Huawei's Mate 20 Pro can take the company's ultimate flagship title this generation, but the slightly lower Mate 20 is still a phone worth considering with its own strengths. It replaces a 1440p OLED screen for a 1080p IPS panel, releases camera decisions and loses both fingerprint sensors and laser-based face recognition. Still, for 20% less you get plenty of phone, no doubt a more attractive design, and one of the best cameras in Android.
Unfortunately, most of our readers do not come to the United States.
We reviewed 6 / 128GB SKU in Midnight Blue, but overall performance should resemble the 4GB model.
Design, hardware, what's in the box
I think Mate 20 is a wonderful phone. While I wanted to see the "Twilight" tonal version, the textured blue glass on the model I reviewed was still more interesting than the majority of the boring black plates out there.
Like many 2018 flagships, it's a glass and metal sandwich. Unlike its larger brother, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 has no wireless charge. It's also a little thicker than some new phones of 8.3mm, but I thought about extraheads.
It may not be the place I prefer, but Mate 20 has a headphone jack at the top, paired with an IR blaster. Left side is empty Save the SIM tray, while right has volume and power buttons. At the bottom you have the USB-C port and a downward speaker, which works with headphones for stereo sound, Samsung style.
On the backside, you have the three cameras together with the lightning in a square configuration, taken from the glass. I'm not a fan of appearance, but this is not the end you usually starve at. Below is the camera fingerprint sensor – there is no in-display solution as with Mate 20 Pro.
Mate 20 has a 6.53 ", 2244 x 1080 IPS screen with a teardrop / waterdrop notch in the same spirit as OnePlus 6T. It can apparently reach over 800 nits and I had no trouble using it outdoors.
Macro of RGBW subpixel configuration on Mate 20's IPS panel.
The 381 PPI seems to be on the low side, but it did not bother me more than the pentila artifacts on many higher density OLED displays. This may be a result of the Mate 20 screen's secret weapon: It has an RGBW edge configuration for pixels. I have never used a phone with white subpixels earlier, and that's probably a big part of why and how the screen can get so bright and seems so sharp.
It was very difficult to get a photo of what less bleeding it had.
Newly reported problems with the OLED screen in Mate 20 Pro, where the LG panel is suffering from a spontaneous failure after days or weeks of use, resulting in a spotty and uneven screen. That should not be a problem with non-pro mate 20. The IPS display was very smooth, with only a bit of bleeding in a corner of my device. As someone prone to be alert when it comes to screens, it was such a small defect that I could easily ignore it.
Something wrong with how the Mate 20 screen maps the color space in calibrated settings.
"Natural" (left) and "Vivid" (right) color calibrations. Note the remarkable remapping in blue and magenta on "Natural". (Ignore moire on the right picture, it is difficult to photograph these tests.)
I lack the right hardware to do precision testing, but the "natural" color mode, which seems closer to sRGB calibrated space, has some strange behavior with some blue and purple shades. If Anandtech makes a review, we will probably get a detailed explanation, but meanwhile it's unfortunate.
Sticker not included.
The phone comes with the basics: A bundle of warranty / instructional leaflets, a clear TPU case, a cheap pair of earplugs, a USB type CA cable and Huawei's 22.5W "SuperCharge" wall weight – the EU, in my case , because the phone is not sold in the United States. In pure spec, the SuperCharge system would be among the fastest you can get, and it recharged my battery incredibly fast.
Software, Performance and Battery
I will not rehash all aspects of the phone's software because we have already talked about it in our Mate 20 Pro review. I do not find EMUI quite as disgusting as our British editor Scott did, but I'm known for my software adaptability. Those who come from iOS might actually know More at home in EMUI than stock Android, in my opinion, and I could receive their shortcomings within a week or so. While I still strongly prefer inventory or lager-like, EMUI may be acceptable to the recipient.
Still, there were still some differences that felt as changes for change, which I could not force myself to get used to. For example:
- There is no haptic feedback when you unlock the phone.
- The double-button button shortcut uses the volume button (and must be activated separately in the camera's app).
- Huawei seems to have broken compatibility with most third party launchers.
- PIN-based security forces an arbitrary six-digit length
- The DPI software is twisted so that I can see every bit of JPEG in avatars or icons in most apps (and if you turn it down to compensate, some first-party apps look strange).
Huawei's gesture navigation is also pretty terrible, and the constant state dialogs of all Huawei's built-in crapware – some of which will give you ads – were annoying.
Most launchers did not work either.
I also had a little problem with telephony via T-Mobile in the United States. On more than one occasion, conversations went directly to the voice message even though I had enough signal, and sometimes I could not hear the person at the other end of the line after answering. SMS messages were also interrupted sometimes, but if you disable Wi-Fi and download something via mobile data, it would usually drag them down.
Performance was otherwise amazing. I can not remember a single dropped frame or stutter in my time with Mate 20, with one exception: Wi-Fi performance was intermittently quite slow.
Mate 20 is powered by Huawei Kirin 980, which is the first 7nm Android SoC and the first based on ARM's A76 reference design. I skip the benchmarks (there's plenty if you care), but on a daily basis, the phone was one of the fastest ones I've ever used. And best of all was the battery life that went with it outstanding.
In my common use with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, synchronization of two Google accounts and bright social media, I could go 2-3 days between fees. It's even without the benefit of an OLED screen or dark themes. Coming from OnePlus 6T, which already had quite a good battery life, Mate 20's life span was amazing.
Huawei's silicon continues to be magical.
Many people say that Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro can have a better camera than Google's pixels. It's about taste, but in many cases I agree.
Left: Mate 20, Right: Pixel3.
It does not always win in my comparisons, but Mate 20 draws some exceptional detail in challenging lighting conditions where Pixel 3 can not. Sometimes its colors are also a bit closer to reality. Like the pixels (and unlike any other phones), images do not lack an oily touch on a crop. Huawei can sharpen without overcrowding, preserving detail.
Left: 1x zoom / 27mm, Middle: 2x zoom / 52mm, Right: 10x software assisted zoom.
Having three different focal lengths / zoom elements that were available was also nice for those occasions when you just can not approach you, and you do not want to handle how sharp digital zoom always looks.
Left: Pixel 3 Super Res Zoom, Right: Size 20 10x zoom.
As I said, I think Google can have an edge with its "Super Res Zoom". To be fair, both software solutions are a muddy mess, but Pixel 3 draws a few more details than Mate 20, although Mate 20 has a stronger zoom at the end.
Matter 20's biggest strengths come true if you turn the camera program into the "Pro" mode, where you can have full manual control over everything from ISO to exposure and smooth manual focus. If you're a DSLR toting shutterbug, it's pretty sweet.
My biggest complaint was that if you plan to use automatic "Photo" mode, the result may vary wild between shots. While Pixel 3 will give you around the same results every time, Mate 20 tended to choose drastically different exposure and white balance settings less than a second apart.
On average, I still prefer the performance of Google's image processing on Pixels, but the Mate 20 camera is easy on the same level. And with the added benefit of three different focal lengths and manual control, Mate 20 offers additional tools like Pixel 3 and 3 XL.
Should you buy it?
Yes, but Mate 20 is not for everyone. Huawei software will interfere with those used to make Android – or even most other OEMs like Samsung Experience. I hate to harp on the stereotype "non-stock = bad", but Huawei's changes in Android are heavy-handed, without consistent or thoughtful approaches, and at the expense of functionality in some cases. The software here is an explicit compromise, albeit one you can get used to, and that can be quite beneficial if you come from iOS.
There are other aspects where Huawei's non-pro flagship fits the competition in a good way. Mate 20 has some of the most beautiful hardware I've ever seen in a phone period. This is the first IPS-enabled Android device that I've used without a chin – or rather a chin as small and symmetrical as losing the name. Aside from the wonky calibration, I absolutely loved the screen, and the industry design is among the best you'll find in an Android phone.
Parat with a fantastic triple camera setup, Mate 20 (and in addition, Mate 20 Pro) is one of the best Android phones out there right now, but only if you're willing to accept Huawei's myopic software vision.
Buy it about:
- A more flexible phone camera is a priority.
- You are outside of the United States.
- The software experience is not a big problem.
Do not buy it about:
- You are in the United States.
- Software is important, and you prefer to make Android (or at least more control).
- The starting price of 800 € is too high for you.
Where to buy:
UK (available on contract only) – Affordable mobiles, Buymobiles.net, GoMobile
Germany – € 799 – Amazon.de
France – € 799 – Amazon.fr, Fnac
Spain – € 799 – Fnac.es, El Corte Inglés