While big guns like Samsung and Apple battle it out every year for the crown for the most balanced and close-to-perfect smartphone money can buy, a brand you wouldn’t really expect to be the third wheel comes up with a tremendous device with every goddamn feature you would want on your smartphone and says “hold my beer”! Such has been the story of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
Is it the perfect smartphone you have always been waiting for? Let me give you my two cents after spending ample time with the device.
Design that makes you go WOW!
There’s so much to brag about once you get your hands on the Mate 20 Pro. As you would have deduced from the title, I was in awe when I unboxed and witnessed this design marvel for the first time and till date, each time I pick up this device, every design element feels so very well done. As you would expect from any top-tier flagship in 2018, there’s glass on either side, but it’s not just your regular feeling glass. It’s curved on the edges, both on the front and back and subtly melts into the metallic frame making the transition between the two materials feel buttery smooth.
The back with the gradient finish, while looks stunning, it does pick up a ton of fingerprints and if you think that’s stating the obvious, what isn’t obvious is the back is surprisingly grippy and to add to it, the curves on the sides ensure the phone slots into your hand perfectly despite that huge display. An unusual design choice Huawei opted to go for is the absence of a dedicated speaker grille and instead, the speaker has been fused with the Type-C port on the bottom and not sure if that’s the reason, but the speakers on the device do not sound the best despite having a stereo setup with the earpiece up top. Also, if you plug in the charger while listening to songs on the loudspeaker, the volume levels do take a hit so keep that in mind if that’s something you do often. The symmetric arrangement of cameras on the rear adds a unique touch and is a welcome departure from a fruity brand’s camera orientation which every brand seems to take inspiration from.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is a design connoisseur’s dream come true. Right from the looks to how it feels in the hand, Huawei has absolutely nailed the exterior of the Mate 20 Pro.
Curves on the Display too?
While I can’t stress enough on how the curved edges on the display add to a superior viewing experience as well as a more comfortable in hand feel, what matters most is the quality of the panel itself and I’m glad to say that Huawei has not made any compromise in this regard as well. Yes, there is a notch which quite a lot of you dislike, but it serves a purpose here which I will address in just a moment. Being an AMOLED panel with a 2K+ resolution, I can say without a doubt that the display on the Mate 20 Pro is right up there to compete for the best display on a smartphone in 2018. Colors look vibrant, viewing angles are fantastic, and despite the huge 6.39-inch canvas, I was (almost) able to reach every corner of the display with just one hand, and believe me, I have small hands. Consuming content on this panel is a treat to the eyes and Huawei have outdone themselves in this department too.
Not(ch) your average Face Unlock
Coming back to that notch, the Mate 20 Pro houses some dedicated electronics to facilitate secure face unlock even when there’s absence of light and without going into too much detail about how the flood illuminator or the 3D dot matrix contributes to this, let me tell you, it’s fast, and it works every single time. If you’re like me however and prefer using the fingerprint scanner instead, it resides under the display and is quite fast and accurate, not as much as conventional readers, but once you get used to it, there’s no apparent difference after a couple of days’ usage.
Beastly not just on the Outside
The Mate 20 Pro is the first smartphone to sport the all-new 7nm Silicon from Huawei’s stable, the Kirin 980. While it might look mighty on paper with the new Cortex A76 cores, what matters is real-life usage and I’m glad to report that the Mate 20 Pro never failed to impress irrespective of what I threw at it. Be it multitasking or photo editing or even my recently developed fondness towards PUBG, the Mate 20 Pro did not break a sweat and while doing so, managed to maintain the right thermals, which for me is a winner right there.
If I have to be a little more critical, however, the software, which is EMUI 9 is a slight let down. It runs on top of Android 9 Pie and while that’s commendable, the skin isn’t too polished and the UI feels clunky at places. The camera UI, for example, contains a completely different font from the rest of the system which doesn’t really make sense. The default launcher with the stock icons looks childish and unappealing due to which I had to switch to Nova Launcher, something that I don’t usually do. A few caveats aside though, EMUI is feature rich and Huawei has thrown in a bucketload of tweaks, some of them which you may not even use, some which may feel gimmicky (Sup, reverse wireless charging) but a few of them which according to me are done well and I found myself to be using are the system-wide dark theme, gesture navigation, dual apps and a secondary space for secure storage. If you can get used to a few software quirks which you will eventually, the Mate 20 Pro stands true to its moniker and is a pro performer.
Triple Cameras, Triple the Fun?
When Huawei introduced three cameras on the P20 Pro earlier this year, all of us were impressed with the quality of images shot using the cameras but despite having 3 separate lenses, the cameras didn’t offer a whole lot of versatility since the third camera was just a monochrome sensor and did not offer extra functionality. With the Mate 20 Pro, Huawei has addressed that and replaced the third sensor with a wide-angle lens which results in a combo of a 40MP primary lens with an f/1.8 aperture, an 8MP telephoto lens for 3x optical zoom, and the new 20MP wide-angle lens which gives an entirely new perspective to your photos.
How do they perform? Just as you would expect, the cameras are stellar. Pixel 3 stellar? Maybe not. But that’s mainly due to the difference in software processing algorithms between the two phones, an area which Google has managed to outdo every other brand. That, however, does not mean that the Mate 20 Pro takes bad pictures. The shooters are extremely capable and produce some great looking shots in various lighting scenarios and this holds good for all three shooters on the back. Wide-angle shots are sharp too, and the 3x optical zoom or even the 5x hybrid zoom does not cause a major loss in details. Not sure how often you would be required to use all three sensors, but they’re there nonetheless when you need them. Always nice to have extras, right? It’s also fun experimenting when you have so many options at your disposal, I mean, taking random macro shots of everyday objects, zooming into cracks and crevices on stones or bricks to see ants crawling in, it’s just a fun experience! The night mode does its job in extremely low-light scenarios, but Night Sight on the Pixel 3 renders a superior output.
(Note: Click here for full resolution versions of below pics)
The front houses a 24MP f/2.0 sensor and given all that camera prowess at the back, the front-facing shooter does feel a tad underwhelming, only until you actually start shooting some selfies that is. Thanks to the high megapixel count, details are very well preserved and the dynamic range is good too. Skin tones are something that I didn’t really like on the front-facing shooter as even with beautification turned off, the camera tends to smoothen my skin and make me look extra fair and artificial which I wholeheartedly detest. For occasional video calls and the odd social media post, the front-facing shooter will get your job done 9 out of 10 times.
A slight let down, however, is the camera UI. For starters, to enable HDR, you need to go into a separate mode which disables the rest of the camera features like portrait mode. Speaking of portrait mode, there are two separate modes – ‘Portrait’ for faces and an ‘Aperture’ mode for taking portrait pictures of objects. Now while this doesn’t seem like much of an issue, it’s a hassle to keep switching between modes and at times you’re so used to using portrait mode on other phones and you snap a picture of an object and later realize the blurring has gone for a toss just because you didn’t switch to Aperture mode. If Huawei addresses these issues through a software update, the camera experience can be further improved by leaps and bounds.
Two-day battery on a Flagship?
There’s so much good that I’ve said about the Mate 20 Pro and that is because it is such a likable phone. However, you’ll only be able to enjoy everything that the phone has to offer only if it’s up and running when you need it right? Fortunately, Huawei has got this one covered too. The humongous 4200mAh battery on this guy is just nuts and it drives me crazy trying to drain the battery in a single day. Screen On times average anywhere between 6-8 hours and for a flagship that has SO much to offer in terms of a huge display with high brightness levels, a powerful (yet power efficient) chipset, all those cameras, Huawei has done a remarkable job.
And that’s just not it. The included Super Charger in the box rated at an insane 40W tops up the Mate 20 Pro from anywhere between 10-20% to 100% in just about an hour which is crazy given the high capacity battery. To give you an idea of how fast that is, there were times when I plugged in the smartphone and checked back a few minutes later only to keep wondering if the numbers onscreen are lying to me because there’s no way a battery can charge that fast. If you thought OnePlus’ Dash Charge was fast, well, you need to experience this one to believe what I’m saying.
Would I recommend the Huawei Mate 20 Pro?
Absolutely! The Mate 20 Pro is a jack of all trades. And unlike the popular saying, it IS a master of them all. A few things that I didn’t mention include an IP68 rating for water resistance, wireless charging, dual SIM support, an IR blaster to control appliances, a notification LED which seems to be disappearing of late and all of these are just minute additions to what feels like a complete powerhouse of a smartphone. That brings me to probably the only aspect which would deter consumers from investing in this smartphone, and that’s the price at which the Mate 20 Pro retails. At Rs. 69,999 in India, the Mate 20 pro looks like a hard sell as phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 can be purchased for anywhere in the neighborhood of Rs. 60,000 and what that phone offers isn’t any less when compared to the Mate 20 Pro, except for all the bells and whistles surrounding the triple cameras and in-display fingerprint scanner per se, but the brand value that Samsung holds is much superior in the country when compared to that of Huawei’s and that can be a deciding factor for many. There’s very little to dislike about the Mate 20 Pro, and if the price is no bar for you and you wish to pick one up for yourself, go ahead, and you’ll fall in love at first sight, all over again.