[UPDATE: While our review model did not experience problems with ‘Green screen’, reports suggest that a small number of devices suffer from excess green-tinted light bleed]

Huawei claimed that Mate 20 Pro is for ‘young entrepreneurs’ in a pre-briefing a few weeks ago; reliable battery life, outstanding performance and stellar one-shot capture are all necessities of what the Chinese company sees as a juicy target market. But regardless of your current occupation or business designs, you will probably love Mate 20 Pro.

Dat texture dough

Huawei nailed this handset – its looks, raw power and some neat little innovations as standard might make Mate 20 Pro the best in its class. 2018 has been a memorable year for smartphones, particularly Androids but Mate 20 Pro stands out despite competition from Google Pixel 3 XL, Sony Xperia XZ3Samsung Galaxy S9+ and its own kin, P20 Pro.

The AI help in keeping an already powerful chipset in tune makes Mate 20 Pro unstoppable

Familiar but Fantastic Design

The almost all-screen facade is gently curved at each side and this ‘wraparound’ choice is about as pointless as it is on the Xperia XZ3. While it certainly looks nice and adds a premium flavour, it has zero practical use. The edges add more surfaces to worry about until you get a case for Mate 20 Pro.

King of colours. Taoiseach of tones. Huzzar of hues.

Looking a bit like any edged and premium Samsung from the front, Huawei Mate 20 Pro is certainly more distinctive from the rear. The ‘squircle’ camera arrangement and subtle logos for Huawei and lens partners, Leica give Mate 20 Pro its own identity. And a beautiful one at that.

Coming in five colours internationally, our black review handset looks modest but eye-catching in all-glass with aluminium frame. The solitary red detail stands out like ‘colour splash’ photo. Ireland is getting the Black model only for now – but fingers crossed for the other colours.

I have seen all other varieties in person and each one is eye-pleasing and attractive. The textured rears of the Emerald Green and Midnight Blue are sensational. The texture is something like a vinyl record and adds a lot to the aesthetic quality of these colours.

The textured rear also helps a user grip the Mate 20 Pro and prevent the device from sliding off of smooth surfaces. The slippiness of the non-textured units is notable – our model loves creeping off tables and down four flights of stairs into the street. I always catch him though.

the AMOLED panel is vibrant and capable of rich detail when necessary

Screen Sensation

Nothing is likely to match Sony’s OLED panel this year but Huawei made a good go of it. The 6.39″ 1440×3120 AMOLED panel is sharp enough, has plenty of saturation and colour depth and has deep blacks that befit its overall excellence. However, the aforementioned edges waste some real estate and there is a little colour inversion due to the angle these edges end up being viewed from.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro
A touch of red; like the handset’s signature ‘colour splash’ photo and video

Aside from that, the AMOLED panel is vibrant and capable of rich detail when necessary. The infinite contrast of the tech is put to good use here. HDR stills or video are stunning.

The same incredible bokeh, blurs, light trails, time lapses and monochrome shots are here but with added features like super-wide shots and 2.5cm-depth macro images

Über Macro Skills

Huawei have been aiming for camera excellence for some years now and achieved that goal about seven months ago. P20 Pro combined Leica lenses and easy, AI-driven first-time captures with a comprehensive suite of ‘Pro’ options. The public loved it and critics raved about it.

Huawei have beaten their own class-leading standard in almost all respects. Mate 20 Pro is not an iterative upgrade either – the monochrome sensor is gone and a wide-angle lens comes in. Huawei are confident that the current set-up loses none of the detail or artistry that B&W shots had with a dedicated sensor and I would agree. The same incredible bokeh, blurs, light trails, time lapses and monochrome shots are here but with added features like wide shots and 2.5cm-depth macro images.

The tri-lens setup is superb in action and integrated well into the design of the handset

We also see a 3x optical zoom with some pseudo-optical 5x zoom thrown in. The 5x zoom is a little grainy when handling fine detail like fabrics or blades or grass but it’s still amazing. The clarity from a non-optical zoom is traditionally poor with an instantly recognisable noise but 5x zoom on Mate 20 Pro is exceptional.

Video recording benefits from the same attention to detail as the stills capture. While the EIS tops out at 1080@30fps, it’s another capable electronic solution where it shouldn’t exist. I’ve complained about electronic image stabilisation before, about how its just lowering the resolution and moving the frame around its viewing frustum to compensate for motion. Mate 20 Pro still does that but a wide-angle lens, all those spare pixels and more AI give it usable stability.

Mate 20 Pro hands a lot to the AI when using the appropriate modes, sometimes too much. Selfies are doctored even when the effect is set to zero. The increased object-recognition power works well after a period of learning a user’s foibles but it can be white-happy in low-light shots at first. Sometimes a shot should be slightly dark and this should be easier to adjust appropriately, even in auto mode.

The 4,200mAh battery is large and a user might expect a strong performance from it but Huawei really milk that Li-Po cow dry

Outstanding Performance 

Based around the first 7nm chip to hit the smartphone market, Huawei Mate 20 Pro is more than powerful enough for anything a user will do. The Kirin 980 boasts some incredible benchmarks on paper and in the real world, it all checks out.

This tech idiot is forgetting how to close tabs – with 6GB of RAM and heavy AI support, I don’t really need to. And with two NPUs keeping tabs on my eh, tabs and their resource demands, apps will be placed in various state of readiness – to save battery as much as keeping everything snappy. The AI help in keeping an already powerful chipset in tune makes Mate 20 Pro unstoppable.

Not Huawei’s slimmest flagship but elegant and comfortable to hold

Gaming performance is up there with the very best – the most demanding games hit the target 60fps. For games with online multiplayer, like PUBG, the lag is minimal for a mobile device. Huawei claim Mate 20 Pro can switch between LTE and WiFi seamlessly and during online gaming sessions this system works well. There was a little burp but no loss of connection or server freakouts.

The 4,200mAh battery is large and a user might expect a strong performance from it but Huawei really milk that Li-Po cow dry. The aforementioned AI-support in managing the CPU, GPU and RAM draws every second from Mate 20 Pro. This moderate-to-heavy user reached bedtime on day two with his workday and some relaxing reading time. Lighter users will fear their handset is in ‘demo mode’ such is the sluggishness at which the battery meter drops.

Legendary stamina is legendary. There are a host of power saving options to engage manually or automatically.

I can’t imagine a power-user ever needing a bump before the bus home from work . They’d need to be charging other people’s phones wirelessly from Mate 20 Pro to run it down to near-zero.

Oh, have I mentioned you can charge other people’s phones wirelessly?

Security technology on Mate 20 Pro has two small concerns that stem from pushing the envelope technologically

Innovative Features

By enabling the feature on the Mate 20 Pro and laying a Qi-enabled smartphone on it, you can charge your lesser, dying smartphone. It works remarkably well for a newish technology – the receiving handset charges at a rate comparable to early dedicated Qi charging pads or pucks. Mate 20 Pro stops charging other devices at 20% by default but can be set as high as 50 or as low as 10.

Imaging on the Mate 20 Pro is, as discussed, the best there currently is but the added macro photo feature is worthy of extra mention on a smartphone. Allowing users as close as 2.5cm from a subject is an amazing achievement but it also presents one of the titular hiccups – it’s not optional. The mode will flit on and off, undecided as to what a user would like sometimes – a manual setting would be welcome.

Security technology on Mate 20 Pro has two small concerns that stem from pushing the envelope technologically. The 3D face scanner works TOO well – I fear it could be unlocked without my knowledge with some finesse. The in-screen fingerprint scanner isn’t as fast as high-quality dedicated scanners.

I also had a unique problem with my thumbs – I was unable to add both thumbs to unlock Mate 20 Pro. Apparently both thumbs have an area that is too similar to the other and while registering my second thumb, I was told I had already registered that digit. This has never happened before on any fingerprint sensor I have used. At the very least, I am unable to unlock with the other thumb so it’s secure enough in that respect.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro is one of the best Android all-rounders this year to match its camera quality

Mate 20 Pro also contains the first three-tiered CPU as well as the first built on a seven-nanometre process. The efficiency brought by the smaller transistors and the big-middle-little CPU configuration definitely plays out in everyday life as I have already praised.

Specifications

  • Chipset: Kirin 980; 8-core CPU, Cortex A-57 & A-55
  • Memory: 64/128GB/256GB Storage, 6/8GB RAM; expandable w/NM Card up to 256GB
  • Display: Fullscreen 6.39″ 3,120 x 1,440 19.5:9, DCI-OLED
  • Rear Camera: 40MP, f/1.8, 27mm (wide), 1/1.7″, OIS, PDAF/Laser AF + 20MP B/W, f/1.6, 27mm (wide), 1/2.7″, OIS, PDAF/Laser AF + 8 MP, f/2.4, 80mm (telephoto), 1/4″, 3x optical zoom, OIS, PDAF/Laser AF
  • Front Camera: 24MP, f/2.0, panorama, HDR
  • Video Capture: 4K@30, 1080p120, 1080p60, 1080p30 (Gyro-EIS), 720p960, 720p60, 720p30
  • OS Version: EMUI 9.0 (on top of Android Pie 9.0.0)
  • Connectivity: LTE (1.2Gbps download), USB-C, Wi-Fi 802.11 2×2 MIMO a/b/g/n/ac 5GHz, A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0 + LE
  • Battery: 4,200 mAh
  • Dimensions:  157.8×72.3×8.6mm
  • Colours Available: Currently Black-only in Ireland. Check with your provider. White, Emerald Green, Pink Gold, Twilight available internationally.

Performance, aesthetics, build quality and usability are all worthy. Mate 20 Pro looks and feels premium while having the brains to match. The photography title held by its brother P20 Pro has been handed over.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro is one of the best Android all-rounders this year to match its camera quality. There are no weaknesses beyond what are unfortunately modern norms in premium and premium+ handsets.

Complaining about the presence of a significant notch feels like screaming into the wind at this stage. At least the aesthetic detriment is minimised thanks to the ability to blacken the space either side while keeping pale badges there. The lack of space for said badges and the genuine need to pick which badges are most important will annoy some people though.

The lack of 3.5mm jack still results in cutting off headphones while charging. However, the battery lasts a long time and Mate 20 Pro can charge to 70% in just 30 minutes so this particular heartache is minimised. The reliability of Bluetooth connections under stressful conditions is improving but not at the same level as a trusty copper wire. Many of you have given up the wired headphones but many audiophiles still swear by wires and many an expensive set of headphones will be reliant on the flimsy plastic USB-C to 3.5mm connector.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro is available in Ireland from November 8th.

Review device provided by manufacturer.