Huawei is a brand that has built a very large user base and a lot of brand goodwill across the globe. They have been pushing the boundaries on what a smartphone can do with every release. Their latest offering is the Huawei P20 Pro that has so much camera muscle that it can stand up to proper DSLRs and compete with them. I spent time with this device and here is my review
The Huawei P20 Pro is very clearly a member of the mega-phones club. These are a group of very expensive phones that incorporate new tech, for those willing to pay big for it. And in most cases, these phones set the tone for the other devices to come for a long long time. In a way, they redefine the smartphone experience. The Huawei P20 Pro qualifies on all counts here in this club.
The design is a very marked and complete departure from the Mate series design that Huawei has been bringing to its flagship phones in the past years. The Huawei P20 Pro is simply gorgeous. Huawei has gone with a glass and metal design theme and it shows it’s class in shimmering gloss around the device. The back is what gets your attention and it is mostly made of a glass back with 2.5D curved glass which aligns perfectly with the metal edge. There is absolutely no sharp edge to show where the glass back meets the metal edge. However, despite the glass back, the Huawei P20 Pro does not support wireless charging. Even the three cameras, yes you read that right, three, are aligned in such a way that the design flow is not interrupted at all.
Because the glass back is highly glossy, it ends up always acting like a mirror where you want to check yourself out, it also happens to be a smudge and fingerprint magnet. So you will have to constantly keep cleaning it. I would certainly not recommend you using this one without a cover. All said and done, the design turns heads and starts many an interesting conversation. So full marks to the design department, this phone is nothing like anything else.
On the top you have the triple camera module, along with the quad LED flash unit. Lower down you have the Leica and Huawei branding which are nicely aligned. The three cameras are divided into a dual camera module (40 MP + 8 MP) and a 20 MP monochrome module. On the left-hand side, you have the dual nano-SIM card slot and on the right-hand side, you get the volume rocker button and the power/standby button which has a red-colored depression. Both these buttons are well built and have good tactility. On the base, you have the USB Type C data transfer and power connector port surrounded by speaker grilles. On the top, you have the microphone and an infrared port to control supported electrical appliances. And there are not 3.5 mm audio jacks on this one. Huawei has done away with them and given an adaptor in the box instead for your regular headphones to work with the P20 Pro.
On the front, you have a 6.1-inch AMOLED display with a visible notch on top that houses the round earpiece speaker (which also functions as a loudspeaker) and the front-facing camera. It is a thinner notch than the the Apple iPhone X, and there is a provision to get rid of it in the settings menu. That setting just blackens the whole first line and lets you use the rest of the screen. It is a tall display, but then Huawei has decided to keep a slightly thicker bottom bezel to house the fingerprint scanner.It also comes with an IP67 dust and water resistance. So you don’t have to worry about damage or scratches in daily use. Strangely with all that glass, the phone is not slippery at all. It is comfy to hold and use. But mind you, I would recommend that you use a back cover on this one.
Let us talk about the three cameras — a single 20 MP monochrome camera and a dual camera module which has a 40 MP camera and an 8 MP zoom camera. And on the front, it has a 24 MP camera. Calculating all that we get, the final number that we arrive at is 92 MP worth of total camera resolution on a smartphone, which is one of a kind and totally mind blowing — but please remember, it does not mean you should expect 92 MP images. The maximum resolution images will be around 40 MP. But even that is taking the phone into DSLR territory and something that no other phone I have seen has managed so far.
The Huawei P20 Pro is powered by a HiSilicon Kirin 970 chipset which houses an octa-core processor with one quad-core Cortex A73 cluster clocked at 2.4 GHz and the other quad-core Cortex A53 cluster clocked at 1.8 GHz along with a Mali G72 MP12 GPU. This is paired with 6 GB RAM module and on the storage front, you a get 128 GB of non-expandable storage.
Let’s talk about other hardware features of the P20 Pro now. There’s support for Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX HD support, GPS with A-GPS and GLONASS, NFC, Infrared port and no FM radio. A non-removable 4,000 mAh Li-Po battery completes the package and it comes with a support for fast charging. In summary, the hardware is absolutely cutting edge and right up there with the iPhone and the Galaxy series if not better than them.
The Huawei P20 Pro has a 6.1-inch AMOLED display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. The device has a resolution of 1080 x 2240 pixels which gives an effective pixel density of 408 PPI. The display itself covers up a large portion of the front face, but the company has still left a chin at the bottom which holds the regular fingerprint scanner. Like I said earlier, the top and side bezels are extremely thin, with a notch in the centre. Obviously the notch is smaller than the iPhone X because there aren’t that many sensors to put there.
The display is on the higher performance side and I did not face any issues at all during considerably lengthy reading sessions and while gaming or prolonged binge-watching sessions of Netflix. The adaptive brightness mode transitions nicely when you actually go from a dark area to a well-lit area. Sunlight legibility is great and looking at the display in the sun is not particularly strenous. The notch tends to grow on you, as you get used to it after a couple of days. And for the notch naysayers, there’s an option in the settings mode which lets you get rid of that as well. In summary, the display hits all the right marks here.
Given the internals of the phone, the performance really is butter smooth. I threw a series of taxing apps running in a parallel, a lot of online streaming, active social sharing, very democratic amount of gaming and some music at it and I was not able to see even a single sign of stutter or lag. The phone also runs cold and does not heat up at all even when gaming. Overall, it is not up there with the iPhone X and Galaxy S9 but it isn’t far behind either. That works for me as a power user and I have no complaints at all with the performance and speed.
To try and see how the cameras – all three of them, help with the pictures, I tried out various things with them. All the pictures were very good and the colors were fleshed out properly. The Master AI setting manages to make images more vivid and a detailed and does not let one down, But there were instances of oversaturation and color blowout. So I preferred to have that setting off mostly. Low light imaging was good and the ability to track moving objects was great. The Leica partnership is standing Huawei in good stead and it shows in the results. Here are some pictures I took with the phone
Huawei’s JPEG handling is so good that when you zoom to 100% in a 10MP photo it actually appears far sharper than a corresponding 40MP one. Actually, you’re better off going with the way Huawei intends you to use the P20 Pro’s camera, shooting 10MP shots and using the zoom. The 3x zoom camera can take some great pics and renders more detail than a crop of the RAW or 40MP JPEG files can provide.
There is also the option to shoot at 5x zoom, which Huawei calls Hybrid Zoom. This uses very heavy and efficiant processing compared to the 3x zoom and makes far-away details clearer and uses smart upscaling to make the photos look right rather than blurred like a simple digital zoom.
The phone supports 4G and VoLTE calling and the call quality was great, there were no call issues. The speakers are good and the sound can fill a room very effectively. There was a tad bit of bass jarring at high volumes but then only a trained ear can notice it. The 4000 mAH battery stands you in very good stead and runs for a day and half on a single charge even on very heavy usage. Battery is one of the key things that the Huawei P20 Pro has going for itself.
At a price point of INR 63,999/- the phone is not for the casual smartphone user. This targeted at people who can pay a premium for getting a brilliant device that redefines the smartphone experience and the Huawei P20 Pro redefines the smartphone in more ways than one. In summary – It doesn’t get better than this