HUAWEI P20 as a phablet features 5.8 inch display afford you a vivid and different visual experience. Triple cameras, 20.0MP + 12.0MP dual back cameras and 24.0MP front camera, you can enjoy images with high resolution. It comes with most of the features we’ve come to expect from a phablet, including 4GB RAM and 128GB ROM storage equipped with Android 8.0 OS and 3400mAh big capacity battery that you can play games faster.

PROS

  •  Fantastic dual-camera
  •  128GB of storage to boot
  •  Solid performance
  •  Stunning design
  •  EMUI interface has come a long way

CONS

  •  No 3.5mm headphone port
  •  Display needs some fine-tuning
  •  No wireless charging
  •  Not waterproof

KEY FEATURES

  • 5.8-inch FHD+ LCD screen
  • 3400mAh battery, USB-C
  • 12-megapixel colour and 20-megapixel monochrome camera
  • 24-megapixel selfie camera
  • 1.55um pixel size
  • Kirin 970

The Huawei P20 is the staple of the all-new P20 range, sitting beneath the tri-camera-toting P20 Pro and above the budget P20 Lite. But don’t let its middling position deter you; the Huawei P20 is still a fantastic smartphone that’s worth your hard-earned cash, even if it isn’t being marketed as the company’s flagship.

And that’s because it’s almost the same as the P20 Pro, shipping with a 5.8-inch FullView screen, a Kirin 970 processor and 128GB of internal storage. The only downsides are that Huawei has stripped away the extra camera sensor, cut down the RAM and switched out the OLED for a not-so-impressive LCD.

HUAWEI P20 – DESIGN

The Huawei P20 sports a near-identical design to the Huawei P20 Pro, though there’s one main difference: the former has a dual-camera setup, while the latter is armed with the firm’s all-new tri-camera configuration. Both were co-engineered by German optics titan Leica, though.

The P20 is also smaller, in part because of its smaller 5.8-inch FullView LCD screen. The P20 Pro, for comparison, features a 6.1-inch FullView OLED screen. Don’t get too excited, though. It’s still equipped with a cut-out – dubbed a ‘notch’ – at the top that’s used to house vital components, like the 24MP selfie shooter.

Just like the standard P20, there’s a capacitive Home button enclosed in the small lip at the bottom of the screen, which can also double as a fingerprint reader if the handset’s face-recognition doesn’t tickle your fancy – though it’s worth noting that the two methods of authentication can be used in unison.

But locating the Home button beneath the screen, where a set of customisable on-screen navigation keys reside, was a bad decision. And that’s because, as I noted in my review of the P20 Pro, I often found myself hitting the capacitive and Home button at the same time, consequently launching Google Assistant.

There’s a single loudspeaker on the bottom, situated to the left of the USB-C slot, which sounds fantastic, delivering clear and rich audio – even when the volume is cranked to the maximum. I did find myself covering the speaker when holding the unit with one hand, however, thus rendering the otherwise clear audio inaudible.

You’ll find the volume rocker and power button, which are both constructed from what I can only describe as cheap plastic, on the right side of the handset’s frame. Like on the P20 Pro, tapping either of the keys not only feels unsatisfying compared to those on the iPhone X and Galaxy S9, but also sounds substandard.

Otherwise build quality is on par with the P20 Pro, in the sense that it’s the best I’ve seen on a high-end smartphone to date. It’s constructed from a mixture of Gorilla Glass and aluminium, with the former taking up the front and rear of the unit, and the latter making up the durable frame that holds everything in place.

The Huawei P20 took a short tumble off a bedside counter onto hardwood flooring after around a week with the device (sorry, Huawei!) and it escaped unscathed, so I have nothing but confidence in saying that the metal-and-glass build also ensures adequate protection against the odd knock, bump, scrape and drop.

HUAWEI P20 – SCREEN

The 5.8-inch near-edge-to-edge screen on the Huawei P20 is fantastic. To be more specific, it’s an 18.7:9 panel – similar to the screen ratio on the Galaxy S9, but in the Huawei’s case it’s LCD instead of OLED. The main advantage of using this ratio is that it allows manufacturers to squeeze more screen in a smaller handset.

Venturing down that route often results in the introduction of a notch – a small cut-out that’s used to house components that can’t be hidden behind the screen – and that’s exactly what happened with the P20, much to the dismay of critics. But coming from the notch-clad iPhone X, I didn’t find its presence to be an issue.

Huawei had foreseen that not everyone will share the same sentiments as far as the notch is concerned, so it developed a software tweak that masks the cut-out by disabling the screen space either side of it, thus creating the illusion of a symmetrical design – and it works well, disguising the slot in all but direct light.

As for the screen itself, colours are vibrant, but often feel oversaturated. You can, however, alter the colour balance to suit your personal preference by altering the Colour Mode (it’s set to Vivid by default, though I’d recommend switching to Normal as soon as you’ve finished blasting through the initial set-up process).

The Huawei P20 also offers full support for HDR10, the leading standard for High Dynamic Range (HDR), and can stream HDR content from sources like Amazon Prime and Netflix. That, in layman’s terms, means the device uses information embedded in the video to showcase the colours closer to the way the director intended.

I found the LCD screen on the P20 to be a little less clear than the OLED panel on the Galaxy S9 and P20 Pro, failing to deliver true black where required. LCD does have its advantages, though: it’s far brighter than its OLED counterpart and maintains a consistent colour temperature even when operating at bright levels.

And thanks to the screen’s eye-destroying maximum brightness, you’ll have no trouble whatsoever following directions, reading a message, or watching a YouTube video in direct sunlight – though you will need to hold the handset head-on for a clear view of what’s going on, as it doesn’t offer the best viewing angles.

HUAWEI P20 – SOFTWARE

The standard P20 is identical to the P20 Pro in the software department, with everything matching, from the EMUI interface down to the various authentication methods the handset offers – all the usual suspects are present, including fingerprint-recognition, as well as ultra-fast, but not-so-secure 2D face-recognition.

I’ve never been a fan of Huawei’s EMUI interface, but I found myself warming to it on the P20. The latest build, which is plastered atop Android 8.1, is fast and has several desirable aftermarket utilities, including an iOS-like 3D Touch tool, which allows users to browse an application’s main features on the homescreen.

There’s also an integrated Smart Controller application that makes use of the on-board IR blaster to serve up an interface that allows you to control various household appliances, ranging from air-con to TVs – a feature I found myself using on a daily basis to control the Dyson AM09 sitting on the other side of my office.

And, as we saw on the Huawei P20 Pro, the P20 comes with a dedicated voice assistant – HiAssistant – to rival Bixby and Siri, and an AI-driven recognition tool that’s capable of identifying a product and tracking it down on digital marketplaces such as Amazon (think: Bixby Vision) – but they’re limited to China for now.

HUAWEI P20 – PERFORMANCE

Here’s something you may find hard to believe: during our synthetic benchmarks the Huawei P20 was just as fast as the Huawei P20 Pro, even though it’s missing a third of the RAM – ­the former comes with 4GB, while the latter has 6GB. They both feature a Kirin 970 CPU and 128GB of non-expandable internal storage.

Just as I’d experienced with the P20 Pro, the P20 was smooth, switching between applications while streaming a song over 4G from Spotify without stopping to take so much as a breath. It also remained composed while cycling between Asphalt 8: Airborne and Need For Speed: No Limits, two of the most intensive 3D games.

That said, I did experience one minor issue: the P20, unlike the P20 Pro, struggled to run Google Maps, taking around a minute to fire up the application, then an additional minute to prepare the keyboard for input. The issue persisted after a software reset, so it’s likely an issue with the application itself, rather than the handset.

Other than that minor blip, which I was able to circumvent by switching to Waze, the P20 did not disappoint. In fact, far from it. The handset was fast, operating with no lag whatsoever, even though the sub-par benchmark results – 1884 in the single- and 6702 in the multi-core test – would have you believe something else.

Device Single-Core Multi-Core
Huawei P20 1884 6702
Huawei P20 Pro 1921 6837
Samsung Galaxy S9 3690 8757

HUAWEI P20 – CAMERA

Chances are you’ve heard nothing but good things about the tri-camera on the P20 Pro, but that’s not to mean the shooter on the P20 is something to turn your nose up at.

Sure, it doesn’t have three sensors like the P20 Pro, but the dual cameras it does tote ­– a 12MP telephoto sensor (f/1.8) and a 20MP monochrome sensor (f/1.6) for depth and texture – is fantastic for those looking to shoot impressive images, and who don’t require the dedicated 3x optical zoom the Pro offers.

The P20 also comes with the AI image-processing engine that debuted on the Huawei P10, though it’s been treated to a couple of new features, with the main one being frame-by-frame optimisation – in the default Auto shooting mode, that is – for a host of different scenarios, including close-ups, portraits and night shots.

Just like the P20 Pro, shots taken on the P20 in both daylight and low light are crisp and brimming with detail. The same can also be said about the 24MP selfie shooter, which is identical to the one on the P20 Pro. The super-slo-mo feature, however, once again fell short of expectations, repeatedly distorting the subject.

My only qualm with the camera on the P20 Pro was that the handset tended to oversaturate images, and that’s even more the case on the P20. It’s almost like Huawei is trying to compensate for the missing camera sensor with unrealistic colour optimisation – something that drives me up the wall.

I decided to opt out of the auto-manipulation tool, which is powered by the aforementioned AI engine, after experimenting with it for three days, and was a lot happier with the images the handset churned out. The colours were a lot more accurate, making the shot more representative of what was in front of me.

HUAWEI P20 – BATTERY LIFE

Huawei trimmed some off the fat off the battery on the P20, bundling a 3400mAh non-removable cell on the handset. The P20 Pro, for comparison, comes with a colossal 4000mAh power pack. Don’t let the smaller battery deter you, though; that’s more than enough juice to get you through at least a day and a half of intermediate use.

I was unhooking the P20 from the charger at 7:30am and using it to scroll through messages and stream Spotify over a 4G connection throughout the day. When I plugged it back in at 11:30pm, it had around 46% (on average) remaining, which had reached 100% within a mere half an hour of being back on charge.

And that’s because the P20, like the P20 Pro, comes with Huawei’s Super Charge fast-charging tech. There are a number of alternatives on the market, including Qualcomm’s Quick Charge and Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging, but having used the best of the bunch, I can confidently say Huawei’s is the fastest.

If, for whatever reason, you find yourself needing to squeeze a few additional hours out of the cell, you have the option to reduce the screen resolution to 720p or limit the performance using the on-board Power Saving Mode. Both make a real difference to power consumption – if you can live with the sacrifices, that is.

WHY BUY THE HUAWEI P20?

If you have a deep interest in photography, the tri-camera-packing Huawei P20 Pro is the smartphone for you. But, if like most customers, you’re looking for something with a fantastic build and high-end performance for a price that won’t break the bank, then look no further than the Huawei P20. It certainly won’t disappoint.

But with so many other offerings on the market, what sets the Huawei P20 aside from the competition you ask? Fluidity. The P20 is a lot smoother in operation than the likes of the LG V30 and OnePlus 5T, which fall into a similar price bracket.

Huawei P20 and P20 Pro Hands-on – Youtube

Buy Huawei P20 from China

HUAWEI P20 4G 128GB Unlocked phone  – ($285)

HUAWEI P20 Pro 4G 128GB Phablet Global Version – ($310)

VERDICT

A fantastic high-end smartphone for everyone except the select few who’ll be happy to pay the extra for the P20 Pro’s 3x optical zoom.

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