- Superior battery life
- Gorgeous, stand-out design
- Brilliant OLED screen
- Super-smart camera tech
- Glitchy software
Building on the success of the brilliant Mate 10 Pro, Huawei has crafted one of the most desirable smartphones of recent times in the P20 Pro. And thankfully, it’s much more than just a crazy-good camera.
In this cynical world, you’d certainly be forgiven for taking a passing glance at the Huawei P20 Pro and thinking ‘oh, aye. A three-lens camera, eh? Sure, good little headline grabber, that.’
Brace yourself though, because the Pro version of Huawei’s new P20 flagship phone – which costs a cool 200 quid extra – is a beautifully crafted slab of sexiness. I’ve been rocking this handset for well over a week now and here’s my full Huawei P20 Pro review.
Read next: Best camera phones 2018
Huawei P20 Pro review: Design
Tiny bezels and screen notches are becoming increasingly necessary in 2018, as smartphones bloat to a whopping six-inches in size. The P20 Pro is another beast at 6.1-inches, and you’ll certainly feel every inch when it’s clutched in your hands.
Thankfully the display practically fills that front panel, with very little wasted room. That’s helped in large part by the iPhone X-style notch up top, which houses the front camera and speaker while allowing the screen to stretch up to the very top of the phone. The P20 Pro certainly isn’t as massive as some of its fellow six-inch rivals. It’s also comparatively light at 180g, and not too bulky either. Although two of the three rear-mounted camera lenses do stick out somewhat.
Huawei is offering a choice of colours for that shiny metal chassis, although frankly you’d have to be nuts to grab anything except the Twilight model. This gorgeous design features Huawei’s new Gradient finish, with colours that morph as your eye moves across the surface. This thing is really bringing sexy back with its sexy back, and I’m almost ashamed at how turned on I am right now.
So far the P20 Pro seems quite resistant to scratches, although frankly I’ve been too terrified of ruining that sleek finish to treat it with anything other than total respect and care. It’s also IP67 water resistant, so you can take as many dodgy shower selfies as you like.
Huawei P20 Pro review: Screen and media
The P20 Pro’s mighty 6.1-inch OLED screen is another highlight, proving ideal for media fans. Although the panel doesn’t sport a super-sharp Quad HD resolution like some competitors, those Full HD visuals are perfectly sharp. And the stretched 18.7:9 aspect ratio means almost no letterboxing when enjoying a spot of Netflix.
Basically every aspect from brightness levels to viewing angles get a big thumbs up. And Huawei has made the screen completely customisable too. Head into the display settings and you can piddle about with colour temperatures and vibrancy, or activate automatic tools such as the Natural Tone mode. This will tweak the visuals depending on the ambient lighting, so you get a clear and comfortable picture at all times.
Some people will of course detest that notch up top, although I never found it an issue. It’s always covered when using standard apps and you can do away with it entirely in the settings, if you so desire.
Audio is pumped out from both the top-end earpiece and also the speaker grilles housed on the bottom edge. Quality is pretty good for a smartphone, with enough volume to cut through background noise such as irritating family members. However, as usual you’ll want to plug in some headphones to really enjoy your music.
You do get a cheapy plastic pair bundled in the box, which are predictably good at removing layers of skin from your inner ear. However, to use a wired set like these, you’ll need to make use of the bundled Type C to 3.5mm adapter. There’s no headphone jack on the P20 Pro’s sexy chassis.
Huawei P20 Pro review: Features
The P20 Pro sports Huawei’s Emotion UI 8 overlay, smushed lovingly on top of Android Oreo. As usual this adds a host of useful customisation and control features.
We’ve already discussed how you can fiddle about with the display settings, for instance. However, on top of that you can also try out different methods of navigating around the UI, replacing those on-screen buttons with the gesture-supporting fingerprint sensor. We also definitely appreciate the one-handed help, as the Pro is a bit on the big side.
We’ve taking a close look at the P20 Pro’s software in our tips and tricks guide, which shows off our favourite features.
One aspect worth highlighting is the P20 Pro’s security features, though. Despite those slender bezels, the P20 Pro packs an elongated fingerprint sensor beneath the display. This isn’t quite as comfortable to use as a rear-mounted scanner, but it’s pleasingly responsive. You’ll be into your desktops almost as soon as you tap your digit.
Alternatively, the P20 Pro also supports facial recognition, like the Galaxy S9, OnePlus 5T and Honor V10. This is impressively accurate, even when using the phone in total darkness, although confirmation does sometimes take a little while in imperfect conditions. If you ever have sticky fingers or you’re wearing gloves, this is a great little solution.
As for storage, the P20 Pro serves up 128GB of space for your apps and media. Sadly there’s no microSD memory card support however, which as far as we can recall is a first for Huawei. Instead, you can only fit dual SIM cards into that edge-mounted tray.
Huawei P20 Pro review: Performance and battery life
Running the show is Huawei’s own Kirin 970 chipset, a powerful platform to rival Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845. Not only can it handle complicated tasks with ease, but you also get full support for Cat 18 networking, with potential download speeds of 1.2Gbps. Good news for when our creaky infrastructure finally catches up, then.
Our AnTuTu benchmark testing showed that the P20 Pro was unsurprisingly up there with the best. I blazed through games with no dip in frame rate, while multi-tasking with streaming apps and all sorts was also fine. Not too surprising given the generous 6GB of memory stuffed inside that shiny frame.
However, the Pro’s software isn’t quite one hundred percent just yet – at least, not in our review unit. While everyday use was indeed absolutely fine, I found that for some reason the phone occasionally stuttered and stammered during everyday use. Google Maps was also abysmal; a stuttery nightmare whenever I dared to use it. Basic searches took around a minute to complete, while reinstalling the app did nothing to help. I didn’t see this problem with any other apps thankfully, so this definitely looks like a weird glitch. Here’s hoping it gets fixed in an update real soon.
Battery life is predictably brilliant, however. Huawei has managed to stuff a 4000mAh cell inside of the Pro, just like the similarly-sized Mate 10 Pro. I found that even with intensive use, I got well over a day of life per charge. Everyday use returns around two days of life and there’s tons of battery modes if you ever find yourself running short.
Likewise, the P20 Pro charges up in a reasonably quick period. Just an hour and a half at the plug will give you 100 percent battery life, thanks to the awesomely-named SuperCharge tech.
Huawei P20 Pro review: Cameras
Of course it’s that tri-lens rear camera which has grabbed everyone’s attention, and understandably so. It may sound like a pointless gimmick, yet three lenses really are better than one (in this case at least).
Huawei phones of recent times rocked dual shooters. You’d have an RGB lens backed by a monochrome snapper, which work together to focus sharply on your subject. The P20 Pro sports a similar setup, this time with a mighty 40-megapixel colour lens and a 20-megapixel black and white shooter.
For the Pro model, Huawei has also added a third lens. This 8-megapixel telephoto snapper gets you up close to your subject, so you can snap the finer details without any loss in quality.
And around the front you also have a 24-megapixel selfie cam, for capturing that sexy smile of yours.
Check out our in-depth Huawei P20 Pro camera review to see what we think of this tri-lens shooter. You’ll also find all of our photo and video samples, so you can judge for yourself.
Huawei P20 Pro review: Verdict
The Huawei P20 Pro offers the best of what smartphones have to offer in 2018. That design is frankly saliva-inducing, while the gorgeous display, smart software and impressive battery life make for a desirable everyday experience.
However, it’s that triple-lens camera which really sets the Pro apart from its rivals. Although the 4K stabilisation could be better, you’ll struggle to find a better shooter on any smartphone – especially when it comes to capturing family portraits.