- Best Battery Life
- Impressive Camera
- Has Headphone Jack
- Better User Interface
- Buggy Software
- Underwhelming Performance
Huawei, the Chinese manufacturer returns once again with their new slew of smartphones and this time it’s the Mate 20 Series. Unlike the last year line up, the new Mate 20 lineup comes in three different smartphone for the consumers – the Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro and the Mate 20 X. Thanks to the kind folks over at Huawei, they have been generous and sent us a unit of their Mate 20 for us to review and with that said, we have spent a fair amount of time with their phone and in this, it’s about time for us to share our final verdict in this Huawei Mate 20 Review.
Design and Build Quality
The Huawei Mate 20 still has the same form factor as the predecessor but it has some touch up that makes the phone look revamped from the ground up. On the front, we no longer see the chin and the forhead we saw with the Mate 10 and instead we are greeted with this Waterdrop (Teardrop) notch up on the top – which can be hidden via Software and on the back, you’ll actually notice the design change. It has a new camera layout and also, has a micropattern across which adds a bit of new look to the whole phone itself. Other than that, it looks rather similar to it’s predecessor. I like the design without a doubt.
As for the build quality, the Mate 20 is completely constructed in glass – a 2D Glass on the front and a 3D curved glass on the back with a metal frame in between. The Micropattern on the back allows the phone not to slip off your hands while you use it as it gives a grippy feel in the hand. I can’t tell if it really does but it did feel a lot different than the rest of the phones I have held in my hands. As it’s constructed in glass, the phone is prone to fingerprints and I’d suggest if you carry a microfiber cloth with you at all times or use a case to avoid and protect the phone at the same time. We received the Blue variant and it looks gorgeous – without a doubt.
Specification and Benchmark
The Mate 20 is powered by their in house processor, the HiSilicon Kirin 980 which is an Octa-core processor. On top of that, our variant came with 6GB RA, + 128GB Internal Storage which can be expanded with the help of Huawei’s proprietary expansion card that they call it the NM Card – which we will talk about it in a moment. This is one of the two Mate 20 to have a Headphone jack on it and uses a Type-C Port to charge the phone.
We performed some benchmarks on the Huawei Mate 20 – Antutu, Geekbench and CPU-Z to verify the specification under the hood. You can take a look at it below – do take note that the Benchmark scores do not add up to day-to-day usage basis and only gives an estimation on how good the phone would perform.
On the front, the Huawei Mate 20 rocks a 6.53” Full HD+ Display with 381 Pixels per inch. It comes in this 2:1 ratio where the chin is very thin which is pretty good. While it may be a normal FHD+ Display with no tricks up it sleeves, it gets the job done with no issues. The display covers the DCI-P3 Color Gamut and with that said watching shows on Netflix is still okay – the blacks aren’t as close to true black but the phone display pretty much suffices daily needs. We did notice one weird thing about the display.
As it now has a waterdrop notch, the phone has an abnormal light bleed around the notch and it does stand out while using it. But other than that, gaming on this phone with this display is pretty impressive. It doesn’t offer that punchy color one would expect from an AMOLED panel which is kind of a bummer as some manufacturers have gone to an extent to include AMOLED panels on a mid tier smartphone. The display overall, does a good job but it could have been better.
Battery Life & Charging
One of the possible reasons I fell in love with the Huawei Mate 20 is the fact that it has an impressive battery life. It’s one of the best (if not, the best) battery life we have seen on a smartphone. During my time using it – thanks to the 4000 mAh battery – I found myself not connecting to the nearest power often as I do with my other smartphone. During my first time using it, I used the phone for about 14 hours+ of active usage and at the end of my day, I checked that the phone had 16 percent battery left and with a screen on time of 6 Hours 37 minutes. In the second test, I had about 17 hours of active usage time and with that, I had about 21 percent of battery and with a screen on time of 5 hours 58 Minutes.
This is possibly the best battery life I have seen on a smartphone till date. I even tried unplugging the phone from the charger and left it on standby before I went to sleep. The next day morning, I only noticed that it only lost about 3-4% which is impressive. The Huawei SuperCharge – which is a 40W Adapter that uses a completely different standard to charge the phone. The Mate 20 charges the whole phone in an hour which is intense and can be a lifesaver. Although there is one thing I can’t quite get my head wrapped around – that is this whole “standards” Huawei fixed.
The thing is the phone only supports SuperCharge and let’s say if you have a powerbank which only supports Quick Charge standard, consider yourself screwed as you will have to get an Huawei SuperCharge Certified powerbank from them. If not, the thing is going to charge slow. Some manufacturers who use their in-house processor has still given the option to charge on a completely different adapter but it’s sad to see Huawei doesn’t allow that.
Possibly one of the biggest highlight of the Mate 20 series – is definitely the camera that is has. On the rear, the Mate 20 packs a triple camera setup in this box shape which Huawei claims that they were inspired by the Porsche 918 Spyder’s head lamp. Also, just like their predecessors, the Mate 20 carries the Leica name along with it. Here’s the configuration of the camera itself.
- 12 MP Wide Angle Lens with an aperture of f/1.8
- 16 MP Ultra Wide Angle Lens with an aperture of f/2.2
- 8MP Telephoto Lens with an aperture of f/2.4
Take note, we turned off the Master AI Feature which micromanages your photos and pushes you to take something you actually don’t want. Here’s a quick comparison on how these three lens varies. The far left is the Ultra Wide Angle Lens that captures way more than the normal Wide angle – which happens to my personal favorite. The second one is the Normal Wide Angle which we have seen in other phones and finally – the telephoto which captures closer. The colors are rather neutral and you don’t see any heavy post processing overall. The Ultra Wide lens has a really nice depth to it which captures more and in fact the moment you zoom in, the details are intact and the exposure is just fine.
Here’s a second comparison – this time the Master AI is turned on and the pictures look rather dull and sharpened because the lighting inside the station was too dull that day. There isn’t colors that blew out of proportion – which is a good sign and I still think it did a good job.
Ultra Wide angle camera does step things up and gives to the capability to capture more with the least effort possible. In fact, thanks to the stabilization – it’s quite impressive. Images turn out punchy and nice. And if you noticed, the signature Monochrome Leica lens is gone for good and I personally prefer this setup over that as it offers a lot of function than gimmick.
Problem is that the software imposes too much limitations on the camera – like going to a high megapixel doesn’t give you the option to zoom and sorts. In fact, in our retail unit we had more issues than it should. For starters, switching between all the three camera modes did not work seamlessly as it had a 5-8 second delay. The moment you switch from Telephoto back to the Ultra Wide, not only it takes time to switch but the whole camera crashes and the camera refuses to open back up. So, I had to reboot the whole phone and use the camera.
On the front, it comes with a 24MP Camera with an aperture of f/2.0 respectively. It has the Huawei AI Beauty mode that enhances the look and if you are into that, you can use it – if not, you can always turn it off and embrace your own self. 😉
Speaker and Security
The Huawei Mate 20 has a downward facing speaker with a dedicated Speaker Grill unlike the Mate 20 Pro which uses the USB-C Port as a speaker. On the top, the ear piece behaves like a tweeter rather than creating a stereo effect. The speaker is loud and clear, but knowing the fact that we live in 2018 and we don’t have a stereo speaker kind of bums me out. But none the less, the speaker gets the job done. Also, thanks to the inclusion of the 3.5mm Headphone Jack, you can still rock your favorite IEMs and have some really good listening experience.
In terms of security, the Mate 20 has a fingerprint sensor at the back of the phone and on the front it uses the Front Facing camera as Face Unlock. With that said, the phone unlocks in a matter of seconds – which is quite impressive. The fingerprint Sensor is fast and snappy which is good as well.
UI & OS
Huawei unveiled the new EMUI 9.0 and it’s based on Android 9.0 which is actually an impressive move. The new EMUI is a lot less restrictive than the previous one which I enjoy because switching your launcher and default application is a lot more nicer and easier to do so. But the whole UI still does carry many design cues as the Cupertino based company who makes devices with the letter “i” in front of their name. Other than that, you don’t see any trace of Android’s clean UI skin as it’s completely revamped from the ground up with their UI.
The phone does have a lot of interesting features that allows you to do like their infamous Knuckle feature where you can draw and take screenshot, split screen for multi tasking. It even has a new feature where you can use it to recognize photos or objects with the AI. I am not a huge fan of their clunky UI. So, I switch over to Lawnchair UI to get the cleanest experience possible.
What went wrong?
So far, what you have heard is the good thing about the phone. Now you might be wondering – where is the Performance part of the review. Well, that is exactly where we faced a huge hit during our time using the Mate 20 – and get this, we are talking about a Final Retail unit.
The performance on the Mate 20 was snappy for the first two days I was using it and the performance was smooth and really nice to use. Application load times were quick and the phone handles multitasking like the way it should. We tried Asphalt 8 and Tekken, the games were snappy but the phone got hot after a decent hour of gaming session.
Then came the whole problem. During my time using, the phone completely froze and didn’t take any input in. You can take a look at the GIF we made, the phone does recognize the input when the lock button is pressed an it wakes up the phone. It even wakes the screen when I unlocked with my fingerprint but from there on, the phone refuses to do anything – to put it in better words, it didn’t recognize my swipes and taps on the screen. When it finally decided to recognize my swipe up to access the app drawer, the frames got completely choppy and I had no choice but to Brute Reboot the phone. This happened almost 3-4 times when I was using the phone. I was kind of disappointed because for a new processor that the company claims this is their best yet, which has a 7nm FinFET Architecture as Apple’s new A12X Bionic Processor – they way it handled the whole thing was a complete disaster.
As it gave me the problem on a frequent basis, I got in touch with the PR and told them that my unit is facing a huge issue. So, the kind folks over at Huawei got back to me and offered a replacement unit. I went over and changed the unit, with that – we proceeded to test the replacement unit right there on the spot – and guess what, the camera crashed in front of us and the phone froze. So, to draw the conclusion from this experience – there could be two reason why the phone crashed.
- Either the software isn’t working well and it’s buggy
- The phone really didn’t have the ability to handle task efficiently.
They did apologize and told that they will bring this problem to their development team – which is good but I have a curious question: If I am a general consumer that faced this, how would they help and resolve the issue?
The new NM Card
This is another thing that I just can’t seem to understand – again. Back in the day, we knew that there was this other company who used their proprietary format of storage for their accessories – Sony. They made the Memory Stick which is their own version of storage cards that never got implemented in any other devices because Micro SD cards took over the market – that is after the MMC Card.
Sony killed the whole Memory Stick and they went to the universal standard – MicroSD and normal SD Cards. And now we have NM Card – which Huawei claims that it’s compact and the same size as a SIM Card. It also has higher capacity. At the moment, the only manufacturer that makes NM Cards, is just Huawei and their 128GB costs a whopping RM 298. This also means, you need a special adapter to support NM Card on your PC and there’s other problems in the long run. I like the whole idea that it’s compact and all but if you care about your consumer, why not go for a standard that the consumer is familiar with.
Our friends from Nasi Lemak Tech did a write up on NM Card – go read about it.
The Huawei Mate 20. I am not going to lie but this phone has some serious potential under the hood but the rest of the phone felt like a miss. The first three days with the phone, I was genuinely convinced that the phone has the capability to stand against some of the manufacturers that makes impressive flagships people love but I guess not this time. I hope Huawei fixes the issue with the phone and may be in about a month, we will revisit the phone back and see whether the problem that we faced was resolved.
The Huawei Mate 20 is retailing for RM 2,799 and as long as the problems gets fixed – it’s a good phone to go for because it has good camera for photos and impressive battery life. But at the moment, I’d suggest, you can spend your money on the Samsung Galaxy Note9 which has dropped to RM 2700 at a lot of stores and there are better options – You could even get the ROG Phone if you really want a phone that focuses solely on gaming.