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HUAWEI P20, P20 Pro, and Porsche Design Mate RS announced: The ultimate camera phones?

HUAWEI P20 and P20 Pro feature powerful cameras, modern designs, and dual-color gradient paint schemes like we’ve never seen before.

Published onMarch 27, 2018

Earlier today Xiaomi launched the iterative, but exciting Mi Mix 2S. Now it’s time for another giant out of China to reveal its latest devices, and they are mighty impressive.

The HUAWEI P20 and HUAWEI P20 Pro shape up to be the ultimate camera smartphones, combining a panoply of hardware and software features with a dash of artificial intelligence. The P20 Pro comes with three cameras on the back, potentially setting in motion a new arms race in the Android ecosystem. On top of that, the P20 and P20 Pro feature modern designs, notched displays, and dual-color gradient paint schemes like we’ve never seen before.

Read our HUAWEI P20 and HUAWEI P20 Pro hands-on: Holding nothing back

Here’s what you need to know about the HUAWEI P20 and HUAWEI P20 Pro.

“Woah, what color is that?”

It’s a question you’ll probably hear often if you pick up the HUAWEI P20 or P20 Pro. The answer is…well, “Twilight.” HUAWEI had to invent a name for this color scheme, which combines blue and purple into a very smooth gradient. Twilight is the most striking color option, but you can also pick from another gradient scheme called Pink Gold, as well as the more conventional black, midnight blue, and champagne gold.

HUAWEI had to invent a name for this color scheme, which combines blue and purple into a very smooth gradient.

The gradients look superb in real life, with every movement creating subtle changes in the colors of the device. Depending on the angle you look at it from, the phone will appear either a cool blue or a luscious purple – in any case, this is the option you will want if you’re looking for a phone that stands out.

Modern design

The HUAWEI P20 and P20 Pro definitely look trendy, down to the notch and the minimal bezels up front, and the vertically aligned cameras on the back.

Smooth curves and the glass back make for a phone that is really comfortable to hold. We have to commend HUAWEI for the attention to detail, which is visible on the back of the phone that takes cues from point-and-shoot cameras. All the design elements – the camera module, the Leica-branded label and a simple HUAWEI logo are vertically aligned on the left side of the phone, leaving the back clear for the striking color scheme.

We have to commend HUAWEI for the attention to detail.

Yes, there’s a notch

The notch is 2018’s most controversial feature, the first thing everyone will ask about. Let’s get it out of the way right now – the P20 and P20 Pro feature rather smallish notches at the top of their displays, which house the earpiece and the front facing camera.

Whether you like it or not, whether you think Android OEMs copied it from Apple or the other way around, it’s hard to argue with a feature that makes it possible to eliminate bezels almost entirely. But if you hate it, HUAWEI added a software setting that promises to camouflage the notch by darkening the screen around it. It goes against the idea of having a notch in the first place, but better than nothing.

The specs are impressive too

The display is perhaps the only area where the P20 and P20 Pro lag behind the competition, though many users won’t notice or care. The reason is the display resolution is Full HD+, as opposed to the more established Quad HD+ of other recent flagships.

The rest of the specs are top of the line, from the Kirin 970 processor (a 10-nm design with dedicated AI silicon) to the storage (128GB) and the battery size – 3,400mAh on the P20, and 4,000mAh on the P20 Pro. One thing to keep in mind is that the displays use different technologies – LCD on the 5.8-inch P20 and OLED on the 6.1-inch P20 Pro.

Without a doubt, the most impressive specs are in the camera department – more about that below.

The camera comes with everything you may want

Smartphones have made point-and-shoot cameras obsolete and now they are threatening even the mighty DSLR. The HUAWEI P20 Pro is another step in this direction and it’s a big one.

The P20 Pro comes with three lenses on the back, which work in unison to provide users with the best shot in any scene – or at least they should.

The P20 Pro comes with three lenses on the back, working in unison to provide the best shot.

From top to bottom, you get an 8MP telephoto camera, a 40MP RGB camera, and a 20MP monochrome camera. That’s 68 million pixels if you’re keeping track. If you’re thinking it’s overkill, we wouldn’t blame you. Then again, HUAWEI didn’t just increase resolution for the sake of bigger numbers – the multiple sensors make possible features like a high-quality hybrid 5X zoom, improved low-light sensitivity, portrait mode, 960fps slow motion, and others.

Only the 8MP telephoto lens features optical image stabilization, but HUAWEI claims that its AI-assisted image stabilization can make up for this. Put simply, the phone captures multiple frames for each shot and combines them to make one great shot. This should work for video, but also for long-exposure shots and even without a tripod. According to HUAWEI, the phone can use a 4-second long exposure shot to create an effective ISO rate of 100,000.

The 5X hybrid zoom starts from the 3X optical zoom enabled by the telephoto and RGB sensor and uses the extra detail captured from the 40MP RGB sensor to create a high-quality frame that is magnified at 5X. It’s probably not as good as the pure optical alternative, but still a step ahead what you normally get from digital zoom.

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The selfie camera also sounds impressive – 24MP. All the hardware (front and rear) is controlled by HUAWEI’s AI-enabled camera app, which should select the best settings depending on the scene. In our brief testing, we found that the app was able to switch pretty quickly between scenes like portraits and food. But if you’re the kind of user that loves to mess with the settings, you can easily do just that.

It’s not cheap, that’s for sure

All that camera hardware comes at a price. The HUAWEI P20 will be sold in Europe for 650 euro (around $800), with the release date and availability to be announced soon.

The more powerful HUAWEI P20 Pro will cost 900 euro (around $1100). Even accounting for the relatively high prices in the EU, that’s a pretty price to pay for a phone, though not one that stands out these days.

That’s a pretty price to pay for a phone...

We’ll update this post with more availability details as they are announced.

HUAWEI P20 Pro and notch.

There’s also a Porsche design variant with in-screen fingerprint scanner

The HUAWEI Mate RS Porsche Design was also announced alongside the P20 family. Other than the obvious design changes, the Mate RS is nearly identical internally to the P20 Pro. That said, it’s not without a few surprises.

First, and more important, is the inclusion on an in-screen fingerprint sensor, similar to what we’ve seen from vivo. Second, the display is 6-inches and has a resolution of 2880 x 1440. Finally, there’s a bump up to as high as 512GB storage.

The Porsche Edition HUAWEI Mate RS will sell for 1695 euro ($2100) for the 256GB model, or 2095 euro ($2600) for the 512GB model. Yeah, it’s hella expensive.

More HUAWEI P20 and P20 Pro coverage

Check out our other HUAWEI P20 and P20 Pro coverage, and stay tuned as we bring you more details!

What do you think of the new HUAWEI P20 and P20 Pro? Let us know in the comments!

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