The Huawei P20 Pro has been making headlines ever since it was first launched back in March this year. The phone has a number of headlining features including, most importantly, the triple camera system on its back. The phone achieved unprecedented scores in DxOMark camera tests, and really took the world by storm. However, at its price tag of ₹64,999 the P20 Pro is definitely pricey, and if you’re wondering whether you should buy it or not, we’ll we’ve got your back. We recently bought the P20 Pro here at work, and I’ve been using it for a few weeks now so this is our Huawei P20 Pro review.
P20 Pro Specifications
Before we dive into the review, let’s get the specifications out of the way. The P20 Pro is a flagship from Huawei and it packs specs to match.
|Display||6.1-inch 1080x2240 AMOLED|
|Processor||Hisilicon Kirin 970|
|Primary Cameras||40MP f/1.7 + 20MP f/1.8 + 8MP f/2.4|
|Secondary Camera||24MP f/2.0|
|Operating System||EMUI 8.1 based on Android Oreo 8.1|
|Sensors||Fingerprint, accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, compass, color spectrum|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac; Bluetooth 4.2|
With that out of the way, let’s take a deeper look at the Huawei P20 Pro.
What’s Inside the Box
Inside the Huawei P20 Pro box, you’ll find the usual smartphone stuff:
- The P20 Pro
- Charging cable
- Power adapter
- SIM ejector tool
- USB-C to headphone jack dongle
- Manuals and leaflets
- Clear case
Okay, so there are a couple of things that you’ll find inside the P20 Pro box that a lot of other companies don’t bundle with their smartphones, such as the earphones and the clear case (although a lot of companies have started putting clear cases with their phones these days).
Design and Build Quality
Let me tell you one thing right off the bat, the P20 Pro is one beautifully crafted device. Yes, I used the word ‘crafted’ because this phone doesn’t look like just any other industrial design smartphone out there. It’s got a glass back, a beautiful chrome trim on the sides, and a curve that not only blends the front and the back of the phone into one beautiful curved piece of glass and metal, but also fits beautifully in the hand.
At the end of the day, it is glass, and no matter how beautiful the blue finish is on our P20 Pro, it is extremely prone to fingerprints. You’ll spend a lot of time cleaning this phone if you go case-less, and believe me, with a phone as beautiful as this one, you’ll want to go case-less.
With a phone as beautiful as this one, you’ll want to go case-less
With a glass back comes the two most obvious drawbacks — impact protection, and weight. The P20 Pro is definitely a heavy device, and a lot of it is because of the fact that it’s glass all over. Not that I’m complaining, because the phone gives off a distinctly ‘premium’ vibe that a lot of high-end flagships don’t. I didn’t, however, test the impact protection on this because I just don’t have the heart to intentionally drop this exquisite looking thing.
Another thing that people expect with a glass back is wireless charging, and for some reason Huawei has decided to not include wireless charging support on this phone. I personally don’t mind this much, but I’m sure a lot of people will be annoyed at this.
Another thing I loved in the P20 Pro is the fact that it has a front mounted fingerprint scanner — a dying breed, but still something I really like. It’s mostly a personal thing though. There’s also a USB-C port, which is quickly becoming a standard, at least on flagships, and I was also really impressed by the really tactile buttons the phone offers.
Talking about dying breeds though, the P20 Pro does away with the headphone jack and opts to bundle in a dongle instead.
There’s a notch here, too, but obviously you knew that. I’m not a fan of the notch, believe me, but I am slowly getting used to it, and honestly, in my time with the P20 Pro, the notch kind of melted away from my perception. I guess having a “tinier-than-the-iPhone-X” notch really does make a difference.
I guess having a ‘tinier-than-the-iPhone-X’ notch really does make a difference.
Overall, the P20 Pro is a well built, sturdy feeling device. So much so, that even though it is slippery, it gives a very strong feeling of being a premium device, and is definitely great by those standards.
Display: It’s Top-Notch
The display on the P20 Pro is a 6.1-inch AMOLED panel, and simply put, I’m impressed with it. Huawei has gone all-in with the notch trend here, but has made it small enough that it soon turns into a non-issue, and with the 19:9 aspect ratio, the status bar takes the place around the notch, leaving more effective screen space for apps and multimedia.
The display itself is really great anyway. It gets quite bright at maximum brightness, which means visibility in sunlight is on point, it has great colors and even though it looks like it’s saturating the colors a bit, I personally don’t mind how images and videos just pop out on this display. Coming from a OnePlus 5 (which itself has a pretty great AMOLED display), I found that I liked the P20 Pro’s display a lot more, even though OnePlus balances colors a lot better. Viewing angles on the P20 Pro are great and there’s no color shifting that AMOLED panels sometimes suffer from.
At 1080×2240 pixels, it’s not a super-dense display like the ones you’ll find on the Galaxy S9 which comes with a 2960×1440 display. However, that’s not to say that the P20 Pro display sucks, because it doesn’t, and in fact, that lower resolution helps with battery life — which is also why the Galaxy S9 comes with its resolution set to 1080×2220 out of the box.
Overall, I have no complaints with the display on the P20 Pro, and I really like it.
Camera: Dual Cameras Are So 2017
The P20 Pro takes the camera game up a notch (no pun intended) and puts in not two, but three cameras on the rear, along with a single 24MP selfie camera on the front.
Image quality wise, the P20 Pro is great. Images turn out nice and sharp, there’s ample detail, and colors are amazing too. Of course, with a 40MP f/1.8 primary sensor, you kind of expect that. I mean, not once did I come up with a shot that I wasn’t satisfied with, and that’s definitely a big plus for the phone. I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical about that 114 photo score that DxOMark assigned to the P20 Pro, but after using this phone, I get it. It does take some really great shots.
I was a little skeptical about that 114 photo score that DxOMark assigned to the P20 Pro, but after using this phone, I get it. It does take some really great shots.
There’s a portrait mode here as well (duh) and for the most part, it works fine. The edge detection is good, and the bokeh usually comes out nice and buttery smooth. All thanks to a combination of AI with the 8MP telephoto lens that Huawei is using on the phone. The phone even supports variable apertures, but unlike the S9 Plus which actually physically changes the aperture, the P20 Pro relies on software to change the depth-of-field according to the aperture setting that’s been selected. It’s a fine mode to play around with, but for the most part, I found myself sticking with the regular shooting modes on the phone.
In low-light, the portrait mode does struggle, but that’s something I’ve observed with literally every single smartphone I’ve ever tested out. The Pixel 2 performs a lot better with portrait shots in low-light but there are visible issues there as well. The P20 Pro camera does take some okay-ish to decent shots in low-light, but there are all the tell-tale issues that every other phone suffers while shooting in portrait mode in low light including noise, and poorer edge detection.
One of the really good shooting modes on the P20 Pro is the ‘Night’ mode, and honestly, I’m still in awe of how well this phone performs in really poor lighting conditions. The night mode basically exposes the image for a few seconds (on auto it selects the exposure time itself, but you can adjust it to your preference), which led me to thinking that for handheld shots this might result in completely blurry images. However, in all my usage of the night mode (and I used it a lot) there wasn’t a single image that turned out blurry… and that’s when my hand shakes a lot. Huawei is clearly doing some sort of magic behind the scenes with image processing, but whatever it’s doing works and I have absolutely no complaints. The night mode on the P20 Pro is simply awesome.
Plus, low-light images without the Night Mode turn out really good as well. There’s a very tiny bit of noise sometimes, but for the most part, the P20 Pro’s camera absolutely rocks in low-light as well.
The 24MP f/2.0 selfie camera on the P20 Pro is pretty good as selfie cameras go. It takes some nice images with ample details and good colors. There’s a beauty mode here which is a lot more elaborate than the beauty mode on other phones, but honestly, it has the same shortcomings as every other beauty mode out there — it washes out the details and I honestly just don’t like it. Fortunately, it can be turned off, so that’s the first thing I did.
Huawei also includes a portrait mode in the front camera — another feature that is now becoming a standard in a lot of smartphones, and honestly I’m pretty impressed with how the P20 Pro handles front camera portrait selfies. The bokeh is great, and the phone does a great job of making the subject stand out. There are slight issues with the edge detection sometimes — something the Pixel 2 handles perfectly.
Performance: Effortless Performance Hindered By EMUI
The Huawei P20 Pro comes with Huawei’s flagship Kirin 970 processor and boasts of AI optimizations to make the phone perform better over time. In my time with the P20 Pro, one thing was clear enough — the phone won’t leave you wanting for performance. The P20 Pro is a flagship phone and it performs the way you’d expect a flagship phone to.
Benchmark scores for the P20 Pro were pretty high up (even though the OnePlus 6 easily beat it thanks to the Snapdragon 845 and 8GB RAM), but the P20 Pro landed on a respectable score. On AnTuTu, the device scored 207,330. Geekbench showed a single core performance score of 1900, and a multi-core performance score of 6740. All these scores are well below the scores posted by the OnePlus 6 which scored 267,128 on AnTuTu, and 2416/9093 on Geekbench single-core and multi-core tests. Clearly, the Kirin 970 doesn’t come close enough to the Snapdragon 845.
However, benchmark scores aside, the P20 Pro performs like an absolute beast. Apps load up quickly, the phone is snappy, and honestly it feels almost as fast as the OnePlus 6 in most ways. When it comes to things like app-switching, I personally dislike the fact that EMUI uses animations that just take up too long, making the actual app-switching feel slower than it actually is.
I played a lot of games on this phone trying to push it to the limits, but unsurprisingly, the P20 Pro easily handles everything you throw at it. PUBG Mobile runs smoothly on high settings, Asphalt 8 and Asphalt Nitro run like champs, and basically any game available on Android currently is no problem for the phone. Maybe it’s because of the AI, or maybe it’s because the Kirin 970 and its AI optimizations are just that good, but the P20 Pro hasn’t lagged out on me yet, and I really love the performance on this thing.
User Experience: EMUI Is Terrible
If there’s one thing I dislike in the Huawei P20 Pro, it’s the UI. The phone runs Android 8.1 Oreo with the EMUI 8.1 skin on top, and while it adds a ton of new features to the phone, I really don’t like it.
Firstly, the UI itself looks like a cluttered mess. The notifications are just annoying, the settings page and the icons used look like they’re from an early-2010 smartphone.
The animations are another thing I don’t like at all. They’re too slow, and remind me of iOS animations that put so much weight into making app transitions look good that it ends up making the experience feel slow. Personally, I’d rather have snappy animations like those on my daily driver OnePlus 5.
I’m also a stock Android guy any day of the week, and I love the near-stock feel of OnePlus’ OxygenOS, but that’s as far as I can go. EMUI is a very elaborate custom UI. That said, it does add a bunch of features (both useful, and not so useful) to the phone including things like App Locker which I think stock Android should have too, by the way.
The Huawei P20 Pro comes with a massive 4,000 mAh battery, and man does it last long. While using the P20 Pro, I never had to charge it once during my day; and my day includes heavy usage of the phone including playing games, watching videos, texting people on WhatsApp, and (on rare occasions) calling people. Add to that the countless times I check Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram and I think you get the gist of my usage of the phone.
I charged the P20 Pro at night before I went to bed, and disconnected it around midnight when it was at 96% charge. From then onwards, I used the phone throughout my next day and at 12:48 AM (that’s a full 24 hours) the phone had reached 6% battery. That’s awesome, and I didn’t even use Huawei’s “Ultra Power Saving” mode to get there.
I did try the Ultra Power Saving mode feature, and honestly, that feature is amazing. I used my phone a bit less, considering it was midnight and all I was doing was using WhatsApp and Instagram, and the phone was on 5% battery at 2:30 AM.
In other words, the P20 Pro has a good battery, and affords a battery life that should easily get you through the day. Plus, if you need it, you can use the Ultra Power Saving mode which is just insanely effective.
As far as the battery on the P20 Pro goes, I have absolutely no complaints. The phone lasts considerably longer than my OnePlus 5, and it charges up extremely quickly too even though the P20 Pro unit in India packs a usual fast charger rather than the Huawei SuperCharger, which is kind of disappointing.
When it comes to connectivity, the Huawei P20 Pro uses a dual SIM card tray and doesn’t support an external microSD card to expand the storage beyond the standard 128GB that Huawei packs inside the smartphone.
The phone performs well when it comes to calling with clear call voice, however I did notice that the maximum in-call volume was considerably lower than, say, the OnePlus 6. Not low enough to not be audible, but still, if you prefer higher in-call volume, you may find the phone lacking.
The phone also comes with Bluetooth 4.2, which works fine, although I did observe that a couple of times the phone had a weird static when using the Bluetooth connected to my car and talking on a call. The problem persisted for a couple of days through multiple re-pairings and connections, but sorted itself out somehow. I’m not sure what happened there, but I have never encountered such an issue using any other smartphone with my car. Not for nothing though, does the phone support aptX HD, which means music over Bluetooth is a pure blissful experience.
The P20 Pro supports WiFi b/g/n/ac — which, at this price is honestly expected and not that big a deal. I would’ve liked Bluetooth 5.0, but for some reason Huawei has opted for 4.2 — not that it makes much of a difference in the way I use a smartphone.
Pros and Cons
The Huawei P20 Pro is a smartphone that definitely has me impressed. However, like every device ever, there’s always a flip-side to the proverbial coin. Here’s what I liked in the P20 Pro, and where it lacks:
- Amazing camera performance, especially in dead low-lighting
- Great battery life
- Front mounted fingerprint (that’s subjective, but still)
- Awesome performance
- Tactile buttons
- No Bluetooth 5.0
- EMUI isn’t all that good
- Notch (that’s also subjective, but still)
- Fingerprint magnet
- No SuperCharger in the box
P20 Pro: An Awesome Smartphone That Would Be Better With Stock Android
The Huawei P20 Pro is a true flagship smartphones in more ways than one. The phone doesn’t disappoint in any of the crucial smartphone features that I personally look out for. Other than the EMUI skin that I dislike, the P20 Pro has an amazing display, a camera that will not let you down, amazing battery life, awesome real-world performance, and a design to die for.
At ₹64,999 the phone is smack dab in the flagship price-range, and competes with the greatest smartphones out there today; and honestly, in my opinion it comes out winning in a lot of ways. Like I said earlier, the only complaint I have with the P20 Pro is the fact that EMUI really hinders the potential of this smartphone. If you’re okay with EMUI (and a notch), and if you want a smartphone that is simply amazing, the P20 Pro is definitely a phone I can recommend.
Other than the EMUI skin that I dislike, the P20 Pro has an amazing display, a camera that will not let you down, amazing battery life, awesome real-world performance, and a design to die for.
Buy the Huawei P20 Pro from Amazon (₹64,999)