Huawei Mate 20 Pro review

A powerful and eye-catching device, but is it enough of a step up from previous generations?

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Our Verdict

Huawei's most powerful phone to date, but not quite perfect.

Pros

  • Stylish design
  • Two-day battery life
  • Incredibly detailed screen
  • Next-generation camera

Cons

  • EMUI bloatware still an issue
  • Dodgy fingerprint scanner
  • Screen is a smudge magnet

With Huawei now firmly entrenched as one of the world's top phone makers (having displaced Apple as the second-largest shipment of devices earlier this year) the pressure is well and truly on the Chinese firm to live up to this new billing.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro (and its less powerful brother, the Mate 20) are the company's latest flagship releases as it looks to establish its place at the top of the market. Huawei has sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into R&D in the last few years as it looks to create something truly special, so could this latest device be it?

(Image: © Michael Moore)

Design

As the next step along Huawei's flagship device trail, the Mate 20 Pro takes inspiration from the company's past releases as well as its rivals to try and stand out from the crowd.

Like its predecessor, the Mate 20 Pro features a glass back and screen - although this device comes with a far larger notch that the P20 Pro, Huawei's last smartphone flagship, with the display now closely resembling that of Apple's iPhone X.

There's also a much more noticeable curve across its 6.39in front display. Despite that sounding rather large, Huawei has cut the bezels around the display to bare minimum, especially on the side of the screen, where apps and websites spill over to make usage more engaging that ever before.

The larger screen also means a more detailed 1440 x 3120 pixel display, which makes the Mate 20 Pro bright and detailed at all times - although this also proves to be an incredible fingerprint magnet, with our screen becoming smudged very quickly. 

This is quite an issue, as for the first time, Huawei has embedded the fingerprint scanner inside the display itself - meaning there may be a lot of initial fumbling for the sensor and then polishing of greasy fingerprints.

What really makes the Mate 20 Pro stand out from the crowd is the rear of the device, where you can find the company's latest design innovation - a Leica triple-lens camera. The striking arrangement places the three lenses and the flash in a square formation in a unique design that is pretty eye-catching - but we'll come to more on that later.

At 189g, the Mate 20 Pro is slightly heavier than the P20 Pro, but even this small gain is incredible given the bigger display and larger battery. It's still quite a pocket-bulger, but will fit inside a jacket pocket comfortably.

As with its predecessor though, the glass rear panel does mean that the Mate 20 Pro is somewhat slippery to hold, and once again we'd heavily recommend getting a grippier case for that extra level of safety.

(Image: © Michael Moore)

Hardware

Along with a boosted display and design experience, Huawei has also once again looked to imbue its latest flagship device with the company's most up-to-date and powerful hardware.

The Mate 20 Pro is powered by Huawei's newest Kirin 980 chip, which the company says is the world’s first 7nm AI chipset, as well as the first Cortex A-76 based CPU. This includes a new dual-NPU set-up to help boost AI performance on the device, with one unit taking care of tasks such as image recognition, and the other tackling more complex tasks such as video streaming, along with 6GB memory and 128GB internal storage

This all combines to make using the Mate 20 Pro a seamless experience, right from the moment you boot up the device, which starts in seconds. Browsing through menus and apps was smooth and fast, with the Mate 20 Pro easily able to handle running multiple apps and services at once, without overheating or signs of lagging.

Power is supplied via a huge 4,200mAh battery (an improvement on the 4000mAh unit in the P20 Pro) that Huawei says can easily supply two days of life, something we've seen on a regular basis in the weeks spent using the device. 

The Mate 20 Pro also features the latest version of Huawei's SuperCharge service, which is now able to provide 70 percent battery life from just 30 minutes of charging - a potential lifesaver if you're out and about and run out of juice.

We touched on the striking appearance of the quad-lens camera above, with Leica continuing its relationship with Huawei for the Mate 20 Pro. 

Included in the square-shaped set-up is a new ultra-wide angle 20MP sensor, allowing you to get even more in your pictures, alongside a souped-up 8MP telephoto lens for close-up aperture shots, and a 40MP main sensor, all of which combine to get you hyper-detailed images even in low light.

In short, the Mate 20 Pro has all everything you need for a great smartphone experience - especially on the inside.

(Image: © Michael Moore)

Experience

The Mate 20 Pro may be powerful on the isnide and great to look at - but how does it perform in day-to-day usage?

Once again, the device runs Huawei's EMUI software on top on Android 9.0 - and once again, there are some issues here. It's clear that Huawei is trying to cultivate a strong user base independent from Google's Android ecosystem, but the Mate 20 Pro comes pre-loaded with a large amount of tools and apps that are just unnecessary or simply not needed. 

The company deserves credit for trying to go its own way with services such as health-tracking and proprietary music and video platforms, but these will most likely be quickly filed away into a separate folder. Luckily, Huawei has provided a wide range of customisation options, allowing users not just the opportunity to create folders and move files easily, but also tailor the look of the displays through its Themes service. 

Elsewhere, though, all of Google's usual services are on offer, meeting instant syncing with G Suite and the Google Assistant, giving you speedy access to all of your files. 

In a similar vein, the fingerprint scanner in the Mate 20 Pro proved to be rather inaccurate and slow to react on multiple occasions, often taking two or three tries to detect and unlock the device. As most of us will be looking to quickly unlock and access our phone tens of times a day, this is a crucial flaw  - however the facial recognition alternative worked smoothly and could be a viable alternative.

As mentioned above, though, using the Mate 20 Pro on a daily basis (once it is unlocked at least) is a smooth and fast experience, and one that many other manufacturers could learn from.

(Image: © Michael Moore)

Verdict

There's no doubt that the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is a fantastic device - in fact there's more than a few compelling arguments to say it's the best Android device on the market today.

With a stylish, slimline design that's matched with superb hardware and day-long battery life, this is a hugely impressive device, and one that if you can get your hands on, you should. 

However the high price tag (£899 SIM-free) and proprietary memory system, as well as issues with EMUI and unreliable fingerprint scanning are undeniable - as is the nagging thought that the Huawei P20 Pro offers much the same proposition, but probably at a lower price.

There are still questions marks on the overall proposition, but if you're looking for an all-round smartphone titan, then the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the device for you.

The Verdict

4.5

out of 5

Huawei Mate 20 Pro review

Huawei's most powerful phone to date, but not quite perfect.