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Gadgets: Almost Famous

Huawei's flagship phone P20 Pro makes a solid attempt at challenging the Samsung-Apple duopoly

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For a company with the kind of global telecom reach and the sheer number of phones it sells in its home country, Huawei’s remained pretsty much of an underdog in India, known more for its budget sub-brand Honor than for phones sporting its own flower-shaped logo. The P20 Pro looks to be the flagship that will change that – it is unequivocally stylish, offers the latest hardware and AI tricks, and sports a triple-camera setup that  is quite something else. It is also priced in direct competition (and confrontation) with Samsung’s S9+ and Google’s Pixel 2 XL, so let us see how it fares.

Talk about first impressions! The P20 Pro’s eye-catching design, with its glass-and-metal design and glossy rear, has premium written all over it, and the high capacity battery gives it a satisfying sense of density that is matched only by the iPhone X. It is a looker, all right. But watch out for the fingerprints! The fingerprint scanner on the front gives the otherwise bezel-free phone a bit of a chin, but one could be conflicted about the notch, even though it is smaller than the one on the X. It is a copout for a flagship that looks as distinctive as the P20 Pro does, but what matters worse is the buggy software support for the notch. Well, at least you can turn the notch off by changing the status bar to black, which with the OLED panel Huawei has used, manages to hide the notch quite well.

Turn it around, and you see the highlight of the P20 Pro – its three Leica-branded rear cameras. Overkill? Gimmick? Not at all, each sensor fulfils a different purpose, with the 8MP sensor giving you the 3X zoom for added reach, the 20MP monochrome sensor adding more detail to each shot and the 40MP main sensor combining the image information from four pixels into one, giving you cleaner, sharper images at a perfectly acceptable 10MP resolution. That large 1/1.7-inch main sensor is more than double the size of what you get on the S9/iPhone X, which results in jaw-droppingly impressive low-light performance. Photos shot in all manner of lighting were crisp and detailed, and the P20 Pro nailed the exposure pretty much every time. Huawei’s AI picks the perfect scene mode automatically depending on what is in the frame, or you could switch to Pro mode and have complete control – either way, the camera will delight the user on more than a consistent basis.

The video recording wasn’t as downright impressive, lacking image stabilisation at 4K, and a super-slow-motion 960fps mode that is too fidgety to get right easily.

Now, since this is Huawei’s flagship, it packs in the latest Kirin 970 processor with 6GB of memory and 128GB of storage, which hums along nicely for the most part but sees occasional UI lags and hiccups under heavy gaming. Battery life is impressive as well. And while the 6.1-inch screen is vivid and bright, it lacks the quad HD+ resolution and HDR support one would expect at this price point. Likewise, for wireless charging, which is an odd exclusion.  

The P20 Pro makes a solid attempt at challenging the Samsung-Apple duopoly – getting the camera this right is a key part of the equation – but ultimately stops just short of flagship greatness to earn an unqualified recommendation.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Magazine 12 May 2018 gadgets & gizmos huawei

Tushar Kanwar

The author is Technology Columnist and Program Manager in Bengaluru, India

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