Huawei Mate 20 X hands-on review

Huawei’s monster Mate 20 X makes the Galaxy Note 9 look small

Huawei’s Mate 20 X is a gaming and media tablet masquerading as a massive smartphone, and it does a pretty good job of it.
Huawei’s Mate 20 X is a gaming and media tablet masquerading as a massive smartphone, and it does a pretty good job of it.
Huawei’s Mate 20 X is a gaming and media tablet masquerading as a massive smartphone, and it does a pretty good job of it.

Highs

  • Surprisingly compact
  • Massive battery
  • True gaming credentials
  • Beautiful large screen

Lows

  • Very large body
  • Inconvenient to carry around all the time
  • Expensive

Seven whole inches sounds like quite a handful, doesn’t it. When we’re talking about the screen on a smartphone, it certainly is. Or rather, it certainly was. Cast your mind back to the Nexus 7 tablet from Google, which had a 7-inch screen, and was in no way suitable for one-handed use. The new Huawei Mate 20 X has an even bigger 7.2-inch screen, and amazingly, it’s possible to use with one hand, and on a daily basis.

While the Mate 20 X cannot be described as small, or even truly manageable, it is a technical marvel. It has a screen size we’d normally associate with a small tablet, yet provided your pockets are big enough, it could be carried around and used as your primary device. It is a phone. Whether you’d want to is a different question, but should it appeal, it’s surprisingly normal despite the abnormal screen size.

Small bezels, tiny notch

Huawei has achieved this by minimizing the bezels so much, they hardly exist at all. The chin is tiny, the side bezels are slivers of almost nothing, and the top of the phone has the same cute, almost completely acceptable teardrop notch seen on the Mate 20.

The Mate 20 X is almost all screen with a screen-to-body ratio of 87-percent, and it’s a beauty. The OLED panel has a 2,244 x 1,080 resolution, HDR support, and an 18.7:9 aspect ratio. We looked at some pre-installed photos and demo video, and it was obvious how great this phone will be for media.

The body is comfortable to hold, with the same well-designed curved edges as the Mate 20 Pro, and although it is holdable in a way that such a vast screen size shouldn’t be, this is still a whopping phone. In our comparison picture, the Mate 20 X is alongside an iPhone XS Max, and manages to make Apple’s biggest phone look rather small. No, your thumb is not going to stretch to the other side of the screen, but if you hold it with two hands, it’s acceptable.

Who is Huawei trying to attract with the Mate 20 X? Outside of one-upping Samsung by having a screen this large on a device with stylus support — it works with Huawei’s M Pen — it’s also targeting the current trend of mobile gaming. It’s not just the Razer Phone 2 or the Asus ROG phone that needs to watch out, it’s Nintendo’s Switch. Huawei has made a gamepad-style accessory that slides over one end of the phone, providing physical gaming controls. It works really well too. There’s more grip, the analogue d-pad was responsive, and in landscape orientation the screen looks superb — full of color and life.

High specification, little convenience

The Mate 20 X has the Kirin 980 processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage space, a massive 5,000mAh battery, and a new cooling system that uses vapor and graphene to keep temperatures under control. We were in a queue of people testing the Mate 20 X with the gamepad attachment, and the phone wasn’t even warm to the touch when our turn came, despite constant, power-intensive use. There’s no 3D face unlock though, and the fingerprint sensor is on the back, and it was a little bit of a stretch to reach.

There’s a reason few phones have a screen this big, and it’s because they’re inconvenient to carry around.

Huawei has not confirmed where the Mate 20 X will be sold, and traditionally these large devices have been released only in China and a few other locations. The phone will be released on October 26 for 900 euros, or $1,040. That’s a high price to pay, and although the specification is also high, and the device is technologically impressive and designed very well, it’s hard to see how it has much life outside a very specific audience.

There’s a reason few phones have a screen this big, and it’s because they’re inconvenient to carry around. It’s not a stay-at-home device either, because it really is a phone, despite home being the place we mostly watch movies and play games for any length of time. It’s a confusing, yet strangely alluring phone that’s still difficult to recommend over the Mate 20 Pro, which has all the features, the best camera, and is a sensible size so you can enjoy all those things everywhere you go.

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