Huawei P20 Pro Hands-on review: the three-eyed monster

 

Huawei has enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence in recent years, and it should continue like this. But after the P10, which was a rather modest development, an impressive new flagship is needed. This is exactly what the Huawei P20 Pro, the top model of the new P series, is supposed to be. We’ve already managed to get our hands on the device to give you our first impressions.

Huawei P20 Pro release date and price

Right now, we only know about the European price of the Huawei P20 Pro, which is a cool 899 Euro. That’s a lot of money, but still a little less than Apple and Samsung demand for their top smartphones. 

Given the suspicion with which Huawei is viewed by the US Government and security services, it remains doubtful whether this impressive device could land stateside. If it doesn’t make it, American Android fans may miss out on something quite special. You can read more about the troubles between US carriers and the brand here. Most recently, Best Buy announced that they will stop selling Huawei devices.

Huawei P20 Pro design and build quality

The design trends for smartphones in 2018 are clear: narrow display edges, chic glass surfaces, metal frames – and the infamous notch, that gap in the upper display, which makes a fuller screen possible. Huawei follows all these trends with the P20 Pro, including the notch, which divides smartphone fans into two camps. A question of taste at the end, which every potential customer has to answer for themselves.

On the back of the Huawei P20 Pro you can see two innovations. One is the camera. For the first time, Leica has three lenses that are arranged vertically – or horizontally when shooting in landscape format. The second innovation is the new color Huawei has in its range. The P20 Pro shows itself in a shiny yet discreet purple, which shimmers greenish when tilted. Sounds a bit like a strikingly painted car from the tuning scene, looks the same, but less flashy, but actually quite modern and chic. Of course, there are also more subtle, boring color variations.

In comparison with the P10, some may prefer the glass finish of the new P20 series, some may not. In our opinion the P20 and P20 Pro offer much more than their predecessors without a doubt, in terms of design and everything else.

AndroidPIT huawei p20 pro back shiny 2cbu With this color, which has to be seen in real life, you’ll stand out everywhere. / © AndroidPIT

As chic as the design is and as eye-catching as the color is, there’s no other way than to think ‘this is copied from the iPhone X‘. And yes, indeed, the optical design of the P20 Pro does not look particularly original – on the contrary. The notch, the orientation of the camera, the shiny metal frame, the glass surfaces – all this gives the impression as if Huawei had taken a close look at the competition from Apple. What a pity, because the Chinese manufacturer had recently shown with the attractive Mate 10 Pro, for example, that it has the ability to create an independent design – why not here as well?

Perfectly finished and well equipped

Speaking of “ability”: Huawei can undoubtedly build hardware and integrate it excellently, and the manufacturer also shows this with the P20 Pro. The workmanship is great and the pre-series devices appear without fault. The Huawei smartphone looks high-quality and as if from a single mould, we could find nothing to criticize.

AndroidPIT huawei p20 pro front back 2cbu The Huawei P20 Pro with a trendy notch in the display. / © AndroidPIT

This is largely true of the Huawei P20 Pro, which is worthy of a flagship. The Kirin 970 from Hisilicon is with 6 GB enormously powerful, the memory with 128GB is more than enough. It’s just a pity that the P20 Pro isn’t compatible with a memory card. Sure, the 6.1-inch display has “only” FHD+ resolution, but the 2,240 x 1,080 pixels are perfectly sufficient to display everything in pin-sharp detail. In addition, the slightly lower resolution saves electricity compared to QHD. With the 4,000 mAh battery, the endurance should also be good. LTE Cat.18, Gigabit Wi-Fi, Bluetooth with aptX HD, Dolby Atmos, USB-C – there is hardly anything to complain about. The omission of the 3.5-millimeter jack plug corresponds to the spirit of the times. The fingerprint sensor is a bit narrower than the P10, but still has its place under the display.

Triple camera: welcome to the age of computational photography

One thing is certain: a camera like the one installed in the Huawei P20 Pro has not yet been seen by the world. The Triple-Clip gives an interesting view of the future of photography.

“Light Fusion Camera” is a name that sounds a bit like marketing nonsense at first, but there is an exciting truth in this: according to the manufacturer, the smartphone always “merges” the information from all three camera modules to create the photo in any situation. And the three modules couldn’t be more different.

AndroidPIT huawei p20 pro laser autofocus 2cbu A main camera with 40 megapixels and three lenses has never been seen before. / © AndroidPIT

At the top of the corner is a 12MP sensor with a telephoto focal length of 80mm in 35mm equivalent and an initial aperture of f/2.4. Two wide-angle modules follow below: In the middle is an RGB sensor with 40MP resolution and f/1.8. Between the lenses there is an active laser auto focus with transmitter and receiver, and a flash with its own color temperature sensor to adjust the flash to the ambient light.

AndroidPIT huawei p20 pro 5x zoom 2cbu Up to 5x zoom is possible. / © AndroidPIT

The bottom line for the user is a camera with 5x hybrid zoom, which shoots 10MP photos on the factory settings – with up to ISO 51,200. The image quality should remain comparatively stable even when the fivefold zoom is fully extended. If you want, you can also increase the resolution to 40MP. In 10MP mode, the merged pixels should have an edge length of two microns, which is remarkable for a smartphone. Unfortunately, Huawei didn’t tell us the manufacturer or any more details about the individual sensors.

As with the Mate 10 Pro, the NPU built into the Kirin 970 should also help the photographer in the P20 Pro. According to Huawei, an image analysis with 30 fps is constantly running on the chip and then recognizes motifs in real time. The camera app then intelligently adapts the range of functions. For example, if a landscape photograph is detected, it shows a spirit level, or a subframe for a group photo. Huawei also wants to improve the autofocus – at least at the first try the object tracking makes a quite good impression.

AndroidPIT huawei p20 pro portrait mode 2cbu Portraits are the focus of the P20 Pro. / © AndroidPIT

I really liked the feature of being able to make long exposures without a tripod. The P20 Pro stabilizes up to eight-second handheld photos. At least it worked quite well at the first test – but we couldn’t watch the shots on a big screen. 

Furthermore, the 2018 obligatory 960 fps video mode with 1280 x 720 pixels for Huawei is still on board. Huawei records a 2.25 second video snippet with the first and last full second recorded at 30 fps, and in between 0.25 seconds at 960 fps. During playback, this results in a ten-second clip with exactly eight seconds of super slow motion in the middle.

At least on paper, Huawei has all the prerequisites to compete with Samsung, Apple and more when it comes to cameras. Expectations have been raised – now Huawei must deliver.

AndroidPIT huawei p20 pro front 2cbu The Huawei P20 Pro comes with Android 8 Oreo. / © AndroidPIT

Current software with (hopefully) timely updates

The Huawei P20 Pro comes with the latest Android 8.0 Oreo and its own EMUI 8 interface. The manufacturer’s take on Android is always a matter of taste. Huawei still doesn’t manage to make its own interface look as modern and chic as pure Android. On the other hand, the look can be adjusted with themes and alternative launchers. Huawei does not yet have its own voice assistant like Samsung’s Bixby, but there is no need for one.

By the way: Huawei is represented with some models in Google’s enterprise program, so the P20 Pro will probably be there soon. This is actually irrelevant for private customers, but indirectly brings the advantage of a reliable update supply. Huawei must ensure this in order to stay in the financially lucrative program. The Huawei P20 Pro should therefore enjoy good support from Huawei.

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