Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Price: £899 inc VAT from fave.co/2q8bvJb
Last year, Huawei unveiled the Mate 10 Pro, which had not only the new Kirin 970 processor but also a noticeably different design from the Mate 9 which preceded it. The Mate 20 Pro continues that trend with another completely new design, a nextgeneration CPU and the camera setup everyone wants: standard, wide angle and telephoto.
Huawei has obviously listened to our wishes, ditched the monochrome camera and replaced it with an ultra-wide angle colour camera which means you can now go from an effective 0.6x zoom right the way through to a 5x hybrid zoom.
With other new features such as the innovative in-screen fingerprint sensor, 3D face scanning unlock and reverse wireless charging, it’s a very tempting 2018 flagship to add to your shortlist.
If the Galaxy S9+ had a notched screen, the Mate 20 Pro would be a dead ringer for it. That’s because Huawei has used similar curved edges, both back and front, so the phone is thinner on its sides than at the top and bottom. It looks and feels fantastic in the hand, though as with any glass-sandwich phone, you’ll have a constant fear of dropping it and smashing the front, back or both.
Huawei provides a clear silicone case in the box, just as with other Mate phones, but there’s no screen protector this time around, possibly because of the curved screen and in-screen scanner. So you’ll have to take extra care not to scratch it and invest in a curved glass screen protector if you can. Huawei hasn’t yet said whether these will affect the fingerprint scanner.
Although the Twilight gradient finish (opposite) makes a welcome return, there’s a new glass finish which is preferable. It’s akin to a vinyl record, with fine lines running diagonally across the back of the phone and adding a tactile finish that is both resistant to fingerprints and a bit grippier than standard glass.
The ‘hyper optical’ pattern is only available with the Midnight Blue and new Emerald Green, but the latter is the one we’d pick: it looks unusual and with the quadrangle camera arrangement, it’s
certainly distinctive. Your other two colour options are Black and Pink Gold.
Water resistance gets a bump from IP67 on the Mate 10 Pro to IP68. This means you can leave the new phone submerged at a depth of 2m for 30 minutes, and there’s a new underwater camera mode. (There’s also an underwater case, though this won’t be sold in the UK.)
Since the sides are much thinner, the SIM tray has been relocated to the bottom edge next to the USB-C port. There are tiny holes on the top and bottom, which emit surprisingly loud stereo sound.
Volume and power buttons are on the right-hand side and the power button is a fetching red colour on all models (some people hated this in our office poll, and some don’t mind it). The 6.39in screen
takes up the entire front of the phone with a sizeable notch that houses the face unlock camera, the selfie camera and the earpiece for phone calls.
It isn’t the first phone to have an in-screen fingerprint scanner, but it’s likely to be your first one. Since it’s impossible to see where the scanner is located, a fingerprint icon appears on the lock screen and whenever the scanner can be used so you know where to press.
Registering a finger is no different to a normal scanner, although you have to press a little harder and longer to get it to accept the edges of a finger.
We’re not quite sure why the fingerprint scanner is necessary at all because you can unlock the Mate 20 Pro using the new 3D face scanner. This does the job
in a fraction of a second when you pick up the phone. Enrolment is exactly the same as on an iPhone X: you roll your head around so it can scan around it. During our testing it worked quickly and reliably. In complete darkness the success rate is slightly lower, but we’ve had the same experience with the iPhone X and XS.
Love it or hate it, the screen has a notch in the top edge. As you might expect, the screen is OLED just as with the Mate 10 Pro. It has a resolution of 3,120x1,440, which is a decent increase over the Mate 10 Pro and gives it an aspect ratio of 19.5:9, close to the cinema standard of 21:9. It supports HDR, and covers the DCI-P3 gamut.
Huawei doesn’t provide any figures for brightness or contrast, but it looks similar to the Mate 10 Pro and P20 Pro’s screens. It certainly has the same vibrant colours, wide viewing angles and high brightness.
As usual, you have control over colour temperature and whether you want vivid colours or natural colours. Unfortunately neither setting is the one we’d pick: it would be better to have a third option somewhere in-between or a saturation slider for choosing any value in between. Or, simply do what Apple does and offer no control at all, and ensure the screen produces accurate colours in all light conditions.
You can enable Natural tone to adjust white balance automatically, but colours were never quite ‘right’. It was most noticeable in games where contrast seemed to be boosted and colours were a few shades darker than they should be.
Overall, this is still a great screen but if you want absolute accuracy, you might prefer the iPhone.
Like Natural tone, another setting that’s disabled by default is always-on display which shows the time, date and notifications when the phone is in standby. That’s something you won’t find on the iPhone, despite its OLED screen.
We’re big fans of the new curved sides. Just as on the Samsung Galaxy S9, content appears to wrap around the edges when you scroll. But there are no ‘edge’ features in EMUI 9.0 as you’ll find on the Galaxy, so they’re not useful per se.
When you enable the new full-screen navigation, it’s comfortable to swipe in from the edges, but swiping down from the top must be done in the centre where the notch is, otherwise you’ll bring up Huawei’s HiSearch instead of the Android control panel.
Processor, memory and storage
Powering the Mate 20 Pro is the Kirin 980, paired with 6GB of RAM. The new chip was announced a while back, but the Mate 20 Pro is the first phone to get it. Compared to the Kirin 970 in the Mate 10 Pro, it’s claimed to be about 70 percent faster overall and 40 percent more power efficient. That’s largely down to the new 7nm manufacturing process, the same as Apple uses for the A12 Bionic in the iPhone XS.
In Geekbench 4, the Mate 10 Pro managed 1,920 and 6,725 for single- and multicore tests. The P20 Pro’s scores were virtually identical as it has the same processor. The Mate 20 Pro scored 3,320 and 9,862, which is almost exactly 70 percent faster for the single-core test and 47 percent quicker in the multicore-test. This makes it the fastest chip in an Android phone yet, but not by a huge margin. The Snapdragon 845 isn’t too far behind, and the 2017 iPhone X is still a little quicker.
The Neural Processing Unit has been given a significant boost in the Kirin 980. There are now effectively two NPUs, with one dedicated to regular tasks such as image and scene recognition. The other deals with real-time natural language processing and real-time video processing. Huawei says it’s 134 percent faster compared to the NPU in the Kirin 970 and 88 percent more power efficient. It can scan through your photo library at 4,500 images per minute, identifying faces, objects, and more. It’s also used to create highlight reels from your videos. Tap on a person’s face and you’ll get an auto-generated video featuring the person you chose.
The GPU hasn’t been overlooked: the Mali G76 is said to be almost 50 percent faster than the G71 in the Kirin 970. It’s also about twice as power-efficient, so you should be able to game for longer. We saw around a 20 percent increase in 3D performance in GFXBench’s Manhattan 3.1 test, with the Mate 20 Pro managing 47fps compared to the P20 Pro’s 39fps. In other tests, such as Car Chase, the increase was much less, just 3- to 4fps faster.
Check in the Settings app under Battery and you’ll find a Performance mode, which you can enable to squeeze every last drop of speed out of the phone at the expense of battery life. In this mode we saw an average of 1fps more in games, and these figures in Geekbench 4: 3,363 for single-core and 10,059 in multi-core.
Internal storage is 128GB, and we applaud Huawei for continuing to put a decent amount of storage in the flagship model rather than forcing people to pay more if they want more than 64GB. Now, though, you can insert a ‘nano memory card’ to add an extra 256GB. These cards are new to us, and we’re unsure when they will go on sale: they’re not around yet.
Connectivity and audio
The Kirin 980 is the first chip to build in Cat 21 LTE, for theoretical download speeds of up to 1.4Gb/s. Of course, this will remain theoretical at least in the UK where no mobile operator can yet offer such speeds.
There’s no support for 5G, which means the Mate 20 Pro won’t be able to take advantage of the new tech when it launches later in 2019 (but neither will
any of its rivals, apart from possibly the Galaxy S10). You’ll find the SIM tray in the bottom edge. It will accept a nano-SIM on each side, but as we mentioned, you’ll forfeit one of these if you use a nano memory card. Be careful when buying, because most Mate 20 Pros sold in the UK will be the LYA-L09 model, which is single-SIM. If you want dual-SIM you need the LYA-L29 model. Double-check this when you see listings claiming to be dual-SIM: all Mate 20 Pros have the same SIM tray so could appear to be dual-SIM, but are restricted in software. One place you can get the dual-SIM version is from Three.
There’s Wave 2 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC built in. And, as mentioned, the speakers are arranged like the Mate 10 Pro’s which has one front-firing and one bottom-firing speaker. Cunningly, this uses the USB-C port to emit sound, but it also means the speaker is blocked if you plug in a USB-C cable.
Yet again, the balance isn’t quite spot on, with the bottom speaker being louder than the top one.
The Twilight gradient finish makes a welcome return
Registering a fingerprint is quick and easy using the in-screen scanner
Content appears to wrap around the edge of the device
The Mate 20 Pro has three cameras on the back