Huawei Mate 20 X review: Android gaming, super-sized - Android Authority
Huawei Mate 20 X review: Android gaming, super-sized Android AuthorityThe largest member of the Huawei Mate 20 family promises blisteringly fast Android gaming on a huge 7.2-inch display. Does the Chinese giant's massive ...
are suffering something of an identity crisis.
On the one hand, you have phones like the and — handsets that have been built from the ground-up to look, feel, and play like a pocket-sized, handheld console.
On the other, there’s the traditional Android flagship brigade which has slowly begun adopting a handful of gaming-centric features, such as the ’s Unity optimizations and cooling system.
The distinction between a dedicated gaming phone and a top-spec phone that just so happens to be is more vague than ever.
Having tentatively dipped its toes into the gaming waters via its sub-brand with the , Chinese giant is going all-in with the — a 7.2-inch monster phablet Huawei is a better portable gaming machine than the .
But is the largest member of the Mate 20 family a true gaming phone or just another pretender? Find out in this Huawei Mate 20 X review!
About this Huawei Mate 20 X review
I wrote this review after spending two weeks with a Huawei Mate 20 X review unit supplied by Huawei. The phone (model EVR-L29) ran EMUI 9 (build number 18.104.22.168) and Android Pie with the October 2018 security patch. I used it mostly on my home Wi-Fi network, as well as . Technically, the software on the review unit was non-final, but Huawei said it is indicative of the final release software.
Huawei recently announced that a new variant of the Mate 20 X is on the way . However the version we’ve reviewed is the original model released in late 2018.
Let’s get right down to it: the Huawei Mate 20 X is absolutely massive.
Large phones are nothing new, but the Notes, Pluses, XLs, and Max’s have nothing on Huawei’s behemoth. At 174.6mm tall and 85.4mm wide, the Mate 20 X engulfs other phablets and larger-sized phones in side-by-side comparisons.
The Mate 20 X immediately reminded me of the super-duper-sized phones of yesteryear, like the , , and Huawei’s own . The most relevant modern comparison is the .
There are practical issues with carrying a “mobile” phone that’s this huge.
As with the Note 10, the Mate 20 X benefits from Huawei’s FullView display design, which decreases the amount of redundant bezel space and maximizes the screen real estate — and let me tell you, there’s a lot of screen to play with.
It seems a little redundant to criticize a phone whose whole existence is basically defined by its gargantuan build, but there are practical concerns when carrying around a “mobile” phone that’s this huge.
The simple fact is the Mate 20 X is a two-handed smartphone. If you can wrestle the phone into the right position, those with larger hands will just about tackle sending a quick message or hitting the back button with a single thumb. But, unless you’re ET or Freddy Krueger, there’s no way you’re reaching the notification bar without drafting in another palm. Huawei has added a One-Handed UI mode to combat this issue, but that does require a few extra gestures just to perform simple actions.
It narrowly passed the pocket test when I was wearing jeans, but my coat and bag pockets couldn’t contain the Mate 20 X’s sheer mass without exposing the frame and part of the display.
If you’re thinking of buying the Mate 20 X, my advice would be to either handle it first or at least cut out a bit of cardboard with the same dimensions for a scale. While it still feels big to me, I could quite happily use it as my daily driver without much issue. That’s a different case entirely for my partner who, despite usually preferring larger phones like the and series phones, quite literally couldn’t get to grips with it.
Unlike other products that clumsily try to appeal to gaming fans, there are no pulsing LED strips, gaudy accents, or glowing logos to be found. Instead, the Mate 20 X is an almost identical replica of the vanilla only with inflated dimensions. It has the same divisive square camera module, “waterdrop” notch, rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and even the same red-accented, textured power button.
The phone is surprisingly thin relative to its overall size at just over 8.2mm. While it’s a lot heavier than your regular flagship phone at 232g (for comparison, the Mate 20 weighs 188g), the weight distribution is fairly uniform so it won’t tip in your hand.
This is helped by the curved glass and tapered aluminium frame, though there’s no escaping it’s an incredibly slippery customer, even in spite of the etched diagonal lines on the rear panel. I had similar concerns with the , but that same smooth, glossy finish paired with the Mate 20 X’s extra size and weight is a hazardous combination.
The Mate 20 X has a dual-SIM slot on the left side and a power button and volume rocker on the right. On the bottom is port and speaker, which is joined by a second speaker on the top of the phone next to an and a .
The unit I’ve been playing around with is the Phantom Silver version, which is exclusive to the Mate 20 X within the wider Mate 20 series and has a metallic tinge and green and purple hues. The phone is also available in Metallic Blue.
Remember when tablets with 7-inch displays like the seemed so much larger than our phones? The Mate 20 X adds an extra 0.2-inches onto that in a much smaller overall form factor and hits an intimidating ~87.6 percent screen-to-body ratio.
Putting aside the fact it can be cumbersome to handle a phone this large, the actual display is a joy to use whether you’re playing a game, taking a photo, or just flicking through a thread of massive WhatsApp speech bubbles.
The panel delivers suitably deep blacks and rich colors, although Huawei oversaturates everything a little out-of-the-box. Thankfully, you can tweak the color mode, temperature, and schedule a blue light filter in the display’s settings menu.
The Mate 20 X outputs at 1,080 x 2,244 as standard, but this can be manually dropped to HD+ (720p). You can also ask the phone to adjust the resolution automatically to save power.
Compared to the Mate 20, the Mate 20 X upgrades from LCD to AMOLED, although it’s disappointing to see Huawei stick with Full HD+ rather than Quad HD like the Mate 20 Pro. You’ll still have to peek closely to see those pixels, but if 1080p and 381ppi sounds low for a screen that’s 7.2-inches, that’s because, frankly, it is.
This is by no means a poor display, however. It’s bright enough to play mobile HDR content and the 18.7:9 aspect ratio means you won’t always be plagued by black borders in landscape mode.
Finally, if the notch is something that’ll bother you, Huawei has included the option to black out the notification bar.
It may well be surpassed when the rumored series hits the market, but for now the Chinese giant’s most powerful silicon is still the .
We already know from our that the Kirin 980 — paired with a Mali-G76 GPU with a 10 core configuration — is an incredibly capable SoC and that carries over to the Mate 20 X’s performance. It also doesn’t hurt that the largest member of the Mate 20 series comes with 6GB RAM as standard.
It should be noted that the benchmark results that follow were obtained with “Performance Mode” turned off. Huawei got into a bit of hot water last year for enabling the mode as standard during benchmark tests . The mode can be toggled on in the Battery menu (for baffling reasons only the EMUI designers will ever know), although I’ve yet to see any meaningful performance improvement or higher battery drain with it turned on.
The Mate 20 X came out at 3,337 in the Geekbench 4 Single-Core test and 9,813 in the Multi-Core test. For comparison, the Asus ROG Phone scored 2,521 and 9,224. The regular Mate 20 scored 3,371 and 9,891.
The Mate 20 X struggled in the Antutu tests, resulting in a score of 273,720 — well below gaming phone (291,099) and the ROG Phone (288,715). The screenshot on the right shows the leap when Performance Mode is turned on, which is almost identical to what we found when reviewing the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro.
Things improved slightly with 3DMark, but the 3,873 Sling Shot Extreme result still falls well below even the demonstrably cheaper (4,216).
So we know the Mate 20 X is a powerhouse phone with an enviable specs sheet, but what is Huawei’s new gaming phone actually like to play games on?
Let’s start with the good stuff, starting with that gargantuan display.
It sounds obvious, but playing on a screen this large is ridiculously enjoyable. Sure, you can technically play Android games on larger screens with , tablets, , and even , but when it comes to playing Play Store games on an Android phone, the Mate 20 X has a clear advantage over the competition.