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Huawei Mate 20 Review - Most affordable 7nm processor smartphone!

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When the Mate 20 series was announced, Huawei fans raved the Mate 20 Pro and the Mate 20X. But, I think that the regular Mate 20 should also get some of the spotlight.
Huawei Mate 20, the most affordable 7nm phone as of writing
Huawei Mate 20, the most affordable 7nm phone as of writing

As of writing, it is the most affordable 7nm processor powered smartphone in the world.

The Mate 20 is running on the 7nm 2.6GHz Kirin 980 octa-core processor with dual NPU, 6GB RAM and 128GB ROM!

It is powered by a large 4,000mAh battery with 22.5W SuperCharge compatibility.

The rear triple lens camera setup of 12MP f/1.8 RGB sensor, 16MP f/2.2 ultra wide-angle and 8MP f/2.4 OIS telephoto sensor. All three support 4D predictive focus, AIS, 5x zoom. For video it can shoot up to 4K video recording, 960 fps slow motion, and dual-tone LED flash.

While the selfie camera is a 24MP f/2.0 w/ AI face beauty and 3D portrait lighting.

Anyway, here's our full review!


Display Quality

Large 6.53-inch IPS display
Large 6.53-inch IPS display

The display is a large a 6.53-inch 2.5D curved IPS screen with 2244 x 1080 resolution at 381 ppi. Unlike the Mate 20 Pro, it doesn't curve on the side nor does it have an in-display fingerprint sensor and so far there have been no reports of the green screen issue on the Mate 20.

The 1080p resolution on the large 6.53-inch display shows crisp images but when placed side by side with 1440p displays, the pixels look noticeably larger. Otherwise, we prefer the 1080p resolution for better battery and processing performance.

Above the display is the smallest notch in the Mate 20 series that managed to fit the ear piece, camera and LED indicator.

Like the Mate 20 Pro it goes with the smart resolution feature that automatically lower the screen resolution to save power. You can also adjust the screen color tone in the display settings.

It has 10 points of multi-touch in total which makes it games or apps that take advantage of multiple simultaneous touch inputs.

Audio Quality

Stereo speakers at the bottom and at the earpiece
Stereo speakers at the bottom and at the earpiece

The Huawei Mate 20 sports a stereo speakers. One at the bottom of the phone and the other is on the earpiece. Because of the new notch design, the speaker on the earpiece had little space and the maximum volume suffered and it isn't as loud as the Mate 10's. It did improve in details and separation. In some instances there has been some distortion at maximum volume.

Unlike the Mate 20 Pro, the Mate 20 retains the 3.5mm headphone jack; thus, it comes with earphones that connect via 3.5mm headphone jack. It is the stock Huawei earphones with the same signature of balanced mids and highs with some prominent bass. The sound stage isn't large while the separation is decent.

It is using Bluetooth 5.0 low energy meaning you can connect to two audio devices (earphones, speakers, etc) simultaneously with little hit to battery life.  This allows for two single speakers to act as stereo or you can share your music with another pair of Bluetooth earphones aside from yours.

Microphone quality for calls are good It is clear and loud. It has good audio recording performance.

Battery Life

The Huawei Mate 20's class leading battery life
The Huawei Mate 20's class leading battery life

The Mate 20 is running on a large 4,000mAh battery that supports 22.5W SuperCharge. This means that when paired with the 1080p display and the new 7nm processor, the Mate 20's battery will get you through the whole day and will be able to charge your phone from 0 to 100 percent in an hour.

In our usual PC mark battery benchmark we got a result of 16 hours and 14 minutes. We unplug our phones at 8AM before we leave the house. I would get home at 8PM and I was left with 30 to 35 percent of battery left on average with our daily usage that is consists of constant LTE/WiFi connection, calling, texting, social media, YouTube streaming, and light mobile games. This makes it consistent with the PC mark benchmark.

Charging the phone from 15/20 percent to 100 percent usually takes an hour without the phone or the power plug getting raising its temperature.

Camera

The Leica triple camera set up
The Leica triple camera set up

We are now at the main new feature: The rear triple cameras! The first being a 24MP f/1.7 normal shooter while the 8MP f/2.4 features a 120 degree wide-angle lens! The third 5MP f/2.2 serves as a depth sensor for the bokeh effect.

The signature monochrome sensor that helped with detail and contrast is now gone. It has been replaced my an ultra wide-angle lens that is capable of super short minimal focus distances that allow for macro shots!

It retains the Aperture, Night, Portrait, Photo, Video, Pro, HDR, 3D Panorama, Panorama, Light Painting, Filter, Documents, Slow-mo, AR lens, Time-lapse and Watermark modes.

In all modes, you have access to all three sensors indicated by the 0.6x, 1x and 2x zoom. This can be pushed digitally up to 10x zoom. The 0.6x is the ultra wide-angle mode.

In Aperture mode, you can control the aperture from f/0.95 to f/16 while in Night mode you can control ISO (100 to 1600) and shutter speed (1/4th of a second to 32 seconds). It also has the AIS Super Night mode feature that allowed us to take stabilized handheld up 6s long exposure shots.

In Portrait mode, you have options to add portrait lighting, to select bokeh shapes, and to add up to 10 levels of beautification.

The Pro mode allows for complete control of metering, ISO (50 to 3200), Shutter Speed (1/4000th of a second to 30 seconds), EV (+-4), manual focus and white balance.

Versatile and powerful triple-camera setup!

The autofocus is fast and snappy! It detects faces even when the subject's face is backlit. Close-up shots are possible with the main camera but for the best minimum focusing distance, you have to use the ultra wide lens.

The daylight shots from the main camera and wide cameras are stunning. The color, contrast and resolution (sharpness) are one of the best out there right now. The shots from the 2x telephoto lens are slightly softer compared to the images from the other two lenses.

The wide angle lens is a great addition to the triple camera set up. It has allowed us to take shots that we couldn't do because we wanted to fit more of the scene into the frame. It also allowed us to take super close up shots.

Master AI is turned on by default. It learns about the scene and adjusts settings to improve the images it produces. Personally we turned it off after using it because we preferring have more control in our images.


In low light, images from all three lenses produce images that are softer, with lesser contrast than the daylight images. Noise reduction is also apparent from shots taken in the darkest of conditions. It is still one of the best shooter for low light. You can also always use the Night mode and the Pro mode to let you take crisp low light images.

The LED flash is bright and can illuminate subjects that are up to 5 feet away. It does need tweaking to accurately give the correct white balance.

Rear Camera Samples

Normal
Normal
Wide
Wide
Normal
Normal
Wide
Wide
Close-up
Close-up
Bokeh
Bokeh
Normal
Normal
3x zoom
3x zoom
Indoor normal
Indoor normal
Indoor 3x zoom
Indoor 3x zoom
Low light
Low light
Low light 3x zoom
Low light 3x zoom
Low light wide
Low light wide
Low light normal 2
Low light normal 2
Low light 3x zoom 2
Low light 3x zoom 2
Low light wide
Low light wide
Flash test featuring Duey of Unbox.ph
Flash test featuring Duey of Unbox.ph

The selfie camera is a 24MP f/2.0 that features AI Face Beauty and 3D Portrait lighting.

It retained the Aperture, Night, Portrait, Photo, Video, Pro and all of the other modes from the main camera. This means that the features and layout are the same as its main camera counterpart.

The daylight images from the selfie camera have good detail and contrast with decent color reproduction. The low light is noticeably falters not because of noise but because the image just doesn't have that detail and contrast from the main cameras. If you look at our low light selfies below, Neil's hair is defined but the texture of his skin isn't prominent. We know Huawei can improve on this and we hope it happens soon.

It is a big improvement over the P20 and P20 Pro but we still find that it could get better. In fact, as it stands now, we prefer the selfie cameras of some lower priced selfie focused phones like the Vivo V11.

For a high-end phone with a flagship price, the selfie camera could be better compared to the competition.

Selfie Camera Samples

Daylight selfie
Daylight selfie
Indoor bokeh selfie
Selfie bokeh with shapes
Selfie bokeh with shapes
Low light selfie

The video footage from the Mate 20's triple camera set-up is good especially because of the newly improved AIS where it uses both OIS, EIS and AI. It is one of the most stabilized footage from a smartphone we've ever seen.

Our concern with the video footage is that it is good but the image quality isn't consistent between the three lenses.

The main standard camera has the best color, sharpness and contrast while the wide angle and the telephoto suffers in sharpness, color and contrast even in daylight. If you watch our sample footage where we were walking along the streets of BGC the difference between the three lenses were apparent when looking at the three at the background.

In video mode, you also get the 10 levels of beautification with the added feature of adding filters while recording the video live.

The wide and the telephoto are slightly softer. It is slightly less vibrant and slightly less contrasty as well. Otherwise, the footage is smooth!

Huawei has improved their video chops quite well though there are still some improvements to be made.

Video Samples


Performance

Monster scores!
Monster scores!

As of this writing, the Mate 20 is the most affordable phone with a 7nm processor, the Kirin 980 that scored more than 300K in Antutu and nearly 10K in GeekBench's multi-core score when you use the performance mode.


Faster than most today!

It would have been better if its AI will automatically switch to the performance mode when running heavy apps. We don't mind it because its logical for an OS and the AI to focus all power on an intensive task.

The Philippines also got the 6GB RAM and 128GB model that is expandable with the Huawei's NM (Nano Memory) card. The 6GB RAM also allows for massive multitasking across multiple apps and games with smooth transitions from one to another.


In PUBG, the Mate 20 can play on smooth while on Ultra. The gameplay itself is smooth even at Ultra graphics with minimal noticeable frame rate drops. It gets somewhat warm after nearly an hour of continuous play.
EMUI is faster than ever
EMUI is faster than ever

It is running on Android 9.0 Pie with EMUI 9.0. It is similar with the previous EMUI 8.0 with better Google service integrations and performance improvements. Overall, if you liked EMUI before, you will feel at home but if you don't like it, then you still won't like it.

EMUI has always been speedy and lightweight version of Android with some quirks. Personally I would install Nova Launcher for better customizability of the home screen, app drawer and icons.
Digital Balance

My favorite new feature "Digital Balance" in the settings. It records your usage time of every app on your phone to help you track your behavior like which apps you spend the most time on.

What surprised me is that even though the OS is based on Android 9.0 Pie is that it still uses the older navigation buttons of back, home and recent and not the gesture based navigation in Stock Android 9.0 Pie after setting-up the phone out of the box. You can however use the gesture based navigation by switching to it in the navigation settings.

When using the new gesture based navigation featured in Android 9.0 Pie, you swipe up short for recent apps, swipe up long to go home, and if you want to go back to the previous page you swipe from the left edge of the display. It is intuitive but it does have learning curve coming from the previous button based navigation. It effectively removes the navigation button thus gives for screen real estate. It can be confusing at first trying to memorize where and how to swipe to get the desired effect. I like it.

It features an improved face unlock from the P20 series where in it will register your face with our without glasses and it will give you a choice of unlocking directly to the home screen or it unlocks the phone but you have the choice to swipe to the home screen first. It unlocks almost instantly and it is accurate. I've only had less than 5 instances wherein it didn't recognize my face in the two weeks that I've had the Mate 20.

The fingerprint scanner is now at the back under Triple rear cameras. It is one of the fastest and most accurate fingerprint scanner that we've ever tried wherein as soon as our finger hits the scanner, it unlocks instantly. It does struggle with recognizing our fingerprint when the scanner is dirty or when our fingers were wet.

The connectivity and telephony is one of the best in the market given that this is one of the few phones with Cat 21 4G LTE connectivity. Though connection quality still depends on the coverage of your telco. The GPS acquires location instantly and accurately even in the building dense Bonifacio Global city.

The Mate 20 supports OTG, gyroscope and it has an LED notification light above the camera.

Pros - Stunning design and premium materials, good LCD with tiny notch, 7nm performance is real, best flagship battery life with 22.5W SuperCharge, headphone jack
Cons - 1080p resolution could have been higher, the selfie camera could be improved, it would be great if it had IP68 certification and wireless charging, performance mode is turned off out of the box

Verdict

The Mate 20 is the best phone for PHP 40,990 because of its 7nm Kirin 980, Triple Leica cameras, Long battery life with super fast charging and headphone jack! 

So if you can live with drawbacks like the less than stellar selfie camera, 1080p resolution display, lack of wireless charging and only IP53 rated, then the Mate 20 is for you because no other phone can offer its power and battery performance the 7nm Kirin 980 can give!

Build/Design - 4.5
Display - 4.25
Audio - 4.25
Battery - 4.75
Camera - 4.5
Performance - 4.75
Average - 4.5/5
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