Battery life

  • Fast 1 hour 24 minute charging
  • 1.5-2 day battery
  • Matches Mate 10 Pro for stamina

The Huawei P20 Pro has a 4,000mAh battery. This is a solid 500mAh larger than the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus’s.

Its stamina is excellent. You can abuse this phone with hours of audio streaming and good chunks of YouTube streaming and it’ll still last a full day. We’ve found it quite easy to finish the day with 40% charge.

Watch our camera review above for to find out exactly what makes the P20 Pro a 4.5/5 device.

The Huawei P20 Pro also performs extremely well in our standard video playback test, where we play a 90-minute video at maximum brightness. It only loses 9% in this test, which is exceptional.

That’s the same result as the Mate 10 Pro, which is no great surprise as they have similar basic hardware and the same battery capacity.

We did have a suspicion the Huawei P20 Pro has an undefeatable automatic brightness algorithm going on in the background, though. The phone’s screen is clear in bright conditions but didn’t look searing indoors even with the backlight set to max.

To test further we re-ran the test with a 100W LED bulb shining just over the screen to try and kick the display up a gear.

Sure enough, the test took 13% off the Huawei P20 Pro's battery that time. However, battery life is great whatever way you try to skew things.

It charges fast too. The supplied fast charger takes 1 hour 24 minutes to get the Huawei P20 Pro from completely flat to 100%. It takes 45 minutes to get from 0% to 80%.

There’s one missing part. The Huawei P20 Pro does not support wireless charging. 

Many of you won’t care, particularly when even the latest standards don’t get close to the speeds of the plugged-in charger. However, the Samsung Galaxy S9 and iPhone X both offer this feature.

Camera

  • Great 3x optical zoom
  • Excellent low light Night mode
  • Clever, if aggressive, AI scene modes

The Huawei P20 Pro has three cameras arranged across its back. Here’s where things get really interesting.

Our main camera has an ultra-high resolution 40MP sensor. It is backed up by a 20MP black and white sensor that helps with processing, including decreasing image noise and improving dynamic range.

The third camera has a 3x 'zoom' lens and an 8MP sensor, letting you zoom into a scene without using digital zoom.

It is a fantastic, ultra-flexible setup, and one that raises many questions. Can you really shoot 40MP photos? How much more detail do they have? And has low light performance been sacrificed for resolution?

Thankfully, most of these have satisfying answers.

As standard the Huawei P20 Pro shoots 10MP photos. You can shoot 40MP ones if you like, and even 76.2MB DNG RAW files when using the Pro mode.

Huawei’s JPEG handling is so good that when you zoom to 100% in a 10MP photo it actually appears far sharper than a corresponding 40MP one. However, look deeper, to the point where the 10MP photo devolves to blocky pixels and you’ll see far more detail in the 40MP files.

At pixel level these images aren’t ultra-sharp, but there’s real additional image data here.

However, you’re actually better off going with the way Huawei intends you to use the P20 Pro's camera, shooting 10MP shots and using the zoom. Despite having lower resolution, the 3x zoom camera can take some great pics and renders more detail than a crop of the RAW or 40MP JPEG files can provide.

You can also shoot at 5x zoom, which Huawei calls Hybrid Zoom. This uses far more intense processing than the 3x zoom and doesn’t uncover more true detail. But it does make far-away text clearer and uses smart upscaling to make the photos look right rather than blurred like a simple digital zoom.

Huawei loves smart camera processing, and this has also resulted in something called AIS. This is Huawei’s software version of optical image stabilization (OIS), using smarts to get rid of the need for mechanical stabilization.

What this means is the camera never seems to slow its exposure beyond 1/16 of a second, using processing and the black and white secondary sensor to improve image quality. Judging by our hand-wobbling tests, though, the 3x zoom camera does have OIS, because a zoom lens effectively amplifies any shakiness in your hand.

The Huawei P20 Pro uses relatively high ISO sensitivity at night, but the resulting images are still comparable with the best, including the iPhone X. Huawei’s processing and AIS really seems to work, although the Galaxy S series greater (although decreasing) reliance on OIS can still result in better photos in low light.

This all changes when you use the Huawei P20 Pro’s Night mode, though. It’s nestled fairly deep in the camera app but is one of the phone’s most impressive features.

It merges a barrage of images over 3-6 seconds. Previous Huawei phones had a similar mode, but this one is designed to be used handheld, which is an amazing feat of AI image processing. And it works.

Using night mode, you can get ultra-dark shots with dynamic range and detail far in excess of any LG, Sony, Apple or HTC phone. To really test it, we put it up against an APS-C sensor FujiFilm X-T10 on a tripod. It needed an exposure of around 15 seconds to shoot at ISO 200.

The dynamic range results of the Huawei P20 Pro shot and the FujiFilm X-T10’s are comparable, which is nuts. Of course, the FujiFilm image has radically more detail, making the Huawei image look extremely soft as soon as you zoom in a little, but it is a remarkable achievement nevertheless.

It can handle the kind of scenes that make other phones curl up and cry.

The Huawei P20 Pro's camera is an interesting jigsaw puzzle of technology. But are its actual, normal images any good?

For the most part they are great. Its 10MP images are sharp and detailed, low on noise. The phone handles exposure and dynamic range optimization very well, although at times it can be a little too obsessed with retaining every square inch of highlight, making some parts of a photo look a little dull.

Thanks to the large main sensor and relatively wide f/1.8 Leica lens, natural bokeh (background blur) is lovely and very pronounced. While there’s a great virtual wide aperture mode, you don’t need to use it to isolate near subjects.

The one part we don’t always like is the workings of the AI scene selection. The Huawei P20 Pro constantly analyses the camera feed, to see what you’re taking a photo of. It’ll recognize food images and nature shots with great speed and accuracy.

However, what it does to these pics isn’t always welcome. It turbo charges color too often, resulting in near-toxic levels of color saturation in some shots. When this is the photographic equivalent of face smoothing it’d be nice to have some control over its level.

You can switch it off entirely, though, which might be an idea if you end up with fields that look as though they’ve been laced with neon.

The camera app is not as tasteful or well-designed as Samsung’s or Apple’s either. Its big rounded font seems inspired by the interfaces of Nikon cameras, but they make the app seem less polished, less 'professional'.

Camera samples

Image 1 of 12

Here’s a night shot using the standard 1x view. It’s clear, although doesn’t have masses of fine detail.

Here’s a night shot using the standard 1x view. It’s clear, although doesn’t have masses of fine detail.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 2 of 12

This is the 83mm equivalent lens view you get from the 3x zoom lens.

This is the 83mm equivalent lens view you get from the 3x zoom lens.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 3 of 12

Go right into 5x zoom and you get a 135mm view. It’s not much to look at, but remember this is ‘hybrid’ zoom, which uses digital zoom techniques.

Go right into 5x zoom and you get a 135mm view. It’s not much to look at, but remember this is ‘hybrid’ zoom, which uses digital zoom techniques.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 4 of 12

While not a masterclass in macro photography, the contouring of the clouds in the background show how hard the phone is working to avoid blowing out the background.

While not a masterclass in macro photography, the contouring of the clouds in the background show how hard the phone is working to avoid blowing out the background.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 5 of 12

Take photos of food or flowers and the P20 Pro amps up colour for a more striking look.

Take photos of food or flowers and the P20 Pro amps up colour for a more striking look.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 6 of 12

Here’s a 1x image in a guitar shop. There’s quite a lot of detail even at 10MP but dynamic range could be improved by using the ‘night’ mode.

Here’s a 1x image in a guitar shop. There’s quite a lot of detail even at 10MP but dynamic range could be improved by using the ‘night’ mode.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 7 of 12

At 3x zoom we actually get a more natural-looking image, because there’s less light level variance in this ‘crop’ of the scene.

At 3x zoom we actually get a more natural-looking image, because there’s less light level variance in this ‘crop’ of the scene.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 8 of 12

The 5x image here is softer than the 3x one but the mode gives you more compositional flexibility.

The 5x image here is softer than the 3x one but the mode gives you more compositional flexibility.

Click here to see the full resolution image

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Sometimes the P20 Pro’s colour processing goes way overboard, resulting in shots like this, that look as though they’ve been put through about three Instagram filters.

Sometimes the P20 Pro’s colour processing goes way overboard, resulting in shots like this, that look as though they’ve been put through about three Instagram filters.

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Image 10 of 12

The dynamic range of the P20 Pro’s multi-exposure ‘AI’ night mode is extremely good. No other phone would let you take a handheld night image with that much cloud contouring.

The dynamic range of the P20 Pro’s multi-exposure ‘AI’ night mode is extremely good. No other phone would let you take a handheld night image with that much cloud contouring.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 11 of 12

Here’s a standard low-light shot of an Odeon cinema. It’s reasonably sharp but doesn’t obviously beat the best-in-class rivals.

Here’s a standard low-light shot of an Odeon cinema. It’s reasonably sharp but doesn’t obviously beat the best-in-class rivals.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Image 12 of 12

Use Night mode and you sacrifice a hint of sharpness but the results for handheld shooting are incredible. Blown highlights have been retrieved and the image information in the clouds is unbeatable among phones. The shot even looks relatively natural.

Use Night mode and you sacrifice a hint of sharpness but the results for handheld shooting are incredible. Blown highlights have been retrieved and the image information in the clouds is unbeatable among phones. The shot even looks relatively natural.

Click here to see the full resolution image

Video

The Huawei P20 Pro can shoot video up to 4K resolution, but for handheld footage you may want to stick to 1080p. At 4K res there’s no image stabilisation, which makes footage look juddery and amateurish.

At 1080p, though, the software stabilisation is extremely effective. You can run along the road with the Huawei P20 Pro in your hands and the footage will still look pretty smooth.

You lose the stabilisation when the frame rate is upped to 60fps at 1080p, so you do need to think about whether you need stability or another strand of image quality.

There’s slo-mo shooting too, up to 960fps (32x speed). However, at 960fps and 240fps you can only shoot at 720p, the same cap as the Galaxy S9’s 960fps mode. These videos don’t look super-detailed so won’t come across well on a large screen.

Selfies

The Huawei P20 Pro’s front camera has specs worth bragging about too. It uses a very high-resolution 24MP sensor.

This resolution isn’t all that obvious in the shots it takes, though. The Pixel 2 still takes clearer selfies with cleaner looking fine detail.

However, like the rear camera it holds up well in low light, making us wonder if there’s some automatic pixel-binning going on. This is where sensor pixels are combined to increase low light performance at the expense of detail.