If you’re happy to live with Huawei’s version of Android, the P30 Pro is a fantastic flagship that packs in enough to make it just about worth its high £899 asking price. The camera here is incredible, the battery life superb and the design slick enough to help it stand out. Huawei continues to make some of the finest phones around.
- Camera is super-versatile thanks to multiple lenses
- Low-light shooting seriously impressive
- It charges so fast and lasts for ages
- Screen isn’t as sharp as some rivals
- Slippery glass design
- EMUI remains a pain
- Review Price: £899.99
- 6.4-inch OLED display
- 3 rear cameras, engineered by Leica
- Kirin 980
- 4200 mAh battery
- 40w fast charging
The Huawei P30 Pro is a great phone but is it the Android flagship you should be buying this year?
2019 hasn’t been kind to Huawei. The trade ban involving it and the US government has lead to Google services currently not being available on newer Huawei phones (the Mate 30 Pro being a prime example) and you can’t even easily buy that phone in the UK. That means the Huawei P30 Pro is still the brand’s standout flagship and it remains a great buy.
The most important thing to note if you’re interested in this phone is that still has access to all the Google services you would expect. These are currently not being taken away. You’ll also see an update Android 10 (along with EMUI 10) roll out soon after a beta phase. You don’t need to worry that you won’t have YouTube, Maps and Chrome installed when you pick up the P30 Pro.
Even though it might not be as new as the iPhone 11 or Pixel 4, the P30 Pro can still hold its own. It takes excellent pictures with the three rear cameras, retains incredibly consistent battery life and looks very sleek with the slightly curved display and shiny back. Huawei’s phones are also some of the fastest to charge around.
Huawei P30 Pro camera offers a wide range of excellent features
There are three main cameras on the Huawei P30 Pro’s rear, headlined by an all-new Super Sensing 40-megapixel sensor with an f/1.6 aperture and 26mm focal length.
While all those megapixels result in ridiculously detailed shots, the real star is that Super Sensing moniker. Instead of the typical RGB sensor (that’s red, green and blue) found in rival phones, the Huawei P30 Pro uses RYYB – or red, yellow, yellow, blue.
During the Huawei briefing of the device, the company said the above change would enable more light to be absorbed, with those yellow portions bringing in greens as well as extra reds. This supposedly results in better photos when the light is poor.
This may sound like marketing hype, but in actual use the P30 Pro’s low-light performance here is great – even if does have a tendency to struggle more than the Pixel 3 when your dark shot is littered with small areas of bright light.
Sitting alongside this main sensor are two more cameras: an ultra-wide, 20-megapixel f/2.2 for landscape shots and a very exciting 8-megapixel telephoto camera that’s capable of 5x optical zoom.
Furthermore, the phone can combine data from all three sensors to offer 10x hybrid zoom. Simply put, it’s the best zoom you can currently find on any smartphone.
Huawei P30 Pro (left) vs Huawei P20 Pro (right) (drag the slider to compare the two photos)
At first glance there might not appear to be a huge difference between images from this unit and some of the competition, but crop in and you’ll see how much more detail the new hybrid zoom resolves, especially in text and flowers.
The most useful “zoom” mode is the 5x option, since this is effectively a 125mm lens that’s been stuffed into the P30 Pro’s body using some very clever periscope-style folded optics. It produces sharp photos – such as this one taken from the new roof garden at 120 Fenchurch Street. Its 50x digital option is best avoided, though, since at this level it becomes very difficult to effectively steady the phone enough to capture a good picture.
That’s not all, though. One of the biggest differences between the P30 Pro and the smaller P30 is the addition of a time-of-flight – or ToF – sensor that sits just beneath the flash module. While this is still fairly new tech, companies such as LG and Honor have already used it to good effect.
For example, LG uses it on its G8 device to track hand movements in 3D space, while Honor uses it to add depth to photos. Huawei is following Honor’s lead and using it for the latter.
A ToF sensor allows far more accurate 3D mapping of a scene, and Huawei has built it into the Portrait mode on the P30 Pro. Portrait shots taken with this device display a nice level of blur, and it does a decent job at cutting around tough bits such as beards and glasses.
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Finally, there’s a 32-megapixel selfie camera in the tiny dewdrop notch around the front of the handset. This, too, benefits from HDR and super low-light modes. While there are plenty of megapixels at play, the actual pictures just don’t look very good. They lack the detail and natural skin-tones captured with the Pixel 3, and continue to push a harsh Beauty mode.
Video, while improved over the P20 Pro, still lacks the skill of the still images. There’s much better stabilisation and it managed to keep footage very smooth, but the overall quality lacked any sort of punch.
Nevertheless, this is easily one of the best smartphone cameras I’ve ever used. It’s versatile in function and reliably provides excellent shots in tough conditions.
The Huawei P30 Pro is slippy yes, but very well designed and lovely to look at
The camera might be the standout feature here, but that isn’t to say the P30 Pro is lacking in other areas.
The P30 Pro is a lovely looking phone, easily sporting the most high-end feel of any Huawei handset to date. You’ll find glass on both the front and the back of the device, each sloping slightly and meeting in a rigid metal frame.
The use of glass has its advantages, not only for giving the phone that glistening finish, but it also allows for wireless charging – a feature that’s becoming more common across high-end handsets. However, it makes for one slippery phone. Pair that with the large overall footprint and for the first few days at least, I was struggling to hold the P30 Pro, with a nagging feeling that I was going to see it fall to the floor.
To counter this issue to some degree, Huawei includes a basic plastic case inside the box. Pop this on and that much-appreciated extra grip will become immediately obvious.
The 6.4-inch display stretches nearly edge-to-edge, with the front camera nestled in a tiny notch at the top – this is colloquially called a dewdrop notch. You’ll likely question for days whether Huawei or Samsung’s cutout style is better – but for me, the dewdrop version on the P30 Pro proved far less distracting whilst watching videos and playing games.
Huawei is offering the phone in a number of vivid iridescent colours, including a gorgeous burnt orange (Amber Sunrise) and a pearly white (Breathing Crystal) – the latter of which you’ll see here. Both are truly stunning and offer a unique finish that really helps the Huawei P30 Pro stand out among the sea of black and grey. There’s also the Aurora colour Huawei launched with the P20 Pro, plus a pinky-white and more subtle black.
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Huawei P30 performance is good, even if it can’t match the Galaxy S10 or iPhone XS
Of course, since this is a high-end, high-priced flagship, it comes packing all the features one would expect in such a device.
Powering the phone is Huawei’s flagship Kirin 980 chipset, which was originally unveiled in late 2018. It isn’t the fastest chip on the market – the benchmark scores for the P30 Pro are on par with the Mate 20, and below more recent phones with newer chips such as the iPhone XS and Samsung Galaxy S10. Nevertheless, it churns through games and apps with ease.
The one area that Huawei has done exceptionally well in terms of performance is to ensure that its devices are not only fast to begin with, but manage to keep on being fast. Through the use of AI and machine-learning in its EMUI software, the phone learns which apps you use the most and tries to open them faster – and it genuinely works. I’ve gone back to Huawei phones in the past, and heard from others who have used them, to find them notably faster over long periods than other Android phones.
Of course, I can’t comment on how the Huawei P30 Pro will perform 12-24 months down the line. However, considering how well the P20 Pro still performs I’m hoping for good things.
Memory-wise, the P30 Pro includes the default 8GB of RAM – and it’s plenty, enabling apps to remain in their saved states for extended periods without reloading. Storage in plentiful, too, ranging from 128GB (the version I’ve been using) to 256GB and 512GB.
Expandable storage is also an option, although with a caveat: you can only use Huawei’s proprietary NM (nano-memory) cards, so standard microSD cards won’t work. This is irritating, mainly because these cards aren’t widely available and – if a search on Amazon is anything to to go by – cost roughly double that of a similarly sized microSD.
The display is a bright, vibrant OLED panel with HDR support in apps such as Netflix. It ticks all the boxes when it comes to colour gamut coverage and brightness levels.
My only qualm with the panel, and this remains minor, is that the resolution doesn’t quite match the quad-HD+ levels of the Samsung Galaxy S10 or Google Pixel 3. Look closely at the P30 Pro’s FHD+ display and you’ll notice individual pixels are a little more distinctive.
The display’s final trick is its embedded fingerprint scanner. In-display fingerprint tech is fairly new, and so far feels very much like work-in-progress; improving slowly overtime.
The P30 Pro includes an optical sensor, which uses light to read your digit and unlock the phone. Samsung, on the other hand, uses an ultrasonic sensor, which doesn’t require this burst of light, works with the screen off and – according to Samsung, anyway – should be more secure.
There’s no doubt Samsung’s interpretation on the Galaxy S10 is more versatile, but in terms of speed and reliability, I can’t say there’s a huge gulf between the that unit and the one on the P30 Pro.
The P30 Pro’s fingerprint scanner is much better than the one on the Mate 20 Pro: it’s faster, more accurate and rarely fails completely. Yet it’s nowhere near as good as a traditional physical sensor, and I just don’t think this tech is quite ready for the mainstream. Maybe next year.
As an alternative to the fingerprint scanner there’s face unlock, too – although there’s no fancy 3D face scanning here. Instead, this biometric security method uses the 32-megapixel front camera – and, as a result, isn’t going to be as secure as the iPhone XS, for example. I wasn’t able to trick it with a photo; show a video and it did unlock a couple of times, however.
The phone is rated IP68 for water-resistance, which means is will happily survive an accidental drop in the bath. You’ll be missing out on this if you plump for the smaller Huawei P30, which boasts a much less substantial IP52 rating.
Huawei P30 Pro battery life easily beats the competition
Huawei isn’t skimping on the battery with the P30 Pro; the 4200mAh cell offers excellent endurance. Plus, 40w USB-C charging will get you from 0-70% in just over 30 minutes; a full charge takes less than an hour if using the included plug and cable.
That’s a huge cell, paired with a lower-res display compared to the competition and a chipset that proved itself an endurance champ in the Mate 20 Pro. Throughout the week’s review process, I’ve achieved between 5-7 hours of screen-on time (compared to about 4 on the Exynos Galaxy S10 Plus), and the P30 Pro’s battery is an absolute winner when it comes to media streaming. You’ll find more in-depth details in our dedicated battery life review page, but as a guide I managed to stream four hour-long episodes of The OA in HDR with brightness set to 50% and it only used 20% battery. Impressive stuff.
The glass back allows for Qi wireless charging, which will be quicker if you use one of Huawei’s fast wireless chargers.
Software and audio are obvious areas for improvements
The EMUI software that Huawei layers over the top of Android 9 Pie sports a look that’s very iOS. It’s messy, with ugly icons, poorly implemented gesture controls and a proclivity to force-quit applications when they’re running in the background.
Some love EMUI for its strong battery-saver options and plenty of customisation tweaks, but I just can’t get past its few too many annoying quirks.
Audio isn’t a strength of the P30 Pro, either. The lack of a headphone jack was predictable , considering Huawei has dropped the 3.5mm jack on all its flagship phones. The USB-C earphones you’ll find in the box are uncomfortable and sound pretty poor, too.
Sound from the speaker system is weak. With the switch to this large screen and minimal bezel, Huawei has added a vibrating element to the OLED, which is how you’ll hear phone calls. The speakers come across a little tinny, and I often found voices felt distant.
In addition, all the sound from media is emitted via the bottom speaker, which is placed exactly where your palm naturally rests when you’re holding the phone in landscape orientation. As a result, the meagre speaker becomes blocked very easily.
Should I buy the Huawei P30 Pro?
If you’re happy to live with Huawei’s version of Android, the P30 Pro is a fantastic flagship that packs enough in to make it just about worth its high £899 asking price. For the £200 increase over the regular P30 you get a bigger battery, faster charging, a better camera and handy extras such as Qi charging and an improved water-resistance rating – seems worth it to me.
This is a true smartphone photography master, with so much versatility packed into those three cameras that I can’t wait to continue uncovering all the tricks it holds.
The battery will be able to match your shooting, lasting for a seriously impressive amount of time between charges. Add to that strong, if not class-leading, performance and always-welcome extras such as wireless and fast charging and you’ve got a complete Android phone that comfortably offers a strong alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S10.
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