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Huawei Mate 20 review: Not as good as the Mate 20 Pro

Huawei Mate 20 review

Huawei Mate 20 review: Not as good as the Mate 20 Pro

It’s been quite a year for Huawei with it moving ahead of Apple in global smartphone sales while releasing some fantastic high end devices. The latest release from Huawei comes in the form of three Mate 20 devices, including the Mate 20 Pro and Mate 20 Lite that were both reviewed here on ZDNet by Sandra Vogel in October.

For the last couple of weeks, I have had the chance to try the Mate 20 along with the Mate 20 Pro. Sandra was very impressed with the Mate 20 Pro, but I wanted to also see how well the less expensive Mate 20 stacked up. The Mate 20 series follows the P20 series that were released in mid-2018. I was very impressed with the P20 Pro and it stood up at the top of my 10 best smartphones list for a couple of months.

The Mate 20 looks to be a valid successor to the Mate 10 Pro with a more traditional form factor than the Mate 20 Pro that has curved edges and a fingerprint scanner in the display. Unfortunately, the Mate 20 series is not officially launching in the US so it is unlikely we will see many in the hands of US consumers.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Processor: Huawei Kirin 980 with NPU
  • Display: 6.53 inch 2244×1080 pixels resolution LCD (381 ppi)
  • Operating system: Android 9 Pie with EMUI 9
  • RAM: 4GB/6GB
  • Storage: 128GB internal with nano memory card support
  • Cameras: Rear triple cameras; one 12 megapixel f/1.8 aperture standard, one 16 megapixel wide-angle f/2.2, and one 8 megapixel f/2.4 telephoto. Front 24 megapixel f/2.0 aperture
  • Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth 5, GPS/GLONASS/BeiDou/Galileo
  • Dust/water resistance: IP54
  • Battery: 4000 mAh with SuperCharge fast charging technology
  • Dimensions: 158.2x 77.2 x 8.3 mm and 188 grams
  • Colors: Midnight Blue, Black, and Twilight

The Mate 20 still has a 3.5mm headphone jack, but does not support wireless charging. An infrared sensor is still present on the top so you can control various devices with this remote functionality.

HARDWARE

Every time I use a Huawei phone, I feel a bit sad since most Americans will never get the chance to test out its stunning hardware. The Mate 20 is extremely well constructed and I really enjoy the unique texted back that feels and sounds like a vinyl record when you rub a fingernail on it. I’m testing out the Midnight Blue model that is one of the darkest blues I have ever seen on a phone.

 

The cameras on the Mate 20 are slightly less capable than the three found on the Mate 20 Pro, but are still very capable of providing solid results. These cameras support night mode, portrait mode, and much more.

The Kirin 980 chipset and EMUI 9 help the Mate 20 perform flawlessly. I haven’t seen any stuttering, slowdowns, or app crashes since I started using it. I am also seeing very solid RF reception on T-Mobile, based on watching the Android signal status meter in the settings.

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SOFTWARE

EMUI has come a long way since it first appeared on Huawei phones and is now one of my preferred user interfaces, in large part for its support of the Google feed as a home screen panel which is something you usually only get with the Google launcher. Most of the EMUI customization on the Mate 20 is present in the settings area where you can fully customize the device to your preferences.

Others who have lamented EMUI are also now writing reviews that do not slam the user interface as it looks more and more like a stock Android experience. There are some Huawei specific elements still present, but these do nothing to slow down the device and I find they improve the experience over vanilla stock Android.

I continue to be pleased with the presence of the Huawei gallery application and image editing tools that help you develop some creative images to share with family and friends. HTC used to have its own custom gallery and editing tools, but switched to Google Photos. Google Photos is fine for backup and photo management, but a custom gallery with high-powered editing tools provides for a much better experience. The color splash option is my personal favorite on the Huawei Mate 20.

Other apps included by Huawei include: a file explorer, flashlight, Huawei Health, Huawei HiCare (service app), Music (media player), Notepad, Themes, Recorder, Email, and Weather.

The Huawei Mate 20 also supports knuckle gestures so make sure to try them out in Smart assistance>Motion control>Knuckle gestures. Taking a screenshot with a double knuckle tap to the display is handy and drawing a line for split-screen mode is very efficient.

Enterprise users will also be interested in knowing the Mate 20 supports easy projection so you simply plug in the USB-C to HDMI and out to a monitor to use your phone as your computer.

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