Huawei P20 Pro vs Google Pixel 2 XL: Which is best?

Which reigns as the smartphone camera king?

Huawei has made some pretty strong handsets, but none have felt like they could really take down giants like Samsung and Apple. The P20 Pro is the first Huawei phone to do just that.

The high-end flagship packs in a whopping three back cameras that produce stunning results, not to mention an Apple iPhone X-like notch on a big, bright screen that dominates the face. Add in top-shelf components and it's a serious flagship contender.

In recent months, Google's Pixel 2 XL has been the smartphone camera champion and one of the best Android experiences around. It has a couple of weak spots compared to some other top phones, but all around it's a winner. But can it hold strong in the face of the P20 Pro?

Here's our finalised verdict, now that we've reviewed the Huawei P20 Pro.

Design: Pro allure

The Huawei P20 Pro is definitely a looker. The most obvious thing it has going on is an iPhone X-inspired notch for the camera, which the screen wraps around to save top bezel. It's smaller here than Apple's rendition, but you also get a "chin" at the bottom of the front with a fingerprint sensor to boot.

Flip the P20 Pro around and you'll get sleek glass, along with the three camera modules aligned vertically at the upper left. And the gradient Twilight colour option is a dazzling delight.

On the other hand, the Pixel 2 XL is honestly kind of bland from the front. It looks and feels larger than it need to be, thanks to excessive bezel, and it just doesn't pack quite the same punch as the Samsung Galaxy S9 – or the P20 Pro, for that matter. We like the two-tone approach on the back, but overall the phone feels like it needed another round of refinement.

Verdict: Huawei P20 Pro

Screen: Pixel perfect?

Despite packing a high-end price tag, the P20 Pro does settle for less in one respect: it sticks with a 1080p AMOLED panel instead of going for Quad HD resolution like the Pixel 2 XL and many other Android flagships. Even so, the P20 Pro looks pretty fabulous, with punchy colours and contrast, and the extra-tall 6.1in screen really pops with minimal bezel around it.

The Pixel 2 XL has it beat on resolution with its 6in Quad HD OLED panel. The Pixel screen doesn't pop as much as, say, the Galaxy S9 however – and at sharper angles, you'll see some discolouration. The Pixel 2 XL screen is mostly excellent, but it's not quite perfect. Still, it has HDR capabilities on tap, which the P20 Pro lacks.

Typically, we'd say a higher-resolution, HDR-capable screen has big advantages, but the Pixel 2 XL's little display deficiencies keep this from being a slam dunk victory. In fact, we're calling it a split decision.

Verdict: Draw

Camera: The new king

Before the P20 Pro came around, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL boasted the best smartphone cameras in the world – not even the newer Galaxy S9 could beat them thanks to Google's brilliant software algorithms, which produce compelling shots day in and day out.

And that's with a single 12-megapixel back camera. It packs in a ton of dynamic range with each snap, with realistic colouring and without aggressive sharpening. It even offers portrait shots and bokeh blur with a single camera, thanks to its dual-pixel sensor. Even dual-camera setups can't beat the Pixel 2 on quality.

But what about three cameras? That's what the P20 Pro delivers, and while more isn't always better, it truly is here. We were pretty floored by the results during our testing, as we wrapped our eyes around the results from the 8MP telephoto lens, a 20MP black-and-white lens, and a staggering 40MP main RGB lens.

That allows for pretty incredible everyday snaps, plus the ability for 5x hybrid zoom (or 3x optical zoom) adds a whole new level of versatility to smartphone shooting. Low-light snaps also look better than we've seen before, and overall, the tri-camera advantages really stack up. It might seem like overkill, but seeing is believing with the P20 Pro.

The Pixel 2 XL is still a phenomenal shooter... but now it's second-best.

Verdict: Huawei P20 Pro

Performance: About even

Google's Pixel 2 XL relies on the year-old Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip, while the Huawei P20 Pro uses last fall's Kirin 970 chip. We know the Pixel 2 XL is blazing fast with stock Android installed, and the P20 Pro is likewise quite snappy. And it's the same chip as last year's Huawei Mate 10 Pro, which itself was very fast.

The P20 Pro has an edge on RAM, with 6GB vs. 4GB in the Pixel 2 XL, although that extra chunk doesn't seem to make any huge difference - both of these phones are super speedy with everything you can throw at them. We like the Pixel's stock Android aesthetic a lot more than Huawei's EMUI skin, but it's hardly offensive.

Verdict: Draw

Battery and perks: Mixed offerings

The Pixel 2 XL's 3,520mAh battery pack does an admirable job of keeping the phone running for a full day, even with heavy usage, and Android Oreo's optimisations seem to work wonders here.

And yet the P20 Pro proves even better on battery life, thanks to its monstrous 4,000mAh pack that can push into a second day of usage. That's with a lower-resolution screen to power, as well. Neither of these phones offer wireless charging, however, which is a nice perk on many other top-end phones.

Neither of them offer a microSD slot for expandability either, unfortunately. The P20 Pro offers a nice 128GB cache to work with, while the Pixel 2 XL does 64GB in the base model – you'll have to pay extra for the 128GB version.

The Pixel 2 XL has another nice perk in the mix, too: Google Daydream VR support, which lets you toss the phone into a headset shell and strap it onto your face for immersive virtual reality experiences. And there are many games and apps worth taking for a spin.

The Pixel 2 XL also has an Active Edge feature that lets you squeeze the sides to pull up the Google Assistant in a hurry, but it's not the most exciting of additions. We barely use it. Your mileage may vary.

With better battery life and more storage on hand, we'd say the P20 Pro has the overall advantage in this department.

Verdict: Huawei P20 Pro

Verdict: The Pixel falls

Before the Huawei P20 Pro came out, the Pixel 2 XL was very nearly our favourite smartphone in the world, falling just behind the Samsung Galaxy S9. But there's been an upset: the P20 Pro is now our top pick and the Pixel 2 XL... well, it's fallen out of the Top 5.

Why such a slide? It's easy: the Pixel 2 XL's insane camera helped elevate its status significantly, and now that the P20 Pro is the new camera leader, the Pixel just doesn't have the same kind of allure. It's a great handset with a really great snapper, but it's not the best of the best.

We've picked the P20 Pro as the new smartphone champion in large part because of its brilliant camera, but also because it's otherwise an excellent all-around flagship: from screen to design and horsepower, it doesn't disappoint.

And at £799, it's the same price as the Pixel 2 XL. As our category-by-category breakdown suggests, it's our pick for the better handset here.

Winner: Huawei P20 Pro