Ah, a new Photo king rises, but its kingdom of apps was taken away before its birth. What happens next then, the crowd asks? Will its subjects flee with the riches now gone? Or will the Huawei P40 Pro break new paths through this uncharted territory and keep its former glory? The crowds shall get their answer!
It was tough for Huawei to lose Google support, but it will be even more challenging to sell in the current stagnated market amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. But the P40 series is having its launch despite the global health crisis, and the P40 Pro surely looks like it is ready to stand its ground.
The P40 Pro provides a premium camera experience with improved sensors and a focus on the optical zooming, plus it has the new 90Hz 1200p OLED screen. There is an even more premium device than the Pro – the new P40 Pro+ with a ceramic body and a jaw-dropping 10x optical zoom.
The Pro+ launch was moved for this summer season though and it seems it will be more of a limited edition, quite expensive at that. So, all eyes on the P40 Pro here, please, as it is the star of this show.
The P40 Pro is Huawei‘s first smartphone with a high-refresh-rate screen – it now has a 6.58″ curved OLED with high-resolution of 1200p and 90Hz refresh rate. The elliptical punch-hole is quite the eyesore but packs a brand-new 32MP selfie camera with autofocus (finally!) and a ToF snapper. It seems that Huawei is making up for the lost pixels Huawei by putting the tech needed for 3D face unlock.
The main camera is what everyone will be talking about, of course. It has a new 50MP sensor with a RYYB filter that will spit 12MP photos. Then comes the ultrawide shooter lifted straight from the Mate 30 Pro – a 40MP sensor with RGGB filter and autofocus. The zoom camera seems to have an identical periscope lens for 5x optical zoom as seen on the P30 Pro’s – but gets a new 12MP sensor with RYYB filter and will allow more light at nighttime. And finally, there is another ToF camera for portraits and autofocus assistance.
The new Kirin 990 5G is at the helm of the P40 Pro. At 4,200 mAh, the battery capacity has remained unchanged since the P30 Pro but charging should be faster.
Huawei P40 Pro specs
Body: Glass front and back, aluminum frame; IP68-rated for dust and water resistance.
Security: Fingerprint reader (under display, optical), 3D face recognition.
Connectivity: 5G/4G/3G/GSM; Dual SIM, Wi-Fi 6+, Dual-band GPS, Bluetooth 5.1 + LE, NFC, USB Type-C.
Misc: IR blaster, acoustic display acts as earpiece, bottom-firing loudspeaker.
The Huawei P40 Pro seems to be lacking so little but the elephant in the room – the absence of Google Mobile Services – is something that raises many questions. And you will get those answered if you stick for a while with us.
Unboxing the Huawei P40 Pro
There are no surprises within the P40 Pro retail box – its contents are worthy of a flagship. Inside you will find the 40W power brick and the enhanced USB-C cable that goes with it.
Huawei is also throwing a pair of its wired earbuds ending on a USB-C plug. Those have the same shape as Huawei’s FreeBuds 3, they are just not so free.
Some markets may be getting a silicone case with the P40 Pro, but our box did not offer one.
If someone thought Huawei was done after Google cut them off – they were wrong. The Mate 30 and the P40 series are here to prove that there is a life after Google, and it’s not as bad as you might think initially.
Google’s absence is still obvious and while we are pretty sure the Play Services will find their way on to the P40 phones, one way or another, the third-party stores are getting better and stronger, and you are never left without options. The Amazon AppStore and APKPure are perfectly capable to keep most of your apps up to date.
The hardware package is mightily impressive though, and this is where everyone should be focused, not on the Google stuff. The P40 Pro has an excellent screen with top-notch resolution and high refresh rate. The new Kirin 990 5G is one of the best on the market, with solid thermal properties.
But the new Leica camera on both ends are the attention grabbers. Huawei has kept the same arrangement on the back as on the P30 Pro, but has improved the sensors, lenses, and the processing algorithms. New video options are available, too. Meanwhile, at the front, the selfie shooter has finally gotten an autofocus, while with the help of the ToF camera you will get some amazing portrait shots.
With the right price position, stimuli (the pre-orders get FreeBuds 3), and most important – marketing push – the Huawei P40 Pro has every chance of not only surviving but beating the odds.
Well, we can’t start this chapter without mentioning one great alternative sold at nearly half the P40 Pro price. Huawei P30 Pro figure was slashed numerous times post the USA vs. Huawei war, and it is currently a hot deal pretty much everywhere. The previous generation flagship offers a similar experience in terms of performance and camera (read great). Sure, you will lose the 90Hz refresh rate and the top-notch ultrawide camera, but the P30 Pro almost €500 cheaper! Oh, and it has all Google services on board and already runs on Android 10 + EMUI 10.
Huawei P40 Pro next to the P30 Pro
The Galaxy S20+ is your next option. Its price is a close match to the P40 Pro, but it’s Dynamic AMOLED is larger and of higher resolution. The screen also supports HDR10+, and you can enjoy high-definition content from all popular streaming services thanks to the entirety of Google’s package. The camera experience and quality are similar even if the optical zoom has a shorter range. The Galaxy also offers stereo speakers, 120Hz refresh rate instead of 90Hz, 8K video capturing, and a bit faster performance.
Oppo Find X2 is an interesting alternative to consider if available in your region. It’s a great flagship ran by the Snapdragon 865 and uses a 6.7″ 120Hz Quad HD AMOLED screen. It has high-res wide and ultrawide snappers and a 13MP cam witha periscope lens for 5x optical zoom. Stereo speakers, Android 10, and 65W fast charging complete the flagship bundle.
Finally, the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro will be launching soon, and it will cost as much as the Huawei. We know it will have a 6.67″ 90Hz AMOLED of 1080p resolution and the newest Snapdragon 865 chip. The quad-camera at the back is quite peculiar – a 108MP primary, a 20MP ultrawide, an 8MP telephoto for 10x hybrid zoom, and a 12MP portrait camera with 2x optical zoom. 8K capturing is available on its main camera, stereo speaker setup is present, Android 10 as well, and the Mi 10 supports 50W fast charging.
Huawei P30 Pro • Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus • Oppo Find X2 Pro • Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro 5G
The Huawei P40 Pro is the right kind of a flagship – it offers cutting-edge tech across the board. The OLED screen is both high-resolution and with a high refresh rate, the performance is brilliant and yet won’t suffer from throttling from heating, and then the battery is relatively large and very fast to recharge.
Photography is what the P40 Pro is all about, and the phone excels in that even if there were some hiccups along the way. We are sure Huawei will fix the minor issues we observed with an update, and we already like its plans for EMUI’s expansion.
The fate of the brand lies in its supporters, but we are seeing no reason why you should stay away from it. The P40 Pro is an excellent flagship specimen worth experiencing, be it with Google functions or not.
Eye-catchy curved design, water-proof body.
Excellent high-res 90Hz OLED screen.
Flagship-grade sustained performance.
Dependable battery life, blazing-fast charging.
Excellent photo quality day and night across all cameras.
Great video quality at 30fps across the board, excellent stabilization.
All-round connectivity, though no 3.5mm jack
Only takes NV cards for memory expansion.
No Google Mobile Services means some apps and games will never work no matter what.
A Mate 20 before the real Mate 20s are out that’s lighter on your wallet but not light on features – it’s the Huawei Mate 20 lite. While waiting for the big boys, we figured we’d give this midranger a go.
As with previous Huawei Lites, the Mate 20 edition packs one of the company’s mid-tier chipsets, but this time it’s a new one – instead of the ubiquitous 659, it’s now the 12nm Kirin 710 that swaps out 4 of the Cortex-A53 cores in its CPU for the more powerful A73 variety; a new GPU is also part of the 710 bundle.
The Mate 20 comes with a 20MP f/1.8 primary cam instead of the 16MP f/2.2 unit found in the latest Lite, the P20. On the front, we now see a 24MP f/2.0 camera for selfies, as opposed to the P20 lite’s 16MP f/2.2 module. Each of the Mate’s high-res shooters is paired with an extra 2MP unit for depth detection too.
Like the true Mates, the 20 lite has a large display – in this case a 6.3-inch FullHD-ish panel in a 19.5:9 aspect, complete with the mandatory notch. Mandatory for a Mate, this Lite one has a generous 3,750mAh battery – couple that with the 12nm SoC and we’re in for some pretty good endurance.
Huawei Mate 20 lite specs
Body: Aluminum frame, glass back, 158.3 x 75.3 x 7.6 mm, 172g.
It’s looking like a solid midrange package the Mate 20 lite, but let’s first check out what’s in the actual package.
Huawei Mate 20 lite unboxing
The Mate 20 lite comes in an understated black box with the name of the phone printed on top and on the sides of the lid. The phone’s on top and underneath it there’s a paper sleeve containing one of the thickest quick start guides we’ve seen lately (it’s in a lot of languages), but also a screen protector.
Remove that and you’ll see the charger labeled Huawei Quick Charge. That’s not to be confused with the Huawei Super Charge adapters that you’ll find bundled with the company’s proper high-end models, but it’s still rated at 9V/2A, so there is some form of rapid charging involved. There’s also a USB-A to USB-C cable and in a separate compartment you’ll find a pair of basic earbuds to get yourself started.
Huawei‘s huge smartphone portfolio inevitably means there are a ton of options within the company’s own lineup. The Honor Play we reviewed recently immediately comes to mind offering the soon-to-be-replaced flagship Kirin 970 chipset which is substantially more powerful than the Mate 20 lite‘s Kirin 710. The Mate wins the stills camera battle, but you may want the Honor’s 4K video. The Honor is substantially cheaper making things extra difficult.
Honor Play • Huawei P20 lite • Nokia 7 plus • Galaxy A6 Plus (2018) • Xiaomi Mi 8 SE • Xperia XA2 Plus
The P20 lite has a weaker chip than the Mate 20 lite, and shorter battery life, but is even more affordable than the Honor Play. You’ll be sacrificing some of the camera prowess, but you’ll also be getting a more compact package.
Once you’ve got your Huawei‘s all sorted out, you should probably have a look at the Nokia 7 Plus. Its Snapdragon 660 is at least as powerful as the Mate 20 lite’s Kirin 710 and battery life is almost as good. It’s got a telephoto camera, however, and can also record 4K video, which the Mate doesn’t. The Android One on the Nokia will please purists and the slightly lower price will please… well, everyone.
Another in a list of more affordable alternatives, the Samsung Galaxy A6+ (2018) will give you a better display and even longer battery life, but a significantly slower chip and a microUSB port (what year is it?).
No such issues with the Mi 8 SE, whose Snapdragon 710 outperforms the Kirin 710 in the Mate 20 lite, and it can do the number crunching for 4K recording too. Battery life is in the Mate’s favor overall, though not by much, and the Mi’s lack of a headphone jack is a bummer, especially in this class.
The Xperia XA2 Plus has all the right ports and jacks, so no advantage over the Mate on this front. It does match it in battery life, and sells for almost the same money, but is lacking depth cams on either side. Its otherwise not as potent Snapdragon 630 can record 4K video nonetheless.
Having the flagship’s name is good and all, but Huawei‘s priced the Mate 20 lite without accounting for the ‘lite’ bit too much, and we’re not liking the numbers. It’s a good overall package, with excellent battery life, decent display and good image quality from its two (real) cameras. But other phones offer those too, some even outperform the Mate in key areas, and often at a lower price. Carrier subsidies could sway things in any direction, but at full retail (north of €400)р we find the Mate 20 tough to recommend.
Light, without feeling cheap
Battery life to spare
Good all-round camera experience with some creative options
Expensive for the hardware
No 4K video recording, poor quality 1080p/60fps (though not bad 1080p/30fps)
Huawei has officially announced HarmonyOS, the operating system it was rumored to be developing to replace its reliance on Android. In China, the software will be known as Hongmeng. The company says the operating system, a microkernel-based distributed OS, can be used in everything from smartphones to smart speakers, wearables, and in-vehicle systems to create a shared ecosystem across devices. The operating system will be released as an open-source platform worldwide to encourage adoption.
There’s been a lot of speculation about Huawei’s in-house operating system ever since Google suspended the company’s Android license back in May, following the US government’s decision to put Huawei on the Entity List. Huawei has made no secret of the fact that it’s been working on its own OS, but the extent to which it would be able to act as a substitute for Android is unclear.
Interestingly enough, the list includes the Honor V40, Huawei nova 8 and Huawei nova 8 Pro phones despite these now even being officially announced yet.
HarmonyOS eligible Huawei devices:
– Huawei Mate 40
– Huawei Mate 40 Pro
– Huawei Mate 40 Pro+
– Huawei Mate 40 RS Porsche Design
– Huawei Mate X
– Huawei Mate Xs
– Huawei P40
– Huawei P40 Pro
– Huawei P40 Pro+
– Huawei Mate 30 4G
– Huawei Mate 30 Pro 4G
– Huawei Mate 30 5G
– Huawei Mate 30 Pro 5G
– Huawei Mate 30 RS Porsche Design
– Huawei Nova 8 (Upcoming)
– Huawei Nova 8 Pro (Upcoming)
– Huawei Nova 7 Pro 5G
– Huawei Nova 7 5G
– Huawei Nova 7 SE
– Huawei P30
– Huawei P30 Pro
– Huawei Mate 20
– Huawei Mate 20 Pro
– Huawei Mate 20 X 4G
– Huawei Mate 20 X 5G
– Huawei Mate 20 RS
– Huawei Nova 6 SE
– Huawei Nova 6 5G
HarmonyOS eligible Honor devices:
– Honor V40 (Upcoming)
– Honor 30 Pro
– Honor 30 Pro+
– Honor V30
– Honor V30 Pro
– Honor Play 4 Pro
– Honor X10 5G
– Honor 30
– Honor 30S
– Honor X10 5G
– Honor 20 Pro
– Honor 20
– Honor 9X Pro
– Honor 9X
HarmonyOS eligible wearables:
– Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro (pre-installed – Chinese version)
– Huawei Watch GT 2e
– Huawei Watch GT 2
HarmonyOS eligible tablets:
– Huawei MatePad Pro
– Huawei MatePad Pro 5G
– Honor Tablet V6
While HC itself confirmed these three phones are incoming and not officially confirmed in any way, the Huawei-centric website rarely is giving misleading information. Nevertheless, the website compiled all the Huawei and Honor devices through various leaks and the interesting thing is only nova, P, and Mate series devices are in line for Harmony OS 2.0 – no mention of the Enjoy/Y lineup.
Looking at the Honor devices, the brand is doing a similar thing – no entry-level phones in line, not the Honor 9 series, nor the Honor 30i or Honor 30 Youth. It looks like all devices with GMS are not switching and Huawei is slowly going to phase them out.
The list of eligible devices also includes three watches and three tablets by Huawei. Interestingly enough, the GT 2 Pro is going to arrive with Harmony OS pre-installed – the wearable runs Lite OS currently
Huawei plans to launch HarmonyOS on “smart screen products” later this year, before expanding it to work on other devices, like wearables, over the next three years. The first of these products will be the Honor Smart Screen, which is due to be unveiled on Saturday. Huawei has yet to explicitly say what constitutes a “smart screen” device, but Reuters previously reported that the OS would appear on a range of Honor smart TVs. The focus for the operating system will be products for the Chinese market at first, before Huawei expands it to other markets.
In a statement, the CEO of Huawei’s consumer business group, Richard Yu, says that HarmonyOS is “completely different from Android and iOS” because of its ability to scale across different kinds of devices. “You can develop your apps once, then flexibly deploy them across a range of different devices,” the CEO says.
Previously, it’s been unclear whether HarmonyOS would be an operating system for smartphones or for Internet of Things devices. It now appears that it’s designed to power both, similar to Google’s experimental Fuchsia operating system, which is designed to run on various form-factors.
Although the OS will come to more devices over the next three years, in a follow-up press release, Huawei said that “for the time being” it intends to continue using Android on its phones. Whether it can continue to do so is another matter. CNBC reports that in a press conference following the launch, Yu said that the situation was “unclear” as to whether Huawei can still use Android, and that the company is “waiting on an update” to find out.
Since placing Huawei on the Entity List, the Trump administration has indicated that it’s willing to ease the restrictions on the company. In July, senior officials said that the administration would grant licenses to deal with Huawei in instances where national security wouldn’t be impacted. However, yesterday, Bloomberg reported that the White House is delaying its decision about issuing these licenses in the wake of China’s decision to halt purchases of US farming goods. It’s yet another suggestion that the Huawei restrictions have as much to do with the US-China trade war as they do with protecting national security.
HarmonyOS now has an official name, but it still has some major hurdles to overcome. Huawei is expecting developers to recompile their apps for this new operating system, with the ability to code once and deploy across multiple devices with different screen layouts, interactions, and more. Huawei says developers can compile a range of languages into machine code in a single environment, but it’s unclear exactly how easy that will be for developers. There are a lot of big promises here, but it’s going to be an even bigger challenge to build an app ecosystem to rival both Android and Android Open Source Project (AOSP).
Added Huawei confirmation that the Honor Smart Screen will be the first product running HarmonyOS, and the company intends to continue using Android for the time being. Comments from Huawei’s consumer CEO noting that the company’s situation with Android is still “unclear” were also added.
The new features of EMUI 11 include the artistic Always on Display designs and clock themes, improved multi-window mode, smoother UI animations, better multi-screen collaboration, and more.
Huawei announced EMUI 11 during its Developer Conference today and even though it’s not based on Android 11, the generational upgrade deserves its name. It brings some visual changes to the table, new animations, features and under the hood optimizations.
Huawei EMUI 11 based Android 10 first look :
One of the most notable changes in the new EMUI are the multi-window and split-screen functionalities. Both are now put in the center so the user can get more familiar with the features instead of tucking them somewhere in the menus. Now there’s a dedicated gesture to bring out the Smart Multi-Window sidebar. You can summon it in every app or menu. A small side window will open with your favorite apps and with a single drag-and-drop gesture you can start multi-tasking. Of course, the windows are free-form and can be adjusted in size.
The always-on screen gets a couple of new customization options as well. There are new styles and even animated always-on displays. Choosing a picture from your gallery is also an option and the system will convert it into an appropriate color palette.
The animations when navigating through the menus have been optimized for high-refresh-rate displays. Huawei says that it poured hours of research into how the user perceives transition animations and where your eyes usually wander on the screen while navigating. Using the data, the company optimized the animations to look even smoother and also faster.
Multi-screen collaboration 3.0 is now part of EMUI 11 allowing you to control up to three Android apps from your PC once you sync your Huawei phone to the MateBook. Quite similar to Samsung and Microsoft’s Your Phone app.
There are other subtle improvements to the system apps and how the system handles permissions. One example would be the permission notification in the status bar. If an app on the foreground is using your microphone, GPS or camera, a status bar icon will let you know.
You can check the full changelog for more details.
EMUI 11 refines the user experience and brings vivid, dynamic visual elements for the Always On Display (AOD). AOD now allows you to customize your screen and showcase your personal style with text and images even when the screen is off.
Multi-Window allows you to open apps in a floating window for multitasking. You can relocate the floating window to the desired location or minimize it to a floating bubble for easier access later.
The brand new, intuitive animations throughout EMUI 11 create a smoother, more unified, and visually pleasing user experience when touching items or sliding on the screen.
Whether you’re toggling switches on or off, subtle effects have been enhanced throughout the OS for greater visual satisfaction.
This is a special feature that enables your devices to work together to achieve their full potential. You can mirror your phone to your laptop’s screen to improve your productivity with multiple app windows readily available. (This feature requires a Huawei laptop with PC Manager of version 11.0 or later.)
When you project your phone onto an external display, messages and incoming calls are displayed only on your phone screen, both protecting your privacy and ensuring the continuity of screen projection
Notepad now supports editing notes simultaneously from multiple Huawei devices. For example, you can insert a photo from your phone to the note being edited on your tablet.
You can now quickly identify and extract text from images or documents, edit the text, and then export and share it. Creating a digital version of a paper document has never been easier.
EMUI 11 will be pre-installed on all new Huawei phones from now on while the final version of the software will hit P40 and Mate 30-series pretty soon. The Android 11-based iteration, however, will be delayed because of the ongoing trade ban. Since Huaweididn’t have early access to Android 11‘s source code, the company has had that for only a couple of days since Google released its latest OS just the other day.
EMUI 10 was announced at Huawei Developer Conference 2019 (HDC). Following this release, Huawei announced the EMUI 10 beta rollouts for the Huawei P30 series devices.
Compared to its predecessor, EMUI 10 delivers faster performance, new UX design including Magazine Style UI layout, Morandi Colors, Dark Mode, Golden Icons, New Animations, New dark mode as well as improved privacy features.
Early 2020, Huawei unveiled Huawei P40 series, pre-installed with EMUI 10.1, a step-up version of EMUI 10 with added new features. EMUI 10.1 comes with new features such as multi-window multi-tasking, multi-device collaboration, multi-device browsing, new smart features, and more.
On September 10, 2020, at HDC 2020 Huawei launched EMUI 11, it brings new smart Always on Display, improved multi-window mode, smoother animations, better multi-screen collaboration, and more.
Which device will get the EMUI 11? Here are some of them. Most of the devices in this list are identical to EMUI 10 and 10.1 and it’s based on their OS upgrades cycles. As usual, the company will remove the devices that have completed their updates cycle.
Arriving a few months after the rest of the Mate 20 series phones, but considered by many as the best phone in the family, the Mate 20 X is finally stepping in by offering all the screen real estate you could possibly want in a phone.
Better late than never, as the old saying goes. The Mate 20 X was among the most interesting Mate 20 phones, but it never really saw the light of day outside of a few Southeast Asian countries. Not until recently, that is.
The Mate 20 X has now launched in a few European markets and while the chances are that the P30 is already around the corner, the Mate 20 X has niche of its own.
The 20 X is indeed the most memorable device of the Mate quartet – it has the largest of screens, the best of cameras, the fastest of processors, and the beefiest of batteries. It supports a Huwaei’s M-Pen stylus and the gigantic OLED screen has the smallest of them notches.
The Full HD resolution isn’t what we’d call exactly ‘best’, but it is the one to have if you are a gamer. And among other things, the Mate 20 X was indeed praised for its potential gaming prowess. You can even opt for a special hardware controller for a more immersive gaming experience.
We were eager to get this beast of a phone for a spin since its announcement, and here it is – finally in our hands. But before we dig into its productivity, gaming and photography skills, let’s take a closer look at its specs.
Huawei Mate 20 X specs
Body: dual-glass with metal frame; IP53-rated for dust and splash resistance
Camera features: 1/1.7″ 40MP sensor, up to ISO 102,400, 5x optical zoom, OIS + EIS, Variable Aperture, Portrait Mode, can shoot long-exposure without a tripod
Selfie cam: 24MP, f/2.0 Leica lens, Portrait Mode with live bokeh effects
Battery: 5,000mAh; Super Charge 22.5W
Security: Fingerprint reader (rear-mounted)
Connectivity: Dual SIM, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5 + LE, NFC, USB Type-C
Misc: IR blaster, stereo speakers, M-Pen support
What a specs sheet – but that goes without saying as it’s shaering the Mate 20 Pro’s DNA through and through! The Huawei Mate 20 X enjoys a large AMOLED, larger than the Huawei Mate 20 Pro but has a more game-friendly resolution and notch size. Then, it also has the same Kirin chipset, the same triple-camera with 3x optical zoom, and a massive 5,000 mAh battery with Super Charge. What’s not to like, right?
Well, the lack of water-proofing might be an issue, but the Mate 20 X does have proper stereo speakers and an audio jack.
But before we dig into any of that, let’s do some unboxing.
Unboxing the Huawei Mate 20 X
The Mate 20 X, just like the star of the series – the Mate 20 Pro – comes packed within a black paper box. Inside you’d find the 22.5W charging brick, the special USB Type-C cable you’d need to fast charge the X, and a pair of earbuds.
The box also contains a transparent rubber case in some regions outside the EU, but we didn’t get one along with ours. There was a factory preapplied screen protector, though.
We have never been keen on Huawei‘s flagship fragmentation and it’s getting worse with each new series. While we could get behind the release of a normal and Pro model for the P series, the Mate versions never really made sense. And the Mate 20 lineup is not an exception, on the contrary.
The Mate 20 Pro is the model intended for the global market, but the mere presence of this Pro moniker hints for other options. And if a customer wants to see them, well, they are not available to him. This just doesn’t make sense, at all.
Mate 20 X between the Mate 20 Pro and Mate 20
But it is what it is, and the Mate 20 X is finally available for purchase outside China. It took four months for Huawei to begin selling this in Europe, and it’s only official in a couple of markets, but that’s a huge step in the right direction. On top of that, various online retailers are shipping the Mate 20 X across the world, so pretty much anybody can get it now.
The Mate 20 X was shaping as the best Mate 20 phone owing to its massive screen, gaming skills, class-leading camera, S-Pen-like stylus, and huge battery, but Huawei never really meant to push its sales. While it could have been the Pro model, the maker instead considered it more of a limited fan edition, rather than a full-fledged package.
Here is hoping the Mate 20 X does sell well and Huawei reconsiders what the Mate 30 series should look like next fall.
The Mate 20 X has the largest screen in a smartphone so far, flagship camera, chipset and all, and this is quite enough to leave it without competition.
The only phone to come close to Huawei‘s behemoth is the Xiaomi’s Mi Max 3 with a 6.9″ 1080p LCD screen. The Mi Max 3 is a mid-ranger with a Snapdragon 636 chipset, but other than that, it offers one very good 12MP camera with large pixels, a massive 5,500 mAh battery, and is super cheap at about €250.
Speaking of Xiaomi, its most current large phone is the flagship Mi Mix 3 slider, which has a notch-less 6.4″ 1080 AMOLED, Snapdragon 845 chip and great all-round camera experience. It’s cheaper than the Mate 20 X, but you’d be losing the extra camera skills.
The Galaxy Note9 with its 6.4″ QHD AMOLED screen is Samsung’s offer if you want a phablet, and it ships with an S-Pen and a dedicated slot for it within the Note’s body. It’s equally powerful, the screen doesn’t have a notch, and is now cheaper than the X, too.
Vivo’s NEX S has a 6.6″ AMOLED screen, notch-free as well, flagship-grade Snapdragon 845 chip, and a good-enough camera. It’s as limited as the Mate 20 X, if not more, but it might be cheaper where officially available. If you are after a smartphone with a large screen, you should check this one out. The pop-up selfie camera might not be your thing, though, so you have been warned.
Finally, Apple has the iPhone XS Max with a 6.5″ 1242p AMOLED screen and is probably best equipped to compete with the Mate 20 X despite the different operating system. The iPhone’s screen has an eyesore of a notch, sure, but is one of the largest screens around. Then Apple’s A12 Bionic chip is currently the fastest chipset in a smartphone. The XS Max is fully water-proofed, but while its camera is quite capable, it is not as versatile as the Mate’s and lacks Night Mode. The XS Max is a bit more expensive than the Mate 20 X.
And of course, if you want a Huawei like the Mate 20 X, but a bit smaller and cheaper, you can always go for the Mate 20 Pro or Mate 20.
Xiaomi Mi Max 3 • Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 • Samsung Galaxy Note9 • vivo NEX S • Apple iPhone XS Max
The Huawei Mate 20 X is not everyone’s cup of tea because of that giant 7.2″ screen. While it is a joy for gamers, it might be a nightmare as a daily driver because of that size. Then again, the Mate 20 Xis about 15-17mm taller than the most recent bunch of phablets – the Galaxy Note9, iPhone XS Max, Mi Mix 3 – so its footprint might be not so tough to stomach after all
And if size is what you are after, the rest is as flagship-grade as it can get right now. The Kirin 980 chipset is one of the best, the triple-camera on the back might be the most-skilled setups to date, and the battery life is pretty awesome. There are also some nice touches like the true stereo speakers, the audio jack, and the stylus support if you need one.
Overall, the Huawei Mate 20 X is one of the best flagships right now, even four months after its premiere. No other modern phone can match its screen size, and this alone could have won Huawei the whole phablet category. If only Huawei has thought this through last fall…
The Y9 Prime 2019. It comes with an attractive design, a sizeable sweet display, and that trendy pop-up front camera mechanism.
Design and Construction
Up front, the Huawei Y9 Prime 2019 greets us with a full-screen display. Very slim bezels adorn the sides and the top of the Y9 Prime, and while there’s still a little bit of chin, it isn’t that distracting. The chin’s also there to pretty much ensure that the user’s fingers still have a bit of space to swipe up from. The notch-less full-screen display is made possible thanks to the Y9 Prime’s pop-up front camera mechanism.
Turning the device on its rear, we have the triple-camera setup and the fingerprint scanner. The smartphone employs a two-tone colorway, with the design slightly reminiscent of the Pixel’s design. The unit we have on hand here is in the Emerald Green color. While the rear is made of plastic, it gives off a glass-like look and feel upon the first touch. The polycarbonate material also allows the device to feel sturdy and premium when held.
At the right, there’s the power button and the volume rocker. As the phone is quite sizeable, you might need to stretch your thumb a little to reach the buttons, especially if you have small hands. Despite that, they’re both clicky and tactile. The left side of the device is bare without any buttons or the like.
At the top, next to the pop-up camera mechanism, one can find the hybrid dual SIM card tray and the noise-canceling mic.
Last but not least, there’s the 3.5mm audio jack, a USB-C port, a noise-canceling mic for regular calls, and the single-downward firing speaker, all located at the bottom of the device.
Display and Multimedia
The Y9 Prime comes equipped with a 6.59-inch FHD+ LTPS LCD, with a resolution of 2340 x 1080. Slapping a screen protector on the phone would be ideal as the Y9 Prime does not come with any display protection. The enormous display is incredible when it comes to consuming media. You do get an almost-full screen experience as there are no thick bezels nor a notch to obstruct the view; the viewing angles are great as well. The contrast could be more improved though, as well as the vibrancy of the colors.
When it comes to the speaker’s performance, the audio quality is a disappointment. The volume needs to be improved as it doesn’t get loud enough to fill an entire room, even at maximum volume. The lows aren’t exactly present with the volume turned up, resulting in a tinny sound.
OS, UI, and Apps
Android 9 Pie with EMUI 9 skinned on top runs as the Y9 Prime’s operating system. EMUI has a pretty straightforward UI, with tips popping up here and there if ever you’re a first-time user. A standard home screen will greet you out of the box, with the app icons arranged in different screens. This can be modified into a drawer-style arrangement if you’re into that. For navigation, you can also change it up to a gesture-based instead of the default three-button navigation.
Our unit here has 128GB of storage, with about 110GB of it usable. The usual Google apps come with the phone out of the box, as well as third-party apps like Facebook, Agoda, Netflix, and Camera360. The Y9 Prime also has a Party mode, a SIM Toolkit, HiCare, Health, FM Radio, Storage Cleaner, and the Huawei AppGallery.
A 16MP shooter sits in the Y9 Prime’s pop-up mechanism, while on a triple camera setup composed of the 16MP main + 8MP ultrawide + 2MP depth shooters sit on the rear.
When it comes to selfies, using the standard photo mode, the quality of the images is average enough to post on social media. A bit of a downside, however, is that some of the photos tend to look overexposed. As for portrait selfies, the subject-background separation is rather weak. The edges of the subject are slightly smudged and blurry as well, which shouldn’t be the case in portrait selfies.
As for the rear cameras, in the standard photo mode, the quality is pretty decent. There’s contrast, sharpness for details can be seen as well. When it comes to color, however, it’s not quite accurate, and it lacks vibrancy as some of the photos produced look washed-out. Portrait-mode with the rear cameras, again there’s the lack of a subject-background separation. Similar to the selfies, the edges of the subject are smudged and blurry as well. The Y9 Prime’s camera has a Night Mode, and it’s pretty good when compared to taking low-light shots with just the standard photo mode. In Night Mode, the images take on a brighter tone and get a tinge of color as well.
For video, the Y9 Prime can shoot up to 1080p at 30fps. Video quality is modest, especially in natural light. Check it out.
Performance and Benchmarks
Hisilicon Kirin 710F powers up the Y9 Prime, coupled with Mali-G51 MP4 GPU and 4GB of RAM. As always, we ran the smartphone through a couple of benchmarks, and here are the results:
Performance-wise, the Y9 Prime is pretty capable of multi-tasking, productivity, and gaming. We found the large, full-screen to be a big help when it comes to doing tasks such as reading documents, writing, jotting notes, and the like. Gaming-wise, we played Honkai Impact, Asphalt, and PUBG on it. The games were playable, but do note that we were either at the lowest or at the medium setting to be able to play them.
For biometrics, the Y9 Prime comes with a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. It registered fingerprints pretty quick. Even with the quick registration, unlocking the device took about a second. It might be a tad slower than what we’re used to, but it’s still reliable.
Connectivity and Battery Life
Y9 Prime 2019 has the usual connectivity features like LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and the like. Pinning locations and such on the map and Waze was also accurate. AR games are possible to play with this phone as it has a Gyroscope sensor.
For battery, the device comes equipped with a 4,000mAh battery. PC Mark’s battery test gave the Y9 Prime a total of 16 hours and 15 minutes. In our standard video loop test (50% brightness, 50% volume, airplane mode, headphones plugged in), the Y9 Prime ran for about 18 hours and 53 minutes.
Huawei Y9 Prime 2019 specs
6.59-inch FHD+ (2340 x 1080) LTPS display, 391ppi
HiSilicon Kirin 710 (12nm) 2.2GHz octa-core CPU
Mali-G51 MP4 GPU
64GB, 128GB storage
microSD card support
16MP (main) + 8MP (ultrawide) + 2MP (depth) triple rear cameras
16MP FF pop-up front camera
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
USB 2.0 Type-C
3.5mm audio jack
EMUI 9.0 (Android 9 Pie)
163.5 x 77.3 x 8.8 mm
Midnight Black, Emerald Green, Sapphire Blue
The alluring but always elusive gaming smartphone – many have tried to build it, even Razer, but no one did it perfectly. Now, Honor is also joining the gaming race but with a new concept. Instead of greatness, the new Honor Play is pursuing affordability. And that’s a very welcome turn of events.
The Honor Play looks like most of the smartphones today – a metal body, notched screen, and a dual-camera on the back. The Kirin 970 chip is what’s in charge of the gaming session and the Play has Huawei‘s GPU Turbo out of the box.
The Kirin 970 has been known as one of the most efficient pieces of hardware for mobile gaming – it doesn’t cost as much but offers stable and sustainable performance. And with GPU Turbo things can only get better.
The 6.3″ 1080p screen, notch or not, is enough for gaming purposes, there is a large battery, and you can have the Honor Play with either 4 or 6 gigs of RAM. And on that attractive price at launch – CNY 1,999, INR 19,999, £279, €329 – color us intrigued.
Misc: Rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, single bottom-firing loudspeaker, 3.5mm audio port
Many omissions can be forgiven when a phone is as affordable as the Honor Play. Like the notch. And the hybrid SIM slot. And the missing FM radio.
Huawei will be launching the Kirin 980 chipset any moment now, which made possible to lower the Kirin 970 price even more and yet keep it valuable thanks to the recent GPU Turbo upgrades. Honor Play seems like a thoughtful addition to the otherwise crowded Honor series.
The phone is available in China and India already, while Europe is getting it just now. Will it game though? Let’s find out!
Unboxing the Honor Play
The white retail box of the Honor Play contains the phone itself, a white USB-C cable, and a white 18W charger. There are no headphones included, but an analogue audio port is available so feel free to plug your favorite pair.
There is a transparent soft case inside the paper compartment, which may not be as needed on a metal phone as it is on one with a glass back, but we still appreciate its presence.
We admit we were delighted to handle the Honor Play – its metal body was a breath of fresh air after a series of glass and glossy devices. Once the aluminum unibody was the popular choice, but now only a few phones get to offer it and the Honor Play is one of those rarities.
The aluminum unibody of the Honor Play is designed the right way – flat back, curved sides with rounded corners, and the good old antenna lines running fashionably around the top and bottom. For some reason, Honor decided to paint those in a darker violet hue than the rest of the body.
The fingerprint reader is on the back, always-on as usual, and blazing-fast and accurate. That’s the experience we usually get with Huawei-made devices and we are happy this hasn’t changed a bit.
The dual-camera setup is humping around, too. There is a 16MP primary cam here and a secondary 2MP sensor for depth sensing. A single LED flash sits outside the camera deck.
Huawei, and its Honor subsidiary, like to brag with the AI prowess of the camera. Just like with the Honor 10, the Play model also gets AI CAMERA inscription on the back. We’re glad they haven’t started putting texts with the phone’s other features around the body, too.
The Honor Play looks modern and trendier at the front. That’s because it packs a large 6.3″ display with tiny bezels and the mother of all trends – the cutout! The notch houses the earpiece, the sensors, and the 16MP selfie snapper, while a tiny LED notification blinker is hidden beneath the earpiece grille.
A notched screen is one way to trim the bezels and while not a fan-favorite, we can’t be angry with makers opting to give us less bezels even if it’s at the expense of a notch.
Honor isn’t specifying the type of glass used to protect the screen, but the history has taught us that sooner or later it will turn out to be one of those tough to break Gorillas.
The Honor Play features all necessary ports – analogue audio and USB Type-C, while its SIM slot is of the hybrid kind – you can swap the second SIM for a microSD card.
The recent Honor Play global announcement introduced two special color options with some design elements imitating a PCB traces running along the back – Player Edition Red and Player Edition Black, the latter with red accents around the hardware keys, camera and fingerprint scanner. They round the tally up to five colors, including the standard Midnight Black, Navy Blue, and Ultra Violet (the one we are reviewing).
The Honor Play spreads at 157.9 x 74.3 x 7.5 mm and weighs 176 g – that’s just 2mm taller than the recently launched Pocophone with a smaller 6.18″ notched screen.
Finally, the Play’s metal unibody has a pleasant matte finish, which boosts the grip and balances the curvy frame which on the other hand is compromising it. The Honor feels secure enough in hand, though one-handed operations are rarely possible at this screen size.
The Honor Play packs a 6.3″ IPS LCD display with a cutout on top. It has a resolution of 1,080 x 2,340 pixels or 409ppi. This size and resolution make for one of the tallest screen aspect ratios on a smartphone – 19.5:9.
There is no information on the display glass, but most Huawei and Honor devices use Gorilla Glass, so we have no reason to believe the Honor Play didn’t get the same treatment.
The Honor Play has three different color temperature presets for its display – Default, Warm, and Cold. Each of those has Normal for accurate and Vivid option for punchy colors. By default, the Honor Play is set at Default + Vivid. This is also where the screen achieves the maximum brightness of 470 nits. Elsewhere the Honor Play screen won’t light up north of 440 nits.
Unfortunately, the black levels are far from stellar no matter the color mode, and this explains the average contrast ratio of 1100:1.
Honor 10 (Normal)
Huawei Honor 7X
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
Xiaomi Mi 8 SE
Xiaomi Mi A2
Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite
Huawei P20 Lite
The Honor Play maximum brightness isn’t that impressive and there is no option to boost it outdoors. That’s why we got a good score for sunlight contrast, but nothing impressive. You would need the maximum brightness the screen can offer and then you’ll be able to use it hassle-free in those bright sunny days.
Now let’s talk about color accuracy. Having so many different screen modes is probably confusing, so we’d try to keep it short. We won’t comment on the Vivid options, as the colors are all over the board, as expected.
The Honor Play is set at Default + Normal out of the box. We measured an average deltaE of 4.5 for the DCI-P3 color space and maximum deviation of 7.2 at point white (leans toward violet). There is noticeable blue tint on the screen no matter what you are looking at.
But if you are all about color accuracy – then just pick Normal + Warm. With an average deltaE of 3.4 and a maximum deviation of 5 – the Honor Play will offer you reasonably accurate colors. The display may look a bit duller if you are coming from a punchy screen, but it’s better to have that option for a more accurate color rendition even if it’s not always on.
The Honor Play is powered by a large 3,750 mAh battery. It offers Huawei‘s custom solution called QuickCharge, which is not to be mistaken with SuperCharge. It still requires using the provided 18W charger and special cable combo, which can be limiting. Those two pieces come bundled with the Honor Play, so at least you don’t have to go shopping.
The 9V/2A QuickCharge adapter can bring the Honor Play from 0% to about 35% in around 30 minutes, which is not terribly fast either.
The Honor Play scored an excellent result in our battery test with a 94-hour Endurance rating. It did a great job in all tested scenarios – video playback, calls, web browsing and even stand-by performance.
There is one speaker on the Honor Play, and it’s at the bottom. It scored a Good mark in our loudness test. The sound quality is excellent though with very deep sound, rich, and with deep bass for a tiny loudspeaker.
Pink noise/ Music, dB
Ringing phone, dB
Huawei Honor 7X
Oppo Realme 1
Xiaomi Mi 8 SE
Huawei P20 Pro
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
Xiaomi Mi A2
The Honor Play delivered nicely accurate output with an external amplifier and its output was similarly excellent when headphones came into play. In fact the only reading to be affected was stereo crosstalk and that by a lower amount than usual.
Unfortunately, loudness wasn’t quite so impressive with the Honor Play being below average in both parts of the test. So those with a pair of high-impedance headphones might want to steer clear from that one. The rest should be perfectly happy with its performance.
IMD + Noise
Honor Play (headphones)
Pocophone F1 (headphones)
Oppo Find X
Oppo Find X (headphones)
HTC U12+ (headphones)
Samsung Galaxy S9+
Samsung Galaxy S9+ (headphones)
Android 8.1 with EMUI 8.2
Honor Play runs on Android 8.1 with EMUI 8.2 – a similar combination to what we saw on the Honor 10 a while ago. The EMUI is as custom as a launcher can get, so the Android purists may want to look elsewhere for a vanilla experience. The new v8.2 improves the Face Unlock and Gallery with machine learning, there are some new Gaming tricks, and a brand new Party Mode for music playback sync across different devices.
You can either embrace the notch, or you can opt to mask it with a black status bar that extends all the way down to the bottom edge of the notch. You should know, however, that hiding it doesn’t really work as well with an LCD panel as with it does with an AMOLED.
Out of the box, there is no app drawer on the EMUI 8 – it’s a single tier interface like on the iPhone. However, if you miss the Android’s usual layout, you can enable it back in the Display settings. There is also a handy search feature, which can be accessed by flicking down on any empty area of the home screen.
EMUI has Magazine lock screen, as usual, which rotates through a bunch of wallpapers, so you see a different one every time you fire up the display.
Huawei‘s EMUI offers plenty of customization and features like (not so secure) face unlock, smart rotation, and lift to wake. The face unlock has been enhanced with machine learning (or as Honor likes to call it – AI Power) and will learn to recognize your face even with changes such as facial hair or sunglasses.
The notification shade is pretty much a standard affair. There’s a brightness bar with an Auto toggle – pull down again for more toggles.
Multitasking is pretty standard as well. Tap-holding the Recents key will let you activate split screen.
From the Phone Manager app, you can access shortcuts to storage cleanup, battery settings, blocked numbers, Virus scan powered by Avast, and mobile data usage.
Huawei‘s own Music app is here and offers a way to listen to stored MP3s. Huawei‘s Health app is also pre-installed. It offers Google Fit syncing and step counting. There’s a file manager app and a note-taking app. There is an abundance of replacements for these in the Play Store, however.
There is an improved AI-powered gallery with EMUI 8.2. The app now supports automatic sorting with highlights. The machine learning decides the sorting criteria – location, date, event, etc.
The Party Mode is a new feature courtesy of EMUI 8.2. It’s available from app of the same name and allows the user to connect to multiple phones to play the same song simultaneously.
Honor Play will be getting an updated Game Center with a firmware update very soon. It will enable the so-called 4G Smart Shock – dynamic vibrations similar to the ones on the PlayStation’s DualShock controller in compatible games. The first game to support this new feature will be PUBG Mobile. But what’s already available for games is the 3D Game Sound – this works in various games when using wired headphones and should emulate 3D sound.
Performance and benchmarks
The Kirin 970 chipset is what makes the Honor Play tick and the hardware behind all that gaming PR talk. It’s a year-old SoC that will soon be replaced by the new Kirin 980 launching on the Huawei Mate 20, but still one very potent piece of technology.
The Kirin 970 has an octa-core processor with 4 Cortex-A73 cores clocked at up to 2.4GHz and another 4 Cortex-A53 cores capped at 1.8GHz. The GPU is a twelve-core Mali-G72 MP12. There’s either 4 or 6 GB of RAM depending on the model you get.
Quite expectedly, the Honor Play scores on par with other Kirin 970-powered devices such as the P20, Honor 10 and View 10. Single-core performance in Geekbench is excellent but the latest Qualcomm chip is superior (Pocophone). All of the above applies equally well to the Honor Play‘s multi-core CPU performance.
Huawei recently unveiled an interesting software project to the public. It is called “GPU Turbo” and should provide great graphics performance improvements to most recent Huawei smartphones. The Honor Play comes with the GPU Turbo update out of the box, but this maybe misleading to the users.
GPU Turbo accelerates performance by optimizing system utilization of software and hardware resources. With GPU Turbo, graphics processing efficiency can be improved by up to 60 percent while overall SoC power consumption is saved by 30 percent. This is beneficial since graphically demanding operations typically consume battery quickly.
So, GPU Turbo is essentially an extra software optimization layer, sitting between the OS or a particular application and the Android graphics APIs, like OpenGL and the actual GPU drivers.
Even though GPU turbo sounds like it’s promising almost magical improvements, it is up to developers to actually optimize their apps to support the new rendering instructions and APIs. Huawei has promised that it will gradually work towards optimizing the EMUI launcher rendering. But given the way the Android UI is rendered, that’s unlikely to lend itself to major optimization.
Turbo GPU is realistically aimed at gamers and more importantly, game developers, who have to implement the tech inside their titles. Hopefully, Huawei can get enough game studios on board to allow GPU Turbo to lift off. Otherwise, it will just remain unused, sitting in the background. At launch, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Mobile PUBG and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang are the only two games that have support for Turbo GPU.
Huawei‘s GPU Turbo does not necessarily improve maximum frame rates. What it does, however, is significantly smooth out any major frame rate fluctuations and dips, and we were impressed by the perceptibly smoother gaming experience. As a bonus, the tech also provides battery life savings when gaming.
AnTuTu benchmark got us some pretty big and impressive numbers, bested only by the most current Snapdragon 845 chip in the Pocophone.
The Honor Play is not the most powerful smartphone today, but it sure is among the top 5. We are well familiar with the Kirin 970 capabilities and the chip is simply great for gaming. And with the GPU Turbo update it can only get better, live a second life if you will.
Performance-wise the Honor Play aces every task and its highly-praised chipset will live up to the expectations.
But since we know the Kirin 970, we are familiar with its heating and throttling specifics. The good news is that the Honor Play is all metal and its chassis helps dispersing heat much better than glass. Some throttling does occur in benchmarks after repeated runs, but only there – no throttling happens in games, even in long sessions.
The Honor Play does build some heat once we start running the benchmarks, but it takes a lot of time to get to the Play unpleasantly hot and, once again, it happens only in benchmarks.
So, before we call it a day here – the Honor Play and its Kirin 970 offers flagship punch no matter the task at hand, and the GPU will do for seamless gaming with sustainable top-notch performance.
A 16MP camera with depth sensor
The Honor Play has a dual-camera setup similar to what we saw on the Honor 7X. We’re looking at a 16MP sensor behind f/2.2 lens with phase-detection autofocus, accompanied by a 2MP cam for depth information, and a single LED flash.
There is no optical image stabilization for the Honor Play. But Honor promises to bring its proprietary AIS – Automatic Image Stabilization – via software update soon. It reduces blur and compensates for device shake while capturing photos and videos. It’s a software solution that works within 0.2 seconds to detect if the phone is handheld and automatically sets the exposure and framing using AI scene recognition. It’s supposed to be 98% accurate when it comes to figuring out whether you’re holding the handset in your hand.
The Honor Play, just like the Honor 10, stresses on its AI CAMERA. It recognizes in real time 22 different categories of subjects and shooting scenarios and adjusts shooting parameters accordingly.
The camera interface is as messy as before. First off, you have a mode selector on the bottom that you swipe left and right to change modes, but you can’t swipe on the viewfinder, just on the selector itself.
Swiping up and down doesn’t switch between front and rear camera either, you have a button for that (admittedly, on the bottom within easy reach). Basically, you’re wasting the viewfinder by not having gestures enabled on it, except for pinch to zoom.
It’s odd to have a manual HDR mode separately when the AI takes care of that – it’s like a dynamic range enhancement is On all the time.
You get manual (Pro) mode, too. There you can adjust parameters yourself – ISO (50 to 6400), shutter speed (1/4000s to 30s), exposure compensation (-4 to +4EV in 1/3 stop increments), and white balance (presets and light temperature). You can also choose the metering mode (matrix, center-weighted and spot), and the focus mode (single, continuous and manual). If the phone thinks you messed up the exposure, an icon will pop up to warn you.
Since artificially defocused backgrounds became all the rage, Huawei and Honor phones have had both a Portrait mode and an Aperture mode. In Aperture, you can choose the simulated aperture in the range from f/0.95 to f/16. Post shot, you can change the aperture and the focus point within the Gallery.
In Portrait mode you can enable and disable the background blur (why disable it, though), you can change the simulated lighting, and you can also add some beautification on a scale from 0 to 10.
Honor’s implementation of the so-called AI is enabled by default. The AI toggle is accessible from the viewfinder, while the P20 phones have it hidden in settings. The algorithms are not as aggressive as Huawei‘s were, even though the AI pretty much works the same way and operates under the same scene presumptions. The camera recognizes the scene properly and most of the time turns on the right mode accordingly, its defaults for each scene do saturate the colors more than usual and the high contrast lowers the dynamic range, but nothing is as excessive as it was on the P20 series.
So, the AI pictures have more than enough detail, obviously saturated, yet pleasant colors, low noise levels, and superb contrast. Multi-frame stacking is often used with the AI scenes, so if HDR was required, it’s applied in real time, and you will always get the most from both shadows and lights.
The normal samples without AI are quite good, too. They have plenty of detail, very accurate colors, high contrast and even lower noise levels. The dynamic range is quite impressive, and we suspect some frame-stacking might be applied here as well.
The AI works for some magic on the low-light shots to improve the contrast and colors, but that’s about it. It’s not as smart and as capable as on the P20 phones and there is no tripod-free Night Mode available for the Honor Play. The samples are very noisy, way noisier than the regular ones you’ll see in a bit, but with brighter exposure and warmer colors, which worked for improved contrast and overall better look.
The regular low-light images are nothing special, too, but they have far less noise. They are quite soft as well, but the colors are true to reality, though the contrast is rather low. But the occasional low-light snaps will do fine for the social networks. And frankly – we’ve seen a lot worse. So, the regular snaps are nothing special, as we said, just alright.
There is a Night mode on the Honor Play but this shot requires a tripod and up to 30s of waiting. At first, we thought it will take a couple of shots and combine them. But this mode is actually closer to what the Light Trails does – basically, it takes one very low exposure photo and then begins to add lights. The phone almost succeeds into cutting out the light trails themselves, and the result is a photo with excellent exposure and contrast, detailed at that. The picture lack sharpness, but that’s alright – at least it’s well exposed.
When using the manual mode, you can select a shutter speed up to 32s with ISO up to 6400. The viewfinder image will change as the exposure develops, so if you figure you’ve gathered enough light you can stop at any time.
And with this freedom, you just need a small tripod to get wonderful images. If you lock the ISO to 50 and use the longer shutter speeds, you can get some stunning long exposure shots come night-time.
Then there’s the Light painting mode, which includes four sub-modes: Car light trails, Light graffiti, Silky Water and Star track. You’d need to have the phone perched on stable support for shooting in these modes (a tripod or a beanbag) as these extremely long exposures can’t be done handheld without camera shake. These modes are nothing new so that we won’t go into too much detail here.
The Honor Play offers 4K and 1080p video recording – the latter available in both 30 and 60 fps options. You can also choose between the h.264 and h.265 codecs. EIS is available only for the 1080p at 30fps videos and it does an excellent job at stabilizing the picture.
The 4K footage at 30fps is nice and detailed, with pleasing colors, plenty of contrast, and steady framerate. The foliage could have been better, but that’s not a flagship phone, so let’s not be picky. The dynamic range is great, as are the colors. Notable is also the high-quality stereo sound captured with 192 kbps bitrate.
The 1080p clips shot at 30fps are also detailed, and impress with the same nice colors and contrast, and high dynamic range. But there is noticeable over-sharpening.
Finally, the 1080p samples shot at 60fps are always blurry and look out of focus. We tried quite a few different takes – each of those resulted in a blurry video. So, until that is fixed with an update (they weren’t so bad on the Honor 10), the 60fps footage is simply a no-go.
Finally, you can use our Video Compare Tool to see how the Honor Play stacks against the Honor 10 and Pocophone F1 when it comes to video capture.
Honor Play aims at gamers, obviously, but instead of making it the best gaming phone on the planet, Honor chose to make it powerful and affordable with some extra gaming chops.
And it succeeded – the Honor Play is indeed impressively powerful and offers a seamless gaming experience. The trendy notched screen is large enough for games, while the camera department offers some nice tricks. Finally, the battery life is simply great for all purposes.
Xiaomi Pocophone F1 • Oppo F9 Pro • Xiaomi Mi 8 SE • LG G7 One
Xiaomi did the same thing with the Pocophone experiment and, well, it did it better. The Pocophone, where available, is cheaper, yet more powerful, has better all-around camera experience, and more features such as stereo speakers and FM radio.
The Oppo F9 has a new take on the notch, its design is cooler, but the GPU is far inferior to the Honor’s. The F9 has better looks and selfie camera, but for everything else – the Honor Play is the better device.
Xiaomi‘s Mi 8 SE is yet another notched device, but with an AMOLED panel. It’s among the first phones to pack the new Snapdragon 710 chip, which has an equally powerful processor to the Kirin 970 but lesser graphics punch. The Mi 8 SE does better when it comes to camera quality, but it sure isn’t on par with the Honor Play as far as gaming is concerned.
Finally, the LG G7 One was unveiled just recently and it looks quite intriguing. It’s able to match the Honor Play price, has a higher-res 1440p HDR screen, a powerful Snapdragon 835 chipset even if it won’t impress with any special camera skills. Still, with that screen and Android One software, the G7 One should be interesting enough to deserve a recommendation.
The Honor Play has one of the best bang-for-the-buck ratios, probably bested only by the Pocophone F1 by Xiaomi. The Play has quite an impressive hardware package and is wrapped in metal, which is a build we rarely see these days.
The Play delivers on its promise – it provides an excellent gaming performance with a twist on the cheap. And if those two factors are leading for you, the Honor Play should be on your shortlist of devices you must check before getting your next phone.
Large screen with thin bezels and a notch
Great battery life
Good all-round camera experience with some creative options
A strange bird this Huawei P20 – a headliner without a spear. The omission of the triple camera is baffling, but as long as you give it a chance, you may be surprised. And if you don’t dwell on what didn’t make the cut, you should be able to see the P20 for what it is – one dazzling flagship.
The signature Twilight hue is among the things the P20 duo will be remembered for. It’s available on both devices if you are lucky enough to reside in a region which stocks it, but the similarities don’t end here. The notched screen is shared, as is the Kirin 970 chip which, even though is six-months-old already, is still relevant.
Now, the elephant in the room – the dual-instead-of-triple camera on the back. Yes, it’s a step down from the more prominent P20 Pro but, fret not, this is not the same dual-camera we left on the Huawei P10 and Mate 10 Pro either. The 12MP color sensor is brand new and has much bigger pixels and thus we can expect brighter low-light images and less noise.
The MasterAI is also a thing on the P20, improving the way we take pictures by allowing for some previously impossible tripod-free long-shutter pictures. You can use lossless telephoto zoom, record 960fps slow-mo videos, but you can also switch to monochrome and take some artsy shots downtown.
The 24MP selfie camera stays the same on both P20 phones, too. It may lack autofocus but can do Face Unlock and shoot portraits with blurred backgrounds in line with the current trends.
Huawei P20 specs
Body: dual-glass with metal frame, 7.7mm thick
Screen: 5.8″ LTPS IPS LCD, 1080 x 2240px resolution (429ppi);
Camera: 12MP f/1.8 OIS color + + 20MP f/1.6 monochrome; 4K video capture, 720@960fps slow-mo; Leica co-developed
Camera features: 1/2.3″ 12MP sensor, 2x optical zoom, OIS + EIS, can change focus and lighting in photos after they are taken, Variable Aperture, Portrait Mode, shoots long-exposure without a tripod
Selfie cam: 24MP, f/2.0 Leica lens, Portrait Mode with live bokeh effects; 2D Face Unlock
Battery: 3,400mAh; Super Charge
Security: Fingerprint reader (front), 0.4 seconds response time
Connectivity: Dual SIM, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 + LE, NFC, USB Type-C
Misc:IR blaster, single speaker
Seeing that Huawei didn’t copy-paste its old dual-camera but instead came up with some notable improvements is enough for us to let the company off the hook here. We can even forgive the switch to IPS LCD screen which some might consider a downgrade from Pro’s OLED.
The crime we can’t let slide is the failing to secure the P20 body against water. It’s beyond us why Huawei made water-tight only the P20 Pro, but it’s not fair and puts even more pressure on the P20. The IP53 rating is not the best excuse for ditching the analog jack, and yet Huawei still opted for its retirement.
It’s clear we are starting on the wrong foot, so let’s pop this Huawei P20 out of its box and hopefully we get on the right one.
Unboxing the Huawei P20
Fancy is not what the Huawei P20‘s white cardboard box is. But the maker has an excellent track record for bundles and this one doesn’t disappoint.
Inside that box, you’ll find eye-catchy Huawei P20 packed with a 22.5W charging plug, an enhanced USB Type-C cable compatible with Huawei‘s Super Charge, a pair of headphones, and a must-have 3.5mm-to-USB-C adapter.
Here is something you don’t see every day – a phone that’s instantly recognizable because of its style. We have seen a lot of notched screens and dual-cameras, but those catchy paint jobs are the P20‘s unforgettable trait and potentially the next big trend.
The flashy paint was a brilliant idea for an otherwise ordinary and conventional design. Dual-glass body reinforced with a metal frame is the popular choice this season, so if it weren’t for the paint’s charm, the P20 would have been just another notched glass phone.
Apple iPhone X and Huawei P20
The P20‘s design is an obvious departure from the P10. The metal unibody is gone for good, at least for now, and so are the screen bezels. Behind the screen glass sits a big but notched 5.8″ display, a massive jump from the 5.1″ unit on the P10, yet the growth in size is pretty negligible – just 4mm in height.
Huawei P10 and Huawei P20
The P20 is noticeably heavier, though, due to switch of materials – it has gained a good 20g over the P10 up to 165g.
And while we are comparing siblings, the other notable change is the camera orientation. It seems the iPhone X didn’t just kick off the notch trend, but the vertical camera configuration, too.
Huawei P10 and Huawei P20
Back to the Huawei P20. Both of its glass pieces are slightly curved, matching nicely with the frame’s chamfers. The metal frame is smooth and polished. Admittedly, this works well for the good looks, but hurts the grip – the P20 is as slippery as it looks.
Unlike the water-tight P20 Pro, the P20 is just IP53-rated for moderate dust and light-splash resistance. And while this fact was officially announced at the launch event, you won’t find this mentioned anywhere on the official P20 pages.
This omission is baffling, as the P20 phones have virtually identical bodies, slots, holes, and everything, and yet only the Pro got the ingress protection. The P20‘s case is not helped by the fact that all current flagships and premium mid-rangers are water-protected. What’s up with that, Huawei?
The missing audio jack doesn’t help the P20 either. While this could have been explained with the aqua-shielding on the Pro, it’s merely a missing feature on the P20.
The front-mounted fingerprint scanner is here to stay – it’s an always-on one and is used for system-wide navigation. On the opposite side of the screen is the notch housing a circular grille for the earpiece and the 24MP selfie camera. The earpiece is not centered, which may look odd to some. A tiny status LED is also around.
Comparing notches: iPhone X vs. P20
The vertically-oriented dual-camera is on the back occupying a small hump. It has kept the previous 12+20 MP specs but packs a new color sensor and new lenses. Next up are the dual-LED flash and the laser-AF sensors. The Leica logo is not as boisterous as before, but it’s there.
So, the Huawei P20 is a glass phone like any other. There is nothing special in its bill of materials, the credit for its coolness goes to the clever paint jobs. But that’s enough to make it one of the best-looking devices this season and the fashion-conscious might grab it just for that. Slippery and often smudgy, the Huawei P20 has to be polished and cleaned quite often to look its best, but beauty always comes at a price.
The Honor 10 Lite is the latest addition to the brand’s mid-range lineup and it hopes to ride on the success of the original Honor 10. So how did Honor go about making a Lite version of a phone, which is already somewhat of a Lite version of the flagship Huawei P20?
Well, for one, the feature set has been trimmed across the board starting from the chipset, going through the camera and ending with the connectivity set. But that doesn’t mean this is a bad phone.
The Honor 10 Lite is still an embodiment of the great value phones we’ve come to know the brand for. For about 30% lower price tag than the original Honor 10, the 10 Lite has the same size battery, a larger screen with a smaller notch, the memory is now expandable via a microSD slot and right from the get-go it comes out with the latest Android 9 Pie. In comparison, the Honor 10 still hasn’t got an update to Pie yet.
Honor 10 Lite specs:
Body:154.8 x 73.6 x 8mm, 162 grams, plastic back panel and side frame.
Screen:6.2″ IPS LCD, 1080 x 2340px resolution (19.5:9); ~415 ppi.
Chipset: HiSilicon Kirin 710 (12nm) chipset: octa-core CPU (4x Cortex-A73 Gold @2.2GHz + 4x Cortex-A53 @1.7GHz); Mali-G51 MP4.
Memory: 3GB LPDDR4X RAM, 64GB or 128GB built-in storage, microSD slot support (takes the second SIM slot).
Anyway, the bar is set quite high for the 10 Lite as the Honor 10 and the Honor Play are some of the most competitive propositions in the upper midrange offering great performance at tempting price points. We will see if the Honor was able to strike a good balance with the 10 Lite. Let’s start with an unboxing.
Unboxing the Huawei Honor 10 Lite
The handset comes in a modest box containing the usual user manuals, the SIM ejection tool, the microUSB charging cable and, of course, the charging adapter.
We didn’t expect much else but Honor also provided a transparent silicone case that fits the 10 Lite perfectly and doesn’t hide the rather fresh color gradient paint job on the back.
The step back from the USB-C port on the Honor 10 to the slightly outdated microUSB was the first clue we got that we’re dealing with a cheaper device. We also couldn’t help but notice that the charger is not the 22.5W fast charger supplied with the Honor 10 but rather a 10W one.
Naturally, the Honor 10 Lite borrows some design traits from its more expensive sibling – the Honor 10 – while offering some unique details. Also, as one would expect, the Honor 10 Lite misses on the premium materials and instead relies only on plastic for the body. That doesn’t take away anything from the looks, though.
On the front, the smartphone surprises with great screen-to-body ratio with considerably more screen real estate thanks to the move of the fingerprint reader at the back and the narrower notch at the front. While the Honor 10 has a wide, standard-looking notch, the Lite has a matching “Lite” notch. Some may call it a waterdrop and it does look like one to some extent. The side and upper bezels are thin and symmetrical but the bottom one surprised us the most. It’s one of the smallest ones we’ve seen, especially at this price point and also houses a subtle LED notification light. It looks awesome when it lights up.
As we go around the sides, we can see the power key and the volume rocker on the right side – both easy to reach. They have some wobble but compensate with a tactile clicky feedback.
Honor 10 Lite from the sides
The SIM card tray and the noise-canceling microphone reside on the top while the bottom houses the 3.5mm audio jack, the loudspeaker grille and the microUSB connector for charging and data transfer. We can’t think of a reason why they would choose a microUSB instead of USB-C.
We hope there was actual technical reasoning behind this decision and not mere market segmentation. We’ve said it many times before, manufacturers should all move towards a single power and connectivity port for the benefit of the consumers and this can’t come soon enough so releasing a brand new phone with microUSB ports is clearly not a move in the right direction.
As we already stated, the back panel of the phone is made of plastic and houses the rear-mounted fingerprint reader and the dual-camera setup. However, the plastic doesn’t take away from the looks and the silver/blue gradient color looks pretty cool. Also, fingerprints are visible only at an angle.
The back panel isn’t curved but it’s not protruding either so no sharp edges press against your palm when holding the device. Speaking of handling, the smartphone is pretty easy to use with one hand – it feels quite compact and lightweight and for some reason, it’s not slippery. In fact, the side frame feels a bit rubberized to some extent making it even easier to hold. The phone handles really well for a 6.2-inch device.
To be honest, you can’t expect high-end build materials from a such an affordable device and plastic was expected to be the main order of the day. Nevertheless, Honor managed to focus on what’s important here – usability. The plastic sides and back are more likely to withstand drops as the plastic is more shock-absorbent than glass and metal.
Honor 10 Lite from the front and back
And by skipping on the glass, the phone is even lighter and grippier. Keep in mind, though, that the plastic is easier to scratch than glass so keep that case on or be careful where you put it.
Bright IPS display with a minimalist notch
The Honor 10 Lite features a rather generic IPS LCD panel with a small minimalist notch on the top, which isn’t obtrusive at all and you can still hide it if you want to. We’ve noticed a slight “light bleed” around the edges of the notch and you can notice it when only when the background is bright, like white, for example.
Anyway, you’ve got a standard 1080 x 2340 pixels resolution at your disposal at a tall 19.5:9 aspect ratio and around 415 ppi since the diagonal is 6.21″. Just for the record, the standard Honor 10 has a significantly smaller 5.84-inch display and a shorter 19:9 aspect ratio so here’s one reason to opt for the Lite if you are after a larger display.
As far as performance is concerned, the display scored decently in our tests and it’s just what you’d expect from a midranger.
The peak brightness is 441 nits in Vivid mode while the less-bluish Normal mode produced a lower number hovering around 390 nits. However, the Normal mode offers considerably more accurate color reproduction with an average dE2000=2.7.
In Vivid mode, the screen has a slight bluish tinge in whites and grays. Blue, red and green are slightly over-saturated as well. The average dE2000 in this mode is 4.6. That’s still good, but not as stellar as the Normal mode. In day-to-day use, however, we preferred using the Vivid mode as it looked way punchier than Normal, which had a slightly less contrasty look.
Honor 10 (Vivid)
Huawei P20 Lite
Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite
Honor 10 (Normal)
Motorola One (P30 Play)
Honor 10 Lite
Nokia 7 plus
Xiaomi Mi A2
For everyday use, the max brightness of 441 cd/m2 is perfectly fine. Obviously, it’s not the brightest panel out there but it does the job perfectly well considering the price point.
Unfortunately, our sunlight legibility score is far from stellar due to the overly reflective screen glass.
The phone sports a decent 3,400 mAh battery – just like its more expensive sibling – so we expected similar results in our tests from the start.
We were surprised to see that the 3G talk time was considerably longer than what we got on the Honor 10. Other than that, the web browsing and video playback runtimes were pretty close. Judging by the overall score, we can say that battery life is good and a bit over the average for its class.
Unfortunately, the handset doesn’t support any type of fast charging and the charging brick included in the box says the supported output is just 5V/2A or in other words – 10W. A 30-minute charging session from a flat battery would net you 33% of the battery capacity.
The loudspeaker returned an excellent result. Even though it’s just one speaker with a single grill, the phone managed to produce quite a lot of noise so you are probably going to hear the phone ringing even in crowded and noisy environments.
Pink noise/ Music, dB
Ringing phone, dB
Nokia 7 plus
Huawei P20 Lite
Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite
Honor 10 Lite
Motorola One (P30 Play)
Xiaomi Mi A2
The Honor 10 Lite had an okay performance with an active external amplifier, delivering an output of below average loudness, but perfect accuracy.
Headphones degraded the volume further, while also introducing some frequency response shakiness, intermodulation distortion and a moderate amount of stereo crosstalk. All in all a performance not worth writing home about even for a mid-ranger.
IMD + Noise
Honor 10 Lite
Honor 10 Lite (headphones)
Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite
Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite (headphones)
Honor 8X (headphones)
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018)
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) (headphones)
Nokia 7.1 (headphones)
Huawei Mate 20 lite
Huawei Mate 20 lite (headphones)
Pocophone F1 (headphones)
Android 9.0 Pie with EMUI 9.0 on top
As one would expect, the Honor 10 Lite comes with Huawei‘s user interface EMUI and on contrary to a lot of midrangers out there, the device comes with the latest and greatest from Google – Android 9.0 Pie. The UI is also updated to its latest version although, there aren’t any major differences compared to the older EMUI 8 with which we’ve tested the vanilla Honor 10.
Like all EMUI-driven devices, you can set up a magazine lockscreen style that changes the picture every time you wake up the screen. Sliding from the bottom will bring out quick shortcuts to some commonly used utilities and you can re-arrange, add or exclude to your liking. We found it to be useful and a bit annoying at the same time because there were times when we just wanted to unlock the phone but bring out the menu instead.
Unlocking the phone will bring you to the Home screen where you will find all of the installed and system apps. There’s a toggle in the settings menu that lets you choose between the standard layout or a Home screen with an app drawer. This is a really neat option to have as some people prefer the app drawer.
Swiping to the right from the home screen will bring you to Google Feed and by swiping downwards will let you search in your app library.
As for the notification shade, there’s an option in the settings menu that enables a swipe gesture on the fingerprint reader and really helps a lot with the one-handed operation. Also, it works really well. No more reaching for the top bezel when using this tall 19.5:9 screen.
And as for the notification shade – it’s nothing out of the ordinary. It can fit three rows with five quick launch icons for each row and right under the icons, you will find the screen brightness slider.
Opening up the settings menu will greet you with the usual sub-menus and features that you would find on most EMUI-based phones. There are a couple of useful options in the “Home screen settings” such as themes, the option to choose between an app drawer or the standard app arrangement on the Home screen as well as the option to toggle off the Google Feed.
The “Display” sub-menu is rather basic with little to no options in there. You’ve got the Eye comfort option that limits the blue light emissions during the night, choose between Normal or Vivid color modes and adjust the screen resolution – you can lower it to HD+ (720 x 1560) but our numerous tests from the past show little to no difference in the battery savings if you opt for the lower resolution setting.
More importantly, the option for disabling the notch is buried deep in the Display menu and we didn’t find the option swapping the navigation software buttons for gestures.
Moving on to the “Battery” section, you will find plenty of stats and a moderate amount of options to play with. There’s a normal power saving mode and “Ultra power saving mode”. The latter strongly limits the device’s capabilities and lets you use only a handful of essential apps, disables background processes, animations and turns of radios. The battery usage menu will give you all the information you’d need – you can see which apps and hardware components drained the battery since your last charge.
We found the “Digital balance” in the Settings menu quite nifty. You can track how much time you spend on your phone and which apps you used the most.
The “Security and privacy” menu lets you set up a fingerprint, enable face detection, set up “Find My Device” option, etc. The fingerprint setup process is pretty straightforward but it also brings some additional features like the option of taking a photo with the fingerprint reader in the camera app, stop the alarm, answer a call, browse photos in the gallery and as we already mentioned, bring down the notification panel. The latter is quite useful and works 9 times out of 10.
The fingerprint itself performs excellently as well – it doesn’t take a lot of time to recognize your finger but it lags a little when unlocking.
The face detection works just as good and there’s an option in there that enables instant unlock when it detects your face or requires a slide before unlocking. Of course, both lock methods can be used not only for unlocking the device but also a set of apps to your liking.
And last, but not least, comes the “Smart assistance” menu that takes you to the so-called “Motion control”. The latter enables motion gestures like flip-to-mute or raise-to-wake.
With every heavily-customized software come a few pre-installed system apps. In this case, they are generic tools like FM Radio app, Calculator, Calendar, Music, Videos, Clock, Notepad, Email, Files (file browser) and a Phone Manager that gathers some important functions in one place.
As you can see, even for this price, the Honor 10 Lite offers plenty of features and bonus points for the up-to-date software. But we did notice some small annoyances over the course of our testing. For instance, the radio icons appear in the upper left corner of the screen due to the insufficient space around the notch.
Also, the UI doesn’t feel as responsive or fluid as it should be. The Kirin 710’s CPU is more than capable chipset so we guess it’s all down to pending software optimizations.
Aside from that, the UI is highly customizable and you can adjust a lot of settings to better suit your needs though we have to admit, the Honor 10 has a few extra software features on top of what’s available in the 10 Lite.
Performance and benchmarks
The Honor 10 Lite comes with the new in-house mid-range SoC, the HiSilicon Kirin 710. It incorporates an octa-core CPU in a 4/4 arrangement – 4x big 2.2 GHz Cortex-A73 cores and 4x smaller and more efficient 1.7 GHz Cortex-A53 cores. The GPU is Mali-G51 MP4 and the whole SoC is based on a newer 12nm manufacturing process.
When it comes to memory, our unit runs with 3GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. However, there are versions with 128GB of storage and 4 or 6GB of RAM.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t benchmark the performance of our review unit due to system limitations imposed by the software it shipped with. We are guessing it might be one of the earlier builds and Honor just doesn’t want it benchmarked at this stage. Still, we recently reviewed the Honor 8X and since they share the same Kirin 710 chipset and the screen resolution, we suggest you check out its performance figures as they should be identical to those by the Honor 8X.
Regular 13MP main shooter aided by a 2MP depth sensor
The Honor 10 Lite carries a dual-camera setup on its back – the main camera is 13MP and has a wide f/1.8 aperture and phase detection autofocus. The secondary 2MP sensor is only used for depth sensing when scene depth information is required such as when shooting portraits with artificially defocused backgrounds.
The front camera that sits on the notch is 24MP with a narrower f/2.0 opening.
Of course, no one expects the Honor 10 Lite to be the best photography performer considering the price range but some basic camera capabilities should be in order. We hope to see it do just as well as the recently reviewed Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite as both phones fall into the same category. Let’s dig into the daylight, indoor and night samples right after a brief review of the camera software.
The default camera app is pretty easy to handle. In the default camera mode, you will find the AI and Moving Picture toggles as well as the so-called HiTouch feature that uses machine learning to recognize objects, although we found it to be a hit and miss. The settings icon in the upper right corner leads you to more advanced options like resolution, GPS tag toggle, capture smiles or the option to open up the camera by double pressing the volume down button.
Swiping to left or right will switch between the camera modes – video, portrait, night and aperture. Each mode is self-explanatory and in the “More” section, you will find AR lens, time-lapse, panorama, HDR, stickers, pro, light painting, and filter. Those are self-explanatory as well.
Interestingly, the Auto HDR option was nowhere to be found in the default camera app but then again, not all phones in this price range use the HDR stacking with great success. Actually, quite the opposite. Still, you have the manual option of turning it on so you can toggle it on and off when you feel the need.
Just a quick tip, if you plan on using the bokeh/portrait effect on an object, try using the “Aperture mode” – you might find it produces better results than the standard Portrait mode.
In selfie mode, the camera app offers similar features as the main camera mode – there’s the portrait mode, video recording and AI function.
Overall, the Honor 10 Lite takes okay photos with pleasant colors.
The photos have a lot of noise even in daylight. The noise-suppression seems to be working overtime and we still get grainy shots.
The dynamic range is also something that could have used some improving judging by the clipped highlights and HDR does only half of its job – it does open up the shadows but overexposes the highlights. However, the detail was good while the HDR introduced a little bit more sharpening without going over board.
The AI didn’t do much for us – it saturated some of the colors and we can notice some oversharpening here and there. The camera app prompted us with a message when it recognized some of the subjects like a pet or a flower but this didn’t change any of the shooting settings noticeably.
Our initial impressions from the Portrait mode were quite positive – the level of resolved detail was impressive, colors were punchy and the edge detection was generally fine.
What we didn’t expect, however, is the background defocusing to fail at random spots. You can notice the “unnatural” de-focus in the first photo.
Seflies were underwhelming as well – since there’s no autofocus, it’s hard to find the right focus distance, there’s not enough sharpness for a 24MP camera, it lacks good dynamic range and colors are a bit washed out.
The AI mode helps with the colors to some extent.
Low-light samples and Night mode
As expected, the general graininess of the photos, which we observe in the daylight photos, only got more prominent in low-light situations and a lot of the detail gets lost to noise suppression. And since there’s no OIS, the occasional camera shake makes things even worse.
When the AI is turned on, the camera app prompts you with a message that you should keep your hands still because the algorithm is working on sharpening the photo. In reality, there’s little to no difference between the AI photos and the normal ones.
However, the Night mode produces largely different results. It seems that the software tends to oversharpen things without taking care of the noise and the latter becomes even more visible even though this means less noise suppression and less smudginess. We guess that if you are not into pixel peeping, you wouldn’t mind the extra noise, but you would definitely appreciate the clearer photos and better dynamic range the Night mode shots offer.
Surprisingly, the handset doesn’t offer any kind of 4K video recording and defaults at 1080@30fps. However, there’s optional 1080@60fps recording but neither mode offers any kind of video stabilization. As a result, videos appear quite shaky if you shoot handheld. But you do have the option to choose between H.264 and H.265 encoding, which is nice.
We’ve noticed that the issue with dynamic range is prominent in the videos as well – highlights are too bright while dark areas appear darker than they should. Detail is okay though, at least in 30fps mode. If you crank it up to 60fps, a lot of detail will be lost.
The Honor 10 Lite has a lot to offer but it’s not perfect. And the competition in the mid-range segment is fierce and it takes more than a pretty face to win the hearts of the practical consumer. It would be up to you to decide whether the particular feature mix and pricing is down your alley, but we’ll list a few other phones you may want to consider before making a final call.
While looking at possible alternatives, we tried to narrow the choice down a bit and it appears that most of the competition is rocking Qualcomm’s chipsets, which in turn means they offer better GPU performance. Still, the Kirin 710 is built on a smaller 12nm node and offers better CPU performance and power efficiency in return.
Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite • Huawei Honor 8X • Xiaomi Mi A2 (Mi 6X) • Nokia 7 plus
There is another Lite phone which stands out among the competition and that’s the Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite. We found it to be among the top performers in its class with its Snapdragon 660 chipset but it also has a decent screen, good battery life, and noticeably better camera experience – an area in which the Honor 10 Lite fails to impress.
Another decent alternative to the Honor 10 Lite lies within the company’s portfolio – the Honor 8X. While both phones are close siblings, we can easily recommend the Honor 8X due to the extra screen space, the better battery life, and the more consistent camera performance. And the chipset is also the same if you are happy with what the Kirin 710 offers.
Next down the list is the Xiaomi Mi A2 – a phone for the purists. You get a clean Android UI, swift updates as part of the Android One program, and it’s got comparable hardware. However, it drags behind the 10 Lite when it comes to screen quality and battery life.
And while we are on stock Android, it’s hard to miss the Nokia 7 Plus with a good camera, better than average battery runtimes and capable Snapdragon 660 chipset.
Unfortunately, in an overcrowded midrange segment the Honor 10 Lite doesn’t really stand out with anything exceptional. It’s a decent all-rounder but it’s a tough one to recommend when taking into account what the competition offers.
The 10 Lite is definitely not a phone for the more pretentious users. The rather uninspiring camera quality and the not-so-fluid software kept us from giving the phone a good score. That target group should probably stick with the Honor 10 or Honor Play for their wishlists. The only areas where the Honor 10 Lite is a match for its more expensive siblings is screen quality, loudness, and battery life. If these aspects are all that’s important for you in a smartphone, you might as well save yourself some money and get this one instead.
Huawei Mate 20 or Huawei Mate 20 Pro? That’s one very reasonable dilemma, but you don’t have much of a choice, do you? If you are lucky to live in one of the few markets where both phones are available, then you can save some cash by getting the regular Mate 20. But it is one peculiar trade-off with some odd gains and losses. Let’s find out if that’s a deal worth making.
The Mate 20 is indeed the oddball in this duo. It has a lot in common with the Pro, but it also changes some of the key aspect of the phablet. The screen is bigger with a tiny droplet notch, but an LCD one with lower resolution and without and curves. The body is not water-resistant but has an audio jack and a proper bottom speaker. And the main camera while still triple, is completely different.
The Mate 20 lacks the new 40W SuperCharge and is stripped of all wireless charging capabilities, but it still can do 22.5W SuperCharge. It also loses the advanced face unlock, and the under-display fingerprint scanner, but gets the fan-favorite blazing-fast reader on the back.
The main camera is the feature to raise the biggest concerns. It’s still a triple one, but with different sensors, lenses, and there is no optical stabilization to be found. The Night Mode is present though, so the Mate 20 is keeping its cool under low-light.
Huawei Mate 20 specs
Body: dual-glass with metal frame; IP53-rated for dust and splash resistance
Camera features: 2x optical zoom, EIS, Variable Aperture, Portrait Mode, can shoot long-exposure without a tripod
Selfie cam: 24MP, f/2.0 Leica lens, Portrait Mode with live bokeh effects
Battery: 4,000mAh; Super Charge 22.5W
Security: Fingerprint reader (back), 2D Face Unlock
Connectivity: Dual SIM, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5 + LE, NFC, USB Type-C
Misc: IR blaster, 3.5mm audio port
Huawei Mate 20, just like the Pro, has a hybrid SIM slot that supports only the new Nano Memory Cards by Huawei. We are still looking to get one of those, but here is hoping Huawei broadens their availability soon enough.
There is a lot to talk about the Mate 20, so let’s start by popping this thing out of the box, shall we?
The Huawei Mate 20 is packed in a rather compact paper box, but don’t let the looks fool you – it’s full of goodies. The retail bundle contains a fat 22.5W charger and a modified USB-C cable – you need both for Super Charge to work.
Huawei‘s most recent headphones are inside the box, too.
Just like the Mate 20 Pro, some of the Mate 20 retail boxes contain a transparent case – which happened to be present in our reviewer’s kit. Not all European markets are getting a case, and whatever the reason might be, we are not happy with this weird segmentation.
The Huawei Mate 20 is arguably the better-designed Mate as it is looking less like a Galaxy and, well, more like a Mate. The flat screen glass and the thicker frame are friendlier for grip and handling – things we hope many still consider essential.
The Mate 20‘s droplet-like notch is also a pleasant sight. The extra pixels are present only because the advanced 3D face scanning isn’t. But some of us still prefer the old-school fingerprint readers instead of bleeding-edge tech that more often gets in the way rather than pushing the experience forward. And we do mean under-display sensors, too.
The Mate 20 isn’t breaking from the flagship herd and adds yet another glass-sandwich built to the mix. The dewdrop notch and the square camera on the back add character to the Mate 20 and it’s not only unique in its own way but also very different from the old Mate 10.
Mate 10 and Mate 20
Speaking about good looks, the Mate 20 is available in glossy Black and gradient Twilight colors. It also comes in the new signature Midnight Blue option, which has a grippy vinyl-like texture on the rear curved glass. Hyperoptical pattern, they call it.
The Mate 10 had its fingerprint reader at the front, right below the screen, but the Mate 20‘s edge-to-edge screen made that impossible. So, Huawei moved the scanner on the back, and it’s still as useful and fast.
Mate 10 and Mate 20
The Mate 20 has a slightly larger screen than the Mate 20 Pro, but it’s not an OLED one and has a lower 1080p resolution. Huawei is still using a premium panel, though, and a very bright one at that with a special RGBW matrix and HDR10 support.
The small cutout isn’t as an eyesore, and inside it packs the selfie camera and a bunch of sensors. The earpiece is outside the screen, etched in the frame, and it doubles as a second speaker.
The primary speaker is once again at the bottom, but it’s not within the USB port as it is on the Mate 20 Pro! What’s even better is the inclusion of a 3.5mm audio port at the top of the phone – again unlike the Mate 20 Pro.
So, the Mate 20 has an audio port (and FM radio!), a smaller notch, conventional speakers, and it even feels more secure in hand than the Mate 20 Pro. But these niceties come at the price of ingress protection. The Mate 20 is only IP53-rated for (some) dust and splash resistance, while the Mate 20 Pro has an IP68-certified dust and water-tight shell.
Then there is the tri-camera, which on the Mate 20 is less impressive compared to the Pro model. It has a 12MP main sensor behind f/1.8 lens, an 8MP cam with f/2.2 telephoto lens, and a 16MP snapper with f/2.2 17mm ultra-wide-angle lens. The monochrome shooter is gone for good, but we can’t imagine someone missing it badly.
The 80mm zoom lens and optical stabilization for the telephoto camera are reserved for the Mate 20 Pro. The Mate 20 only gets 2x optical zoom, and there is no OIS at all.
The camera is still a major step forward over the Mate 10, no two words about it, though slightly disappointing when you’ve seen the alternative.
The good news is Huawei‘s AIS stabilization is here to stay, and it should be at least as good as on the P20. The Night Mode from the P20 phones is another goody available on both Mates, so the Mate 20 isn’t losing those cool long-exposure handheld photos.
Huawei Mate 20
For better or worse, the Mate 20, just like the Mate 20 Pro, is pioneering the hybrid SIM slot with a new type of Nano-Memory Cards. These cards are invented by Huawei and have the shape of a nanoSIM, while packing up to 256 gigabytes of storage. Unfortunately, they are so new that you can’t really buy them anywhere. We can list a lot of reasons why the NM cards just don’t make sense, but we think most, if not all of you are already on the same page.
Huawei Mate 20 has a large 4,000 mAh battery, but it can do neither 40W wired nor any wireless charging. The Mate 20 does come with support for Huawei‘s 22.5W SuperCharge, which should be more than enough anyway.
Huawei Mate 20 spreads at 158.2 x 77.2 x 8.3 mm – that’s as tall as the Mate 20 Pro but 5mm wider. The Mate 20 is also 8mm taller than the Mate 10, but equally wide and thick. Finally, all three of these Mates weigh the same at about 188g.
The Mate 20 is as slippery as it looks, which is worrisome for such a big device. Sure, the thicker frame and the grippy ‘Hyperoptical’ surface finish on the Midnight Blue option do add some grip, but nothing as major as you can imagine. And while the regular Mate 20 feels more secure in hand than the Pro, the extra silicone case, if available, would help a lot.
The Huawei Mate 20 features a 6.53″ IPS LCD, larger and taller than the 5.9″ unit on the Mate 10, but the resolution is now 1080p – lower than both the Mate 10 and Mate 20 Pro. The actual pixel count is 2,244 x 1,080 meaning an 18.7:9 aspect ratio and 381 ppi density. There is a tiny waterdrop notch at the top for the selfie camera, while a sheet of Gorilla Glass protects the whole thing.
The screen has the same RGBW underlying matrix as the Mate 10 and should deliver superb brightness. It’s HDR10-certified, too, and supports the larger DCI-P3 color space.
The RGBW subpixel arrangement replaces every second blue pixel with a white one – or rather every second blue filter is removed to let more light through. Which means instead of having a string of red-green-blue-white subpixels (RGBW), here you get a string, which looks something like GBR-GWR.
The screen of the Mate 20 has two Color modes – Normal and Vivid. Each of those also has three sub-modes – Default, Warm, and Cold.
The Vivid option corresponds to the DCI-P3 color space, while the Normal one switches to sRGB. Huawei hasn’t specified this anywhere, so we had to find it by testing the screen in our lab.
Anyway, the Mate 20 comes set on Vivid by default and we suggest leaving it this way. The mode offers 491 nits of (manual) maximum brightness, but it can go as high as 780 nits in bright light if you leave it on auto. No matter the mode, the contrast is always excellent at north of 1400:1.
We also measured a minimum brightness of just 1.4 nits.
Huawei Mate 20
Huawei Mate 20 (Max Auto)
Huawei Mate 10 (normal)
Huawei Mate 10 (normal max auto)
Huawei Mate 10 (max auto vivid)
Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Huawei Mate 20 Pro (Max Auto)
Huawei Mate 10 Pro (normal)
Huawei Mate 10 Pro (max auto vivid)
Apple iPhone XS
Apple iPhone XS Max
Samsung Galaxy Note9
Samsung Galaxy Note9 (Max Auto)
Google Pixel 3
Google Pixel 2 XL
HTC U12+ (Max Auto)
OnePlus 6T (Max Auto)
Razer Phone 2
Razer Phone 2 (Max Auto)
LG G7 ThinQ
LG G7 ThinQ (outdoor)
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
Xiaomi Mi 8
Xiaomi Mi 8 (Max Auto)
The average deltaE we measured for the screen on Vivid is 3.4 with a maximum deviation of 8.5 – a fine enough. The color accuracy for the Normal (sRGB) mode is also fine with an average deltaE of 3.
The sunlight contrast on the Huawei Mate 20 is good, though washed out colors are expected under bright sunlight. You do get much better results if you use the auto mode that allows the phone to push the brightness much higher though.
Huawei Mate 20, just like the Mate 10, is powered by a large 4,000 mAh battery sticking to a tradition dating back to the Mate 7 in 2014.
The Mate 20 supports the company’s proprietary SuperCharge at 5V and 4.5A. The required cable and charger are bundled with the Mate 20 and they can fill 55% of a depleted battery in half an hour and reach 100% in an hour and a half.
There is no wireless charging support on the Mate 20. That, and the 40W Super Charge support, are reserved for the Mate 20 Pro.
In our testing, the Mate 20 lasted upwards of 14 hours looping videos and twenty hours running our web browsing script. The 3G voice call test returned a 23h talk time. All these standalone tests returned impressive scores, indeed.
The overall Endurance rating ended up 92 hours. Just as on the Mate 20 Pro, that’s a bit lower than what we expected after such an excellent job on the screen-on tests, but the standby performance is just average, and it took its toll.
Our endurance rating denotes how long a single battery charge will last you if you use the Huawei Mate 20 for an hour each of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily. We’ve established this usage pattern so our battery results are comparable across devices in the most common day-to-day tasks. The battery testing procedure is described in detail in case you’re interested in the nitty-gritties. You can also check out our complete battery test table, where you can see how all of the smartphones we’ve tested will compare under your own typical use.
Huawei failed to mention this, but the Mate 20 enjoys the same stereo speakers as the Mate 20 Pro, P20 Pro and Mate 10 Pro, among other devices. But unlike the Mate 20 Pro, the Mate 20 has its bottom speaker outside of the USB-C port.
Sadly, the Mate 20 still uses the tiny and squeaky earpiece for a second speaker, and it still sounds rather poorly. Yes, it does the stereo effect, but the loudness of the speakers is mostly uneven, and you can tell. At some point, it might even become annoying.
The Huawei Mate 20 speakers scored a Very Good mark in our loudness test, a decibel shy of Excellent. The sound quality is about average though, far from the best in the industry. While playing some music, the audio was loud enough, but it’s rather shallow and often squeaky.
Pink noise/ Music, dB
Ringing phone, dB
Huawei Mate 20 Lite
Samsung Galaxy S9+
Xiaomi Mi 8
Huawei Mate 10 Lite
Apple iPhone XS
Samsung Galaxy Note9
Huawei Mate 20
Sony Xperia XZ3 (ClearAudio+)
Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Huawei Mate 10 Pro
Apple iPhone XS Max
Sony Xperia XZ3
Xiaomi Mi 8 SE
Huawei P20 Pro
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
LG G7 ThinQ
HTC U12+ (Music)
Huawei Mate 10
The Huawei Mate 20 delivered decently accurate audio output in both parts of our test. All its scores were excellent with an active external amplifier and the damage dealt by headphones was minimal too.
Unfortunately, volume was only average so if you have very high-impedance headphones you may find the Mate 20 somewhat lacking. If that’s not the case though, you should be happy with its performance.
IMD + Noise
Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Huawei Mate 20 Pro (headphones)
Huawei Mate 20
Huawei Mate 20 (headphones)
OnePlus 6T (headphones)
Sony Xperia XZ3
Sony Xperia XZ3 (headphones)
Samsung Galaxy Note9
Samsung Galaxy Note9 (headphones)
HTC U12+ (headphones)
Android Pie and EMUI 9
The Huawei Mate 20 runs Android 9 Pie under its thoroughly custom EMUI launcher, v9.0 in this instance. The Android purists are guaranteed not to like this combo, but Huawei has been working on its custom skins for years and nobody should have expected vanilla Android anyway.
Huawei has cleaned up the general interface and the settings panel has been simplified by hiding rarely used settings under “advanced” sub-menus in more categories. Huawei‘s built-in apps are getting updated navigation menus along the bottom of the screen to make them easier to reach.
EMUI 9.0 also brings GPU Turbo 2.0, works for quicker app starts, and there is a new Password vault.
You get a better Huawei Share too, which can share files with a PC and print documents wirelessly.
A travel assistant by HiVision and in-house developed Digital balance app that tell you how much time you are spending on your phone and give you the option to limit yourself (the screen will go monochrome after the time is up) are in the package.
But in spite of all the novelties and newer Android version, the EMUI looks familiar so upgraders should feel right at home.
The Mate 20 doesn’t have the fancy under-display fingerprint reader, nor it employs 3D face scanning tech. Being a cheaper device, the Mate 20 enjoys a regular fingerprint sensor on its back, always-on and very fast and accurate as usual.
Face Unlock is available, but it’s just uses the front camera, which means it’s less secure and can potentially be fooled by a picture. So, if privacy is of utmost importance, you may want to avoid this option.
You can either embrace the notch, or you can opt to mask it with a black status bar that extends all the way down to the bottom edge of the notch. The Mate 20 has one of the smallest notches around, so we’d imagine few people would choose to hide it.
Huawei has pretty also implemented its version of iPhone’s gesture navigation – swipe up for Home, swipe up and stop midway for Task switcher, or swipe from the left or right edge of the screen for Back. Well, the iPhone does Back only from the left edge.
Out of the box, there is no app drawer on the EMUI 9 – it’s a single tier interface akin to iOS. However, if you prefer Android’s usual two-tier layout, you can enable it from the Display settings.
EMUI has Magazine lock screen, as usual, which cycles through a bunch of wallpapers (covers), so you see a different one every time you fire up the display.
Huawei‘s EMUI offers plenty of customization and features, smart rotation, and lift to wake. Themes are supported, too, and there is a lot to choose from.
The notification shade is a standard affair, with the usual Huawei take on the graphics. There’s a brightness slider and a row of toggles, and you pull down again for more toggles.
Multitasking is a familiar affair too. Tap-holding the Recents key will let you activate the split screen mode. You could have a video playing on top of the two windows if for some reason you find that useful.
From the Phone Manager app, you can access shortcuts to storage cleanup, battery settings, blocked numbers, Virus scan powered by Avast, and mobile data usage.
Huawei‘s own Music app offers a way to listen to stored MP3s, while Huawei‘s Health app offers Google Fit syncing and step counting. There’s a file manager app and a note-taking app. And if you don’t like any of those – there is an abundance of alternatives in the Play Store.
There is an improved AI-powered gallery with EMUI 9. In addition to the automatic sorting with highlights, you will get an automatic but editable Spotlight Reel.
Unlike the Mate 20 Pro, the Huawei Mate 20 comes with FM radio support and there is an app to handle it. Nice!
Huawei Mate 20 features an IR blaster on its top side. Thanks to its Smart Remote companion app, you can control all of your appliances with your Mate.
The Mate 20 has a Kirin 980 chip
Huawei Mate 20, just like the rest of the Mate 20 family, utilizes HiSicon’s latest Kirin 980 chip. This is the first chipset in an Android phone built on the 7nm manufacturing process and it’s promising plenty of power and efficiency gains over its predecessor and other 10nm chipsets, including the Snapdragon 845.
The Kirin 980 uses an 8-core CPU design with 2x high-performance Cortex-A76 cores running at 2.6GHz and 2x Cortex-A76 cores clocked at 1.92GHz and 4x power-efficient Cortex-A55 cores that go up to 1.8GHz. The processor makes use of ARM’s DynamIQ architecture, which is the evolution of big.LITTLE and allows any subset of cores (or all together) to work simultaneously depending on the workload.
Kirin 980 SoC has a Mali-G76 MP10 (ten-core) GPU, which should offer tremendous performance and efficiency gains compared to its predecessor Mali-G72 in the Kirin 970.
EMUI 9’s GPU Turbo 2.0 is supported by six games in total for the time being. It allows all those games to run smoothly and steady at 60 fps at full resolution. GPU Turbo 2.0 is new, but Huawei is also working with game developers to enable it in even more popular games though we won’t be holding our breath.
The 7nm manufacturing process isn’t the Kirin 980’s only claim to fame. The chipset is also the first to support 2133MHz LPDDR4X memory and incorporates a dedicated dual NPU chip. Huawei calls the latter “Dual-Brain Power” and can help recognize up to 4,500 images per minute, which is around 120% faster than last year’s single NPU chip on the Kirin 970 SoC.
Finally, the chipset comes with a new Image Signal Processor, which delivers a 46% increase in data throughput and better multi-camera support. It promises an improved HDR color reproduction, Multi-pass noise reduction that removes artifacts without hurting with the image details and better motion tracking.
And now it’s time to run some tests.
Benchmarks scores have been driving the industry for quite some time. Many Chinese makers try to impress with higher and higher (AnTuTu) results, leading to tampering with the phone performance in order to look favorable in the eyes of the users.
At IFA 2018 in Berlin Huawei officials confirmed that the manufacturer is using benchmark detection software to deliver the best possible results, only because its competitors are doing it and it wouldn’t want to be at a disadvantage.
Huawei then promised to make this hidden Performance mode available to anyone and now it’s live in the new Mate 20 phones. You can find the switch in the Battery settings. Previous Huawei phones are getting this option soon, too.
Huawei claims this mode gives you the full unrestricted power of the Kirin chipset. Sure, it will drain the battery and the phone will get hot, but for whatever reasons you need every bit of speed – you can have it now. There is a catch, though.
Once enabled the performance mode does unlock the full potential, but all safety measures are still in place. And they better be, as the Mate gets hot fast, even before AnTuTu has finished its run, and then…it throttles. And when throttling occurs, you are no longer in full speed.
Long story short – the Mate 20 can offer a small speed boost at some occasions with its Performance Mode, but not for long. To get the optimal scores in this mode we had to put the Mate 20 in a fridge for the whole test run and after it was done the phone was not cold!
The results – well, about 10% boost across all benchmark tests for the first run. Yes, that’s it. You can get a sustainable 5% boost from the regular mode over time, while the 10% bump is for the first few minutes only. So, we are not sure if the extra heat and battery drain are worth the hassle.
The Mate 20, performance mode or not, is on top of the whole Android pile, when it comes to multi-core processor performance. You can see the 10% gain from the performance mode quite clearly.
Huawei Mate 20 and its Kirin 980 are a worthy flagship pair. The chip offers the fastest processor on the Android market, as usual, while its GPU punch is close to that of the most current Adreno by Qualcomm.
The Kirin 980 is manufactured on the cutting-edge 7nm process, but if you expected it not to heat up – you’d be wrong. The chip does release a reasonable amount of heat and the Mate 20 Pro does have a few spots that get hot when you subject it to a lot of pressure. The phone won’t go as hot as the previous Mates though. Some throttling may occur after running consecutive benchmark tests but only then.
The performance mode unlocks the full potential of the Kirin 980, which gave us a 10% boost in benchmark scores – and that is only when we kept the phone cold in the fridge. At room temperature the phone quickly heats up, throttles and you only gets about 5% benefit.
Huawei has delivered an all-around great chip with a class-leading processor and competitive graphics core. It has better thermal control and less throttling than the previous Kirin 970, too, making this arguably the first occasion when the Kirin chipset is actually an advantage for the Huawei rather than a shortcoming.
A different triple camera
Both Mate 20 phones pack triple-camera setups with dual-LED flash on their backs. Those four things are packed together into a square that should go down in history as the signature design feature of this Huawei Mate generation.
The setup waves goodbye to the monochrome and we won’t miss it much. It was very helpful for boosting low-light performance before chipsets could do multi-frame image stacking for noise reduction, but now all it provides are slightly better artsy black and white shots and we can agree Huawei did the right thing by putting a wideangle camera instead. The setup is Leica-branded, coming with the exclusive color filters if those happen to be your thing.
Even though the Huawei Mate 20 packs a triple camera setup similar to the Mate 20 Pro (wide, regular, telephoto), none of the cameras used match. The Mate 20 has a primary 12MP 1/2.3″ shooter with 27mm f/1.8 lens and an 8MP snapper with 54mm f/2.4 lens for telephoto purposes. The final camera is a 16MP one with ultra-wide angle 17mm f/2.2 lens. All of them lack optical stabilization.
As an added bonus to the ultra-wide-angle camera, Huawei says everyone will be able to shoot some impressive macro shots with it as the phone can focus from as close as 2.5cm.
Huawei Mate 20 offers only 2x optical zoom – there is no hybrid zoom nor 80mm 3x lens as was the case on the Pro. You will find 2x option in its camera app, while the wide-angle camera is called 0.6x.
The camera app is enhanced by Huawei‘s AI just as before. There is Master AI 2.0, which can now recognize and tune settings for up to 1,500 different scenes. Huawei has made it less aggressive on the trees and skies, after the negative feedback it received for the P20 Pro where the Greenery and Blue Sky modes were over the top. We are happy with the presets used on the Mate 20 but if you’d like to keep the Master AI turned off, the switch for that is in the Camera app’s Settings page.
The camera app itself hasn’t changed much since the P20 series. First off, you have a mode selector on the bottom. You swipe left or right to change modes, but you can’t swipe on the viewfinder, just on the selector itself. Swiping up and down doesn’t switch between front and rear camera either, you have a button for that (admittedly, it’s at the bottom within easy reach). Basically, you’re still wasting the viewfinder by not having gestures enabled on it, except for pinch to zoom.
As for switching between cameras, a tap on the ‘1x’ button in the viewfinder toggles consecutively the ‘2x’ (54mm), and the ‘0.6x’ (17mm) cameras.
There’s a Pro mode here where you can adjust parameters yourself – ISO (50 to 3,200), shutter speed (1/4000s to 30s), exposure compensation (-4 to +4EV in 1/3 stop increments), and white balance (presets and specific temperature). You can also choose the metering mode (matrix, center-weighted and spot), and the focus mode (single, continuous and manual). If the phone thinks you messed up the exposure, an icon will pop up to warn you.
The monochrome mode is still available in spite of the Mate 20 not having a dedicated B&W camera. It’s in the ‘More’ section, where the extra modes are: Monochrome, Panorama, and HDR, among others. And while we’re at it, what’s with the manual HDR mode when everyone else has some sort of Auto HDR already enabled?
Since bokeh effects became all the rage, Huawei phones have had both a Portrait mode, and an Aperture mode. There’s now more differentiation than ever between the two. In Aperture you can choose the simulated aperture in the range from f/0.95 to f/16. Post shot, you can change the aperture and the focus point within the Gallery.
In Portrait mode you can enable and disable the background blur (why disable it if you’ve chosen the mode in the first place, though), but you can also choose the bokeh shapes – circles, hearts, swirl or discs – which can produce some really cool effects! You can also opt for simulated lighting, and you can even add some beautification on a scale from 0 to 10.
The Mate 20 records video up to 4K resolution at 30fps – there’s still no 4K/60fps mode, though. You can, however, choose between h.264 and h.265.
There’s super slow-mo recording as well, in what’s become the industry-standard 720p/960fps, as well as ‘regular’ slow-mo in 720p/240 and 1080p/120fps. While the regular slow-mo clips are only limited in length by your free storage, the super slow-mo clips last precisely 10s – 6s of slow-mo and two seconds of regular speed action on both ends.
Huawei is offering the so-called HiVision smart assistant as part of the camera app. It’s basically an alternative to Smart Lens, automatically recognizing landmarks, art, and food. Some of the smart functions include text translation and calories count.
While the 0.6x mode isn’t the default one when you start the camera, we figured it’s the right place to start with the examining of the Mate 20‘s image quality.
There is plenty of resolved detail in the photos we took with the ultra-wide-angle camera. The color rendition is excellent, true to life, the noise levels are very low, and the dynamic range is often superb, probably due to the multi-stacking magic.
There is corner softness, but it is much less evident than on what we observed on the Mate 20 Pro pictures. The chromatic aberrations, which are expected with such a wide lens, are also rarer on the Mate 20 images than on the Pro’s.
The ultra-wide-angle cam can also do for macro shots. These are quite good in quality and will do for the occasional shooting of flower petals, bugs, and other tiny peculiar things. Yes, chromatic aberration is noticeable here and there, but it’s not too bad.
Moving on to the regular photos. Those come from the 12MP sensor with the bright f/1.8 lens. There is one easy rule with the Mate 20 – if the ultra-wide-angle camera didn’t take it, then it’s a 12MP photo. That’s right; even the 8MP telephoto camera spits out 12MP images.
Anyway, the regular camera photos in good light are great. There is plenty of detail, impressive dynamic range, lively and accurate colors, superb contrast, and, overall, very mature processing rendition. The foliage presentation sometimes has the painfully familiar oil-painting look, but we guess this is the price to pay for the frame stacking. It’s not always that bad, not at all, but some of the greenery could have looked better.
So, the 12MP regular viewing angle photos are great looking and we are confident most users will be happy with them.
The 54mm tele camera is only 8MP, but the photos we get out it are 12MP, so we suspect the 12MP one lends a hand through some image stacking because when there’s enough light the per-pixel detail is close to what the main camera produces. The upscaling artifacts are there, but they are really hard to spot. The color, contrast, and dynamic range are good, although the noise levels are a bit higher.
Remember the overly aggressive Master AI on the Huawei P20? Good news, folks, version 2.0 has been reworked, and we no longer get over-the-top Greenery and Blue Skies photos. If the phone recognizes a Blue Sky or Greenery scene, the algorithm applies only a minor contrast boost and very slight extra saturation of the blues or greens. But nothing over the top as on the P20.
Now, it’s time to move to those low-light scenes. For the sake of consistency, we started from the wide-angle camera once more.
The 16MP camera has f/2.2 aperture and isn’t optically stabilized. The image quality turned out abysmal – the resolved detail is very low, the noise levels are extremely high, and you can barely see what’s on them. Unlike the Mate 20 Pro, the Mate 20 ultra-wide-angle camera isn’t fitted for low-light shots.
Luckily, this is where the Night mode comes in. It will produce quite usable wide-angle pictures, even if it has its limitations. It creates pseudo long exposures by stacking multiple frames gathering light along the way. We’re talking three-, sometimes five-second-long hand-held exposures which would otherwise result in a blurry mess. Those are not always keepers and you still need to have a reasonably steady hand, but you’ll be getting usable photos in situations you’d otherwise get none. The phone also does a remarkable job of retaining color where others would lose saturation.
The 12MP low-light photos we took with the main camera are very good. It has bright f/1.8 aperture and even though it lacks optical stabilization, the shutter speed won’t go lower than 1/25s, so blurred images are highly unlikely.
And the pictures are great – plenty of detail, nice exposure, excellent contrast, and some very nice-looking colors. If Master AI is enabled, it will rarely use the Night Mode when using the regular camera. The noise is well managed, although the Mate 20 Pro still has an edge there.
The Night Mode produces brighter images and pops more detail in both shadows and highlights. Moving subject will get blurred, but other than that – those turned out to be some impressive photos.
Finally, Huawei Mate 20 won’t use its telephoto camera at night, just like many other flagships do. Instead, it will crop and digitally zoom from the regular 12MP camera and the quality is, understandably, very poor.
Shootout – Mate 20 vs. Mate 20 Pro
Huawei Mate 20 has a different triple camera on the back, which on paper seems less capable than the Mate 20 Pro’s. And we are sure many of you are wondering what will be the difference in quality. So, we took both phones for a spin, shot some pictures, and here’s how they stack up. We’ve left the telephoto cameras out of this as the difference in the field of view (52mm vs 80mm) makes it very hard to compare those fairly.
In well lit environments the Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro photos are pretty much identical in quality. The field of view, the color rendition, the contrast, and the dynamic range – those are all on par. In fact, we observed more resolved detail in areas of uniform color and texture on the 12MP Huawei Mate 20 shots. The Mate 20 foliage presentation was a little bit better as well, with better defined grass and leaves.
So, it turns out that if you are into pixel-peeping, the Huawei Mate 20 might actually be the better shooter for the sunny scenes.
The 16MP ultra-wide angle shots are also close to what that Mate 20 Pro can do with its 20MP ultra-wide angle camera. The regular Mate 20 enjoys less noise and corner softness, and slightly better foliage presentation, but the Pro resolves more detail elsewhere. The latter of course is to be expected as the Mate 20 Pro shoots in higher resolution.
Still, for most intents and purposes, the ultra-wide-angle shots in bright days are equal.
The regular 12MP camera on the Mate 20 shoots good low-light photos, while the Mate 20 Pro captures excellent ones. The 10MP Pro photos have less noise, more detail, better exposure and dynamic range. The Mate 20 Pro clearly demonstrates its higher standing when the conditions get tough.
The ultra-wide-angle comparison results in similar conclusions. The photos we took with the regular Mate 20 are noisier than the Pro’s, have less detail and poorer contrast, and the colors are washed out. Their dynamic range is quite poor, too. The Mate 20 Pro wins this round, too, even if its images are not that impressive, either.
The main camera on both Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro capture some brilliant low-light photos with the Night Mode. The Mate 20 Pro images are superior though, with no detail falloff towards the corners, more detail and less noise. The difference isn’t that big though, so no matter which of these two devices you own, you will be quite happy with its Night mode.
The ultra-wide-angle cameras can do Night Mode, too. The Mate 20 images are a bit noisier than the Mate 20 Pro’s, but other than that – on par as far as detail, colors, and contrast are concerned.
So, the Mate 20 seems just as capable as the Pro in daylight (even slightly ahead), while the Mate 20 Pro excels the low-light scenarios.
Huawei Mate 20 has three cameras on its back and would have been inexcusable if Portrait Mode wasn’t present. The feature, however, has changed since the P20 series.
For starters, you can’t choose the blur strength as you could before. Instead, you can use one of the few bokeh highlights shapes – circles, hearts, swirl or discs.
The subject separation is very good – in fact it’s among the best we’ve seen in a while. The different effects are also a departure from what we’re used to seeing, and we found them cool and a breath of fresh air.
Then there are Portrait Lighting effects, which have tolerable-but-not-great subject separation and generally aren’t our cup of tea.
Finally, in addition to those blur and/or lighting effects, you can also use various skin and face beautifications, but we didn’t dig deep there.
The Mate 20 also features the so-called Aperture Mode. It lets you do post-shot re-focusing and simulates apertures in the f/0.95-f/16 range. It can be used for both human and non-human subjects and does well with the subject isolation even with more complex shapes.
The Mate 20 feature a 24MP f/2.0 camera with fixed focus for selfies at the front, borrowed from the P20 series. It can do portraits with various effects as usual. Its performance isn’t nearly as spectacular as the high pixel count might suggest, though.
We’d trade half of those megapixels for autofocus any time, or at least for a focus sweet spot that’s further from the phone, because as things stand right now, you need to shoot your face from pretty close for it to be in sharp focus. If you do manage to stay within the camera’s fixed focus sweet spot, the level of detail is quite amazing. Colors are faithfully represented, and dynamic range is good for a selfie camera.
There is AI HDR turned on by default for the selfies and we strongly recommend leaving it on. It does a splendid job in recovering detail in the highlights.
The front camera has the same Portrait mode as the main one, but the subject separation is far inferior. You can see ears and hair have gone missing on some of the shots. The cool blur effects have made it to the selfie portrait mode, too, which is nice.
And you can, of course, use Portrait Lighting effects, if those are your thing, but with the poor subject separation they have very limited applications.
The Huawei Mate 20 isn’t introducing any new shooting modes over the P20 series, which means still no 4K at 60fps. You have a choice between the h.264 and h.265 codecs.
There is an always-on electronic stabilization available in every mode but the 1080p/60fps one.
You can shoot video with each camera in any resolution and use the 0.6x, 1x, and 2x triggers as you prefer. Oddly, we found out that in 1080p at 60fps the 2x footage is not from the 2x camera, but is digitally zoomed from the normal one.
The 4K footage of either camera is average – it lacks sharpness big time. The resolved detail isn’t terrible, but we’ve still seen mid-rangers do better. The colors sometimes are washed out, but the contrast and the dynamic range are pretty decent.
The always-on electronic stabilization might be responsible for this softness, but we can’t be sure as there is no way to disable it.
Disappointingly, the 4K videos we shot with the wide-angle camera have a frame rate of only 22-24fps instead of the regular 30fps.
The closeup videos are quite good, though. The Mate 20 has spectacular EIS and even videos shot at night look great. The recorded audio is stereo with 192kbps bitrate and thanks to the high bitrate you will get excellent quality even at a concert. The video below is from the Mate 20 Pro, but it is representative of what you’d get with the Mate 20, too.
The 1080p footage looks sharper and these are among the best 1080p videos we’ve seen. The resolved detail is great, as are the colors, contrast, and the dynamic range.
The 1080p videos at 60fps are less detailed than the 30fps ones, but are otherwise a close match to the 30fps ones.
As usual, we’ve provided samples straight out of the camera for you to download – 2160p@30fps normal(10s, 36MB), 2160p@30fps 2x zoom (10s, 35MB), 2160p@30fps ultra-wide (11s, 25MB), 1080p@30fps normal (10s, 15MB), 1080p@30fps 2x zoom (10s, 15MB), 1080p@30fps ultra-wide (10s, 14MB), 1080p@60fps normal (10s, 23MB), 1080p@60fps 2x zoom (10s, 24MB), and 1080p@60fps ultra-wide (11s, 23MB).
Huawei Mate 20 is intended mostly for markets where the Pro model isn’t available, much like the Mate 10 was last year. And the Mate 20 is shaping to be one very reasonable refresh over its predecessor.
It brings a larger LCD screen with richer color support, a much faster Kirin chipset, and a massive camera upgrade on the back. The new triple cam at the back is far more versatile than the old dual-setup as it can go both wider and longer.
The Mate 20 isn’t quite as great as the Mate 20 Pro, but it wasn’t meant to be. It gets to keep the essentials – the new design, big screen, powerful chipset, and large battery, while cutting a few corners with the LCD panel and the inferior tri-camera to keep the price lower.
And it worked! The Huawei Mate 20 may have different sensors behind that signature square at the back, but it still matches the Pro’s photo and video quality on plenty of occasions. Admittedly, the Pro easily comes out on top at night, but we wouldn’t say the difference is as big as the gap in pricing.
While some might prefer the Pro’s AMOLED panel, this flat LCD has a lot going for it too. The waterdrop cutout is easier on the eyes, it’s bigger and the lack of curves makes it easier to apply screen protectors.
Also, while the Mate 20 misses on the super fast 40W charging on the Pro, we never thought that its 22.5W Super Charge is slow or inadequate.
So, the Huawei Mate 20 is doing a great job of delivering the flagship experience, while undercutting the Pro price significantly. It is an exercise in stripping away gimmicks and not paying over the odds to improve on what is already working very well.
The last couple of months have seen a dozen of flagships go official and it will be one very tough shopping season. The Mate 20 will be facing some major threats out there and they deserve to be explored.
Samsung Galaxy S9+ • Samsung Galaxy Note9 • OnePlus 6T • LG V40 ThinQ • Huawei P20 Pro
Samsung has two great smartphones on the market right now. The Galaxy S9+ is already cheaper and has the curvy AMOLED screen plus an interesting camera with variable aperture. The custom Exynos chipset is as fast as the latest Kirin, but in the end the Mate 20 camera is the better all-rounder and EMUI 9 is based on Pie, whereas TouchWiz is still waiting for an update.
The Note9 is a bit more expensive than the Mate 20, and in addition to all the cool S9+ features, it adds a larger screen, battery, and, of course, the S-Pen. If the ultimate phablet experience is a must, the Note9 might be the better fit for you.
The OnePlus 6T is as fresh as the Mate, with similarly notched screen, but an OLED at that. The Snapdragon 845 is still the fastest silicone Qualcomm has to offer, too. OnePlus introduced its own Night Mode and the 6T does it faster than Huawei, but the photos aren’t on par in quality. Still, the 6T is quite cheaper, so there is that.
Finally, the water-tight LG V40 ThinQ will be putting some pressure on the Mate 20. It has an OLED screen of a similar size but of a higher resolution. The V40 is equally fast and has a triple camera of the same logic – ultra-wide, wide, and telephoto. The snappers have optical stabilization though, and the V40 can do 4K@60fps, too. The V40 is yet to broaden its market availability, but it’s getting there.
And finally, if you like Huawei‘s take on everything, but can’t live without an AMOLED or/and the 3x and 5x zoom in the camera, then there is the Huawei P20 Pro. It can’t do ultra-wide-angle shots, but it has the better screen and larger camera zoom at a cheaper price.
Huawei Mate 20, where available, is an easy smartphone to recommend. It has a great large screen with a tiny notch, a top of the line chipset for flagship-grade performance, and a camera that is among the best you can get in a smartphone today with a ton of shooting modes.
The Mate 20 lacks waterproofing, but is among the few remaining flagships with a 3.5mm jack and FM radio support. And while the triple camera isn’t as impressive as the Pro, it turned out to be a very capable performer.
The Huawei Mate 20 isn’t a crippled Mate 20 Pro. It’s one powerful smartphone, with thoughtfully picked features, and it’s more than capable to stand its ground. We can see many people deciding on saving €300 and opting for the less fancier but equally capable Mate 20, if they get that kind of choice at all, of course.
Nice design with flat front and grippy glass back
Bright display with great contrast, small notch
Dependable battery with SuperCharge support
Top of the line Kirin 980 chipset with AI
All-round camera experience with great daylight and night shots
Excellent video stabilization
No water resistance
Low-quality top speaker
NM cards only!
No autofocus on the selfie camera
Abysmal low-light performance of the ultra-wide-angle camera