Impressions of the with the most powerful camera among modern smartphones.
The premiere of the P20 Pro almost passed me by. It seems that at that time I was in China at the premiere of Xiaomi’s flagship, and we did not even cover the novelty of Huawei by mentioning the P20 among the smartphones that followed the recent fashion for “bangs”.
Personally, I have a certain prejudice: Huawei smartphones have never surprised me, and I can not name any model I remember. Because of this, for many years in my understanding, Huawei was not a top brand, although on a trip to Barcelona on MWC 2018 I saw enough of the company’s stand – it was probably almost more than Samsung, which occupied the most gigantic area in general exhibition hall.
At MWC, Huawei employees talked about their smartphones quite uninteresting (there was a feeling that they themselves do not understand what the chips are in one or other models), and P20 Pro has not been announced yet. When he was still shown to the public, I even noticed with peripheral eyes the increased interest: I remember how the journalist of “Russia-24” Pavel Kushelev shared photos on which the incredible quality of shooting under difficult conditions was visible to the unaided eye.
We do not have direct contact with Huawei, and we did not immediately have a chance to try the novelty in the business. So when the MTS came up with a proposal to make an honest review for them, I gladly agreed. I share my impressions after three weeks with P20 Pro.
The camera is the most important thing
We must admit at once that all the attention that P20 Pro attracts is explained by the first of its kind system of three cameras from Leica. Previously, no one did this among smartphone manufacturers, although the expectations were already there.
Back in 2015, we wrote about how Apple bought an Israeli start-up LinX for $ 20 million, which was developing a quad-module camera for the smartphone. The main idea of such a module was to use data from several different characteristics of cameras to process and combine them programmatically to improve the quality of the resulting image – without increasing the thickness of the smartphone due to a larger sensor. Even then I expected that soon Apple would make a revolution in the mobile photography market – however, as is known, so far the company has released models with only a dual camera.
Huawei was the first to succeed that neither Apple, nor Samsung has succeeded so far – and this is really cool. The triple camera pushed the P20 Pro to the forefront of mobile photography.
The essence of innovation is simple: the triple module improves the quality of images and gives new modes and functions. But it is rather complicated. The main camera (located in the center) with a wide-angle lens has a maximum resolution of 40Mp images, but by default it shoots at 10Mp – which is not surprising, but at a lower resolution pictures are better. For those interested in GSMArena, there is a detailed explanation in English, why: briefly, although the P20 Pro matrix is larger than the iPhone X and Galaxy S9, but dividing the image by 40 million points (rather than 12 million) makes these points very small. Less pixels – less light is necessary for each of them – more probability of artifacts in the image – worse quality. But in the shooting mode with a resolution of 10 megapixels, the P20 Pro data is written to the matrix slightly differently, which allows you to immediately get a picture at a small and long exposure and combine them into HDR. Other smartphones for HDR have to take two pictures one after another – this carries the risk that the image is smeared. In P20 Pro this does not happen.
The rejection of 40 megapixels in favor of 10 megapixel does not mean lack of attention to detail: if necessary, you can use “optical zoom”. Above the main camera is an auxiliary telephoto with a telephoto lens: it has a resolution of only 8 Mp, but three times the focal length, so switching from the first to the second camera works like a threefold zoom. You can turn on and five times, but the image will be worse than the quality, although the picture will be modified by algorithms, including the data obtained from the first and third cameras. Usually the problem of a powerful zoom is that you can not shoot a trembling, elongated hand – the image is too smeared, you need a tripod. P20 Pro somehow manages to cope: my picture was not smeared, even in poor light conditions, and I did not notice a significant difference between the photos,
Well, the most mysterious thing is why do you need a third camera? Her pictures have a resolution of 20 megapixels, but the point is not this: she shoots in monochrome. First, the lack of the need to record color data allows it to increase the clarity of the image (you can read a little more from TechRadar ). Secondly, it has a mode for shooting truly monochrome images (not translated from color to monochrome with concomitant distortions): this is a special genre of photography art, for which Leica even produces special cameras .
As a result, P20 Pro – an absolute record in the rating of the profile portal DxOMark, 109 points for the camera as a whole and 114 points for shooting the photo. For comparison, iPhone X received a photo for 101 points , Galaxy S9 Plus – 104 points . And one more record moment: the maximum claimed sensitivity of the camera P20 Pro (ISO) – 102400, which makes it possible to take pictures in any light (but with an obvious drop in quality). However, manually on the P20 Pro you can set only ISO 3200 (and only 800 on the Galaxy S9).
Camera in reality
Having read articles of specialized publications about the P20 Pro before I got into my hands, I formed the expectation that she really removes the outstanding in the twilight and darkness. At first, it seemed to me until I compared it directly to the iPhone X and Galaxy S9. As it turned out, the P20 Pro camera shoots better, but not in all cases. I remember two indicative.
At the very beginning of the testing, I tried to remove a complex shot: a bright double lamp in a poorly lit courtyard against the background of burning windows of apartments. I had only the iPhone X and P20 Pro with me: the first one did poorly (fuzzy line, halo around the lamps, darkness), the second one is excellent (clearly, richly, everything is visible), if not for the clever algorithm that made red divorces in the middle of the dark the sky.
Later, I sat at home, poked around in the settings of the camera and decided to remove the first thing that came to hand – a TV with a prefix. He took a picture, was satisfied with the quality, and then went for Galaxy S9 and iPhone X to make similar and compare. It turned out that when lighting an average level for some reason, the P20 Pro camera hides details where the iPhone X and Galaxy S9 see them in the shadows. In the S9 and X picture, the details are visible at the console located in the shadow (under the table), but the P20 Pro for some reason did not notice them (I took several pictures – the effect is the same), although the overall impression of the resulting photo in his case was better .
Later I checked this effect on other objects, and everywhere the P20 Pro for some reason concealed these details – although in general the picture from this seemed more aesthetic. There was another extreme: in total darkness he twisted the sensitivity to a maximum, which caused more artifacts to appear on the photo than on similar images of the iPhone X and Galaxy S9.
But in conditions of good illumination, the P20 Pro pictures really impressed me. Although the artificial intelligence built into the camera was stubbornly trying to unscrew for the maximum the green saturation where it saw the foliage and the blue where the sky saw, the final pictures turned out to be excellent. I took all three smartphones for a walk in the Pokrovskoye-Streshnevo park, and subjectively I liked what the P20 Pro did: the details were clearer, the colors were more expressive.
Especially noticeable work with the light was in the picture from the yacht club at the “Water Stadium”, where the bright sun beat into the surface of the water, but the foliage remained in the shade.
The P20 Pro also has several shooting modes that I have not seen before. For example, “Light” is a work with a long exposure: there are settings for shooting headlights of passing cars, drawing graffiti with the help of a flash of the second smartphone, shooting of bright stars in the cloudless night sky or running water. The idea is OK, but it all depends on the need to use a tripod or to rest your smartphone in something immobile. On the same tab with additional modes are shooting panoramas, slo-mo at a speed of 960 frames per second, night shooting and monochrome – in general, it’s convenient that all the little-used ones are hidden away.
The last thing you want to talk about is shooting a video and selfie. The front camera is good (24 MP), but, perhaps, nothing particularly outstanding, especially if you shoot a video. The quality of the rollers shot on the triple camera is excellent – but the stabilization is lame, which is especially noticeable if you remove two identical videos on the P20 Pro and on the iPhone X.
The camera is the main difference between the P20 Pro and all other smartphones, but not the only thing that makes it the flagship. It has several unusual design solutions that work well together with the rest of the features and make the P20 Pro an excellent basic smartphone.
Externally, the P20 Pro resembles the iPhone X, primarily due to the cut-out of the screen, the metal frame of the case and the grilles for the speaker and microphone – but the feeling that Huawei tried to copy Apple, almost does not remain. Although its body is glass, like the iPhone X, its coloring leaves a completely different impression. Especially highlighted is the color called “Twilight”, where the green gradient turns into a lilac – many journalists noted that it looks very sexy and unusual – but even the ordinary blue body of the P20 Pro looks interesting, shimmering in shades and playing in the sun.
I would never have thought, but the P20 Pro managed to catch me by simply making a beautiful, high-quality and unusual case.
In general, I’m a supporter of wearing smartphones in cases, because since manufacturers began to massively switch to the use of glass, smartphones began to beat more often – and this threatens to waste tens of thousands of rubles with each repair. But there are people who do not wear cases in principle, and P20 Pro will help here stand out among other smartphones in classic colors. One thing is bad: the logo and Leica are hanging on the case, and vertically, absolutely unnecessary marketing nonsense.
But there is a serious problem with the case: the glass is very slippery, and considering that the P20 Pro camera is very bulging (more than the iPhone X), the smartphone rests on the surface at a significant angle – this increases the risk that it slips into the very an unpleasant moment. I happened to experience this: I put the P20 Pro on a rectangular border in the bathroom and did not notice how after two seconds it began to slip. The smartphone hit the tile, though, the fall was not high (40 centimeters), and he survived it without getting a single scratch. Since then, I’ve put it just a screen down.
There are other details that I liked. Unlike the iPhone X and Galaxy S9, the P20 Pro has only two buttons on the sides – and both on the right side of the screen: it’s turning off and swinging the volume. This is a nice conciseness in the design, and keeping the smartphone with one hand is much easier – nothing hinders: in the case of S9 I, for example, constantly touch the Bixby button or the volume swing, which is annoying.
What to do with the cut-out
When the first information about the cut-out in the iPhone X appeared in 2017, my colleague Vadim Elistratov suggested that the “ears” that show the battery charge level, Wi-Fi and other icons, will not have a color background, but black – and will not actually look like “ears”. But Apple decided otherwise and even made them their marketing chip – thanks to the cutout the iPhone X could be accurately distinguished among the mass of other smartphones. Until the cutout did not copy everything to anyone not laziness.
Obviously, the cutout on the P20 Pro is a tribute to fashion. Nothing hindered Huawei from attempting to create a “frameless” display, all the more so because there is no scaffold here: underneath the screen there is still a giant black bar due to the need to place the Home button with a fingerprint sensor. Because of it, the “ears” of the cut look ridiculous. In addition, over the black bar by default is a number of virtual buttons Android – “Multitasking”, “Home”, “Back” – and because of this, the attempt to add space from above looks pretty pathetic.
But there is good news: the cutout can be turned off, more precisely, make the background of the “ears” black, so that the screen will get a normal rectangular shape. You can disable a number of virtual buttons by passing their functions to the physical button with the sensor (one click – “Back”, press and hold – “Home”, svayp left or right – “Multitasking”). So a screen with a diagonal of 6.1 inches (if counted with “ears”) is revealed much better, there is no marketing compromise, and all notifications are beautifully displayed at the top on a black background as if they were taken out of the screen – thanks, AMOLED technology.
However, it is not easy to find the option to disable the cutout in the settings, and the company itself tries not to talk about it. I generally found out about this only thanks to the MKBHD review , but Marcus Brownley did not say exactly how the cutout is turned off, and I had to poke around in quite intricate settings for 15 minutes to do it. For those who go my way, save time: “Settings” → “Screen” → “Controller” → “Hide controller”. By the way about MKBHD: Brownlee noted that although the P20 Pro will not be officially sold in the US, it still was very interesting to make a review – because of the camera.
Face detection vs. fingerprint sensor
Yes, the P20 Pro also has the function of unlocking the screen face, like that of Samsung and Apple, but there is not much emphasis on it. As it usually happens on Android, this method of locking is not enabled by default, but it is configured quickly and works well. I turned it on immediately, as soon as I got the device for the test, but at first the function annoyed me, because after six months with the iPhone X I was used to using it differently.
In iOS, face recognition unlocks the smartphone, but does not open the home screen – you need to go to the svaypu: thanks to this, I first read the received notifications (when the smartphone is locked, their text is hidden), and only then I go to the list of applications. In P20 Pro, unlocking the face by default opens the home screen, and notifications must be opened separately. I changed the standard procedure and made sure that I was notified first.
After several days of use, it turned out that the more familiar procedure for me on EMUI (the standard OS in Huawei smartphones) is almost useless: the text of notifications there is severely cut off, and even on svayp it is impossible to read them whole. This is inconvenient, but I must say that on other versions of Android (MIUI in Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s and Samsung Experience in Galaxy S9) the problem is similar.
Face recognition on P20 Pro works perfectly – in the sense that I did not have situations when the phone did not recognize me, even in total darkness. On the other hand, now in Moscow, such weather, that I have not yet worn scarves, hats and glasses – perhaps all the problem cases are ahead. But the main disadvantage of face recognition is that it works slower than a fingerprint sensor: you need to get your smartphone out of your pocket and look at it, and then use it. With the sensor, the smartphone can be unlocked already when you just got it out of your pocket and raise your hand up.
But since the sensor on the P20 Pro is in front, not behind, the smartphone has to be intercepted in the hand to read the thumbprint – it’s too big for the body. This is inconvenient, but in any case, the choice is good: in gloves, the sensor will be useless, but on it I immediately go to the application screen, so face recognition and a fingerprint sensor for different wakeup scenarios of the smartphone.
To all other things, it’s just an excellent flagship
Even if you do not take into account the fact that the P20 Pro has an outstanding camera, an unusual case, an excellent and huge screen, it’s all good in terms of stuffing. If it were not for the eight-core Kirin 970 processor, the photos were not so beautiful and would not be processed so quickly.
Its 4000 mAh batteries last for more than 24 hours. I did not measure the time of work on purpose, but I noticed a break in the template. Using iPhones and other smartphones on Android, I have not left home for many years without an external battery, and here I even never took a USB-C cable with me – and I never got into a situation where the P20 Pro would be vital must be recharged during the day.
There are no annoying features in EMUI, except for two: I have very much slowed down the animation of notifications (maybe the problem is how many chats in Telegram they always send me), and in the Russian version of the P20 Pro there is preinstalled any junk like applications ” Sberbank “, Booking.com and some games (all of which can be immediately taken down).
It’s really an excellent flagship on Android, which completely suited me – and most importantly, managed to surprise. Especially if you take into account the price of the flagships of other manufacturers, low despite a clear technological breakthrough.