The Huawei Mate 20 Pro might take the company's main title of this generation, but the slightly lower Mate 20 is still a cellphone worth considering with its own strength. It swaps the 1440p OLED screen for the 1080p IPS panel, drops camera resolution, and loses both the display fingerprint sensor and laser-based face recognition. Even so, for 20% less you get a lot of cellphones, arguably a more attractive design, and one of the best cameras in the world of Android.
Unfortunately for most of our readers, it doesn't come to the US.
We review the 6 / 128GB SKU on Midnight Blue, but overall performance must be similar to the 4GB model.
Design, hardware, what's in the box
I think Mate 20 is a very beautiful telephone. While I want to see the two-tone color version of "Twilight", textured blue glass back on the model I reviewed is still more attractive than most of the boring black sheets out there.
Like many 2018 flagships, these are glass and metal sandwiches. Unlike its bigger brother, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 doesn't have wireless charging. It's also a little thicker than some of the latest phones at 8.3mm, but I enjoy the extra weight.
Maybe not in the location I like, but Mate 20 has a headphone jack at the top, paired with an IR blaster. The left side is empty, save the SIM tray, while the right side has the volume and the power button. At the bottom, you have a USB-C port and a speaker that is pointing down, which functions together with the earpiece for stereo sound, in Samsung style.
At the back, you have three cameras along with a flash in a square configuration, which is lifted from the glass. I am not a fan of appearance, but this is not the end that you usually look at. Under the camera is a fingerprint sensor – there is no in-display solution like the Mate 20 Pro.
The Mate 20 has an IPS screen of 6.53 ", 2244 x 1080 with teardrops in the same vein as the OnePlus 6T. It is estimated that it can reach more than 800 nits, and I have no problem using it outdoors.
The RGBW subpixel configuration macro on the IPS 20 IPS panel.
The 381 PPI seems to be on the down side, but it really doesn't bother me more than pentile artifacts on many high density OLED screens. That could be the result of the Mate 20 screen's secret weapon: It has a RGBW line configuration for pixels. I have never used a phone with a white subpixel before, and probably most why and how the screen can be so bright and so sharp.
It is very difficult to get a photo of what is small blooded.
There are recent reports of problems with OLED display at Mate 20 Pro, where LG-made panels have spontaneous failures after a few days or weeks of use, resulting in stained and uneven screens. That shouldn't be a problem with non-pro Mate 20. The IPS screen is very flat, with only a very small amount of bleeding in one corner of my unit. As someone who tends to be picky when it comes to the screen, it's a small flaw that I can easily ignore.
There is something wrong with how the Mate 20 display maps color space in a calibrated setting.
"Natural" (left) and "Vivid" (right) color calibration. Note the strange remapping in blue and magenta on "Natural." (Ignore moire in the right picture, it's difficult to take this test.)
I don't have the right hardware to do precision testing, but the "Natural" color mode, which seems closer to the calibrated sRGB space, has some strange behavior with certain blue and purple shades. If Anandtech conducts a review, we might get a detailed explanation, but in the meantime it is very unfortunate.
Stickers not included.
The phone is equipped with the basics: A group of warranty / instruction pamphlets, a clear TPU box, a pair of cheap earbuds, A-Type USB cable to A, and Huawei 22.5W "EU" SuperCharge alarm wall, in case, the cellphone is not sold in the US. In pure specs, the SuperCharge system must be among the fastest you can get, and it fills my battery very quickly.
Software, performance and battery
I'm not going to repeat every aspect of cellphone software because we've talked at length about it in our Pro Mate 20 review. I did not find the EMUI so disgraceful as our English Editor, Scott, did, but I was known for my software capabilities. Those from iOS may really feel more at home in EMUI rather than Android stock, in my opinion, and I am able to accommodate the shortcomings within a week or more. While I still really like stocks or stocks like, EMUI is acceptable to accept.
Even so, there are still some differences that feel like change after change, which I can't force myself to get used to. As an example:
- There is no feedback when unlocking the cellphone.
- Camera shortcut power button double-tap uses the volume down button (and must be activated separately in the camera application).
- Huawei seems to have damaged compatibility with most third party launchers.
- PIN-based security forces arbitrary six-digit lengths
- The DPI software is turned on so high that I can see every JPEG bit in the avatar or icon in most applications (and if you lower it to compensate for it, some first-party applications look weird).
The navigation of the Huawei movement is also very bad, and the constant permission dialog for all Huawei's default crapware – some of which will give you advertisements – is very annoying.
Most launchers also don't work.
I also experienced problems with the telephone via T-Mobile in the US. On more than one occasion, calls go directly to voicemail even though I have enough signals, and sometimes I can't hear people at the end of the line after answering. SMS messages are also sometimes delayed, although disabling Wi-Fi and loading something through cellular data will usually pull it down.
The performance was amazingly fantastic. I can't remember a single frame that was lost or stutter in my time with Mate 20, with one exception: Wi-Fi performance is intermittently slow.
Mate 20 is supported by the Huawei Kirin 980, which is the first and the first 7nm Android SoC based on the ARM A76 reference design. I will pass benchmarks (there are many out there if you care), but in everyday use, the phone is one of the fastest I've ever used. And most importantly, the battery life that is equal is extraordinary.
In my regular use with Wi-Fi and active Bluetooth, two Google account synchronizations, and light social media, I can go 2-3 days between bills. That's even without the benefit of an OLED screen or dark theme. Originating from the OnePlus 6T, which already has very large battery life, Mate 20's longevity is very stunning.
Huawei silicon continues to be magical.
Many people say Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro may have a better camera than Google Pixel. That's a matter of taste, but in many situations, I agree.
Left: Pair 20, Right: Pixel3.
It's not always won in my own comparison, but the Mate 20 draws some extraordinary details in challenging lighting conditions where Pixel 3 can't. Sometimes the color is also a little closer to reality. Like Pixels, (and unlike some other cellphones) the image is not torn into an oily mess on the plant. Huawei is able to sharpen without oversharing, keeping details.
Left: 1x zoom / 27mm, The middle: 2x zoom / 52mm, Right: 10x assisted zoom software.
Having three different focal lengths / zooms is also great for times when you can't get closer, and you don't want to deal with how ugly digital zoom always looks.
Left: Pixel 3 Zoom Maximum Resolution, Right: Mate 20 10x zoom.
That said, I think Google might have advantages with its "Zoom Zoom Super". To be fair, the two results of the software zoom are muddy mess, but the Pixel 3 releases a few more details than the Mate 20, although the Mate 20 has a stronger zoom in the end.
Mate 20's greatest strength comes out if you flip the camera application to "Pro" mode, where you can have full manual control over everything from ISO to exposure and even manual focus. If you are a DSLR shutter believer, it's pretty sweet.
My biggest complaint is that if you plan to use the "Photo" mode automatically, the results can vary greatly between shots. While Pixel 3 will give you the same results every time, Mate 20 tends to choose very different settings for exposure and white balance less than one second apart.
On average, I still prefer the results of Google photo processing on Pixels, but the Mate 20 camera is easily at the same level. And with the added benefit of three different focal lengths and manual controls, Mate 20 provides extra utilities, Pixel 3 and 3 XL can't.
Should you buy it?
Yes, but Mate 20 is not for everyone. Huawei software will disturb those who are familiar with Android devices – or even most other OEM ROMs such as Samsung Experience. I hate harps on "non-stock = bad" stereotypes, but Huawei's change to Android is a heavy use, without a consistent or thoughtful approach, and at the expense of functionality in some cases. The software here is an explicit compromise, although you can get used to it, and that can be very useful if you come from iOS.
There is another aspect where the non-pro superior Huawei defeats competition well. The Mate 20 has some of the most beautiful hardware I have ever seen on the phone, period. This is the first Android device equipped with IPS that I use without chin – or rather, the chin is so small and symmetrical that it loses its name. Apart from tilted calibration, I really like the screen, and industrial design is one of the best you will find on an Android phone.
Paired with three fantastic camera settings, Mate 20 (and with extensions, Mate 20 Pro) is one of the best Android phones out there today, but only if you are willing to accept the vision of Huawei's myopia software.
- More flexible cellphone cameras are a priority.
- You are outside the US.
- Software experience is not the main problem.
Don't buy it if:
- You are in the US.
- Software is important, and you prefer to use Android (or at least more control).
- The initial price of € 800 is too high for you.
Place to buy:
UK (only available in contracts) – Affordable Mobiles, Buymobiles.net, GoMobile
German – € 799 – Amazon.de
France – € 799 – Amazon.fr, Fnac
Spanish – € 799 – Fnac.es, El Corte Inglés