Huawei, a global leader in smartphones from China has been experimenting new things on the camera department. The company has released a trio of devices – P20 Pro, P20 and P20 Lite recently. The middle one of the three, Huawei P20 is what we are gonna review today. Last year’s flagship P10 has set standards for itself which the P20 series seem to meet. Let us take the deep study on every aspect of the smartphone.
The design is exciting to a bit but not the best in class is what I can say. The glass sandwich design with chrome plated rails notched display, dual cameras all take part in giving an entirely new look to the device from the last year’s P10. The glass looks cool at least until it is touched and the glass becomes a mess of smudges.
The in-hand feel of the device is very premium and feels compact. The front has a 5.8-inch display. The 18.7:9 display has a fullHD+ resolution. The panel is an IPS LCD panel with a peak brightness of around 470 nits, excellent sharpness and color reproduction. There is a notch that many do not seem to like. The notch unlike the iPhone 10 is small to house the earpiece and the front-facing camera. The bottom has a notable bezel to house a fingerprint sensor. The placement feels weird. I would prefer it placed at the rear of the phone so that you can eliminate more bezels.
There is no headphone jack, charging is done via USB C. The mono loudspeaker is bottom firing one with the good quality of sound.
Power and performance
The heart of the P20 is the in-house chipset from Huawei Kirin 970 also seen in Huawei Mate 10 and P20 Pro. The chipset is capable of running everything and anything. The chipset when put to benchmark testing heated up a lot but that was not the case in the day to day usage. Even after 10 mins of intense video recording the phone only got mere warm. The octa-core chipset is coupled with 4 Gb of RAM and 128 Gb of storage. The performance was not an issue at all. The Geekbench multi-core score was around 6,700 marginally higher than the Pixel 2.
Let us address the elephant in the room, cameras of the P20. Huawei has been in a relationship with Leica for their optics on their flagships smartphones. The setup used is an RGB primary sensor and a monochrome sensor. The primary camera is a 12 MP RGB (f/1.8) and secondary is the 20 MP Monochrome (f/1.6) sensor. The addition of AI makes quite a leap from the last years P10.
When this AI mode is on and you point on an object, then it automatically changes the scene in accordance with the content seen in the frame like pet mode for dogs. Picture quality is one of the best in the class with a DxO mark rating of 102 for overall and 107 for photos alone which is very uncommon in smartphones.
The extraordinary performance is mainly due to the largest pixel sizes that the sensors use. The primary camera has 1/2.3 and 1/2.78 on the secondary camera. The low light photo is unbeatable with plenty of detail and fewer amounts of noise. Portrait mode shots on the rear camera turn out to be well refined and the bokeh effect looks believable to an extent. The contrast is very good in daylight and semi-lit conditions.
The selfie camera is another marvel from Huawei, a whopping 24 MP f/2.0 sensor. The skin tones are great and there is good detailing in the images. The bokeh effect using the front-facing camera is a mere gimmick, it misses most of the time.
Coming to the video quality, it is not comparable to the image quality at all. Seems they put very less effort on the video capture. The stabilization fails when in 4k. The 1080p video though shot with stabilization lacks on colors and sharpness which simply is unusable. The video for this smartphone is a mess as of now.
The battery packed inside the compact powerhouse is 3400 mAH which is pretty good for a flagship phone to last for a day without a plugging it midday on moderate usage. The phone has fast charging capabilities and the charger in the box is capable of charging the device from zero to 65% in 30 mins which is great. There is no wireless charging.
The OS is the EM UI 8.1 running on top of Android Oreo 8.1. The phone comes with some non-removable bloat like Huawei in-house apps which is a let-down. For the updates, at least two cycles of Android will be nice but there is no confirmation of this anywhere. The face unlock is prompt an quick. With a wink, you get past the lock screen.
The phone is very comfortable for audio and video consumption. The phone comes with an inbuilt audio enhancer which is a nice addition. The videos look very beautiful in the display. Whenever the video is played it is not pushed through the notch and Huawei have implemented it like a champ. The left outs of the notch are merely for notification bar and other stuff.[table “2” not found /]
Huawei P20 is a great phone for photography any day. But there is P20 Pro with triple camera setup which makes this the second great in photography. Though I would prefer P20 over the P20 Pro because of the difference in price. For the vast difference in price, all you lose is an IP rating, 2 gigs extra RAM and a 3 rd camera. There are some good competitors coming up shortly like the OnePlus 6 but any day P20 is potential enough to take them over in the photography if not in any other department.