Huawei has long outpaced Apple in global smartphone sales, while at the same time launching some of the latest high-end devices. Huawei's latest release comes in the form of three Mate 20 devices, including Mate 20 Pro and Mate 20 Lite, which were reviewed here at ZDNet by Sandra Vogel in October.
Over the past two weeks, I have had the chance to try out Mate 20 along with Mate 20 Pro. Sandra was very impressed with Mate 20 Pro, but I also wanted to see how the cheaper Mate 20 piled up. The Mate 20 series follows the P20 series that was released in mid-2018. I was very impressed with the P20 Pro and it topped my list of top 10 smartphones for a few months.
Mate 20 seems to be a valid Mate 10 Pro successor with a more traditional form factor than the Mate 20 Pro that features curved edges and a fingerprint scanner on the display. Unfortunately, the Mate 20 series is not officially launched in the US, so we are unlikely to see many in the hands of American consumers.
- Processor: Huawei Kirin 980 with NPU
- Exhibition: LCD resolution of 2244×1080 pixels of 6.53 inches (381 ppi)
- Operational system: Android 9 Pie with EMUI 9
- RAM: 4GB / 6GB
- Storage: Internal 128GB with support for nano memory card
- My Account: Rear triple cameras; a 12 megapixel f / 1.8 aperture, a 16-megapixel f / 2.2 wide angle, and an 8-megapixel f / 2.4 telephoto. Front 24-megapixel f / 2.0 aperture
- Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth 5, GPS / GLONASS / BeiDou / Galileo
- Dust / water resistance: IP54
- Drums: 4000 mAh with SuperCharge Fast Charge Technology
- Dimensions: 158.2x 77.2 x 8.3 mm and 188 grams
- Colors: Midnight Blue, Black and Twilight
The Mate 20 still has a 3.5mm headphone jack, but does not support wireless charging. An infrared sensor is still present at the top so you can control multiple devices with this remote functionality.
Every time I use a Huawei phone, I feel a little sad, since most Americans will never get a chance to test their awesome hardware. The Mate 20 is extremely well built and I really like the original text message that looks and sounds like a vinyl record when you rub a fingernail on it. I'm testing the Midnight Blue model which is one of the darkest blues I've ever seen on a phone.
The front is dominated by a very large screen with minimal edges on all four sides. There is a notch out of the front, but it is similar to the small notch that we saw on the essential phone with just a forward opening for the camera. It's definitely not as shocking as the massive Pixel 3 XL and it does not bother me at all.
Huawei continues to release many of its devices with 1080p screens. As I said in the MoTR podcast and written here on ZDNet, 1080p is perfectly acceptable to me for smartphones and going for higher 2K resolutions does not improve my viewing experience, although it has an impact on battery life. The LCD screen of Huawei Mate 20 looks great. I also have the Mate 20 Pro on hand and this OLED display is beautiful too, but this LCD is perfectly good for my daily use.
The power and volume buttons are on the upper right side with the power button having a touch of red around the sides of the button. The SIM / external storage card is in the upper left corner. I do not have any of the new nano storage cards that Huawei supports, so I could not test this functionality.
Microphone vents, an infrared sensor and a 3.5mm headphone jack are found at the top. The USB-C port is at the bottom, along with the bottom speaker. A dual speaker setup is present here with this lower-firing speaker and the other speaker coming out of the speaker.
Huawei's traditional rear fingerprint scanner is centered on the upper back and perfectly positioned to quickly unlock the phone as you pick it up. Like the Mate 20 Pro, the three rear cameras are arranged with the flash light in a 2×2 arrangement in the center above the fingerprint scanner.
Mate 20 cameras are a bit less capable than the three found in Mate 20 Pro, but are still very capable of delivering solid results. These cameras support night mode, portrait mode, and more.
The Kirin 980 chipset and the EMUI 9 chipset help the Mate 20 perform flawlessly. I have not seen any stuttering, slowness or application crashes ever since I started using it. I'm also seeing a very solid RF reception on T-Mobile, based on the observation of the Android signal status meter in the settings.
EMUI has come a long way since it first appeared on Huawei phones and is now one of my favorite user interfaces, largely because of its support for the Google feed as a home screen panel, something that you usually only get with the Google initializer. Most EMUI customization in Mate 20 is present in the settings area, where you can fully customize the device according to your preferences.
Others who have already lamented EMUI are now also writing reviews that do not spoil the UI as it looks more and more like an Android experience in stock. There are some specific elements of Huawei still present, but these do nothing to slow down the device and I think they enhance the experience on Android vanilla.
I remain satisfied with the presence of Huawei's gallery application and image editing tools that help you develop some creative images to share with family and friends. HTC used to have its own custom gallery and editing tools, but switched to Google Photos. Google Photos is suitable for backup and photo management, but a custom gallery with high-power editing tools provides a much better experience. The splash color option is my personal favorite on Huawei Mate 20.
Other applications included by Huawei include: a file explorer, flashlight, Huawei Health, Huawei HiCare (service application), music (media player), notepad, themes, recorder, email and weather.
The Huawei Mate 20 also supports finger gestures, so be sure to try them on Smart Assist> Motion Control> Joint Gestures. Making a screen shot with a double-hinged touch on the screen is useful and drawing a line to the split-screen mode is very efficient.
Business users will also be interested to know that Mate 20 supports easy projection, so you simply connect USB-C to HDMI and a monitor to use the phone as your computer.
When you start the camera application (try pressing the volume down with the viewfinder off to go directly to the camera application), you are taken to auto-shoot mode. Like Apple and Samsung with the S9 / S9 Plus, you can switch between the common modes by sliding left or right with the highlighted orange text mode at the bottom of the display. By default, available modes are aperture (allows you to adjust the aperture in the software), night, portrait, photo, video, pro (manual), and more. When you select more, a shortcut icon interface (similar to the previous camera interface) appears and includes slow motion, panorama, monochrome, light painting, and more. These include more ways you can download as well. You can change the order of them in the more menu, but you can not bring these modes to the main navigation bar.
We have seen Huawei improve the automatic mode through artificial intelligence and this has provided some interesting results. While AI was useful, you had to switch to pro mode to take pictures without the AI applying its influence. In Mate 20, the master AI can be enabled or disabled in the settings. In addition, if it is enabled, an item is identified and the AI shows what it will do on the display. If you do not like what the AI provides, just tap the small X next to the AI prompt and the normal automatic mode will be displayed.
When I was using P20 Pro, the AI was very aggressive with the landscape and some other scenes. When I took a picture with grass, the camera made everything very vibrant and green, giving a false appearance. Huawei has slightly decreased AI, so I am not seeing such extravagant results when using Master AI in Mate 20.
AI is built into pro (manual) mode, where the software offers clever layout suggestions to help you improve your shooting skills.
Experiences of daily use and conclusions
Unfortunately, people in the US will have to find a reputable importer to buy a Huawei Mate 20 because of concerns the US government has about the company and Best Buy's decision to stop selling Huawei phones in their stores. Mate 20 costs € 899 with Mate 20 Pro at € 1049. Mate 20 Pro offers several improvements over Mate 20, mainly related to cameras and fingerprint sensor on display. The Mate 20 has a standard 3.5 mm connector and is also a solid device.
The Mate 20 is a fairly large phone and offers a very large screen for anyone who wants a big cell phone. It is not very comfortable in the pocket of my pants and is a little bulky to hold in my hand.
In typical Huawei fashion, the battery seems to last forever and also charges quickly with the Huawei charger. The screen looks great, the performance is flawless, the reception is good (even in the US where not all bands are supported), and this fingerprint scanner is faster than anything I've tried to unlock your phone.
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