huawei mate 20 pro review

It’s been a month since I went along to Huawei’s briefing event in London to check out the Mate 20 Pro. A short while after I got my hands on the phone and I’ve been using it ever since. Around the same time, I got the Google Pixel 3XL, so it made sense to me to compare the two. However, this is not that comparison. Instead, this is what I think of Huawei’s latest smartphone; the Mate 20 Pro.

Design of the Mate 20 Pro

Jesus Marty. You’re not going to buy us dinner first? Straight in with the design! It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt a smartphone which feels as premium as the Mate 20 Pro. Wait, actually I tell a lie. I’ve never felt a smartphone feel this premium because it reminds me of the Nokia E63. It’s a solid block of aluminium and, as mad as it might sound, you can literally feel that every millimetre of space within the phone’s casing had been jam packed with tech and innovation.

huawei mate 20 pro NYC

The Mate 20 Pro’s screen flows over the edge of the handset and, thanks to some clever innovations, you’re given a ridiculous amount of screen. These innovations include an in-screen fingerprint sensor, which allows the phone to run right to the end. Typically, you also have a notch, containing Huawei’s AI-powered facial recognition – recognition which can spot it’s me trying to access my phone, even if wearing glasses and a hat!

this is the sexist looking handset on the market right now

To look at, the Mate 20 Pro brings together the best from Samsung’s world and Apple’s world, while remaining typically Huawei at the core. All in all, this is the sexist looking handset on the market right now so don’t worry about your notches.

Making the Mate 20 Pro Incredible

Ok, so the design of the Mate 20 Pro is especially noteworthy, but what makes this so much better than other phones on the market right now? Some call it x-factor, others refer to va va voom while I’d argue its what make Austin Powers’ mojo so valuable. Whatever it is, the Mate 20 Pro has in buckets.

I’m not sure there’s a single feature that makes me giddy with excitement. Instead, Huawei seems to have rounded every corner of every feature to transpose one of the best phones on paper into reality.

4200 mAh of Power

Until now, two-day phones have been a myth. I’ve managed to make the Mate 20 Pro survive for over 38 hours in one run. Is that truly two full days? No, but when I remember that I’m quite a heavy user with wireless headphones and a wearable constantly connected, I can only assume the 4200 mAh battery, combined with AI-assisted power management and the latest Kirin 980 processor, means the Mate 20 Pro could hit a full two days for many.

And then things get a little bit wild.

Charging Innovations

Huawei developed the Mate 20 Pro to utilise wireless charging; hardly too innovative there. Then they went further. Safe in the knowledge that Mate 20 Pro users will have oodles of excess battery power when they’re out and about, Huawei also built in Reverse Wireless charging. Once activated, you simply place a phone on the back of the Mate 20 Pro that supports wireless charging and it’ll be able to piggyback on that 4200 mAh battery.

Huawei, you are audacious.

Finally, Huawei lobbed a Supercharger in the box too. That’s a 45-watt charger that, when plugged in, you can literally see the power filling up the Mate. Remember, when Apple ships their latest range of smartphones to you, high-wattage fast chargers are an optional extra.

Unlocking Potential

I think the first thing most tech nerds want to do when they get a phone like the Mate 20 Pro is to play with the techiest feature its got. For the Mate 20 Pro, that’s just got to be the in-screen fingerprint sensor. While the sensor is a little bit on the small side, I’ve had no trouble using it at all. My first reaction to seeing the Mate 20 Pro adopt both AI-powered facial recognition and in-screen biometrics was “this is total overkill”. However, since using this phone for a while, I do see the benefits of both unlock methods.

Usually, when I pick the phone up, it’s already unlocked by the time my finger makes it to the sensor location. Some of the apps I use most regularly, notably LastPass, doesn’t recognise the face unlock built into the Mate 20 Pro, so I genuinely need both biometric options.

While on the topic of LastPass; this is something I’ll be writing a review and guide on very soon. I don’t know many of my passwords anymore. Seriously, I’ve no idea what my Facebook password is or what I should be using to log into Twitter. LastPass manages all of those for me, which is more secure. The really cool thing is that Huawei actually built in a password manager into the Mate 20 Pro.

So please do consider starting to do this. Leaks, hacks and misuse of data has become more common. Protect yourself.

A Camera of Epic Proportions

Huawei’s P20 Pro blew the camera smartphone market apart. Samsung launched the Galaxy S9, leaning heavily on their camera, completely unaware that Huawei was barreling towards them from the shadows with the best smartphone camera on the market. The Chinese phone maker didn’t just claim this and hoped it stuck though. The P20 Pro still sits atop the DxOMark scoreboard with a rating of 109, five points ahead of the Apple iPhone XS Max.

Unfortunately, the Mate 20 Pro has yet to receive its DxOMark score, but I just can’t see it not surpassing the P20 Pro. As impressive as that camera is, the Mate 20 Pro is just stunning.

The unique four-quadrant triple lens array on the back contains a 40MP wide angle lens, a 20MP ultrawide-angle lens and an 8MP telephoto lens with five-time optical zoom. Remember when the world lost its collective mind for the Nokia Lumia 1020 with a 41MP camera? This thing replaces that as king of the bonkers.

What blew me away was how dramtic the ultrawide angle lens really is. At the press briefing, it just didn’t come to life for me. However, taking it out onto the streets of New York City changed my opinion on that:

I’m not looking forward to leaving #NYC. When I was younger, I fawned over the States. Couple of months J1ing on the West Coast and seeing the political sitch here coloured what I thought of the place. After spending the week here, safe to say I’ve fallen in love with the #BigApple – even a few drops of rain couldn’t take away from this city. In fact, they made have led to my shot of the trip. The place was so chill throughout that shocking bomb scenario too. I’ve heard people mention the NYC calm, but witnessing it first hand is something else. Still a few things to do on my to do list, so I’ll have to come back for sure. ….. Shot on the @huaweimobileie #mate20pro Also thanks to @anker_official for a cracking night at #ankeronboard And of course, to @neuberlaura for putting up with me all week. My fellow foodie bandit.

A post shared by Martin Meany (@peameany) on

On top of the ultrawide angle lens, the Mate 20 Pro has moved on from the AI-assisted photo and video capturing, leveraging every last drop of the Kirin 980 chip to help you take smarter shots.

the Mate 20 Pro just leaves me reeling

I really don’t want to get into a comparison war here, but the Google Pixel 2 was considered one of the best smartphone cameras by top tech reviewers; unfortunately, I never got my hands on it. I did, however, have the Pixel 3XL in New York and here’s how they compared:

Fair enough, the Google Pixel 3XL is working off of one camera lens and lots of software, but Huawei combines hardware and AI to deliver obviously better video. Don’t get me wrong, the Pixel 3XL is damn impressive, but the Mate 20 Pro just leaves me reeling; literally. See what I did there.

A Few Annoyances

When you go all in and switch over to a phone as your daily rider, it’s impossible to not pick up on some minor annoyances. The Mate 20 Pro, for all its glory and practical perfection, does drop the ball in one or two areas.

Why No Expansion?

I’m getting a little bit greedy here as it’s not that long ago that standard iPhone memory capacity was 16GB with no hope of expanding. The Mate 20 Pro comes with 128GB memory build in. That’s grand, plenty in fact. However, I find it a bit odd that there’s no option for memory expansion.

Now, did I run out of space yet? No, but this thing takes such great photos and video that I shoot more. It’s going to fall victim to its own greatness and fill up quicker than most phones would.

Perhaps Huawei, in an effort to cram in all this innovation and quality did have to make some compromises after all…

Not Quite So Sound

Well rounded and as incredible as the Huawei Mate 20 Pro might be, there’s one element I just wasn’t a fan of. The speaker.

Huawei opted to squeeze the speaker into the charge port of the Mate 20 Pro. As I mentioned earlier, you can feel how solid the phone is and as a result also get a fair idea just how crammed with tech this phone really is. As a result, I feel Huawei may have had a gathered around the design table at some stage to admit defeat and accept a compromise on the speaker in return for a fuller screen.

On a personal level, this doesn’t bother me too much. I listen to RTÉ in the mornings while showering and I’m afraid with the Mate 20 Pro I’m going to have to look at a speaker or something. But if you’re hoping to have a phone you can drop in the corner and have it blaze ambient tunes throughout the room, and for you this is a massive feature, you’re better off looking at something like the Google Pixel 3XL. I can’t, however, imagine many people but that much weight in speakers.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro: The Verdict

This is the phone of 2018. Did I say that about the P20 Pro too? I can’t remember – if I did, I’ll have to take it back. While Huawei is going for a dual-flagship approach and they don’t want the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro competing with each other, I’m not sure, with money aside, why you wouldn’t pick the Mate 20 Pro. It’s the Ferrari of smartphones. Luxury design and incredible functionality combined to deliver almost, oh so very close it was, perfection.

Do I feel disappointed in how close Huawei came to perfection? Not really. The Mate 20 Pro might actually be perfect. I’m just not sure I’m ready to accept we’ve reached that point just yet.

Bonus: It’s Pronounced Wah Way

Everyone, come on in. Gather around. We’ve got to cover this. I’ve been waiting for this for years. Samsung and Apple started to bore the hole off me, all the while I could see Chinese brands doing mad things, mad things we were allowed join in with. But now they’re here.

Xiaomi recently launched their range in Ireland and that night I learned it’s pronounced “shower me” without the “r” in shower. So it’s kinda like shau me…get it?

Well, for everyone who’s been around these phones for a while, you’ll have heard a range of pronounciations for Huawei too. Even as you read that there, you may have struggled a bit right? Believe it or not, we’re off to a fellow Kilkenny man to learn how to pronounce a bit of Chinese. What a time to be alive – take it away Senan…

Yep, it’s pronounced wah way. Simples.

Buy the Huawei Mate 20 Pro

In years gone by, I’m not sure the likes of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro would have reached our shores. This year has seen Huawei launched category best smartphones along with Xiaomi and Google officially entering the market too. It’s an exciting time to be shopping for smartphones so whether your contract is up or not, here’s how to pick yourself up a Huawei Mate 20 Pro:

Harvey Norman

Get the Huawei Mate 20 Pro from Harvey Norman stores for €1049, on sale 16 November. It’s worth noting that this is not only SIM-free but also a dual-SIM smartphone.

Three Ireland

The Mate 20 Pro is now on sale with Three Ireland, online and in-store. The phone starts at €389 up-front and €60 per month.

Vodafone Ireland

You can also pick up the Mate 20 Pro for €199 up-front on Vodafone’s €80 per month plan, of for €399 up-front on €60 per month.

Extra Bonus

Here’s what you get inside the box of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro:

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