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Design

  • Eye-catching glass and metal design
  • No headphone jack

The P20 is quite a departure from any of the previous P series of phones from Huawei. Instead of a metal back, Huawei has switched to glass which definitely makes the phone feel more premium but the disadvantage of glass is that it also breaks more easily.

There's a metal frame around the phone that keeps the two glass panes together. Huawei has done well to blend the glass and metal together without any sharp edges. 

Read more: Huawei Band 3 Pro

However, the P20 Pro is a very slippery device which means that most people will add a case to it. That’s a bit of  shame because it's quite a good looking phone as well. 

We received the black version of the phone for review which is our second favorite color of this phone. The top spot goes to "twilight" which is a mix of blue and purple and is stunning. 

The back of the phone has the three camera sensors placed in a vertical formation. Interestingly, the top two cameras stick out more than the third one giving the P20 a bit of a camera bump. Keeping in mind that Huawei has placed a 40MP sensor there, we are absolutely fine with this design direction.

At 180g, the P20 Pro feels a bit weighty in your hands, however, Huawei has kept the phone impressively thin at 7.88mm. Although the phone is slimmer and lighter than the Galaxy S9 Plus, it is still a large phones that will require both your hands to use it.

Huawei has stuck to it's usual layout of buttons and slots. The volume buttons and the power key are on the right side while the left side holds the dual SIM tray. The bottom of the phone has a USB Type-C connector with a bottom firing speaking.

Huawei has removed the 3.5mm jack from the phone which will be a let down to some users, however a dongle is included in the box.

Moving to the front, you have a notched display on top- more on that later. Interestingly, Huawei has placed the fingerprint sensor on the front of phone below the display. 

We’re not quite sure why Huawei didn’t move the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phone as that seems to be the trend with phones that have shrinking bezels. Like other recent higher-end Huawei phones, the sensor extremely fast. It takes you to the home screen in a heartbeat.

Another method of unlocking is face unlock which too, is exceptionally fast. Rather than using clever IR techniques like the iPhone X, the Huawei P20 Pro simply reads the high-resolution feed from its 24MP front camera to recognize your face.

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.

Display

  • 6.1-inch AMOLED display
  • 1080 x 2244 FullHD+ resolution
  • Screen brightness isn't the best

The P20 Pro features a 6.1-inch OLED screen with an 1080 x 2244 FHD+ resolution. That number sound unusual, but this is really just a Full HD screen stretched out to an 18.7:9 aspect ratio. 

The P20 Pro has a pixel density of 408ppi which is noticeably lower than the S9 Plus's 529ppi. That being said, the display quality is excellent. Blacks are perfect, there’s minimal blue cast when the phone is tilted, which affects some less advanced OLED displays.

The Huawei P20 Pro is also the first Huawei phone with a notch, the display cut-out made famous by the iPhone X. Apple’s excuse for the notch is that it was required for all the tech used for the phone’s face unlock feature: a normal camera, an IR camera, a dot projector, 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 and whether you like it or not, it's going to be a big part of smartphone displays this year. Even Google has embraced it and is building support for notched displays with the upcoming Android P. 

The way Huawei has implemented the notch though, is clever. You can chose to use the phone with a notched display where certain apps (like Google Maps) spill over to the notch or you can chose to turn the notch off that basically creates a black strip on the two sides creating an 18:9 display. 

With the notch hidden, Huawei still moves the notifications above the screen so you don’t lose any screen space. Keep in mind that there are some apps that need to be optimized though. For example, Instagram gets cut off when the notch is hidden. 

Screen space is, in fact, something Huawei has worked quite a lot to maximize. Besides the notch on the top, you can also hide the standard Android navigation bar on the bottom.

You can then use the fingerprint sensor work as a multi-function home key. This gives your content a lot of space and is great for everything from emails to your instagram feed.

Where the screen struggles is in the bright sun. Even with full brightness, there were days when the Dubai sun proved to be a bit much for the P20’s screen making it a bit difficult to read what was on the screen.

The Huawei P20 Pro features a few 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.

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.