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Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: This is the best smartphone of 2018

By James Lu - 2 Feb 2019
Prices:

Overview and Design

 

Overview

Huawei is one of the most innovative smartphone companies today, and the Mate 20 Pro really shows just how far it has come over the past few years. This phone is absolutely packed with groundbreaking technology, including a high-resolution dual curved AMOLED display, an in-display fingerprint scanner, a 3D Face Recognition scanner that is functionally identical to Apple's TrueDepth camera, 40W fast charging, 15W wireless fast charging, reverse wireless charging, a triple rear camera setup that includes both a telephoto and an ultra-wide angle lens, advanced AI features with image, scene, and object recognition, and the list just goes on and on.

And all this for just S$1,348 or S$50 cheaper than the 128GB Samsung Galaxy Note9 and the recently launched 128GB Google Pixel 3 XL. Before we dive into the review proper, here's the full specs list and our unboxing video to familiarize yourself:-

  Huawei Mate 20 Pro
  Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Launch SRP
  • From S$1348
Latest Price
  • From S$650
Operating system
  • Android 9.0 with EMUI 9.0
Processor
  • Hisilicon Kirin 980 octa-core (2 x 2.6GHz Cortex-A76 & 2 x 1.92GHz Cortex-A76 & 4 x 1.8GHz Cortex-A55)
Built-in Memory
  • 6GB RAM
Display
  • 6.39-inches 3,120 x 1,440 pixels (538 ppi) AMOLED 19.5:9 ratio
  • Always-On Display
Camera
  • Rear: Triple 40-megapixel f/1.8 wide + 20-megapixel f/2.2 ultrawide + 8-megapixel f/2.4 telephoto, OIS, Leica optics, 3x optical zoom,5x hybrid zoom, phase detection and laser autofocus, dual-LED dual-tone flash
  • Front: 24-megapixel, f/2.0
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 4G+ LTE-A (3CA) Cat 21 (up to 1400Mbps), dual-band, hotspot, DLNA, Bluetooth v5, A2DP, LE, GPS, GLONASS, USB 3.1 Type-C
Storage Type
  • 128GB internal storage
  • Huawei Nano Memory expansion (up to 256GB)
Battery
  • 4,200mAh
  • 40W Huawei SuperCharge
  • 15W Huawei Wireless Quick Charge (Qi wireless charging)
  • Reverse wireless charging
Dimensions
  • 157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6 mm
Weight
  • 189g

 

Design: Half Note9, half iPhone XS Max

From the front, the Mate 20 Pro looks like the result of a one-night stand between a Samsung Galaxy Note9 and an Apple iPhone XS: it's got an AMOLED display that curves at both sides and looks and feels just like one of Samsung's Infinity Displays, but with an iPhone XS-like notch and a very similar set of 3D face scanning sensors.

Thanks to that notch, the phone is slightly smaller than a Note9, despite having effectively the same size display. It's a little narrower too, which makes it easier to use one-handed. It's also 0.2mm thinner and 12g lighter than the Note9. Although these figures don't seem to suggest a big difference, we can attest that they contribute positively to a better feel in hand.

While the front of the phone looks very familiar, the back is all Huawei. You'll instantly notice the uniquely arranged camera setup, which boasts three lenses and an LED flash in a 2x2 grid.

And if you opt for the Emerald Green color (as seen here), you'll also get a unique textured glass rear that looks a bit like one of those holofoil trading cards you might remember from your childhood. Huawei calls it a "Hyper Optical Pattern." The way it reflects light is really captivating, and the texture itself not only provides a bit of extra grip, but also has a very pleasing tactile feel too. I keep finding myself running my fingers over the rear of the phone just to experience it. The finish is also less of a fingerprint magnet than Huawei's usual mirror finishes. Huawei has one other finish with this texture called Midnight Blue, but it's not available in Singapore.

If the Hyper Optical Pattern isn't your thing, the phone also comes in three non-textured finishes: Black, Pink Gold (also not available in Singapore), and Twilight Blue, which has the same purple-to-blue gradient effect we first saw on the P20 Pro.

You'll notice the Mate 20 Pro does not have a physical fingerprint scanner on either the front or the back. That's not because Huawei is pulling an Apple and removing it altogether, but rather, it's gone for the far better option of using an in-display fingerprint scanner, which is located about two-thirds of the way down the display. This is actually the second Huawei phone to feature an in-display scanner, after the Huawei Porsche Design Mate RS.

As with most Huawei phones, the power button and volume rocker can both be found on the right side. The power button is a contrasting metallic red color, which is a really simple but nice design touch that looks good and helps it stand out.

On the bottom of the phone, you'll find the USB-C port and the dual nano-SIM card tray. Uniquely, the phone also lacks any visible speaker grilles, instead, the bottom speaker is hidden inside the USB-C port

Unlike the lower-end Mate 20 and Mate 20 X, the Mate 20 Pro does not have a 3.5mm headphone jack. You do however get a pair of USB-C earphones in the box, and unlike the latest iPhones, there's a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle included too.

A quick note on the nano-SIM card slot: instead of the usual micro-SD card slot, the Mate 20 Pro uses Huawei's new proprietary NM (Nano Memory) format, which is the same size as a nano-SIM, or about 45 per cent smaller than a conventional microSD card. NM cards have a maximum read speed of 95 MB/s, which is a little slower than some of the top-end microSD cards, but still very respectable. Right now, NM cards are only available from Huawei in one capacity: 128GB (S$108), however the format supports up to 256GB capacity, so expect a higher capacity NM card soon.

Finally, the Mate 20 Pro has an IP68 dust and water resistance rating, exactly the same as the Note9 and iPhone XS.

9.0
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • User-Friendliness 9
  • Performance 8.5
  • Value 8.5
The Good
Classy, modern design
IP68 build
Gorgeous curved AMOLED display
Long battery life
Super fast charging
Kirin 980 processor on par with Snapdragon 845
True 3D Face Recognition
In-display fingerprint scanner
Versatile triple rear camera setup with great image quality
More competitively priced than a Note9, Pixel 3 XL, and iPhone XS
The Bad
No headphone port
Proprietary memory card
Unbalanced stereo speakers
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