Huawei P20 Pro Review: Three Lenses Are Better Than Two
Vinu Varughese Oommen
2018 will be the year where smartphone designs will once again take an evolutionary step towards slimmer bezels and more screen estate. And while the biggest smartphone brands have already released their flagship offerings, Huawei steps on the bezel-less screen bandwagon with the launch of the Huawei P20 series. We have the Huawei P20 Pro with us that features the world’s only flagship smartphone with a triple-lens camera.
Unless you are a tech enthusiast, a normal consumer would have clearly mistaken the Huawei P20 Pro for the Apple iPhone X. Unless he noticed the home button below the bezel-less OLED display the screen that also doubles as a fingerprint scanner. And here, in this case, the P20 Pro holds a 6.1-inch OLED display with an aspect ratio of 18:7:9 and features a resolution of 1080 x 2240. The screen has a brightness of 408 ppi, so you would be able to see the screen under bright sunlight. The notch on the top appears to be similar from what we saw on the Huawei Nova 3e aka the Huawei P20 Lite. The notch houses the 24.8 MP front-facing camera, a sensor, and a receiver.
The ports and buttons are located at the usual points. On the bottom of the frame, you will find the USB Type-C port and dual speakers placed on either side of the Type-C port. The volume rockers and the power button are placed on the right side and if you haven’t noticed, the P20 Pro doesn’t feature a 3.5mm audio jack and no slot for MicroSD card expansion. For a smartphone that’s 7.8mm thick and weighs 180g, it's very hard to digest the fact that Huawei couldn’t manage to implement a headphone jack and a microSD card slot.
They could have at least tried with the Dual SIM combo (located on the left side) where one slot could have been used for a MicroSD card. The fact that Samsung’s latest flagship concludes that the Galaxy S9 scores a point there for this matter. Perhaps they were trying to follow the fact that an Apple iPhone X doesn’t have a MicroSD card slot too at the first place. That said, the Huawei P20 Pro is slightly thinner and lighter than the Galaxy S9+.
Looking from there rear is three camera modules and the reflective surface that doubles as your mirror. Jokes aside, the rear panel on the Huawei P20 Pro easy attracts fingerprints and smudges, so this means that unless you’re using a protective case, you will surely end up wiping clean the rear portion, several times a day. If there is another design feature slightly borrowed from the books of the iPhone X, then that’s the dual-lens camera module on the rear. That said, the module consists of a 40MP main shooter with an aperture of F1.8 and an 8MP telephoto sensor with F2.4 aperture. The third lens is a 20 MP monochrome snapper with a brighter aperture of F1.6. This sensor sits outside the dual-lens module and doesn’t protrude outside as the latter. This trio of sensors contributes to the best of almost all focal lengths and color themes that includes color, black and white as well as telephoto.
This smartphone is also certified for IP67 dust and water resistance. And if you are among those who have used the previous Huawei P10 smartphone, then you must have noticed that a slight vibration occurs when you happen to tap or hit the rear panel of the device. The vibration is followed by a slight “ting” sound (the same sound that you hear when you slightly hit an iron bar. The same happens for the Huawei P20 Pro. Not that it’s a bad thing (and you wouldn’t notice it on a daily basis), but other flagships that I’ve tried don’t have this light construction flaw and appears to be rigid.
Huawei’s expertise in creating their own mobile processors is something we are already aware off. The P20 Pro is equipped with the latest Kirin 970 chip, an octa-core processor that consist of four Cortex A73 and four Cortex A53 (running at 2.4 GHz and 1.8 GHz speeds, respectively). Adding to all that horsepower is 6GB RAM to effortlessly run the Android 8.1 Oreo OS, mixed with the EMUI 8.1 custom UI. And while the smartphone doesn’t come with a MicroSD card slot, the device does come featured with 128GB of internal storage. As performance goes by, multitasking on this device is a breeze as I don’t see the usual UI stutters that happens. We also ran an Antutu test and bagged a score of 210703 points. I wouldn’t say that it’s the fastest score because our Galaxy S9 Plus scored a little bit higher. Regardless, gamers will be also pleased to run fast-paced games on the beautiful OLED display with smooth framerates, thanks to the Mali-G72 MP12 GPU.
I used to remember of smartphone concepts that had more than three lenses and these images used to be all over the internet as a fan creation. But not anymore. Huawei beat all the brands to it by releasing the first ever flagship smartphone with the goodness of three different Leica shooters on its rear: One for color pictures, one for monochrome and one for a telephoto lens. In short, the ultimate triple-lens smartphone camera. (If there was a fourth, it would have been a wide-angle lens). Jokes aside, the color RGB sensor consists of a 40MP shooter with an aperture of F1.8 (reminds us of the Nokia Lumia devices). The monochrome sensor is 20MP with f1.6 as the aperture, and the telephoto lens is an 8MP shooter with 80mm focal length and f2.4 aperture. These sensors are supported with laser AF, deep focus feature, as well as phase and contrast detection. Phase detection is what makes the autofocus so fast.
The image quality is very good as far as I can say and you get different modes based on aperture, portrait, and auto. There is also the Pro mode that lets you all experts to tweak with all the essential factors such as ISO and shutter speed. Colors appear more solid than what you actually see, even when the color tones are set to standard and not vivid. The auto mode actually notifies you on-screen on what it sees, such as a blue sky. However, there were cases of soft shots when we tried the portrait mode at different subjects such a person. It wasn't sharp enough as compared to what we got from the Galaxy S9+. We also noticed that when we tried a macro shot and Samsung's flagship was able to focus on more areas with sharper results. That said, the colors on the P20 Pro was deeper. This is possible because of the AI that's integrated to recognize the scenes effectively. And thanks to the telephoto lens, you get to choose zoom modes between 1x, 3x and 5x focal length. Other features include 3D facial modeling for flattering selfies and the freedom to implement studio quality lighting effects.
But the main attraction is the night mode of the P20 Pro's camera. We were able to get better results than other competitors during night time. We also got to try the P20 Pro camera at a pitch black room and the camera was able to bring more light than other smartphone cameras that we tried (less noise and more brightness). The camera is capable of recording 4K videos at 30fps and 1080p at 30fps or 60fps. It’s surprising that Huawei did not include 60fps for its 4K video mode. However, while the video quality is fantastic, I did notice that the video stabilization of the P20 Pro’s main camera isn’t up to the mark. The front camera of the device is a massive 24MP selfie snapper with an aperture of F2.0. This means selfies should be bright and crisp with bokeh in the background. However, the maximum video resolution of the front camera is only 720p. Huawei could have added 1080p support for a camera that holds so much megapixel capability. Additionally, the front camera selfies tend to slightly overexpose the background with you on it during daytime (auto mode). That said, you also get the portrait mode for selfies and with an option for artistic bokeh.
A lot of camera lenses fused with powerful hardware means that a lot of power can be sapped from the battery. And in this case, the Huawei P20 Pro features a massive 4000 mAh battery with fast charge support via the USB 3.1 Type-C port. Huawei claims that the battery can hit 58% in half an hour. I’ve only had a weeks’ time to try out the P20 Pro and the device was easily capable of lasting a whole day, and maybe a bit more for the next day. My usage includes the usual list of things to do, such as browsing a lot with Google Chrome, send messages via social media apps, some video playback, clicked images using different camera modes and made some calls for the day.
Huawei has once again proved that they can make great flagships that can take on the likes of Apple and Samsung. While the device does look a lot like the Apple iPhone X, the triple camera setup is something that exceeds what the iPhone X can do. The performance of the P20 Pro is undoubtfully fast. However, the lack of a MicroSD card slot and the 3.5mm audio jack is something you need to see if they are really important to you or not. We don't want to debate on whether Android or IOS is better, but if you're looking for the best iPhone X alternative that runs on Android, look no further than the Huawei P10 Pro.