If you’ve read our Huawei P20 review, you might be feeling a bit wary going into this one. The P20 Pro may be £200 more expensive but its big selling point remains the same: a widely hyped camera. With the P20, that turned out to be hyperbole.
Fortunately, the P20 Pro’s camera is very different. To kill the suspense early, the P20 Pro’s camera is up there with the very best of them. That, along with a couple of other small but significant upgrades, makes the P20 Pro an easy recommendation.
Image of Huawei P20 Pro 128GB Dual-SIM Factory Unlocked 4G/LTE Smartphone (Black)
Huawei P20 Pro review: Design
In looks, the P20 Pro is a (slightly) larger version of the P20. That means it inherits all of the positives and most of the negatives; most, rather than all, because the Pro version gets full IP67 dust and waterproofing, rather than the weak IP53 its smaller sibling has to make do with.
Let’s get those remaining negatives out of the way first. There’s no room for expandable storage, no wireless charging and no 3.5mm headphone jack. The first point is less of a problem as the P20 Pro is only available with a generous 128GB of internal storage but the last one remains an infuriating trend increasingly adopted by high-end smartphones, Samsung and OnePlus aside.
Everything else, however, is gleefully positive. The Huawei P20 Pro goes from nice looking to the most beautiful smartphone we’ve ever seen, depending on the colour scheme you buy. The plain black and blue is nice enough but the multi-colour shimmering twilight finish is genuinely heartstopping.
Whichever you opt for, though, the rest is the same. It’s slim and stylish with next to no bezel at all. And yes, it does have an iPhone X-style notch but a) it’s quite a bit smaller and b) it can be switched off in the settings, blacking out to become part of the bezel. When you do this, though, you can still have it display your battery life and notifications.
The only real downside to the phone’s design is that the glass back is quite slippery. Huawei provides a transparent jelly-like case in the box which does solve this problem, although I’d be lying if I said it didn’t lose style points in collateral damage.
Huawei P20 Pro review: Screen
Thanks to the now popular 18.7:9 aspect ratio, phones are increasingly tall, rather than wide. So while, at 6.1in, the P20 Pro sounds like a phablet it doesn’t feel like one in your hand – unless you have shallow pockets that is.
I said the P20 Pro is bigger than the P20, but it’s not that much larger: just 0.3in across the diagonal. That does mean the P20 Pro with the same screen resolution of 1,080 x 2,240, is slightly less sharp, with a pixel density of approximately 408ppi but this is not something you’d notice without a microscope. And in any case, in every other way, it’s a better screen – in fact, it’s one of the best we’ve encountered ever.
For starters, it’s an OLED display, rather than the IPS one found on the regular P20. That means you’re looking at inky black and perfect contrast with the added bonus that it’s generally kinder to battery life. Image quality is simply brilliant, too. It covers 99.9% of the sRGB colour gamut when set to “normal” display mode (the default is the more garish “vibrant” setting), and its Delta E score is 1.11, meaning superb colour reproduction across the spectrum. Peak brightness hits 387cd/m2 – dimmer than the regular LCD P20 and a lot less bright than the Samsung Galaxy S9, whose OLED display can reach blinding levels in some circumstances. It’s perfectly readable in most conditions, though, so unless you’re a desert dweller this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
One final note: the P20 Pro does come with a screen protector on it, but not a terribly good one, and ours was showing signs of scratching after a few days. Worse, because it has a hole cut out for the front-facing camera, you’re constantly catching your finger on it when you pull down the notifications bar. It’s nice of Huawei to install one out of the box, to avoid the annoyance of trapped air bubbles but it could (and should for the money) have gone with a better one than this.
Huawei P20 Pro review: Performance
The main specifications of the Huawei P20 Pro are very similar to the regular P20. Both have a HiSilicon Kirin 970 processor clocked at 2.4GHz and both have 128GB of built-in storage to make up for that lack of microSD card. The key difference is that the Pro model benefits from an extra 2GB RAM.
It’s debatable whether smartphones really need 6GB RAM at this point (the Galaxy S9 makes do with 4GB, while the iPhone X is perfectly happy on 3GB) but it does go some way to explaining the price discrepancy between the P20 and P20 Pro. In terms of actual performance though, there’s very little between the two phones, which means that the processor is fast, but not the very fastest. In fact, the Huawei P20 family is more of a match for last year’s Snapdragon 835-powered flagships than this year’s 845 beasts.
The same is true for graphical performance, as you can see in the graph below.
Should you care? Probably not. The Kirin 970 is still a damned fine processor, and just because the benchmarks show what’s theoretically possible, doesn’t mean that you’ll find yourself bumping against the limits of the P20 Pro anytime soon; at least not in general use.
Indeed, performance on the P20 Pro is snappy and responsive as anything else out there for every task we’ve thrown at it. Likewise, though, it’s true to say that if you insist on the most raw power out there, then the P20 family doesn’t quite offer it.
What the P20 Pro does offer is very good battery life and that’s another advantage it has over the regular P20. Huawei has managed to squeeze in an extra 600mAh of battery capacity, taking it to a grand total of 4,000mAh. The results are very impressive: in our standard battery test with a video playing on loop and brightness locked to a brightness of 170cd/m2 the P20 Pro lasted 14hrs 35mins.
After a week of use, I’ve yet to dip below 30% on the gauge and if you don’t use your phone much, it seems plausible that you could get through two days without needing to