Is Huawei your mate yet? The company certainly hopes so. Their Mate series represents the first look at the latest that the company can offer in a smartphone and the trend continues with the new Huawei Mate 40 Pro.
Armed with their latest Kirin 9000 chipset, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro is set to be the standard going forward for the company’s products for the upcoming year ahead.
We’ve had the opportunity to try out the new phone over the course of a week, and we can present our overall impressions of the device.
New year, New Mate
As a series that comes out yearly, it would have been easy to stick to the design that has already been established for the Mate line. After all, Apple has been getting away with doing it for years.
But Huawei has decided to iterate instead for the Mate 40 Pro. It is a different take for the phone but still very much “Mate-like”, having retained some design aspects from the previous line-up, namely that huge circular camera bump.
For starters, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro is a little bit larger than its predecessor, increasing to 6.76-inches for its display. They’re still able to include a curved-edge display even with that size increase, and it is even more curved than usual — even parts of the on-screen keyboard roll off the screen.
Truth be told, I’m not the biggest fan of it, even if it does make the phone “bezel-less”. It is somewhat off-putting to read text when it is curved over the edge which the phone sometimes does for certain sites. Sometimes things should not be too curved.
But size isn’t the only thing that has changed; the phone has also changed to be more rounded at the edges, which helps in terms of holding the device.
Its display also does away with having a notch for its front camera system, instead opting to use a “pill” camera implementation that Huawei’s very own P40 Pro+ has done as well. I’m quite indifferent to notches myself and having the front cameras this way makes the device look sleeker in my opinion.
While at the back the main cameras are still housed within a circle, their placement is flipped. Instead of being enclosed within a smaller circle, the four cameras are now situated around the ring area — a Space Ring design as Huawei calls it.
That is the gist of the physical changes that Huawei has made to the Mate 40 Pro, but what about those that are not visual to the eye?
A refreshed feature set
Alongside the bigger screen, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro also now boasts a 90Hz refresh rate for its display.
As you would expect, the experience of scrolling through the phone now exhibits a much smoother response from the display, and it also helps towards gaming if you are someone who is relatively competitive within the mobile space.
However, with many other phones already moving beyond 90Hz, it is intriguing to see Huawei stick to this refresh rate. Perhaps the company has opted to prioritise stability, but it is a stick to beat it with in terms of features.
Two separate speakers are also equipped in the Huawei Mate 40 Pro, one located at the bottom while the other is fitted at the top. The result is a much louder sound output compared to other phones, beating my own iPhone 11 in terms of volume. And quality isn’t sacrificed either, I expected to hear tinny sound to accompany it but was surprised by the clarity it delivered.
It’s over (Kirin) 9000!
At the heart of the Huawei Mate 40 Pro is the new Kirin 9000 chipset, dubbed the world’s first 5nm 5G SoC by the company.
Buzzwords aside, what this new processor offers is even more power when you are using the phone. Multi-tasking looks to be a breeze, with me being able to switch between things like video-watching to games in a flash.
Similarly, web browsing also didn’t show signs of slowdown even if I had an obscene amount of other apps in the background. With the Huawei devices also able to convert themselves into computers by connecting them to a monitor, it makes for a compelling alternative to using a laptop.
But beyond the multi-tasking capabilities of the Kirin 9000, it also presents several interesting new features in the form of AI Gesture Control.
The processor’s Neural Processing Unit (NPU) handles that aspect, and the improved power of the Kirin 9000 now allows it to implement an all-new gesture control without needing to touch the device.
This means things like waking up your phone, swiping or scrolling through media, taking screenshots, controlling volume and more can be down with just the use of hand gestures. There’s even one feature that allows you to lower a ringtone’s sound with your eye! I was not able to thoroughly test out these features during my time with the phone, but it is something you could play around with should you decide to get the Mate 40 Pro.
Ringing in the details
As mentioned before, that Space Ring design contains the three-camera system at the back — a 50 MP primary camera, a 20 MP ultra-wide camera and a 12 MP telephoto camera.
And photos taken on the Huawei Mate 40 Pro look good for the most part as you can see in details presented the photos below:
Huawei also led to a craze for long-distance zooming last year. It is back here as well, though it does not zoom in quite as far, going up to 50x only. Again, this isn’t likely to be heavily used given the picture quality can be a little suspect at that range.
Image stabilisation is also still a problem when trying to take a photo from that far, making it very difficult to get a shot you want. Samsung has already implemented one that works for their phones, so it is strange that Huawei still hasn’t done so.
The 10x digital zoom seems to be a good stopping point though, with images coming out decently well.
Our short time with the device was fairly positive overall. Obviously, caveats present themselves in the form of the lack of the Google Play Store, but the technology itself is good on the whole. I think crucially though, the phone gives us a better glimpse into what to expect from 2021 not just from Huawei, but also other companies as well.
First released in October, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro finally reaches Singapore’s shore on 12 December and will be priced at S$1598. You can find the device at all major telco operators (M1, Singtel, Starhub), consumer electronics stores (i.e. Courts), as well as Huawei’s own official stores at retail or online.
Photos by Brandon Neo of the DANAMIC team.