Huawei Mate 20 Pro first look: In-display fingerprint scanner go mainstream
Hot on the heels of the excellent Huawei P20 Pro, the Mate 20 Pro continues the Chinese company’s impressive run of devices. This is a stacked phone, packed with three cameras on the back, an in-display fingerprint sensor and the new, highly-efficient Kirin 980 chipset.
If you absolutely love specs and interesting features then you’re going to love this.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro price and release date
The Mate 20 Pro launches on October 16 with SIM-free pricing from €1049.
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Pick up the Mate 20 Pro and it’s easy to see how far Huawei has come when it comes to design. The P20 Pro was a great phone to look at, but this is even better. It’s made from glass, with an etched pattern on the back to improve grip. The screen curves ever so slightly and a metal rim sits around the side. It’s finished to perfection and feels as good as an iPhone XS or Samsung Galaxy S9.
In typical Huawei fashion, there are multiple colours available – including a trippy twilight and lovely, dark forest green – each of which comes with a contrasting power button to add even more visual flair.
There’s no headphone jack (of course), yet it remains IP68 rated for water-resistance, and the use of glass means wireless charging has been added. Huawei said it wasn’t ready to add this handy feature until it was fast enough and apparently this will charge wirelessly at 15w. Considering the iPhone XS Max tops out at 7.5w, that’s impressive.
Related: Huawei Mate 20 first look
Another trick is the ability to charge other Qi-enabled phones by pressing them to the back of the Mate 20 Pro. I was charging a Google Pixel 2 XL with it and it felt like the future. That was until I held the phones together for a good 10 minutes and got about 2% extra battery. This might be an idea that needs some tweaking.
Sitting on the front of the Mate 20 Pro is a 6.39-inch 2960 x 1440 OLED panel. It’s gorgeous: HDR enabled with fantastically bright colours and a real punch. Even the notch can’t disrupt the immersion here.
Inside the screen, there’s also a fingerprint sensor. In-display fingerprint tech has been rumoured in high-end phones from Apple and Samsung for years and has yet to materialise, but with the Mate 20 Pro it is finally becoming mainstream.
Setting it up is very similar to setting up a traditional fingerprint sensor: hold your thumb against the screen for a few seconds, moving it around as you go. It’s a tad on the slow side, but once everything is registered you’ll see a faint fingerprint outline on the display when it’s off.
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It sounds futuristic and it works surprisingly well, even though it’s not quite as fast as a physical sensor. Paired with the in-display fingerprint sensor is a 24-megapixel 3D depth-sensing camera, hidden in the notch, for facial unlocking. Again, it works fast and seems reliable even on software that isn’t final.
The biggest downside I can see so far is that because these methods use Huawei’s own tech, apps that are normally unlocked via fingerprint (Banking apps, for example) will simply revert to asking for your pin as these won’t work with the fancy new biometric methods.
Inside the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the Kirin 980, Huawei’s first chipset to use the 7nm architecture. Moving to 7nm from 10nm (this was used in last year’s 970) helps improve efficiency and allows for better processing and graphics without sacrificing battery life. The 980 has been paired with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage.
Inside the Kirin 980 sits Huawei’s dual neural engines, which it claims can improve AI processes by 134%. It also helps the phone process video in real-time and add live bokeh effects. Huawei is also touting a general 20% speed improvement across the device, with a 45% boost in graphics and 40% better efficiency.
Optics have been a big push for Huawei since it teamed with Leica and if the Mate 20 Pro manages to better the P20 Pro then this could rival the Google Pixel 3 for best smartphone camera this year.
Set out in a square on the back, the Mate 20 Pro packs a 40-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel telephoto camera for zooming and a new 20-megapixel ultra-wide angle camera. Huawei said that due to the quality of the 40-megapixel sensor there’s no longer any need for a monochrome camera so we’ve got the ultra-wide one to replace it.
The impressive long-exposure Night Mode from the P20 returns, as do the bevy of aperture-shifting options. You’ve also got a new Macro mode that’ll improve close-up shots.
Stabilisation is handled by the Master AI system and that is joined by 4D predictive focus to track a subject as you move. I was shown a demonstration of someone filming a child running about and the autofocus did an excellent job of staying with the subject.
Software remains a weak point for Huawei and even though the Mate 20 Pro runs Android 9 Pie, it still very much retains the Marmite look of EMUI. You do benefit from Pie features like gesture navigation and a Digital Wellbeing section to help curb your phone usage, but the general look, feel and UI is still very much Huawei.
Huawei reps were keen to point out it has removed needless options from the Settings menu, added more ‘natural sounds’ throughout and improved how quickly apps open. But if you disliked Huawei’s aggressive approach to skinning Android before then there isn’t much to change your mind here.
You’ve got to hand it to Huawei. The Mate 20 Pro is the most feature-packed phone I have ever used and I love that it’s trying new things. In-display fingerprint scanner will likely be the future and there’s something cool – though likely not practical – about helping someone else charge their phone by yours acting as the wireless charger.
Pair those clever features with an excellent-sounding camera and the speed of the Kirin 980, and you have what could potentially be the best Android phone of the year.
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