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Huawei P20 Review

Recently Huawei released the P20 and the P20 Pro, a lot of press is focused on the larger sibling, but I suspect that a lot of people are actually going to buy the P20, why? It has a much smaller form factor and it's a lot cheaper, so is it actually worth getting? This is my Huawei P20 review.
Huawei P20 & P20 Pro

The Huawei P20 has a small and elegant form factor, thanks to its glass build the back has a mirror finished and the vibrant and eye catching midnight blue color looks all the better for it, well at least until you touch it, P20 loves collecting fingerprints you can't wash them away either since the modest IP3 rating doesn't guarantee the phone will be safe in water.
Huawei P20

If you're expecting the form factor of last year's anorexic Huawei P10 you should know this isn't the slimmest phone around, the P20 is a little thicker wider and a heavier than last year's P10, it's not difficult to use in one hand but it's not quite as easy as last year.

On the front, there's infamous notch encasing the selfie camera and the earpiece, it's smaller than the iPhone 10 and it disappears when you watch videos or play games, so none of your content is cut off unlike on the fruit phone.
Huawei P20 Back View

The P20 does include a wicked fast face unlock option that works in any light condition, although it's not as secure as Apple's. The notch seems to exist mainly so you can enjoy more of your homescreen wallpaper and a little bit more of your Instagram feed and you quickly forget it's there. The multifunctional fingerprint reader salvages even more space and it lets you ditch the on-screen navigation buttons by using gestures instead, swipe left for all apps, tap quickly to go back and tap longer to go home.

The IPS LCD screen itself is excellent its maximum brightness is 477 nits and its color accurate, you can choose between a normal or vivid color mode and switch on natural tone which adjusts color temperature based on ambient lighting much like the latest iPhones do.

The speaker isn't the loudest around but it sounds good and there's even some bass, like many other brands Huawei seems set on ditching the headphone jack, but they include a new hi-fi audio codec for Bluetooth headphones. In our testing the high notes are noticeably clearer than on the Matte 10 pro.

The 3400 milliamp battery got the P30 a 75 hour endurance rating in our tests, that's far from ideal especially when putting contrast to the 89 hours the P20 pro got. The screen on-times are more similar because the P20 has a smaller screen with different technology, the good news is that when the phone finally runs out of juice Huawei supercharger can get you up to 65% of the battery charged in 30 minutes.

The Kirin 970 chipset is the same as the P20 pros and Matte 10 pros and performance is comparable for the most part, however well testing GPU intensive benchmarks the phone got burning hot and if the benchmark numbers are anything to go by the graphics performance was throttled to more often than none, that said in day-to-day life I didn't observe any of this. The phone got a little warm after 10 minutes of shooting video or Subway surfing but it was far from the temperature it had during benchmark testing, so in terms of real-life usage it's unlikely that it will heat up to that extent.

The P20 spots Android Oreo 8.1 with Huawei's feature-rich EMUY on top, new wallpapers match the shiny look at the phone and the icons have been updated to look more modern. The stock apps haven't evolved too much but they were already feature packed, so that's no surprise. My favorites are the photo editor which rivals the Play stores top image editors and the music player which is perfect for audiobooks since it saves your spot even after a restart, the subtle improvements are nice though like a better general search that now includes settings options.

There is a themes gallery but if you like extensively customizing your phone skin you might run into a few hiccups like:

  • You can't delete any of the stock apps
  • Many third-party launchers such as Nova launcher and launch Air, act buggy every single one of them will crash if you try to put weather widgets on them.

Eevee is perhaps the most reliable one I found, but you give the Google shelf you get on the stock launcher.
Huawei P20 Dual lens Rear Camera
Huawei P20 Dual lens Rear Camera

The double camera setup features a 12 megapixel color snapper and a 20 megapixel monochrome one, the color sensor is bigger and better with some of the largest pixels on a smartphone camera. In daylight pictures are great with excellent white balance, accurate colors, low noise and good contrast.

Some samples are over sharpened, but it's not too extreme. Dynamic range is really good too, but then again HDR is pretty much always on, surprisingly I like the photos better without using the master AI option, it's certainly good at recognizing the scene but it over does the vignette and saturation and photos end up looking as if they've gone through an Instagram filter.

Unlike the P20 pros three times optical zoom the P20 can only do two times lossless zoom, our shots look good and it's the best digital zooms you can find.

The monochrome images have better dynamic range and detail than their colored counterparts and foliage is incredibly well defined. The main camera image quality is almost identical to the P20 pros, however where it really shines is low-light photography, night mode stacks multiple images together so you get a bright image with plenty of detail, good exposure and excellent color all that without needing a tripod even without night mode images are top-of-the-line and much better than what we got with say the Matte 10 pro.

Portrait mode and aperture mode allow for fake bokeh, portrait mode allows for beautification and is better for people while aperture lets you adjust the blur in post and is better for non human subjects.

The front camera of the Hawaii P20 has one of the highest resolutions we found on a selfie camera 24 megapixels, selfies have tons of detail and colors are quite accurate. Portrait mode on the front camera is not quite as successful as on the back camera especially if you have messy hair. Lighting effects are also available but they're not very good unless you're trying to look like a movie villain.

For such a capable camera setup it's surprising that the P20 is not equally amazing and video recording. 4k footage has good dynamic range and good colors but despite that OIS, 4k has no stabilization and the camera doesn't do a terribly good job of exposing the scene correctly. 1080p footage can be stabilized and even impressively so but it loses a lot of detail and videos are noticeably softer with the IOS on.

The P20 offers 960 frames per second super slow-motion videos at 720p but it takes a while to get it right because there is no automatic capture.

Huawei has made a really excellent flagship and with the price being what it is around 590 Euro last time I checked, it's a really good deal. You'll give some things up if you go with the P20 instead of P20 pro namely waterproofing and a third camera, but if you do decide to go for this phone it's pretty top-notch, the camera has some of the best night performance we've seen, the screen is excellent and the phone is blazing fast. Of course it's going to face some pretty tough competition in the next come weeks namely the Oneplus 6 or if you managed to find the S9 on sale, but if you're really into photography this is one of the best phones you can find at this price range.


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