Huawei P20 Pro Review

Dan O’Neill | Apr 27, 2018


After a year with the OnePlus 5, I was close to the end of my contract with Vodafone. I wasn’t over the moon with my experience with them so decided to make the move to Three. Three had a deal with the Huawei P20 Pro, with a free set of wireless headphones - the Bose QC35 II (which I still haven’t received), so I decided to make the move. I’ve been using the phone as my primary device for 2 weeks now.

Notch

At first, the most distinctive thing about the phone was the screen notch at the front. Now after two weeks, I don’t even notice it. Except for when some app weirdly doesn’t support it all the time (Instagram Stories, I’m looking at you!). In the display settings, there are some configuration settings. These help with setting the display to stretch all the way to the top or to keep that area for notifications and system icons. This is a handy feature but I like the notch so keep that turned off.

Headphone port

One of the things that held me back from other phones recently was the lack of headphone port. I have a long enough commute and love my current headphones, Audio Technica’s ATH-M40x. I’m not a massive fan of having to charge things all the time (one of the reasons I don’t have a smartwatch) and I’m happy with my current headphones. So the switch to the P20 Pro held quite a little trepidation for me. Granted, the free Bose wireless headphones made the decision a little easier. Since I don’t have them yet, though, I’ve had to live with either the cheap included USB-c headphones or use the included USB-c to 3.5mm dongle.

The dongle itself is small and was a little too brittle looking for me. I can imagine the constant bending would lead to the cable splitting but it didn’t last long enough for me to find out. One of my cats decided to play with the end of my headphones and the soft plastic was too nice so he decided to sink his teeth in. Now only one headphone works when used - so straight into the bin.

So now I’m relegated to the cheap headset that comes with the phone and they are barely usable. I can hear everything else going on around me, so they are useless on a bus or train. Having used the headset for a few calls though it works well for that. No-one seemed to have any trouble hearing me.

So even when the Bose headphones arrive I’ll still pick up another USB-c to 3.5mm dongle online so that I can continue to use my current headphones.

Photography

The other thing that stands out visually on the exterior of the phone is the 3 camera setup. I’m no professional, but I’m enjoying the pictures the P20 Pro is producing for me. My cats have gotten a tonne of likes on Instagram and in the end, that’s all that matters right?

I also like the handy little aids the camera app gives you. For example, there’s a visual guide when you’re take a landscape photo telling you when its level. The autofocus seems to do an amazing job of finding the important item in the shot too. Again, you can almost see it work on the screen.

The zoom - normally a digital mess - is nice too. I’ve never felt like I’m losing any detail - even at 5x. Its so easy to switch between 1x, 3x, and 5x. A simple tap and you’re there. Plus there’s a nice little feature if you’re taking a close-up of an object it will switch to a 2x zoom automatically.

Switching between modes is very easy. The camera’s “A.I.” recognition is good at switching things around to help you get the best picture. I’m not sure how much better it is than other cameras and their “Auto” mode. But its weirdly reassuring to see the camera recognise that it’s taking a picture of a cat or whatever. I have noticed that it does seem to apply a colour profile to certain shots. I like this as it obviously makes me look like a better photographer than I am - which, again, is the whole point right?

EMUI and software

Apart from the lack of headphone jack, for me, the biggest other change when moving from the OnePlus 5 to the P20 Pro is the switch to a much more customized version of Android. Now, this was not a shock for me, as my phone before the OnePlus was the Huawei P9. So I knew what I was getting into. This new version, though - 8.1.0 - is much pared back. I like some of the features it adds, but sometimes the visuals aren’t quite as polished. But it’s very usable, though I replaced the launcher with Evie straight away.

My one big gripe is the forced inclusion of Swiftkey as a system app. I do not like the Swiftkey keyboard, but can’t remove it. I use Gboard so any time the virtual keyboard appears on screen, I’m stuck with a stupid Android System notification telling me to “Select input method”. Although it shouldn’t, this really bothers me.

Conclusion

So I’m in love with this phone so far. The battery goes for days, the camera is special and the software gets out of my way. Are there some annoyances? Sure, but they seem to be the same annoyances that everyone else has now too. There is one thing on the horizon that I’m interested in though - The OnePlus 6. Am I going to regret pulling the trigger on the P20 Pro too early? We’ll find out in May.

Got something to add, or something to complain about? Contact me on Twitter: @dan_oneill or email me dan.oneill@live.ie

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