Skip to main content
  1. uSwitch.com
  2. Reviews
  3. Huawei P20 and P20 pro review

Huawei P20 and P20 pro review

Do Huawei's latest handsets live up to the hype? We find out.

Pros

  • Best camera we've seen on a smartphone, particularly on the Pro
  • Gorgeous screens and loud, proud sound
  • Really long battery life

Cons

  • No headphone slot means you've got to get wireless earbuds or use an adaptor
  • The notch might not be to everyone's taste

First impressions and design

  • Strong metal and glass construction with a sleek, glossy finish
  • iPhone-style notch is much less intrusive than we expected
  • Highly reflective finish makes it stand out from the competition

Huawei-P20-Pro-leaning-against-a-tree

From the offset, expectations for Huawei’s P20 range were high. Everything from the rumours about the incredible camera, to the lavish press event in Paris led us to believe that the P20 was going to be something special.

Even the naming of the phone, whose predecessor was a barely-double-digit P10, seemed to imply this new phone would be a huge step forward.

And we’re pleased to announce that we were not left disappointed.

As soon as you unbox the P20, you know it’s something premium. With a sleek glass and metal construction, an eye-wateringly bright screen and a smooth, glossy finish, it feels every inch the high-end device. And its big brother, the P20 Pro, is even more impressive.

Want Huawei’s latest phone? Take a look at all our best Huawei P20 deals.

Fancy the bigger version? Here’s all our best Huawei P20 Pro deals.

The Huawei P20 range shares a few design similarities to Apple’s most expensive phone to date, the iPhone X. Both have a distinctive notch at the top of the screen that houses a selfie camera and speaker. And in another echo of the iPhone X, the rear camera lenses stick out a bit too. Also, neither comes with a headphone slot. Sorry folks.

Having said that, the Huawei has taken these aesthetic features and improved on them to make the P20 range much more attractive than Apple’s finest phone.

Most notably, the notch is significantly smaller and less obtrusive than that on the iPhone X. In fact, after using it for a while, you really don’t notice it.

And if it does bother you, just head to the Settings and add in a black bar to hide the notch.

At the bottom of the device, you’ll find a slimline black bezel (edge) with a fingerprint scanner. Most phone-makers have shifted the fingerprint scanner to the back of their flagship devices to free more space for cinema-style widescreens. But Huawei has chosen to keep the fingerprint scanner at the front.

It’s undeniably more convenient. You can see exactly what you’re doing and there’s no risk of pressing  the camera lens by mistake. Plus, it’s much easier to subtly unlock during a meeting, as you don’t even need to lift it off the desk.

The P20 and P20 Pro are made of aluminium with a strong, scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 5 screen. Which not only makes them look premium, but they’re also strong enough to withstand the rough and tumble of life.

As ever, the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro come with a highly glossy, reflective finish, making it a total attention-grabber. Unfortunately, it also attracts smudges, so you’ll need to give it a quick wipe every so often to keep it looking shiny.

                       
Build    glass and metal            
Weight              165g (P20), 180g (P20 Pro)   
Dimensions        149.1 x 70.8 x 7.7 mm (P20), 155 x 73.9 x 7.8 mm (P20 Pro)  

Screen and sound

  • Gorgeous all-screen front
  • Dual speakers on the P20 Pro are loud and proud
  • No 3.5mm headphone slot

Huawei-P20-Pro-Black-Panther-media

Both the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro come with a full HD screen that’s ideal for watching films and playing games on the go.

Although at 1080 x 2244 pixels, its resolution isn’t quite as sharp as the display on Samsung’s latest flagships, in reality you don’t really notice much difference.

In fact, after a long day of staring at a computer screen at work, my eyes are actually quite grateful for the slightly softer colours as I binge-watch The Hour on my way home.

With an aspect ratio of 18.7:9, the P20 and P20 Pro are slightly taller than phones with an 18:9 ratio that seems to have become the standard over the last year. In practice, this gives you an even wider widescreen than we’re used to. Which just makes it even better for watching the latest blockbuster.

And while we’re on the subject, the dual speakers on the P20 Pro are excellent. The driver at the bottom of the device delivers a loud, clear sound, with the earpiece speaker at the top delivering higher-frequency audio.

If you’re an audiophile, you’ll be able to hear the different layers of sound quite distinctly, and you’ll love the deep bass. For a phone, the sound quality is pretty astounding.

The standard P20, meanwhile, only has a single speaker. So you don’t get quite the level of richness and depth that you do on the Pro, but it still does a great job and will be more than sufficient for most users.

As we mentioned earlier, there’s no headphone slot on either device. So you’ll either have to get a pair of Bluetooth earbuds or use an adaptor to plug in your old wired set. But that’s hardly a deal-breaker these days.

      
Size       5.8 inches (P20), 6.1 inches (P20 Pro)   
Resolution     1080 x 2244 pixels  
Technology    LCD (P20), AMOLED (P20 Pro)


Camera

  • The P20 Pro has the best camera we've ever seen on a smartphone
  • Fantastic low-light results and close-ups with hybrid zoom
  • Artificial intelligence gives you professional results with no effort or know-how

Huawei-P20-Pro-camera-in-action-hero-size

As with any Huawei phone, the standout feature on the P20 is the camera. And this is where you’ll see the biggest difference between the Pro and the standard model. So let’s talk you through exactly what each phone has to offer.

We’ll start with the Pro. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that it’s quite simply the best camera I’ve used on a smartphone. I’ve certainly achieved the best and most professional-looking photos I’ve ever taken over the last few days. And here’s why:

The P20 Pro comes with a staggeringly high-grade triple lens setup. For those of you who are interested, it comprises of a main 40-megapixel camera, backed up by a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor that works to minimise noise (graininess) and improve dynamic range (lighting).

Added to this formidable pairing is an 8-megapixel sensor with 3x zoom, which helps you capture far more detail from further away.

What this gives you is a fantastic, flexible camera that will let you take great photos in almost any conditions.

The zoom allows you to capture a pretty amazing level of detail without distorting your image with excess graininess.

As you can see from the sample shots of the Tower of London, we managed to capture a lot of detailing on the turrets from across the river. You can even clearly read the 'Entry to the traitors gate' sign that you simply can't see with the naked out.

Better still, the image still looks great, especially when you consider I was over half a kilometer away.

Even more impressive is the P20 Pro’s Night Mode. Hidden away under “More” in the camera app, Night Mode gives you fantastic results in low-light situations.

It does this by taking several images at once and merges them together to give you the best possible result.

At the phone’s launch, Huawei claimed the P20 Pro could see better than the naked eye and they weren’t kidding. The photos I took showed more detail and brighter colours than I myself could make out by squinting into the middle distance.

The super slow-mo video recorder takes a little bit of getting used to. But once you’ve got the hang of how it works, you can take fantastic slow-mo shots that look really effective.

But while the P20 Pro undoubtedly steals the show, the P20 dual-lens setup is still fantastic by anyone’s standards.

Without the third lens, the regular P20 can’t quite reach the levels of detail when zoomed in to the max, or trying to capture a dark cat in a dark room. But the photos I got with it still look great.

Both the P20 and P20 Pro come with lots of helpful modes to help you get the most out of the camera. And, what’s more, it’ll actually switch on the mode you need automatically.

Thanks to some clever artificial intelligence (AI), the camera can recognise what you’re trying to photograph and select the mode best suited to your subject.

Trying to take a photo of your kitten? It’ll switch on Cat Mode. Outside the pub at 3am? Super Night Mode will help you capture your drunken moments without you even having to ask.

Or maybe you’d like to show off your latest culinary creation on Instagram? The P20 and P20 Pro will activate Food Mode to make your dish look extra delicious.

Huawei-P20-Pro-camera-Cat-Mode

This means that you can take highly professional, Instagrammable photos every time without ever having to faff about in the settings. It’s all done for you.

Elsewhere, both the P20 and P20 Pro come with a gorgeous Portrait Mode that has a range of different lighting options, similar to those on the iPhone X.

But crucially, they’re somehow more flattering than the ones I took with Apple’s £1,000 top-of-the-range handset back in November. And I can assure you, I definitely haven’t got any better-looking in that time.

And to boost my ego even further is the adjustable Beauty Levels, which seem to range from flattering to absolutely flawless. With a mere swipe, I look like I’ve spent some time with a professional makeup artist. But, miraculously, it actually looks realistic. Just looking like my best self with absolutely no effort.

The same is true of the selfie camera, which comes with the same Beauty Levels and Portrait lighting as the main shooter. The secondary camera itself is a brilliant 24-megapixel camera that’s the same on both the P20 and P20 Pro.

      
Camera              12-megapixel dual camera (P20), 40-megapixel triple camera (P20 Pro)
Optical image stabilisation       Yes  
Unique features      Super slow-mo


Performance and battery life

  • Impressive battery life, particularly on the P20 Pro
  • Super-fast processor keeps things running quickly and smoothly
  • The device learns how you use your phone to give you more battery life

Huawei-P20-Pro-in-hand-homescreen

The P20 and P20 Pro don’t just look lovely. They’re a dream to use too.

Both phones come with the latest version of Android Oreo already on-board, along with Huawei’s EMUI 8.1 customisations layered over the top.

EMUI (or Emotion UI) brings you the same Android Oreo experience we all know and love, but with a few extra features to make the phone even more intuitive to use.

One difference you’ll notice is the lack of a conventional Android apps tray. Instead you’ll find all your apps sorted into folders on the home screen, in a set-up not dissimilar to that on an iPhone.

However, if this isn’t to your fancy, you can add the traditional apps menu back in via the settings. It also comes with a few pre-installed apps designed to improve the user’s experience. Unlike the unnecessary bloatware and duplicate applications that we’re used to seeing, the extra apps on the P20 and P20 Pro are genuinely useful and don’t take up much of the phone’s memory.

Huawei’s pre-installed apps include a torch, a file manager, a weather app and a mirror, which lets you use the selfie camera to zoom in on your face. This makes doing your makeup on the train much easier.

The phones both have powerful processors to keep them running at lightning speed, even if you’re using multiple apps at once. The result is a quick, responsive experience, with almost no lag when performing tasks.

The standard P20 comes with a healthy 4GB of RAM, while the Pro has an even more generous 6GB. So it can handle streaming HD content and long photography sessions with aplomb.

While it’s impressive, fast processors and plenty of RAM are nothing new, particularly on high-end devices. In fact, we’ve become so spoilt that even a second’s lag is enough to condemn a phone. Luckily the P20 and P20 Pro handled every task we threw at it quickly and smoothly.

But what’s even more impressive is the battery life. At 3,400mAh, the P20’s battery is up there with the latest flagships from Sony and Samsung. And the Pro surpasses them all.

With a 4,000mAh power-pack, the P20 Pro lasts significantly longer than its contemporaries. When I took the S9 Plus out for a full day of heavy use, it was struggling for life at under 10% by the time I got home.

The P20 Pro, however, still had enough power left to last me into the following morning. Which is near enough unheard of with a premium handset.

And Huawei hasn’t stopped there. Thanks to some artificial intelligence wizardry, the P20 and P20 Pro learns how you use your phone to buy you more power.

It does this by diverting power to your favourite apps and while preventing the apps you never use from draining your battery.

In practice, you don’t actually notice how it does it. But you do see an increase in your battery life over time, particularly if you generally use the same apps. So if you use your phone primarily as a camera or to binge-watch your favourite TV shows, or even just to scroll through social media, the P20 will devote its power to the apps you use most.

      
RAM     4GB (P20), 6GB (P20 Pro)  
Battery capacity      3,400mAh (P20), 4,000mAh (P20 Pro)   
OS and version    Android 8.0 (Oreo)

Durability

  • Water-resistance and dust-proofing helps it cope with everyday wear and tear
  • Gorilla Glass 5 keeps the screen scratch-free

Huawei-P20-Pro-waterproof

The P20 and P20 Pro certainly feel sturdy enough. But can they take a knocking and keep on rocking?

Both phones are made of aluminium and glass, so you can expect them to be pretty resilient. The curved sides mean the phones are unlikely to go flying out of your hand. But when we let them fall to the floor during our drop tests, they came out unscathed.

The tough Gorilla Glass 5 keeps the screens scratch-free, even after a week in my cluttered handbag and being stashed alongside keys and change in my pockets.

The P20 Pro has a waterproof and dust-resistance rating of IP67, which means it can survive in up to a meter of water for half an hour without getting damaged. So, it should be able to survive an accidental dunking without any problems.

The P20 is slightly less resilient with an IP53 rating. This means it should cope with accidental splashes, but might get damaged if it’s fully submerged under water. In practice, you’ll probably be fine to use it in the rain, but might hit problems if you drop it in a puddle.

                       
Waterproof rating      IP67
Protection     Corning Gorilla Glass 5              

Value and verdict

  • Amazing camera, particularly on the Pro
  • Long-life battery life that actually gets better over time
  • The Pro is waterproof and dust-resistant
  • Lovely screen with a notch you’ll hardly notice
  • Decent sound quality on the P20 and the Pro is louder and prouder
  • Selfie camera makes me look better than my best
  • Sturdy aluminium and glass construction
  • Android Oreo present and correct
  • Lightning-quick processor
  • The Pro’s pricier, but you get a lot more phone for your money

Huawei-P20-and-P20-Pro-together

Huawei has really excelled itself with these latest two handsets. With gorgeous screens, long battery-life and superb cameras, they tick all the boxes for a really premium smartphone.

SIM-free, the P20 will set you back around £599, while the Pro costs around £799 if you’re buying it outright.

Although the P20 delivers everything you need, the P20 Pro is on a whole new level. In fact, with an OLED screen, an extra 2GB of RAM, a huge battery, waterproofing and an extra camera lens, it’s more than worth the extra £200 outlay.

At the time of writing, monthly contracts for the P20 start at £29 a month, with nothing to pay upfront. The P20 Pro will likely cost you around £43 a month with no upfront fees. So the Pro will cost you more. But it’ll give you a lot more too.

Want Huawei’s latest phone? Take a look at all our best Huawei P20 deals.

Fancy the bigger version? Here’s all our best Huawei P20 Pro deals.

Category: Reviews
Tagged: huawei p20
back to top