- Notched design.
- Blue or Black are the only colours coming to Australia.
- Protective case included.
- No headphone jack.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is Huawei’s new flagship, and as is so frequently the style for flagships, it’s a large screened phone with a 6.39 inch display, measuring 157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6mm with a carrying weight of 189g. To give that a comparison point, Samsung’s Galaxy Note9 puts in a slightly larger display at 6.4 inches, but measures in at 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8 with a carrying weight of 201g.
Like many of 2018’s flagships, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro features a curved AMOLED display that’s there as a style note rather than to throw in any additional screen features. The display is bright and pleasant with a 3120 x 1440 resolution and a predictable and rather wide notch at the top. If notches aren’t your thing, you might want to consider the Huawei Mate 20 instead, which only features a smaller “teardrop” notch to hide the front facing cameras.
- Triple camera gives exceptional results.
- Macro mode works well.
- Great video stabilisation.
- Camera AI that (mostly) works.
- Some portrait effects are silly.
- No monochrome lens.
Huawei already held the top position in smartphone cameras with the Huawei P20 Pro, and not without reason. Its combination of a 40MP sensor, telephoto lens and monochrome lens led to a camera experience that was both powerful for the pros and fun for the tinkerers, meaning that Huawei had its work cut out to produce something even better for the Mate 20 Pro. Many Android makers have tended to rest on their laurels once they’ve cracked a good camera, but clearly nobody told Huawei this, because the Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s cameras are nothing short of exceptional in almost every respect.
At a technical level, you get a 40MP f/1.8 wide lens, 20MP f/2.2 ultra-wide and 8MP f/2.4 5x optical telephoto lens to play with, which on the surface might seem like a daunting prospect. You might also wonder, as I did, where the lovely monochrome lens that Huawei used to put on its phones has gone. Huawei says it’s no longer needed for creating fine mixed images, and while I can’t complain at a quality level for the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, I do miss the creative challenge that shooting in true black and white created.
Like the Huawei P20 Pro before it, the basic camera app on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro rests on the AI optimisations that Huawei builds into its camera app, although by default they’re switched off. If you’re not a pro shooter it’s a very good idea to enable this feature, because while it’s not 100% foolproof, in my tests it did a generally very good – and sometimes exceptional – job of quickly assessing a scene and applying very suitable parameters for pleasing shots.
For the more pro users there’s a variety of additional modes to play around with, many of which would be familiar to Huawei P20 Pro users. One of the the features I loved about that phone was how much fun it made smartphone photography, and the same ethos extends to the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. It’s such a flexible camera array that you can tweak near endlessly if that’s to your taste, or simply let the AI do the selection for you if you just want a quick snap.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro also features an AI-led “Super Macro” mode that can capture exceptional fine detail up close, although you do have to give it a little time to kick in. You can optionally switch to the 0.6 zoom lens if you don’t want to wait for it to kick in, but I’m mystified as to why Huawei doesn’t make it a mode you can select. Typically if you want to take macro shots, that’s what you’re after exclusively. Having to reframe and wait for the phone to catch up is annoying, although that’s a very minor criticism.
The reality for premium smartphones in 2018 is that they’re all generally capable of great standard lit shots, but there can be some serious variance in low light performance. Here the Huawei Mate 20 Pro performs admirably on its own, as in the shots below:
- Kirin 980 beats out the Snapdragon 845 – but not the A12 Bionic.
- Still a shadow over Huawei’s benchmark honesty.
- Overall performance is very good.
- EMUI on top of Android Pie is odd.
- NM storage card format.
- Fingerprint sensor needs some force.
Huawei is notable amongst the Android smartphone crowd for skipping Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor in favour of its own Kirin CPU lines. For the Huawei Mate 20 Pro (and the cheaper Huawei Mate 20), Huawei is debuting its Kirin 980 processor built on a 7nm process. That’s a first for Huawei and arguably only of interest to silicon nerds, but the end results are very impressive in real world use.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro Geekbench 4 CPU
Huawei Mate 20 Pro 3DMark Slingshot Extreme
That 3DMark figure isn’t as flattering as the Geekbench 4 CPU one, where it beats out every Snapdragon 845 phone by a serious margin, only to fall to Apple’s A12 Bionic. If Huawei’s on the level, the Kirin 980 is a serious achievement and a powerhouse processor.
That’s certainly my experience with more anecdotal, app-based testing of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. Apps launch quickly and run well, games are smooth and there’s no sign of the memory management issues that seem to be plaguing the Pixel 3/XL at the time of writing, even though Huawei’s memory management is pretty razor-sharp.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is an Android 9 (“Pie”) phone, the first non-Google phone to launch in Australia with the new OS. As with previous Huawei phones, you’ve got Huawei’s own EMUI launcher on top of it, and the resultant mix is a slightly odd one. For the most part it’s just a learning curve sorting out where different options are, and in some cases telling the Huawei Mate 20 Pro which Android approach you prefer. Still, I’d kill for an Android One optimised version of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
The Huawei P20 Pro was notable for lacking support for external memory cards. That’s a problem that Huawei has fixed for the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, but not in the best possible way. Instead of providing a standard microSD memory card slot, or opting for the old dual-SIM-but-one-is-also-the-memory-card approach, you’re instead faced with a dual-sided Nano SIM sized slot at the base of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. You can run the Huawei Mate 20 Pro as a dual 4G SIM phone if you wish, or supplement the storage with one of Huawei’s pricey and proprietary nano memory (nm) cards. Huawei Australia says that a 128GB nm card will set you back $139 in Australia, quite a bit more than the same amount of storage in a microSD card format.
The Porsche Design variant of the Huawei P20 Pro featured an in-glass fingerprint sensor, but that was a frighteningly expensive handset that Huawei only shipped to Australia in tiny quantities. That same technology is present in the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and while it’s very cool to have an animated fingerprint in the screen that you push on to authenticate, it’s also very obviously early days for the technology.
In-screen fingerprint unlocking works, but you have to push hard, and it’s sometimes finicky about detection. It reminds me a lot of how the first physical fingerprint sensors worked, because they were kind of slow too. You can also opt for facial recognition or a good old fashioned passcode or PIN.
- Best battery life on any phone, hands-down.
- Very fast wired charging.
- Fast wireless charging.
- Reverse wireless charging.
Huawei isn’t mucking around with the Mate 20 Pro’s battery, throwing in an impressive 4,200mAh battery behind the display. That’s a lot of power for a smartphone, but we’ve often seen higher capacity phones brought to their knees by larger displays and power-hungry processors. The current best performing smartphone in our battery life tests is the mighty Samsung Galaxy Note9, so I was keen to see how the Huawei Mate 20 Pro compared.
Here’s how the Huawei Mate 20 Pro compared using Geekbench 4’s battery test.
Or in other words, move aside Galaxy Note9. There’s a new sheriff in town. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro outscored it significantly, indicating that it was working harder during the test, but it also ran for an impressive 108 minutes longer than the Note9. To give that a little more perspective, that’s just a touch over 5 hours longer than the Apple iPhone XS Max managed in the same test.
Now, Geekbench 4’s battery test is quite linear, and actual usage can vary. In more anecdotal testing, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the first phone I’d be happy to call a two day, and maybe more, battery life handset. It has actually changed the way I charge my phone, because I’m usually quite paranoid about battery life for my day to day handsets. Typically I’ll charge at my desk to ensure my power will last, but for the Huawei Mate 20 Pro I simply don’t need to.
This is also helped with Huawei’s own fast charger, which can top up the Huawei Mate 20 Pro at a frighteningly fast rate. It will of course take power from any USB C charger, as well as via wireless charging mats at up to 15W.
Huawei also has a power party trick up its sleeve, because the Huawei Mate 20 Pro can also handle reverse wireless charging to top up other Qi-compatible devices. Curiously, because the Huawei Mate 20 lacks wireless charging it can’t top up its sibling, but it’s certainly capable of adding charge to competitor phones.
I’ve tested with the Google Pixel 3, Google Pixel 3XL, Apple iPhone X, Apple iPhone XS Max and Samsung Galaxy S9+, and all of them quickly identified the Huawei Mate 20 Pro as a wireless charger when placed back to back. Another Huawei Mate 20 Pro will even take charge from a Huawei Mate 20 Pro without creating a feedback loop or leading to the destruction of the universe, although it’s slightly weird watching them sort out which will supply power and which will take it.
However, this is still a gimmick. Wireless charging is slow, so unless you’re happy for your phone and somebody else’s to sit back to back on a desk, you’re not going to make a huge impact on their battery life.
- An astonishingly good phone.
- High priced for Huawei.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is Huawei’s most expensive regular handset – excluding those pricey Porsche Design variants – in a year where we’ve seen a gradual creep upwards for premium phone prices.
It’s undeniably a premium flagship, but it’s one of very few where the extra price feels justified. While there are a few missteps, like the nm memory card and the way EMUI works, the overall package is well and above the competition in so many significant ways. It’s a powerful phone with an exceptional battery and a highly creative and engaging camera that’s just plain fun to experiment with. If that’s not worth spending a little extra on, then nothing is.
If you’re looking in the premium smartphone space and not at least considering the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, you’re seriously missing out.
Pricing and availability
Unlocked Huawei Mate 20 Pro Chinese Pricing Starts at $369USD, 256GB for $415
Huawei Mate 20 Pro
1. The Model Number LYA-L29 (Dual SIM) – All Colors
2. All are original Huawei products
3. That saleholy.com is an authorized Huawei reseller, and that products are covered by standard Huawei warranty