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P20 Pro takes smartphone photography to a new level

Huawei’s triple rear cameras excel in very lowlight conditions compared to rivals

Image Credit: Supplied
Gulf News

Dubai

Huawei’s flagship — P20 Pro — has a new design language with strengthened glass and aluminium on the sides and new twilight colours which is a mix of blue and purple.

The triple rear cameras steal the limelight and take photography to a new level not seen in the current breed of mobiles in the market.

The phone has a notch, similar to iPhone X. The notch can be turned off in the settings if you don’t like the notch.

The notch is smaller than iPhone X and when viewing photos, videos or surfing the net, the sides of the notch turns black and does not obstruct the experience, whether in landscape or portrait modes. But if you are in the setting mode, the notch will obstruct you in the portrait mode and not in landscape mode.

The 6.1-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2240 x 1080 pixels is powered by the home-grown AI-powered 2.3GHz Kirin 970 processor with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of ROM. No microSD card option to increase external storage capacity. It supports dual SIM cards.

The chipset is the same used in last year’s Mate 10 but Huawei added more AI features into P20 Pro.

The screen struggles under bright sun despite the screen being OLED and it is difficult to read what is on the screen.

Even though the display is OLED, it has only 408 pixels per inch density compared to Samsung S9 Plus’s 529ppi and iPhone X’s 458ppi. It comes with Android 8.1 Oreo installed coupled with Huawei’s own EMUI 8.1 user interface layered on top.

Huawei has decided to house a home button at the bottom of the front glass which also acts as a fingerprint reader apart from the facial recognition option.

The on-board IR blaster, which is now a rarity to find on a smartphone, works well to control various appliances such as TVs, A/Cs and music systems.

The facial recognition technology on this device is super-fast and opens the device in less than one second, much faster than iPhone X and Galaxy S9 and even in very lowlight conditions.

Huawei has dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack, which is sad, but that is the way forward. However, Huawei has a dongle included in the box to connect to the headphones via USB Type-C port.

Coming to cameras, it sports the vertical camera system, similar to iPhone X. I don’t know how they managed it in a phone that measure just 7.8mm thick, thinner than S9 Plus.

The cameras also protrude similar to iPhone X.

The top camera is 8MP telephoto lens with an aperture of f/2.4 and a focal length of 80mm and three times zoom function for long-range photography of up to 5x Hybrid Zoom, 40MP colour camera with an aperture of f/1.8 and a focal length of 28mm, and 20MP monochrome lens with f/1.6 aperture and a focal length of 27mm.

The 8MP camera sensor supports OIS while the 40MP and 20MP lenses support Artificial Intelligence Stabilisation (AIS) to reduce camera shake when zooming. All the rear cameras on both the devices are engineered by Leica. The P20 Pro’s highly sensitive image sensor captures low light photos with up to ISO 102400.

Even though the camera has a 40MP sensor, the default is 10MP. The device uses the data captured by both the lenses to create sharp images, balanced colours and details.

The automatic mode uses Artificial Intelligence driven scene recognition modes (19) to recognise the scene in order to optimise settings but the shots turned out oversaturated. I recommend cancelling the auto mode in a bid to get the natural colours.

When switching to 40MP, the details are more and a larger file but the zoom is not supported. At three-time zoom, the images remain sharp and at five times, slight details are lost. Zoom into a subject way closer than the competition can.

Low light is where the phone excels and it is the best of the breed I have seen. Even at pitch dark, the images are captured well with plenty of details visible. The night-time photo magic is achieved by a separate “night” mode feature in the settings by taking multiple and long exposure shots to combine into one final image but it takes four seconds to process the final image. The best thing is that you don’t need a tripod and this work is done by AI stabilisation.

There are other shooting modes such as panorama, portrait, aperture, black and white, slow motion, light painting, HDR, 3D panorama, watermark and pro. There are nine different filters.

Both the front and rear cameras support RAW format only in pro mode.

With ‘Ultra Snapshot’ mode, the device can capture an image in as little as 0.3 seconds by just double-clicking the down volume button, even from an off screen.

The device lets you zoom in up to 10 times digitally, but I wouldn’t recommend going past 5x if you still want crisp detail.

Brand new to the advanced camera system is the 4D predictive focus. In this mode, the camera predicts moving objects and focuses on them with efficiency to capture minute details of objects in motion.

The front camera can record 2160p at 30 frames per second (fps), 1080p at 30/60fps, 720p at 960fps. But at 4K resolution, there’s no video image stabilisation so you need to hold the phone without shakes. Only at Full HD, you get image stabilisation but that too loses when the frame rate is upped to 60fps.

The camera does not give 18:9 ratio with 40MP or 10MP and opts for 4:3 ratio. You can get 18:9 ratio with 7MP.

The 24MP front camera with f/2.0 aperture takes decent selfies in good daylight conditions but it does not have the same lowlight performance as the rear camera. It also has AI beautification and 3D portrait lighting.

It achieved 6,764 on the Geekbench 4 multi-core test and 1895 in the single-core test, which put it a fair step below the S9 Plus’ score of 8,944 in multi-core and 3750 in the single core.

Despite the fact, the phone never lacks in the power stakes. The apps and menus open fast with no lag.

The 4,000mAh battery gives you one day of heavy use and two days for moderate users.

During the web browsing test, it lasted 11 hours and 40 minutes and in video test, it lasted for 12 hours and 24 minutes.

Huawei’s SuperCharge system charges the battery from zero to full in about 90 minutes and there are power management systems to extend the phone’s life.

The sad part is no wireless charging despite the glass body.

Regarding connectivity, it has WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, WiFi Direct, hotspot, Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC. It is priced at Dh2,999.

Verdict

The Huawei P20 Pro is the best Android smartphone currently on the market. If you are looking for a phone that has the best cameras and battery life, P20 Pro is the device and for those who cannot digest the price of Samsung Galaxy S9 plus or iPhone X, the nearest rivals.

Pros

• Gorgeous design

• Excellent battery life

• Strong telephoto zoom

• Amazing lowlight cameras

• 128GB storage capacity

• Stunning twilight colour scheme

• Helpful AI features

Cons

• Some AI camera modes is a hit-and-miss

• No 3.5mm headphone jack

• Display needs fine-tuning

• No wireless charging

• Slow motion is at only 720p

• No zoom supported at 40MP

• Screen struggles under bright sun

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