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Smartphone innovation for the past few years has revolved mostly around cameras, with brands recently shifting to dual rear lens for better results. However, in a totally new perspective, Huawei’s latest P20 Pro flagship smartphone tries to achieve even higher fidelity with its one more, triple lens rear camera setup. Through every flagship, manufacturers try to pack in at least one feature that sets the said smartphone apart from the rest. As for Huawei and its P20 Pro, the triple lens camera system is exactly that. In our detailed review discussion ahead, we will be taking the P20 Pro through its paces to see whether the smartphone really offers something truly unique or it is just an expensive amalgamation of party tricks.
Once Huawei’s P20 Pro finishes boasting that it does in fact carry three separate camera modules on the back, it quickly regains attention through its stunning color schemes and a large 6.1 inch display with a notch cut-out. Huawei has made sure that its P20 Pro is nothing short of spectacular in its design statement. While some might argue that the vertical camera placement on the back and overall shape is reminiscent of other modern flagships, the P20 Pro still manages to look quite unique especially in its unorthodox colors. Let us discuss more about the P20 Pro, divided into logical sections for easier reading, to see how it stacks up, right ahead.
Before we jump in to our discussion, lets get on-paper P20 Pro specifications out of the way:
For a full unboxing preview with our first impressions about the Huawei P20 Pro, read the following article: Huawei P20 Pro Unboxing.
P series smartphones have always been home to Huawei’s finest design and hardware. The P20 Pro being no exception, greets its users through a large 6.1 inch OLED display with a notch, to cut bezel size. Also on the front is a bottom chin which is home to the smartphone’s front facing fingerprint sensor. This design choice is a little bit unusual as at one side Huawei P20 Pro tries to cut out bezels by introducing a notch and on the other hand it is increasing bezels to fit its front fingerprint sensor. Presumably, as the notch has become a standard on premium flagships, the brand didn’t wanted to miss out and introduced it as a design element rather than out of sheer need. In our experience, users do prefer phones without notches so if P20 Pro shipped with equal bezels, it would not have been a problem.
Before moving on, the fingerprint sensor on the Huawei P20 Pro deserves some spotlight. In my experience of using multiple smartphones over the past years that utilize fingerprint mapping to unlock, P20 Pro’s sensors is by far the fastest one I have come across. With the phone locked and display powered off, you can immediately unlock the phone within milliseconds by just placing your finger. Further, the key factor here is, even if you just tap — remove your finger as fast you can once you place it — the phone will still recognize it and unlock itself, quite amazing!
Now, lets jump to the back which is the most happening place for the P20 Pro. The paint job is where things really start to kick off. As the whole smartphone chassis is made out of premium materials — glass for front and back encompassed in a stainless steel border — Huawei was able to pull of some unique looks. Our unit came in Midnight Blue finish which looked absolutely stunning. This blue color is a very subtle dark shade of blue in some lighting conditions whereas it changes to a bright blue in others, truly eye pleasing. You can also opt for an even more creative look with Twilight color option which features the same shade of blue as our unit but paired with a purple gradient at the bottom. For users who are into stealth looks, Huawei has them covered as well with its standard black color. Also, on the back, is one of P20 Pro’s most key hardware, the triple lens Leica camera system. P20 Pro fits each sensor in a vertical layout which is definitely a good design choice. We will discuss the camera system in much detail in its dedicated section right ahead. To finish off, there is a standard flash LED present on the rear as well.
As pointed out earlier, there is a stainless steel border which gels in the front and back. The border is curved out to make it easier for gripping. Predictably, due to glass and steel, the smartphone is quite slippery to hold. On the left edge, there are your standard set of buttons, power and volume control. To differentiate the power button, Huawei has slightly engraved it and painted it red. As for the right, you get your dual SIM slot. P20 Pro’s speakers are placed right on the bottom, flanking the USB type-C connector. An important factor to be noted is, there is no headphone jack. The top end, surprisingly, isn’t completely empty rather it features an IR blaster.
Internal hardware begins with the Kirin 970 chipset produced by Huawei that powers the P20 Pro. Surprisingly, the brand has stuck with the idea of shipping phones with its own silicon. Straight off, its no doubt, the 970 chipset is quite lacking when stacked head-to-head with a similar Qualcomm processor. However, the benefit here is a dedicated AI chip and better battery efficiency. Artificial Intelligence has been suited to play a vital role in the phone’s camera system along with other features as well. Further, to complete the package, P20 Pro comes with 128GB internal storage as standard along with 6GB RAM. Missing out is the microSD card support which, frankly, for most users is not needed anyways. Our unit also had dual SIM functionality — regional variants will vary. For a brief overview and just for the sake of it, attached ahead are synthetic benchmarks. As always, these are just numbers and don’t truly portray the real-life performance.
In recent times, smartphones usually come with either amazing hardware that yield the best results such as Samsung’s Galaxy S9 or unique software that overcomes any lack in hardware such as the Pixel 2. For the first time, Huawei P20 Pro tries to address it both ways. Featuring triple Leica cameras, P20 Pro has the highest total pixel count on a smartphone.
Technically, the camera setup consists of a main 40MP RGB sensor which is supported by a 20MP monochrome sensor and even further, an 8MP sensor with telephoto lens. If that wasn’t enough, these sensors are capable of some amazingly wide apertures — f/1.8, f/1.6 and f/2.4. Previously, brands were split between providing dual lens cameras that either improved the blur effect / portrait effect or telephoto zoom, P20 Pro is the very first phone that offers both. Huawei’s flagship includes a brand new Leica 3x telephoto lens that can be extended to 5x Hybrid Zoom.
Here are some sample photos taken at 1x, 3x and 5x zoom levels of the Huawei P20 Pro:
The hardware on its own is top of the line but Huawei went a step ahead and patched it with even better software. Through Kirin 970 processor, P20 Pro is able to identify 500 scenarios in 19 separate categories to select appropriate settings in order to deliver the best shot. Simply put, its Pro mode for beginners. The phone automatically varies between settings rather than leaving it to the user. All this is thanks to the smartphone’s Artificial Intelligence implementations. Further, AIS — Artificial Intelligence Stabilization — is another unique thing to P20 Pro. This allows the software to stitch in shots to make them look like they were taken on a tripod hence making way for long exposures without the use of a tripod. Lastly, there is a new 4D predictive focus onboard the smartphone. Using this, the smartphone can easily track fast moving objects without any hesitation or user input.
These technical insights were crucial as the images captured by the P20 Pro are stunning and are second to none in quite a few situations. You can take a look at the results in our gallery consisting of photos taken directly from the P20 Pro. These pictures are attached as captured by the phone with no modification.
We have a detailed review of the camera modes coming up soon, but in the meanwhile, here are some sample photos taken with the Huawei P20 Pro in our day to day use of the phone. As default, “Master AI” settings were enabled and each image has been processed automatically by the P20 Pro software. None of the images below have been modified, optimized or processed in any way.
And a few more…
If we count the phone’s front facing lens, P20 Pro is a 4 camera smartphone. Speaking of the front selfie camera, Huawei hasn’t skipped any corners on this as well. The front shooter is rated at a large 24 megapixels coupled with AI support. Beautification has been a standard for multiple Huawei smartphones but P20 Pro adds one extra AI-dependent functionality, referred to as 3D portrait lighting. This functionality can easily change the lighting conditions even after the photo is taken. All in all, the front camera is overshadowed by the main setup’s capabilities but that is the case for all smartphones so no grievances here.
As a 2018 flagship, P20 Pro has all the bells and whistles that users have been accustomed to. Key specifications that need to be mentioned straight ahead include 128GB base storage and 6GB RAM. Further, the smartphone also ships with dual SIM functionality but skips on microSD card support. For main communication from the P20 Pro, there is only a USB type-C slot — . Deleted is the standard 3.5mm headphone jack which is a decision that hasn’t gotten much positive feedback. Further, surprisingly, there is an IR blaster on top. In our tests, you can easily configure this sensor to act as a remote for all your home appliances or any other devices which receive input in the form of an Infrared signal.
Behemoth is a word quite fitting for the battery module on the P20 Pro. 4,000mAh capacity of electric charge is on-board Huawei’s flagship which will get power users throughout their whole day and even then some. Decisions such as these really do make consumers feel like their feedback is being considered. Slim route might make for astonishing designs but a thicker chassis makes way for astonishing battery times. Our usage easily lasted for over one day with a screen on time of 7-8hrs on each charge.
Tying it all in is P20 Pro’s software. Based on Android 8.1 Oreo, P20 Pro comes equipped with EMUI 8.1. The feature set of Huawei’s skin is focused primarily on customization options. Evident by hide notch functionality built-in, the brand leaves it to the user as to how they want to set everything. However, excessive options do make the experience slightly cumbersome for first time EMUI users.
For Android users, a key thing to consider is long-term software support. Huawei’s track record in this department has been quite good. Recent additions by Google in Android’s source code such as Project Treble, which P20 Pro supports, will make it further easier for future updates.
An essential differentiating factor for each Android manufacturer is the set of proprietary apps it offers and as for Huawei, the list is quite strong. We have detailed some of the prominent ones right below.
Default bundled Huawei P20 Pro Apps and Features: