Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphone test: a concentrate of technology

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Lluís Enric Mayans
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After Apple with its iPhone XS and Google with its Pixel 3, it's Huawei's turn to present its end-of-year novelties. And the manufacturer is not there for fun, as evidenced by the Mate 20 Pro, a mobile sold for €999.

Presentation

Now firmly established on the podium of the largest smartphone manufacturers in the world alongside Samsung and Apple, Huawei does not stop looking to shake up its rivals. The proof with its latest ultra-high-end smartphone, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, which clearly has the Galaxy Note 9 and the iPhone Xs Max in its sights.



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The 6,4" almost edge-to-edge screen of the Mate 20 Pro

Six months after the presentation of the P20 Pro, Huawei is therefore returning to the forefront with a smartphone sold for €999 and which seeks to offer all the latest cutting-edge technologies: 6,4 "Oled edge-to-edge screen, facial recognition, sensor of fingerprints under the screen and, of course, 3 photo sensors. Huawei seems to have built a device without concessions.



Ergonomics and design

From the front, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is a cross between a Galaxy S9 and an iPhone Xs Max. The curved screen in 19,5: 9 format is reminiscent of the Korean manufacturer's phone, while the imposing notch which houses the facial recognition mechanism is reminiscent of the headed mobile. But if the features of the phone are not the most original, it is undeniable that the whole gives off a real impression of luxury and seriousness. The phone and its screen – which occupies almost 90% of the front face – immediately stand out as a little technological gem – at the same time, at €999, it was better.


Some versions are entitled to a micro-ribbed back which slips less in hand.



From the back, the telephone is not a treasure trove of inventiveness either. The black and blue hulls are just large rectangles of glass whose only oddity is to accommodate this imposing "photographic island" which houses the three cameras. The green and midnight blue versions have a little more character thanks to the micro-striations present on their backs. In addition to lending a little differentiating touch, this detail allows the device to be less slippery than other versions. 


The lower edge of the Mate 20 Pro with its SIM/memory card drawer.

Where Huawei is strong is that the device may be very large with its 6,4-inch screen – and therefore unusable with one hand – but it does not seem too massive in hand. It is rather light (only 189 g) and quite thin (8,9 mm). In short, Huawei has given birth to a well-built, well-finished and pleasant mobile in the hand. And if the design is not the most inspired, this is really one of its only weak points.

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Technically, the phone is almost flawless. It has a USB-C port, supports wireless charging — and can even wirelessly charge another phone — and has room for two SIM cards. The only problem is that for design reasons – according to Huawei – it is not possible to accommodate a microSD card in the device. If you want to expand the memory, you will have to opt for an NM card, a format specific to Huawei. 



The imposing notch of the Mate 20 Pro.

Before closing this part, let's take a moment to look at the biometric unlocking mechanisms on board the Mate 20 Pro. Unlocking by facial recognition here is extraordinarily fast and precise. It must be said that the phone is not based only on the front camera, but on a set of sensors very similar to those found on the latest generation iPhones. As a result, most of the time, you will barely have time to hold the phone up to eye level when it will already be ready to be unlocked. The only downside is that you will still have to swipe your finger to access your desktop, which necessarily wastes a little time. 


The fingerprint sensor under the screen.

And of course, for all those times when you just want to peek at your phone while it's on the desk, you can use the in-display fingerprint sensor. Semi-new from Huawei – Oppo had done it with its R17, a phone that did not come out with us – this new technology does not work too badly. The precision is there and the “button” is ideally placed. But compared to “traditional” fingerprint sensors, unlocking takes significantly longer. It will therefore be better to mix the two biometric solutions to gain speed. We salute all the same the risk taken by the manufacturer which makes it possible to find the ease of use of the fingerprint sensor on the front without compromising on the compactness of the phone. All in an elegant and resolutely futuristic setting.

Screen

Huawei had already proven its mastery of Oled technology on the P20 Pro, so it's not very surprising to find an almost perfect screen on this Mate 20 Pro. Yes, because in addition to having a panel that takes up most of the screen, Huawei has also done a nice job of calibrating it.

Delta E colorimetry = 1,8

By default, the phone displays bright colors and a slightly bluish white. Lovers of more neutral tones will not be left out, however, since once the “normal” color mode and the “warm” temperature have been chosen in the parameters, the delta E drops to 1,8 and the temperature to 6530 kelvins. Two values ​​very close to colorimetric "perfection".

Readability issue, no problem. Set to automatic mode, the brightness can go up to almost 700 cd/m² and go down to 1,7 cd/m². Whether in broad daylight or in the dark, the screen of the Mate will always be able to adapt. The anti-reflective treatment is also very effective. Combine that with “infinite” contrast – thank you Oled – and you get a screen that remains readable in all circumstances.


The Mate 20 Pro's display has slightly curved edges.

Finally, in use, the tactile delay measured at 74 ms is not even noticeable, and the definition of the screen (3 x 120 px) is more than enough to navigate with comfort. In short, it's a no-fault for Huawei which, with this Mate 1 Pro, comes a little closer to what Samsung and Apple can do.

performances

The Mate 20 Pro features Huawei's latest in-house chip, the Kirin 980. The 7 nm engraved chip features an octa-core processor, two chips dedicated to artificial intelligence and is accompanied by 6 GB of RAM. Suffice to say that all these beautiful people offer an impeccable user experience where a slowdown is never felt. Juggling between apps is a real pleasure.


Mate 20 Pro heats up after 10 minutes of 3D gaming.

Even with this abundance of power, the Mate 20 Pro knows how to keep a cool head, since we never find peaks beyond 37 ° C on the surface. Not enough to cook your fingers, whether playing games or chaining photo sessions.

Needless to say, the phone is a real monster when it comes to video games and allows you to play all Android titles with unfailing fluidity and impeccable graphics. A real war machine.

Audio

Like all smartphones without a mini-jack port, the tests we do focus on the quality of the supplied adapter. And that of the Mate 20 Pro turns out to be a good surprise. Once the Dolby effects are deactivated, you can enjoy a powerful and clean signal and a wide and well-defined soundstage. An impeccable listening experience when you have headphones screwed on your ears.

On the speaker side, Huawei has made an atypical choice integrating its own … at the USB-C socket. Rest assured, very slight notches are cut to let the sound through when a cable is plugged in. On the other hand, we necessarily stifle the signal with our hand when we grab the phone in landscape mode.


You can see above the slight notch that lets sound through, even when a cable is plugged in.

This concession, probably made for design reasons, is slightly detrimental to the sound experience since the bass is sacrificed (component size requires) and the sound suffers from a slight distortion at full volume. That said, thanks to this trick and the call speaker, the Mate 20 Pro is able to reproduce a stereo signal. We can at least salute the engineering effort.

Photo

This year Huawei has changed its photo recipe by swapping its traditional black and white sensor for an ultra wide-angle. The Mate 20 Pro is therefore equipped with three cameras with focal length equivalents of 16, 27 and 81 mm (in 24x36). What to arm yourself to face all situations. We have already come back in length, breadth and crosswise to the performance of these zoom and wide-angle sensors in a dedicated article, but to sum it up, these modules perform in broad daylight and somewhat trip over the carpet when the light fails.

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It remains to be seen what the "standard" sensor is worth. Capable of capturing up to 40 Mpx, this camera takes photos in 10 Mpx by default thanks to the so-called "pixel binning" technique supposed to improve performance in low light. It is coupled with a lens capable of opening at f/1,8. But in practice, what is this camera worth? 

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Well, daytime is pretty good. Huawei's phone manages to render maximum detail, good contrast and colors to the hair. But the processing and the accentuation are too aggressive. Faced with a Pixel 3, which produces a softer and more natural result, the shots of the Mate 20 lose their luster. Each of the elements on the photo seems too reinforced. The white balance is however correct and the scene very homogeneous, with almost no loss of quality in the corners.

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At night, it's sadly the same story. If the phone manages to gather enough light to present a completely readable scene, the accentuation and excessive contrast spoil the party by delivering a completely artificial result. We certainly have the impression that the rendering of the Pixel is a little less sharp, but it is much more natural in reality. Let's be clear, the standard sensor of the Mate 20 is far from mediocre in the photographic art, the details are there, the white balance and the colors are well controlled, but on the software side, Huawei does not manage to stand up to the Google Pixel or Samsung Galaxy Note 9. 

But in addition to its three sensors, Huawei has also added a plethora of software options within its Mate 20 Pro. From the traditional "pro mode" (which allows you to have control over speed, exposure, etc.) to the rather successful portrait mode (if you do without "stage lighting") through the capture of video in sepia tones or with background blur, the device is packed with nice and fun features.

Video capture is also perfectly smooth, whether in Full HD or 4K UHD. The front sensor is doing well too, even if there is too much smoothing.


From left to right and from top to bottom: the flash, the “standard” sensor, the zoom and the ultra wide-angle.

In short, the Mate 20 Pro is a versatile and ready-for-all photophone that suffers from a lack of software optimization. Pity.

Autonomy

By fitting a 4 mAh battery in the rather slender body of the Mate 200 Pro, Huawei was putting the odds on its side to ensure the phone had competition autonomy. And we can say that it paid off since the mobile lasts almost two full days in moderate use. On our Smartviser home autonomy test, it lasted 20:16 p.m. before asking for its charger. Not far from the Galaxy Note 30 which is a benchmark in this area.

The Mate 20 Pro can also take advantage of this generous battery to give a boost to other phones with wireless charging compatibility. Indeed, Huawei has integrated Wireless Reverse Charging which allows the Mate 20 Pro to serve as a wireless charging base for other phones.


The Mate 20 Pro serving as a charging base...for another Mate 20 Pro.

Finally, with the plug provided in the box of the device, it is possible to fully charge the phone in just over an hour. A small feat to be credited to the charger capable of providing up to 40 watts. A power that will heat up your mobile.

Highlights

  • Very solid battery life and extremely fast charging.

  • Screen perfectly calibrated and readable in all circumstances.

  • Top performance.

  • Impeccable construction and finishes.

  • Effective facial recognition and in-screen fingerprint sensor.

  • Fully up-to-date Android.

  • Versatile camera...

Weak points

  • ...but with a photo quality not quite at the top.

  • Proprietary memory card format.

  • Speaker quality.

  • No mini jack.

Conclusion

Note globale

It's hard not to fall in love with this Huawei Mate 20 Pro. The Chinese manufacturer has managed to find a good balance between useful technological innovations, simple and effective design, and an abundance of power. This phone is a real pleasure to use day to day and having the fingerprint sensor under the screen quickly becomes a habit. Unfortunately, and despite all of Huawei's promises, the Mate 20 Pro fails to take the place of best photophone 2018. It is certainly extremely versatile thanks to its three modules with different focal lengths and its plethora of software options, but in raw quality, there is still a tiny bit of work to be done. That being said, the Mate 20 Pro remains one of the best phones of the year and undoubtedly a companion of choice for die-hard mobile users.

Sub Notes
  • Ergonomics and design
  • Screen
  • performances
  • Audio
  • Photo
  • Autonomy
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