the last major flagship in 2022

Huawei’s Mate series is one of the most popular in the company’s portfolio, always offering the latest technology available at launch. The new Mate 50 Pro is no exception to this rule, and is the demonstration of the technology Huawei can deliver at the end of 2022, in a well-built handheld device equipped with what some would say is the most powerful and advanced smartphone camera yet.

The Mate 50 Pro is one of the best-built phones on the market

If there’s one area where Huawei almost never fails, it’s design, and the new Mate 50 Pro, especially in the orange variant we had for testing, is one of the most “premium” devices we’ve tested this year. We’re dealing with a design with lots of curved lines, from the OLED screen that’s curved at the edges, to the gold-coloured glass on the sides with a shiny gloss, to the back cover.

Huawei Mate 50 Pro back handheld

It’s also curved at the edges and is covered in soft-touch, faux leather decorated with gold logo inserts. Centrally, at the top we have the camera module, a disc in which three lenses are integrated, along with a laser focus module and flash. The camera is protruding quite a bit, but we’ve already come to expect this from high-end phones, as increasingly large photo sensors also require lenses to match.

The texture of the material on the back feels soft, warmer than a metal or glass phone, and provides an increased grip in the hand. Even though Huawei ships the phone alongside a silicone case, this is a phone I wouldn’t hide, even if it’s transparent. There are also Mate 50 Pro variants with glossy glass on the back. In that case a case would be justified.

Huawei Mate 50 Pro accessories

Also included in the Mate 50 Pro package is a 66W SuperCharge plug-in charger and USB-A plug cable. Huawei is among the last companies not to ship phones with USB-C cables on both ends. At the same time, the company seems to think that 66W is enough, while other brands have already exceeded 100W for fast charging. Still, it’s hard to complain about charging on the Mate 50 Pro.

The only notch display on a flagship from 2022

Surprisingly for 2022, Huawei has reverted to an older design for the screen, this is probably the only recently released Android flagship with notch in the display. This year, even Apple, the only company still using this design, ditched the in-screen notch for something different. However, the notch isn’t new for the Mate series, just unusual, given that the Mate 40 Pro and P50 Pro, the company’s most recent flagships each used a punch-hole.

Huawei Mate 50 Pro screen top

Still, the cutout in the screen shouldn’t be anything bothersome or important after so many years on the market. Huawei at least offers clear advantages thanks to this design gimmick: advanced 3D biometric authentication, which is much more secure than facial authentication via the phone’s camera. Of course, there’s also a fingerprint sensor under the screen, for those who don’t want face unlock.

Being a flagship, the Mate 50 Pro comes with one of the best-performing screens on the market, with a large 6.74″ diagonal, high brightness and 120Hz refresh rate. The resolution is unusual, but it’s similar to other Huawei devices: 2,616 x 1,212 pixels. We appreciated that Huawei factory sets the screen for natural colors, with an optional vivid mode available on demand.

Huawei Mate 50 Pro front

I had no problems with the phone in daylight during the day in high noon either, and photos taken with the phone look great on this panel. Most likely, it’s a screen produced by Chinese manufacturer BOE, a long-standing supplier for Huawei flagships.

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Mate 50 Pro is among the best performing phones we’ve tested

The Mate 50 Pro is a flagship launched in 2022, so it’s equipped with the most powerful processor available at launch. Because it debuted in the fall of 2022, this model uses the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, the more powerful revision of Qualcomm’s high-end chipset. As expected, performance is at a high level, and this might even be the best-performing device we’ve tested this year, according to our synthetic tests.

Huawei Mate 50 Pro side right

However, the tests don’t tell the whole story. That’s because the benchmarks were run with the phone in Performance Mode, something that requires manual activation from the settings. Huawei believes that users don’t need the full performance of the processor and limits it from the factory, primarily to ensure low power consumption. Without performance mode, the phone doesn’t overheat and delivers good performance, but about 25-30% less in tests. The truth is, however, that in performance mode, the battery drains much faster.

It’s nice at least that you have the option to choose between good performance, low temperatures and better battery life, or top performance, high temperatures and poor battery life. Other manufacturers don’t offer such settings. In the sustained performance test you can see that Huawei also has a smart cooling system, which decreases performance temporarily and then increases it again, depending on the temperature, unlike other models that once they reach the thermal limit, they stay there and performance steadily decreases.

Benchmarks

  • AnTuTu – 1.027.576
  • GeekBench – Single-Core: 1,269 / Multi-Core: 3,828
  • 3DMark Wild Life Extreme – 2.767
  • 3DMark Wild Life Extreme Stress Test – Best loop: 2.795 / Lowest loop: 925 / Stability: 33.1%
  • PCMark – 12.696

Autonomy is good, but not out of the box

I mentioned earlier that performance isn’t great when the phone is in performance mode, but that’s only true under sustained complex loads. In normal use, even in performance mode, you’ll be able to use the Mate 50 Pro for at least a day, if not longer. In “normal” mode, the Mate 50 Pro is a two-day phone.

Huawei Mate 50 Pro bottom

Being a flagship, it benefits from not only 66W charging, which powers the 4,700 mAh battery in less than an hour, but also 50W wireless charging and wireless reverse charging for headphones or watches.

Mate 50 Pro is the first phone to ship with EMUI 13

The Mate 50 Pro is the first Huawei model to run the new Android-based EMUI 13 interface. At first glance, not much has changed, and only a few new features are really noticeable, while small elements of the interface have subtly changed here and there. Not being a daily EMUI user, I didn’t notice much new. Huawei does say, however, that many changes are in the background, where AI algorithms optimize performance, power consumption, RAM management and more. I can confirm that Huawei’s tendency to put background apps “to sleep” in an aggressive way seems to be not so much anymore. For a phone with 8GB RAM, everything moves and opens very quickly.

Huawei Mate 50 Pro screen bottom

As I’ve already gotten used to when testing Huawei phones, I download most apps either from the AppGallery, the company’s store, which constantly adds new and mostly local apps for banks, delivery services, shipping or stores in Romania. Also from the AppGallery I downloaded Gspace, a nifty app that I’ve talked about in other Huawei phone material. It allows you to install apps you can’t easily find in the AppGallery and gives those who want access to YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, or even streaming services like Netflix or Disney+ the ability to install them using a Google account themselves.

Once installed, they can be put into the phone’s main menu, and notifications or even features like picture-in-picture for YouTube Premium work seamlessly. It’s an extra step, but a necessary one for those who don’t want to complicate themselves with installing apps from alternative stores. It’s a functional solution that can be used without too much hassle.

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Huawei Mate 50 Pro logo

Huawei phones also have the advantage of receiving long-term software support, beyond the two, or three years of support most companies offer. Right during testing we received the latest security update, and new updates are constantly being released to improve the performance of camera capabilities and fix bugs.

Huawei is among the few manufacturers using 3D facial authentication

Huawei usually has the best-performing fingerprint sensors, especially when we’re talking about the ones placed on the side, in the Power button. In the case of the Mate 50 Pro, we have an optical sensor built into the screen, which while it almost never fails, is a little slower than one on the side. I got along with it pretty well, but I’m more comfortable with facial recognition. Being an iPhone user, I’m used to unlocking my phone this way, and switching during testing to the Mate 50 Pro felt natural.

Huawei also seems to have put in the effort to deliver decent speakers on the Mate 50 Pro, which offer high volume playback and provide a fairly “rich” sound in frequencies within the size limits. The bass isn’t very loud, but at least it’s audible, compared to other phones where it’s completely lacking.

Mate 50 Pro offers first 10-step variable aperture camera

Probably the most important upgrade on the Mate 50 Pro over other Huawei phones of the past is the camera, which comes for the first time with variable aperture on the main lens. We’re talking ten-step variations between f/1.4 and f/4.0, which will ensure the best settings for each individual shot. So in low light, the aperture is fully open to capture more light at f/1.4, while in bright light it will close to avoid ‘burnt out’ areas.

Huawei Mate 50 Pro camera

In addition to the main camera, we’re also dealing with a 64-megapixel zoom with a 3.5x periscopic lens, as well as a 13-megapixel ultrawide camera. The latter has an aperture angle of 120 degrees, significantly wider than other models on the market.

Photo Day

In daylight, all the cameras are excellent, capturing very good detail and providing a wide dynamic range that captures both light and shadows correctly. Using both standard auto mode and AI scene detection mode, everything is very well represented and close to reality, with no colour overload, as on past Huawei models. There’s even a macro mode, which uses the ultrawide camera to capture great detail at very close range to the subject.

However, Huawei still has some work to do on the processing software for night mode. It’s still among the best on the market, but I noticed slight inconsistencies between frames. Colors on night mode are sometimes incorrectly displayed, but I haven’t found a fix from the settings. It seems to be the camera’s algorithms, which sometimes interpret lighting conditions incorrectly. These times are rare and I hope to have them fixed in a future software update.

Night photo

Most of the night shots are very bright and detailed. Now it also depends on how much you care about capturing reality or if you prefer very bright shots. If you don’t want night to turn into day, the main camera can take “normal” photos without night mode, quite well. On dedicated mode though, only ultra wide and wide cameras are used, with zooming being done via digital zoom on the main camera.

Even though DxOMark has named the Mate 50 Pro as offering the best camera at the moment, it’s hard to give a similar verdict on Go4it. Compared to other phones on the market that we’ve tested, the Mate 50 Pro can easily compete with the new iPhones, Galaxy S22 flagships and other top models tested this year. It’s clear that Huawei has some advantages, thanks to its variable aperture camera, but the differences when you draw the line are minimal between phones in this price range. What we did notice with the Huawei, however, is that the photos are good to post on social media right away, without much extra editing required.

Conclusions

By the end of the year Huawei has managed to release one of the best built phones on the market, with some of the best performing hardware. But this is a phone that seems dedicated mainly to photography enthusiasts, but it also comes with enough advantages to be able to offer a top-notch experience, no matter the use case.

The price of 6,499 lei, at which it’s available in the tested orange variant (with 512 GB storage), will be the biggest deterrent to potential customers, however.

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