The Mate 20 Pro is the latest in this tech giant’s quest for world smartphone dominance. It has a smartphone in every niche from value to flagship. And oh, what a flagship!
The Mate 20 Pro is the best flagship of 2018 by quite a
margin. We suspect it will remain so for some time to come. Well, at least
until the 2019 flagships arrive and frankly, they have much catching up to do. Let
alone introduce as many innovations as
Update: HUAWEI Mate20 Pro Wins “Best Smartphone” at Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2019
The HUAWEI Mate20 Pro was named the “Best Smartphone” in
recognition of its powerful performance, outstanding camera system, long
battery life, innovative charging solutions and striking design. This coveted
accolade serves as a testament to Huawei’s leading technologies and its
commitment to delivering the best products and user experiences to consumers
around the world.
GadgetGuy uses a well-developed and robust paradigm to avoid the temptation to compare Huawei with Apple
Well, the latter is a closed iOS ecosystem, so it is not fair to compare with Android anyway. We use paradigms to ensure the absence of brand bias. We are 100% independent, we don’t charge for reviews, and we abide by a strict Journalist Code of Ethics. We are not bloggers paid to write reviews!!!
Let’s just say that the Flagship paradigm has been fine for every comer to date including Apple’s iPhone XS/Max.
That was until the Mate 20 Pro added several innovations like three rear cameras; two AI neural processors; a 7nm System-on-a-chip; huge 4200mAh battery, fast Qi wireless and mains charging; in-screen fingerprint, dual-band GPS; and a morphing User Interface to make it easy to set up the phone as pure Android, Apple and Samsung ‘like’. That is clever and makes it easy to switch.
I am sure Huawei engineers and designers all sat around a table with the aim of bettering every other smartphone and in the process added true innovation. I am in awe of what the Mate 30 Pro will bring. Huawei has set the pace, and it is nice to see it leading instead of nipping at the heels of good old US ingenuity.
We are not just talking about hardware innovation.
OPPO’s Find X pop-up cameraphone is a great example of that. Alternatively, as an extension of a smartphones use – Lenovo’s Motorola Z series and Moto Mods is a wonderful example of lateral thinking applied to solve multiple problems.
Think back for a moment. When did we see real smartphone innovation that didn’t involve gimmicky animated emojis? No, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro stands well out from the crowd in software and hardware.
What is the Huawei Mate 20 Pro?
A luscious 6.39”, 3120 x 1440, 19.5:9, a HDR10/+ screen with an in-glass fingerprint reader
7nm Kirin 980 dual AI super system-on-a-chip
Blazingly fast LTE Cat 21 modem
6GB RAM, 128GB storage, nm card expansion
Dual 4G SIM slots
Leica Triple rear camera with a 40MP main snapper
Huge 4,200mAh battery with fast Qi wireless and USB-C charging
The purpose of any review is to find out where the compromises are and if they are deal breakers. Spoiler alert – this phone could be selling for a few hundred dollars more, and it would still be well ahead on points. And, if budget is an issue the Mate 20 version (image above) is $1,099 and has a few acceptable compromises.
In the box
Handset Mate 20 Pro LYA-L29
USB-C Earbuds and mic
40W Fast Charger 5V/2A, 9V/2AS or 10V/4A
USB-A to USB-C cable
Protective clear plastic bumper cover
USB-C to 3.5 mm headphone DAC adapter (to get over no 3.5mm audio port)
The first impression
I am a bloke. I tend to buy big black phones. The midnight
blue, however, is most appealing so consider it over the boring black.
OK, there is the Notch (I am not a fan of notches – ruins the symmetry) that contains a 24MP, 3D Depth Sensing camera. Huawei cleverly offers to turn the notch into a black top information bar. And it has one of the world’s first in-glass fingerprint readers – invisible!
The back has an upper-middle, 2×2 square camera with a
slight bump to protect the three lenses and the flash. I found that position
far more useful and less prone to finger intrusion over say the Apple and OPPO top left camera placement.
Huawei says the Hyper Optical glass rear finish is to increase
grip and reduce fingerprints – it works far better than straight Gorilla Glass.
On the right below the volume rocker is the power/lock key.
If you are not careful you can press the lock key instead of the volume rocker
– that is why it is red.
On the bottom are a
dual sim and dual mics. At the top are a
mic and good old-fashioned IR blaster.
That is it for this gorgeous 87.9% screen-to-body-ratio
phone. It has a distinctive flagship look and feel
Buy in Australia or you will regret it for two reasons
We issue the standard warning that you must buy the genuine model with Australian firmware as it works on all Australian Carrier LTE bands and can make a 000 call without a sim.
The dual sim model number is LYA-L29, and the single
sim is LYA-L09. From what we can find there are about a dozen variants certified
for different countries and carriers. Don’t buy if the model number starts with
H as these are for specific Asian markets.
The second reason is the alleged spying. Huawei is a Chinese
company. It is bound by law to comply with the wishes of the Chinese Government
for all business it does in China. That is why it makes different versions for
Huawei respects the wishes and the laws of any country it
operates in. There is no legislated requirement by the Australian government to
access user’s phone calls or metadata unless authorised
by a specific legal warrant issued on a case-by-case basis. In that case, the Telco’s have that information anyway.
As a consumer, I am
satisfied that the Mate 20 Pro Australian model is as safe to use as any other
brand of smartphone.
People in sensitive government, law enforcement, military or
critical utility provision should use a smartphone appropriate for their
Setting it up
It is a typical
Android setup. You can avoid Google entirely if you wish. EMUI has non-Google
equivalents of mail, calendar, camera, cloud and more. These are all competent
apps and may address a certain degree of Google spying paranoia. On the other
hand, you expose that information to Huawei, so
I will leave that decision to you.
You can select a traditional app drawer (all apps shown on a
pop-up screen) or all apps on the homepages. The latter is easiest to organise.
Optionally setup passcode, fingerprint and face recognition and
you are away.
The Huawei PhoneClone app copied all information from the
Samsung Note9 and apart from re-entering a few passwords it was painless.
87.9% S-T-B-R with Notch (notch can a ‘black bar’)
Notch houses the selfie camera, IR flood illuminator and IR camera and notification LED
Screen protection level is not specified but understood to be Gorilla Glass 5
Everything looks gorgeous. The edges are gently curved (like
Samsung Galaxy S9); the viewing angles are excellent; colours are accurate and the
colour temperature is adjustable from
normal to vivid and everywhere in between; and there is no colour shift when
viewing off angle. Daylight readability is superb, slightly better than the
It uses a PenTile matrix (as does the Samsung Galaxy S9/+
and Note9). What that means is two smaller green pixels to every red and slightly
larger blue pixel.
In tests, we achieved over
500 nits typical brightness and 660 nits maximum
auto. It is a bright screen. Huawei claims
100% DCI-P3 colour gamut. Grey-to-grey response times are around 4ms – good for
The lower-cost Mate 20 uses a WRGB (plus white pixel) IPS
LED/LCD screen and has a smaller teardrop notch as it uses different facial recognition. We have not
reviewed this device, but it should deliver very
good brightness and contrast. It too is HDR10 certified.
Screen resolution defaults to ‘smart’ for battery saving. That means it can adjust from 3120 x 1440 to 2340 x 1080 and 1560 x 720 depending on battery life.
There are a few interesting screen options as well: display carrier name, network speed, and hide the notch. The only thing I miss it display battery percentage, but it shows on the always-on display.
Being OLED, it has an always-on display option. It is not very customisable but will show date, time, battery percentage, and step count. While not mentioned it should be Google Daydream VR compatible too.
HUAWEI Kirin 980
2 x Cortex A76 Based 2.6 GHz
2 x Cortex A76 Based 1.92 GHz
4 x Cortex A55 1.8 GHz
Mali-G76 MP10 with GPU Turbo 2.0 for games
6GB LPDDR4X (fastest available)
128GB UFS 2.1 600MBps (106GB free)
Nano-Memory (nm) card to 256GB using
hybrid dual sim slot.
Huawei designs the Kirin silicon for its phones as does
Samsung and Apple. This allows it to customise
that to its needs and in theory, should give it an edge. Unlike Qualcomm, it
does not sell Kirin processors to others.
But, that also means that Huawei must tune its EMUI for both Android and the silicon whereas Qualcomm and pure Android are symbiotic. Our initial tests show that EMUI 9 is doing a fine job at that.
The Kirin 980
Huawei’s own Kirin 980 is a very interesting eight core chip. (You can read more here). Unlike the typical big/little ARM setup it has bigger/big/little cores and can precisely adjust the power needed to the application. In idle it can shut down to one core to preserve battery. The design includes dual neural processors to provide higher AI capabilities. What it calls ‘malleable’ on-demand power to perform AI tasks.
Raw horsepower tests indicate it is between 10 and 30%
faster than the Qualcomm 845 for the same tasks, but a better comparison would
be with the yet-to-be-released 7nm Qualcomm 855. Compared to its predecessor,
the Kirin 970 in the P20 Pro, it is 134% faster, 88% more AI efficient and 58%
more power efficient.
Using GeekBench 4.0 tests it scored 3,390/10,318 for single/multi-core. To put that in perspective the eight-core big/little Samsung Galaxy Note9 scores 3718/9026. RenderScript (video performance) tests put it at 12,173 over the Note9 at 9,324.
It offers the fastest processor and more AI function than the current Qualcomm 845. That is not to say Qualcomm’s 7nm 855 won’t be as good when it’s released, but for now, Huawei makes the world’s fastest Android chipset.
We did not test games performance, but it has GPU Turbo 2.0 mode that means supporting games achieve at least 60fps.
Nano-Memory (nm) cards
are the same size as a sim – 40% smaller than a microSD. There is logic in that
as it allows the use of a smaller, space-saving
dual sim carrier. Toshiba makes these in
64, 128, 512GB sizes and a 128GB is about A$88. It offers 90MB/s read which is
perfect for 4K video recording. At this time, it is only for external storage. Time will tell if nm is a wise move and
if it is comparable in cost to micro-SD.
In our battery load test (over seven hours at 100% load) it
reached a temperature of just over 40°.
Mind you; it is unlikely you will be processing
at full load for seven hours in your
Huawei claims up to 1733Mbps with a suitable router that
supports 160MHz. With our reference D-Link AC5300 router, we achieved over 1.2Gbps at 2 metres. Moving to five metres, it was 867Mbs, and at 20m it was 480Mbps. This
is like the Samsung Galaxy Note9.
Bluetooth 5.0 is a welcome addition with all manner of
high-res audio DACs – it is time the old SBC was retired. Our reference Sony
Bluetooth ANC WH-1000XM2 sang sweetly with LDAC high-res. A pair of older
Sennheiser PCX-550 lapped up the aptX. I even ran the later off the USB-C port
with a UBS-C to Micro-USB adapter, and
the Mate 20 charged them as well!
Earpiece speaker and concealed USB-C bottom speaker for stereo
32-bit/384kHz Hi-Res Wireless Audio
3 x noise cancelling mics
USB-C to 3.5mm DAC adapter
The first thing I noticed was, depending on ringtone, it can be very loud up to 85dB.
Its earpiece speaker is loud and clear. The other is a down-firing speaker built into the USB-charging port that uses the space as a resonance chamber. Huawei’s logic is that you don’t listen to phone speakers for hi-fidelity and it does a great job anyway even with a USB-C cable inserted.
It has Dolby Atmos for
both the speakers and headphones (Bluetooth and cable). You can optimise this
for movies or set it to auto.
Maximum music volume was 75dB, and naturally, it lacked any real
bass. But via the reference headphones, it was spectacularly good. Even the
UBS-C buds supplied are not too shoddy but lack
that ‘depth’ of over-the-ear headphones.
FreeBuds – are free.
Only if you buy quickly and pick up a free
Huawei 15W QI wireless charger too.
These look very much like Apples AirPods which I think look dorky.
They support AAC (no mention of aptX or HD) and have a
20Hz-20kHz frequency response. In our tests are slightly light on bass but have
clear mids and treble. They are touch enabled. For buds, they are pretty good.
I did like the infrared detection that can sense when you
are wearing them and when they are in the USB-C charge case. They have four
mics for clear conversation and some noise reduction.
In glass fingerprint recognition – up to five prints
3D face unlocks within .5 seconds
Pin unlock uses six digits
Dual GPS (L1 + L5 dual band)
NFC for Android Pay
Phone Manager: cleanup, battery settings, blocked numbers, Virus scan and mobile data usage.
In-glass fingerprint recognition is excellent and fast. 3D Facial
recognition was excellent and fast even when wearing a hat and sunglasses. It
only unlocks the phone – it is currently not used for any other purpose.
Fingerprint recognition and NFC are great for Google Pay.
It has L1 + L5 dual frequency
ultra-precise positioning GPS system for 4m accuracy. For most, the usual 10m
accuracy is fine, but this gives an edge
in in-car, turn-by-turn navigation.
4200 mAh TUV certified
Wire Charging: 40W HUAWEI Super Charge – 70% in 30 minutes
Reverse QI charging uses the phone as a charging pad for other Qi phones
4,200mAh is plenty especially when
the OLED screen and 7nm processor are energy misers.
Reverse charging is a novel party trick. It allows you to use the
Mate 20 Pro as a charging pad for emergency top-ups of any Qi phone or device.
Consider that the iPhone 8/X series have 7.5W Qi charge and
this is twice as fast.
At first, it shows 71hrs left in normal mode and 220 hours in battery saving. But after week’s use, the AI kicks in, and it says 36 hours under my usage patterns, 57 hours in power saving mode and 220 hours in ultra-saving mode.
In GeekBench 4 at 100% load,
it lasted 7 hours and 47 minutes. An FHD
video loop at 50% brightness in aeroplane mode lasted just over 14 hours!
Recharge time using the fast charger and cable supplied was just over one hour (yes it was 70% at 30 minutes). Similarly using a 15W Belkin Qi fast charger, it takes just over three hours – this is very good. Even a Qi 5W charger can get it to 100% overnight.
It is a true 2-day
phone – perhaps more as AI kicks in and manages battery use.
4G/LTE (Dual Sim version)
Cat 21 for 1.4Gbps download and 200Mbps upload (depends on carrier and aggregation)
Bands 1, 2, 3, 4,
5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 26, 28, 32, 34, 38, 39, 40.
All we need in Australia is 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 28, 40.
Dual – both can be 4G, but
one is for hybrid nm card storage. The second sim slot does not have band 32
VoLTE and VoWiFi on each sim (depends on carrier)
As good as it gets. Dual sims mean
you can have your normal number and use
the second for a work number or pre-paid data plan.
Missing is 3500Mhz band 42. One day this may become a global roaming data channel. Optus and NBN both have trials at this stage. Samsung Galaxy S8/+/Note or later, LG V30+, Sony Xperia XZ and Apple 8 or later support it. A list of LTE bands by country is here.
Regardless this is a true
world modem and at Cat 21 (up 1.4Gbps
download) exceeds the that of the Qualcomm X20 Cat 18 (1200Mbps) modem found in
Snapdragon-based 845 smartphones. In a
4-bar Telstra test, it regularly achieved
700Mbps. It can also display the network speed on the screen.
Phone clone hassle-free smartphone switching and transfer
Wireless desktop mode (like Samsung Dex) using industry standard Miracast and DLNA.
A perfectly fluid Android experience with three UI options
so it can feel like an iPhone, Samsungesque or Android 9.
To be fair EMUI 9.0 is not as polished as Samsung Experience
but it is not bad. Compared to its predecessor it has had a substantial
makeover – simple! Huawei claims its
performance will not deteriorate saying it will be 95% as fast after 18 months
of typical use.
Black or Midnight Blue
Metal frame and toughened glass (type not stated) on front
Rear glass has a slight texture to
increase grip and reduce fingerprints
157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6mm x 189g
IP68 water and dust proof rating
up to 2m for 30 minutes
Mate 20 has an IP53 rating and a
We are unsure of glass protection standard
New nm memory card is non-standard
None of these are
remotely deal breakers.
Rear Camera 1
40MP RGB f/1.8, PDAF+Laser Focus,
HDR, Dual tone LED flash array
OIS, EIS, AIS, Variable Aperture [email protected] with AIS (AI stabilisation)
It has a ‘triple’ Leica Summilux
rear camera with dual Image Signal Processors in a 2×2 square format. We are in
the age of ‘computational’ photography where the lens captures details and the
smarts (Kirin 980) post-processes to give the best picture.
The triple camera setup is very similar to the P20 Pro. Gone
is the signature mono sensor (P20 Pro DxOMark here).
Huawei says that its new RGB sensor can extract the details usually provided by
a mono sensor.
Previously I found the P20 Pro’s AI to aggressive for my
‘colour tastes’ – not so with the Mate 20 Pro. Colours are as natural as the
original. Yes, you can make a dull day sparkle too if you want to.
40MP is huge and will
capture far more detail. The 40MP also pixel bins (quad-Bayer filter) by default
to produce a 10MP image using the best pixels. You can select 40MP if you wish.
I went with pixel binning (like the Google Pixel 2/3) and let AI do its thing.
PADF and Laser focus
means better moving shot capture. It supports RAW and JPEG saving.
The three lenses can provide a 3X optical, 5X hybrid, 10X
digital zoom and an ultra-closeup macro as well.
Given the massive data that this setup can capture it is no
wonder, Huawei needed to invent a superchip
to process it. According to the Kirin 980 specs, it can process image recognition of up to 4,500 images per minute. It also
has post-processing HDR manipulation and well, all the bells and whistles a
‘pro’ could ever imagine.
I did not have much
time to play with the AI so here is a brief overview.
AI camera assistant guides
you to the best shots possible. This is
in the Photo section of the camera app. You can access the camera from the lock
screen by sliding the camera icon up.
Other modes include
Pro, Aperture, Night, Portrait, Video, and More. In the More area, there are some shooting options that are on the
These include underwater shooting (the phone has an IP68
rating), filters, light painting, monochrome and HDR features.
HiTouch. This is a new
icon in the top-left corner of the camera app. It works like Google Lens. If
you press two fingers on the screen,
you’ll get information about anything on the screen that it recognises.
Similarly, HiVision uses the camera to recognise what it
sees and provide more information. The onboard
database has details on landmarks in 15 countries and 10M artworks. You can
even point the camera at food to get an estimate of the calories, and it can
tell the difference between, say, a large and a small apple or a whole or
It recognises more than 1,500 scenarios and 25 categories. The upgraded AI-powered photography now can segment different objects and scenes in one photo. Colours, brightness and contrast are adjusted automatically and precisely, just like fine-painting a photo, with perfect balance.
HiAI can process photos taken at an angle, straighten them
and use OCR to convert them to an editable PowerPoint presentation.
Thanks to the 3D camera, you can use Huawei’s Qmoji which
first appeared on the Nova 3.
Is it the best camera?
Dedicated camera reviews state that it is! In the Mate 20
Pro’s case, it has triple Leica lenses,
dual image signal processors, Kiron 980’s immense
AI post-processing capabilities and the right combination of lens apertures.
Yes, it is the best smartphone camera today. It is pretty well idiot proof.
It takes the sort of images you could not even with the P20 Pro. It has achieved the right balance
between actual optics and processing power.
Daylight, outdoor performance
The colours are 100% accurate yet have a richness, not
oversaturation to them. There is amazing
detail in the shadows (under the jetty) and no pixelation
even when blown up to A3 size. For the outdoors shots let the AI do its thing
and you will get great shots every time.
Indoors office light performance
Spectacular detail, if anything a little too realistic.
Colours are 100% accurate. We did not play with aperture mode that changes the
fixed aperture to a simulated f/0.95-f/1.6 range. It is mainly for still art
types of shots in low light.
Low light performance
The best low-light shot
wringing every last lumen out of a dark room yet capturing good colour and details.
There is a night mode coming that turns night into day.
Subject separation is excellent, and bokeh is now available in circles, hears, swirl or discs.
Portrait lighting allows post-processing to add different light effects – also excellent.
Beauty effects are also available.
But the lens is fixed focus, so
to keep the lens about 600mm (arm’s length) from your face. AI does a great job
11136 x 2944 pixels
producing a 2.98MB file. No stitching and no
You can shoot at 25mm from a subject to get spectacular close-up
The video is maximum
[email protected] but includes EIS in all modes. Its 4K video is good in all light
conditions but not the best we have seen. On the other hand, [email protected] is the
best we have seen. There are a few too many options from choice of lens and even sound bit-rate.
GadgetGuy’s take – Huawei Mate 20 Pro
As of this moment, it is the best Android smartphone bar none. Huawei has done everything right!
I wanted to find fault – not because I am a knocker in any
way (perennially glass half-full) but because during testing it seems just too
perfect. Well, there are no deal
I do not want to take away from the excellent Qualcomm 845
based Samsung Galaxy S9/+/Note9, Google Pixel 3/XL, LG G7/V35+/V40 ThinQ, OPPO
FindX/variants, Sony XZ2/variants, HTC U12+ – you will be very happy with them all. But Huawei has taken a quantum leap, and these Qualcomm based devices may not reach
Mate 20 Pro level until their Qualcomm 855 models come out next year.
I look forward to seeing what Huawei does with the next
generation P series – positioned above the Mate series.
Would I buy one?
I have been a long-term Samsung Galaxy (S5 and Note5
onwards) user since Microsoft f’ed up my cherished
Nokia Windows Phone. Wrenching a Samsung from my pocket is hard because until
now every flagship lacked one or more essential items – Qi, memory expansion,
stylus (in the case the Note) or just that smooth and fluid user interface
where everything worked.
The Huawei is practically perfect, its EMUI is 99.9% there, and it offers more than the Galaxy S9+ and
Note9 although the Stylus is its USP.
So, the answer is that Huawei has made a worthy alternative
to Samsung and has taken the crown for now. This
is the first time we have allocated five-out-of-five points. In a world of
black slabs and so little innovation, it
stands out from the crowd – at least until other brands catch up.
Value for money
Easy of Use
Reader Rating2 Votes
Currently the most powerful processor
Android 9 and EMUI 9 work well with the Kirin 9080 SoC
Great battery and very fast Qi wireless and USB-C charging
Idiot proof camera takes excellent shots under all conditions
Redefines flagship paradigm and then some
The more you use it, the more you will find it can do