Hands-On Huawei P30 Pro Review: Rewriting Smartphone Photography Rules

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Huawei’s P-series has had a singular focus of pushing the frontiers of smartphone photography as far as possible. The devices are truly stunning, both in looks and in camera quality.

The recently launched P30 Pro is stuffed to the brim with cool, cutting-edge technology, and the most impressive of these is its state of the art quad-camera system.

The use of multiple sensors and different types of lenses makes the camera versatile, but even more exciting is the extent to which Huawei has pushed the individual elements. The P30 Pro and its cameras will push Huawei’s rival smartphone-makers to innovate, just as they have in the past.

Huawei is hell-bent on revolutionizing smartphone photography, making it simpler for the average consumer to capture DSLR-like images. Huawei puts its best foot forward and backs the P30 Pro’s camera system with its leading technology, which is only fair considering the high-end price. But then again, the camera isn’t all there is to the P30 Pro, it has some other great features to it like the 7nm Hi-Silicon Kirin 980 chipset, 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of internal storage.

But, does the technological prowess make the new Huawei phone convincing enough for anyone to rather choose it over an iPhone XS Max or a Galaxy S10+? Let’s discuss in it below in our Huawei P30 Pro review.

Huawei P30 Pro: Design and Build

Huawei isn’t just building one of the best smartphone cameras around. The company is also one of the few phone makers trying to separate its devices from the pack with distinctive design. The P30’s glossy color-gradient backs are so stunning that I can forgive the dew drop notch at the top of both the P30 and the Pro.

The AMOLED display has agreeable curves, and, more in line with the current trends. The wider notch housing the 3D Face Unlock assembly has now been replaced by a tiny dew drop notch with a single selfie camera.

Perhaps a punch hole would have been better, perhaps not, either way a notch feels a little 2018 now that other companies have come up with more inventive ways to disguise their front cameras like OPPO Reno 10X Zoom Edition and Samsung Galaxy A80.

For a cleaner look, Huawei has eliminated the earpiece altogether. Instead, the sound emits from the screen itself (Huawei Acoustic Display Technology) and you may place your ear anywhere on the display (or on the back glass) to attend calls. This also means that Huawei’s latest features extremely slim bezels on three sides, with small bezels on the bottom letting the phone offer an impressive screen-to-body ratio. 

Huawei states that the colors of the beautiful gradient glass panels on the P30 Pro are derived from nature, specifically the salt flats and how the day goes by there. The comfort and in-hand feel of the device feels pretty much like the Mate 20, which implies that the P30 Pro is quite sturdy and does have some heft to it.

Both the P30 and larger Pro come in five hues that are anything but boring: Amber Sunrise, a red-infused orange that looks like fire. Breathing Crystal, an airy blue/purple/pink. Pearl White, which takes on other colors like pink and yellow, and Aurora, which recreates the Northern lights. Even the basic black is reminiscent of smoke, unlike the plain black slabs we’ve seen from other smartphone makers in the last few years.

This hues are produced using the inkjet micron-grade printing process, the colours look quite stunning. And while the Amber Sunrise colour will attract your attention the most (sadly though, it’s not available in Kenya), my vote would be that you go for the Breathing Crystal version.

We have the Aurora and it makes you feel as if you are holding something substantial, yet delicate in your hands. There’s also a stunning feat of technology, the Leica-branded quad camera setup on the rear that’s placed vertically. Even though there’s a lot of advancements crammed in this camera setup, the protrusion also means that the phone doesn’t sit flat on a surface. And since the array is towards the top-left corner, the phone wobbles significantly when kept on a table. Considering that the phone is also quite slippery, I’d recommend you use the bundled transparent cover which only further prevents it from scratches.

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As for the ports and buttons, the latter are quite tactile and placement is nothing new. This design decision means that the P30 Pro only offers a mono speaker at the base. While the sound quality is quite good, it’s not as loud as other flagships that offer stereo speakers. Moreover, it can easily get muffled when the P30 Pro is used in landscape orientation.

I love the red indent in the power button. They are also located at an appropriate position. There’s only a USB Type-C port at the bottom and no 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s a speaker grill and dual SIM tray at the bottom as well, with the IR blaster and noise cancellation mic sitting up-top.

Huawei P30 Pro: Display

The P30 Pro’s display design feels a bit more premium than its smaller siblings P30 and P30 Lite due to curved glass on both front and back. The Full-HD+ OLED panel, with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and a 2340×1080 pixels resolution, looks pretty awesome, with punchy colors, deep blacks, and amazing brightness. The P30 Pro has minimal bezels at the top and bottom, similar to the Galaxy S10, and it looks pretty good for the brief time that I’ve spent with it.

Display settings have a ‘Normal’ mode that’s closer to more accurate sRGB gamut, but I am sure most consumers won’t mind the “Vivid” mode (with blue-ish whites) set by default.
Each of the two modes has a Default, Warm, and Cold preset. Users have the option to switch to warmer color tones (that are lighter on eyes) or to switch to a dark theme from within battery settings.

The display is also sufficiently bright and we didn’t face any issue using the phone outdoors. It offers crisp text with vibrant colours. The viewing angles are quite good too, and watching movies or reading long webpages are a delight on the handset. The waterdrop notch doesn’t seem distracting either, and you can choose to disable it if you wish. The HDR 10-compliant panel offers impressive contrast and saturation while watching compatible content, and you can also choose to change the colour temperature in the settings.

Thanks to the OLED tech, you can also enable the Always-on Display, although it’s not as customisable as on Samsung smartphones. To enjoy a larger screen real estate, you can disable the on-screen navigation buttons and use gestures. Just swipe upwards to return to the homescreen and swipe upwards and hold to access the recently-opened apps. One thing that’s strange however is the fact that while the Mate 20 Pro featured QHD+ resolution, the P30 Pro continues with an FHD+ screen. 

The Huawei P30 Pro includes an improved in-screen fingerprint scanner in comparison to the Mate 20 Pro. The fingerprint scanner on P30 Pro is an optical one (not the ultrasonic sensor we’ve seen on the Galaxy S10 Plus) and it’s placed lower this time around.

The optical fingerprint scanner works well and unlocks the Huawei P30 Pro relatively quickly. As per the company, the scanner is 30 percent faster than the one on the Mate 20 Pro, and my experience indicates the same, although there were times when it failed to read my prints even after a couple of attempts. Of course, you can use the face unlock in such scenarios, which is plenty fast. It also works in most situations, except in poorly-lit conditions. That’s because unlike the Mate 20 Pro, which has 3D face unlock, the P30 Pro only utilises the front shooter for authentication. 

Huawei P30 Pro: Cameras

The P30 Pro’s innovation is in the phones four rear camera lenses that Huawei developed with Leica. A triple-lens array is stacked vertically, with a 40-megapixel super-spectrum lens, a 20-MP ultra-wide-angle lens and an 8-MP periscope zoom lens nestled on top of one another. A tiny time-of-flight lens sits to the right of the triple-lens stack.

The Pro also offers DSLR-level ISO, up to 409,600 — most other smartphone cameras default to 6,400 ISO.

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The 8-MP periscope zoom lens is shaped like a square, because the built-in periscope prism rotates everything 90 degrees. Quite frankly, the zoom is a little crazy. The lens has 10x hybrid zoom so you don’t lose details as you laser in on a subject. The 50x digital zoom might be overkill, because at that range the slightest movement of your hand changes the entire photo composition, but being able to see the ridges on Mt. Longonot from quite a distance and far below was extremely cool. I then zoomed back out and switched to the 20-MP ultra-wide-angle lens with 120-degree field-of-view to capture the hilly skyline.

The ToF lens, which is making its way to more flagships phones this year (including Samsung’s 5G Galaxy S10), understands how long it takes light to travel from the subject to the camera. That makes for a visibly improved bokeh effect in portrait mode, and it also can be used for augmented reality applications. I wasn’t able to test any AR apps on the P30 Pro, but Huawei’s Measure app, which measures height, depth and width, will be available to download in the Google Play store.

Together, the Pro’s quad-lens array takes beautiful photos with almost no effort. Huawei enhanced the Pro’s camera software with artificial intelligence to take advantage of the new hardware. AI stabilization makes it possible to take a long-exposure shot in just 4 seconds. Super Portrait uses AI to preserve details that can be lost in bokeh shots. A new AI HDR+ mode can stacks multiple frames of different exposures to ensure the overall photo is evenly exposed.

As far as the camera interface is concerned, you would find yourself right at home if you’ve used a Huawei smartphone before. The P30 Pro features neatly laid-out options, letting you harness its capabilities well. I also liked the fact that the AI toggle is now present up front, instead of being present inside the settings menu.

You’ll find various shooting modes like photo, video, portrait, and pro among other things, above the shutter button, preview gallery and the ability to switch to the front shooter. On top, there’s Huawei HiVision (similar to Google Lens), flash toggle, ability to switch between normal and vivid modes and settings menu. For switching between the wide-angle, normal and zoom modes, the device has a one-tap option in the middle right, which also doubles up as a slider that lets you control zoom level.

I really loved the fact that the wide-angle mode also lets you choose the exact level rather than letting you capture a fixed frame, not to mention that this shooter also has an autofocus mechanism. Sadly however, this implementation means that you’ll need to shoot with both your hands to change the zoom levels, and in this case, Samsung’s option on its latest S10 lineup seems to be better as you can control the zoom levels single-handedly. I wish Huawei would’ve given a few options between 1x and 5x as well as 10x and 50x. Similarly, while the AI mode is present up front, the HDR mode is hidden among more modes.

There’s also a 32MP (f/2.0) selfie camera on board. The P30 Pro’s 32MP shooter offers good sharpness levels, keeps exposure in check and captures good colours too in the HDR mode. Although in some cases, the selfies tend to lean towards warmer tones. In terms of videos, you’d love the options presented by the cameras on the P30 Pro, and the footage is quite smooth as well, though I won’t say that it’s the best phone for video recording out there. 

Check out the camera samples captured by us right here:

Huawei P30 Pro: Performance & Software

Though you may already know, still let’s recap once again. Huawei P30 Pro is powered by the company’s in-house 7nm Hi-Silicon Kirin 980 chipset, coupled with up to 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of internal storage. This is Huawei’s most powerful and capable chip to date and I’ve encountered no hiccup in the performance in the past few days for which we have had the device.

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As for the software, Huawei P30 Pro comes backed by EMUI 9.1, which is Huawei’s custom take on Android and it’s the only smartphone to come pre-loaded with this new variant of the skin. It’s based on Android 9 Pie and loaded with features to the brim.

Huawei P30 Pro: Battery

The Huawei P30 Pro carries a massive 4,200mAh battery pack but still manages to keep the thickness at around 8mm, which is pretty impressive. The smartphone doesn’t even feel heavy and is comfortable to use too (Although i must say that compared to the Samsung Galaxy S10+, the P30 Pro is heavier). I was able to extract up to a complete day of usage from this battery pack on a single charge for both work, social media and entertainment .

And even if you completely drain the battery by playing a ton of music or viewing
YouTube Videos (something that I’ve been doing quite a lot recently considering this screen size), the 40W SuperCharger bundled with the P30 Pro will allow you to fill close to 75% of your battery in just 30 minutes. 

The battery mileage is excellent, and this should give P30 Pro an edge over existing competition. The handset also supports 15W fast wireless charging, and Reverse Wireless Charging.

P30 vs. P30 Pro

The Huawei P30 and P30 Pro are 6.1-inch and 6.47-inch in size respectively. But there’s more than just a size difference between the two, the time-of-flight lens is exclusive to the Pro, giving it better portraits and AR experiences. Otherwise, both devices have the same triple-lens array, including the 40-MP super spectrum lens for stunning low-light photos.

Huawei also reserved a more powerful battery for the Pro. The larger phone’s 4,200 mAh battery supports Huawei’s 40-watt Super Charge, which can juice up the device from 0 to 70 percent in 30 minutes. The Pro also offers wireless charging, and can reverse charge any other Qi-compatible device. The P30 does not support the 40-watt charging or wireless charging.

And there’s a subtle design difference: Both phones come in the same gleaming gradient hues, but the Pro uses curved glass on both the front and back for a more premium feel. However, the regular P30 has a headphone jack, which the larger phone sacrifices for a bigger battery.

Should you buy it?

The Huawei P30 Pro is a fabulous phone, especially for consumers who are into photography and value a great camera – and we guess everyone does!

We are really taken in by lowlight photography and the superzoom, and I guess it will be a while before the novelty fades off. This is the kind of camera innovation that we expect to see on flagships.

Huawei doesn’t compromise on any other smartphone aspect either, and the complete experience of P30 Pro is impressive, to say the least.

Currently available on pre-order til the 25th of April 2019, P30 Pro is priced at
Kes. 99,999/- (approximately $1000).

Huawei P30 Pro will be up against the likes of iPhones, Pixels, OPPOs, and Galaxies, which also have impressive cameras and more brand clout. None of these phones is perfect, but you’d be happy with whatever you choose. The important thing is that pushing path breaking innovations across its flagship has earned Huawei a much-deserved spot at the big table. It’s now counted in the same league as Apple and Samsung worldwide and number 2 device maker worldwide.

Pros

  • Elegant design and absolutely gorgeous gradient shades
  • Excellent performance
  • Super Zoom is fun
  • Great lowlight camera performance
  • Extremely fast in-display sensor
  • The Pro sports four rear camera lenses, including an 8-megapixel periscope zoom array with up to 50x digital zoom and a 40-MP super-spectrum lens that uses a brand new sensor that dramatically brightens photos in extreme low-light scenarios.

Cons

  • No Audio Jack
  • Missing QHD+ resolution
  • The P30 Pro and smaller P30 won’t offer 5G connectivity.