HUAWEI P20 PRO

Huawei’s lat­est has a smart de­sign with an iPhone-style notch, but is three cam­eras the magic num­ber?

Australian T3 - - CONTENTS -

Your phone has a dual cam­era sys­tem, huh? Well, Huawei’s new pre­mium hand­set has three. So there. Does it make one jot of dif­fer­ence, though?

$1,099 huawei.com/au

Hav­ing shunned its bud­get im­age, Huawei is carv­ing out a solid rep­u­ta­tion for of­fer­ing Ap­ple-like hard­ware with An­droid soft­ware at a pre­mium price. Of course, that price has to be jus­ti­fied with fea­tures, and the P20 Pro has quite the show­piece: a triple-sen­sor Le­ica cam­era sys­tem. Oh, and its beau­ti­ful gra­di­ent colour fin­ishes that shift in the light.

Fa­mil­iar face

In the rest of the de­sign, there’s no get­ting around there be­ing a whiff of an iPhone X to the look, though you get a big 6.1-inch screen (with notch) here. That sounds huge, but Huawei has re­ally nailed the er­gonomics, so we found it com­fort­able to use. The glass back is smooth and solid, while the metal edges are pleas­ingly cham­fered and tac­tile. It’s def­i­nitely pre­mium – we find it much more pleas­ant to hold than the Sam­sung Galaxy S9 – and it feels more durable. Un­like the iPhone, there’s still a fin­ger­print sen­sor and home but­ton on the front. It’s a wel­come ex­tra, since the face un­lock­ing works well but isn’t as se­cure as Ap­ple’s Face ID.

On the back you’ll find that cam­era setup, which com­bines two colour cam­eras (wide-an­gle and tele­photo) with one mono­chrome sen­sor. You get 10MP, even though the sen­sors are higher-res than that – Huawei com­bines mul­ti­ple pix­els into one for an ex­tra-sharp im­age. It’s very smart, and sim­i­lar to what Nokia did with its leg­endary PureView cam­era.

The ac­tual sen­sor of the widean­gle cam­era is huge as well (dou­ble the size of the iPhone or Galaxy S9’s), and when com­bined with the tonal pix­els of the mono­chrome sen­sor and ‘Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence Sta­bil­i­sa­tion’,

you get a cam­era that’s shock­ingly good in low light, ca­pa­ble of pulling out noise-free de­tails we’re un­able to see with the naked eye.

Huawei has cre­ated a su­per-fast aut­o­fo­cus sys­tem too, and it even has pre­dic­tive fo­cus to keep any mov­ing ob­jects pin sharp. It also uses AI for bet­ter re­sults in each photo: it in­stantly recog­nises what you’re shoot­ing and ad­justs the im­age pro­cess­ing ac­cord­ingly. For ex­am­ple, it will know when you’re tak­ing a pic­ture of a flower and boost the sat­u­ra­tion. If you’re tak­ing a por­trait it will au­to­mat­i­cally smooth the skin and blur the back­ground.

We rate the Google Pixel 2 as the best phone cam­era on the mar­ket, and the dif­fer­ence be­tween it and this one is down to taste. The Pixel 2 is more like a point-and-shoot cam­era, while the P20 Pro is more like a DSLR, where you need to play with the set­tings and modes to get the most out of it. It def­i­nitely bests the iPhone X and Galaxy S9, though.

Every­thing the P20 Pro cam­era is do­ing is quick as hell, pow­ered by an octa-core pro­ces­sor and its spe­cial AI chip. In fact, any­thing we did on the phone, from open­ing apps to watch­ing videos, is su­per re­spon­sive. The Huawei P20 Pro runs An­droid Oreo 8.1 with Huawei’s EMUI 8.1 skin on top. The skin is im­proved greatly over pre­vi­ous ver­sions, but still not quite as at­trac­tive as stock An­droid.

Pop­u­lar­ity con­test

The OLED dis­play is ex­cel­lent, strik­ing a good bal­ance be­tween nat­u­ral and over­sat­u­rated. It is lower res­o­lu­tion than the Galaxy S9, but you’ll only no­tice the lack of pix­els when side-by-side. The dis­play is sharp, bright and pleas­ing to look at.

The bat­tery is a mas­sive 4,000mAh unit, lead­ing to huge longevity. We of­ten find our­selves end­ing a day with 50 per cent re­main­ing and we are not light users. In fact, we’re not sure how Huawei man­aged this trick in a phone that mea­sures just 7.8mm thick.

The P20 Pro is out­stand­ing in other more bor­ing and of­ten over­looked ar­eas such as speaker qual­ity and wire­less per­for­mance. The phone also man­ages to get 4G sig­nal where oth­ers usu­ally fail to do so. For ex­am­ple, blackspots in the more ru­ral ar­eas around the lux­ury T3 es­tates.

The Huawei P20 Pro is a very im­pres­sive smart­phone. It’s pow­er­ful, fast, re­fined, stylish and, per­haps most im­por­tantly of all, de­sir­able. The big­gest crit­i­cism that can be drawn against it is that the hand­set looks like an iPhone X, and peo­ple may dis­miss it in­stantly as a knock-off be­cause of that. We’d love to see Huawei carve more of its own look in the over­all de­sign, but the gor­geous pink and blue gra­di­ent fin­ishes al­ready give it a luxe iden­tity of its own.

So don’t dis­miss the Huawei P20 Pro purely as an iPhone X also-ran. This is as good an An­droid phone as the best out there right now, a truly in­cred­i­ble cam­era, and an ob­ject of de­sire on its own merit.

Pre­mium phones with a fin­ger­print sen­sor on the front are rare these days, but the P20 Pro keeps the flag fly­ing

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