For a while, it seemed like smartphones were getting dull and uninspired. They were a slew of rectangular pieces of glass and computer parts that did what they needed too, but never felt like they pushed the limits of what is possible. In 2017 that changed. Apple unveiled the iPhone X and suddenly things got interesting again. While it is hard to say outright that Huawei has pushed the boundaries in such a bold way with the Mate 20 Pro, what they have done is build something worthy of the flagship title, and constructed one of the most stunning smartphones to date.
Huawei has made some notable strides in smartphones in 2018, first with the P20 Pro, and now with the Mate 20 Pro. Both devices push the boundaries of capabilities in terms of camera, battery, screen, and overall quality, and while I was a fan of the P20 Pro, it is not until I used the Mate 20 Pro for a solid two weeks that I was blown away with what Huawei has on offer.
Looking at the Mate 20 Pro and you will be hit with the striking nature of the design. Huawei has pushed the screen right to the edge, opting for a curved glass front similar in nature to what Samsung has on its high-end smartphones. This design choice gives the phone a near edgeless feel, with the image going right to the point where you hold the phone. While most phones this year have opted to minimize the bezels where possible, few devices have managed this level of edge-to-edge feel, making for a truly striking handset.
Making things even more interesting is the in-screen fingerprint reader. Yes, you can unlock the Mate 20 Pro just by touching the screen. Honestly, I have never minded the rear-mounted fingerprint reader, but this option is far more futuristic and does make that $1,199 price tag feel a little bit more justified.
Sadly, this is where I have to talk about the notch that plagues most modern smartphones. Yes, it is there, yes you will notice it, and no, it is not a deal breaker. While it has become synonymous with the modern smartphone world, the dreaded notch has a purpose. It houses a slew of sensors, handset speaker, and the ludicrous 24-megapixel f/2.2 front-facing camera, making it a worthy sacrifice—if you can call it that.
Looking to the rear of the device and you will find a square array of three cameras and a LED flash, along with the Huawei logo. All in all the Mate 20 Pro is a fantastic piece of kit, and the “twilight” colour scheme of our review unit is truly stunning. I hope to see more devices opt for exciting colour ideas, even if 90 percent of the time I will choose the black option.
The screen on the Mate 20 Pro is a thing of beauty. The 6.39-inch curved OLED HDR capable display runs at a 1,440 x 3,120 pixel resolution with a 538ppi pixel density. In real-world use colours felt rich and bright. Huawei also offers the option to change how the display looks, although for most of the review I left it at the default settings and was more than happy with the performance.
Watching video on the Mate 20 Pro was a treat, and content from both YouTube and Netflix came alive on the display. While I would never choose to watch a small screen when I have my big screen sitting at home, it made for a great viewing experience while on the go.
The Mate 20 Pro also manages to feel impressive while pushing polygons. With the Kirin 980 and 6GB RAM under the hood, you will find it hard to cause this little handset any issues. Jumping into some of the most graphically intensive games, you can enjoy lag and stutter free experiences. Even games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) saw buttery smooth experiences.
For anyone looking to browse the web, do some light work, or just take photos, you will have no issues with the phone ever feeling slow, at least not for a long while. Huawei has taken care to make all aspects of the phone feel premium, and the responsiveness is no exception.
In our benchmark tests, the Mate 20 Pro managed to score a 3302 in single core and 9329 in our GeekBench 4 multicore test. This puts the Mate 20 Pro neck and neck with the latest flagship phones, such as the Galaxy S9, Google Pixel 3, and the OnePlus 6T.
While all the modern flagship phones currently on the market feel fast and fluid, it should be noted the Mate 20 Pro opened apps faster, and saw overall less lag in day-to-day operations, making it an ideal choice for the person that demands the bleeding edge of technology.
What really sold me on the Mate 20 Pro is the camera. For the past two weeks, I have been using the device for most of the product photography for the website and been thrilled with the results. Now, to be clear, it will not replace our $3,000 DSLR anytime soon—the lack of interchangeable lenses rules that out—but what it does offer are crisp, clear photos, even up close.
The Mate 20 Pro comes with a system called “Master AI” that Huawei claim can recognize 1,500 different scenarios from 25 different categories. What this ultimately means is the phone can analyze a scene and select the best settings for the photo. While I was skeptical at first, it proved to work nine times out of ten, and managed to deliver some remarkable shots with near zero effort from my part.
As someone who loves fiddling with settings, messing with ISO and working to capture the perfect shot, it is good to see Huawei still providing the options in place to be a bit more granular with the camera. But for people that just want pretty shots, the Mate 20 Pro has you covered.
For me, the macro ability of the Mate 20 Pro was the “killer” feature for me. Being able to take a photo a few centimetres away from the subject was wondrous, especially when I needed a close up of a device from an event or simply for a review. For all you nature lovers out there, it also managed to capture some truly stunning pictures of flowers and nature that I never thought possible on a smartphone.
Now with all these features and power, the phone needs a battery to keep up and last you through the day. Thankfully Huawei opted for a 4,200mAh battery in the Mate 20 Pro, one of the biggest batteries I have ever seen on a flagship device, and let me tell you, it is a welcome addition.
With most modern devices, I am lucky if I can push a day without needing a top-up charge, but with the Mate 20 Pro, I managed a healthy 32 hours without needing a charge. That includes watching video, social media, web surfing, and some chat and text apps. Even when playing some pretty heavy games, I never saw the battery take that much of a hit, still pushing well past 20 hours of use.
The battery is so large, Huawei has given users the ability to use the Mate 20 Pro as a Qi charger for other people’s smartphones. Turn the setting on, rest another phone on top of the Mate 20 pro and you can SLOWLY charge your friend’s phone, as long as it supports the Qi charging standard. Now while this feature sounds magical, in practice it will only give a little boost, and will turn off after a limited amount of time. It’s also painfully slow to charge any modern device. But it can be used in a pinch to call an Uber or another way home after a late night on the town.
While no phone is perfect, the Mate 20 Pro comes close. Huawei has crafted a device that feels premium throughout, from the design to the execution. Combine that with one of the best cameras I have ever seen on a smartphone, and Huawei has knocked it out of the park with this device. While it may be expensive, the level of quality for that money is undeniable. Huawei has built a device worthy of the title flagship.