This is the Huawei P30 Pro, a €1000 smartphone that’s never gone on sale in the United States and that should make Americans very, very upset. Why am I hyped about this phone? Well, it’s not the phone part, in fact before I proceed I should mention that I’m using the Nova Launcher and Reduce Icon Pack, both of them free on the Google Play store. Because Huawei default themes are not good.
Anyway, the eye-opening thing about this device is its camera system, there’s a lot to talk about with it, so let’s dive right in. First of all, you get three cameras on the rear.
There’s an ultra-wide-angle, a regular wide-angle, and a telephoto lens, the last of which is the most interesting because it has the new periscope system. This uses a mirror which reflects 90 degrees into the body of the phone and then runs it through a series of lenses into a sensor which sits perpendicular to the phone. What that gives you is a 5x optical zoom.
I’ve been shooting around with it here in London, sometimes in bleak conditions, sometimes in sunny conditions, and I’ve been really impressed, its really crisp, really sharp, 5x optical zoom, it beats anything else that you might get from digital alternatives out there. Huawei doubles down on that zoom functionality literally by giving you a 10x hyper zoom which combines the information from the telephoto and the main camera sensor.
Huawei says it’s lossless I’m not so sure, I do see a bit of degradation in image quality, but it’s only slight, it’s very slight, and it’s still super impressive for 10 times optical zoom. You don’t even get that with pocket cameras most of the time. I’ve also been messing around and taking shots at 24x and 32x with this camera, and they are surprisingly decent. As far as zoom goes, the system that Huawei’s put in herein the P30 Pro is the best that there’s ever been in a smartphone, and the shocking thing is, that all the zoom action is just the appetizer.
The thing that has me super excited about this camera is actually the main sensor, which is still 40 megapixels as before, it’s still one of the largest sensors that you find on a smartphone, but it’s in an RYYB arrangement, getting rid of the green subpixel for two yellow subpixels. Huawei says this allows it to get as much as 40%more light in because the yellow subpixel is sensitive both to red and green light, as well as obviously yellow. Where this comes in really handy and helpful is in nighttime photography.
I have taken some low light photos which have just blown me away with this phone. Googles Night Sight was a revolutionary upgrade for smartphone photography in low light, that came out at the tail end of last year, but so far ahead of everything else, everything that Apple, Samsung, LG and everybody else who’s doing it, and the P30 Pro just kicks Night Sights butt. Now in order for you to get a good shot with Google Night Sight, you need three or four seconds or steadiness.
With this camera you. It takes a fraction of a second, it’s the default setting. It’s taking better night photos than any other camera, any other model on a smartphone camera, and is doing it by default, it’s a fraction of a second, its effortless. Huawei has its own night mode, it has a pro mode, it even has a master AI setting which tweaks the contrast and saturation and so on, and I don’t feel the need to touch any of those, because this is a superb camera by default.
Now is the absolute best camera? I’m not so sure. Video is actually one of the weaknesses of Huawei P30 Pro. A lot of the stabilization, you’ve got optical stabilization on the main sensor and the telephoto sensor, and a lot of the audio recording those are great, but the actual detail on the video image that you get, not so great. Huawei does quite a lot of softening to get rid of image grain and such, and that’s a real downside with the video so iPhone, Samsung Galaxy devices, those have the lead on video.
I also prefer the Pixels image processing for the most part. It allows more grain into the image but that also means it gets more detail. Huawei does a little bit too much processing, not as much as it did on the P20 Pro the last year which was over the top, but still a little too much. I find that the default Huawei P30 Pro photos tend to be a little unsaturated, whereas if you use the master Amit tends to push them to oversaturated.
Flats are also not quite as dark as I prefer to see them, but that being said, even though the P30 Pro by default tends to put out slightly flat images, they are perfect for image editing. You see if you just do a little bit of tweaking, add a bit of contrast and a bit of saturation, they become pretty much perfect. The 4th sensor that Huawei’s put on the back of the P30 Pro is not technically a camera its a depth sensor, it works pretty much on the same principal as face ID on the iPhone, and what that helps with is three different things.
Firstly, its part of the autofocus system, so when I’m autofocusing with the Huawei P30 Pro I can get it to focus in pretty much pitch-black conditions. It’s something that no other smartphone camera can achieve, none that I’ve tested in any case. Secondly, augmenting reality applications so you can point this at things and measure things like height, width, depth, even volume. And the third thing which is pretty cool is it enhances this phones portrait mode. Firstly it helps it to nail down even the fine details which include strands of hair and things like that, but then it also affects the bokeh that you can achieve.
So the closer you are to the subject, the weaker the bokeh is, and then it intensifies it grows softer the further away you get, and that’s achieved with the help of this extra depth sensor. Returning to the phone itself, the P30 Pro is built around the same Kirin 980 processor as Mate 20 Pro last year. That means its both familiar and fast. It really is one of the most responsive smartphones that I’ve tested to date. It gets me great gaming performance, and with a 4200 milliamp power battery, it lasts for a heroic length of time.
I can for a day and a half with this thing easily no matter if I’m gaming, listening to music over Bluetooth, shooting a bunch of photos, video etc.whatever, its an absolute endurance champ. Huawei puts 8 gigabytes of RAM on this device, you can get it with 128 gigs of storage or up to half a terabyte, all of which is kind of par for the course. You get wireless charging and reverse wireless charging, you get supercharge, 40-watt charging, we get to up to 70% of battery in just 30 minutes. So as usual for Huawei, it’s a spec sheet stuffer, all of these things are great, but also as usual for Huawei, the software is a letdown.
Besides being quite clunky and clumsy in the design, I’ve come across a few bugs, most notably with the Twitter application which tends to turn into a jumble occasionally. Also, the multitasking overview which works pretty well most of the time, its gesture-based, which means you swipe up from the bottom to go home, swipe up and hold to multitasking, or swipe from the sides to get the equivalent of a back button. That works well most of the time, but then occasionally it turns into a visual mess and I have to lock the phone and then unlock it and just kind of try and make my way out of that.
Huawei EMUI software has just a few too many little frustrations and niggles, one of them is for example when I have the phone locked, I can’t wipe down the quick settings in order to launch something like the flashlight, which I do quite often. Another reason and this is a small thing, but it still bothers me, Huawei doesn’t do the double-tap or the power button to launch the camera which everybody else on Android does, and its a really handy physical shortcut.
Huawei also has a bunch of Huawei services such as Huawei HiCare, which tends to just nag me all the time and just remind me about things which I don’t want to do, so the setup with this phone involves a lot of wrestling Huawei down and taming the software which you shouldn’t really have to do. Unfortunately, I feel like Huawei are still another year or two away from doing something like Samsung did this year with One UI, which was just a major overhaul, focusing on the user rather than the company trying to promote its own services.
So what don’t I like about this phone? Well, one is the fingerprint sensor is still embedded into the display, its an upgrade over the Mate 20 Pro, it’s better, but it’s still not good enough for me. I still prefer discrete fingerprint sensors, they’re still so much faster, it’s so much more reliable. This is slower than a discrete fingerprint sensor, and not as accurate. The display on this, it’s a 1080p display, 6.47 inches. It’s a downgrade from the Mate 20 Pro, unfortunately.
Any time you’re looking at a white screen, the curves on the side tend to produce a shadow, it’s a bluish shadow, which is a bit of spoiler, and comparing this to the Samsung Galaxy s10, which is what the P30 Pro is going up against,this is an obvious downgrade, which is unfortunate. It’s still a good screen, but it’s not as excellent as Samsungs.
The P30 Pro is a phone that will be remembered for the excellence and the versatility of its cameras. It really is the best zoom that we’ve ever had in a smartphone to date. This phone also has the performance, for the most part setting aside the bugs, and the industrial design to match any other flagship of 2019.