The top-end Huawei Mate series in back for 2018 - and in more forms than ever before. Joining the already-released Mate 20 Lite will be the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro. So how do they differ and does it make sense for Huawei to range such a variety of phones within this series?

Design

  • Mate 20 is the largest of the three, the Lite in the middle, the Mate 20 Pro being the smallest footprint of all
  • Mate 20 & Mate 20 Lite: 3.5mm headphone jack / Mate 20 Pro: No headphone jack (USB-C headphones included)
  • Mate 20 Pro: In-screen fingerprint scanner / Mate 20 & Mate 20 Lite: Rear-positioned fingerprint scanner
  • Mate 20 Pro & Mate 20: Pink Gold, Midnight Blue, Emerald Green, Twilight, Black / Mate 20 Lite: Sapphire Blue, Black

The Mate 20 Lite launched in the first week of September 2018, as a preface to the series. It set out the stall for the approximate footprint of the three phones' designs. However, the Mate 20 Pro, with its curved glass edges on every side and slightly smaller screen, is actually the smallest device of the lot. The Mate 20 is the biggest, on account of its wider form and possessing the biggest screen of the bunch.

 

The Mate 20 and Mate 20 Lite both use rear-positioned circular fingerprint scanners. The Mate 20 Pro is the only model of the three to ape its Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS cousin with an in-screen fingerprint scanner. However, this technology has been vastly improved in the Huawei proper - it's much quicker and reliable, thanks to a far more thorough sign-up system, and can be used to sign into apps where it couldn't previously. 

All three phones opt for a glass-heavy design, as is on trend, with the Mate 20 Pro and Mate 20 models offering what Huawei calls 'Hyper Optical Pattern' in its green and blue finishes - this is like a laser-etched pattern, which adds grip, a different visual dynamic and supposedly helps avoid fingerprint smears (it fails on this account, as we found when handling the devices - it's actually the darker colours that help hide such smears).

You won't find a 3.5mm headphone jack in the Pro, while both other models feature this for wired headphones.

Display

  • Mate 20 Pro: 6.39in OLED display with curved glass edges, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 3120 x 1440 resolution, full notch
  • Mate 20: 6.53in LCD display, 18.7:9 aspect ratio, 2244 x 1080 resolution, 'dewdrop' notch
  • Mate 20 Lite: 6.3in LCD display, 18.5:9 aspect ratio, 2340 x 1080 resolution, notch

The Mate 20's screen is notably larger due to its aspect ratio: the extra width gives the phone a much wider span than the other two. It has to smallest notch, thought, as this houses the least front-facing tech - hence Huawei opting for the 'dewdrop' design here.

The most impressive screen of the bunch is the Mate 20 Pro's OLED panel. It's got curved glass to every edge - including on the rear, so it's fully symmetrical - the highest resolution of the bunch, while its size feels perfect in the hand (the Mate 20 is too wide, the Pro is spot on). It has the biggest notch of the three, though, on account of its variety of sensors - 24MP RGB camera, dot projector, proximity sensor, illuminator, and infrared camera - used for a 3D face unlock (the other two devices offer face unlock, but it's less sophisticated).

Specs

  • Mate 20 Pro & Mate 20: Kirin 980 octa-core processor (2x 2.6GHz, 2x 1.92GHz, 4x 1.8GHz)
  • Mate 20 Lite: Kirin 710 processor (4x 2.2GHz & 4x 1.7GHz)

In terms of power there's no difference between Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro: both get the top-spec Kirin 980 chipset, which uses a mixture of 'big, medium, little' processing cores and dual neural processing units (NPU) to divide tasks most appropriately to help reserve power. Huawei claims it's 20 per cent faster and 40 per cent more efficient than the previous Mate 10 Pro setup.

The Mate 20 Lite, as its name suggests, goes lighter, with a Kirin 710 processor. As we've said in our review of the phone, this chipset doesn't quite cut the mustard, with limitations to the power on tap.

Battery

  • Mate 20 Pro: 4200mAh / Mate 20: 4000mAh / Mate 20 Lite: 3750mAh
  • Mate 20 Pro and Mate 20: Qi wireless charging / Mate 20: no wireless
  • Mate 20 Pro only: 40W fast-charging

As we confirmed in our Mate 20 Pro battery story, the top-end phone is the one with the biggest battery capacity. Indeed, at 4200mAh it's the most capacious battery to ever appear in a Mate device. Those extra milliamps ought to help counter the additional resolution available.

The Mate 20 sticks with the same battery as per the Mate 10, at 4000mAh. The Lite is a little less, but as we found in our review of the device it's still ultra long-lasting.

All three Mate devices have glass finishes. For the Mate 20 and Pro this opens the door to Qi wireless charging. There's even a feature which permits other Qi devices to charge directly from the Huawei device, if the option to share power is selected within settings - it's just a case of putting devices back-to-back (we tested it out with an iPhone and it works just fine, although there's no word on how fast this method is).

Fast-charging is a staple for all three Mate devices, but the Pro amps things up by offering 40W charging - meaning from dead it can charge to 70 per cent in just 30 minutes. That's crazy fast - only the 50W Super VOOC charger of the Lamborghini Oppo Find X can surpass it at present.

Cameras

  • Mate 20 Pro & Mate 20: Triple rear Leica cameras (all colour, no mono) and single front-facing camera
  • Mate 20 Pro: 40MP wide-angle f/1.8, 20MP ultrawide-angle f/2.2, 8MP tele f/2.4
  • Mate 20: 12MP wide-angle f/1.8, 16MP ultrawide-angle f/2.2, 8MP tele f/2.4
  • Mate 20 Pro & Mate 20: Super macro mode (2.5cm from lens focus)
  • Mate 20 Lite: Dual rear cameras and dual front-facing cameras
  • Mate 20 Lite: 20MP f/1.8; 2MP depth sensor
  • All devices: AI (artificial intelligence) mode
  • Mate 20 Pro & Mate 20: 24MP front-facing camera / Mate 20 Lite: 8MP front-facing camera

In the camera department the Lite differs dramatically from the other two models, given its dual rear cameras. It's a step behind the P20 Pro in this regard too.

The Mate 20 and Pro have a wholly new Leica camera setup, comprising three all-colour sensors to the rear in wide, ultra-wide and telephoto forms. Yep, the whole idea of the monochrome sensor has been banished this time around, with Huawei claiming the main sensor delivers more than enough information. We'll just have to wait and see what the results are like to see if it's a winner or not.

The pinch-to-zoom technique now offers between 0.6x and 5x zoom as standard, with that wider-angle option being the boldest new feature. Using AI (artificial intelligence) the camera can also auto-select between lenses when it thinks appropriate: in Super Macro mode, for example, the camera auto recognises it's very close to a subject (up to 2.5cm) and automatically deploys the super-wide lens as this can focus.

All three devices offer Master AI, where the camera can auto-detect scene types and adjust its settings accordingly. In the Lite, however, there's not the latest software so it doesn't have the same wide range of features as the Mate 20 and Pro (more on that below).

Software

  • Mate 20 Pro and Mate 20: EMUI 9.0 at launch
  • Mate 20 Lite: EMUI 8.2 (9.0 upgrade to come)

The Mate 20 and Pro launch with EMUI 9.0 (built over Android Pie 9.0), which adds some extra features, while the Mate 20 Lite currently runs on EMUI 8.2 (update to 9.0 pending). 

HiTouch, which is a bit like Google Lens, allows for a double thumb press-and-hold on the screen to generate a query which, based on the image captured, will be contextually answered.

There's also HiVision, within the camera app or search bar, which uses the camera to auto recognise landmarks, artworks, calorie content in food, and access shopping. Microsoft's Translate is also built into HiVision, which is accessed via the Camera app.

Desktop mode on a connected PC now doesn't require a tethered cable connection, just a MirrorCast capable device.

Conclusion

 

The Mate 10 Pro was one of our favourite flagship phones, so the Mate 20 Pro has big boots to fill. And it's this top-end device that fully succeeds in doing just that. Its form is a visual delight - although it looks rather like the Samsung Galaxy S9+ - while the array of power, features and longevity ought to see this handset thrive. There are only a couple of blips: the square arrangement on the rear containing the cameras is ugly; while the artificial intelligence in the camera can be overkill.

The Pro also outshines the step-down Mate 20 in almost every department, which brings into question whether there's still the need for the wider form-factor device. We suspect, like with the Mate 10, that this handset will be harder to locate in the UK and only appear in select EU markets.

As we've made clear with our Mate 20 Lite review, the bottom-end phone doesn't earn its place in this supposedly premier line-up due to its performance. But ignore that bump in the roadmap, look to the impressive Pro model and we think Huawei has a potential smash hit on its hands.

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