Huawei P20 Pro Review Roundup: What Critics Love (and Hate)

Staff Writer
Updated

The first reviews are in for Huawei’s highly-anticipated triple-camera flagship, the P20 Pro. And while we’re still working through our final verdict on the device, one thing is certain: those cameras are no marketing gimmick — they pose a real benefit for avid photographers.

Reviewers from multiple publications are extolling the low-light proficiency of Huawei’s latest flagship. Thanks to a combination of smart processing, a massive image sensor and AI know-how, the P20 Pro looks to have nestled itself comfortably in between the iPhone X and Google Pixel 2 as one of the year’s elite handsets for taking pictures.

Other aspects, like the notch on the front of the phone and Huawei’s EMUI Android skin, seem to be much more polarizing. Yet despite those drawbacks, the P20 Pro is shaping up to be the year’s best phone U.S. consumers can’t buy (since it’s not available on these shores) — not to mention, one of the prettiest. I was captivated by the design of the Twilight model in particular during the brief hands-on I had with the P20 Pro several weeks back.

We’ll post our review soon. Until then, here’s what early reviewers are saying:

The Verge

The Verge’s Vlad Savov had high praise for the P20 Pro, calling it “a credible third competitor [to Apple and Samsung] in the contest for super flagship phone supremacy.” Savov cited the lack of noise and undesired artifacts in the P20 Pro’s nighttime photos, as well as the effectiveness of Huawei’s new AI Stabilization software.

The Good

“There’s a litany of subtle design details and pleasing symmetries in this Huawei design that add up to create a positive first impression.”

“No other phone can match the P20 Pro’s night photography, which makes even the Pixel’s low-light photos appear flat, washed-out, and noisy.”

“Huawei claims two days of battery life with the P20 Pro, and the phone duly delivers.”

The Bad

“Huawei has adjusted its notifications bar to accommodate the display’s notch, but not in a way that I like. The clock feels cramped up against the right curve of the screen, while the cellular and Wi-Fi status icons have jumped across the notch to the left.”

Wired

Andrew Williams of Wired wasn’t as smitten with the P20 Pro overall, but echoed the camera compliments. Williams pointed out the benefit of 3x optical zoom offered by the telephoto lens, as well as the dynamic range of the phone’s Night Mode. The phone’s OLED display and Kirin 970 processor were weak points, however; Williams noted they paled in comparison to those inside Samsung’s Galaxy S9.

The Good

“Night mode produces photos with dynamic range far better than any other phone shooting in similar conditions, rivalling an APS-C compact system camera shooting on a tripod at low ISO settings.”

“There’s more going on in the background [of the camera software] than most will appreciate. The P20 Pro gives Huawei a chance for a few moments of glory before we all take such improvements for granted.”

“Battery life is the other Huawei P20 Pro stand-out feature. The phone is only 7.6mm thick but has a 4,000mAh cell, significantly larger than those of the Galaxy S9+ or iPhone X … Draining it in a day is a sign you use your phone too much.”

The Bad

“Depending on your taste, [the Twilight gradient color] may look like the finish of a supercar, or the background to a badly Photoshopped children’s party invitation.”

“The Huawei P20 Pro is also not the most powerful phone around. Its Kirin 970 CPU is not as quick as the iPhone X’s A11 Bionic or Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845.”

“Outside of the camera there’s little to thrill, but frankly this is a problem facing all high-end phone makers at present.”

The Huawei P20 Pro, at right, and smaller P20.The Huawei P20 Pro, at right, and smaller P20.

Pocket-lint

“Huawei has arguably produced the best phone of 2018 in the P20 Pro,” says Pocket-lint’s Mike Lowe, who praised nearly every facet of Huawei’s latest effort, from the aforementioned cameras to the sound quality and design. Software gremlins aside, Lowe believes Huawei not only improved upon last year’s P10, but surpassed phones from Samsung and Google in a multitude of areas.

The Good

“Kudos where it's due, the P20 Pro has its own look and feel, while simultaneously taking many of the best bits from the competition and successfully adapting them for the better.”

“That's the most important take away about this phone: it's fast, buttery smooth, apps load quick and, since we've started to use it, the EMUI 8.1 software hasn't glitched out as much as previous iterations.”

“The battery capacity is a whopping 4000mAh (where does it all squeeze in?), which puts it on par with the Mate 10. Only, in the P20 Pro it seems to last longer. It really does go on and on, almost irrelevant of which apps you throw its way.”

The Bad

“Huawei's Face Unlock is so poor, it's really not a patch on Apple's equivalent in our experience.”

“Why there's no wireless charging in a glass design is an oddity (the Porsche Design RS version has it).”

Image Credit: Adam Ismail/Tom's Guide