Huawei’s new Mate 20 Pro Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Huawei’s new Mate 20 Pro has a new design language with curved glass, blended into the aluminium on the sides, and resembles Samsung S9 Plus at a glance.

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.

Already, Huawei P20 Pro has been rated as one of the best smartphones of 2018 and with the Mate 20 Pro; the Chinese firm has raised the bar and pushed the boundaries of smartphone photography.

The triple rear Leica cameras steal the limelight again and take photography to a new level not seen in the current breed of mobiles in the market. It weighs 189 grams.

Display

The 6.39-inch OLED display (3120x1440 pixels) with 19.5:9 screen ratio houses 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage capacity. The device supports either two nano SIM or one nano-SIM and Huawei’s 256GB nano-memory card. It runs on Android 9 Pie out of the box with EMUI skin 9.0 on top with plenty of customisation and features.

Huawei has improved its new skin without much bloatware but it still needs polish.

You cannot use the normal microSD card but a proprietary and expensive SD card similar to a nano SIM.

According to DXoMark camera tests, P20 Pro is still rated as the top phone with a camera at 109 while Apple’s iPhone XS Max is at 105 and Samsung Note 9 at 103.

The Mate 20 Pro has 537 pixels per inch (ppi) screen density compared to Samsung Galaxy Note 9 at 514ppi, iPhone XS MAX 458ppi and Samsung Note 9’s 516ppi while P20 Pro had 408 ppi.

The screen is thinner than P20 Pro and has a width of 72.3mm compared to Apple iPhone XS MAX’s 77.4mm. It has a compact design and easy to hold while the back has a hyper optical pattern with micro 3D texture for easy grip and for fingerprint resistant.

New chipset

Huawei is the first Android smartphone manufacturer to produce the seven-nanometre chipset – 2.6GHz Kirin 980 octa-core - on Mate 20 Pro. It has a new CPU, GPU and dual NPUs (brain behind artificial intelligence).

The two super big cores are used for graphics intensive apps, two big cores for social apps and four small cores for voice calls on the octa-core 980 chipset compared to four big and four small cores on octa-core Kirin 970 chipset.

Samsung and Qualcomm’s latest chipset are based on 10nm but Apple launched its A12 chipset based on 7nm on its new iPhones.

Biometric features

The3D face unlock facial recognition technology on this device, similar to iPhone, is super-fast and opens the device in less than one second, much faster than the iPhone X and Galaxy S9 and even in very low-light conditions.

Apart from that, Huawei has incorporated the pressure sensing in-screen fingerprint sensor that is excellent but placed it a bit higher. You need to apply pressure for it to recognise the fingerprint.

There are no speaker grilles at the bottom but the sound comes from inside the USB Type-C port. Even when it is plugged, its output is not muffled. The other speaker is in the notch.

Cameras

Coming to cameras, it sports a square format similar to Porsche car’s headlight.

The camera is almost similar to P20 Pro. Next to the flash sits the 40MP wide angle lens (27mm) with f/1.8 aperture, below the flash sits the 8MP 3 x telephoto lens (80mm) with f/2.4 aperture and OIS, and next to it sits the 20MP ultra-wide angle lens (16nm) with f/2.2 aperture.

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 to recognise the scene in order to optimise settings.

With dual NPUs, it can recognise up to 4,500 images per minute, up 120 per cent compared to Kirin 970 chipset while the Snapdragon 845 chipset recognises up to 2,371 images per minute.

Low light is where the phone excels the most 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 nighttime photo magic is achieved by a separate “night” mode feature in the settings by taking multiple and long exposure shots at different ISO values to combine into one final image but it takes four seconds to process the final image. In P20 Pro, it takes around seven seconds.

The best thing is that you don’t need a tripod and this work is done by AI stabilisation. The Mate 20 Pro’s highly sensitive image sensor captures low light photos with up to ISO 102,400.

The AI has improved a lot and the skin tones are much better than the earlier version on P20 Pro and do not ruin the greenery and blue-sky scenes. The AI also uses HDR when necessary to add more details and see if you are happy with the shot, otherwise, you can cancel the auto mode in a bid to get the natural colours.

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

With 4D predictive focus, the camera predicts moving objects and focuses on them with efficiency to capture minute details of objects in motion.

The phone’s 0.6 x zoom for ultra-wide mode, 3 x telephoto and 5 x hybrid zoom works very well and takes macro shots much cleaner and the camera can take clean shots at less than 3cm. You can zoom up to 10X in total with the device.

With HiVision, a Google Lens-like feature can discover arts, landmark, goods, translation and food.

The wide-angle camera is great and can capture more landscape in one shot. With aperture mode, the simulated aperture range is between f/0.95 and f/1.6, you can apply filters such as keep the subject in colour and make the background black and white.

Even though the device does not have a monochrome lens similar to P20 Pro, you can go to the “more” option to get monochrome, slow motion, panorama, HDR, live filters, AR lens, light painting, time-lapse, underwater mode and can scan documents. There is no option for auto HDR and you have to turn on automatically.

In slow motion, you can record 120fps at 1080p, 240fps and 960fps at only 720p and not at Full HD.

It can record 4K videos at 30 fps and no 60fps option and 1080p at 30fps. It can save in h.264 or h.265 format. But at 4K resolution, there’s no video image stabilization 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 Mate 20 Pro has the same 24MP f/2.0 front-facing camera from the P20 Pro, but expands the front camera suite with more sensors. It takes decent selfies in good daylight conditions but it does not have the same low-light performance as the rear camera. It also has AI beautification and 3D portrait lighting.

The AI HDR is turned on by default in selfie mode and which is great and does a decent job to capture the details. It can record 1080p videos at 30fps.

The Animoji-style feature in the camera app’s AR mode is okay but not as precise on iPhone XS MAX.

Gaming

The new Mali-G76 10-core GPU offers better gaming performance without any lag but Huawei’s GPU is not the best in the class when compared to its rival. Apple’s latest GPU is by far the fastest.

With ‘Performance Mode’, the speed increases as it optimizes the phone’s settings for maximum performance. The new user interface supports GPU Turbo 2.0 to run games smoothly and steadily at 60 frames per second at full resolution. Right now, six games – Asphalt Nitro, Kingdoms, Dragon Mania, Puzzle Pets, Spiderman – Ultimate Power, Lords Mobile and Assassin’s Creed Unity: Arno’s Chronicles are supported and Huawei is working with game developers to enable it in even more popular games soon.

Connectivity

Regarding connectivity, it has WiFi a/b/g/n/ac, PC data synchronisation, WiFi hotspot, wireless projection, Huawei Share for sharing files quickly with other Huawei devices without using mobile data, Bluetooth 5, NFC and IR blaster.

The box contains a USB Type-C headphone jack, a transparent silicone case and a 3.5mm-to-USB-C adapter inside.

The chipset supports up to 1.4Gbps download speed on LTE and up to 1.73Gbps download speeds on WiFi.

Battery

The bigger 4,200mAh battery offers one day of use easily for heavy users and more than two days for moderate users which is excellent. The standby time is excellent and it supports Qi wireless charging and 40W SuperCharger technology due to its glass design. It can charge from zero to 70 per cent in 30 minutes and from zero to 100 per cent in just over 60 minutes but you have to use the proprietary chargers and cables for that to work.

In video playback, it lasted for close to 15 hours and close to 14 hours in web browsing.

The big advantage or a cool feature is that it can reverse charge another Qi-equipped device by turning the option on the Mate 20 and just holding the phones back together. It takes time to charge the other device and it stops charging if you move the device a little.

It comes in emerald green, twilight and black colours and priced at Dh3,299.

Verdict

The Mate 20 Pro has versatile camera features, 3D face unlock feature similar to Apple’s iPhone, in-screen fingerprint scanner, reverse wireless charging, fast charging at 40W but not as fast as on Oppo’s Find X Lamborghini edition’s Super VOOC charging. Find X can charge the battery to full in 30 minutes.

If you are a Huawei fan and using a P20 Pro, there are minor upgrades on Mate 20 Pro to force you to buy it but if you are using a Mate 10 pro, there are massive differences and you will be tempted to upgrade. At the same time, P20 Pro will also get a price cut.

 

Pros

• New design language
• Excellent OLED screen
• Massive battery
• Qi wireless and fast charging
• Reverse wireless charging
• In-screen fingerprint sensor
• Versatile camera features
• 3D face unlock is fast
• AI supports photos and videos

Cons

• Proprietary memory card
• No Qi wireless charger in the box
• Some AI camera features are a hit and miss
• GPU not as powerful as CPU
• No headphone jack
• Animoji-style AR feature not great
• No 4K recording at 60fps mode
• No auto HDR option in rear camera
• 960fps slow motion only at 720p