Huawei P20 and P20 Pro hands-on: Lust-worthy contenders with serious cameras



Things haven't necessarily been going in Huawei's favor of late. Heading into the new year, the Chinese company made an ambitious push over the crucial holiday period by ramping up advertisements here in the US about "the best phone you've never head of," which was the Huawei Mate 10 Pro. Optimistic about its impending launch in the US, the company was given a big blow in the form of souring relationships with two of the biggest wireless carriers in the country; AT&T and Verizon.

Despite the adversity that has faced Huawei in recent months, the company is still pushing forward by introducing its latest flagship phones – the P20 and P20 Pro. These phones may not be coming to the United States anytime soon, but they're still nonetheless going to be getting a lot of attention thanks in part to how these two new phones are painting a new chapter in Huawei's smartphone business.

Design


Impressively, there's been a dramatic change in the design of the P20 and P20 Pro versus last year's offering. For starters, the new Twilight color is simply stunning – offering a gradient of colors that beautifully shimmer from a cool blue at one end, to a warm red tone at the other. If there's a new trendy color scheme to copy, this is absolutely it. Sure, it's highly reflective and can become a magnet for fingerprints, but when it's clean and clear, boy is it an attention grabber.

With this year's pair, Huawei has adopted the trendy glass meets metal designs that have become pretty much commonplace – as opposed to the all-metal construction of last year's efforts. Sporting those beveled edges as well, the phone feel really good in the hand thanks. Obviously, the P20 Pro is taller and wider, making it a bit of a stretch to use with one hand. Besides that, they share quite a few commonalities, like the placement of their buttons and their fingerprint sensors situated below their respective displays.

Clearly, there's a bit more love given to the P20 Pro, as it features an IP67 certification for dust and water resistance – whereas the P20 is only given an IP53 rating. In addition, there's an IR blaster on board with the P20 Pro. However, is worth noting that Huawei has dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack from both phones, which is a shame, but hardly a surprise.

Display


Jumping on the trend that everyone appears to be on, the new P20 series follows suit with that all-screen, minimal bezel look with its display. For the P20, it's a 5.8-inch RGBW Display with a resolution of 2244 x 1080 pixels – while the P20 Pro sizes up with a larger 6.1-inch OLED Display with a resolution of 2240 x 1080 pixels. Technically, they sport 18.7:9 screen aspect ratios, giving them that all-screen appearance. However, there is a notch above the displays, which houses both the earpiece and front-facing 24MP cameras.

The notch, in particular, is narrower than that found on the iPhone X's, but it's a distraction that's difficult to overlook when we first look at the phone. Sure, that distraction will dissipate over time, but there's no other technology involved with the it. While it does offer a face unlock feature, it actually resorts to 2D mapping to recognize faces.

Regardless of the controversy of the notch, the display on the P20 Pro appears to be the more attractive between the two, thanks in part to its rich colors and wide viewing angles. It's still really sharp with the P20 as well, however, it puzzles us why they opted to employ two totally different display technologies with its new phones.



User Interface


Huawei didn't spend a great deal of time with the interface running on both phones. From our quick inspection, though, it's running the same Emotion UI 8.0 experience we've seen in previous devices like the Honor View 10 and Huawei Mate 10 series – so to that degree, there's nothing totally out of the ordinary with the interface's look and feel.

Instead, the attention was focused on the AI-driven features of the phones, which are powered by the Kirin 970 chipsets. Even though both are accompanied by a generous 128GB of internal storage with microSD card expansion, the P20 Pro receives 6GB of RAM, as opposed to the 4GB in tow with the P20. In the short time checking the two out, they seemed pretty responsive with most baseline functions.

Going back to those AI-centric features, it seems to target the cameras more than anything else in the software. We've seen already how the AI-powered camera can intelligently detect scenes, adjusting certain parameters for optimal results, but we wouldn't go far to say that it's due to artificial intelligence. Until the phones can provide relevant suggestions or feedback based on our usage and habits on the phone, it's tough to classify this as artificial intelligence.

Camera


Speaking of the cameras, this is where things get pretty exciting! The Galaxy S9 might've introduced us to variable aperture, but the P20 Pro goes another route with its triple cameras. As for the P20, it's only armed with a dual-camera system, a 12MP 4/1.8 RGB sensor paired with a 20MP f/1.6 mono sensor, which is still nice for achieving those sick portrait shots, but the P20 Pro really steals things with its triple cameras.



So, what does it involve? Well, it breaks down to a standard 40MP main RGB sensor, a 20MP mono sensor, and an 8MP telephoto sensor. The combination of these three cameras enable the P20 Pro to snap faster, shoot farther, and produce richer colors. In fact, it's noted for achieving the highest ISO level in a smartphone; ISO 102,400. Meanwhile, the addition of that telephoto lens allows for a 5x hybrid with AI master stabilization to allow users to capture sharp looking 4-second-long exposure shots. Over on the video side, it can shoot those super slow-motion footage at 960 FPS in 720p.

We did snap a few photos using the phone, and not surprisingly, the AI-driven camera intelligently detects more scenes than before. For example, we used the front facing camera to snap selfies, so the camera automatically detected it as a portrait shot and applied the bokeh effect to the background. The zoom is definitely a nice addition here to offer a bit more variety, but we're eager to see how it performs under low light!



Battery


Sporting incredibly slim bodies, the P20 and P20 Pro are accompanied with 3400 mAh and 4000 mAh battery capacities. That's pretty generous considering that the two are 7.65mm and 7.8mm thin respectively. On top of that, the fast charging technology in play here will deliver a 0% to 58% battery charge with only 30 minutes of charging.

Expectations


First and foremost, we need to mention that neither phone has been confirmed to come out in the US market, which isn't all that surprising, given how the P-series' history. Secondly, there's no mention about their prices either, so it's anyone's guess at this point. Of course, if it intends to compete against Samsung's offerings, they'll need to stay within range.

Huawei is no doubt still reeling from a couple of disappointing news of late, but the P20 and P20 Pro are two examples of the company's tenacity and resilience in the face of adversity. These two are stunning, especially the P20 Pro and its intriguing triple cameras. Its take on the camera is undeniably different, but in a way, it shows their commitment to evolving and continuing to be a major force in the smartphone space.

While it's still early on in the year, we know that there are still several key players that have been withholding their flagships for the first half of the year. Huawei, to its credit, has something substantial with these two phones. For the majority of the US, it's going to be a great phone they'll never know about.

Related phones

P20
  • Display 5.8" 1080 x 2244 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 24 MP front
  • Processor HiSilicon Kirin, Octa-core, 2360 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB
  • Battery 3400 mAh(19h talk time)
P20 Pro
  • Display 6.1" 1080 x 2240 pixels
  • Camera 40 MP / 24 MP front
  • Processor HiSilicon Kirin, Octa-core, 2360 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB
  • Battery 4000 mAh(25h talk time)

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22 Comments

1. NateDiaz

Posts: 1084; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

Symmetrical top and bottom bezels make more sense than chin and a notch.

5. Bondurant

Posts: 780; Member since: Jun 04, 2014

front fp makes more practical usability than eye scanner or rear fp.

2. TypicalGeek

Posts: 211; Member since: Feb 19, 2015

Good God, get rid of that button.

6. tiara6918

Posts: 2263; Member since: Apr 26, 2012

I hate the fingerprint sensor location than the notch

3. JohnR

Posts: 149; Member since: Sep 08, 2017

Great phones we will never see here in the US. Shame

4. bur60

Posts: 981; Member since: Jul 07, 2014

Amazing hardware. Wish to see these developments in more phones. Huge sensor size.

7. andriodfanboy1

Posts: 164; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

F¦~¦ck huawei for dropping 3.5mm

8. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

Chinese flagship phones may have great hardware and specs, but I just can't respect any iPhone wannabe.

11. Feanor

Posts: 1346; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

Couldn't agree more. We can all safely agree that if it weren't for the iPhone X, these phones would have a totally different design. I also don't have any respect for Chinese companies, when their copying is so blatant. We often read that there is so much one can do with similar technology and components, but it cannot be coincidence that there is a big design paradigm shift starting from China every time Apple does something noticeable. And even if we excuse the similarity of the notches, how come they couldn't come with a camera design that doesn't copy 1:1 the iPhone X camera design?

13. Subie

Posts: 2354; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

With a bottom chin I would say this is more a copy of Essential Phone...

15. Feanor

Posts: 1346; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

It's not only the front. The biggest offender here, which screams "iPhone X copy" is the camera lens design.

16. Subie

Posts: 2354; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

I know, how dare they copy Apple's triple cameras...;)

17. Feanor

Posts: 1346; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

I mean the design of the lens area, not the technology. Styling is one thing, technological content is another. My comment is targeting the design. They didn't even have the decency to encircle all three lenses in one outline, because it would make the lens area less iPhoney.

18. Subie

Posts: 2354; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

Yup, I knew what you meant. I was just being a "smart a$$" :) Cheers mate.

22. fyahking

Posts: 1146; Member since: Jan 28, 2015

Have you seen sharp aquas s2? It has that style camera lens before the X!

9. Xperia14

Posts: 1208; Member since: Sep 01, 2015

I'm considering this as my next phone. Really really like its camera and 4000 mAh battery, and it also has FM radio. But I don't like the lack of a 3.5mm jack, no expendable memory and no wireless charging though. Not a fan of the design (I would rather have symmetrical bezels than a notch and a chin) and the UI as well. Still, the camera alone makes it worth to buy.

12. TerryD

Posts: 544; Member since: May 09, 2017

At least in the UI you can hide the notch, using it just for notifications on a black background. Those cameras do look pretty impressive. Can't wait to see the tests (not on here though because they'll make it look sh*t)

20. yalokiy

Posts: 953; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

They have wireless charging.

10. youssef44

Posts: 547; Member since: Apr 29, 2014

the colours of Huawei phones are very amazing since Huawei Mate 10 !! I love their colours !

14. wabajak13

Posts: 55; Member since: Jan 02, 2018

This looks like the replacement my 6P deserves. Hope camera samples are sharp and not just relying on marketing jargon to carry it. Might have to take out a loan, but that P20 Pro Twilight will be mine.

19. Sparkxster

Posts: 1213; Member since: Mar 31, 2017

Huawei knocked it out of the park with the p20 pro even more so with the Mate RS Porsche ^_^

21. fyahking

Posts: 1146; Member since: Jan 28, 2015

109 dxo mark? Who the hell is going to beat that

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