A long-term review of 2018’s most ambitious phone

When I first laid my hands on Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro in October, I thought it was the most ambitious phone I’d seen in years. It checked off almost every feature you’d want in a 2018 phone: an in-display fingerprint reader, 3D facial identification, a triple-camera setup, a bezel-less screen, expandable storage, a gigantic battery, good design… the list goes on. It was a phone with everything but the kitchen sink (or, well, a headphone jack).

But I’ve been reviewing phones long enough to know the experience tends to dampen over time. The phone slows down, the camera isn’t actually all the great, or the battery starts draining rapidly.

I’m pleased to report the Mate 20 Pro is not one of those phones. Four months later, the Mate 20 Pro may sport a few scratches, but its initial sheen has yet to wear off.

Disclaimer: Yes, we know about the ongoing drama with Huawei and its, umm, ‘troubled‘ relationship with the US and other western countries. I’ll allow you to read up on that and come to your own conclusions, but for the purposes of this review, I’m treating the Mate 20 Pro like any other smartphone.

That aside, let’s recap the impressive spec list:

  • 6.39-inch curved OLED display
  • 3120 x 1440 resolution
  • HDR Support
  • Kirin 980
  • 6 GB RAM
  • 128 GB of storage
  • Expandable storage via new ‘nano memory card’
  • 4,200 mAh battery
  • Wireless charging – which you can use to charge other phones
  • 40W charging support
  • 40MP F1.8 27mm primary camera
  • 8MP F2.4 80mm telephoto w/OIS for 3x zoom
  • 20MP F2.4 16mm ultra-wide
  • 24MP F.20 front camera
  • IP68 water resistant
  • 3D face unlock
  • Under-screen fingerprint scanner
  • Android Pie/EMUI 9
  • No headphone jack…
  • ….but an IR blaster!
  • Colors: Emerald Green, Midnight Blue, Twilight, Pink Gold, Black

Again, it’s packed to the brim with features. No other phone on the market really comes close to Huawei’s feature extravaganza, except perhaps Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9. Even then, the Mate 20 Pro’s combination of specifications is unique. Other than the missing headphone jack, this phone has the hardware to satisfy almost any power user.

Somehow Huawei managed to fit all of these features into a relatively svelte and attractive smartphone. Huawei started the trend of gradient-colored glass on smartphones, and the Mate 20 Pro continues that tradition to good effect, though I’m personally a fan of the grippier texture on the blue model. The Mate 20 Pro is a little thicker than most of its immediate competition, but the curved edges mean you hardly notice it. It feels every bit the premium phone. And I really dig the red power button.

Like any glass-sandwich phone not kept in a case, the Mate 20 Pro has accumulated its fair share of scratches. The grippier texture on the Blue model is supposed to mitigate that, but I haven’t spent much time with that model.

Rounding out the exterior, the display is good, although nothing remarkable for a flagship. It’s not quite as good as Samsung’s panels, but I doubt anyone will have major complaints. Huawei also lets you tweak the color balance in the phone settings, so you can adjust the screen to your liking.

The phone also has decent sound to accompany the screen. Huawei has a neat trick for its bottom speaker: it’s hidden within the USB-C port. The sound coming out of it won’t live up to Google or Samsung’s speakers, let alone Razer’s, but there’s a decent stereo image. You’ll just have to be a bit careful to not cover up the port with your palm.