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Hands-on with the 3-camera Huawei P20 Pro

The crucial things to know about Huawei's triple-lens phone.

huawei-p20-pro
Juan Garzon/CNET

For the first time in a long time, the big deal with a "pro" phone comes down to more than just its size.

Huawei on Tuesday announced the P20 and P20 Pro, two Android phones with high-end specs and riveting colors. While the P20 looks promising on its own, it's the P20 Pro that steals all its thunder. 

The Huawei P20 Pro costs £799 (which converts to $1,110 and AU$1,450), while the Huawei P20 will cost £599 (about $848 and $AU1,093). Neither phone will sell in the US.

The top attention-grabbing feature? One, two, three camera lenses on the back -- the most of any phone on the market. They're not just there for show, either. The P20 Pro has a 40-megapixel main camera, a 20-megapixel monochrome lens to add richness and detail, and an 8-megapixel telephoto lens, which helps in taking portrait mode shots and zooming in tight.

Now playing: Watch this: Huawei P20 Pro is the first phone with 3 rear cameras
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The Huawei P20, on the other hand, has a 12-megapixel main camera and no telephoto lens (the two do share the monochrome sensor, though).

The P20 Pro also has super slow-motion video (like the Galaxy S9), portrait photo mode, portrait selfie mode and all sorts of lighting effects for those portraits, similar to the iPhone X. Other big tricks will automatically apply "best" settings to your scene. There are over a dozen scenes, including food shots, night mode, close-ups, group pictures and photos of your cat or dog.

If you're weighing the P20 and P20 Pro, know that there are differences between the two handsets across the board. This isn't just a case of the Huawei P20 Pro being the larger, pricier, slightly heavier phone, although there's that, too.

The P20 Pro has a totally different screen technology. It uses an OLED display rather than an LCD display. OLED is widely regarded for its bright whites and deep blacks -- you also find OLED displays on the Galaxy S9 phones and the iPhone X.

You do see differences in height and weight, battery capacity and RAM, and the P20 gets one more color that the Pro does not -- champagne gold. There's even a difference in how water-resistant the two phones are. While the P20 Pro's IP67 rating means it can survive submersion in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes, the Huawei P20's IP57 rating means it's splash-resistant. Definitely inch it away from the pool edge.

I actually applaud Huawei for making the P20 and P20 Pro different enough phones to justify the existence of both. That's the view when you look at the specs, anyway. In real life, the day-to-day differences may or may not be as stark. That's what we'll find out when CNET gets a chance to review both new Huawei phones.

Meanwhile, read up on all the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro's camera specs, eye-catching design and notch design -- it isn't what you think. And see how the hardware of the two phones line up and diverge in the specs chart below.

Huawei P20 and P20 Pro vs. Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus


Huawei P20 Huawei P20 Pro Samsung Galaxy S9 Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
Display size, resolution 5.8-inch; 2,244x1,080 pixels (LCD) 6.1-inch; 2,240x1,080 pixels (OLED) 5.8-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels 6.2-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels
Pixel density 428ppi 408ppi 570ppi 529ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.9x2.8x0.3 in 6.1x2.9x0.31 in 5.81x2.70x0.33 in 6.22x2.91x0.33 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 149.1x70.8x7.65mm 155x73.9x7.8mm 147.7x68.7x8.5mm 158.1x73.8x8.5mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.8 oz; 165g 6.3 oz; 180g 5.75 oz; 163g 6.66 oz; 189g
Mobile software Android 8.1 Oreo Android 8.1 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo
Camera 12-megapixel RGB, 20-megapixel monochrome 40-megapixel RGB, 20-megapixel monochrome, 8-megapitxel telephoto 12-megapixel Dual 12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 24-megapixel camera 24-megapixel camera 8-megapixel 8-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K
Processor 2.3GHz octa-core Kirin 970 2.3GHz octa-core Kirin 970 Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor (2.8GHz + 1.7GHz), or octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810 (2.7 GHz + 1.7 GHz) Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor (2.8GHz + 1.7GHz), or octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810 (2.7 GHz + 1.7 GHz)
Storage 128GB 128GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
RAM 4GB 6GB 4GB 6GB
Expandable storage None None Up to 400GB Up to 400GB
Battery 3,400mAh 4,000mAh 3,000mAh 3,500mAh
Fingerprint sensor Below screen Below screen Back Back
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack No No Yes Yes
Special features Super slow-mo video (960fps), splash-resistant (IP57) Three rear cameras, super slow-mo video (960fps), 3x optical zoom, 5x hybrid zoom, water-resistant (IP67) Dual-aperture camera, water-resistant (IP68); super slo-mo video; wireless charging; iris scanning Dual-aperture camera, water-resistant (IP68); super slo-mo video; wireless charging; iris scanning
Price off-contract (USD) TBA TBA Varies: $720-$800 Varies: $840-$930
Price (GBP) TBA TBA £739 £869
Price (AUD) TBA TBA AU$1,199 (64GB), AU$1,349 (256GB) AU$1,349 (64GB), AU$1,499 (256GB)

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