Back in 2013, Huawei announced the first Mate series flagship known as the Huawei Ascend Mate during the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) event held in Las Vegas.
It was a highly successful launch which put the device under the spotlight as not just the world’s largest smartphone at that point of time, but also one of the world’s most advanced smartphone.
With its overwhelming demand in the domestic market, the Huawei Mate series eventually became an annual flagship phone which everyone looks forward to during the second-halve of the year.
Although the toughening trade ban has inevitably affected Huawei in some aspects, but that doesn’t stops the company from their ongoing efforts to innovate and develop the best mobile technologies for its users.
Despite all the unpredictability engulfing the smartphone giant, Huawei has forged ahead with their respectable tenacity by launching the highly anticipated Mate 40 series smartphones as scheduled.
This time round, the company is back stronger than ever with an even more powerful camera system and a leading mobile processor that’s ahead of any other Android-based flagship phones in terms of benchmarking scores.
On top of all the powerful hardware, the Huawei Mate 40 series smartphones are also the first to be launched with the latest EMUI 11 based on a matured Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) ecosystem which is ultra-intuitive and feature-rich.
Although critics have been vocal regarding the lack of Google services, but honestly, the new EMUI 11 (Review) has pretty much everything you need for a smooth and enriching user experience.
Over a short span of just one year, Huawei had already developed a suite of in-house applications to complement the lack of Google services. For instance, there’s AppGallery to replace the Play store, Petal Search that takes the role of Google Search, as well as Petal Map (in Beta) which will take over the Google Map.
While some of these apps are still in their infancy, but they still work like a charm during my one month review of the EMUI 11-based Huawei P40 Pro+, as well as the latest Huawei Mate 40 Pro.
Of course, it may seems pretty awkward for an Android (AOSP) smartphone to run on a different ecosystem from the mainstream Android phones. But think of it this way, changing a smartphone from other OEMs to Huawei is actually akin to switching from Apple to Android and vice versa.
It may seems confusing at the start, but you’ll quickly get a hang of it within a week or so. Furthermore, I would consider the switch from GMS to HMS less drastic than switch from Apple to Android or the other way round.
With the view that Huawei now has a well-functioning and reliable software, let’s find out in the following Huawei Mate 40 Pro review whether this feverishly-anticipated model has everything it takes to be the best flagship phone of 2020.
Design & Handling
As usual, we won’t be expecting any mainstream design on any of the Mate series devices and that’s precisely what sets them apart from other flagship models in the market.
This year, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro impresses with a new “Space Ring” design which arrange its rear cameras in a modernistic fashion that looks incredibly stylish.
It certainly looks more extraordinary than those rectangular camera housing we saw on most flagship phones launched this year including the Huawei P40 Pro+ (Review) which might get boring after some time.
For the Mystic Silver model I’d received, the rear panel has an iridescent sheen that changes colors according to different angles of incident lights – much like a real life chameleon.
Topped with a glass back finish, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro isn’t just pleasing to the eyes, but certainly feels sturdy and premium on hand as well. Further, the dual-curved design of its back panel also improves the overall grip of the device, making it suitable for single-handed use.
Moving to the front, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro greets you with a familiar “waterfall” display which has considerable curves along the two sides. Despite the curves, there isn’t any issues pertaining to visual distortion or false touches that usually accompany device with curved display.
In fact, Huawei had said during the launch event that the company has developed specialize software onboard to eliminate occurrence of accidental touches to bring users a “precise, uncompromised experience”.
Once again, the pill-shape cutout we first saw on the Huawei P40 series smartphones will be making its return to the Mate 40 Pro. Though it took out slight more screen real estate than other devices, but I don’t find it a huge distraction since your left thumb will be covering the area when you’re gaming in landscape orientation.
Diving to the specifics, the front display will be a vibrant OLED panel that brings a smooth 90Hz refresh rate – similar to its P40 Pro and P40 Pro+ counterparts. It has an ultra-sharp 1,344 x 2,772 pixels screen resolution which rhymes well with its OLED panel in bringing an immersive entertainment experience. Most importantly, its advanced display technology also provides accurate color reproduction on all images taken by the device.
Aside from its punchy colors, its front display also did a good job in ensuring the contents on the screen remain visible even directly under the sun. This is definitely an important feature for a camera-centric phone as it allows you to indulge in outdoor photography even on a bright sunny day.
For dust and water resistance, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro is also IP68 certified in this aspect as well. Hence, there’s nothing much to nitpick about its overall build quality.
At the helm, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro is powered by the latest Kirin 9000 chipset developed by the company’s in-house HiSilicon arm. The new chip is based on an octa-core architecture, fabricated under a 5nm process just like the Apple A14 Bionic chips.
Compared to any other mobile chipsets found among all Android flagship phones launched this year, the Kirin 9000 has the highest clocked rate of 3,13GHz which even surpasses the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ SoC found in the ASUS ROG Phone 3 (Review) powerhouse.
Courtesy of its high-performing chipset, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro currently sits at the top as the best performing Android flagship phone on popular benchmarking platform AnTuTu.
Under normal usage, the Kirin 9000 chipset is certainly an overkill. However, its real potential will shine under more complex tasks like real-time graphic intensive gaming or its renowned AI scene recognition when clicking photos. Everything felt so snappy without a single tinge of lag.
Other than its explosive horse power, its also worth noting that the Kirin 9000 chipset also features a built-in 5G modem that will allow you to enjoy the next-generation’s network once it has been officially rolled out in Singapore.
Although I can’t really test this out, but Huawei do claimed that the new Balong 5000 modem accompanying the Kirin 9000 chip has 5x faster upload speed and 2x faster download speed than the competing Snapdragon X55 modem.
In the memory department, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro brings you an ample 8GB RAM which is certainly more than enough for most users. In fact, though the device has 8GB RAM in face value, but the Mate 40 Pro employs a new “memory expansion technology” that actually allows the 8GB RAM to virtually function as 10GB RAM.
This of course, isn’t the first time we see how Huawei optimizes the available hardware on their devices to bring greater efficiency to its users. Previously, Huawei also introduced a new EROFS file system in EMUI 9.1 which utilizes certain compression techniques that saves over 2GB system storage while increasing its random read performance at the same time.
With virtually 10GB of RAM available, the device can easily handle dozens of background apps and browser tabs without having the need to flush them off. On top of that, it also allows users to take full advantage of various multi-taskings toolkits and features including the new “Smart Multi-window” feature in EMUI 11 to name a few.
Without a doubt, the camera system is always the most exciting aspect for all Huawei flagship lines. Over the last couple of years, Huawei’s flagship models from the “P” and “Mate” series have been topping DxOMark each time they made their official debut. The Huawei Mate 40 Pro will not be an exception.
This time round, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro flaunts a revolutionary triple camera setup consisting of a 50 megapixels (f/1.9 aperture) primary shooter, 20 megapixels (f/1.8 aperture) ultra-wide lens, as well as a 12 megapixels (f/3.4 aperture) periscope telephoto lens.
In the default shooting mode, images taken are automatically pixel-binned to produce 12.5 megapixels shots, though a High-Res mode is available for full resolution as well.
Generally, images taken by the Mate 40 Pro’s primary shooter produces some of the best dynamic range and offers great contrast that allow images to appear true to life whether in a well-lit or a dim environment.
The primary shooter also did a splendid job in preserving texture details as seen in the cropped image of “Default Camera Sample #2” above . Other than that, the autofocus and AI scene recognition features can also detect really quickly and accurately to help you achieve your best shot in the shortest time.
For night shots, the Mate 40 Pro also has a dedicated Night mode to improve the exposure and contrasts of the scene which gives the resulting image a nice and natural color profile that’s adorning.
Coming to its ultra-wide shots, the Mate 40 Pro continues to excel in this category as well. Images are as visually appealing as those taken by its primary shooter with no visible drop in dynamic range. Overall, details are also ample and noise level is kept to the bay. More notably, the ultra-wide shots taken by the Mate 40 Pro doesn’t has those “fisheye” effect that we occasionally see on some devices.
As for zooming, there’s a reliable 12 megapixels periscope telephoto camera that’s capable of achieving up to 5x optical zoom, and as much as 50x digital zoom. Since Huawei has long established itself as a market leader in terms of zooming capability, it doesn’t came as a surprise that the Mate 40 Pro is great in this aspect.
Between 1x to 5x zoom factor, image quality is really well maintained with great level of details. Edging towards the 10x zoom factor, image is still highly usable though the color contrast became slightly narrower.
At 20x zoom, I can’t deny that the image quality is still far better than most other images taken by other smartphones at 10x zoom. Although it might not be the kind of photos you want to post on social media, but the amount of details and low noise level are out of the world.
Of course, at the maximum zoom level we don’t expect the image to be usable. However, words or structures within the image can still be easily made out.
Finally, for close-up shots, the Mate 40 Pro has excellent edge detection and produces images with smooth bokeh effect on the background. Aside from that, the subject also looks sharp and realistic.
Rounding up the camera package will be a 13 megapixels selfie camera aided by a dedicated Time-of-Flight sensor for depth information. Whether in the default or portrait shooting mode, image has good facial exposure and details. Likewise, dynamic range is impressive as well.
Battery & Charging
To keep its lights on, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro comes along with a respectable 4,400mAh battery that’s long-lasting. On a typical usage, the battery can easily last you through the day with up to 40% battery remaining.
However, the main spotlight isn’t on its battery life but rather the all-new 66W SuperCharge fast-charging support that accompanies the device. Compared to the last generation’s 40W SuperCharge charging solution found in the Mate 30 and P40 series smartphones, the latest 66W SuperCharge technology is a huge step forward.
It is currently the fastest smartphone charging solution in the local market, which eclipses the 65W SuperVOOC 2.0 fast-charging solution on the OPPO Find X2 Pro (Review). Despite the huge battery capacity, a full charge from 0 to 100% takes only slightly more than 40 minutes.
Other than that, the Mate 40 Pro also arrives with a class-leading 50W wireless charging support which is of course, even faster than most other wired charging solution found on other flagship phones. Similarly, reverse charging is available as well, though its limited to 5W charging rate.
Therefore, Huawei has done it right this time round by recognizing the importance of charging speed for a consumer after sticking to a 40W charging solution for more than a year.
Also, its encouraging to see that the same advance charging solution was also seeded its other mid-ranger phones including the more recent Huawei Nova 8 SE that was launched in the Chinese market earlier this month.
Overall, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro is probably the best flagship phone launched this year with hardware that scores big in all aspects whether you’re talking about raw performance, photography prowess or charging speed.
As mentioned earlier, yes the Mate 40 Pro lacks Google apps. However, things have developed quickly and the Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) are now more refined and user friendly than ever.
Admittedly, it might be hard for most to stomach the lack of Google services, but in this digital age when we’re readily picking up new IoT products or digital software, getting accustomed to HMS is really a walk in the park for most of us.
Therefore, if you’re willing to take the first step, the Mate 40 Pro certainly won’t disappoint you. Its pretty much a guaranteed jackpot for those who’re audacious enough to pick it up.