Huawei Mate 20 Pro full review
Chinese manufacturer Huawei recently overtook Apple to become the second biggest seller of smartphones behind Samsung. Its recently announced Mate 20 Pro is the model that will lead the line in the year ahead and we see how it compares to Apple's own flagship the iPhone XS Max.
Price & Availability
A range of three finishes are on offer: black, Twilight and Emerald Green.
Apple released the iPhone XS Max, and its smaller sibling the iPhone XS, on 21 September, in a range of storage capacities.
These are as follows:
- 64GB - £1,099/$1,099
- 256GB - £1,249/$1,249
- 512GB - £1,449/$1,449
All come with three colour choices: gold, silver and Space Grey.
Check out our Best iPhone XS Max deals page for the best offers currently available.
Design & Build
From the front, the two devices are very similar. Both feature near bezel-less displays with a notch at the top to house the cameras used for facial recognition.
The Huawei has a 6.39in Full HD+ OLED panel with gently curved sides, while the iPhone XS Max is even bigger with a 6.5in Super Retina OLED display but no curves.
While Apple has removed the fingerprint sensor entirely, not repositioning it on the back like many other manufacturers, Huawei has gone one better and found a way to place it under the actual display. This makes it one of the first phones to use this new technology.
Glass backs are the order of the day, with the Mate 20 Pro and iPhone XS Max benefitting from the material by including wireless charging.
Where the iPhone XS Max has dual cameras on the rear, Huawei has upped the ante by including three, with the main difference being the inclusion of an ultra-wide-angle f/2.2 on the Huawei.
Ports are kept to a minimum, with the iPhone sporting a Lightning charging port and the Mate 20 Pro a USB-C version. Neither feature a headphone jack, but both include a set of headphones with the relevant connector.
The Mate 20 Pro has a dual-sim tray which accepts Nano Memory Cards up to 256GB in capacity, while the iPhone XS Max can also run with two SIMs but one of them will need to be electronic.
IP68 ratings means both devices can survive being submerged to a maximum of 2m for up to 30 minutes, which should avoid your new, expensive device being destroyed by spillages or accidental dunks.
Features & Specs
The headline-grabbing feature has to be the embedded fingerprint sensor on the Mate Pro 20. To show you where to place your finger a little icon appears on the display. Press your thumb or preferred digit against it and the screen unlocks just as it would with any other fingerprint sensor.
It works well, but might end up being superfluous due to the excellent 3D facial recognition system that unlocks the device almost immediately. Of course, Face ID on the iPhone XS Max is also a very reliable and speedy way to gain access, but we think the hidden fingerprint sensor adds more of a wow factor.
Under the iPhone display is Apple's new A12 Bionic processor, which gives the XS Max a moderate speed bump over last year's iPhone X and improved energy-saving capabilities. It's a powerful chip, aided by a neural engine that works in tandem with the cameras to enhance the photographic and videographic results users can obtain.
The Mate 20 Pro also has a top-of-the-line processor in the Kirin 980, which has benchmarked faster than the current Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip found in the Samsung Galaxy S9, Galaxy Note 9 and Pixel 3.
The Kirin 980 features a neural engine with two elements; one that focuses on image and scene recognition, and the other that deals with real-time language processing and real-time video processing.
This is paired with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage that can be extended by 256GB via the use of (admittedly hard to find) Nano Memory cards. Together this makes the Mate 20 Pro a fast and fluid experience that easily matches the iPhone XS Max.
Apple has made a big deal of the dual-camera setup in the iPhone XS Max, with the two 12Mp lenses - one an f/1.8 wide-angle and the other an f/2.4 telephoto - closely integrated with the A12's neural engine and a slightly larger sensor to produce something the company claims is "a new era of photography".
This combination allows for new modes such as Smart HDR that brings out more highlights and shadows in images, a new Depth-Control that uses the True Depth front-facing camera to allow changing the depth of field and background blur after you've taken a picture, and better low-light shots.
As you can see from our full iPhone XS Max review, the camera modes are all impressive, although we're not quite convinced that a 'new era' has arrived.
Huawei has fitted the Mate 20 Pro with three different cameras, a whopping 40Mp f/1.8 wide-angle, 20Mp f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle, and an 8Mp f/2.4 telephoto with OIS and effectively a 3x optical zoom.
This gives the device capabilities for features such as Night Mode, which can take long exposures without the need to a tripod, macro photography that starts at 2.5cm from the lens, and a fantastic zoom that delivers excellent results.
Check out the full Mate 20 Pro review on our sister publication Tech Advisor to see what this camera array can really do.
Both the Mate 20 Pro and iPhone XS Max are superb examples of modern smartphone photography, but surprisingly the Mate 20 Pro seems to have the edge.
Here's a detailed breakdown of the technical specifications for the devices.
|Mate 20 Pro||iPhone XS Max|
|Display||6.39" HUAWEI FullView curved OLED display, 19.5:9 DCI-P3 HDR display, 2K+ (3120x1440), High colour saturation, High contrast ratio||6.5in Super Retina Display (2688x1242, 458ppi) OLED|
|Processor||Kirin 980 with Mali-G76 720MHz GPU||A12 Bionic|
|Storage||128GB (expandable by up to 256GB via Nano Memory card)||64GB/256GB/512GB|
|OS||Android 9.0 Pie-based EMUI 9||iOS 12|
|Main 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)||12Mp wide-angle, f/1.8, OIS + 12Mp telephoto, f/2.4, OIS, optical zoom, 10x digital zoom, Portrait Lighting, Portrait Mode, quad-LED flash|
|Selfie camera||24MP (f/2.0, FF)||7Mp FaceTime HD, f/2.2, 1080p video|
|Biometrics||Facial recognition + embedded fingerprint sensor in display||Face ID|
|Battery||4200mAh with Fast and Wireless charging|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.0|
|LTE||Cat 21 (4G)||Gigabit-class LTE with 4x4 MIMO and LAA|
|WiFi||Wave 2 802.11ac||802.11ac Wi‑Fi with 2x2 MIMO|
|Ports||USB-C (USB 3.1), Dual SIM/Nano Memory card||Lightning, SIM|
|Dimensions||157.8mm x 72.3mm x 8.6mm||157.5mm x 77.4mm x 7.7mm|
iOS 12 comes as standard on the iPhone XS Max, bringing with it a number of tweaks to improve stability and speed. See our full iOS 12 review to see the new features on offer.
The latest version of Android is also included on the Mate 20 Pro - Android 9.0 (Pie) - with Huawei's own EMUI 9 skin on top. The latter has been refined a good deal since the last iteration, with again plenty of speed and options available.
Both are solid, reliable, highly useable platforms that are easy to get to grips with.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro: Specs
- Android 9.0 Pie with EMUI 9
- 6.39in (3120x1440) 19.5:9 IPS display
- Kirin 980 processor (2x2.6GHz, 2x1.9GHz, 4x 1.8GHz)
- 6GB RAM
- 128GB storage
- Cat.21 4G LTE
- Dual nano SIM
- Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- In-screen fingerprint sensor
- 40MP (f/1.8) + 8MP telephoto (f/2.4) + 20Mp ultra-wide (f/2.2) rear camera
- 24MP (f/2.0) selfie camera
- 4200mAh battery
- 157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6mm