Huawei's Mate 20 Pro can get the ultimate flagship of the company of this generation, but the slightly lower grade of Mate 20 is still a phone worth considering on its own merits. It displaces a 1440p OLED display for a 1080p IPS panel, reduces camera resolution and loses both fingerprint sensor and laser-based face recognition. Still, for 20% less you have enough phone, undoubtedly a more attractive design and one of the best cameras in the Android world.
Sadly for most of our readers, it does not come to the US.
We revised the SKU 6 / 128GB on Midnight Blue, but the overall performance should be similar to the 4GB model.
Design, hardware, what's in the box
I think Mate 20 is a wonderful phone. While I would like to see the Twilight color version, the blue texture back glass in the model I was looking at was even more interesting than the majority of the boring black plates out there.
Like many flags of 2018, it's a glass and metal sandwich. Unlike his older brother, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 has no wireless charge. It's also a bit thicker than some recent phones at 8.3mm, but I enjoyed the extra fatigue.
It may not be in the position I prefer, but Mate 20 has a headphone jack on top, coupled with an IR blaster. The left side is empty, save the SIM holder, while on the right side there are volume and power buttons. At the bottom, you have a USB-C port and a low-trigger speaker that works with the Samsung-style stereo headset.
At the back, you have the three cameras along with the square-shaped flash that has been lifted from the glass. I'm not a fan of appearance, but that's not the end you usually look at. Below the camera is the fingerprint sensor – there is no in-display solution like Mate 20 Pro.
The Mate 20 features a 6.53 ", 2244 x 1080 IPS screen with a tear / aqueduct groove in the same vein as the OnePlus 6T, apparently it can reach over 800 nits and I had no problem using it outdoors.
Macro of the RGBW subframe matrix in the Mate 20 IPS table.
381 PPI seems to be on the low side, but it really does not bother me anything more than the pentile objects on many higher density OLEDs. This could be the result of the secret weapon on the screen Mate 20: It has an RGBW band layout for pixels. I have never used a phone with white sub pixels before, and it's probably a big part of why and how the screen can become so bright and it looks so sharp.
It was very difficult to take a picture of what the reduction had suffered.
There are recent OLED display problems in Mate 20 Pro where the panel produced by LG suffers a spontaneous failure after days or weeks of use, resulting in a dark and irregular screen. This should not be a problem with the non-pro Mate 20. The IPS screen was very smooth, with only a small very small bleed at a corner of my unit. As someone prone to be picky when it comes to screens, it was such a small flaw that I could easily ignore it.
Something is wrong with how the Mate 20 screen paints a color space in calibrated settings.
"Natural" (left) and "live" (right) color calibration. Note the odd shift with blue and magenta in "Natural". (Ignore the fate on the right picture, it is difficult to photograph these tests.)
I do not have the right material to do the precision tests, but the "Natural" color mode, which looks closer to the sRGB-calibrated space, has some odd behavior with some blue and purple shades. If Anandtech makes a review, we may have a detailed explanation, but in the meantime it is unfortunate.
The sticker is not included.
The phone comes with the basics: A warranty / instruction booklet, a clear TPU case, a cheap pair of headphones, a USB cable from A and Huawei's 22.5W "SuperCharge" wall-wart – EU case that the phone is not sold in the US. In pure spec, this SuperCharge system should be among the fastest you can get, and my battery was incredibly fast.
Software, performance and battery
I will not repeat every aspect of the phone software since we have already talked a bit about it in our Mate 20 Pro review. I do not find EMUI quite condemning, as did our British editor Scott, but I'm known for the adaptability of my software. Those coming from iOS may actually feel more in my house at EMUI from stock Android, in my opinion, and I was able to serve its shortcomings in about a week. Although I still prefer stocks or stocks, EMUI may be acceptable to the skilled.
Nevertheless, there were still some differences that felt like changes for the sake of change, which I could not force myself to get used to. For example:
- There is no tactile feedback when unlocking the phone.
- The shortcut of the camera by double-tapping the power button uses the volume down key (and must be activated separately in the camera application).
- Huawei seems to have broken compatibility with most third-party launchers.
- Security based on PIN causes an arbitrary six-digit length
- The DPI software is rounded so high that I can see every bit of JPEG on images or icons in most applications (and if you turn it to offset, some first-party apps seem strange).
Huawei's gesture navigation is also quite awesome, and the ongoing licensing dialogs for all Huawei's built-in crapware – some of which will feed you ads – were annoying.
Most launchers also did not work.
I also had some problems with T-Mobile telephony in the US. In more than one case, calls went straight to the voice mail, even though I had a sufficient signal, and sometimes I could not hear the person at the other end of the line after the answer. SMS messages have also been delayed occasionally, though disabling Wi-Fi and charging something via mobile data would usually take them out.
Performance was otherwise fantastic. I can not remember a single drop of shots or stuttering in my time with Mate 20, with one exception: the performance of Wi-Fi was periodically slow enough.
Mate 20 is powered by Huawei's Kirin 980, which is the first 7nm Android SoC and the first is based on ARM's A76 reference designs. I will skip the reference points (there's a lot there if you are interested), but in everyday use, the phone was among the fastest I've ever used. And best of all, the battery life with her was excellent.
In my regular use of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, two Google accounts that sync and light on social media, I was able to get 2-3 days between charges. This is still without the benefit of an OLED screen or dark subjects. Coming from the OnePlus 6T, which already had a long battery life, Mate 20's longevity was stunning.
Huawei's silicon is still magical.
Many people say that Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro can have a better camera than Google's Pixels. This is a matter of taste, but in many cases, I agree.
Left: Mate 20, correctly: Pixel3.
It has not always won my own comparisons, but Mate 20 pulls some extraordinary details into the difficult lighting conditions where Pixel 3 can not. Sometimes her colors are also a bit closer to reality. Like the Pixels, (and unlike some other phones) the images do not change into a greedy mess in a crop. Huawei is able to sharpen without excessive hole, keeping details.
Left: 1x zoom / 27mm, Medium: 2x zoom / 52mm, correctly: 10x zoom with software.
Having three different focal lengths / zoom available was also nice for those times when you just can not approach and do not want to worry about how confused the digital zoom always looks.
Left: Pixel 3 Super Zo Zoom, correctly: Mate 20 10x zoom.
That said, I think Google can have an advantage with "Super Res Zoom". To be fair, both effects of the zoom software are muddy, but the Pixel 3 takes some details from Mate 20, although Mate 20 has a stronger zoom in the end.
The greatest benefits of Mate 20 come out if you turn the camera application into "Pro" mode where you can have full manual control for everything from ISO to exposure and even manual focus. If you are a DSLR halo, it is very sweet.
My biggest complaint was that if you plan to use the "Photo" automatic mode, the results may vary wildly between shots. While Pixel 3 will give you the same results every time, Mate 20 tends to choose drastically different settings for exposure and white balance less than a second.
On average, I still prefer the results of Google's photo editing to Pixels, but the Mate 20's camera is easily at the same level. And with the added advantage of three different focal dimensions and manual controls, Mate 20 provides extra utility, Pixel 3 and 3 XL simply can not.
If you buy it?
Yes, but Mate 20 is not for everyone. Huawei's software will upset those who are used to storing Android – or even most other OEM ROMs like Samsung's experience. I hate the harp in the "non-inventory = bad" stereotype, but Huawei's Android changes are heavy, without a consistent or stochastic approach and at the expense of functionality in some cases. The software here is a clear compromise, though someone you can get used to and that could be absolutely beneficial if you come from iOS.
There are other aspects in which Huawei's flagship, not in favor, is striking the competition. Mate 20 has some of the most beautiful hardware I've ever seen in a phone bout. This is the first IPS Android device I've used without a chin – or rather, a chin so small and symmetrical to lose the name. In addition to the calibration that it has, I enjoy the screen and the industrial design is one of the best you can find on an Android phone.
Combined with a fantastic triple camera installation, Mate 20 (and the extension of Mate 20 Pro) is one of the best Android phones out there now, but only if you are willing to accept the vision of Huawei's myopic software.
Buy it if:
- A more flexible phone camera is a priority.
- You are outside the US.
- Software experience is not a major concern.
Do not buy it if:
- You are in the US.
- The software is important, and you prefer to store Android (or at least the biggest check).
- The starting price of 800 € is too high for you.
Where to buy:
United Kingdom (available only on contract) – Affordable Mobiles, Buymobiles.net, GoMobile
Germany – € 799 – Amazon.de
France – € 799 – Amazon.fr, Fnac
Spain – € 799 – Fnac.es, El Corte Inglés