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Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: Android’s dark horse champion

Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: Android’s dark horse champion

This is excellent turn of events for Huawei. Just a few weeks ago, it faced oblivion. The embargo was an existential threat for the company, preventing it from sourcing chipsets, mobile modems, and even the underlying ARM instruction sets used by its HiSilicon Kirin processors. Now, it’s able to resume as it previously did.

Now, with the launch of Mate 20 Pro, Huawei — perhaps for the first time — is a legitimate contender for the position of the best smartphone around, period.

The Mate 20 Pro is a big upgrade to the P20 Pro. It, too, has three rear cameras (with major differences, though; more on that later), but it has a bigger, better screen, a faster processor, better water resistance, a bigger battery, and wireless charging.

Huawei went beyond a spec bump, though. The Mate 20 Pro also has an under-the-display fingerprint scanner and reverse wireless charging (meaning you can charge other gadgets simply by placing them onto the phone’s back). You won’t find either technology on flagships from Apple or Samsung.

A phone is more than a list of specs, certainly. But I’ve used the Mate 20 Pro as my primary phone for a week, and it’s lived up to the promise. It’s fast and powerful, and it has every bit of tech I ever wanted from a smartphone — not to mention it took stunning photos and its battery lasted forever.

The Mate 20 Pro’s display is excellent. It makes the phone look like the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 had a baby with the iPhone XS. It has a notch on top, rounded edges on the sides, and a small but noticeable chin on the bottom. I like the look, but it’s essentially an imitation of not one but two famous phones, which may be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective. Original it is not.

On the back, the phone’s three cameras and flash are organized in a rectangle that’s unique. The phone can be had in the “Twilight” color, which is a beautiful purple-to-blue gradient, first seen on the P20 Pro. You can also get it in “Emerald Green” or, like my review unit, “Midnight Blue.” Both have a subtle line pattern on the back that glitters when moved under a light source. I liked the color, but when you’re in a dark room, it doesn’t really shine as it does in Huawei’s promotional materials. Finally, you can get the phone in black; I haven’t seen that one, but it appears to be the least exciting of the four colors.

Details like the red power button, tapered edges, or a (very) subtly textured back that should improve grippiness (it does, but ever so slightly) give the phone a premium feel. And just like most Huawei flagships of late, the Mate 20 Pro oozes quality and precision.

The phone’s size hits a perfect spot for me. It sounds big — a few years ago, 6.4-inch phones were enormous beasts — but due to its tiny bezels and display that’s curved on the sides, the Mate is actually slightly smaller than the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max.

Overall, the Mate is unique in some ways and yet derivative in others, but even then, it’s unique on the market, as no one else has copied both the iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy phone at the same time. Bottom line: It looks and feels very nice, and this, I assume, is what most users will care about.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s display is a crisp 6.39-inch OLED with a 3,120 x 1,440 pixel resolution and HDR10 support. I’ve compared it directly to the iPhone X (unfortunately, I didn’t have an iPhone XS for a direct comparison), and it’s noticeably brighter, with better contrast and more vivid colors.

Not everything’s perfect, though. The Mate 20 Pro’s colors pop more, but somewhat unnaturally so. The display’s color mode is “Vivid” by default, which makes this worse, but even after you change it to normal, the colors were still a bit too much to me. Check out the example below; on the iPhone X’s screen the color of the guitar appears natural. On the Mate 20 Pro, it’s nearly orange. Sure, the Mate’s display looks flashier at first, but some will prefer the iPhone X’s more natural colors.

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