As the Huawei P20 Pro shows, Huawei is no longer here to simply make up the numbers. It's ready to go toe-to-toe with the very best in the smartphone world.
It doesn't come cheap, but as the year has gone on its price has dropped, putting it below the most expensive flagships out there – the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and the iPhone XS (though it's worth noting they're more powerful too).
Even with the more powerful Huawei Mate 20 Pro following it, the P20 Pro remains one of our favorite phones of the year – and that's after a serious amount of time spent using it.
There are some quirks to the Huawei design and software to get used to, but the remarkable work done on the camera makes this one of the most versatile phone photo-shooters out there, whether you're a happy snapper or an amateur enthusiast photographer.
Watch the P20 Pro in action below as we review the phone's design and screen:
Huawei P20 Pro price and availability
- Launch price: £799, AU$1,099 (around $1,110)
- Release date: April 2018
The Huawei P20 Pro price at launch was £799, AU$1,099 (around $1,050). A few months on from launch, we've seen it approaching £600 in the UK, no doubt due in part to the launch of the Mate 20 Pro.
That means it's well worth shopping around to see what kind of deal you can get on the P20 Pro. The hardware might be slightly older, but as the price drops it becomes better and better value: check out our dedicated Huawei P20 Pro deals page to make sure you get it at its cheapest.
The P20 Pro didn't arrive in the US immediately, and it's still not officially available with a local variant. You can still pick up the international variant of the handset though for around $750 on the likes of Amazon, but you'll need to check whether it's compatible with your carrier.
- 40MP rear camera with 3x optical zoom
- Kirin 970 CPU with AI smarts
- Big 4,000mAh battery
Huawei P20 Pro specs
Dimensions: 155 x 73.9 x 7.8mm
OS: Android 8.1
Screen size: 6.1-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2240
CPU: Kirin 970
Rear camera: 40MP + 20MP + 8MP
Front camera: 24MP
If you're interested in the Huawei P20 Pro, there's a good chance it’s because of the camera array. There are three cameras on the back, one 40MP main sensor, a 20MP black and white one and a 3x zoom 8MP camera.
You can shoot at 3x without digital zoom, and even get good results at 5x. The real star here is low light performance, though. Standard night shooting just about matches the best, but a dedicated night mode lets you take low light shots with dynamic range to rival an APS-C DSLR.
The Huawei P20 Pro also has a very high-resolution 24MP front camera for detailed selfies and reliable face unlocking.
Other parts of the phone are a little more conventional. We get the Kirin 970 CPU used in the Huawei Mate 10, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Note that the Mate 20 Pro has since appeared boasting the Kirin 980 CPU.
Like other recent higher-end Huawei phones, the P20 Pro makes quite an impact with its highly reflective glass finish. And it has a much larger battery than most, 4,000mAh, without any obvious added bulk to the shell.
Huawei has clearly tried very hard with this phone. The result is a mobile more interesting than the Samsung Galaxy S9 or S9 Plus, particularly if you're going to make use of all the camera's high-end features.
- Eye-catching glass and metal design
- Manageable size for a 6.1-inch phone
- No headphone jack
'Shiny' is the word that sums up the Huawei P20 Pro's design best. Yes, it's big. Yes, it has a notch. But sheer reflective spangliness makes this phone stand out.
It's two big plates of rounded-off Gorilla Glass with a filling of metal finishing off its sides. This metal is aluminium, but it has a polished rather than anodized finish, and looks more like steel. Unlike the stainless steel iPhone X though, a month into using the P20 Pro, the frame is scratch-free, boding well for the phone's durability.
For the most part you'll probably see the black and blue versions of the Huawei P20 Pro sold in the UK, but there's also the more eye-catching gradient version. Purple at the top turns smoothly to a greenish-turquoise at the bottom, the sort of finish you see more often on a supercar than a phone.
This will be a bit of an audience-divider. If you find it a bit much, the other finishes are lower key. All are highly reflective, though. The Huawei P20 Pro is also a little prone to fingerprint smudges and the slightly raised camera housing picks up dust fairly quickly.
The Huawei P20 Pro has a larger battery than its peers, but you can’t tell from its feel. This phone is actually slimmer and lighter than the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus at just 7.8mm thick.
However, the Samsung does a slightly better job of appearing to be 'all screen' front-on, because the Huawei's screen does not curve around at the sides. Only the glass does, and just the last millimeter or so at that.
The Huawei P20 Pro – along with the standard Huawei P20 – was the first but not the last Huawei phone with a notch, the display cut-out made famous by the iPhone X.
Apple's excuse for the notch is it is required for all the tech used for the phone's face unlock feature: a normal camera, an IR camera, a dot projector, a proximity sensor and more.
Huawei doesn't have quite as good an excuse, as there's just a high-res camera and speaker on the Huawei P20 Pro's front. However, the notch is smaller. Notches may end up being a Crocs-grade "what were we thinking" move in hindsight, but they seem to be in fashion for now.
You'll most likely forget the notch is there after a couple of days, particularly as when watching standard 16:9 video there are black bars where the notch sits anyway.
Huawei has also followed another recent trend, as the Huawei P20 Pro doesn't have a headphone jack. You get a USB-C to 3.5mm adaptor in the box, or you can use wireless headphones. We would, obviously, prefer a real jack.
The phone is water resistant to IP67, meaning it can handle submersion in one meter of fresh water for 30 minutes... but don't start dunking it for fun.
There's a fingerprint scanner below the Huawei P20 Pro's display and, like those of every recent higher-end Huawei, it's extremely fast. It takes you to the home screen in a heartbeat.
Its face unlock is exceptionally fast too. Rather than using clever IR techniques like the iPhone X, the Huawei P20 Pro simply reads the high-resolution feed from its front camera to recognize your face.
It works, in our experience, every time. And even holds up well in lower light. This does suggest it is built for speed rather than security, though.
You don’t even need to press the power button to make Face Unlock work. While there's no proximity sensor to tell when your face is in front of the screen, the Huawei P20 Pro's gyroscope senses when the phone has been picked up, or taken out of your pocket. It then immediately starts scanning for your face.
As Huawei's phones still don't have the innate desirability of a Samsung or Apple, raw outer hardware was never going to be the top selling point of the Huawei P20 Pro. However, Huawei has done well here: the phone feels and looks expensive, and about as slim and light as we could hope for given its screen size.
- 6.1-inch AMOLED display
- 1080 x 2244 resolution
- Customisable screen character
Like most other high-end Huawei phones, the P20 Pro does not have the highest display resolution in its class. This is a 1080 x 2244 AMOLED screen.
The numbers sound unusual, but this is really just a Full HD screen stretched out to an 18.7:9 aspect ratio. That's right, it's even 'wider' (or longer) than most other 18:9 screen phones.
Pixel density of 408ppi isn't even close to the 529ppi of the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. The only time you're likely to notice though is when using a phone-based VR headset – and if that fad isn't dead, it is at least dormant.
Okay, if you look close you can see slight evidence of the PenTile fizz that affects Samsung OLEDs that don't have insane pixel density. This is caused by Samsung OLED's pixels sharing sub-pixels, reducing perceived resolution a bit.
The Huawei P20 Pro’s display quality is excellent though. Blacks are perfect, and there's minimal blue cast when the phone is tilted, which affects some less advanced OLED displays.
You also have a choice of color profiles. Standard color looks a little more saturated than old industry standard sRGB, but offers a fairly natural, relaxed look. Vivid color deepens tones a little, with a slight subtlety trade-off.
Like other Huawei phones, you can also tune the color temperature to your liking, although the default setting is pleasant.
The Huawei P20 Pro also has a few more unusual tweaks. Its display can change the color temperature on the fly to suit ambient light conditions, and the top part of the screen can be blacked out to completely hide the notch. This looks particularly neat as this little area can still be used for notification icons when blacked out.
Also worth noting, the P20 Pro ships with a pre-fitted screen protector, giving it the best chance of avoiding scratches possible. That said, this plastic film does attract fingerprints pretty readily, so you may want to swap it for a tempered glass screen protector down the line.