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Review Roundup: Huawei Mate 20 Pro – The best smartphone you can’t buy in the USA

Let’s not forget that there’s a phone attached to that camera.

huawei mate 20 pro review roundup
Image: 9to5Google

Huawei’s had a bit of a rocky time recently, with security worries in high places. That said, they make pretty good handsets so let’s see how their latest offering fares on merit.

What is the Huawei Mate 20 Pro?

Huawei’s latest flagship from their sub-brand, Mate, the Mate 20 Pro comes with a newly-designed triple-camera system designed in partnership with Leica. It’s the first phone to use EMUI 9, which is based on Android 9 Pie, and it’s one of the first phones to feature an in-screen fingerprint sensor.

Reviews have been coming in over the last few days so here’s what’s being said:

Camera

Huawei realized people just weren’t using the monochrome sensor used in the P20 Pro that much, so they swapped it out for a 20MP wide-angle sensor. Now the combination of that, the 40MP main camera lens and the third 8MP telephoto lens should be able to create some stunning images.

Photography Blog states that “Huawei is pretty much the go-to name in smartphones these days if your main concern is the quality of the onboard camera(s). Images are very detailed, have fantastic colors and with three different focal lengths to choose from, it’s a very flexible option to have in your pocket. The ability to shoot in raw format, or to take control via the Pro mode, is also extremely appealing to enthusiast photographers.”

huawei mate 20 pro review roundup

Image: 9to5Google

Android Central also praised the camera, saying “[I’ve] never had this much fun with a smartphone camera.”

Battery Life

With a huge 4,200mAh battery, wireless charging and a trick – reverse wireless charging where it can recharge the second device, the Mate 20 Pro should be capable of some marathon usage. So is it?

The Verge‘s Vlad Savov gushed about the battery, saying “I’ve never known a phone to have a battery this big and yet feel this light and easy to use. Huawei is doing some marvelous power optimization work, too, because I can’t do anything to run down this battery quickly. Two hours of constant gaming in Alto’s Adventure cost me only 18 percent of the battery, which suggests I’d need a true marathon session to drain the phone completely.”

Android Authority also praised the battery, with some impressive screen-on times: “I routinely got more than 7.5 hours of screen-on time out of the Mate 20 Pro, with medium usage, auto-brightness on, Performance Mode off, and the dark UI theme. With heavier usage, including gaming, running benchmarks, and more YouTube streaming, I got between six and seven hours of screen-on time.”

Design

Wired.co.uk talks about how Huawei’s approach is “to pack it so full of new and innovative features, it seems almost empirically better than the iPhone XS and Samsung Galaxy Note 9,” going on to mention that it’s not evident on first picking the phone up as design basics have been “cribbed from Samsung” with a micro-etched finish on the glass that first showed up on a OnePlus device.

huawei mate 20 pro review roundup

Image: Pocket-lint

TechRadar talks about how “The top tier of the smartphone market requires differentiation, and Huawei chose to let its cameras do the talking. The Mate 20 Pro collects all three of its rear-facing cameras and its flash in a slightly-raised block on the phone’s backside. With the rear fingerprint sensor gone, this gives the phone a clean, semi-symmetrical look that’s better in person than in pictures.” Clearly, the rear is the star here, with a front that’s been seen before.

Performance

With the all-new Kirin 980 chip and 6GB of RAM, the performance should be towards the top of the market. Let’s see how that shakes down in use.

Pocket-lint praised the phone, saying “the day-to-day performance is light-years apart. Everything is just so fast and smooth: whether opening the Camera app, loading multiple browser tabs, or dipping in and out of emails.”

The Guardian also couldn’t find any fault with performance, stating “[the Kirin 980 is] matching rivals running Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 such as the OnePlus 6 or Google’s Pixel 3 XL. They also praised the GPU Turbo mode, which added performance without much extra battery strain.

Display

The 6.39″ OLED screen is huge, even by phablet standards. It’s also in a 19.5:9 ratio 2K+ resolution (3120×1440), roughly 537ppi, with curved edges reminiscient of Samsung. Could this be the new OLED champion?

huawei mate 20 pro review roundup

Image: Engadget

Android Authority called the OLED used in the 6.39″ screen “expansive, beautiful, and bright.” And yes, you can hide the ‘notch’ if you want to.

TechRadar had similar things to say, while also mentioning that “Huawei is ushering in the age of in-screen fingerprints, which deserves praise for keeping the front screen lean and clean.”

Price

Photography Blog compares the value of the Mate 20 Pro to the pricing of the current iPhone crop (note their pricing is in GBP, not USD). “At £899 (sim free), the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is at the higher end of the premium smartphone scale. However, it’s much cheaper than the iPhone XS (minimum £999 for a 64GB version – the Mate 20 Pro is 128GB), and the same price as the lowest capacity Samsung Galaxy Note 9. When you look at it like that, the fact that it offers so much for the price arguably makes it pretty good value for money.”

The Verge mentions that even if you want one, “you won’t be able to buy the company’s new Mate 20 Pro at all in the United States, not even unlocked.”

The bottom line

Okay, the overarching theme here is that this is a great phone, which is even more of a letdown for US-based consumers that might want one. If you’re outside of the USA, read on to hear the final word on the Mate 20 Pro.

Photography Blog calls it hands-down “[the Mate 20 Pro is] probably the smartphone we’d most highly recommend for photographers.”

Pocket-lint calls it a great combination of “the highest quality design, arguably the best cameras in any smartphone, and future-facing features such as an in-screen fingerprint scanner” and deserves a place among the top flagship phones of 2018. They also mention “divisive software” and a “weird looking camera unit.” as the only letdowns.

Android Authority spoke about comparisons to other flagships in their ending spiel stating, “Where other phones lean on one great special feature to justify their price tags, the Mate 20 Pro has a bunch of them. Bottom line, you won’t find a more desirable phone on the market right now.”

The Verge also decried the lack of its inclusion on the American marketplace, saying “Even if you only agree with me to the extent of seeing the Mate 20 Pro as a viable competitor to the Note 9 and Pixel 3 XL, that still makes this phone’s absence from the American market a real loss. This year has seen LG and HTC extend their fade from relevance, and the American consumer is increasingly picking between the Apple or Samsung flavor of the flagship smartphone, with Google’s Pixels and maybe OnePlus devices showing up as outsider choices.”

So the mobile world has spoken, and it looks like a slam dunk for Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro – provided you live outside of the USA. That’s a terrible shame in a year where LG has faded from the market and HTC sold most of their mobile division to Google. Anyone feel like importing one?

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