HUAWEI P20 PRO
Huawei’s latest has a smart design with an iPhone-style notch, but is three cameras the magic number?
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?
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.
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.
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