The year of the notch continues, with the Huawei P20 Pro the latest flagship device to sport one; although to distract from its adopting the design now synonymous with Apple's iPhone X, Huawei is focusing on the P20 Pro’s rear camera prowess.
Announced alongside the Huawei P20, the P20 Pro comes with a much higher spec, including three cameras on the rear that are set to be a big part of the marketing for the new handset.
As well as those three cameras, everything else here looks high-end too. We’ve had a little time to try out the handset, and we’ve put together our first thoughts in this Huawei P20 Pro hands-on review.
Watch our hands on video review of the Huawei P20 Pro below
Huawei P20 Pro release date and price
The Huawei P20 Pro will be on sale in the UK from April 6, but the company has no plans to bring the phone to the US. We don't currently know if it'll be coming to Australia either.
It's expensive at £799 (about $1,110, AU$1,450) with deals for the phone starting at around the £40 a month with 1GB of data to use. We've seen deals in the UK from the main networks like EE, Three, Vodafone and O2, plus you can also buy it directly from Carphone Warehouse too.
Design and display
The Huawei P20 Pro is undeniably one of the best-looking and best-built phones the company has ever made.
Unlike the Huawei P10 Plus, the P20 Pro features a glass back that sits comfortably in the hand. It has rounded edges on the rear so it nicely sits in your palm, and it feels like the optimum size for a smartphone.
It’s a touch bigger than the Huawei P20, but we found it easier to hold because of the curved rear and a smartly thought-out design. There are metal edges to the device, but these are also rounded, and don’t poke into your hand.
The power button sits on the right-hand edge and the back of the phone is plain, apart from the branding emblazoned down the edge and the three cameras at the top of the handset.
Unlike the Huawei P20, this phone is waterproof, with an IP67 rating. That means it’ll survive the odd accidental dunk in the sink, but Huawei has also given this as an excuse for not including a 3.5mm headphone jack.
If you want to use wired headsets with the phone, you’ll have to use a dongle that’ll be included in the box.
Color options are black and midnight blue for the standard design, while there’s a 'gradient' finish on both the twilight and pink gold options. That's Huawei's name for the finish, which shows a spectrum of colors depending on what angle you're looking at the device from, and the lighting.
We particularly liked the twilight version, as it looks different to anything we’ve seen on a phone before, and the gradient effect isn't as impressive on the pink gold version.
The P20 Pro has a huge 6.1-inch 18:9 aspect ratio OLED display, but thanks to its almost bezel-less design it doesn’t feel like a phone with that large a screen. The display is Full HD+, so it doesn’t look as stunning as the Samsung Galaxy S9 display, but it’s still a looker, and grabs your eye immediately when it’s turned on.
At the top of the screen is the notch, which houses the front-facing camera and speaker. If you want you can hide the notch by replacing the screen on either side of it with an on-screen black bezel on which the time and your notifications are displayed; you'll lose a little in terms of overall screen size, but you may prefer the cleaner look.
Performance and specs
Inside the Huawei P20 Pro there’s a Kirin 970 chipset. We saw this perform well in last year's Huawei Mate 10 Pro, so we hope its successor will be able to keep pace with the other flagship phones announced this year.
That chipset includes a neural processing unit, which Huawei is putting a big focus on for both the P20 and P20 Pro, as it's at the heart of the artificial intelligence features inside the new phones.
A lot of the AI improvements here are within the camera, allowing it, for example, to automatically detect the type of scene you’re shooting.
We noted that the phone itself was snappy in our limited tests, but we can’t currently comment on how fast it’ll work for day to day shooting.
There’s only one version of the P20 Pro around the world, and it comes with a huge 6GB of RAM working away behind the scenes and 128GB of storage, so you should have plenty of space for all your media and apps.
Huawei confirmed to TechRadar that there will be microSD support, but right now we don’t know how high capacity cards will be supported.
Android 8.1 Oreo software is on board here, but it looks different to what you’ll see on other phones as it comes in the form of Huawei’s own Emotion UI 8.1.
That’s a very specific overlay that comes with a few extra features, including apps like Huawei Share (which allows you to transfer data between your phone and PC easily), but also has a very specific look that not everyone loves.
There’s a 4,000mAh battery inside the P20 Pro, which should perform well considering the phone has a well-optimized chipset, so we’ll be sure to push it to its limits when it’s time for our full review.
Huawei's Super Charge fast-charging technology is packed in here too, so you should be able to charge your phone up speedily as with previous Huawei handsets.
Huawei is putting a lot of its eggs into the camera-shaped basket with the P20 Pro. The Leica partnership is continuing, so the setup here is built in collaboration with that company, and it's the first time we’ve seen three cameras on the rear of a phone.
Why would you need three cameras you may well ask? The thinking is similar to that behind the P10 and other phones before it, but now Huawei has added a telephoto lens as well.
Huawei has built numerous cameras with both a color and black and white sensor working in tandem to get photos with improved depth and definition, and now that telephoto lens will also let you zoom with no loss of image quality.
The RGB (that’s color) lens is a whopping 40MP this time around, and that works alongside a 20MP monochrome sensor. For your normal, average automatic mode picture it’ll combine the images from the two lenses.
Above the RGB lens, which sits in the middle of the array, you’ll find an 8MP telephoto sensor. This allows for up to 5x lossless zoom, and while we’ve seen similar lenses on previous handsets from different companies, in our limited testing the P20 Pro's take seemed impressive.
We played around with the zoom feature, which is easy to access within the camera app, and we were unable to see a quality difference in zoomed shots compared to wide-angle ones on the phone screen.
We’ll dig into the other camera improvements during our full review, but if you want the top-end camera from Huawei you’ll have to opt for the P20 Pro rather than the P20.
There’s a huge 24MP selfie shooter on the front of the phone, but we’ve not had much opportunity to play around with it yet to discover how it compares to other front-facing cameras.
The Huawei P20 Pro is putting such a big focus on the camera improvements that the other elements of the phone seem comparatively limited in terms of upgrades. That said, everything looks up to scratch, and this is the best-looking phone from Huawei yet.
The camera is the star here though, and if you want one of the best shooters on an Android phone the P20 Pro may well be the phone to go for – we’ll have to do some further testing first to find out what it can really achieve.