Huawei didn't just present the P20 Pro, P20 and P20 Lite this year. The Chinese manufacturer also debuted another smartphone with a much heftier price tag. Why does the new Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS cost so much more than other high-end smartphones? In addition to its partnership with the Porsche Design studio, the Mate RS has a fingerprint scanner under the screen! Is it worth the money? Find out in our full review.
- ✓Excellent design
- ✓Top quality finish
- ✓In-display fingerprint scanner
- ✓No notch
- ✕No headphone jack
A luxury price...
The collaboration between Huawei and Porsche Design has been going on for years, but it's usually with the release of a Mate device that the two companies publicly show the fruits of the relationship. This year, the Mate RS is the Porsche Design variant of the P20 Pro, rather than a variant of a Mate device.
As the name suggests, the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS is a luxury smartphone (Porsche isn't exactly low-cost), and it's aesthetically pleasing with a great set of specs. As for what's on the inside, the Mate RS has nothing to envy from the competition. It features the Kirin 970 processor, AI, a triple camera, no notch, a Full-View display, Fast Charge, IP67 certification against dust and water. In short, it lacks nothing, but the lack of compromises comes at a price.
The 256 GB model costs 1,550 EUR ($1,840 USD), while the 512 GB model costs 2,095 EUR ($2,488 USD). Of the two colors, the red version will be sold in China, while the black version will be sold in Europe. A US release is unlikely since Huawei has run into many setbacks trying to officially offer its devices in America lately. Australian Huawei fans can hold onto hope though, since the Mate 10 Porsche Design was made available there.
It costs a lot of money, but it's a luxury smartphone, so what do you expect? It may not have the diamonds or crocodile leather of a Vertu device, but its technical specs are at the forefront.
The smartphone comes boxed with two chargers (one for Europe, one for the UK), two USB Type-C cables, a pair of headphones and a leather case (which looks like plastic).
It's a thing of beauty
The Huawei Porsche Design Mate RS has a lot in common with the Huawei P20 Pro. The two share the same processor, battery and camera. However, in terms of looks, they are very different.
The Mate RS remains true to the style of the other Porsche devices. On the front, the rounded edges and the curved 6-inch OLED screen are reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S8, or the S9. In terms of materials, the smartphone features glass prominently and the result is a very elegant design.
Without its case, the Mate RS is very slippery, just like other smartphones made with the same material. Given the price of the device, you'll want to take care not to drop it. It becomes covered in fingerprints very quickly.
The black review unit we received had a very sober air about it, and it fits well with the general design of the device. The way the glass fits together with the frame is seamless, and though it's expensive, the device seems to have earned its price.
The Porsche Design Mate RS packs a lot into a small package (152.9 x 72.5 x 8.5 mm) with a weight of 183 g. That means it's easy to handle and fits into your pocket easily. Everything you may need to use is easily accessible.
Unlike the Huawei P20 Pro, the camera is centered on the back of the device, just above the fingerprint reader. Huawei also put a fingerprint reader in front, just under the display. Huawei is the second manufacturer (after Vivo) to offer this type of in-display fingerprint reader. We will return to this topic later in the review, but for now, I'll say it was very impressive.
For those who aren't sold on the technology yet, there's still a normal fingerprint reader on the back, so users are given a choice. Finally, there's also facial recognition for unlocking the device.
No notch and a perfect display!
Unlike the P20 family, the Porsche Design Mate RS doesn't have a notch on its 6-inch OLED display. In an interview with Digitaltrends, Christian Schwamkrug, the head of design at Porsche Design, justified this choice. It was important to follow the philosophy of Ferdinand Porsche, co-founder of the brand, namely the famous quote: “If you analyze the function of an object, its form becomes obvious.”
“When I saw the notch for the first time, I nearly couldn’t believe it. It’s disturbing, from a design philosophy,” he explained. “A picture is either rectangular or square, with a border line, and a clear frame format. I like symmetry. I didn’t want to have the notch, I think it’s a compromise.”
Personally, I think it's a very good decision. All apps are compatible with this 18.5:9 display format. For the rest, we find all the positive qualities of an OLED screen with a result that's just as excellent as the P20 Pro. The brightness is very good, the blacks are deep and the 1440 x 2880 definition offers a pixel density of 538 pixels per inch, which is all perfect. The viewing angles are without fault. Huawei did a great job again on this smartphone.
In the settings, it is possible to change the color of the screen. By default, the Mate RS uses the 'vivid' color profile. The Always On mode is very practical in everyday life. However, unlike on some Samsung phone, it is only possible to display the date, time and remaining battery level.
Unlocking your smartphone has never been easier
The Porsche Design Mate RS gives users several options for unlocking the smartphone. You'll find a normal fingerprint scanner on the back, facial recognition and of course the famous in-display fingerprint scanner. The Huawei Mate RS Porsche Design is one of the first devices to have this feature. According to analysis by IHS Markit, in-display fingerprint readers will become much more widespread in 2019 with no less than 100 million smartphones produced with it.
All three methods make it easy to unlock the phone in different situations. The fingerprint scanner on the back is just as efficient as we're used to seeing on other Huawei devices. Facial recognition works perfectly and quickly unless you're in the dark. The smartphone can even recognize your face with glasses on.
What about the in-display fingerprint scanner?
Contrary to rumors, this type of reader was not integrated on the new Huawei P20 Pro but instead on the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS variant. The Chinese manufacturer has showed its willingness to innovate and its desire to be among the pioneers of the feature. The company which made the fingerprint reader under the glass is unknown. There are two possibilities which come to mind: Qualcomm and Fingerprint Cards.
How does it work? The reader detects the presence of a finger placed in the correct area of the screen, which then lights up in blue. The reader then saves an image of the print, which is then compared with the one saved in the device's memory. If it matches, the smartphone unlocks. If not, it vibrates and lets you try again up to 5 times.
The most interesting thing to note is that recognition takes place relatively quickly, making this method of unlocking just as effective as the conventional scanner or facial recognition. Admittedly, these two techniques are still slightly faster on this model, but the position and ease of access of the in-display scanner make it more useful and pleasant. It's also guaranteed to impress your friends.
For more details, check out my full article on the in-display fingerprint scanner.
Android 8.1 Oreo and EMUI 8
Unsurprisingly, we find Android 8.1 Oreo and the EMUI 8 interface on the Porsche Design Mate RS, along with the security patch for the month of April. There's no notable change compared to the P20 Pro which shares the same specs.
Aesthetically, that means we're in familiar territory. The context menus on the app icons can by found by pressing for three seconds. Twin apps are also part of the party. There's also the possibility to use an app drawer if you don't like the default. The size of the home screen grid, the transitions, color themes and permanently displayed information can also be tweaked to your liking.
Overall, the interface is perfectly fluid and the smartphone supports multitasking without flinching. There aren't any slowdowns or freezing either. For a smartphone at this price point, that's what we expected, and there weren't any nasty surprises. One flaw, common to all Huawei smartphones, is Huawei's software suite which often overlaps with Android's native features.
Under the hood, the Porsche Design Mate RS has a Kirin 970 processor with 6 GB of RAM and 256 GB of internal storage (the memory is not expandable via microSD card). As with the P20 Pro, expect high-end performance. The smartphone is fast and does not choke, even under pressure when playing the most demanding games. Combined with the EMUI interface, the performance was excellent and, at times, superior to that of its competition.
It packs all the equipment you could want on the P20 Pro (LTE Cat.18, Gigabit WiFi, Bluetooth with aptX HD, Dolby Atmos, USB Type-C...), and with the exception of a headphone jack. USB Type-C headphones come packaged in the box to help ease the pain. The smartphone is dual SIM compatible.
The benchmark test results below demonstrate the overall power of the device.
Processor and graphics performance results
|Pixel 2XL||Sony Xperia XZ2||Galaxy S9 (FullHD+)||Galaxy S9+ (FullHD+)||
Huawei Mate RS
Sling Shot ES 3.1
Sling Shot ES 3.0
Ice Storm Unlimited ES 2.0
A perfect companion for multimedia
Like the P20 Pro, the Mate RS also offers stereo speakers for your audio pleasure. The speaker at the bottom of the device brings the bass, and the one at the top provides treble. The volume is sufficiently loud, and Dolby Atmos technology reproduces surround sound. When you crank the volume up too high, there's some distortion in the high end.
Audio output is through the USB Type-C port since there's no headphone jack. You must arm yourself with a wireless headset (the device is compatible with the aptX, aptX HD and LDAC standards) or use the provided headphones.
Triple threat camera
In partnership with Leica, the camera of the Huawei Mate RS is the same as that of the P20 Pro. So, here again, there are 3 lenses, with a maximum resolution of 40 megapixels and a maximum zoom of 5x. The camera benefits from artificial intelligence, and again, we see the same results as with the P20 Pro. Even if the device is technically quite complicated, it's incredibly simple to use. In automatic mode, the quality of the photos is impressive, and the videos are good quality too (though the S9 is still a little better in this area).
Even in low light conditions, the results are great. The focus is fast and accurate. Details are visible and the color reproduction is good. The competition isn't outshining it in any respect.
Take a look at our gallery of test photos:
Appropriate battery life
The device comes with a non-removable 4,000 mAh battery. This may seem like a lot on paper, but you have to take into account that the phone has a large display and features that take up a lot of power. In practice, the smartphone holds out for a day or more, in somewhat intensive conditions (calls, texting, internet browsing, YouTube ...). Compared to the Huawei P20 Pro, the smartphone doesn't last as long. How is this possible given that the phones have the same specs? It could be due to software optimizations, but the main cause is probably the QHD definition of the Porsche Design Mate RS.
The Huawei Mate RS Porsche Design supports fast charging, of course, and it takes an hour and a half for a full charge. The provided power supply is 10 watts. Finally, the smartphone is compatible with wireless charging (unlike the P20 Pro).
Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS technical specifications
|Dimensions:||152.9 x 72.5 x 8.5 mm|
|Battery size:||4000 mAh|
|Screen size:||6 in|
|Screen:||2880 x 1440 pixels (537 ppi)|
|Front camera:||24 megapixels|
|Rear camera:||40 megapixels|
|Android version:||8.1 - Oreo|
|User interface:||Emotion UI|
|Internal storage:||256 GB
|Removable storage:||Not available|
|Chipset:||HiSilicon Kirin 970|
|Number of cores:||8|
|Max. clock speed:||2.4 GHz|
|Connectivity:||HSPA, LTE, NFC, Dual-SIM , Bluetooth 4.2|
Is the Porsche Design Mate RS the best Android smartphone of the moment? Yes, in my opinion. The smartphone has an attractive design, top performance, a killer camera and it offers a real technological innovation with the fingerprint scanner under the display.
Is it worth the price? Alas, no...It's almost twice the price of the Huawei P20 Pro, which it has a lot in common with, technically speaking. Even though the in-display fingerprint sensor brings a breath of fresh air and truly differentiates it from other high-end smartphones, the Porsche Design Mate RS hardly lives up to its price.
In short, if the price doesn't matter to you and you want the best Android smartphone money can buy, the Porsche Design Mate RS is definitely the smartphone for you. For others, I recommend checking out the Huawei P20 Pro or Galaxy S9, or simply waiting for the Huawei Mate 20 Pro which should offer the same main attraction, an in-display fingerprint scanner.