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Huawei Mate 20 X Smartphone Review

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Goh Beng Yeow
Goh Beng Yeow, the Founder / Editor at Porta-Fi™, is a recipient of the IT Youth Award in Singapore. Twice nominated for EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, Beng Yeow has previously founded startups such as PDALive.com, Coded Pixels Consultants and was a Tech writer for TODAY, a national daily newspaper under MediaCorp. Since 2017, he has been writing, editing and producing commentaries, interviews, news and reviews on Porta-Fi™. In 2019, Beng Yeow was appointed Advisor to LHDC™, the industry's latest low latency and high-definition Bluetooth audio codec.

Sound Quality

Unlike the LG V30+, which features a quad-DAC configuration, the Mate 20 X sports a custom-designed DSP coupled with Huawei’s third-generation Hi6403 audio codec.  The HiSilicon Hi6403 audio codec registers an impressive dynamic range (DNR) of 117dB as well as an impressive low total harmonic distortion plus noise (THD+N) at -117dB.

Flight to Shanghai to visit Huawei's Research and Development Facility

The first time Porta-Fi knew about the Mate 20 X in August 2018, then still known as a codename device. Subsequently, on the 7th of September morning, I was on a flight from Beijing to Huawei’s Research & Development facility in Shanghai where after a non-disclosure agreement was signed. I was given a short tour around Huawei’s sound acoustic division filled with acoustic chambers and measurement facilities. I was impressed.

Next, the acoustic audio engineering team and I sat down in a lab where I was given a preview and experience session of the Mate 20 Pro and the Mate 20 X.

Unique to the Mate 20 X is the “Super-Bass Stereo Speaker System”, a two-year joint project by Huawei’s audio solutions and hardware divisions with their external partners. Let me take this opportunity to share some insights.

The “Super-Bass Stereo Speaker System” comprises two elements, the Ultra Dynamic Speaker and the Custom Smart Power Amplifier (Smart PA).

Traditionally, the micro-speaker used on the smartphone can only reach 0.25mm in amplitude, once the amplitude exceeds 0.25mm, it will start abnormal diaphragm movement, often resulting in noise and even damage to the voice coil and diaphragm.

Ultra Dynamic Speaker

Custom designed with a special structure coupled with the use of a new material for the diaphragm as well as a new magnet cylindrical system design, the Ultra Dynamic Speaker found on the Mate 20 X can achieve a maximum amplitude of 0.4mm to produce twice the external dynamics of the traditional speaker.

As the “Super-Bass Stereo Speaker System” feature two Ultra Dynamic Speakers at both ends of the device, a custom Smart PA system has to be developed to drive two micro-speakers that are 60% higher in amplitude than that of the traditional micro-speakers without compromising the battery life of the smartphone.

Huawei also implemented A.I. Dolby Atmos via Dolby AC-4 on all three models of the Mate 20 Series. Dolby Laboratories developed the Dolby AC-4 audio delivery system in order to combine the possibilities of modern high-efficiency audio coding, a flexible transport syntax, and powerful system-level features that optimize delivery and playback on a broad range of devices. Dolby describes the codec as a “new audio standard” and an “elegant architecture”, AC-4 natively supports Dolby Atmos and can deliver the Dolby Atmos experience using audio conveyed in a variety of different formats.

Dolby Atmos via Dolby AC-4

The implementation of Dolby AC-4 on Mate 20 X differs slightly from other models of the Mate 20 series, the “Super-Bass Stereo Speaker System” on the Mate 20 X allowed Huawei to implement a complete dual channel system. Having travelled to Korea with the Mate 20 X, I was able to enjoy “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” in my hotel room with the smartphone as my portable Dolby Atmos sound system. While it is not the best Dolby Atmos experience I have had, it is certainly the best surround sound experience I have had on a smartphone.

For the purist who would like to play music out of the speaker system without Dolby Atmos, one would be disappointed to know that Dolby Atmos cannot be disabled in speaker mode. However, it can be disabled when earphones are plugged into the 3.5mm jack.

Huawei Mate 20 X Dolby Atmos and Playback

Listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams (24-bit / 176.4kHz / FLAC),  “Thunder only happens when it’s raining”, these lyrics have always been stuck in my head since young. The song written by Stevie Nick, is about what she’d had and what she’d lost with Lindsey Buckingham. The low noise floor of the Mate 20 X allowed the gauzy ballad to shine through with tight and punchy low-end and wonderful treble-extensions which decay just nicely. Though slightly lacking in clarity and a bit of detail, the band’s only no.1 hit remains so enjoyable for the first time on a smartphone.

Part 1: Introduction, Design and Buildb
Part 2: Usability
Part 3: Sound Quality
Part 4: Product Specifications
Part 5: Review Ratings, Summary

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