Huawei has been making waves in the global smartphone market, but despite building some stunning devices, the Huawei name has been shrouded in controversy. Yet, it has managed to secure its spot as one of the leading smartphone makers, and is still pushing out top of the line smartphones, and the Huawei P20 Pro is one of the best they have produced to date.
This large, well-constructed smartphone boasts a massive near bezeless screen, triple back camera system that looks akin to the iPhone X. It maintains some of the same lines and design cues, yet it never feels like a copy. Huawei has a design language all their own, from the materials they use to the way it sits in your hand. While it may not be for everyone, after using the P20 Pro for around two weeks, it has quickly become one of my favourite Android smartphones to date.
From a design standpoint, the Huawei P20 Pro will turn some heads. The sleek lines, striking colour options, and a stunning display make the P20 a joy to use and show off. It has a level of sophistication I did not think I needed, and after using the P20, I find it hard to go back to my Google Pixel.
However, this stunning design comes with some issues. I have come to believe the P20 Pro has some sort of death wish. No matter the surface I place the phone on, it seems to like to slide off and onto the floor. This has not lead to any damage as of yet, but I can see this being an issue in a public space. Yes, this is to be expected with an all-glass design, but it is something to take note of should you be considering the device.
The front of the phone offers a 6.1-inch OLED that runs at a resolution of 2240×1080 with an aspect ratio of 18.7:9. While the 18:9 aspect ratio is a much more common thing in modern smartphones, the slightly more narrow ensures you have space at the top for the notch, and the phone manages to feel comfortable in hand, even at its massive 6.1-inch screen size.
This being 2018, the year of the notch, it comes to reason that the P20 Pro has one as well. Although after using the phone for a few weeks, I’ve stopped being bothered by it. Yes, I would love to have that extra bit of screen real-estate, but the 24-megapixel front facing camera more then makes up for that. And if you are against notches on principle, you can obscure the notch area in settings, giving it a standard smartphone look.
The 2K display is vivid, with smart blacks and eye-popping colours. While I did have a few issues using the phone in bright sunlight and wish it was a bit brighter, in everyday use I never felt any issue with the screen. Videos looked terrific on the display, with games and apps looking fantastic with true to life colour and vibrancy.
With this being a flagship phone, Huawei has given us IP67 for water and dust resistance, and in testing, this is a fantastic addition. I don’t have to worry about getting caught in the rain, or spilling a bit of water on the phone by accident. I still would not go swimming with the device, but the extra piece of mind is great, especially for a smartphone of this price range. Huawei has also opted to leave off the 3.5mm headphone jack. Yes, this is nothing new in 2018, but since I am still not ready to live a full dongle lifestyle, this does irk me a bit.
Jumping over to the camera, and it is clear that this is the real star of the show. The triple Leica camera system pushes what you come to expect from a smartphone camera, and while it may be overkill to most, for anyone looking for that next level mobile camera offering, this may be it.
Huawei has given us three different sensors in the P20 Pro: a 40-megapixel RGB camera, a 20-megapixel monochrome camera and an 8-megapixel telephoto camera. And while it takes a bit to get used to the abilities of the system, once you get the hang of it, it can be entertaining to take pictures on the go.
While the system sounds complicated, in actuality, Huawei has made the camera very easy to use. The auto mode does an excellent job of capturing some fantastic pictures. The optical stabilization on the main 40-megapixel camera works well, and the sensor manages to produce some vivid images. Now, if you want to live life as a pro, the P20 Pro lets you dive into the nitty-gritty settings, but for anyone looking to just set it and forget it, the default settings work far better than expected.
The three lenses, tuned by German optic company Leica, work together, as each lens performs a specific function. The 40-megapixel deals with the colour and colour data of a scene, the 20-megapixel monochrome captures the detail to increase clarity, with the 8-megapixel telephoto aiding in zooming in on a subject.
Huawei has also worked to develop the photo AI system that helps ensure the best shots are captured, even if you are an amateur picture taker just looking for a quick snap. Dubbed Master AI, the system will help find the best settings depending on the scene in question.
Say you are trying to take a picture of a sunset over the city skyline. If and when the Master AI clicks in, you may see the skyline filled with more colour, with the buildings suddenly looking crisper with more contrast to the shadows. The P20 Pro helps all the amateur photographers out there take “better” photos. Yet, for all photo purists out there that want to capture the world in as lifelike a fashion as possible, it’s good to see Master AI can be disabled.
Beyond the Master AI, the P20 Pro is one of the best smartphone cameras currently on the market. The mix of the three camera system with a solid photo interface offers the tools needed to take some remarkable images. Even in the dark, the P20 Pro achieved striking results, leaving many other flagship cameras in the dust. The 24-megapixel front-facing selfie camera also worked well, ensuring all social media photos will be filled with the vibrancy and clarity you never knew you needed.
Now that we have touched on all the fun features of the phone, it’s time to look under the hood, at what makes the Huawei P20 Pro tick. Powered by a Kirin 970 (the same as last years Huawei Mate 10 Pro) along with 6GB RAM, 128GB storage with no ability to expand via microSD. While it may not use the latest and greatest from Qualcomm, the Huawei P20 Pro has more than enough power to handle everyday tasks, gaming and a bit of multitasking should you be so inclined. Most games will run flawlessly, although in more intensive games such as Lineage II: Revolution or PUBG Mobile you may experience moments of stuttering, although never game-breaking.
On the software side, the Huawei P20 Pro runs Android 8.1 Oreo with the latest version of the EMUI interface on top of it. If you are a fan of stock Android, you will be disappointed with what EMUI is doing here. While the interface is pleasant enough to use, and apps seemed to run without issue, the core experience feels much less like the Android we all know and love. Now, if you are moving from iOS you will feel right at home with EMUI. Huawei has paired down what the OS does, and in all honesty, it is a joy to use. It does lack some of the OS flairs we have all grown to expect of Android, such as the app drawer, but if you can look past that, it can be a solid smartphone experience.
On the battery from, the Huawei P20 Pro surpasses the competition in longevity even when using the phone heavily. The 4,000mAh battery on average managed to survive 2 days of use without issue. When pushing the phone with Facebook, games and major YouTube and Chrome use, this would be reduced to around 1.5 days. While it may not be the best battery on the market, in the realm of flagships, it was a pleasant surprise not to need to worry about carrying around my charger everywhere I go and actually enjoy staying out late at an event without fear of low battery as I call my Uber.
With the P20 Pro, Huawei has built a phone that not only competes with the likes of Apple and Samsung but in many ways surpasses them. While I had my gripes such as software and SoC, but the good far outweighed the bad. The Huawei P20 Pro is a truly stunning flagship phone, and if you can move past brand loyalty, it could well deserve your hard earned smartphone buying dollars.
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