Huawei P20

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Android Advisor - - Con­tents -

The P20 is one of two new Huawei phones launched in Paris in March along with the P20 Pro. We went hands-on with the P20 prior to the event to see what Huawei is do­ing dif­fer­ently in 2018 for its flag­ship P line of phones af­ter last year’s im­pres­sive Mate 10 Pro.

De­sign

The P20 is a rad­i­cal de­sign de­par­ture from last year’s P10. Where there was once sand­blasted alu­minium

and bezels there is now glossy colour­ful glass and a pesky notch for the selfie cam­era.

The phone will be avail­able in black, cham­pagne gold, twi­light, pink gold and mid­night blue.

Gone is the head­phone jack in favour of USB-C au­dio, though Huawei puts a 3.5mm head­phone jack adap­tor in the box. It’s a flag­ship fea­ture we’ll have to get used to.

There’s also a notch in the top of the 5.84in dis­play – yes, like an iPhone X, but also like the Es­sen­tial Phone and the Asus ZenFone 5. Like the ab­sence of a head­phone jack, notches are here to stay for 2018, with the OnePlus 6 also ru­moured to have one.

Un­til man­u­fac­tur­ers can put ear­pieces and cam­eras in slim­mer bezels, then notches are the work­around in order to give the most screen to body ra­tio pos­si­ble. Some will ask why more don’t ape the Galaxy S9 de­sign, which does seem to man­age with­out a notch

pretty im­pres­sively, but clearly Huawei has pre­ferred the ‘eared’ de­sign here.

Huawei has kept the fin­ger­print sen­sor on the front of the de­vice. With so many so-called bezel-less phones mov­ing the fea­ture to the rear, it’s re­fresh­ing to see it on the front in a place that many pre­fer it.

The but­ton is a slim pill shape to save space and makes un­lock­ing on a ta­ble pos­si­ble. This means less hand ac­ro­bat­ics in gen­eral to find a but­ton you can’t see on the back.

The phone has a great in hand feel and a pre­mium air about it that eluded the P10. The glass, while frag­ile no doubt, is lovely and the in-hand feel makes this a de­sir­able piece of kit where Huawei de­sign was once overly prac­ti­cal and util­i­tar­ian.

Hard­ware

We first used the Kirin 970, Huawei’s an­swer to the Snap­dragon 845, in the Mate 10 Pro. Huawei makes bold claims about the chip’s AI func­tions, and we are still du­bi­ous of any smart­phone man­u­fac­turer claim­ing their prod­ucts have AI ca­pa­bil­i­ties. All that ‘AI’ re­ally means in this in­stance is slightly clev­erer soft­ware tweaks on top of apps like the cam­era.

Huawei says the cam­era app will in­tel­li­gently select shoot­ing modes for you, and you can im­age search Ama­zon from any­where within the UI. Cool tricks, but not game chang­ers – and we’ve seen it be­fore.

More in­ter­est­ing to ex­plore in our full re­view will be the AI-as­sisted sta­bi­liza­tion on the P20’s cam­eras.

The dis­play you view ev­ery­thing through is a 2244x1080 18.7:9 LCD (bit of a mouth­ful), while you

get an im­pres­sive 128GB ex­pand­able stor­age. The P20 has to make do with 4GB RAM, with the P20 Pro get­ting 6GB.

Cam­eras

Even though it only has two lenses com­pared to the P20 Pro’s three, the P20’s cam­era setup is still im­pres­sive. There are 12- and 20Mp lenses (colour and mono­chrome re­spec­tively) though there’s no OIS in sight – a shame on a flag­ship de­vice in 2018. Only the 8Mp tele­photo lens on the P20 Pro has OIS.

The selfie cam­era has also had a bump to an im­pres­sive 24Mp – just re­mem­ber to turn off Huawei’s still-an­noy­ing beauty mode un­less you want to come out air­brushed.

Though not as equipped as the P20 Pro, the reg­u­lar model should still be ca­pa­ble of some im­pres­sive low light and black and white

pho­tog­ra­phy. It can also cap­ture 4K video at 30and 960fps slo-mo as seen on the Sony Xpe­ria XZ Pre­mium and Sam­sung Galaxy S9.

Bat­tery

Huawei has stuffed a 3,400mAh bat­tery into a phone that’s only 7.65mm thick. That’s im­pres­sive, and with Huawei’s fast-charger in the box you can eas­ily keep topped up if you’re a heavy user. Huawei claims you can eke two days of use on the bat­tery, but we re­main un­con­vinced un­til proven in our test­ing.

Un­for­tu­nately, like the Mate 10 Pro the P20 does not sup­port wire­less charg­ing – de­spite the glass back that can tech­ni­cally al­low it. It’s not a deal-breaker, but Huawei is clearly be­hind the pack now.

Other stuff

The P20 is only IP53 wa­ter re­sis­tant, un­like the IP67 P20 Pro. Like the LCD in­stead of OLED dis­play, this can be seen as Huawei strip­ping back costs on the reg­u­lar model to meet a price that ap­peals to the float­ing pur­chaser. The com­pany claims the face un­lock fea­ture on the P20 is 100 per­cent faster than the iPhone X at 0.5 sec­onds, and works in the dark. Again, this will be tested in our re­view, as with­out the sen­sor ar­ray of the iPhone X, the P20 may strug­gle, as other An­droid phones do. It’s also less se­cure when re­ly­ing on im­age only.

Soft­ware

The P20 ships with EMUI 8.1 based on An­droid Oreo 8.1. Based on our time with the phone so far, it’s an

im­prove­ment, though each in­cre­men­tal ver­sion of EMUI gen­er­ally is.

Menus are be­com­ing clearer, and the in­ter­face is rel­a­tively in­tu­itive, though the skin is still heavy to the point of change for change’s sake. But the no­ti­fi­ca­tion shade is still good to use, and the gran­u­lar con­trols within the cam­era app be­lie Huawei’s con­tin­ued fo­cus on pho­tog­ra­phy and the com­pany’s part­ner­ship with Le­ica.

Its de­ci­sion to in­stall Google’s Mes­sages app rather than its own is also a pos­i­tive em­brace of Google’s of­ten su­pe­rior stock apps.

A neat ad­di­tion car­ried over from the P10 is us­ing ges­tures on the fin­ger­print sen­sor in place of on­screen An­droid nav­i­ga­tion con­trols. Press­ing to go home or back and swip­ing to open the re­cent apps page is sur­pris­ingly nat­u­ral, and it opens up even more us­able screen space.

The soft­ware here is less of a visual change and more ad­di­tions of so-called AI smarts. New lay­ers of ar­ti­fi­cial help will hope­fully un­veil them­selves to us in full test­ing, some­thing that doesn’t hap­pen in quick hands-on test­ing.

Ver­dict

The P20 will get ribbed for look­ing like an iPhone when re­ally it is a mas­sive step up in de­sign for Huawei de­spite the sim­i­lar­i­ties. EMUI has never looked bet­ter, and the twi­light colour makes the phone quite de­sir­able.

But al­though Huawei’s de­sign chops have over­taken ri­vals like OnePlus, the loss of a head­phone

jack, no full waterproofing, an LCD screen and no wire­less charg­ing mean there is a lot miss­ing from the P20 that can all be found in the Galaxy S9.

It’s im­pres­sive hard­ware, but with­out the third cam­era of the P20 Pro, the reg­u­lar P20 could be a hard sell when there are more fea­ture-full op­tions for you to buy at around the same price. Henry Bur­rell

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 5.8in (2244x1080, 428ppi) IPS LCD ca­pac­i­tive dis­play • An­droid 8.1 Oreo • HiSil­i­con Kirin 970 pro­ces­sor • Octa-core 4x 2.4GHz Cor­tex-A73 and 4x 1.8GHz

Cor­tex-A53 CPU • Mali-G72 MP12 GPU • 4GB RAM • 128GB stor­age • Fin­ger­print scan­ner • Dual rear-fac­ing cam­eras: 12Mp (f/1.8, 1/2.3in, 1.55μm, OIS) and 20Mp (f/1.6, 27mm), Le­ica op­tics, 2x loss­less zoom, phase de­tec­tion and laser aut­o­fo­cus, dual-LED dual-tone flash • front-fac­ing cam­era: f/2.0, 1080p • 802.11ac Wi-Fi • Blue­tooth 4.2 • A-GPS, GLONASS • USB 3.0 Type-C • 149.1x70.8x7.7mm • 165g

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