Huawei P20 Pro
£799 inc VAT from fave.co/2GDEIWx
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.
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