Huawei P20 Pro

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Android Advisor - - Con­tents -

Rather than call it the P11, Huawei has de­cided to fol­low up the P10 with the P20. There are three phones in the range, a Lite ver­sion with a 5.8in screen, a ‘stan­dard’ op­tion ( page 65), and a Pro model which is a lit­tle larger with a 6.1in dis­play. It’s the lat­ter we’re look­ing at here.

De­sign

The P20 is, just like the Mate 10, a re­design rather than an it­er­a­tion of the P10. Per­haps that’s one rea­son why it’s the P20 and not the P11.

In any case, it has rounder edges than its pre­de­ces­sor but, more no­tice­ably, a glass back. Without doubt it looks much bet­ter than the sand­blasted alu­minium of the P10 and comes in a range of colours in­clud­ing Twi­light, which is a gra­di­ent from dark blue to a pink­ish hue.

Pho­tos can’t quite do the fin­ish jus­tice, but in the flesh it’s another eye-catch­ing de­sign that will make peo­ple ask “What phone have you got?”. If you pre­fer, there’s a black ver­sion, Pink Gold or Mid­night Blue.

The other ob­vi­ous fea­ture that will get peo­ple talk­ing is the third lens. It’s the first phone to sport a trio of rear cam­eras, but it’s slightly odd that one sits sep­a­rate to the other two. We’ll get to the de­tails of those cam­eras be­low.

Around the front, there’s a 6.1in screen, which has a sim­i­lar de­sign to the iPhone X as there’s a cam­era and speaker in a notch at the top. Sur­pris­ingly, Huawei de­cided not to make the bot­tom edge bezel-less but in­stead cram a long, thin home but­ton/finger­print sen­sor there. It’s great news for those who de­spise rear-mounted finger­print sen­sors.

There’s IP67 wa­ter-re­sis­tance but all you’ll find on the bot­tom edge is a USB-C port, not a stan­dard head­phone socket.

Dis­play

With a res­o­lu­tion of 2244x1080, the 6.1in dis­play is even wider than the Mate 10 Pro, with an as­pect ra­tio of 18.7:9. Un­like the reg­u­lar P20, the Pro gets an AMOLED screen. This of­fers more vi­brant colours and – sub­jec­tively – a lit­tle more bright­ness.

We’ve not had long enough with the phone to see how An­droid Oreo han­dles the notch, and we’re sure it will de­pend on the apps you use as to whether you end up with a black bor­der or the in­ter­face can use the full ex­tent of the screen.

How­ever, like the Mate 10 Pro you can en­able the al­ways-on op­tion, so the clock is dis­played when the phone is asleep.

Hard­ware

The P20 bor­rows the Kirin 970 pro­ces­sor from the Mate 10, but that’s not re­ally an is­sue since it’s a very fast chip. On the P20 Pro, it’s backed by 6GB of RAM and 128GB of on-board stor­age. It also has 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO, Blue­tooth 4.2 (not 5.0) and Cat 18 LTE for up to 1.2Gb/s down­load speeds, when they are avail­able from your mo­bile oper­a­tor.

Cam­eras

Cam­eras are a ma­jor sell­ing point for the P20 Pro and Huawei didn’t talk about a whole lot else at the phone’s launch.

They’re so im­por­tant that the whole rear of the phone has been de­signed around the cam­eras, with the Huawei logo run­ning par­al­lel to the line of cam­eras so it’s read­able when you’re tak­ing a pic­ture – or video – in land­scape mode.

The left-most cam­era in this ori­en­ta­tion is the 20Mp mono cam­era that Huawei has used for quite a few of its re­cent phones, in­clud­ing the P10. In the mid­dle is a 40Mp colour cam­era and, on the right, an 8Mp cam­era with a 3x tele­photo lens.

Those are some se­ri­ous num­bers, and you’ll prob­a­bly re­call Nokia putting a 41Mp sen­sor in its 2012 PureView 808 phone (and later us­ing it in the Lu­mia 1020).

While you can shoot pho­tos at 40Mp, the P20 Pro de­faults to 10Mp. This is to en­able a 5x Hy­brid Zoom mode which com­bines the three cam­eras and some clever pro­cess­ing to de­liver some cred­i­ble-look­ing tele­photo shots at 10Mp.

Here’s how that looks in the real world. The images here have been re­sized in Pho­to­shop, but we have in­cluded 100 per­cent crops of the 3x and 5x pho­tos be­low, so you can see the full level of de­tail cap­tured.

It’s cer­tainly im­pres­sive, with the hy­brid mode de­liv­er­ing sharper re­sults than you might ex­pect, and bet­ter than sim­ply in­ter­po­lat­ing a 3x photo in Pho­to­shop to make it larger.

Cam­era fea­tures don’t stop there. There’s a nifty six-sec­ond long ex­po­sure mode, which uses AIS (Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence Sta­bi­liza­tion) and ISO right up to 51,200 to de­liver sharp night shots without a tri­pod. The Kirin 970’s NPU (Neu­ral Pro­cess­ing Unit) is used along with all the cam­era hard­ware to elim­i­nate blur­ring caused by shaky hands.

And while it sounds too good to be true, it ac­tu­ally works. We tried it in an al­most pitch-black room with a cityscape pro­jected in the back­ground and, although we could only re­view the images on the phone’s screen, they cer­tainly looked sharp enough.

We even com­pared this mode to an equiv­a­lent sixsec­ond long ex­po­sure in the Pro cam­era mode where we saw the ex­pected blurry mess, so that AIS is clearly do­ing a lot. You can’t se­lect any­thing above ISO 6400 man­u­ally, though: the high­est 102,400 ISO is only used when needed in the Night Shot mode.

In our low-light com­par­i­son, the long-ex­po­sure shot has more sat­u­rated colours and is clearly sharper than the stan­dard auto mode (see op­po­site).

On top of this, the Ul­tra Snap­shot (where you dou­ble-press the vol­ume down but­ton to take a photo even if the phone is asleep) now takes just 0.3 sec­onds, so you can pick up your P20 Pro and cap­ture what­ever’s go­ing on at that in­stant.

Con­tin­u­ing with the AI theme, the P20 Pro uses ‘4D pre­dic­tive fo­cus’. It analy­ses move­ment in the

frame and pre­dicts where the ob­ject will go next so – hope­fully it’s in sharp fo­cus no mat­ter when you hit the shut­ter but­ton. We tried this out on a cou­ple of fencers do­ing their thing and the phone picked one per­son and fol­lowed his move­ments. And for the most part, it ac­cu­rately pre­dicted the di­rec­tion he would move next. Although the foils were blurry due to the fast move­ment, the fencer was – as far as we could tell from the pre­view – in sharp fo­cus.

Another AI fea­ture, as found on the Mate 10, is scene recog­ni­tion. The P20 Pro can iden­tify 19 dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios (6 more than the Mate 10) from food to pets to por­traits and land­scapes. In each, it will au­to­mat­i­cally ad­just set­tings to get the best pos­si­ble photo without you have to man­u­ally se­lect the mode.

For ex­am­ple, if it de­tects you’re tak­ing a por­trait, it will au­to­mat­i­cally blur the back­ground us­ing the depth sens­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Here’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween a stan­dard photo and one taken with por­trait mode. It doesn’t per­fectly mask out the back­ground, but still does a de­cent job:

Huawei re­fused to say if the new AI fea­tures would find their way onto the Mate 10.

Op­po­site is a com­par­i­son of the 40Mp and 10Mp modes. You can see that there’s very lit­tle pro­cess­ing done in the for­mer, but in the lat­ter there’s plenty of sharp­en­ing and also HDR. Yet all we did be­tween tak­ing the two pho­tos was change the res­o­lu­tion.

Around the front you’ll find a 24Mp selfie cam­era. That’s not a typo ei­ther: the P20 pulls no punches with its sen­sor res­o­lu­tions. In our lim­ited test­ing, it

proved to be very im­pres­sive in­deed, de­liv­er­ing the kind of sharp de­tail usu­ally re­served for rear cam­eras. Huawei says this will step down in res­o­lu­tion as light de­te­ri­o­rates in or­der to main­tain sharp­ness and re­duce noise.

We’re not done yet with the cam­eras: the P20 Pro also records video. It’s al­most as if this is an af­ter­thought (just as with the P10 and Mate 10). We say this be­cause although the AI sta­bi­liza­tion is used for video, it’s only at 1080p at 30fps. No sta­bi­liza­tion is of­fered at all at 1080p60 or at 4K.

There’s no sup­port for HDR video record­ing ei­ther. It means that, for those who like to use their phone to make home videos, the P20 is un­likely to be the best choice.

How­ever, Huawei has added a Su­per Slow Mo­tion mode which – like the Galaxy S9 – shoots a sec­ond or

so of 960fps video at 720p. The im­ple­men­ta­tion isn’t quite as in­tel­li­gent: you have to press the but­ton at the in­stant the ac­tion hap­pens. So as with the Xpe­ria XZ1, it’s a bit of a case of luck if you man­age to cap­ture the mo­tion you wanted. It pro­cesses the video for a few sec­onds af­ter­wards so you can’t im­me­di­ately shoot another clip, but the re­sult­ing video starts at nor­mal speed, smoothly tran­si­tions to su­per-slow mo­tion and then back to nor­mal speed at the end.

Bat­tery

De­spite the thick­ness of 7.8mm, there’s a 4,000mAh bat­tery in the P20 Pro. Huawei hasn’t quoted any bat­tery life fig­ures, but we’d be sur­prised if the phone can’t eas­ily last a day of fairly in­ten­sive use.

Anec­do­tally, a pho­tog­ra­pher who has been test­ing out the P20 Pro said that af­ter three days of use, the AI had op­ti­mized bat­tery life sig­nif­i­cantly to the point where 60 per­cent re­mained af­ter an en­tire day of shoot­ing.

Soft­ware

In the box, the P20 Pro ships with An­droid Oreo 8.1 and Huawei’s EMUI 8.1 soft­ware.

If you al­ready know Huawei phones and EMUI, you’ll know ex­actly what to ex­pect: lit­tle has changed com­pared to the Mate 10 or P10. It de­faults to an app grid like iOS, but you can en­able the app drawer if you pre­fer not to have all your apps plas­tered across mul­ti­ple home screens.

There are a cou­ple of im­prove­ments. One is that AI is used to tag pho­tos for bet­ter search­ing. It can put

pho­tos into one of roughly 100 cat­e­gories. It’ll also use al­go­rithms to ‘score’ pho­tos for aes­thetic beauty, so you can eas­ily see the ‘best’ pho­tos you’ve taken. AI can also straighten wonky hori­zons.

If the notch bugs you, just choose the ‘Hide notch’ op­tion in the set­tings and it dis­ap­pears:

EMUI 8.1 brings wire­less file trans­fers to a PC or Mac with no spe­cial soft­ware re­quired. We couldn’t test this out, though, and Huawei didn’t go into de­tail about ex­actly how this works.

Sim­i­larly, the Huawei Clone app runs faster and can trans­fer data from your old phone up to 5x faster: 32GB of data can be “cloned” in 19 min­utes ,ac­cord­ing to the firm.

The wide screen lends it­self to mul­ti­ple apps and sure enough, you can run cer­tain apps side by side (or one above the other).

Ver­dict

It’s too soon to say whether the P20 Pro is a bet­ter choice than the Galaxy S9+ or other ri­vals. We still need to test the cam­eras more fully (and com­pare with ri­val phones), as­sess bat­tery life and more.

Un­til then, early signs are promis­ing – so long as shoot­ing smooth, sta­bi­lized 4K video isn’t your top pri­or­ity. Jim Martin

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 6.1in (2244x1080, 408ppi) AMOLED ca­pac­i­tive touch­screen 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 • 6GB RAM • 128GB stor­age • Finger­print scan­ner • Three rear-fac­ing cam­eras: 40Mp (f/1.8, 1/1.7in, OIS), 20Mp (f/1.6) and 8Mp (f/2.4), Le­ica op­tics, 3x op­ti­cal zoom, phase de­tec­tion and laser aut­o­fo­cus, du­alLED dual-tone flash • 24Mp front-fac­ing cam­era: aut­o­fo­cus f/2.0, 1080p • 802.11ac Wi-Fi • Blue­tooth 4.2 • A-GPS, GLONASS • USB 3.0 Type-C • 155x73.9x7.8mm • 180g

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