With the Samsung S20 Ultra and the Huawei P40 Pro in hand, I managed to test and maybe even dispel a whole bunch of claims made by two of our favourite smartphone manufacturers. Although the loss of Google services will hit some of us hard, the possibility of living without them is there, but is the compromise worth it?
Samsung and Huawei have long been duelling for world domination in the smartphone arena and with these two heavyweights currently in my possession it seemed necessary to pit them up against each other.
Ideally, I would have liked to compare the P40 Pro Plus with the Samsung S20 Ultra but with Huawei only launching the P40 Pro locally recently and no date on the release of a Plus, it seemed appropriate enough to work with the two flagship phones available currently from each stable: the best from Huawei vs the best from Samsung.
Before we begin, a quick disclaimer shall we say: I am a fan of both Samsung Galaxy phones and the Huawei P series and I do make use of both a P20 Pro and a Note 10 in my arsenal, so just to clarify that in my personal capacity there is definitely no bias towards one or the other brand.
Design and aesthetics
From a design perspective, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra has a slightly bigger form factor, which is expected – it is after all the biggest phone in that series.
Both phones have a metal frame with curved glass panels on the front and the back and they both also have a rectangular camera module. The S20 Ultra does have the bigger camera module and as I mentioned, is just a larger device overall, which lets the P40 Pro take the lead here because it’s more comfortable to hold in one hand.
The S20 Ultra that I have on review is sleek and sophisticated – to be honest I loved it, but it pales in comparison when side by side with the satin finish of the P40 Pro, which is definitely the standout in the looks department.
Both phones are IP68 dust and water resistant and while their buttons are in different places, they serve the same purpose. Both phones have the volume and power button on the right. On the top of the P40 Pro is the IR blaster which the S20 Ultra doesn’t have – Samsung seems to have done away with that for quite some time now. The S20 Ultra SIM card and the micro SD card slots are on the top, while the USB C is on the bottom. The Huawei P40 Pro’s USB C slot is also on the bottom neighbouring the SIM card and SD card slot.
There are two stereo speakers on the S20 Ultra, while the P 40 Pro only has a single speaker on the top and neither phone has an audio jack.
Turn the phones over and the P40 Pro comes with a 6.5 inch AMOLED display while the S 20 Ultra comes with the bigger 6.9 inch dynamic AMOLED screen with a slightly higher resolution of 1440 by 3200 pixels instead of a 1200 by 2640 pixels on the P40 Pro. At the top of the screen in the middle, the S20 Ultra has only a small round notch, while to the left on the P40 Pro the notch is a lot longer, housing the selfie camera and an IR depth sensor.
Both phones have an in-display fingerprint scanner and both are very fast in reacting. On the P40 Pro, the fingerprint scanner is an optical in-display fingerprint scanner, while the S 20 Ultra uses ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanning, which was first introduced with the S10. To be fair, both work well and are fast enough, although it could be argued that the ultrasonic is more secure.
Both the Samsung S20 Ultra and the Huawei P40 Pro have interesting, and similar, camera setups. They each have a primary camera, an ultra-wide camera, a zoom camera with periscope technology which gives you roughly around five times optical zoom and the time of flight sensor for depth information.
So both phone manufacturers flaunt five times optical zoom on their relevant devices. The 12MP Periscope Super Zoom Lens on the P40 Pro has 5X optical, 10X hybrid and 50X digital zoom, while the Samsung S20 Ultra has a 48MP 10x hybrid zoom and claims a 100x digital zoom. In short, the zoom functions on both phones are fantastic up to their hybrid limits but both claims of 50x and 100x digital zoom are more about publicity than an actual usable function.
Impressively, the Samsung S20 Ultra films in up to 8k which doesn’t necessarily give it the advantage. Although it sounds impressive and technologically speaking it is impressive, I found it heated up when I was filming and where can I really use 8k video? The P40 Pro has 4k up to 60 frames per second and that’s what we can make use of right now.
It’s also worth a mention that Huawei makes use of something they call AI Golden Snap, which chooses the best moment of a pic, eliminates reflection, and also eliminates passers-by or photobombers.
Both phones are powered by the latest and greatest. The S20 Ultra does come with more RAM. You’ve got 12GB as a base with an option for 16GB, whereas the P40 Pro comes with 8GB of RAM. The P40 Pro does come with a larger base storage version of 256GB, while the S20 Ultra comes with a base of 128GB but you can get a 512GB option. Both devices do have expandable storage. You can expand the Samsung S20 Ultra storage to an impressive 1 Terabyte, while expanding the Huawei P40 Pro is “limited” to a massive 512GB.
Battery performance was largely the same on both phones which was not too surprising. Yes, the Samsung has the larger battery but it also has the larger screen to power.
I got around one day screen time out of the both phones on average. To add to that, the P40 Pro has fast charging at 40 watts compared to the 25 watts on the S20 Ultra – you will have to pay extra if you want the 45 watt super charger on the Samsung, which to be honest is disappointing when you are shelling out R30k for a phone. Wireless charging was 27 watt on the P40 Pro versus 15 watt on the S20 Ultra.
The Huawei P40 Pro 5G comes with a price tag of around R21 000, while the Samsung S20 Ultra is around R29 999.
All in all…
…there really isn’t much to separate these devices. Yes, if you currently want the larger display and don’t want to wait for the P40 Pro+ devices then you should go with Samsung. If however you are a Huawei fan who doesn’t mind some small inconveniences then I can’t think of a reason not to buy the Huawei P40 Pro.
Hang on! I hear you say: what about all of this Google nonsense?
Okay, I will admit losing Google Mobile Services is certainly not ideal and yes, you will need to do a little research to ensure you are still able to access the apps you use regularly but in my opinion the P40 Pro is worth it.
Make no mistake the P40 Pro is a beauty. From the moment I took it out of the box I wanted it to be mine. If you are currently in the market for a new device and your only reason for not immediately buying the P40 Pro is “the Google problem” then my suggestion would be to do the following. 1. Check if the apps you use are available via a side loading alternative source you feel you can trust and 2. Get out your credit card!!
If you are still not convinced that a post Google world is possible then check back in a few days and read my guide “Huawei, without Google” and let’s see if I can change your mind.