The Mate 20 Pro proves why Huawei is worthy of being in the big leagues

Date:17 October 2018 Author: Brendon Petersen Tags:, ,

Reviewing technology – especially phones – for a living means that I get lots of questions about what the best new device is, particularly when people’s cellphone contracts are ready for upgrade.

To answer the question, I usually ask the person exactly what they want to use the phone for – are you interested in great battery life, an amazing camera, a large screen, a headphone jack – and then I ask what compromises they’re willing to live with, after all no phone is perfect.

 

This could all change thanks to Huawei. The company has just unveiled the Mate 20 series – the standard Mate 20 with a waterdrop notch and a rear mounted fingerprint scanner, the Mate 20 Pro which looks like the lovechild of a Samsung Galaxy S9 and an iPhone X (in the best possible way) and has an under display fingerprint scanner, the Porsche Design Mate 20 RS which really is the most exorbitant smartphone I’ve seen in ages complete with a leather back, and the Mate 20 X which has a 7.2-inch display and works with an M-Pen stylus (this thing is basically a tablet, after all the iPad Mini is just 0.5 inches bigger than the Mate 20 X).

 

In South Africa, we have the Mate 20 Lite which is currently on sale, with the Mate 20 Pro available for pre-order from 24 October until 31 October.

Neither the Mate 20, the Mate 20 X nor the Porsche Design Mate 20 RS will be headed to our shores.

 

I’ve been trying out the Mate 20 Pro since its launch yesterday and here’s what I think about it so far:

 

Design

 

At first glance, the Mate 20 Pro looks like the svelte Galaxy S9 but with an iPhone XS notch.

It’s beautiful no matter which way you look at it, from the large 6.4-inch display on the front, to the beautiful design on the back and the pop of colour that Huawei has used for the power button on the side.

Despite having the same size display as the Galaxy Note 9, the Mate 20 Pro is noticeably smaller and much easier to use one-handed making it feel like a breath of fresh air.

I love big phones because I like big screens, but even in the age of barely there bezels, handsets like the Note 9 are still somewhat cumbersome to use. Not so with Mate 20 Pro.

 

Camera

 

When images of the Mate 20 series started leaking, I found the square camera setup on the back of the handset to be rather unattractive. Having used the phone, I can say that the square setup is much more attractive in real life than in the images you’ve seen so far.

 

In terms of performance, Huawei’s previous cameras – made in partnership with Leica – have set the standard for smartphone photography and the Mate 20 Pro doesn’t disappoint (head over to @popularmechanicssa on Instagram to see how the Mate 20 Pro compares to the Galaxy Note 9).

Huawei has removed the monochrome sensor and replaced it with an ultra wide sensor which we’ve previously only seen on LG handsets.

This means that the triple camera setup now consists of a 40MP main lens, an 8MP telephoto lens and a 20MP ultra wide angle lens.

The company is also relying on AI – much like it did with the Mate 10 series and the P20 series – to optimise your photos, however this time it’s done more intelligently and the processing doesn’t over saturate images the way it did previously.

My personal preference though is to keep this mode disabled as any colour correction or touch ups that I’d like, can be done in an app like Snapseed or in Photoshop.

As expected, the Mate 20 Pro’s images are sharp and incredibly full of detail and outperform the Galaxy Note 9 I have on this trip.

 

Features

 

Companies usually like to throw around the words “innovative” and “new” at their launch events, but the devices hardly ever bring about new or innovative features.

The Mate 20 Pro is the exception.

 

Yes it has a notch, and I usually hate notches on smartphones, but the Mate 20 Pro changes that for me. It uses the notch to include Face ID like technology which scans your face to unlock your phone. It’s so fast that I often find myself wondering if I’ve actually locked the phone at all, or I wonder why the underglass fingerprint scanner isn’t unlocking my phone (which has already been unlocked by the facial recognition software).

 

The Mate 20 Pro is the first smartphone from a major OEM to bring an underdisplay fingerprint scanner to the market.

Is it perfect? No, but that’s also because Huawei set the standard for fingerprint scanners and no other manufacturer has ever managed to reach the speed and precision that Huawei has achieved.

The underdisplay fingerprint scanner only works in specific part of the lower half of the display and doesn’t always recognise your fingerprint if the display – or your finger – is wet, and it’s just fractionally slower than a traditional fingerprint scanner.

Having said that, this is by no means a bad piece of technology. It works incredibly well for such a new piece of technology, I only notice the miniscule delay because I’m used to looking out for things like that, but the average person will love the technology and won’t be able to go back to anything else. In fact I’ve picked up the Galaxy Note 9 and instinctively placed my finger on the display and then gotten annoyed when the phone doesn’t unlock, that’s how fats you adapt.

 

Another feature that blows me away is the new 40W SuperCharge.

The 4200mAh battery on the Mate 20 Pro lasts for what feels like forever, but when it does finally die, getting 70% charge in 30 minutes is ridiculous.

This is thanks to that 40W SuperCharge, and yes, unlike certain companies, Huawei included the 40W charging brick in the box.

According to Huawei, the Mate 20 Pro also has 15W Wireless SuperCharge, which is faster than any other device you can buy, however I haven’t had the opportunity to try it out.

What I have tried is Reverse Wireless Charge.

If you, or a friend, has a phone that supports wireless charging and it needs some juice but you don’t have a cable or your powerbank is dead, you can use the Mate 20 Pro to wirelessly charge the other device.

You’ll need to enable to functionality in the battery settings on the Mate 20 Pro, but once you’ve done that, all you do is place the phone that needs charging on the back of the Mate 20 Pro and watch it charge.

It works flawlessly.

My Note 9 was dying after extensive use, but I didn’t have time to charge it, so I grabbed the Mate 20 Pro and used it to charge my Note 9 while I was out and about.

 

Overall, my initial impressions of the Mate 20 Pro are simple – it’s the best smartphone you can buy.

Yes, the Nano SD card option is a bit unusual and I’m not sure if creating a proprietary SD card system is a great long term idea, nor am I a fan of the actual look of EMUI (which is cleaner than previous iterations) but those are minor things when you have a phone that brings you pretty much everything you could want in a flagship: great design, massive display in a small body, class leading camera, impressive battery life, IP68 rating and useful innovations.

 

The Mate 20 Pro is the phone to beat this year (even if it has no 3.5mm headphone jack) and you’re definitely going to want one.

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