Huawei P20 first look

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Key Features

  • 5.8-inch FHD+ LCD screen
  • 3400mAh battery, USB-C
  • 12-megapixel colour and 20-megapixel monochrome camera
  • 24-megapixel selfie camera
  • 1.55um pixel size
  • Kirin 970

Huawei P20 first look: A top-notch upgrade from Huawei?

There’s little surprise when it comes to phone releases these days. The long cycle of leaks that proceed an announcement reveal almost everything there is to know about a device. This is certainly the case with the Huawei P20 – a phone that has had all its secrets spilled over the past few months.

Yet this is still an interesting phone. After the decidedly ‘meh’ P10 , the P20 marks a bold move from Huawei and a huge step forward for the series. But there’s every chance the device will be held back by concerns that are typical of Huawei phones I’ve tested.

My biggest issue with the P20 is that the P20 Pro – the larger of the two devices – apes it in almost every area. The Pro version packs a triple-sensor camera system, OLED display, water-resistance rating alongside more RAM and a larger battery. It’s just the better, more interesting phone. But for those – like me – who prefer a screen-size of 5.8 inches, this is a shame.

Huawei P20 Camera – A lot to Leica

The P20 might only have two cameras on the back, but there’s still plenty to like about these optics. There’s one 20-megapixel (f/1.6) RGB sensor paired with a 20-megapixel (f.1.8) monochrome sensor, both with big 1.55um pixels.

I’ve had some time to use the new cameras and, even with pre-release software, the photos look much-improved. Much of this is probably down to the upgraded AI engine that’s baked into the camera app. Point the phone at a person and it will switch to portrait mode automatically; point the device at a piece of paper and you’re in document-scanning mode.

As someone who often forgets about the myriad modes that phone cameras offer, it’s nice that the P20 just does it for you.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the dedicated monochrome sensor, and its supposed benefits for low-light photos. Yes, it’s rather cool taking pure black-and-white shots, but I’d have preferred to have seen either a telephoto and wider-angle sensor included instead.

A lot of what makes this camera feel like something you should get excited about is the software. A new focusing system predicts your capture upon movement – so, theoretically, you don’t miss your shot. Again, my unit is running pre-release software so it’s impossible to judge how well this works quite yet. There’s also improved stabilisation, which Huawei says can give you tripod-steady long-exposure shots without the need for any accessories. I’ll look into the above functionality more deeply in the full review.

Around the front is a 24-megapixel selfie camera with numerous beauty modes to make you look like you’ve been heavily photoshopped by someone with questionable skills. I’m sure there are plenty of folk out there who like these modes – I understand that I’m not the target demographic – but, wow, the results look terrible.

Huawei P20 Screen – Top-notch?

Viewed from the back, the P20 is a lovely looking phone. The slightly curved back is heavily polished and the shiny blue version I was using had a unique charm – I’m a fan of blue phones. Then there’s the tasteful Leica and Huawei branding, and a vertically orientated camera module. It just feels very polished and high-end.

Flip the device over, however, and it’s a different story. The fact that this phone would have a ‘notch’ cut-out inserted into the display was leaked countless times – and while I dislike it, I’ve come to the realisation that this will be a trend in 2018.

However, by cramming a notch high above on the display and a fingerprint sensor below it results in a very odd-looking front. There’s no reason for the notch to be in the position it is when there’s plenty of space at the bottom. Also, why not just use a smaller notch like the once that appears on the Essential Phone? The iPhone X requires a big space for all the Face ID tech, but there’s no such functionality in the P20.

Around the notch is a 5.8-inch FHD+ display. Unlike the Pro version of the P20 , this is an LCD rather than an OLED panel, and with that you’ll notice a sacrifice in contrast and black levels.

It remains a decent screen, though: plenty of bursts of colour and excellent viewing-angles. According to Huawei, it should also be HDR-mobile compliant. Considering that to this day the Mate 10 Pro still doesn’t support Netflix in HD let alone HDR, I wouldn’t really take HDR as a feature here.

Powering the phone is Huawei’s Kirin 970, 4GB of RAM and a healthy 128GB of storage. There’s a 3400mAh battery inside and this supports Huawei Super Charge if you’re using the provided power-brick and USB-C cable.

One big disappointment for me is that while the P20 Plus is IP67-rated, the P20 is not. I’m not sure that I understand this decision.

EMUI remains, atop Android 8.1. It’s less gaudy than I’ve seen before and at least Android Oreo features such as picture-in-picture and Google Autofill work fine. Still, it’s one of my least favourite Android skins – and my one constant dislike of Huawei phones. Everything feels like a dodgy copy of iOS – from the iPhone X-like wallpapers to the similar share-screen and camera UI. Heck, there are even ‘portrait lighting’ effects here.

New EMUI features include an improved Huawei Clone app for transferring content five times faster (Huawei says 32GB can be moved from one phone to another in 20 minutes) and Huawei Share support for PC and Mac.

Huawei P20 – Early verdict

As much as I like the size of the P20, Huawei is clearly pushing the P20 Pro as the true flagship this year. It has the better OLED, a greater number of  cameras and even water-resistance. You’re making many sacrifices by opting for the smaller device – and that’s a shame.

Still, there remains plenty to like about the P20 and it should stand as one of the better Android phones of the year.




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