In recent times smartphones have become all too similar. While we expect the foldable phone market to shake things up, there is no telling if it is a trend or it will redefine the market as a whole. That being said, Huawei have tried hard to set its devices apart and in many ways it has worked a charm. In our Huawei P30 Pro review, we explore what makes the device similar to others but more importantly, what sets it apart with nearly unfair advantages over competitors.
Of course, no phone is perfect. The P30 Pro does have some weaknesses, but with a stellar camera setup and top of class battery performance, this device should be on your shortlist. It is taking on industry juggernauts like the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus and iPhone XS Plus, something you would write off as an impossibility a couple of years ago. But Huawei is quite a different beast these days.
Design and Build
The Huawei P30 Pro takes a leaf out of a couple of its predecessors with its design language. You can definitely see the Mate 20 Pro and P20 Pro as inspiration, with some key differences. The tapered sides are not as gentle as with some other devices, but they are also less sharp than in the previous model making it a joy to hold. Because of some internal changes, there is a heft to the P30 Pro you didn’t feel in Huawei devices prior.
This year brings a couple of new colours to the range, and generally speaking they are all stunning. This means you still have a glass back to display the vibrant “amber sunrise” or the stunning “breathing crystal” additions. It’s difficult to translate with images (and we had the black version as a review unit), but the stupidly named “breathing crystal” is truly breath-taking. This does mean that fingerprints on the rear is even more easily noticed, though.
On the front you’ll see the all familiar notch – albeit a much smaller version than found on most phones – simply housing the front facing camera. Here are no time-of-flight sensors to speak of here, with Huawei opting for an under display fingerprint scanner. As far as notches go, it’s the best compromise between form and functionality, and as unobtrusive as possible.
What you’ll also find missing on the front is the earpiece speaker. There’s no grille at all, making for cleaner lines at the top. Huawei embedded the speaker beneath the screen. It seems so obvious, but it’s no mean feat, and Huawei’s implementation works extremely well.
We also can’t speak design without that camera hump at the back. This has become common in smartphones and we are as opposed to it here as we are on all others. As its off-centre you shouldn’t be surprised with a bit of wobble if your device is laying face up a table. Overall, the P30 Pro design is one of the best of the year. It isn’t ground-breaking but it’s polished and comfortable to use, but those colours steal the show.
With display technology arguably improving quicker than any other part of the modern smartphone, all high-end phones have really good displays these days. Some stand out above others, though, with Samsung having the crown of best OLED display in recent years. That being said, this 6.5-inch display is one of the only to give the Korean firm a run for their money. The brightness levels, pixel density and quality and contrast levels are all brilliant.
An area where we’ve seen great improvement from Huawei displays recently has been with auto-brightness. In years before Huawei displays tended to default to higher brightness than you’d expect, which impacted battery life. This time around it is spot on, if not slightly over cautious. It – among other things – has had a profound impact to help improve battery life.
The P30 Pro features a simple always-on display that shows the time and some notifications. You can’t really customize it to be truly unique to your needs, and you can’t wake up the phone with a double-tap, which is a real first-world problem for me. Instead, I always unlocked the device wholly with the in-display fingerprint sensor. This worked about as well as you’d imagine. The technology isn’t as matured as conventional fingerprint sensors yet, but it’s fine to get by day-to-day.
As a whole, you won’t be disappointed with this total display package from Huawei. It is one of the best available.
Software and Performance
As you’d expect, the Huawei is still shipping with the company’s proprietary skin atop of the latest version of Android, called EMUI (now version 9.1). Based on Android 9.0 Pie, it runs extremely well with the high-end hardware it is mated with in the P30 Pro.
Honestly, it’s still not our favourite software skin for an Android device. However, EMUI has come leaps and bounds compared to the early days where it was merely supposed to be an iOS clone. It still looks a bit outdated, even though it does have all of the features you would expect to be included in a flagship of this nature (and then some).
The P30 Pro performs extremely well in the real world, though, with the Kirin 980 chip Huawei builds themselves helping the device feel as fast as anything else out there. According to the Chinese company, this is partly due to great advancements in AI capabilities built into the chip directly.
This new processor also helps to deliver great battery life. And I mean great. Other than the display enhancements discussed before, the new processor and software additions helps this device to an incredible two day battery life. Without fail. It is truly the stamina juggernauts its competitors can only hope to be.
The Huawei P30 Pro’s biggest claim to fame, by the company’s own admission, is its camera performance.
Created in conjunction with Leica, the P30 Pro’s camera has three lenses: A 40-megapixel f/1.6 aperture lens (the main camera), a 20-megapixel f/2.2 aperture lens (the ultrawide camera), and an 8-megapixel f/3.4 aperture lens (the telephoto camera). In addition, you’ll also find a time-of-flight sensor at the back.
The main and telephoto camera lenses have optical image stabilization (OIS), and Huawei’s own artificial intelligence stabilization (AIS) system. Combining this camera hardware with some software wizardry we have the two standout camera features – a periscope zoom feature and ridiculous(ly good) Night Mode for low light images.
The P30 Pro’s optical zoom is capable of 5x zoom (that’s with the optical lens only). Because this is done with hardware, there is no real loss of quality. It proves you really can take stunning, sharp, handheld, zoomed-in photos using a phone. It definitely sets this smartphone apart from anything else you can find and I’d say it’s almost worth buying the phone for this feature alone.
Not only this, but you can go up to 10x zoom with what they call ‘hybrid zoom.’ Here the device is using some software tricks in unison with that optical zoom to give a truly impressive picture of faraway objects with minimal loss of quality (in good lighting conditions). Then there’s what I call “creep mode,” where the P30 Pro can impressively render up to 50x digital zoom. It is surprisingly usable, even though a lot of detail goes missing when zooming in that far.
Next up is Night Mode. It was revolutionised by Google with the Pixel 3 last year and Huawei have caught onto this (albeit in a completely different way). Where Google only used one camera lens with mostly software tricks, Huawei are employing all of its lenses to combine into a very similar result.
Even in shots where there is almost no light, you are able to get some remarkable images. In this following image it was pitch black outside on an overcast Cape Town night. The only visible source of light came from a small wall mounted light you can see here on the bottom left hand side, and a lit window on the top right hand side. That’s it. Yet this amazing shot came from Night Mode, even with my shaky hands.
The camera app switches quickly between lenses and zoom stages too, with only a slight pause for refocusing. However, go beyond 10x by accident, and it’s a pain to quickly return to normal zoom. As you can imagine, with more features come more complexity in the app. It may take some time to get used to, especially if you’re going to delve in to the myriad of menu options available to the most avid of photographer.
This camera truly surprised me, more so than anything on a smartphone in a long time. It’s the almost-perfect, all-round smartphone camera winner, only beaten by the Pixel 3 in some specific circumstances.
Sometimes the verdicts can be a long winded affair. I’m going to keep it short and sweet.
The Huawei P30 Pro is a truly impressive piece of smartphone design, both in quantity and quality of all the underlying pieces. From a brilliant and beautiful build quality, to a top notch display, the best battery life of any flagship as well as most likely the best all-round smartphone camera package available today, the P30 Pro is worth every cent you’re going to pay for it.
What do you think of our Huawei P30 Pro Review? Let us know in the comments below if this device is for you.