Huawei P20 Pro

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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 (£599 from fave.

co/2GuhL87), and a Pro model which is a lit­tle larger with a 6.1in dis­play. It’s the lat­ter we’re look­ing at here.


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. 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 don’t 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. Amaz­ingly, one has a 40Mp sen­sor, an­other has a 3x op­ti­cal zoom lens and a blackand-white cam­era com­pletes the triplet.

Around the front, there’s a 6.1in screen that has a sim­i­lar de­sign to the iPhone X as there’s a cam­era and speaker in a notch at the top. It’s a smaller in­tru­sion than Ap­ple’s notch and you can choose in the dis­play op­tions to ‘hide’ it by putting a black strip across the top. The clock, bat­tery level and no­ti­fi­ca­tion icons re­main in place, though, which max­i­mizes screen space and is a good com­pro­mise.

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.


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 a lit­tle more bright­ness. It isn’t the bright­est screen around, but is cer­tainly bright enough.

There are more op­tions than on the Mate 10 Pro. Like that phone you can en­able the al­ways-on op­tion, so the clock is dis­played when the phone is asleep. But with the P20 Pro you can turn on a ‘Nat­u­ral tone’ set­ting which changes the colour tem­per­a­ture ac­cord­ing to the am­bi­ent light – ex­actly like the True Tone dis­play on an iPhone or iPad.

You can also choose vivid or nat­u­ral colours, and even ad­just the screen’s colour tem­per­a­ture man­u­ally if you want to.

There’s the ex­pected blue-light re­duc­tion for night­time use, but you can’t sched­ule this ac­cord­ing to sun­set and sun­rise times, which would have been nice.

Over­all, this is a fab­u­lous screen with ex­cel­lent con­trast, great colours and per­fectly good pixel den­sity. And un­like other OLED dis­plays (think Pixel 2 XL) it doesn’t suf­fer a no­tice­able blue tint when viewed off-axis. There is a slight tint as you tilt the phone, but that’s true of ev­ery OLED screen, in­clud­ing the iPhone X.


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.

No sur­prise, then, that per­for­mance is essen­tially the same as the Mate 10 – and P20 – which use the same CPU. And all are very quick in­deed.

One thing you won’t find is a slot for adding ex­tra stor­age via a mi­croSD card. With 128GB al­ready on board, you could ar­gue that this isn’t re­ally an is­sue, but it’s still a cross in a box that’s ticked by the Galaxy S9+.

Con­nec­tiv­ity and au­dio

As you’d ex­pect, there’s 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO, but the older ver­sion of Blue­tooth (4.2 not 5.0). This is a dual-SIM phone and sup­ports Cat 18 LTE for up to 1.2Gb/s down­load speeds, when they’re avail­able from your mo­bile op­er­a­tor that is.

You get stereo speak­ers by virtue of the use of the ear­piece at the top of the screen as well as an­other speaker in the bot­tom edge. Un­for­tu­nately, as with the Mate 10 Pro, the ef­fect isn’t bril­liant: the bot­tom speaker is much louder and has a much larger fre­quency range. This means you don’t get a nice even sound when watch­ing videos. If that’s a pri­or­ity, then con­sider the Pixel 2 XL or an­other phone with dual front-fir­ing speak­ers.


Cam­eras are of course the P20’s main at­trac­tion. They are 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. The lat­ter two work to­gether to pro­duce a 3x op­ti­cal zoom. 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).

Huawei says the only the 8Mp cam­era ben­e­fits from op­ti­cal sta­bi­liza­tion, but iFixit’s tear­down of the P20 Pro re­veals that all three have the hard­ware in place.

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.

Op­po­site is how that looks in the real world. The images 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 six-sec­ond 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 usual low-light com­par­i­son, the long­ex­po­sure shot has more sat­u­rated colours and is clearly sharper than the stan­dard auto mode. (You can see our test shots at the top of the next page.)

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.

AI smarts

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 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 in sharp fo­cus.

AI is also used, as it is on the Mate 10, for scene recog­ni­tion. The P20 Pro can iden­tify 19 dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios (six more than the Mate 10) from food to pets to por­traits and land­scapes.

The P20 Pro’s big­gest sell­ing point is its three cam­eras

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