Apple’s iPhone X wasn’t the very first phone to put a notch at the top of the screen to house its camera module, but it’s easily the highest-profile rendition to date – and the standard by which future notched phones are judged.
And here’s the next big contender: Huawei’s P20 Pro. Just released, the P20 Pro has a notch that is a bit smaller than Apple’s, but it is no less eye-catching. The P20 Pro makes its big, bright screen its #1 attraction, although there’s quite a bit else going on with Huawei’s new flagship threat.
These are both big, beautiful and incredibly expensive smartphones, but which is really worth the huge investment? Here’s how this comparison shakes out, now that we’ve reviewed the Huawei P20 Pro.
Design: Two of a kind
Where do you think Huawei got its inspiration for the P20 Pro? Yeah, we’d say it’s pretty obvious too.
Huawei hasn’t always had the most original smartphone designs, but this one’s hard to argue against. The P20 Pro is a dead ringer for the iPhone X, from the notched, screen-centric design to the glass backing and positioning of the camera module.
There are differences, of course. The P20 Pro’s "full-screen" look is slightly diminished by the "chin" bezel at the bottom of the screen, along with the fingerprint sensor; the iPhone X has neither, giving the screen a more immersive look while Face ID handles the security.
Elsewhere, the stainless steel frame gives the iPhone X an extra bit of premium gloss, while the P20 Pro’s Twilight gradient colour option is truly dazzling – that’s one area in which Huawei has an advantage. Apple’s approach is much more understated, but Huawei’s pearlescent look is divine.
Apple did this approach first, however – and given the lack of chin, we’d say they did it with a little more confidence and panache. It’s darn close, though, and your desire for the gradient look could sway your own personal decision in the other direction.
Verdict: Apple iPhone X
Screen: Very close
It’s a close call on screen quality, as well. The iPhone X screen is a bit smaller at 5.8in, but it’s also higher resolution at 1125p – just a smidge more than 1080p. The Samsung-made OLED panel is simply stunning and just about on par with the Quad HD panel seen in the Galaxy S9, despite the resolution difference.
The P20 Pro, on the other hand, sticks with a 1080p OLED panel at 6.1in, and it’s similarly extra-tall with a smidge cut out for the notch. It similarly looks quite excellent, with punchy colours and great contrast.
It’s worth pointing out that Apple’s screen also has pressure sensitivity via the 3D Touch feature, but while useful from time to time, it’s hardly proven to be a killer app – or a difference-maker when it comes to choosing between comparable phones.
The iPhone X is a hair crisper than the P20 Pro: in terms of pixel density, it boasts a better 458 pixels per inch vs. 408ppi on the P20 Pro. That’s not significant, but if you look closely, you can see the difference in sharpness. Apple has a very slight edge here.
Verdict: Apple iPhone X
Also Read › Huawei P20 Pro review
Camera: More is better
Apple’s iPhone X has one of the best smartphone camera setups on the market today, but it’s not the best around – up ’til now, that was the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, thanks to Google’s brilliant algorithms that speedily stitch together frequently amazing shots.
Even so, the iPhone X comes very close. You get a pair of 12-megapixel shooters here: wide-angle at f/1.8 and telephoto at f/2.4. Both have optical image stabilisation, and between the two, you can expect nicely saturated colours, excellent dynamic range, and loads of detail. It also has the familiar dual-camera perks, like blurred-background portrait shots and 2x zoom.
Amazingly, the Huawei P20 Pro tops it… and it tops the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, as well. That’s because the P20 Pro packs three back cameras – and better yet, it puts them to smart use.
It has a 40MP main RGB camera, along with an 8MP telephoto lens and 20MP black-and-white one. All told, they can capture some brilliant-looking shots and the 5x hybrid zoom (or 3x optical zoom) is marvellous. Our shots routinely looked pretty spectacular, packing in plenty of detail. Even nighttime shots look great.
And when it comes to the front-facing camera, of course the iPhone X offers the TrueDepth camera that impressively scans your mug for Face ID security, which works surprisingly well, as well as the Animoji face-mimicking animated emoji. Huawei’s notch doesn’t house the same kind of sensors, however – it’s a more typical selfie cam, even if it’s a pretty great one at 24 megapixels.
Verdict: Huawei P20 Pro
Performance: Power lifters
Here’s another area in which the iPhone X has an advantage, at least when it comes to benchmark testing. Apple’s A11 Bionic chip has been routinely triumphing over Android’s best chips since first shipping with the iPhone 8 last autumn, and nothing has dethroned it yet.
Huawei’s Kirin 970 chip, seen previously with the Mate 10 Pro, powers the P20 Pro and provides plenty of speed to handle any request you’ll throw at it. And its 6GB RAM is double that of the iPhone X, even if that seems like an excessive tally.
In day-to-day usage, the P20 Pro feels about as swift and capable as the iPhone X. Huawei’s EMUI skin atop Android 8 Oreo is plenty speedy, as is iOS 11 on the iPhone. But Apple seems to have packed in a little more power than any other chipmaker right now, which could come in handy at some point down the line.
Verdict: Apple iPhone X
Also Read › Apple iPhone X review
Battery and perks: Serious stamina
The iPhone X’s 2,716mAh battery pack is a bit slimmer than the average Android flagship today, but it does a fine job of keeping the phone running ’til nighttime. Push it hard, however, and it might need a bit of extra fuel by dinner.
That shouldn’t be an issue with the P20 Pro, though. Why? Well, its 4,000mAh battery pack is enormous, and it handles heavy use with ease – or could give you a fair chunk of a second day if you’re a more casual user.
Sadly, despite the glass backing, Huawei didn’t pack in wireless charging here. Apple did, though. Given the choice between extended uptime and wireless charging, however, we’ll gladly take the larger battery.
When it comes to storage, both phones opt to restrict you to what’s inside – there’s no microSD support here on either end. Huawei sticks to a fixed 128GB, while Apple gives you the choice between 64GB in the base model and 256GB in the larger edition. Of course, the latter adds £150 to the price tag… as if £999 didn’t cause enough sticker shock on its own!
Verdict: Huawei P20 Pro
Verdict: Pricing provides the edge
The Huawei P20 Pro feels like a phone built in the image of the iPhone X, but as many makers have found out over the years, it’s very hard to outdo Apple.
In some ways, the iPhone X still comes ahead of the P20 Pro. It has the more original and refined design, it has a slight edge on screen quality, and it packs in a whole lot of raw power. But the P20 Pro is close enough on all of those counts, plus it packs in the best smartphone camera setup on the market today alongside a huge, longer-lasting battery pack.
And ultimately, the £200 disparity makes a big difference here. At £799, the Huawei P20 Pro is still a very pricey handset, but it’s a lot more approachable than Apple’s £999. With carriers offering significant on-contract monthly savings, as well, you might see an even greater difference over time.
Both of these are impressive, well-rounded smartphones, and they both fall within our current Top 3 (joining the Samsung Galaxy S9). Apple’s phone feels a bit more premium and high-end in a couple of areas, but is it £200 (or more) worth? For the average buyer, we’d say no. Considering value alongside the quality of the experience, the Huawei P20 Pro is our pick for the best smartphone you can buy today.
Winner: Huawei P20 Pro