Having spent the last two weeks with Huawei’s latest flagship, we’ve learnt a lot about their approach to photography, usability and overall functionality. Huawei are striving to become one of the top players in the flagship smartphones market and they’re using everything they’ve learnt over the years to push this device’s camera, software and AI capabilities to the limit. Does it all come together in one, well-rounded package? Has this new handset the chops to go up against the likes of the iPhone X and Galaxy S9/S9+? Read on to find out in our review of the Huawei P20 Pro.
The Huawei P20 Pro has a compact glass and metal body and feels extremely premium in the hand. With glass on both the front and back of the device, it’s undeniably a fingerprint magnet but that’s pretty much in line with the rest of 2018’s flagship phones.
Also in line with 2018’s biggest smartphone trend, Huawei has minimised the bezels on the new Huawei P20 pro to the point where the front of the device is almost all screen, apart from the thin bottom bezel which houses the superfast fingerprint sensor and infamous notch which can be found at the top of the device. (Huawei has included an option to hide the notch via a setting in the device’s menu for those of you who really can’t stand it.)
The device is also IP67 water and dust resistant and, overall, has a nice, balanced symmetrical design making it worthy of its flagship status.
The P20 Pro has a 6.1″ 2240×1080 FHD+ OLED display in the 18.7:9 ratio with 1:1,000,000 contrast and 105 colour gamut. Admittedly, we would have liked if the resolution was a little higher, like the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ but, given how amazing the battery life on this device is (more on this later) we understand why Huawei made the decision to go with a more than respectable FHD+ panel.
Thanks to its OLED panel, both the viewing angles and black levels are fantastic and the maximum brightness is also extremely impressive for when you want to use the handset in bright outdoor settings. It is also an HDR panel which looks great when viewing native HDR content but we’re still waiting for official Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video app support.
Keeping up with the fantastic battery life of their previous flagship handset, the Mate 10 Pro, the P20 Pro is packing a massive 4000mAh battery into a device that’s only 7.8mm thick. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support wireless charging but, with the extremely impressive battery optisimation software Huawei has implemented into the device, we never found ourselves looking for a charger before the end of a busy work day. You can also charge the handset from 0 to 58% in as little as 30 minutes which is absolutely fantastic for when you’re running out the door and need that little top up.
Under the hood, the P20 Pro utilises the same Kirin 970 processor as the Mate 10 Pro and the impressive NPU or ‘Neural Processing Unit’ which gives the devices some lofty AI abilities (more on this in the camera section).
General day to day use gave us no problems whatsoever and even when we kicked things up a bit with some intensive gaming and multitasking tests, the P20 Pro barely broke a sweat.
The P20 Pro packs a stereo speaker layout similar to the Mate 10 Pro but matches the Dolby Atmos implementation found in the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+. Audio playback is extremely clear and loud with some impressive spatial effects when watching films or captured video. These effects can also be applied when using the bundled USB Type C headphones or USB Type C to 3.5MM headphone jack adapter.
Unfortunately, the P20 Pro doesn’t have a headphone jack but it does support the aptX codec for ‘CD-like’ sound when transmitting music wirelessly, so if your headphones or speakers are compatible, you have the potential for a more refined music experience.
Now this is where the Huawei P20 Pro stands head an shoulders above the competition, not only because it’s the first phone in the world with a triple camera set up on the rear of the device but, with its continued partnership with Leica, the Huawei P20 Pro has one of the best camera set ups on any smartphone to date.
The 3 rear camera lenses are a combination of a 40 megapixel RGB sensor, 20 megapixel monochrome sensor and an 8MP 3x telephoto lens that can be losslessy extended to 5x and digitally to 10x. In terms of zooming capabilities, the Hauwei P20 Pro is the best smartphone on the market right now, bar none.
Huawei has also incorporated what they’re calling “light fusion technology” to join 4 pixels of the same colour together together in order to capture more light. The resulting pixel size is 2um versus 1.4um for the competition, which resolves down into a 10 megapixel image that’s great in low-light.
You can access this particular feature via the dedicated shooting mode (Night). This mode also utilizes Huawei’s multi-frame AI image stabilisation to allow you to hand-hold the camera for up to 6 seconds and still achieve a sharp image and it really is like magic when you see some of the low light shots it can capture.
4D Predictive Focus is Hauwei’s answer to ensuring your subject is never out of focus as the handset uses its AI system to understand and object’s movement and predict where it will be when you press the shutter button. This may sound like marketing jargon but we can confirm it really is as impressive as it sounds.
Utilising the NPU AI processor, this new device offers 7 additional scene modes over its predecessor, the Mate 10 Pro, bringing the total to 19, making the camera even more intelligent when it comes to identifying various scenes, scenarios and objects.
Around the front, there’s a massive 24MP selfie camera that, when in ‘Portrait’ mode, allows you to capture very impressive bokeh-style selfies, much like the iPhone X and Pixel 2. There’s also a ‘Stage Lighting’ feature that lets you play with the positioning of the light, even after the photo is taken, but this particular feature needs a little bit of work.
In addition to 4K video recording (which sadly disables the AIS when being use but hopefully Huawei will release an update to fix this,) there’s also 960fps slow-motion video at 720p resolution, much like the Samsung Galaxy S9 but, given the low light capabilities of the P20 Pro, the resulting super slow mo videos have much less noise than Samsung’s offerings.
Having attended Huawei’s official unveiling event for this new handset in Paris and sat through all of their lofty claims as to how good their new triple camera layout was, we went into testing this device with a little skepticism. Now, after spending two weeks with the P20 Pro, we are definitely converts to Huawei’s camera credentials.
This device offers the best low light and zooming capabilities of any handset currently available and, with the AI implementation right in the camera app, it’s ability to identity a wide variety of scenes and objects, it’s almost impossible to capture a bad photo.
With incredible battery life, superfast software and an industry-leading camera set up, the Huawei P20 Pro is the phone to beat in 2018.
The Huawei P20 Pro is available from €899 sim-free via Harvey Norman, Three.ie, Vodafone.ie and eir.