Huawei Mate 20 Review: Camera Chops And Great Battery Life

Huawei Mate 20: Software, User Experience And Camera Performance

The Huawei Mate 20 runs Android 9 (Android Pie) with with Huawei’s custom EMUI 9 overlaid. The result is a familiar operating system, with enough tweaks to the surface-level framework to make it feel unique. Huawei's EMUI design uses a minimalist style that puts everything right at your finger tips. We found the layout easy to navigate and performance of the phone was top-notch. According to Huawei, EMUI 9 has a response speed that's 25.8% faster than Android 9 while application startup is shortened by 102 ms. Overall system fluency is also increased by 12.9%. Objectively it was hard to tell the difference between the Mate 20 and other flagship phones when it came to general performance, but the Mate 20 really seemed snappy when loading apps, watching videos and web browsing.

huawei mate 20 homescreen huawei mate 20 navigation
While the home screen may look familiar to people not accustomed to Huawei's EMUI there are subtle differences hiding in plain sight. However, unlike devices Samsung phones, the Mate 20 doesn't require you swipe to see the on-screen navigation bar; it's just always on. This is actually a feature we appreciated, however small. 

While most of the features in the drop down menu are the same as you would find in any Android based phone, "Huawei Share", is proprietary. Huawei Share is a file sharing feature which effectively turns the smartphone into a file server allowing it to connect and share data across multiple platforms. Using this feature, you can share data with other smart phones, PC's and MAC's, as long as they can support the SMB (Server Message Block) protocol.

huawei mate 20 phone manager huawei mate 20 settings

When it comes to settings, you have all the typical Android flare. There are options to login to Wi-Fi, increase performance, decrease the screen brightness and so on, all from the simple pulldown menu.

Huawei Mate 20 Phone Camera Features, Software And Performance

The Huawei mate 20 has an impressive 3 camera array setup with a primary 12 megapixel camera with an f/1.8 aperture, an ultra-wide-angle that has 16 megapixel resolutiuon and an f/2.2 aperture, and a 8-megapixel, f/2.4 aperture telephoto lens. All three lenses work in conjunction with Huawei’s artificial intelligence system (Master AI), which detects the world and scene around it to create what Huawei claims the best image possible.

huawei mate 20 camera settings

The camera options on the Mate 20 are vast. There's the standard options, such as photo and portrait, but you can also go into pro mode, which allows you to adjust the auto white balance, shutter speed and change the auto focus. So, while anyone can pick up the Mate 20 using the default settings, there are more advanced options for seasoned photographers or those the need to tweak things in a pinch.

Front-Facing Camera

huawei mate 20 selfie 
(Left: Inside. Right: Outside)

The front facing camera worked extremely well, but indoor and outdoor lighting yielded very different results. When inside, the image was softer, and the finer details weren't as pronounced as they were when taking an image under natural sunlight. We aren't complaining though, this means less visible wrinkles and not as much salt and red pepper was visible in my beard. So, if you're taking pictures exclusively for Tinder, stay inside. Bar light could be most flattering as well.   

Rear Cameras

huawei mate 20 puppy
(Left: AI disabled. Right: AI enabled)

Out of the box, oddly, the Mate 20 Master AI option is not automatically enabled. The two images above show the vast difference in image quality, when AI is enabled. Both images have their pros and cons. The image on the left has less contrast. The colors bleed together somewhat, making for an almost dull image. On the other hand, the image on the right has stark contrast, but the subject doesn't appear as natural as in the other image. Overall, the image on the right is a far superior picture in our opinion, but the contrast is just a touch too much.

huawei mate 20 zoom pic 
  (Left: No zoom. Middle: 3x zoom. Right: 5.5x zoom)

The zoom functionality in the Hauwei Mate 20 was actually better than we expected. Of course as you zoom you are going to lose image quality and gain, but even when we had the camera zoom set at 5.5x there was little loss of quality and much less grain than we've seen comparatively. The buildings in the image above were roughly 2 miles away from where we took these pictures. Yet, they are clearly visible and Huawei Master AI reduced much of the blur. Impressive, considering how far away we were. 

huawei mate 20 plants pic 
(Left: AI enabled. Right: AI disabled)

The images we took out side, were also good, but once again there was more contrast when using Huawei's Master AI. While the results weren't as drastic as what we saw when using the camera inside, the image on the left has more vibrant colors. The image on the right isn't bad in comparison, but the berries just don't pop out as much as they would have if the AI mode was enabled. Still, both are great shots, and much better than what most smart phones could have produced just a few short years ago.

huawei mate 20 portrait

Portrait mode worked perfectly, regardless of what setting we used. When taking pictures of people, or the environment, the phone did a nice job of separating foreground objects from the background and making them pop. When taking images of people, the camera would detect faces first and adjust accordingly. This meant the background was blurred, bringing the objects to the forefront of the image. When taking pictures of the environment, the camera understood we were taking images of a sculptor and included a clear shot of the background in the picture.

Also, we really like the people in the image. The sign placement was just a coincidence.

huawei mate 20 Abbey Road 
(Left: Night mode. Right: Photo mode)

The Huawei Mate 20 camera has a night mode which, in conjunction with the Master AI, can take an image under low available light and produce an image that is comparable to what you would get in the day. This is the one feature of the camera we found lacking. We took multiple shots of this fine piece of Seattle artwork under very low lighting and the results were better when using the standard photo mode. The left image is almost over saturated, while the image on the right is near perfect. You can also see the words in the image on the left are slightly blurry. The AI did a fine job, but the standard photo mode was the better option.

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