Huawei launched the Mate 20 X today with a simple marketing claim: this is a smartphone dedicated to the needs of gamers. But such claims need evidence and that's why Huawei (a GameBench client) sent a pre-release device over to our new testing department, GameBench Labs. We tested the phone's graphical performance across three popular and computationally demanding mobile titles that Huawei nominated: NBA 2K18 by 2K, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang by Moonton, and PUBG Mobile by Tencent Games. Read on to see how the Mate 20 X fared compared to the Apple iPhone Xs Max and Samsung Galaxy Note9.
Full Verified Results
This article is a top-level summary of our ratings. If you'd like to receive the full verified results, including our frame rate variability metrics and updates on new results as they come in, please register below and we'll send these to you by email.
Let's start with the most popular game in our test trio: The battle royale shooter PUBG Mobile, which boasts 20 millions players per month globally. (Note: Our verified results cover the Chinese version of the game, but we also briefly looked at UK version and saw the same pattern of results.)
Competitiveness within PUBG Mobile relies heavily on fluid and responsive gameplay, which is best delivered by the game's "Extreme" 60fps frame rate setting, even though this setting requires that graphical detail is kept to a minimum.
All three devices in our comparison were able to achieve this: the Huawei 20 X, iPhone Xs Max and Galaxy Note9 all produced a median average that was at or very close to 60fps. Where the Huawei 20 X stood out was in its minimum frame rate during performance bottlenecks. Even during the parachute sequence and fast off-road driving sequences that caused the other devices to stutter down to 52fps or below, the Mate 20 X never dropped below 54fps. This was just enough to get our GameBench Labs Ultra rating, which requires a median frame rate of at least 58fps and a minimum frame rate of at least 54fps.
This quality basketball sim is a standard bearer for premium games and is widely used as a real-world benchmark by GameBench subscribers. However, the game is far better optimised for iOS and generally loses fluidity on Android phones when the graphics settings are dialled up. The Chinese (Qualcomm-powered) Galaxy Note9 was an example of this, delivering a median frame rate of 38fps and a minimum of 24fps. This is below our 30fps threshold for smooth playability, so achieves only a GameBench Labs Basic rating.
By contrast, the Mate 20 X is able to play NBA 2K18 at 60fps, just like the iPhone XS Max does with the same settings (everything on max except the "Crowd" setting, which is limited to "Medium" on the iPhone). This is a surprising result for an Android device and allows the Mate 20 X to secure a GameBench Labs Ultra rating on this game.
Our only caveat with NBA 2K18 is that there is some minor distortion of the image the Mate 20 X's massive display, as the game appears to be slightly resized to make the most of the screen's form factor. This causes a bit of extra pixelation if you look very closely and compare side-by-side with the iPhone Xs Max version. NBA 2K18 does render at a full 1080p on the Mate 20 X, however, so it's not a performance issue and it's possible that the resizing could be improved in an update.
Mobile Legends: Bang Bang
Moonton's MOBA game Mobile Legends remains one of the most-played titles in one of the most-played mobile genres. On the Huawei Mate 20 X, Mobile Legends aced our test and achieved an Ultra rating thanks to a rock-solid 60fps.
No matter how intense the battling got and how many sprites and effects were onscreen at the same time, the frame rate never dropped below 59fps -- something that cannot be said of the iPhone Xs Max or the European Note9 (SM-N960F), both of which were tested with identical settings. Although both these rival devices played at or very close to 60fps on average, the iPhone Xs Max saw occasional drops down to 57fps (still enough for an Ultra rating), while the Note9 dropped down to 48fps (enough for a Smooth rating).
We're not surprised by Huawei's excellent result with Mobile Legends, as this was one of the first titles to benefit from the manufacturer's GPU Turbo technology, which we tested back in August with much the same results.
Although we were specifically interested in frame rate performance in our Mate 20 X tests, we always keep an eye on power consumption too. Based on GameBench crowdsourced data, we've seen that four hours of gameplay on a charge (i.e. a burn rate of 25 percent per hour) represents a useful threshold and midpoint of "okay" battery life. If we see any evidence, whether from observed battery depletion or from software tools, that drain exceeds this threshold, then we'll provide a battery warning alongside our performance rating.
The Mate 20 X showed no signs of dropping below four hours of gameplay, so we have issued no battery warnings. We did see some signs of the Mate 20 X being a power-hungry device, particularly in NBA 2K18 where we observed a current draw of over 1,000mA. However, the device's huge 5,000mAh battery helped it to stay above our cut-off point. The iPhone Xs Max and Note9 showed similarly safe power consumption, again only coming close to the threshold when playing NBA 2K18.
Our Mate 20 X real-world benchmarks are good news for anyone who's into high-end mobile gaming. It's clear that Huawei's engineers have worked hard to optimise the player's experience on these popular titles and it's remarkable that even the iPhone Xs Max came out slightly behind in our tests, given that iOS has historically had a significant performance advantage over the Android gaming ecosystem.
At the same time, it's important to keep a sense of perspective and not over-egg what our results mean. We cannot extrapolate results from three popular games to all popular games. We need to test more titles on the Mate 20 X, including other top MOBAs like Arena of Valor (aka Honor of Kings in China) as well as games from other genres, and that's something we plan to do in the coming weeks in order to paint a more complete picture of this phone's gaming credentials. Please stay tuned by signing up for updates using the form at the top of this article!
Update 17th Oct 2018: Since we published this article, there have been a couple of errors in Huawei's use of our ratings in its launch publicity. These errors don't relate to the Mate 20 X, but rather to the iPhone Xs Max. For clarity, below is a grid of our ratings as supplied to Huawei and as described in this article, together with links to the Verified Results Cards for each session. (Again, you can also register at the top of this article to get the underlying frame rate metrics for all our test sessions by email.)
|Huawei Mate 20 X||PUBG Mobile||Ultra||https://gmbn.ch/n2w|
|Huawei Mate 20 X||NBA 2K18||Ultra||https://gmbn.ch/0av|
|Huawei Mate 20 X||Mobile Legends||Ultra||https://gmbn.ch/w78|
|iPhone Xs Max||PUBG Mobile||Smooth||https://gmbn.ch/z83|
|iPhone Xs Max||NBA 2K18||Ultra||https://gmbn.ch/2nb|
|iPhone Xs Max||Mobile Legends||Ultra||https://gmbn.ch/p38|
|Samsung Note9 (China)||PUBG Mobile||Smooth||https://gmbn.ch/x9y|
|Samsung Note9 (China)||NBA 2K18||Basic||https://gmbn.ch/7ka|
|Samsung Note9 (Europe)||Mobile Legends||Smooth||https://gmbn.ch/98d|