It doesn’t sound bad, but it’s not quite on a par with the iPhone XS.
USB-C headphones are provided in the box, but Huawei tells us that there won’t be a USB-C to 3.5mm adaptor in the box, which is a shame.
Despite Huawei pitching the Mate series at young entrepreneurs and saying that the cameras aren’t as important as they are on the P Series phones, we all know that the cameras are important on any phone. And thankfully the Mate 20 Pro’s snappers are very impressive indeed. Even indoors in dim light, we were able to capture sharp photos of people with good colours and minimal noise.
Noise is certainly evident when you use the telephoto camera in low light, but using the main camera you have access to the incredible Night mode, which allows you to shoot long exposures without a tripod and get surprisingly good results. The images opposite were taken in very low light, yet you wouldn’t know it. The ultra-wide lens can also be used for macro, allowing you to get as close as 2.5cm. This is great for insects and flowers.
Our test photos overleaf are all taken from the same place, illustrate the difference between the 0.6x ultra-wide lens, the standard, 3x and 5x zooms, with the latter being a combination of optical and digital zoom (there’s no interpolation because the extra pixels in the 40Mp sensor are used).
It’s impressive stuff, and it makes the Mate 20 Pro very versatile. It’s a slight shame the telephoto lens is paired with an 8Mp sensor rather than 12Mp, which would have offered more detail.
All the images here were shot with Master AI enabled, and it looks like Huawei has toned down the oversaturation for more natural-looking pictures.
We’re also impressed by the depth sensing, which leads to more accurate subject isolation and therefore more realistic looking bokeh in portrait photos.
Above is the difference between a standard and a portrait photo. Note that Master AI automatically enables portrait mode when it sees a person’s head and shoulders in the frame. It will offer to switch to the ultra-wide camera if it detects a landscape, too, and give you on-screen buttons for Standard and Wide.
Master AI is more advanced now, able to recognize 1500 scenes and it can track the important objects in a scene, such as a child’s face, and will help to ensure your photo is in focus when you take it.
But, oddly, there’s no automatic HDR. It’s still a separate mode under the More section, so you have to manually enable it to benefit from the new software improvements. Not very intelligent.
There’s one camera on the front, the same 24Mp selfie camera we’ve seen before on Huawei phones. It does a great job as you can see above, and there’s plenty of detail if you turn off the Beauty mode that is on by default and which smooths out skin. There was clearly an issue with the early software on our test phone because we couldn’t get the portrait mode to blur the background at all, but the feature is there.
Video still tops out at 4K at 30fps, but the big change is that there’s stabilization at all resolutions. There’s no longer a tick-box to turn it on and off: it’s on all the time. Huawei calls it AIS, or AI Stabilization because it uses the NPU to analyse and smooth out the jerkiness.
There’s a noticeable difference between 4K video shot on the Mate 20 Pro and the P20 Pro/Mate 10 Pro. The latter two were almost unusable with no stabilization, but that’s not the case now.
The new NPU is also put to use with the AI cinema mode which lets you add filters to your video in realtime. One new mode detects skin tones and will keep your subject – including their clothes – in full colour while making the background black and white.
Huawei has increased capacity to 4,200mAh, which is the biggest we’ve seen in one of its phones. To alleviate fears over the safety of packing such capacity into a thin device (and no doubt a reference to Samsung’s woes with the Galaxy Note 7) the entire charging system is TÜV certified from the charger to the cable to the battery.
And unlike Apple, which bundles a basic, slow charger with the iPhone XS, Huawei includes a new 40W Super Charger that provides a 70 percent charge
in 30 minutes to an empty battery. It’s so fast that the charging percentage runs to two decimal places so you can watch the numbers race as it charges in Super Charge mode. It’s very satisfying.
For the first time, there’s support for wireless charging, 15W wireless charging in fact. That’s twice the wattage and twice the speed of many wireless charging systems in phones.
But while that’s good news, there’s another new feature. Reverse wireless charging allows you to charge your friend’s phone, so long as it supports the Qi standard. Once enabled in the settings, you simply place the other phone back to back with the Mate 20 Pro and it will charge it up. Ideal when your friend’s phone is running low, but you have plenty to spare.
In the Geekbench 4 battery test, the Mate 20 Pro lasted an amazing 11.5 hours with brightness set to 120 nits. This translates to a reliable two-day battery life with normal use, and is pretty much what we expected. That doesn’t take away from how impressive this is: few phones can last this long.
It’s no surprise that Mate 20 Pro runs Android 9 Pie out of the box. It would be disappointing if it didn’t. Of course, you also get Huawei’s EMUI interface as well, now on version 9 to match Android. Overall, this looks no different to previous versions, but it has been streamlined. There are now 10 percent fewer settings items, with some being combined into one setting or menu to reduce the bloat. We’re so used to EMUI that it doesn’t take much effort to find what you’re
looking for, but can understand why some people still don’t like it. It’s better looking than it used to be, but still isn’t the most intuitive around. One niggle is that the small amount of space available either side of the screen notch isn’t used efficiently. There’s no need for the NFC icon, for example, but there’s no way to customize what’s shown and what isn’t.
But there are also some benefits such as Huawei’s use of Android toast messages (the little pop-up notifications), which tell you when, say, the network connection changes from Wi-Fi to mobile data.
As this is the first Android phone with this type of 3D face unlock, you won’t find support for it in many apps. You’re more likely to find your banking and password apps let you use the fingerprint scanner, but not your face… yet. This might happen in the future.
As there’s no home button or visible fingerprint scanner you can use full-screen gestures to navigate, just as Google has done with the Pixel 3.
Huawei says much work has been done to improve responsiveness and speed, so the built-in apps now launch over 50 percent faster than on the Mate 10 Pro, and there’s a faster response when you tap on something in an app. This certainly rang true using the Mate 20 Pro: it’s as slick as you’d expect the latest flagship to be.
One new feature is HiTouch. This is a new icon in the top-left corner of the camera app. It works like Google Lens: if you press two fingers on screen, you’ll get information about anything on the screen that is recognized. Similarly, HiVision uses the camera to recognize what it sees and provide more information.
The on-board database has details on landmarks in 15 countries and 10 million artworks. You can even point the camera at food to get an estimate of the calories, and it can tell the difference between, say, a large and a small apple or a whole or half-eaten pizza. We found this worked when pointed at an apple, but it couldn’t recognize London landmarks such as St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and the Shard at London Bridge. Huawei says that the database will quickly grow thanks to machine learning, but as it stands there are just 80 UK landmarks it can identify.
In shopping mode, show the phone an item of clothing or a product and it can direct you to buy it on Amazon, Debenhams, Harrods or Harvey Nichols. That’s the theory, but when we tried it with the Amazon Assistant app installed, it would only
recognize the general product type (such as a PC mouse), not the exact item. Not particularly useful.
Of more practical use for some people, HiAI can process photos of screens taken at an angle, straighten them and use OCR to convert them to an editable PowerPoint presentation. Thanks to the 3D camera, you can use Huawei’s Qmoji which first appeared on the Nova 3. These are similar to Apple’s Animoji, but are less expressive and responsive.
As with the Mate 10, there’s a built-in Desktop mode. Except now no cable is needed. You can connect your Mate 20 Pro to any screen with Miracast support. This gives you a Windows-like environment which can be useful for working, but is handy if you need to make a presentation. It’s been improved in a few ways, including the fact that the on-screen touchpad now lets you highlight portions of the screen being projected.
Finally, there a new app called Digital Balance. This is pretty much a carbon copy of Apple’s Screen Time, and gives you a dashboard where you can see how much you’re using your phone. You can set time limits for certain apps, and a ‘Wind down’ option minimizes interruptions before you go to bed and turns the screen monochrome. Some of the new features, such as the ability to scan 3D objects, are coming in later software updates. We’re told the 3D Live Object Modelling app and the Touch to Share function will be available in late November, with the former being a separate app available in Google Play.
The Mate 20 Pro is Huawei’s best flagship yet. It has better cameras and better performance than both the Mate 10 Pro and P20 Pro. Thanks to the power of the Kirin 980 you’ve not only got a very fast device in your hands, but it can finally stabilize video at 4K, though it’s a slight shame that it can’t quite manage 60fps given the price. We hope that issues with screen colours can be sorted via a software update and that app developers will add support for face unlock swiftly. The same goes for the AI capabilities, which are mostly limited to the built-in apps: only in China will you find apps which use the power on offer.
The bottom line is that we’re happy to recommend the Mate 20 Pro. Jim Martin
• 6.39in (3,120x1,440; 538ppi) AMOLED capacitive touchscreen
• Android 9.0 Pie • HiSilicon Kirin 980 (7nm) processor • Octa-core (2x 2.6GHz Cortex-A76, 2x 1.92GHz Cortex-A76, 4x 1.8GHz Cortex-A55) CPU • Mali-G76 MP10 GPU • 6GB/8GB RAM • 128GB/256GB storage • Rear-facing cameras: 40Mp, f/1.8, 27mm (wide), 1/1.7in, PDAF/Laser AF; 20Mp, f/2.2, 16mm (ultra wide), 1/2.7in, PDAF/Laser AF; 8Mp, f/2.4, 80mm (telephoto), 1/4in, 5x optical zoom, OIS, PDAF/Laser AF • Front-facing camera: 24Mp, f/2.0, 26mm (wide) • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi • Bluetooth 5.0 • A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO, QZSS
• NFC • Fingerprint sensor (rear mounted) • USB 3.1, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector • Non-removable 4,200mAh lithium-polymer battery • 157.8x72.3x8.6mm • 189g
Low light shots
This is the first Android phone with this type of 3D face unlock
Huawei says the built-in apps launch over 50 percent faster
The P20 is Huawei’s best flagship yet