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First impressions of the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro

Ever since the leaks of the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro came out, the phone generated a lot of buzz surrounding the triple camera system it had going for it. It’s a setup we haven’t seen done in a while and it’s an exciting concept. But the phone has a lot of things going for it beyond this, dare we say, groundbreaking idea. We got to spend a very brief time with the P20 and P20 Pro to get a quick feel of the device. You can read more about it after the jump.

Huawei took a bold step ahead in terms of colors with the launch of the new P20s. It’s something you might have seen HTC do with the Solar Red edition of the U11 but it’s definitely still refreshing in our eyes. While we’re bombarded with your typical white, blue, rose gold, and black devices. It’s nice to see a manufacturer play around with the looks of their phones a bit.

The Chinese company debuted with the P20 and P20 Pro what they call Twilight. It reminds us a bit of a mood ring. You get a striking gradient finish of blue, green, purple that shifts depending on where the light hits it. It’s a captivating sight and caught our eye the moment images of it leaked online. The phones, as you know, also come in Pink Gold, Midnight Blue, and Graphite Black.

Huawei P20

Unfortunately, the unit we had on-hand wasn’t the Twilight one, instead we got to hold the Midnight Blue variant. The finish is similar to the Twilight ones, based on what we’ve seen online. It’s glossy and a definite fingerprint magnet. We need to wipe it profusely before taking photos of it.

Its design is a complete departure from its predecessor and it’s a welcome change. It’s all curves and smooth edges with the glass blending seamlessly with the metal frame. Both phones are taller instead of wider so holding them in hand isn’t as unwieldly, even with the 5.8-inch and 6.1-inch displays the P20 and P20 Pro rock, respectively.

At the back, Huawei keeps things simple with the three camera setup taking up the top left of the device and the Leica and Huawei labels underneath that. If you turn the phone in landscape to take a photo, it looks like a sleek point-and-shoot. Plus, it draws the attention more to the striking color of the phone. The two devices have an almost identical design except for the three camera sensors on the P20 Pro, which the P20 doesn’t have. That one is “downgraded” to a dual camera setup.

In front, the two devices are indistinguishable, except you’ll see the size difference when placed side by side. Other than that, both get the highly contentious notch. It doesn’t take up much of the top of the device, though. And if it bothers you that much, there is a software tweak that will dark the sides of the notch to make it look like it doesn’t exist.

At the bottom, you get space for a small fingerprint scanner. Huawei opted to return the scanner in front, perhaps to maintain the sleek look at the back. It introduces some iPhone X-like gestures to the phone though. It doesn’t just serve as a fingerprint scanner, it works as your home button as well. And if you press lightly, it serves as the back button, while a longer press will take you back to the home screen. You can disable the onscreen buttons with the P20 and P20 Pro and just navigate the device with these.

When the phone’s display is facing you, you get the SIM card slot at the left side and the power and volume keys to the right. The bottom houses the speaker and the USB Type-C port. So, yes, you might have already heard that Huawei has dropped the audio jack for this phone. But perhaps, they can interest you in a pair of AirPod-like FreeBuds?

At first glance, you can’t tell much of the difference between the LCD display and the OLED display on the P20 and P20 Pro. Both are sufficiently bright and crisp.

In terms of performance, I can’t speak much about it as I mentioned, I wasn’t able to tinker around much with the phone outside of taking photos of it. But we did have to set up the phones from scratch and it’ll take you sometime to get to the launch screen. Huawei is one of those brands that puts a lot of extra apps and settings into the mix. If you want the extras, you’ll be fine with this. But if you want a vanilla Android experience, you won’t get that here. There are a bunch of apps pre-installed. But we expect this phone to work seamlessly for you. At this point, it takes so much to get these phones to choke. It’s just where we are in terms of smartphone development.

Also, I wasn’t able to play around with the camera, unfortunately. But from the reports we’ve seen online, we can’t help but talk about what these cameras, specifically on the P20 Pro, can do. You’re promised better portrait shots for both the front and the rear camera, clearer shots with the combination of Huawei’s 4-way hybrid autofocus system (laser, depth, contrast, and phase detection) and Huawei’s own “artificial intelligence stabilization,” and better low-light performance. AIS, as the company claims, will supposedly keep things crisp and clear as object recognition can see the outlines of shapes and promise to keep these consistent from one frame to another. The phones also bring HD super slow motion video at 960fps to Huawei’s arsenal, matching it up against the Samsung Galaxy S9.

Huawei P20 Pro

Our interest, though, is definitely on the new Light Fusion system, which can combine data from four adjacent pixels and create clearer and brighter photos, even in impossibly difficult and dark lighting conditions. We’ve seen the samples from Huawei and if this phone delivers on letting us take long exposure shots in low light without a tripod, we can’t help but be excited for that. And then we can definitely backup our original statement they’ve done something really groundbreaking.

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