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Thursday
Jun212018

Power Trio: The Huawei P20 Pro Review

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Today's smartphones are as much about photography than they are about being connected, running apps and serving as the conduits to our digital lives. 

Each year smartphone makers add more cameras, more DSLR-like features, improved filters, and even myriad ways to create emojis or replicate studio lighting.

Over the course of smartphone history, however, there have been standout camera phones that have leapfrogged the market and offered outstanding camera and picture quality.

Super camera phones of the past include the Nokia Lumia 1020 with an outstanding 41-megapixel sensor as well as the Nokia PureView which was even more audacious, albeit much rarer to find. The Huawei P20 Pro is the heir apparent to this throne and this is by design. 

This triple-threat smartphone, after all, was co-developed in Finland in Nokia's old offices and led by no other than Eero Salmelin, the co-inventor of PureView camera technology and currently Imaging and Video technology honcho for Huawei.

The pedigree is there, the association with Leica cements it further and the unprecedented DXOMark Mobile score of 109 blows away iPhones and Galaxies.

Designed around the camera


I'm seriously amazed at the growth of Huawei's flagship line. The P20 Pro is a giant leap from the Huawei P10 from only a year ago. In terms of materials, construction and design, the P20 Pro goes toe to toe with any competing devices.

It has large display, the notorious notch, the best and quickest Face Unlock feature, a solid fingerprint sensor and, quite-simply, the most versatile camera array ever placed on a smartphone.

Changing the game in camera phones


At first, the notion of a triple camera seems excessive and it is easy to dismiss this as a feature nobody wants. 

It isn't about the number of cameras but what they each do and their capacity to work together. How else is it possible to get uber detailed 40 Megapixel photos? How else can you go from 1X zoom to 3X zoom to an uncharted 5X zoom without sacrificing image quality?

The Huawei P10 was one of the first cameras to bundle a black and white sensor and it was a brilliant addition. As someone who likes B&W photography, it was a feature I looked for when I bought an Essential Phone.

The P20 Pro's trinity of cameras are replete with features photographers will value. A large 1/1.73″ sensor, Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) that knows what you're shooting and adjust automatically.

A.I. is accurate, it can tell whether you're shooting food, greenery, a blue sky or a portrait. This means it can adjust on the fly to get the best possible photos given the conditions. Most of the time the results are satisfactory, but there are instances where the post processing that happens in camera makes the photo look over filtered and somewhat synthetic.

The biggest feature of the P20 Pro for me has been the ability to get 5X zoom shots out of this camera. No other smartphone can deliver zoom at this level with this amount of clarity. There's impressive optical image stabilization in play as well.

Shot-to-shot performance is also fast which means better chances of getting one great photo in burst mode during action scenes. 

The P20 Pro as a flagship smartphone


Beyond the camera, the Huawei P20 Pro is an accomplished smartphone running the latest Android software through its EMUI 8.1.0 layer. 

Huawei has apps for music, videos, health and much more. Why a user would use these instead of better established Google or third-party apps is a mystery to me. They may work better with the hardware but seem redundant for most users coming from a Pure Android device. 

There are some perks. You can use Google Assistant more intimately with the phone's features (i.e. ask it to take a selfie in beauty mode, for example). 

Performance is impressive. The Huawei P20 Pro's Face Unlock feature is the best implementation of the technology I've seen on any device, it beats Windows Hello on Surface Laptop as well as Face ID on iPhone X by being faster and needing fewer steps to enable.

Call quality is top notch and battery life is exceptional managing up to a day and a half of moderate use on a full charge. Speed charging works as advertised although I lament the lack of wireless charging with so many Qi chargers lying around my home and office. 

The 6 GB RAM + 128 GB ROM for storage is generous and ample for even the most intense power user. Some will bemoan the lack of microSD card expansion but having 128 GB onboard is a good tradeoff.

Wrap up

Huawei has really stepped up its game with this 6.1-inch flagship. Looking at the evolution from the Nexus 6P, the Huawei P10 to the P20 Pro is very impressive. Huawei has proven that it belongs in the flagship smartphone stratosphere. More importantly, it has shown incumbents that it isn't afraid to leapfrog the Apples and Samsungs of the world in the area that they value the most, the camera. 

Pros:

  • Outstanding triple-camera array with 40 MP (RGB, f/1.8 aperture) + 20 MP (Monochrome, f/1.6 aperture) + 8 MP (Telephoto, f/2.4 aperture).
  • Camera A.I. is legit and impressive
  • Solid build and feel that's expected from a flagship device
  • Outstanding battery life
  • Fast and accurate Face Unlock feature

Cons:

  • Some image processing looks and feels synthetic and overly filtered
  • EMUI 8.1.0 layer has a lot of duplicate apps
  • No wireless chargin

Conclusion:

The Huawei P20 Pro is a legitimate flagship device that matches up well against the competition while offering a refreshing range of new options.

The best camera is the one you have with you and the Huawei P20 Pro effectively replicates a 40-megapixel camera with the range of about 3-4 DSLR lenses. With PureView genetics and Leica imaging as well as A.I. functionality, this is hands-down the most versatile and impressive smartphone camera available today.

 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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