Home > Features > All We Know About the Huawei Mate 20 Series: Kirin 980, Large Battery, Tiny Notch

All We Know About the Huawei Mate 20 Series: Kirin 980, Large Battery, Tiny Notch

Photography was what put Huawei up amongst the top global smartphone manufacturers. While previous iterations of its smartphones had good performance and great cameras, the Mate 10 was the first one to combine an incredible Leica-coproduced camera array with top-notch AI smarts and flagship-level processing. The Huawei P20 and P20 Pro followed up on that success with an ambitious triple-camera array that drew nervous laughter at first, and then surpassed all reasonable expectations.

The Mate 20 Lite has been unveiled at IFA 2018 in Berlin earlier this year, far ahead of the main Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro launch slated to happen in London on the 16th of October. If the main Mate 20 phones were to resemble the Lite version, we can expect a dual-front facing camera array in a rather wide notch (not unlike the iPhone X). But leaks show a tiny triangular notch not unlike that found on the Oppo F9 this year. That would only be able to contain a single front-facing camera.

Most of the leaks and rumours point toward a triple-camera array, arranged in a square fashion with the laser autofocus and flash modules taking up the last corner. This means we can definitely expect Huawei’s focus on photography to be retained on its upcoming devices.

The Mate RS, the latest in the line of Huawei Mate phones prior to the reveal of the Mate 20 Lite just months ago. Image: Ian Ling

Right at the top of the list of things we can expect from the Mate 20 series of cameras is Huawei’s new 7nm process Kirin 980 chipset. We’ve seen a 7nm processor just days ago during Apple’s Special Event where they launched the iPhone Xs, Xs Max and XR, all of which run the new A12 Bionic with the same claim to fame.

Despite this, the Huawei Kirin 980 Chipset comes with a slew of world firsts: the world’s first 7nm SoC, the world’s first Cortex A76-based CPU and Mali-G76-based GPU, the world’s first Dual NPU to power the onboard AI, the world’s first 1.4Gbps Cat 21 Modem, and the world’s first SoC that supports speeds up to 2.133GHz.

This essentially covers all bases: power efficiency, computing power, AI smarts, great graphics and a powerful communications suite – expected from Huawei’s pedigree as a foremost telecommunications infrastructure provider.

The list of world-firsts. Image: Huawei Singapore Media Presentation

With the Kirin 980, Huawei is able to go above and beyond what has been previously possible. With 20% more processing power than its predecessor and 40% greater efficiency, the Kirin 980 boasts a Cortex A76 CPU and Mali G76 GPU, along with Dual NPUs (Neural Processing Units).

This added computing capability gives the Kirin 980-equipped Huawei Mate 20 added AI smarts, which would combine with the tried-and-trusted triple camera array for performance yet unheard of. In fact, Huawei has hinted that the AI capabilities that have helped hone its photography output would now enable scene detection and optimisation in video!

A Huawei prototype, demonstrating the Kirin 980 chipset. It is the black square located near the centre of the image, surrounded by four brass rings at each corner. Image: Ian Ling

In the demonstration of the Kirin 980 chipset, Huawei engineers showed how the prototype was able to achieve a sustained 60fps in the demanding game NBA 2K. The engineers explained that it was possible due to flex scheduling, and also its newly-implemented AI Loading Prediction Technology.

This technology captures usage information as users launch different applications, and learns the different demands during different usage patterns. Through this, the Kirin 980 chipset would be able to provide the optimal power that meets the demands of different use cases to reduce system lag and power consumption as usage increases.

The Kirin 980 that will be found on the Huawei’s Mate 20 utilises AI to predict app load trends, thus reducing throttling and lag by preempting power consumption spikes. Image: Huawei Singapore Media Presentation

Flex scheduling of the eight cores on the CPU enables the chip to allocate efficient resources for a variety of use cases.

Most octa-core CPUs at present are divided equally into four high-powered cores with high clock speeds, and four efficient low-powered cores. The Kirin 980, however, are divided by three types: two Cortex A76-based Super cores at 2.6GHz that are responsible for turbo performance, two Cortex A76-based Large cores at 1.92GHz that provide sustained performance, and four power-efficient 1.8GHz Small efficiency cores that are based on Cortex A55.

The eight cores of the Kirin 980 Cortex A76-based CPU come in three types: two Super cores, two Large cores and four Small efficiency cores. Image: Huawei Singapore Media Presentation

Flex scheduling will thus take advantage of the greater variety of core types to specifically cater processing power to different apps and use cases in an optimal manner. The greater variety of cores, with different power consumptions and clock speeds will benefit from AI-enabled allocation of processing power to ensure lag-free usage and power conservation.

A visual representation of how different use cases will be allocated to the different cores on the Kirin 980 chipset. Image: Huawei Singapore Media Presentation

Also showcased was the ability of the neural networks to recognise movement and body positioning. With the ability to track several individuals at a time, the Huawei Kirin 980 was able to accurately and promptly represent body position data on the screen virtually lag-free.

This provides several possibilities with regard to video optimisation with AI, and also opens up the platform for apps to provide dance and sports coaching, or even physiotherapy and motion-controlled games not unlike the Wii.

The AI-powered motion tracking capabilities on the Kirin 980 chipset. Image: Ian Ling

Many other details related to the Mate 20 series are shady, and can not be verified.

We, however, might expect two different notch styles for the two different Mate 20 handsets. The smaller Mate 20 phones would probably sport a tiny triangular (most refer to this as a ‘teardrop’ notch), which means it would only have a single front-facing camera. The larger Mate 20 Pro, however, would probably have a larger, rounded notch that resembles that on the iPhone X series of phones.

These were based on leaks of display panels from workers at the China-based plant.

The differences seem to not be limited to the size of the phone and the notch, however. More leaked renders show that one version of the phone will have a round fingerprint sensor underneath the square camera array assembly, while the other version lacks the cutout for the fingerprint sensor.

Our guess is that the smaller, cheaper Mate 20 will retain the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor but the more expensive and larger Mate 20 Pro might have the same on-screen fingerprint scanner debuted on the Porsche Design Huawei Mate Rs launched just earlier this year (image at the top of the article).

Each unit of the triple camera array would likely be arranged at the corner of the square-shaped module, with the last corner dedicated to the flash and laser autofocus system.

The Pro version also allegedly lacks cutouts for vertically-firing loudspeakers, which suggests that it might feature front-firing, perhaps stereo audio.

Case manufacturer leaks also show cutouts for an IR blaster, which is to be retained from the previous iterations.

The initial wave of leaks also showcased a Mate 20 (probably Pro model) with a wider, rounded top notch that ostensibly houses dual cameras, along with a 3D-sensing module for advanced facial recognition. Photographs of the settings page also suggest features like NFC, and also a 126GB variant.

We also expect the smaller Mate 20 model to have a 6.3-inch display, while the larger Mate 20 Pro might have a huge 6.9-inch one, making it the largest screen on a mainstream smartphone (not a phablet). Reports suggest that the screens will be AMOLED.

Both models are expected to run Android Pie, as has been approved by the European Economic Commission (EEC) for sale in the EU with that specification. There’s no reason not to expect Huawei’s EMUI skin to be present on the devices.

Battery-wise, things get even shadier, but some analysts are expecting a 4,200mAh unit to be implemented on the smaller phone, and possibly a 5,000mAh battery on the Mate 20 Pro. For reference, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has one of the largest batteries at 4,000mAh, and it’s a very large phone. Whatever the case, based on teasers the company has sent to some media outlets, it seems the phone will definitely have a larger battery capacity than the 4,000mAh Mate 10 Pro and P20 Pro flagships.

The Mate 10 Pro launched at USD799 (SGD1,095), and we can expect the Mate 20 Pro to be the same price or more. Stay tuned for our coverage on the London launch event and a in-depth review when the phone is launched.


Ian Ling
Ian is the resident Tech Monkey and Head of Content at VR Zone. His training in Economics and Political Science is at the basis of his love for journalism and storytelling. A photographer by passion, and an audiophile by obsession, Ian is captivated by all forms of tech that makes enthusiasts tick.

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