Huawei Mate 40 Pro hands-on: Modernizing the Mate

The Mate series is Huawei’s high-end suite of flagship devices. Last year’s Huawei Mate 30 Pro had a premium design, a stupendous camera, and fantastic battery life. It’s a year later and Huawei has announced its successor. The Huawei Mate 40 Pro is here, and it seeks to modernize the Mate line.

Read more details about the Huawei Mate 40 Pro

With a faster display, a faster chipset, and faster charging, the Mate 40 Pro is Huawei’s answer to the 2020 premium flagship smartphone race. Here’s our early hands-on experience with the latest Huawei device.

Design and display: Baby steps

Huawei Mate 40 Pro held in the hand showing the rear mystic silver finish

Credit: Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

It’s clear that Huawei is out to compete with Samsung, Oppo, and Apple in the high-end space. The Mate 40 Pro’s glass and metal design looks elegant and sleek, especially in this Mystic Silver model color. This new colorway gives off different colors depending on the lighting conditions. It takes the circular camera theme from the Mate 30 Pro and the large punch-hole selfie camera from the P40 Pro Plus to modernize the design.

The Mate 40 Pro looks and feels like a Mate 30 Pro and P40 Pro Plus hybrid.

Let’s take a tour of the Mate 40 Pro. On the top are a speaker, microphone, and IR blaster. The left is completely bare. On the right side is a red power button and separate volume rocker. The bottom presents a USB-C port, microphone, speaker, and dual SIM tray. There’s a large circular camera bump on the back of the device.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro top angle
Huawei Mate 40 Pro left angle
Huawei Mate 40 Pro bottom angle
Huawei Mate 40 Pro right angle

The phone feels weighty and sturdy in the hand. The buttons feel rather stiff, which oftentimes makes them tricky to press. The rails feel comfortable and grippy, while the frosted glass on the back is contrastingly slippery. The included clear case combats this and I’ve defaulted to using it in the case for the time being.

See also: Huawei P40 Pro review: Refinement done right

The optical in-display fingerprint scanner feels responsive. However, it isn’t the quickest in-screen scanner on the market. Haptics feel crisp, though not as good as the Pixel 4’s or iPhone 11’s. The hybrid stereo speakers are loud but rather tinny.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro showing the home screen at an angle on a bench

Credit: Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

The 6.76-inch Flex OLED 90Hz display is an incremental upgrade over the previous device’s panel. The curved edges make the phone look and feel sleek but mean that glare can be a problem under direct light. The panel suffers from a slight brightness shift off-axis too. That said, it’s sharp, bright, and responsive. The 90Hz refresh rate makes the Huawei Mate 40 Pro feel more up to date than the Mate 30 Pro’s 60Hz panel.

Related: 90Hz smartphone display test: Can users really feel the difference?

We’d have liked to see a 120Hz display here given the projected price point and target market. The Huawei Mate 40 Pro’s direct competitors sport higher-resolution or higher-refresh-rate panels. This puts the Mate 40 Pro at a disadvantage right out of the gate, but we’ll run our suite of display testing to see how it stacks up in real life.

Performance and software: Solid progress

Huawei Mate 40 Pro held in the hand on the snapchat app gallery page

Credit: Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

Huawei’s system-on-chip nomenclature has deviated from its three-digit naming convention. The chipset powering the Huawei Mate 40 Pro is Kirin 9000, the first 5nm SoC with an integrated 5G modem. This puts it in a good position to compete with Qualcomm’s latest and greatest Snapdragon 865 Plus SoC, in both processing and cellular performance.

Huawei’s Kirin 9000 is the first 5nm SoC with an integrated 5G modem.

With 8GB RAM and 256GB storage, the Mate 40 Pro feels quick and snappy. I have yet to experience any lag or drops in performance. I played a couple of 3D games and found those to run fine, too. Zipping through the OS and App Gallery was as quick as you’d expect from a flagship smartphone. This is undoubtedly helped by the 90Hz display.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro close up of the punch hole selfie cameras

Credit: Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

The Huawei Mate 40 Pro comes with a slightly smaller 4,400mAh battery than the predecessor’s 4,500mAh cell. Included is a beefier 66W SuperCharge brick instead of last year’s 40W plug. Wireless charging has also been upgraded — this time it’s 50W, up from the Mate 30 Pro’s 27W.

Read more: How fast charging really works

Huawei’s software naming scheme has taken a different route. Historically, the firm has numbered its EMUI software the same as the Android version number. Unfortunately, EMUI 11 is based on Android 10, not Android 11. This means that right out of the gate, the software is out of date. This is likely due to the ongoing Huawei trade ban. We don’t know exactly when Huawei devices will get Android 11.

Like with other Huawei phones from the past year, there are no Google Play services on the Mate 40 Pro.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro home screen screenshot
Huawei Mate 40 Pro second home screen screenshot
Huawei Mate 40 Pro quick settings screenshot
Huawei Mate 40 Pro recents screenshot

EMUI 11 looks and feels very similar to EMUI 10, with a few notable updates. There are new always-on display themes and a tweaked settings menu. Also included are Petal Search suggestions in the pulldown, accessible from the home screen.

Read more: Huawei’s Play Store alternative has gotten better, but it’s the apps that count

Huawei Mate 40 Pro always on display screenshot
Huawei Mate 40 Pro aod theme menu screenshot
Huawei Mate 40 Pro settings menu screenshot

Continue reading: Everything you need to know about the Huawei ban

Cameras: Incremental upgrades

Huawei Mate 40 Pro taking a photo

Credit: Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

At the heart of the Huawei Mate 40 Pro’s camera system is its huge 50MP RYYB we’ve seen before on the P40 Pro. This is still the largest camera sensor ever put into a mainstream flagship smartphone at a whopping 1/1.28 inches. The RYYB setup means the sensor swaps the conventional green subpixels in favor of yellow ones, which can pick up more light, improving low-light performance. We found this sensor to be fantastic in the P40 Pro and so we expect the same from this newer model.

Accompanying the main camera on the back is a 20MP ultra-wide sensor. Along with this is a 10X optical periscope zoom lens that outputs 8MP images. Then there’s a second 12MP telephoto camera. Finally, there’s a 3D camera for depth-sensing. Around the front is the main selfie shooter accompanied by an ultra-wide lens. Both of these reside in the large pill-shaped punch hole and output 12MP images.

Read more: Camera zoom explained: How optical, digital, and hybrid zoom work

Huawei Mate 40 Pro angled close up of the quad camera module

Credit: Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

Huawei is offering Ultra HD 4K 60fps video on both front and rear sets of cameras. It’s also allowing the rear shooter to capture 720p slow-motion footage at a whopping 7680fps — a feature introduced by its predecessor.

This stacked camera setup means business and looks to take on the competition with its sheer pixel power. Its large sensors should help it in low-light, and its feature-rich camera app should allow users to take exactly the photo that they want.

We’ll be sure to extensively test the Mate 40 Pro’s camera suite for Android Authority’s Huawei Mate 40 Pro review, coming soon.

In summary: Modernizing the Mate

Huawei Mate 40 Pro rear panel angled on a bench

Credit: Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

The Huawei Mate 40 Pro is a modernized version of last year’s device. It’s got faster charging, a faster chipset, and a faster display. All of this wrapped in a more 2020 package gives you a phone that looks set to compete in Europe and China with the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, iPhone 12 Pro Max, and the Oppo Find X2 Pro.

What do you think about the Huawei Mate 40 Pro? Let us know in the comments.

Here’s our hands-on experience with the Huawei Mate 40 Pro!Android Authority

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