ZTE Axon 10 Pro hands-on: Serious value

At MWC 2019, we got our first glance at the ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G. The device sports impressive specs for a price that’s lower than a lot of competing 5G smartphones and ZTE has just launched a 4G model that brings even more value. Is the ZTE Axon 10 Pro worth your 599 euros?

The ZTE Axon 10 Pro is sporting Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GB or 8GB of RAM, and 128 or 256GB of storage. If you want to go all out, you can even pick up a 12GB RAM model, but that’s only available in China. These specs put the device on par with current flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S10 at a price that’s much more affordable. For reference, the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus currently costs 899 euros.

ZTE Axon 10 Pro 4G screen at angle

ZTE is using a 6.47-inch AMOLED display with FullHD+ resolution and a 19.5:9 screen-to-body ratio, and it looked great in our time with the device. It doesn’t appear as bright or saturated as a Samsung panel, but it should satisfy the majority of users. It does have curved edges like the Galaxy S10 though, so you’re still getting a premium experience from the Axon 10 Pro. There’s even an optical in-display fingerprint reader, something traditionally found in more premium devices.

  ZTE Axon 10 Pro
Display 6-47-inch FHD+
AMOLED
19.5:9
92-percent screen to body ratio
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
RAM 6 GB / 8 GB / 12 GB
Storage 128 GB or 256 GB
MicroSD No
Battery 4,000 mAh Lithium ion
Qualcomm Quickcharge 4.0
Cameras Main: 48 MP Sony IMX 586, f/1.7 aperture
Wide: 20 MP wide angle with 125-degree FoV and f/2.2 aperture
Telephoto: 8 MP 3x optical telephoto with f/2.4 aperture
Selfie: 20 MP
Wireless charging Yes
Water resistance IP 53
Connectivity FDD: 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/18/19/20/26/28
TDD: 34/38/39/40/41
TDS: 34/39
UMTS: 1/2/4/5/8
CDMA: 0/1/10
GSM: 2/3/5/8
LTE: 4*4MIMO
DL 3CA, DL 2CA, UL 2CA
Software Stock+ Launcher based on Android 9 Pie
Dimensions and weight 159.2mm x 73.4mm x 7.9mm
Colors Blue

The phone also features the same motion smoothing technology found in the ZTE Axon 9 Pro, which artificially forces a framerate of 60fps on all video content. This includes local storage, YouTube, and even games, the area where we could see the feature being the most useful. It worked well on the Axon 9 Pro, so we’re assuming it will be the same here.

Stereo speakers are present in this device, but only one is front-facing. The other speaker is bottom-firing, seated next to a USB-C port and a SIM tray. ZTE is using DTS: X Ultra 3D surround sound technology in these speakers, giving a more full audio experience. The phone sounded well-bodied in our time with it. There is no headphone jack present in the Axon 10 Pro, something that can be found in the Samsung Galaxy S10.

ZTE Axon 10 Pro 4G cameras macro

Moving to the cameras, we see yet another feature found in premium devices, a triple lens design. The Axon 10 Pro features a main 48MP sensor with pixel binning for higher quality 12MP images, a 20MP wide-angle camera with a 125-degree field of view, and an 8MP 3x optical telephoto lens. You’ll also find 5x hybrid zoom and 10x digital zoom, so this device gives you quite a lot of range. The selfie camera hidden in the teardrop-style notch is 20MP.

See also:

A 4,000mAh battery powers the device, and it can be charged up quickly with support for Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0. This won’t charge as fast as OnePlus’ WarpCharge or Huawei’s Supercharge, but it should still top off your device on the fly.

ZTE Axon 10 Pro 4G Google apps on screen

ZTE uses a very basic skin they call Stock+, and I would say this name is very representative of the UI. It looks extremely similar to the experience you get on a Google Pixel but has a few useful extra add-ons. ZTE has even worked with Google to make Google Photos the stock app, and you’ll find Google Lens baked into the camera. If you’re a fan of vanilla Android, you’ll be happy with this experience.

At 599 euros, the ZTE Axon 10 Pro offers serious value

The standard 4G version is available now, starting at 599 euros for the 6GB/128GB model. If you want to hold out for the 5G version, it will be shipping sometime in June for 899 euros.

ZTE Axon 10 Pro 4G rear

Overall, we’re quite impressed with what we’re seeing in the ZTE Axon 10 Pro. For 599 euros this device offers 99-percent of the competition for substantially less money, and it’s a device we’re excited to get in for review soon. You can buy it right now from Saturn, Media Markt, and Amazon.

What do you think about the ZTE Axon 10 Pro? If it offered a headphone jack, this device would be neck-and-neck with the Samsung Galaxy S10. Is ZTE back to its glory days?

Amazon Kindle (2019) review: The best Kindle for most people

Amazon’s Kindle e-readers are part of that rare breed of devices that don’t need to be upgraded all that often. Over the last decade or so, I’ve gone through four, maybe five Kindles. I started off with a Kindle Keyboard. It eventually broke in an unfortunate accident, so I replaced it with a touch-enabled Kindle 4. That was followed by a second generation Paperwhite because, well, having a built-in light is amazing. More recently, I upgraded to the new Paperwhite with waterproofing only because my Kindle from 2013 was finally starting to show signs of age.

 If Amazon had released the 2019 Kindle earlier on in the year, this is the model I would have chosen.

Amazon Kindle 2019 placed on top of older kindles

Design

The new Kindle (2019) is smaller than the model it replaces while retaining the same six-inch display. There are still substantial bezels along the sides, but that is fine since it is a device you’ll be holding in your hands for hours on end. The bezels provide your fingers with leverage points. The reduction in size definitely makes it easier to carry the new Kindle around in your back pocket.

Amazon Kindle 2019 front display

I like that the edges on the new Kindle are ever so slightly curvier than those on the last-gen model. It helps the design flow a bit more organically and makes it comfortable to hold in any orientation. In fact, I’d say that I prefer the form factor of the new Kindle over the larger Paperwhite

The back of the Kindle is made of hard plastic, unlike the rubberized finish on the Paperwhite, and I really think this is for the better. In my experience, the rubberized texture catches lint and doesn’t age too well. I did find the new Kindle to be a bit slippery. You might want to invest in a case to protect it from falls.

Buttons and ports remain the same. Yes, the Kindle still has a microUSB charging port, but we are willing to forgive that since you can go weeks without having to charge it. The power button, on the other hand, can be a bit hard to press down. Generally speaking, the ergonomics of the new Kindle don’t leave much to complain about.

Display

There is quite a big difference between the display on the regular Kindle and the Kindle Paperwhite. The new Kindle carries over the six-inch E-Ink Carta display with a pixel density of 167ppi. This is little over half of the 300ppi resolution of the Paperwhite’s E-Ink Carta HD display. In real world use, you’d be surprised by how little it matters.

Amazon Kindle 2019 text comparison

By all accounts, resolution does make a difference in text rendering and in reading. Close examination if the screen of the new Kindle will reveal a mild blur around text, indicating a low resolution panel. However, this difference fades from view once you start reading a book. Unless you’ve got both Kindles sitting next to one another, you won’t know that you’re missing anything. That is, unless you read a lot of graphic novels. High-quality graphic content definitely shows off the advantage of the higher resolution display on the Paperwhite.

The new Kindle still has a 167ppi display and four LEDs compared to five on the Paperwhite.

The new Kindle sports four LEDs compared to the five on the Paperwhite. After a week of use, my eyes could not discern the difference between the Paperwhite and the entry-level Kindle. Lighting on the new Kindle is just as evenly spread and bright as that on the Paperwhite.

Unlike the Paperwhite, the basic Kindle’s display does not sit flush with the surface. Depending on who you ask, this could be a real advantage. Yes, dust and lint does get caught in the corners, but this is less aggravating than having to constantly wipe fingerprints off the plastic display as on the Paperwhite.

Living with the 2019 Kindle

While the experience of using the refreshed 2019 Kindle is very similar to that of previous devices, there was one thing that stood out to me: I often had to tap the page twice to shift to the next page. This continued to be the case despite tapping harder or changing positions. I suspect this might have something to do with touch sensitivity. Hopefully Amazon should be able to patch it in a software update.

Amazon Kindle 2019 in hand

Being able to carry your entire library with you is definitely a big part of the Kindle’s appeal. Unlike the Paperwhite, the basic Kindle still ships with just 4GB of storage. Unless you plan to read a lot of graphic novels this will be enough for hundreds, if not thousands, of books.

If you often find yourself reading at the beach, the Paperwhite is the model you need to look at.

The 2019 Kindle lacks any form of waterproofing. That’s not likely to be a big complaint for most users, but if you often find yourself reading at the beach you might de well to consider the Paperwhite instead.

And that brings us to battery life. Frankly, in my week of testing and reading through two novels, I’ve still not been able to fully deplete the battery. With screen brightness set to a third of the maximum setting, and an hour of reading each day (and even more on the weekends), I’ve drained the battery perhaps 50 percent. No matter how aggressive your use case, you’ll find it hard to run down the Kindle’s battery in less than a week.

Amazon Kindle (2019) price and availability

The all-new 2019 Kindle is priced at 7,999 rupees (~$115) in India. Meanwhile, the Paperwhite costs 12,999 rupees (~$190). At that price point, the new Kindle absolutely knocks it out of the park.

It has a front-lit display, a great form factor, and a screen that will be satisfactory for most users. We reckon most buyers will be happy with the trade-offs compared to a Paperwhite, such as the lack of waterproofing and higher-resolution display, for a price point that’s almost 40 percent lower. The sheer value for money here can’t be beaten. This is a small investment that will last years.

Amazon Kindle 2019 front of eink display with books

If you’re in the U.S., the basic Kindle runs you $89 versus the $129 price of the Paperwhite. That’s a $40 difference for the waterproofing, storage increase, and resolution boost. If you find yourself reading at the beach or in the shower, the Paperwhite might be worth the extra cost. For most users, the basic Kindle will suffice.

The Kindle is one of my all-time favorite gadgets. It does only one job, but it does it exceptionally well. With its fantastic form-factor, lighting, and access to a larger library than you’ll ever need in your pocket, the new entry-level Kindle is one of the best e-readers around. 

That concludes our Amazon Kindle (2019) review? Will you buy this gadget?

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.

Samsung Galaxy Fold hands-on: Amazing, and equally concerning

Update, April 17, 2019 (8:35PM PST): We’ve updated our article to include Samsung’s response.

Original article, April 17, 2019 (3:35PM PST):After what seems like years of foldable prototypes at tradeshows like CES and MWC, we finally have the first widely available foldable device from a top-five smartphone company: the Samsung Galaxy Fold. The Galaxy Fold is Samsung’s first venture into the form-factor that may shape the industry for the next decade, but it’s still unclear how consumers will receive a first-generation product of this nature. Walking away from our briefing with the device, one thing is for certain: folding phones are really, really cool.

Samsung Galaxy Fold open back on table

First and foremost, let’s get the specs out of the way. The Samsung Galaxy Fold is packing Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 855 mobile processor, 12GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. That’s quite an insane list of specs, but if you’re going to drop nearly two thousand dollars on a smartphone, you’d probably hope it was worth its weight. This specs list makes the device nearly equivalent to a full-fledged laptop. With the 7.3-inch display you’ll get from this phone unfolded, it could easily be used to replace something like an iPad Mini.

Don’t miss:

Other specs include a 4,380mAh battery (or rather two smaller batteries) to power the internal tablet-style display as well as the much smaller 4.6-inch screen on the front of the device. Speaking of the smaller display, it’s kind of… weird. The usable screen-to-body ratio is so small that the screen feels almost encased inside a set of large bezels. During my time with the device, it left me wanting to use the phone unfolded. While this style of use is fine for things like making phone calls, it’s not so great for content consumption.

Samsung Galaxy Fold tablet mode cameras

Samsung has also put a whopping six cameras inside the Galaxy Fold. There is a 10MP standard camera on the front of the device in folded mode, a 16MP ultra-wide sensor, 12MP main and 12MP telephoto lens on the back of the device, and a 10MP lens accompanied by an 8MP depth sensor camera housed inside a rather unruly notch on the inside. Samsung wants users to be able to snap photos in whichever orientation they use the device — with six cameras you’ve got quite a bit of flexibility.

With six cameras, you’ve got quite a bit of flexibility

In order to actually fold back and forth, the Galaxy Fold uses a specialized locking hinge mechanism. Samsung says it went through hundreds of iterations of this mechanism before getting it just right, and there is an audible snap both when you unfold the device and when you fold it closed again. It’s the type of thing that I would probably fidget with for hours on end if I owned one, so it’s probably good that Samsung says it’s rated the mechanism for hundreds of thousands of folds.

Samsung Galaxy Fold gold hinge centered
Samsung Galaxy Fold vs Samsung Galaxy S10 thickness 2

Because of the two-piece design, the closed Galaxy Fold is roughly twice the thickness of a traditional smartphone, and quite a bit taller. If you have standard pockets in your jeans this shouldn’t be an issue, but there are definitely pants out there that you won’t be able to fit this device in. The phone even stuck out a bit from my pair of standard Uniqlo jeans, but it wasn’t enough that I found it to be a problem.

In folded mode, the Galaxy Fold is a bit cumbersome to use because of the small screen, but I actually thoroughly enjoyed holding it in my hand due to it’s more narrow design. That being said, the device almost screams to be used in tablet mode, because that’s where the magic really happens with this phone.

Samsung Galaxy Fold using small screen 1
Samsung Galaxy Fold tablet mode reading AA

In tablet mode, the Fold is nothing short of a joy to use. It’s really nice to view YouTube videos in such a large format, even if there are relatively big black bars on the top and bottom of the display while watching standard 16:9 content. When gaming, this device becomes even more amazing. We played Asphalt 8 on the Galaxy Fold during our hands-on time with it, and it was one of the best racing experiences I’ve had on a mobile device. The large camera notch didn’t feel particularly intrusive in either of these experiences, and you can expect it to mostly melt away during content consumption.

The big, tablet-like display is fantastic for gaming.

The Samsung Galaxy Fold uses something called Screen Continuity. This means that content you’re interacting with on the primary display will also appear on the bigger display once you unfold the device, and on the Galaxy Fold, it works really, really well. If you have an app like Google Maps or YouTube open on the smaller front display, unfolding the device will make the same app appear on the larger display as well. The transition between displays was nearly instantaneous during our briefing, and it helps make the experience as seamless as possible for consumers.

Samsung Galaxy Fold watching YouTube 2

Unfolded, there is a visible crease in the display, but it didn’t feel like as big of an issue as you might think. When you’re looking at the display head on you can’t really see it, and it’s only when viewing from an angle that the crease materializes. It’s also something you can feel slightly when operating the display, but again, I didn’t feel it was a major problem during my time with the device. While the visible crease clearly marks that this is a first-generation product, I really wouldn’t mind it during everyday use.

Samsung Galaxy Fold front small display on tabl;e

Overall, I left my briefing today feeling mostly positive about the future of foldable devices. While plastic screens clearly aren’t ideal and the small front display isn’t great to use, the magic of unfolding a narrow device to reveal an enormous tablet left me with a huge grin on my face. Unfortunately, once I left my briefing and jumped back on social media I was struck with a flood of Tweets and articles that made me question the integrity of a device I’d just been using for the last two hours.

Don’t miss: Samsung Galaxy Fold display already breaking for reviewers

As of the time of publishing, at least four units of the Samsung Galaxy Fold distributed to reviewers just two days ago have encountered major display issues. There are two separate reasons for these display problems, but both of them should cause a bit of concern for prospective customers.

Samsung Galaxy Fold upper half tablet mode on table

The first problem could technically be described as user error, but it is clearly an error nonetheless. On the inner display of the Galaxy Fold, there is a plastic adhesive that allows the screen to actually bend. Almost every smartphone shipped nowadays has a screen protector or at least a protective adhesive film that is meant to be removed once the customer receives the device, so it’s only natural that people would try and peel this adhesive off after taking their Galaxy Fold out of the box. Unfortunately, this film is necessary for the Samsung Galaxy Fold to maintain the structural integrity of its display, and removing it will cause the device to stop functioning properly.

Samsung has a problem on its hands.

Apparently, the retail model of the Galaxy Fold has a layer of film in the packaging that explicitly states to not remove the film from the device, but review units sent out to journalists did not include this warning. Still, something so easily removed should probably not affect the structural integrity of the device. The fact that it does makes us weary.

Samsung Galaxy Fold lower half tablet mode on table

The second problem is something that could not be described as user error. At the time of publishing, at least two review units have had their displays flat out stop working. Over at The Verge, Dieter Bohn had his screen bulge before becoming completely unusable, while CNBC’s Steve Kovach saw his display develop a black line down the center while half of it flashed white. Considering there were only a handful of Galaxy Folds made available to reviewers over the last two days, this isn’t a great look for Samsung.

If you want to read more about the issues that have arisen thus far we have a dedicated article tracking them.

A Samsung spokesperson has responded to the issues with an initial message, as follows:

A limited number of early Galaxy Fold samples were provided to media for review. We have received a few reports regarding the main display on the samples provided. We will thoroughly inspect these units in person to determine the cause of the matter.

Separately, a few reviewers reported having removed the top layer of the display causing damage to the screen. The main display on the Galaxy Fold features a top protective layer, which is part of the display structure designed to protect the screen from unintended scratches. Removing the protective layer or adding adhesives to the main display may cause damage. We will ensure this information is clearly delivered to our customers.

Samsung Galaxy Fold tablet mode on chair

While I quite enjoyed my time with the Galaxy Fold and it did indeed feel like the future of mobile devices. However, it would be an understatement to say these issues are a bit concerning. Swarms of people have already pre-ordered the device set to launch on April 26, and we’re eager to hear if these issues are widespread before we can recommend the device.

We’ll be sure to keep you up to date with all the news surrounding the Galaxy Fold and stay tuned for our review in the near future.

What do you think about the device? Is Samsung pioneering the future of smartphones? Was it too early to market?

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.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active review: Great hardware let down by erratic tracking

Samsung makes some of the best smartwatches around, but they tend to be big, bulky and aggressively styled. The Galaxy Watch Active is just as well equipped as other Samsung wearables but trades the rugged aesthetic for a more demure style. It also comes at a noticeably smaller price. The Galaxy Watch Active delivers almost everything you’d get in a bigger, more expensive watch at a price most of us can actually justify.

There are, however, a couple of things you need to know before you decide to buy one – like the fact its activity tracking is trash right now. Let’s dive right into our Samsung Galaxy Watch Active review.

About this Samsung Galaxy Watch Active review: I’ve been using the Galaxy Watch Active for two weeks. It’s running One UI version 1.0 on Tizen OS version 4.0.0.3 and software version R500XXU1BSB7, paired to a Pixel 3 over Bluetooth.

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The big picture

The Galaxy Watch Active is not Samsung’s first foray into the fitness smartwatch category: the original Gear Sport arrived almost a year and a half ago. While the Galaxy Watch Active could easily be considered a Gear Sport 2, Samsung is instead positioning it as the sporty version of its recent Galaxy Watch range.

Given its $199 price point, the Galaxy Watch Active is positioned alongside a number of excellent fitness trackers. Samsung’s goal is clearly to snag part of that target market with a comparably-priced smartwatch that does a bit more than your average fitness tracker. It’s also a competitively priced option for regular smartwatch buyers that don’t like the usual bulky designs or that have slimmer wrists. Unfortunately for Samsung, while its watch might do more than your average fitness tracker, it certainly doesn’t track activity better.

Design and display

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active default watch face

  • 40mm watch case (one size only)
  • 1.1-inch AMOLED display (360 x 360 pixels)
  • 20mm silicone watch strap (two sizes included)
  • Black, silver, rose gold, green

Even though the Galaxy Watch Active’s 40mm housing is only marginally smaller than the 42mm version of the Galaxy Watch, the difference in bulk is noticeable. Besides the difference in style, the Watch Active is also far lighter at just 25 grams compared to the smaller Galaxy Watch’s 49 grams. If you’ve ever tried exercising with a normal-sized smartwatch you’ll know this is a big plus.

The lightness and smallness of the Galaxy Watch Active mean it’s far less likely to get in the way of your workout. Its near-flush buttons also mean they won’t get caught on things while you work out or dig into the back of your wrist when doing shoulder presses or loaded squats.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active thickness on wrist and button detail

Despite its diminutive size, the Galaxy Watch Active is plenty rugged enough to survive an active lifestyle. The small circular display is coated with a layer of Gorilla Glass 3 (but no Corning DX+). It’s water-resistant up to 5ATM and certified MIL-STD-810G compliant. I dropped it on day one and couldn’t see where it hit the ground, nor did it pick up any scratches during a couple weeks of use. Activities during this time included swimming, cycling, running, gym workouts and yoga on top of daily wear and tear and several keyboard commando skirmishes.

The screen is great: vibrant and crisp, a necessity on a display this size. I found the auto-brightness to be quite responsive outdoors but unless you’re looking directly at the Watch Active, the glare tends to obfuscate the display. Keep this in mind if you tend to glance at notifications or activity tracking while cycling, for example. It’s fine for running, when you can lift your arm right up to your face, but this is not always possible during activities you may want to track.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active size comparison with Gear S3 Frontier and Huawei Watch GT

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active watch strap buckle
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active boot screen

If you’re coming from a larger-screened wearable, be aware that its 1.1-inch display might feel a little pokey. For reference, the Galaxy Watch Active’s 28mm screen is a half-centimeter smaller in diameter than the the larger Galaxy Watch and offers just 72 percent of the display area. The lack of a rotating bezel here is noticeable, because it means you’ll have to swipe and tap your way around the tiny UI elements.

There is a microphone on the Watch Active, but no speaker, so while you can answer or initiate calls with it, you’ll need a paired phone to actually hear your interlocutor. Likewise, you can initiate Bixby queries via the watch but only get text responses on it unless you have a pair of wireless headphones paired (I’d suggest maxing out the volume on the watch and just controlling it on your headphones). Bixby is perfectly fine for general voice searches like the weather but is only going to be really useful if you also have a Samsung Galaxy smartphone (as that’s where Bixby’s strengths lie).

The silicon watch strap the Galaxy Watch Active comes with is perfectly serviceable and closes with a traditional watch buckle. The excess strap tucks underneath the strap to keep it out of the way. I like this clasping mechanism and tidy approach to the leftover strap. There’s a whole host of optional bands you can swap out thanks to the standard 20mm strap sizing. There’s also a longer strap (the bit with the holes in it) in the box if you have larger wrists.

Smartwatch features

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active quick settings

  • Music playback
  • Samsung Pay via NFC
  • Smartphone notifications

In typical Samsung fashion, the Watch Active has plenty to offer in terms of feature set and customization. It comes with a decent selection of watch faces to choose from, and more can be downloaded from the Galaxy Store (note: it runs Tizen 4.0, not Wear OS, which is just fine by me). All watch faces can be customized to your liking, so you can change colors, backgrounds and UI elements as you see fit.

The two buttons on the side of the Watch Active are straightforward: the top one takes you back a step and the bottom summons the app carousel. By default, a double press of the bottom button fires up Bixby, but as with most other things on this watch, it can be customized. I set it to display the world clock but you can change it to a shortcut for pretty much anything on the Galaxy Watch Active.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active app picker

Swiping right on the UI accesses your notifications, which can be expanded beyond the summary view by tapping them. Doing so also allows you to respond, either using emoji, a tiny T-9 keyboard, voice dictation, or short canned answers like “on my way” and “talk to you later.” I found notifications on the Watch Active to be super reliable and prompt and responding to them even from such a small wearable was as good an experience as can be expected.

Swiping to the left cycles through fairly standard customizable screens including an activity dashboard, recent apps, heart rate monitor, calendar, contacts, weather, and music controls. There’s also a bunch of Samsung Health screens you can add here, including shortcuts to your favorite activity tracking, fitness challenges, leaderboards, sleep data, weight management, and monitoring of your caffeine and water intake.

Swiping down from anywhere in the UI reveals the quick settings, which include:

  • Goodnight mode
  • Bluetooth shortcut
  • Silent/vibrate toggle
  • Do not disturb mode
  • Always-on display
  • Screen brightness
  • Theater mode
  • Settings
  • Power saving mode
  • Airplane mode
  • Water lock mode
  • Wi-Fi
  • GPS
  • Battery shortcut
  • Find my phone

I won’t go into all these options as you can tell what they all do by their names. Suffice it to say the Galaxy Watch Active certainly doesn’t feel like it lacks in features, other than perhaps an LTE variant or a larger version. Everything on the watch feels fully baked too, with none of the glitchy or half-assed experiences you might be used to on Wear OS. Navigating long lists certainly isn’t as easy as it is with a rotating bezel, but the basic software and smartwatch features on the Watch Active are pretty solid.

The Watch Active has NFC so you can use Samsung Pay at newer contactless terminals, but Samsung removed the MST chip you’ll find in something bulkier like the Gear S3 Frontier, so you can’t use the Galaxy Watch Active at older magnetic stripe terminals. This may not matter too much depending on where you live, but be advised that Samsung Pay on the Watch Active doesn’t have the same widespread support as it does on your Samsung phone.

Fitness and health tracking

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active watchface 1

  • Blood pressure monitoring
  • Auto-detect fitness tracking (seven activities)
  • User-initiated fitness tracking (39 activities)
  • Sleep tracking
  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Stress monitoring
  • Built-in GPS

The one area in which the Galaxy Watch Active doesn’t score top marks is, ironically enough, health and fitness tracking. The arrival of blood pressure monitoring to a mainstream and affordable smartwatch was big news, especially given that the only other option right now is the $499 Omron HeartGuide. The problem is the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active doesn’t really deliver on the promise (at least, yet). It’s important to note it’s not FDA-approved like the Omron HeartGuide either.

Blood pressure monitoring on the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active works via a companion app you’ll have to install separately called My BP Lab, developed in conjunction with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

The app is not great. It’s unstable, frequently crashes and, if the reviews on the Play Store are to be believed, doesn’t even take accurate blood pressure readings (I unfortunately didn’t have access to a sphygmomanometer to compare). The My BP Lab app only works with the Samsung Galaxy S9/S9 Plus, S10 and S10 Plus, and the Note 9, and is currently available in beta form once you sign up in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany and Singapore. It’s also worth noting there’s a good chance the app will never be pre-installed on all Watch Active models going forward.

Reconsider buying the Galaxy Watch Active if blood pressure monitoring is what you’re after.

If blood pressure monitoring is the reason you want the Galaxy Watch Active, I’d advise you reconsider. I’ve reached out to Samsung to ask if it has plans for a Samsung Health-based solution rather than My BP Lab, but am yet to receive a response. In time, blood pressure monitoring may become an integral part of the Galaxy Watch’s otherwise impressive fitness arsenal, but for now it’s a hard pass.

The rest of the health tracking on the Galaxy Watch Active is… up for debate. I found its step count usually matched other wearables I have fairly closely, but it didn’t always agree with what Samsung Health said (even after freshly syncing) or what my phone’s step counter was reporting via Google Fit. Admittedly, when all your gadgets are reporting different results it’s not easy to pin the blame on any of them, so I can’t say this is definitely Samsung doing something wrong — at least regarding step count.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active sensors

Heart-rate monitoring was another issue, with the Watch Active occasionally producing significantly different results to other wearables I own. Comparing it to the Huawei Watch GT, it was frequently off by a wide margin. While typing this with both watches on either wrist, I get a 60bpm reading on the Watch Active and 77bpm on the Huawei Watch GT – that’s a huge discrepancy of more than 25 percent.

Also read

While it’s possible the Watch GT is over-reporting, its reading stays relatively stable and fluctuates in a manner you’d expect. The Galaxy Watch Active, on the other hand, fluctuates constantly, with a resting rate that can rapidly change by 15-20bpm all while doing the same thing. These erratic changes make me confident that it’s the culprit here. Under- or over-reporting heart rate is a real cause for concern, especially on a fitness tracker where accurate heart-rate monitoring is essential for activity target zones.

Floor tracking on the Watch Active is atrocious. I live in a two-story home and as I write this I know I’ve been up and down the stairs at least a dozen times and yet the Galaxy Watch Active says I’ve only done one floor all day. The activity auto-tracking does kick in pretty reliably when walking or running, but the results it records aren’t there yet. The Watch Active can auto-detect seven exercises with a further 39 able to tracked by manually initiating them.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active stress monitoring

Sleep tracking is equally problematic. The Watch Active doesn’t always seem to know the difference between chilling on the couch and actually being asleep. So you’ll occasionally get sleep tracking that reports a two-hour sleep followed by a couple hours awake and then a longer sleep, when really you were just watching a movie before getting up and doing other stuff before bed. Once your sleep has been logged to Samsung Health you can’t edit it either.

Don’t miss: Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Series 4: Which is right for you?

I could go on with multiple other health tracking quibbles but I’m sure the point is clear. As it stands right now, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is an excellent piece of hardware let down by bad tracking calibration. The good news about this is that this can likely be fixed with a software update, but I’d recommend you wait for that to arrive before investing in this watch. We’ll update this review if and when these issues are addressed.

Samsung Health app

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active pairing screen

The Samsung Health app is a huge, sprawling app with more nooks and crannies for the data-obsessed than you can poke a stick at. I won’t go into it in too much detail here as it is simply too massive to do justice, but rest assured you can while away many hours delving into all the data it stores. As mentioned above though, a lot of that data is of dubious accuracy so don’t invest too much in what it’s telling you.

If you’re already familiar with Samsung Health you’ll be well versed in where to go, how to get the most out of it, and the best way to set the various options up. If you’re new to Samsung’s fitness app, however, expect a bit of a learning curve as you find your way around its many menus, options, and settings.

Samsung Health Samsung Wearanle app watchfaces
Samsung Health sleep tracking
Samsung Health sleep reward
Samsung Health recent workouts
Samsung Health heart rate monitoring
Samsung Health dashboard
Samsung Health app customization
Samsung Health activity milestone

You’ll need to install a dizzying array of apps at startup: the Galaxy Wearable app, the Galaxy Watch Active Plugin, Samsung Accessory Service, and then Samsung Health and Samsung Pay if you don’t already have them.

The Wearable app lets you control everything on the watch with your phone and also lets you transfer content like music and images to it. The app can also be used to set up an SOS transmission to share your location with selected contacts in an emergency by quickly pressing the bottom button three times.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active: Specs

  Samsung Galaxy Watch Active
Display 1.1-inch full-color always-on display
360 x 360 resolution
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Memory 768MB RAM
4GB storage
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.2
Wi-Fi b/g/n
NFC
A-GPS/Glonass
Sensors Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Barometer
Heart rate
Ambient light
Processor Dual-core Samsung Exynos 9110
1.15GHz
Battery 230mAh
WPC-based wireless charging
Durability 5ATM + IP68
MIL-STD-810G
Compatibility Samsung Galaxy, Android 5.0 or above with more than 1.5GB RAM

iPhone: iPhone 5 and above, iOS 9.0 or above

Software Tizen-based Wearable OS 4.0
Dimensions and weight Case: 40mm
39.5 x 39.5 x 10.5mm
25g

Strap: 20mm

Colors silver, black, rose gold, sea green

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active: Performance and battery life

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active glare

  • Samsung Exynos 9100
  • 4GB internal storage
  • 0.75GB of RAM
  • 230mAh battery

The Watch Active performs well and I had no noticeable issues with lag, stuttering or crashes, barring the Plugin crashing when I tried to sync music (that was likely due to the Android Q developer preview, not the watch). Speaking of music, if you want to load your own tunes onto the Watch Active’s internal storage, just be aware about half of it will already be used out of the box.

The Galaxy Watch’s battery is admittedly small, but is only a little smaller than the small Galaxy Watch. Samsung promises 45 hours of battery life which is probably true if you disable pretty much everything. If you’re regularly tracking activities (as I would assume you would), you’ll be able to get through a day. If you’re streaming music that’ll drop to less than a day, use GPS and it’s half a day – you get the idea.

I found a day’s usage was pretty standard with an average mix of notifications, music, activity tracking, and interactions with notifications. This is neither better nor worse than most other smartwatches, but for a watch designed specifically for an active lifestyle, better battery life would have been appreciated.

What’s perhaps worse is the extremely slow charging via the included wireless puck. Instead of using pogo pins, Samsung opted for wireless charging here. It’s painfully slow. The 230mAh battery takes almost two hours to charge, which is a horrendously long time for a watch you might just want to juice up quickly before you duck out for a run. You can wirelessly charge it on the go with the new S10 family, but it’ll take even longer to charge that way.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active: Pricing and final thoughts

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active outdoor visibility 2

At $199, the Galaxy Watch Active is priced very competitively. As far as hardware performance goes it’s up there, barring the battery and charging issues just mentioned. Where the Galaxy Watch Active falls down though, putting it squarely in do-not-buy territory — is fitness tracking. Fortunately, this is something Samsung can absolutely fix, and will hopefully do so soon. I’ve had a great experience with other Samsung wearables in the past, so I know Samsung can make amends.

Despite the ‘Active’ name, you shouldn’t buy the Galaxy Watch Active if you need accurate fitness or health tracking.

If the actual data recorded by the Watch Active is not the reason you’re buying it, then go ahead — it’s likely a sound investment (especially seeing there are so many open box discounts already due to the number of returns retailers are seeing).

If you want a wearable for notifications, music, something to prompt you to move or relax, and tell you the time, then yeah, the Galaxy Watch Active is great. But add blood pressure monitoring, sleep tracking, heart-rate monitoring, step or floor count to that list of needs and the Watch Active is simply not a good buy right now.

Looking for an alternative? The Fitbit Ionic has a similar feature set, price point, and isn’t bad at fitness tracking. The Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music is also a great GPS running smartwatch.

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.

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).