What is the Huawei P20 Pro?
The Huawei P20 Pro is Chinese manufacturer Huawei’s latest flagship smartphone. It brings a much-anticipated new feature to the table – a tri-camera – but that isn’t the handset’s only party trick. It’s also equipped with a top-of-the-line processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of internal storage to boot and a sizeable battery. The end result is a great smartphone that’s sure to delight photographers.
Take perfect photos every time
With the world’s first 40MP Leica Triple Camera powered by artificial intelligence, the P20 Pro will give you stunning photos even in low light conditions.
Camera Primary Triple: 40 MP (f/1.8, 27mm, 1/1.7″, OIS) + 20 MP B/W (f/1.6, 27mm) + 8 MP (f/2.4, 80mm)
Secondary 24 MP, f/2.0, 720p
More speed, more memory
A powerful Kirin 970 octa-core processor powers the P20 Pro, supported by 6GB RAM. As for storage, there’s a massive 128GB of internal memory. If you’re interested in the Huawei P20 Pro, there’s a good chance it’s because of the camera array. There are three cameras on the back, one 40MP main sensor, a 20MP black and white one and a 3x zoom 8MP camera. You can shoot at 3x without digital zoom, and even get good results at 5x. The real star here is low light performance, though. Standard night shooting just about matches the best, but a dedicated night mode lets you take low light shots with dynamic range to rival an APS-C DSLR.
The P20 Pro’s 4,000 mAh battery can keep up with everything you do. It’s incredibly efficient, with power management driven by artificial intelligence. Plus, Huawei’s SuperCharge technology lets you recharge it in a flash.
Huawei P20 Pro – Design
The design of the Huawei P20 Pro isn’t too dissimilar to what we’ve seen from other manufacturers of late. There’s a small cut-out – dubbed a ‘notch’ – at the top of the tall 6.1-inch near-edge-to-edge screen that’s used to house vital components, including the 24MP front-facing camera, and there’s a small lip at the bottom.
And it’s here that the Huawei P20 Pro differs from Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus. Huawei decided to house a Home button in the dead space, which also doubles as a fingerprint reader if the handset’s face-recognition feature isn’t your cup of tea – though you do have the choice to the two in unison.
Flip the Huawei P20 Pro over and you’re greeted by its Leica-engineered tri-camera and an LED flash, as well as some modest Huawei and Leica branding. The shooter itself is mounted vertically on the upper-right side of the unit, instead of horizontally as found on the Huawei P10, for improved depth-sensing.
There’s a set of stereo speakers on the bottom of the Huawei P20 Pro, situated either side of the USB-C slot – and they sound good, delivering clear and rich audio at even the loudest of volumes. Noticeably missing is a 3.5mm headphone port – something to bear in mind if you’re not a fan of Bluetooth or adapters.
You’ll find the volume rocker and power button on the right of the handset’s frame, both of which are constructed from cheap plastic. Pressing either of the keys not only feels tacky – the iPhone X, for comparison, has a set of weighted buttons – but also sends an ear-wrenching sound on a one-way trip to your ear canals.
Build quality is the best I’ve seen on a high-end smartphone to date. The handset is constructed from a mixture of strengthened glass and aluminium, with the former occupying the front and rear of the unit, and the latter the frame that holds everything in place – similar to what Apple did with the iPhone X.
Performance and battery
For all the strange and ambitious things that Huawei has been trying to get with the P20 Pro, things inside the phone are quite conventional. The P20 Pro includes the same Kirin 970 chipset (complete with neural processing units) compared to Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro last year, along with the same 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. Sorry, there are no microSD card slots here. It’s a very powerful package, but last year’s chipset is not as fast as the Snapdragon 845. The P20 Pro still has enough power to handle most tasks without sweating, and has led to my hectic daily multitasking with few problems. Do not expect impeccable performance when you leave those heavy games like PUBG, which has sometimes been hectic but not up to frustration.
In front of the software, P20 Pro runs Android 8.1 Oreo with the latest lighter version of the company’s EMUI interface. This slightly resized approach to software probably helps keep the phone at a respectable level. I would be honest, I hated EMUI and basically everything that meant. However, to my surprise, it is slowly but surely becoming a pleasure to use. As with many other interfaces on Chinese smartphones, everything seems a bit ‘exaggerated, with many features and complementary applications that remind us that we are far from the country of Android shares. Even so, there is the feeling that Huawei is trying to be more careful with the software it maintains on its phones. More problematic are some of the application problems I’ve encountered: Google Maps is sometimes piecemeal and unresponsive and I’ve heard that other units have trouble viewing Instagram stories.
One thing I really did not like is the neural processing unit of Kirin 970 or NPU. It does a lot of heavy computational work for the camera owner, but Huawei has said in the past that NPU could also help optimize the performance of a device. It sounds fantastic in theory; unfortunately, I did not have the phone long enough to see by myself. However, I had a good idea of the P20 Pro’s 4,000mAh battery. On average, a charge was enough to see the phone between 2 and 2.5 days of fairly constant use. You will notice a scam in battery life, if you use the camera a lot, it is probably the result of NPU from maximum speed when the whole phone overheats.
Huawei is dealing with its fair share of trouble in the US, but that doesn’t mean it forgot how to make a great phone. From build quality to design to camera performance, the P20 Pro is every bit a first-rate flagship smartphone. That doesn’t mean it lacks quirks, though: the AI powering its ambitious triple camera is a little overzealous at times, and since it uses a chipset from last year, the P20 Pro isn’t as outright fast as some devices we’ve recently tested. That said, its potent blend of style, solid software and a great camera experience make the P20 Pro one of the year’s great Android phones.