Camera Video Recording

Video recording have traditionally been a great weakness for Huawei, and the Mate 20’s feature the same type of issue that also plagued past Mate and P-series phones: the lack of OIS on the main camera modules. Furthermore, I was surprised to see that the video encoding block of the Kirin 980 caps out at 4K30, far lower than the competition from Qualcomm and Samsung.

Because the Mate 20’s feature wide-angle camera modules, this essentially doubles the amount of video samples we have to analyse. In terms of recording modes Huawei offers a slew of resolution from 720p to 4K30 – we’ll be limiting ourselves to the more popular 1080p30, 1080p60 and 4K30 modes. Video recording can be done either in H264, or H265, and the phone defaults to H264 for better file compatibility.

Mate 20 Pro:          

Mate 20:        

On both the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro, the one thing that immediately stands out from past Huawei devices is that the video is a lot more stable. Both in 1080p30 and 4K30 (in which previously EIS wasn’t available on the Kirin 970), we see some really good results considering the fact that the phones don’t have OIS. Here Huawei and HiSilicon are obviously using a different EIS algorithm that is much more performant, and the phone actually this time around doesn’t let you disable it. What is interesting to see is that here and there there’s still a jutter in the image, and when this happens we see the very edges of the video sometime warp for a few frames. This is an indication that the EIS algorithm is quite lax in following the camera frame, and in sudden movements tries to compensate and stabilize the recorded video frame by warping the existing camera frame along the edges when necessary. The only real negative of this implementation is that the actual video recording is delayed by a split second, something that plainly visible when panning around – in practical terms this shouldn’t be an issue.

Where things break down is in the 60fps mode: Here there’s no stabilisation and the result is what you’d expect from a non-OIS phone. I do find it weird that Huawei stabilises 4K30, but not 1080p60, as the larger resolution mode should in theory represent a more difficult workload. Here it’s likely that the new EIS is latency rather than throughput bound at some point in the pipeline, either by the sensors, or maybe even on the SoC side.

Video recording in 60fps is also not optimal, here I think Huawei was far too conservative in terms of video encoding bitrate as the resulting video is of much less quality than the 1080p30 mode. Also weird is that in 60fps mode, the phone will now do to the telephoto lens, only allowing digital zoom. However, switching over to the wide angle lens works.

4K30 is of great quality on both phones: This is an immense upgrade compared to the previous generation Huawei devices, and although it doesn’t quite match the quality of say the recent iPhone XS’, video recording is no longer a thorn in the side of the phones.

Recording video on the wide angle lenses is a great experience: It feels a bit less stable than o the primary lens (The EIS has more actual distance to compensate), but overall this is something that I’ve been a great fan of in LG phones, and should be definitely something that I recommend many users to try out.

Exposure and dynamic range is good on both phones and both modules, again something that’s seen immense upgrades compared to past Kirin 970 devices. It’s only when switching between the modules that it seems like it’s necessary to readjust the exposure sometimes. In terms of switching between the modules, Huawei is still a bit slow in this regard. Apple and other Snapdragon devices are able to do this almost instantly, however it still takes a few seconds for the Mate 20’s, especially switching to the zoom modules.

Overall, Huawei’s video recording quality on the Mate 20’s has seen a significant jump. The most glaring issues of stabilisation and lack of dynamic range (HDR recording) have been mostly fixed, and while it’s still not quite the best of the best, the end result is now no longer a big negative for the phones.

Camera - Low Light Evaluation Conclusion & End Remarks


View All Comments

  • SydneyBlue120d - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    I'd like to see some mobile speed test compared with Snapdragons and Intel modems :)
    Great review as always, included the Lorem Impsum in the video recording video page :P
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    Cellular tests are extremely hard to do in non-controlled environments, it's something I'm afraid of doing again as in the past I've found issues with my past mobile carrier that really opened my eyes as to just how much the tests are affected by the base station's configuration.

    I'm editing the video page, will shortly update it.
  • jjj - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    When you do the GPU's perf per W, why use peak not hot state average? And any chance you have any hot perf per W per mm2 data, would be interesting to see that.

    Have you checked if the Pto with max brightness throttles harder and by how much?
    Hope LG can sort out power consumption for their OLED or they'll have quite some issues with foldable displays.
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    It's a fair point, it's something I can do in the future but I'd have to go back measure across a bunch of deices.

    What did you mean by Pto? The power consumption of the screen at max brightness should be quite high if you're showing very high APL content, so by definition that is 2-3W more to the TDP, even though it's dissipated on a large area.
  • jjj - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    The Pro question was about the SoC throttling harder because of the display, could be and should be the case to some extend, especially if they did nothing about mitigating it but was curious how large the impact might be in a worse case scenario. - so SoC throttling with display at min power vs max power.
    Also related to this, does heat impact how brightness is auto-adjusted?
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    The 3D benchmarks are quite low APL so they shouldn't represent any notable difference in power. Manhattan for example is very dark. Reply
  • jjj - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    I suppose you could run your CPU power virus while manipulating the display too, just to see the impact. The delta between min and max power for the display is so huge that you got to wonder how it impacts SoC perf. Reply
  • Chitti - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    Nothing about speakers and sound output via USB-C and in Bluetooth earphones ? Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    I'll add a speaker section over the weekend, the Mate 20 Pro's speakers have a good amount of bass and mid-range, however there's some lacking presence in the higher frequencies, as well as some obvious reverberations on the back glass panel. Covering up the USB-C port where the sound is coming from muffles things hard, so this is a big no-no in terms of audio quality when you have it plugged in.

    The Mate 20 just has the bottom mono speaker, which is a disadvantage in itself. Here there's some lack of bass and mid-range, with a very tinny bottom firing sound.

    The USB-C headphones are good, but lacking a bit in clarify / lower high frequencies. They're ok but definitely not as good as Apple/Samsung/LG's included units.
  • jjj - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    Went over the review quickly, is there anything on the proprietary microSD and storage (NAND) in general, just point me to the right page if possible. Reply

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