Huawei P30 Pro review
You might think it is déjà vu as we are back talking about Huawei releasing a new flagship phone. The latest P-series of phones has arrived a mere six months after the Mate 20 Pro, complementing the Mate range with a handful of neat extras. It is pretty much the same that Samsung has been doing by maintains two families of flagship phones: the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S ranges.
In tune with Samsung’s pair of flagship offerings, both ranges are very similar. The Mate 20 Pro and P30 Pro are both powered by Huawei’s own Kirin 980 mobile processor, which is a 7nm architecture CPU clocked at 2.6GHz and a pretty solid rival to Qualcomm’s more widely-used Snapdragon 855 chipset. This is complemented by 8GB of RAM and a choice of 128GB or 512GB of expandable storage.
Otherwise, you’re looking at a slightly bigger 6.47in OLED screen, with a resolution of 2,340 x 1,080, and a 4,200mAh battery. It’s also running the latest version of Android (Android 9.0 Pie). What’s particularly special about the P30 Pro, however, is its intriguing quadruple-camera array.
The Huawei P30 Pro is an impressive piece of kit. It has a gorgeous curved screen, flagship Kirin 980 processor, IP68 water and dust resistance, reverse wireless charging, a faster in-display fingerprint scanner, and more. But let’s be honest, the P30 Pro is really all about the camera. And what a camera it is! The phenomenal 5x optical and 10x hybrid zoom are unlike anything we’ve used before and allowed us to capture photos that we simply wouldn’t be able to get with any other smartphone.
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Design, key features and first impressions
The Huawei P30 Pro is a continuation of what made last year’s phone so great with special improvement on the camera front. It is bizarrely attractive, sandwiched between layers of nice curved glass on the front and rear, and it comes in a wide range of colors. The most eye-catching is the Breathing Crystal colour, which fades from deep purple to a light blue across the rear panel, depending on how the phone catches the light. You’ll see most photos of the Huawei P30 Pro with this color. There’s also a regular black variant for those who prefer a more modest look.
As you would expect from a flagship phone, the Huawei P30 Pro is thin, packing within a large 6.47in screen, a fairly compact chassis overall. To top it all, the P30 Pro’s display delivers a slightly more stretched out long-tall aspect ratio of 19.5:9. Nice touch.
However, with the arrival of this elongated aspect ratio comes the return of the notch. This time around, though, it isn’t iPhone-like. Instead, the 32-megapixel selfie camera is embedded in a fairly unobtrusive circular teardrop notch. Huawei has stripped back the bezels above and below the screen to the bare minimum, reducing the size of the notch at the top of the display to just what’s required to house the front camera, while at the bottom the fingerprint scanner is embedded in the display, allowing the screen to extend further to the base of the handset.
Setting up fingerprints on the scanner is a little time-consuming, with a number of scans required for each digit you register. We’d recommend both thumbs and forefingers for ease of use. Once set up though, the scanner works with great accuracy and speed.
With this in mind, one wonders where on earth the front-mounted earpiece speaker went to! Surprisingly, it has been replaced with a new feature Huawei calls “electro-magnetic levitation”. This is essentially a fancy way of saying the phone’s screen vibrates and generates a sound when pressed against your ear. We are not sure where the levitation comes into it, or even if it’s necessary, but it does make the phone look neater and cleaner overall.
The Huawei P30 Pro is without a doubt, the firm’s best designed and attractive smartphone to this date. We actually think that it looks better than the recently launched Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, but that is naturally down to personal taste.
In general terms, it ticks all the boxes. It has a large (thank you!) 4,200mAh capacity battery keeping things ticking along, which supports 40W charging (and reverse wireless charging, as with the Mate 20 Pro). The phone is IP68-rated dust and water-resistant and we wouldn’t expect less from a flagship model. The 3.5mm headphone jack seems lost forever, a sign of the times we guess.
The P30 Pro, like the Mate 20-series of phones before it, only supports Huawei’s nano memory cards. These are physically smaller but more expensive than their micro-sized equivalents. It is a potential additional cost to bear in mind but I guess packing that much inside, something’s gotta give and the microSD is it. However, with at least 128GB of internal storage (with also a 256GB model) you probably won’t ever need to sue that expansion port anyway.
The overall aesthetic is one of premium styling, and as well as looking good it feels classy in the hand.
- 47-inch OLED, 1080 x 2340, 19.5:9 display with 398ppi
- Bright, clear and colorful, but not the best on the market
- Small notch doesn’t get in the way
Measuring 6.47in across the diagonal, the P30 Pro’s screen is slightly larger than the 6.1in display of the regular Huawei P30. The P30 Pro uses an AMOLED panel and the resolution is 2,340 x 1,080 and 398ppi pixel density. It produces bright, clear and colorful imagery and text, which makes for an enjoyable viewing experience. You might think this is a bit of a downgrade on the 1,440p display offered by the Mate 20 Pro, but this lower-resolution screen has the added benefit of prolonged battery life, which should be welcomed by everyone.
The quality of the display is very good. In the phone’s “Normal” display profile, the P30 Pro’s screen is fairly color accurate. Still, the P30 Pro’s screen is capable of reaching a peak luminance of 854cd/m² in the phone’s auto-brightness mode and, with this being an OLED panel, colour contrast is effectively perfect.
If you don’t watch a 4K video or play graphically intensive games on the highest settings, the quality on the Huawei P30 Pro will be truly astonishing plus it looks fantastic, and only the highly critical will notice any issue. If you do watch 4K video or graphic-intensive games, you will notice a difference compared to other phones with higher resolution screens. You can’t please everyone but with the P30 Pro, there is something for everyone.
Huawei P30 review: Performance and battery life
- Comfortably lasts a day and a half on a full charge
- Two days possible with lighter usage
- Reverse wireless charging is a useful extra
The Huawei P30 Pro packs in a Kirin 980 chipset and a handsome 8GB of RAM, giving the handset plenty of power under the hood. What this means is that the P30 Pro is more than capable of handling any app you throw at it, with fast load times and the ability to render graphically demanding games such as PUBG (Player Unknown’s Battleground) on the highest settings without skipping a beat. This is something we found impressive, to say the least.
In technical testing, the P30 Pro’s performance benchmark results are quite impressive. In the Geekbench 4 single and multi-core tests, the P30 Pro produced near-identical scores to the regular P30 and last year’s P20 Pro. Gaming performance is just as good, with the P30 Pro reaching a practically perfect average frame rate of 59fps in the GFXBench GL Manhattan 3.0 on-screen GPU benchmark.
The phone’s overall battery life is the one things that have had a significant improvement. The P30 Pro can run roughly 39% longer than its predecessor, reaching a staggering total of 21hrs 22mins before its 4,300mAh capacity battery was depleted. This is pretty remarkable. If you are a heavy user it will basically run for a whole day without a problem and you will still have some life left in it by the time you arrive home. If you are a light user, you should be able to get 2 days out of it without a problem.
And this impressive performance is before you consider the power-saving modes that come with the P30 Pro, enabling you to eke out as much use as possible as the battery level drops.
Power saving mode limits background activity, reduces screen brightness, turns off visual effects and disables auto-sync in apps to provide 30 minutes or so extra use (when you have around 20% left). If you’re in a more extreme situation, you can opt for ultimate power saving mode instead, which effectively doubles the battery life you have left by switching you to a basic monochrome interface and only providing you with only a handful of apps of your choosing.
- Four rear cameras: 40MP + 8MP + 20MP + ToF (time-of-flight)
- Fantastic zoom capabilities get you closer to the action
- Astonishing low-light performance
The Huawei P30 Pro’s star feature is the quadruple Leica camera array. It’s the feature Huawei is marketing the phone around, and for good reason: as a camera phone, it’s excellent. On the rear, you’ll find a quad-camera array comprising of a 40MP main sensor, 8MP telephoto camera, 20MP ultra-wide angle lens and ToF (time-of-flight) depth-sensing camera.
The primary snapper is an optically-stabilised 40-megapixel unit with a wide aperture of f/1.6. What’s particularly special here is that instead of using an RGB Bayer filter on top of the sensor to capture in full colour, this camera employs the less commonly used RYB filter, replacing the green elements of the filter with yellow.
Huawei calls this “SuperSpectrum” imaging and what it means is the camera is more capable of capturing a broader spectrum of light. Huawei says the P30 Pro should be better-equipped for low-light environments as a result. The main camera is accompanied by a new 20-megapixel ultra-wide sensor, which shoots at a slightly wider angle than before, allowing you to capture even more dramatic vistas than ever before with previous models.
Third, the Huawei P30 Pro has seen a welcome upgrade to its camera zoom. This time around you’ll find an 8-megapixel, f/3.4 unit with up to 5x optical zoom. This is a really big upgrade on last year’s 3x zoom and it gets you closer to the action without compromising image quality. Huawei has achieved this by using a periscope-style housing, tilting the camera on its side and capturing the image via a tiny mirror. Honestly, how do they come up with these things in such a tiny space!! This is why, if you look closely enough, this third camera is square in appearance, not circular.
Image quality is noticeably more grainy at higher zoom settings, and you’ll need to tap the screen to set the focus on your desired target. However, being able to keep the P30 Pro steady enough to tap your target is a challenge in itself. Even the slightest of hand movements are greatly exaggerated when you’re at 5x, 10x and especially at 50x zoom, which can lead to your on-screen view being a wobbly mess and the resulting image lacking clarity. Bottom line, use a phone tripod or similar support to make sure there is no movement when you go for it.
The Huawei P30 Pro can take some quite staggering low-light shots, with images exhibiting a huge amount of detail, greater vibrancy, and clarity which few rival phones can match. In extremely low light, where even your eyes struggle to pick out details, the P30 Pro can work wonders, pulling additional light from what feels like nowhere to enhance and brighten the image and that’s in the standard photo mode. Switch to Night mode and the P30 Pro can snap pictures in almost total darkness and make them appear well lit. The only phone we’ve seen get close to this to date is the Google Pixel 3 with its Night Sight camera feature, but the Huawei P30 Pro is better.
The “fourth” camera is actually a ToF (Time of Flight) sensor that enables it to capture a lot of depth detail for enhanced portrait mode shots, with the background nicely blurred while your subject in the foreground is perfectly in focus. We found the P30 Pro camera was able to accurately define subjects while blurring the background behind them, with little bleed between the two for an ultra-sharp image.
As for video, the P30 Pro is capable of recording a maximum 4K resolution at 30fps but you’re still only able to record at a silky-smooth 60fps if you drop the resolution to 1080p. As with the Mate 20 Pro, both OIS and EIS are enabled by default in video for super-stable looking shots (Huawei calls this AIS).
Camera quality and software
As the Huawei P30 Pro is a flagship phone, it’s no surprise to find that it excels when it comes to media consumption. It may ‘only’ have a Full HD+ display, but video still looks great on it, and the large screen provides plenty of real estate for your Netflix binges. Colors aren’t quite as vibrant, and detail (or extremely close inspection) not as fine, as on Samsung’s Super AMOLED panels, but you’ll probably not notice.
The single, down-firing speaker is a shame though, as the only downside is that it is easily muffled when holding the phone in landscape, and doesn’t provide a stereo sound experience; and while it’s loud enough to fill a room with music, audio lacks clarity at higher volumes. If you have a Bluetooth speaker you’ll notice the improvement immediately from the phone’s built-in speakers.
Gaming is a fluid experience, with short loading times and graphics able to be cranked up to the maximum for ultimate clarity. Low-impact games such as Paper.io 2 and FC Pro felt slick under the finger, while more intensive titles, including Pokemon Go and Clash Royale, also ran well.
For gamers wanting to push the P30 Pro further, it also handles big titles such as Fortnite, Real Racing 3 and PUBG well, with an improved heat pipe and vapor cooling chamber inside the handset preventing it from getting too hot during intensive sessions.
It might not look like much has changed on the surface but dig a little deeper and you’ll find a lot of big changes that go a long way towards justifying that sky-high price. The four rear cameras on the P30 Pro are quite simply astonishing. The P30 Pro’s wide-ranging photographic capabilities are simply the icing on the cake of perhaps the most well-rounded flagship to date. Huawei’s elegant P30 Pro represents the very pinnacle of technological innovation. It will be a long time before a phone can take the crown out of this baby.