Microsoft’s online and brick-and-mortar stores within the next few weeks.

Let’s dig into our Huawei MateBook 13 review!

A beautiful display powering a beautiful design

Huawei MateBook 13 review
Huawei MateBook 13 review

The Huawei MateBook 13’s super-slim display measures 13 inches diagonally, with a native 2,160 x 1,440 resolution and a pixel density of 195ppi. That’s a 3:2 aspect ratio, meaning videos and games formatted for the typical 16:9 widescreen will render with black borders along the top and bottom edges.

The screen itself relies on a touch-enabled IPS panel offering 178-degree viewing angles and 100 percent of the sRGB color space. It also has a 1,000:1 contrast ratio and a maximum brightness of 300 nits, which is decent enough for working outside on an overcast day. The colors remain beautiful and vivid even at the laptop’s peak brightness setting.

Huawei MateBook 13 review

Surrounding the screen are 4.4mm black bezels on the left and right along with a slightly wider black bezel along the top hiding the 1MP camera. According to Huawei, the new laptop boasts an 88-percent screen-to-body ratio — you’ll hardly ever notice the frame — which provide a clean, nearly edge-to-edge viewing experience. Wide frames are so 2000-late.

You won’t find legacy ports here

Huawei MateBook 13 review
Huawei MateBook 13 review

Connecting the screen to the base is a black hinge consuming most of the rear workspace, which actually looks nice. When you lift the laptop to view the hinge straight-on, you’ll barely see a sliver of space separating the hinge from the base frame. The screen’s bottom bezel even extends down beyond the keyboard area’s viewing surface, so you won’t see any visual “disconnection” between the screen and base.

Huawei MateBook 13 review

It’s a little worrisome that the screen’s bottom bezel and hinge cover the cooling system’s vents. There’s definitely enough room for hot air to escape, but when the fans are full throttle and pushing hot air from the CPU and GPU, is that narrow space wide enough to properly vent all the heat? Does this design affect performance when using the MateBook on your lap?

Huawei MateBook 13 review
Huawei MateBook 13 review

On the laptop’s left side, you’ll find one 3.5mm audio jack and one USB-C port capable of data transfers at 5Gbps and charging the MateBook. On the right you’ll find a single USB-C port at 5Gbps capable of data transfers and DisplayPort output. That’s right, even though this laptop provides two USB-C ports, you can only charge it using the the left one.

There isn’t a standard or microSD card slot for extra storage, which can be problematic for photographers and video editors on-the go. There also isn’t any USB-A connectivity, forcing you to purchase a USB-C to USB-A adapter or USB-C hub to support your peripherals and external devices. Leaving out USB-A connectivity to keep the laptop at 0.59 inches thin is understandable, but we’re definitely surprised by the lack of a card reader.

There isn’t a standard or microSD card slot for extra storage, which can be problematic for photographers and video editors on-the go.

The Core i7 model ships in a space gray finish, while the Core i5 model arrives in mystic silver. The space gray exterior on our Huawei Matebook 13 review unit is simply beautiful and complements the black screen bezels and keyboard keys. There’s nothing “cheap” about its appearance. It’s a sleek and sexy premium design pulled from Huawei’s flagship MateBook X Pro family. Consider the MateBook 13 a half-step down.

You’ll love the edge-to-edge keyboard

Huawei MateBook 13 review
Huawei MateBook 13 review

The MateBook’s keyboard mostly stretches edge to edge across the base, save for an eighth of an inch on each side. The keys are pleasantly large with a travel distance of 1.2mm, providing a great typing experience. White backlighting provides two brightness levels to illuminate each letter, number, and symbol with white light. It doesn’t include a number pad, but you’ll find controls for brightness, backlighting, media, and more tied to the function keys.

Huawei MateBook 13 review
Huawei MateBook 13 review

Meanwhile, the MateBook provides a rectangular precision touchpad, a rising standard for Windows-based laptops. Unlike the touchpads of old, which relied on hardware drivers, Windows now does the heavy lifting when manufacturers install specific touchpads. Ultimately, this means Microsoft will continue to improve support long after hardware vendors would have stopped issuing driver updates.

In our testing, the MateBook 13 touchpad was smooth and highly responsive. The wide, smartphone-like surface is ideal because there’s more room to completely push the cursor across the screen without lifting a finger. It also supports two methods of selection: Double-tap on a shortcut / link or push down on the touchpad twice for a tactile-based approach. Left- and right-click inputs are unmarked in their typical designated corners.

Decent audio despite speaker placement

Huawei MateBook 13 review

This laptop relies on a pair of two-watt speakers on the bottom, projecting sound away from your ears. The ideal scenario is having speakers mounted in the keyboard area, but since the design includes a discrete graphics chip, a two-chip cooling system, a 0.59-inch form factor, and an edge to edge keyboard, the bottom was likely the only place engineers could mount the speakers. Had Huawei taken the MacBook Air route and shortened the keyboard width, facing speakers may have been possible.

Still, the sound isn’t bad. Audio not only bounces off your lap or desktop surface but pushes through the keyboard area with surprisingly very little metallic interference. In other words, what you hear isn’t full like speakers blasting audio into your face, but it isn’t horribly muffled either. Even at full blast, audio is stable, rich, and untouched by vibrating components and metal.

Processor performance rivaling the Road Runner

Huawei MateBook 13 review

Intel’s Core i7-8565U is an eighth-generation “Whiskey Lake” four-core chip that launched during the third quarter of 2018. Its base speed cruises at 1.8GHz  and tops out at 4.6GHz. Drawing an average 15 watts of power, this chip targets thin and light notebook designs providing loads of performance without generating loads of heat.

Intel’s latest Core i7 CPU scored a 5120 in the Geekbench single-core test and a 16983 in the multi-core test, higher scores than most tests performed on this chip. It clearly beats the Core i5-8250U processor in Acer’s recent Chromebooks, and even surpasses the Core i7-6820HK processor in our Alienware 17 R4, indicating we might need to refresh and re-test the gaming laptop in the near future.

Another benchmarking method is using Handbrake to convert video. Here the Core i7-8565U fell behind our Alienware’s sixth-generation Core i7 processor, converting video in 248.87 seconds versus the Alienware at 231.09 seconds. Just for giggles, we ran the same conversion on a 2017 HP Notebook 15 with a Pentium N3540 chip. It converted the same video in 1,383.72 seconds. Ouch.

Backing the CPU is crazy-fast storage provided by a Samsung NVMe PCIe SSD. It has an average sequential read speed of 3,521MB per second and an average sequential write speed of 1,884MB per second, faster than the stick-shaped SSD installed in our Alienware laptop, and both Acer’s Chromebook Spin 13 and clamshell Chromebook 13.

The combined CPU and SSD enable programs and apps to load near-instantly.

The combined CPU and SSD enable programs and apps to load near-instantly. The laptop itself reaches the Windows 10 login screen in just over five seconds after powering on. Touch the power button and Windows Hello logs you in just under another second.

Overall, if you want a zippy Windows 10 laptop, the MateBook 13 is the perfect solution. If you want a thin and light notebook capable of playing games at 1440p, you’ll need to look elsewhere, despite this laptop’s standalone GeForce graphics chip.

Take a break from work with the MX 150

Huawei MateBook 13 review

Nvidia’s discrete GeForce MX 150 graphics chip includes 2GB of dedicated GDDR5 video memory. It’s the mobile version of Nvidia’s budget-oriented GT 1030 graphics card for desktops. The chip is definitely good to have for video and photo editing, along with 3D animation. You can play games too, just don’t expect high resolutions and details.

The MX 150 generates high framerates in Rocket League. With a 1080p resolution, we experienced an average of 61.18fps using the “performance” preset, and a slightly lower 57.68fps using the “high” preset. Increase the resolution to the laptop’s native 1440p resolution, and the average dips down to 49.88fps using the “performance” setting and 40fps using the “high” setting.

For something new like Far Cry 5, the best you’ll see is a 23fps average running at 1080p on the “low” graphics preset. Crank that resolution up to 1440p and the average framerate drops to 13fps. In comparison, the GTX 1080 in our Alienware laptop manages a 76fps average at 1080p and a 71fps average at 1440p using the “low” setting.

Huawei doesn’t pitch the MateBook 13 as a gaming laptop, but Rocket League is a good example of what this device can do.

The Windows Edition of Final Fantasy XV is just as brutal on the MX 150. Using the “lite” setting at 1080p, the laptop managed framerates between 18fps to 30fps. Increase the details to “standard” and you’ll see the framerate drops between 13 and 21fps. Don’t even attempt to run the game on “high” or crank the resolution to 1440p.

Of course, Huawei doesn’t pitch the MateBook 13 as a gaming laptop, but Rocket League is a good example of what this device can do if you need a break from work. Lightweight games are fine but heavy-hitters like Far Cry 5, Deus Ex Mankind Divided, and Destiny 2 won’t run very well. Get a notebook from MSI or Alienware if that’s what you want.

Battery life could be better

Huawei MateBook 13 review

Rounding out the Huawei MateBook 13 review is its 41WHr battery. Huawei says you can get up to 9.6 hours on a single charge while playing local 1080p video. We tested that claim and looped the recent Aquaman 1080p trailer until the laptop switched off. With the display set at 50 percent brightness, we hit nine hours and 19 minutes, nearly reaching Huawei’s reported duration. When we cranked the brightness up to 100 percent, the battery lasted seven hours and 20 minutes.

With the display set at 50 percent brightness, we hit nine hours and 19 minutes, nearly reaching Huawei’s reported duration.

However, our web browser test — we put a web browser in a page loading loop until the battery died —revealed slightly lower numbers. With the screen brightness set to 50 percent, you can search the web up to four hours and 41 minutes. Increase the brightness to 100 percent and battery longevity falls back to three hours and 44 minutes.

We saw better numbers with the Lenovo Chromebook C330 and the Acer Chromebook 13 across both tests, though they have slightly bigger batteries. Given you’ll do more than binge-watch local video all day, mixed usage could land you six hours or more on a single charge at 50 percent brightness. To get the best battery life, make sure Windows automatically changes screen brightness once you unplug the laptop.

Huawei MateBook 13 review

The battery life could have everything to do with the laptop’s overall portability. It’s extremely thin, after all, and weighs a mere 2.86 pounds. It’s the ideal solution for on-the-go workers. It’s not horribly bulky and doesn’t weigh your shoulders down in a backpack during long treks through airports and convention halls. The only drawback is you’ll need to carry that extra USB-C hub or adapter if you have peripherals.

A surprisingly clean Windows 10

Huawei MateBook 13 review

The Huawei MateBook 13 review unit shipped to us with the Signature Edition of Windows 10 Home Build 17134. That means Huawei provides a “clean” Windows 10 installation, unlike other well-known PC manufacturers. The only out-of-the-box “bloatware” we found were the typical junk apps pre-installed in Windows 10 like Candy Crush Saga, Cooking Fever, Royal Revolt 2: Tower Defense, and a few others. We didn’t even find McAfee’s dreaded “trial” present gobbling up system memory.

However, the MateBook 13 isn’t without proprietary software. Huawei supplies its own PC Manager tool for checking the laptop’s overall health. With the click of a button, you can test the hardware for any issues and update any out-of-date driver. PC Manager also provides the user manual and a link to Huawei’s online troubleshooting database.

Huawei MateBook 13 review: Final thoughts

Huawei MateBook 13 review

The MateBook 13 has nothing to do with with what you’ve heard about Huawei in the news. It’s a great thin and light Windows 10 notebook packed with loads of power, making it a great on-the-go solution for professionals and media editors. It’s decent for gamers, though playing the latest titles like Far Cry 5 and Final Fantasy XV — even at 1080p — isn’t ideal.

The two real big complaints about this laptop relate to connectivity. The MateBook 13 really needed at least a microSD card so photo and video editors don’t need to juggle hubs and adapters. A full USB-A port for standard mice and keyboards would be ideal too, though given the slim form factor, that’s not physically possible. In both cases, customers will need to purchase and carry adapters and hubs to support their external devices.

Huawei MateBook 13 review

Outside those two gripes, we love this notebook. Just like Huawei’s two Mate 20 phones, it’s sexy and powerful. You’ll fall in love at first sight and want hold it close and feel its cold metal against your cheeks.

Okay, maybe not.

Regardless, you simply can’t go wrong with Huawei’s MateBook 13. It’s definitely a great Windows-based alternative to the latest MacBook Air.

See also:

Best portable battery chargers (January 2019)

Smartphone technology has come a long way in the past few years, but there is a lingering issue that is taking time to evolve — battery life. Sure, batteries are getting bigger and phones more resourceful, but many of us still have a problem keeping our devices alive. One solution is to charge your phone throughout the day, something that proves to be an issue when there is no outlet around. The next best solution is to buy yourself a battery pack or one of the many portable chargers to charge on-the-go.

With so many options around, we know it’s hard to find the best units on the market. That’s why we’ve curated a list of the best portable chargers! While many use these devices to charge their phones, many modern electronic devices can be charged up including select laptops, tablets, and game systems like the Nintendo Switch.

Let’s get started and show you our picks for the best portable battery chargers you can buy right now. 


Best high-capacity options

Anker PowerCore+ 26,800mAh portable battery charger

Anker is a trusted name when it comes to portable battery chargers, and this particular option offers it all. To start with, you get the massive capacity of 26,800mAh, which is more than enough to fully recharge your smartphone multiple times. The power bank comes with three USB ports, including a USB-C port with 30W output to let you charge a MacBook and the Nintendo Switch. Like every portable charger on this list, you get protection from short circuits, overcharging, and current and voltage surge. The portable charger also comes with a 30W USB-C wall charger.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 26,800mAh
  • Output: 2 x USB ports 5V/3A max, 1 x USB-C port 5V/3A or 9V~15V/2A or 20V/1.5A (30W max)
  • Dimensions: 166.1 x 80 x 23.1mm, 576grams
  • Current price: $129.99

RAVPower 20,100mAh portable charger

This RAVPower portable charger offers features that are similar to the Anker charger above, with a few key differences. The capacity is slightly lower at 20,100mAh, but the USB-C port offers a 45W output. The capacity is still more than enough to recharge a smartphone multiple times and the device can be used to charge laptops like Macbooks and the Dell XPS 13 or 15 as well. 4 LED indicators let you know how much charge the power bank has remaining. You also get a standard USB-A port that will let you charge a second device simultaneously.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 20,100mAh
  • Output: 1 x USB ports 5V/2.4A max, 1 x USB-C port 5V~15V/3A or 20V/2.25A (45W max)
  • Dimensions: 160 x 78.5 x 23mm, 400grams
  • Current price: $59.99

AUKEY 20,000mAh portable charger

Portable battery charger - Aukey

AUKEY is a pretty well-known name in the phone accessories industry. Its product lineup includes this 20,000mAh external battery that features a thin and slim design compared to the more bulky devices on this list. Even with its thin casing, it has four power output ports for charging up to four devices at once, including three standard USB ports plus one USB Type-C port to charge the latest smartphones.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 20,000mAh
  • Output: 1 x USB-C port 5V/3A max, 3 x USB ports 5V/2A
  • Dimensions: 200 x 96 x 14mm, 435grams
  • Current price: $39.99
 

MAXOAK 50,000mAh portable charger

If you want to get a portable battery charger that can charge all of your smartphones, laptops, and tablets at once, then the MAXOAK charger may be for you. It not only has a massive 50,000mAh capacity, but it has no less than six charging ports. One of the ports has a 20V/5A charging capacity for laptops. Another port has a 12V/2.5A charger, while two others have a 5V/2.1A capacity. The final two ports have a 5V/1A capacity. It may not be the most portable power bank on this best portable chargers list, but it should be more than enough to cover all your charging needs.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 50,000mAh
  • Output: 6 ports (1 x 20V/5A, 1 x 12V/2.5Am 2 x 5V/2.1A, 2 x 5V/1A)
  • Dimensions: 205.7 x 134.6 x 33mm, 1.25kgs
  • Current price: $135.99
 
Looking for more high-capacity power bank option? check out our guide to the best ultra-high capacity portable chargers (26,800 mAh and above).

Best smaller capacity option: Anker PowerCore Slim 5,000mAh portable charger

Anker PowerCore Slim

The Anker PowerCore Slim, as the name suggests, is a thin, sleek, and ultra portable battery charger. The device comes with a 5,000mAh capacity, which should be enough to fully charge or get close to a full charge with most current smartphones. It comes with a single USB port that takes advantage of PowerIQ technology to allow for the fastest charge possible. While the PowerCore Slim may not be as feature packed as the other ones on this best portable chargers list, its portability is the biggest selling point.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 5,000mAh
  • Output: 1 x PowerIQ port 5V/2A
  • Dimensions: 124.5 x 63.5 x 10.2mm, 126grams
  • Current price: $29.99

Be sure to check out our guide for more portable chargers with a capacity of 10,000mAh or less.


Best for wireless charging power bank: AideaZ 20,000mAh portable battery charger

Portable battery charger - AideaZ

The Aidez portable charger not only has a battery with a big 20,000mAh capacity but also offers wireless charging. Owners can place compatible phones on top of the battery and charge them cable free. It also has two USB Type-C ports with Quick Charge support for a more conventional, and faster, phone charging experience. That means this portable battery can charge two wired phones and one wireless phone at the same time. The battery also has an LED indicator to let you know the exact charge percentage left in the battery.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 20,000mAh
  • Output: 2 x USB-C output ports (5~6V/3A, 6~9V/2A, 9~12V//1.5A), wireless charging
  • Dimensions: 170.2 x 61 x 22.9mm, 377grams
  • Current price: $44.99
 
 

Jump start capable battery pack: Beatit 500A 10,800mAh portable charger

The Beatit portable jump starter is ideal for anyone looking to address all their emergency power needs with a single device. This portable charger will jump-start a 3.0L gas or 2.5L diesel engine up to 20 times on a single charge. It also comes with three USB ports, including one with support for Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 and a USB-C port, to keep your devices charged on the go. There is also a flashlight with three modes — normal, SOS, and strobe. Considering all its features and its affordable price, this is one of the best portable battery chargers for anyone who is on the road a lot.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 10,800mAh
  • Output: 1 x USB port 5V/2A, 1 x USB-C port 5V/3A, 1 x QC 3.0 port 5V/2A or 6.5V~9V/1.5A or 9V~12V/1A
  • Current: Start current 250A, Peak current 500A
  • Dimensions: 145 x 84 x 25.4mm, 454grams
  • Current price: $39.99

Best for solar battery chargers: RAVPower 25,000mAh solar charger

If you’re the outdoorsy type, this is the best portable charger to get. It offers a large 25,000mAh capacity and features a solar panel on top for charging the device while you’re out and about. It’s also waterproof and there’s a flashlight on board that can be used in case you run into trouble on your adventure. The power bank has three USB ports, including a quick charge port and a USB-C port. All of these features make it a great option for those who love to hike, camp, and do similar outdoor activities.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 25,000mAh
  • Output: 1 x USB port 5V/2.4A, 1 x USB-C port 5V/3A, 1 x QC port 5V/3A or 6.5V~9V/2A or 9V~12V/1.5A
  • Dimensions: 233.7 x 99 x 38.1mm, 550grams
  • Current price: $52.99
For more solar battery chargers, be sure to check out our extended guide.
 

There you have it. These are our picks for the best portable chargers currently available! Now hit the comments and let us know which portable battery charger would you consider getting. Are there any other portable battery packs you think your fellow Android fans would like?

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