Huawei Mate 20 Pro: If you can stomach the nagware and price, it may be Droid of the Year
Scrap the HiCrap and UI, and we'd have a winner
The Mate 20 Pro introduces Huawei's latest Kirin 980 chips, built on a 7nm process. Only Apple and Huawei (which both use TSMC) are using this most advanced production process as yet. Samsung surely will follow, it has its own fabs, and was reportedly bidding for the Apple A12 chip contract.
Every process leap should yield power and performance gains, and both are evident here. Huawei's 4,200mAh battery is a real champ, and consistently gave me two-day performance, or under very heavy use, some left at the end of a day. Performance is outstanding. For all the controversy about benchmarks, this is a great performer.
Huawei is also consistently the most impressive radio frequency (RF) performer I encounter – something almost becoming boring to report, but the mobile operators privately confirm it too: Huawei devices are the most reliable devices on their networks. It gains a signal quickly and holds it well. You can now use VoLTE on both SIM cards.
The directional mics have been a feature of Mates for a couple of years, and work well for recording meetings, or even trying to capture a voice or instrument outdoors. The RF performance alone should see Huawei on shopper's shortlists.
The breaking news here is really in the power department. Huawei finally puts wireless charging in a mainstream flagship, taking up to 15W. And the proprietary fast charging has been overhauled to supply 40W of power, so the big battery pack charges very quickly. Huawei claims 70 per cent can be replenished in half an hour, and it's not far off.
For all the complaints about the UI, the much better graphics engine in the Kirin 980 (using Arm's Mali A72 cores) and some under-the-hood optimisations have resulted in a snappy experience. Apps launch quickly, and performance shouldn't degrade as it traditionally does within weeks of acquiring a new Windows PC. Oops. I mean Android Phone.
Huawei's Mate 20 Pro is a generation ahead of its P20 Pro flagship, a phone that's barely six months old. I do sympathise if you bought a P20 Pro recently. For sure, there a £100 price difference between them, but the Mate 20 Pro is the more capable and pleasing of the two.
The Mate 20 Pro finally sees Huawei tick the empty box on the flagship checklist, with the addition of wireless charging. The beautiful hardware design is really top tier, and for sheer endurance it trumps all the immediate contenders. Purely as a phone, it's outstanding. And inside, there's a growing and impressive collection of technologies.
You may prefer the P20 Pro for its expandable storage (given that no NM cards can yet be bought) and superior navigation (to me, anyway) via the front-facing sensor, but the Mate 20 Pro earns its place at the table.
Huawei is no longer the plucky underdog and at £899, it isn't a bargain. And there's more to a phone than a collection of technology. There's support, where Google is failing very badly – see this thread – the ecosystem, and the software bundle. I gave a positive review to the Galaxy S8 for those reasons. While support is good, the phone's real failing here is an annoying user experience that's sadly getting worse for the nagware Huawei is introducing this year.
It's fully entitled to introduce its services, and these may be the greatest in the world. But the way they're thrust on you without explanation, and the bombardment never ceases, mars what would comfortably be the most interesting Android flagship of the year. OnePlus has mastered how to produce a restrained and tasteful Android UI, and I've been wondering how much better the Huawei would be with OnePlus's UI. With Oxygen, and without all the "HiCrap", I think there'd be no hesitating in crowning it the Droid champ. ®
|Mate 20 Pro|
|Display||6.39" curved OLED 19.5:9 HDR display 2K+ (1440x3120)|
|Chipset||CPU: Kirin 980, 2x Cortex-A76-based @2.6GHz 2x Cortex-A76 @1.92GHz 4x Cortex-A55 @1.8GHz. GPU: Mali-G76 720MHz|
|Software||Android Pie 9.0, EMUI 9|
|Camera||Leica Triple Camera: 40MP (wide angle 27mm, f/1.8) 20MP (ultra wide angle 16mm, f/2.2) 8MP (3x telephoto 80mm, f/2.4, OIS)|
|RAM/Storage||6GB+128GB (Max expandable memory: 256GB via nano memory card). Front camera: 24MP (f/2.0, FF)|
|Dimensions||157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6mm; Weight: 189g|
|Power||4200mAh (40W Huawei SuperCharge), Wireless charging up to 15W, reverse wireless charging.|
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