First Look: Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Huawei’s end-of-year offering – the Mate 20 Pro – has every bell and whistle available.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro front and back view

Huawei’s end-of-year offering has every bell and whistle available.

Huawei has a habit of taking its Mate phones and cramming them full with the absolute highest specs available and every possible feature. This year’s Mate 20 Pro is no exception. However, even with all those bells and whistles, something’s out of harmony.

The Mate 20 Pro is a powerful phone with massive battery life and an advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) system. The AI handles demands on the processor with ease, shutting off non-essential apps, meaning that even after a day of hard work the phone still has 60-80% battery power left.

In part, this is because the Mate has three different processor sizes; two high, two medium, and four small (other phones with this set-up use high and low). This means instead of using high-powered cores to run a process, the AI can switch to medium-sized ones that use less battery.

The AI can get a bit overzealous in its background cull. Some app makers, such as VLC, have complained the Huawei AI stops their apps, even when in use, degrading their performance.

Huawei has also added wireless charging (an old feature for many phones, but a new one for this brand). Though it’s compatible with the same system used by Apple, Samsung and others, Huawei has gone a step further and offers device-to-device charging. So, if your friend has an iPhone running low on battery, you can show off how much juice your phone has by holding them together and using it to wirelessly charge theirs.

AI problems

The Mate 20 Pro has four Leica lenses, but its AI can be a little troublesome.

The Mate 20 Pro has a suite of Leica lenses: a 40MP wide angle, 20MP ultra-wide angle and an 8MP telephoto. This gives the Mate 20 a surprisingly powerful 5x optical zoom as well as the ability to zoom out. The camera goes out to a 0.6x optical zoom, meaning you can fit more close-up objects into the frame than with a regular shot and with only the slightest fish-eye effect.

However the camera is the first time I noticed the AI causing problems.

The Mate 20’s AI figures out what type of thing you’re pointing the camera at – food, a cat, flowers, landscapes, etc – and adjusts the settings accordingly to take a better photo. This is great for certain circumstances, like outside photos and night-time shots, where exposure is important and you don’t want to be fiddling with aperture and shutter speed.

But it didn’t always hit the mark. For example, when the AI detects food in the shot it would de-saturate the images; leaching the colour and making all my fancy meals look as if I overcooked them. Similarly, selfies had to be planned carefully as the AI made me (a redhead) look like a pale spectre.

To avoid these issues, I had to either turn the AI settings off or do some editing afterwards. I wasn’t impressed – the point of the AI is to make things simpler, not to increase the workload.

The face-unlock system creates a map of your face using a 3D array of dots and, in theory, works in any conditions. In practice, the Mate 20 Pro suffered badly in dim light, if I was wearing glasses, or if I tied my hair back.

This meant I kept using the fingerprint sensor. But the cool thing is, it’s underneath the screen! No extra sensor on the back or at the bottom.


Despite these annoyances, the Mate 20 Pro is a great phone. The battery life is phenomenal; I would regularly go to bed with the phone still around 70%. The camera, despite the AI issues, still took better night photos than any other phone and captured incredibly detailed macro (super close-up) shots.

Specs: Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Price: $1400
Dimensions (mm): 72.3 x 157.8 x 8.6
Weight: 189g
Display: 6.4” OLED 3120 x 1440, 538 PPI
Rear cameras: 40MP wide angle lens (f1.8), 20MP ultra-wide angle lens (f2.2), 8MP telephoto (f2.4).
Front cameras: 24MP (f2.0)
Processors: Huawei Kirin 980, 2 x Cortex-A76 2.6 GHz, 2 x Cortex-A76 1.92 GHz, 4 x Cortex-A55 1.8 GHz
Memory: 6GB RAM
Storage: 128GB ROM (supports memory card upgrade)

This phone was loaned to the writer by Huawei.

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