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Hands-on review: Huawei Mate20 Pro

23 Oct 18

My first impression of Huawei's premium smartphone, as I opened up the fancy black box, was just how long the phone looked. The truth is that it isn’t any longer than other phones in its class- just a little narrower. This effect is exacerbated by the 6.1-inch OLED 19.5:9 display being pretty much the entire front face of the device, with just a black cut-out for the speaker and front-facing camera.

The screen is not 4K, which I was surprised about. Until I read the spec sheet I was sure that I was looking at a 4K+ display. The 3120x1440 resolution OLED screen is crisp and vivid. So even though it’s only 2K it still looks the business.

The phone runs the latest Android 9.0 OS, but with a rather drab launcher. But this is easily swapped out for another, snazzier home app.

The way that the screen is actually curved at the edges looks good but is a little annoying to swipe along, especially when the phone is in the included clear case. The touch screen is very sensitive which is good/bad depending on your hand-eye coordination.

The sound quality from the built-in speakers is very good making it great for enjoying a movie or TV show with someone. With ear-buds, you can experience the phone’s Dolby Atmos technology, which is supposed to surround the listener with audio. Again, the sound quality was good, but call me a cynic, I don’t buy that you can replicate the Dolby Atmos experience with a couple of earbuds.

The phone has a whopping 6GB of RAM and a very generous 128GB of storage. The Mate20 Pro is powered by Huawei’s Kirin 980 processor based on a Cortex-A76 CPU with a Mali-G76 GPU and a dual-NPU (neural-network processing unit). This all means that the phone can run any app you want it to run and makes for a great mobile gaming platform. The Mate20 Pro had no problems running the likes of Fortnite and Final Fantasy XV PE.

The 40-megapixel triple Leica camera is outstanding. As one of the worlds worse photographers, I need all the help I can get. The ultra-wide 20MP Leica Summilux f2.2 lens takes pictures that look more like what I was seeing. This coupled with the 8MP f.24 telephoto and 40MP f1.8 wide angle lenses meant I couldn’t go wrong. The phone’s image AI can identify your subject and adjust the settings according.

The front camera has a 24MP f2.0 wide angle lens, which also powers the phone’s 3D facial recognition feature, for unlocking the device. For something a little more tactile, there is an in-display fingerprint reader, as well. The reader is a bit of a novelty, especially the way it glows hyper-bright, but I soon forgot about it as I switched to the more convenient facial recognition.

The 4200mAh battery is a beast. A day’s worth of intense fiddling with emails, twitter etc. and running the phone with my most power-hungry interactive background only used up 40% of the battery. According to the device it still had 39 hours of power, 43 hours in power-saving mode and 145 hours in ultra power-saving mode.

This is pretty amazing as in the same time I’d have drained my Sony Xperia XZ to about 16%. The phone features wireless inductive charging. The Mate20 Pro can also be used to charge other Qi-enabled devices, so you can share the love if your friend’s iPhone lacks juice.

At NZ$1,499, the Mate20 Pro is an expensive piece of kit. The display is very nice, but still not 4K. The styling looks like every other phone out there. But the Leica camera is very, very good. The battery life is excellent. The processor is top of the class and the 128GB onboard memory is outstanding. Huawei has really pulled out all the stops to give us, in the Mate20 Pro, what is probably the best phone you’ll see this year.

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