Huawei P30 Pro review: A photography maestro that sets the bar for 2019 smartphones

Huawei P30 Pro review: A photography maestro that sets the bar for 2019 smartphones

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The P30 Pro has raised the bar for smartphones in 2019 (Image: Express Newspapers)

HUAWEI P30 PRO REVIEW • £899.99

  • FOR – Striking design • Laudable battery life • Huge 6.47-inch display • Truly innovative camera zoom • Capable of taking incredible photos • Rapid performance • Much improved in-display fingerprint sensor
  • AGAINST – Display is limited to a 1080p resolution • No stereo sound • Facial recognition is not reliable

Huawei’s P-series has established itself as a key pillar for smartphone photography innovation; the product line was premier to put three lenses on a smartphone and to introduce a night mode within the camera software itself.

The P30 Pro is hoping to recreate similar magic with a new quad-camera setup that has an intricate lens dedicated to providing an unparalleled zoom.

Instead of having your smartphone’s secondary telephoto sensor gather dust, Huawei wants to give users a greater reason to experiment with the photos they take by incentivising them that no subject is ever too far away for a snap.

The P30 Pro is attempting to radically shake up smartphone photography while also improving every other aspect about its predecessor, the P20 Pro.

All told, the P30 Pro not only delivers on its lofty ambitions, but it is the best smartphone of 2019 so far and has set the bar for all devices that will follow it.

Here is Express.co.uk’s full review of the Huawei P30 Pro.

Design and display

The Huawei P30 Pro is most distinguishable for its dazzling colours, at least if you are looking at either the breathing crystal, aurora or amber sunrise finishes available.

The Chinese tech giant has not settled for its hit twilight variant that first debuted on the P20 Pro last year.

Instead, the firm is radically experimenting with smartphone presentation and has easily delivered some of the best colour options that have ever been put together for a handset.

Our review unit was the breathing crystal variant that exudes different tones of purple and blue depending on the angle light is striking it.

The colouring of the P30 Pro not only allows it to stand out from an increasingly homogeneous group of competing devices, but it makes the owner feel more special because they do not have a smartphone that looks like every other.

P30 Pro’s rear also flaunts its new quad-camera system, the main module of which does stick out slightly, meaning the phone will rock if it is placed on a flat surface without a case.

Turn the P30 Pro over and it is certainly standard smartphone procedure; the device comes with a huge 6.47-inch display that has a small notch at the top and a minute chin at the bottom.

The panel in question has the resolution of 1080×2340 and the density of 398-pixels-per-inch.

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro comes with four cameras on its rear (Image: Express Newspapers)

While the P30 Pro’s screen is bright, vibrant and offers great viewing angles, the resolution offered is disappointing.

The 1080p display is certainly not a deal-breaker when it comes to browsing the web, using social media and texting, but it can certainly be noticed when watching video.

If you are someone that has ever watched a YouTube video in 1440p for instance, the lower resolution will definitely make for a less immersive experience.

The absence of a 1440p panel is most disappointing because the Huawei Mate 20 Pro sports such a resolution; it is unclear why Huawei would not decide to put the best display possible on its newest flagship, especially when rivals like the Galaxy S10 are making huge advancements in this regard.

Underneath the display is an optical fingerprint reader that Huawei told this publication is a newer version of the one that debuted in the Mate 20 Pro.

Because the sensor is optical it will still have to light up when you press your finger on it, unlike the Galaxy S10 that does not thanks to its ultrasonic methods.

The Huawei P30 Pro’s in-display reader is easily the best optical sensor around; it is fast and incredibly reliable.

A small tap of the sensor is all that is needed to unlock the device.

While we do wish the area for fingerprint scanning was bigger, it is worth noting the positioning of the reader on the P30 Pro is lower than on the Mate 20 Pro and is easier to reach overall.

Although the fingerprint unlocking is a marked improvement over the Mate 20 Pro, the facial recognition offered presents a noticeable downgrade.

The P30 Pro has a small notch that only houses its front-facing camera – that means the phone solely relies on the sensor and does not have any 3D scanning technology to accompany it.

Not only does this mean the recognition offered by the P30 Pro is less secure, but it was also quite unreliable during our testing.

On occasions we were sitting or standing perfectly still the sensor was typically able to unlock our device quickly.

However, things got more annoying when we were outside or moving in general; the P30 Pro’s face unlocking failed numerous times, prompting us to solely rely on its in-display reader in these circumstances.

One of the P30 Pro’s most subtle design changes stems from its lack of a traditional earpiece.

Instead, the hardware vibrates its OLED display in order to generate sound.

Huawei P30 Pro review

The Huawei P30 Pro boasts a 6.47-inch OLED display (Image: Express Newspapers)

Not only should this method leak less audio, but using it feels incredibly intuitive.

When you are taking a call on the P30 Pro, the phone will highlight where you should place your ear for optimal sound.

The biggest downside of this method is the fact it cannot double as a second speaker, meaning the P30 Pro lacks a dual audio setup.

While the phone’s single speaker positioned at the bottom of the device does get incredibly loud and is clear, it can be covered up easily and ultimately makes consuming content less immersive.

One of the biggest improvements presented by the P30 Pro over its predecessor and the Mate 20 Pro is with regard to build quality.

The handset’s industrial-like design makes it look and feel more premium than any other Huawei device to date and the firm should be commended for this advancement.

Huawei P30 Pro review

The Huawei P30 Pro is a photography maestro that any Android fan would be foolish to ignore (Image: Express Newspapers)

Performance

The Huawei P30 Pro is powered by the same Kirin 980 chipset that is already present inside the firm’s Mate 20 Pro device.

Just like in the 2018 flagship, the processor provides rapid performance across Google’s Android 9 Pie software with Huawei’s EMUI 9.1 skin running on top of it.

During our extensive testing, the P30 Pro breezed through days of intense usage that included editing photos in Adobe Lightroom, playing the latest and greatest games, watching content on YouTube and more.

Performance hiccups are incredibly rare and the device was consistently able to remember the positions of applications we had opened, most likely due to its whopping 8GB of RAM.

Over the last few years EMUI has not only become more intuitive and accessible, but it now stands as our second favourite version of Android, behind only Google’s take on the software that is present on its Pixel handsets.

One of the most understated aspects of Huawei’s Android skin is its sheer speed; an app drawer in the software can be enabled that allows users to quickly access different apps thanks to its alphabetical scroll bar on the right-hand side.

Huawei P30 Pro review

The P30 Pro’s in-display fingerprint scanner is much better than that offered on the Mate 20 Pro (Image: Express Newspapers)

Native EMUI apps have also become less complicated as the software has matured, meaning we were more inclined to try and use them rather than simply installing Google’s apps immediately.

However, it is worth noting that if the user does want to use Google’s apps instead of those offered by Huawei, it is still not possible to uninstall the latter.

This means it is easy for the Huawei device to be filled with duplicate applications, an aspect of the operating system that can be incredibly frustrating.

It is worth noting the Chinese tech giant does let users uninstall some of its seemingly useless applications such as “Mirror” though.

Overall, EMUI 9.1 is simply more seamless and refined than that offered by EMUI 9.0 that launched on the Mate 20 Pro, an improvement that is greatly appreciated.

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro is powered by the same fast Kirin 980 processor as the Mate 20 Pro (Image: Express Newspapers)

Battery

P30 Pro boasts a huge 4,200mAh battery that, just like the Mate 20 Pro, offers industry-leading life.

We were typically able to achieve over seven hours of screen time during days of intense usage that would have exhausted competing flagships much earlier.

One particular day saw the P30 Pro deliver seven hours and seven minutes of usage to be precise – the hardware still had 24 percent of life left after playing three and a half hours of YouTube videos, an hour and fourteen minutes of Spotify, almost an hour of Instagram and more.

While the P30 Pro could easily last two days on a single charge if a user made a concerted effort to preserve battery life, it is commendable the new flagship is able to deliver an entire day of power even if it is working under a heavy load for the entire period.

When the P30 Pro’s cell does need to be recharged it can be done so quickly thanks to the device’s 40W speeds.

Huawei claims the P30 Pro can be refilled to 70 percent in just 30 minutes and our testing has found that to be accurate.

While Huawei’s fast wired charging is not quite as quick as that offered by OPPO, it does make up for it with 15W fast wireless charging.

P30 Pro also has reverse wireless charging that allows it to power other devices that are placed on its rear.

The 5W speed offered here does not lend itself to quickly charging competing flagship devices, but it can be incredibly handy for smaller products such as headphones.

Huawei P30 Pro review

The Huawei P30 Pro has the most complete smartphone camera on the market (Image: Express Newspapers)

Camera

This is where things get very interesting; the Huawei P30 Pro comes with four cameras on its rear that each have a unique function.

The phone’s photography array is comprised of a 40-megapixel main sensor, a 20-megapixel wide-angle system, an 8-megapixel zooming module and a time-of-flight (TOF) camera.

Huawei has been keen to discuss the new technologies it has added to its main camera.

Most importantly, the Chinese tech giant has altered the sensor’s colour model in an effort to increase the amount of light it can bring in by as much as 40 percent.

Huawei has also insisted the P30 Pro has an incredibly high ISO of 409,600 which it claims should allow the device to take better photos in low-light conditions.

The P30 Pro’s main camera represents a marked improvement over both the P20 Pro and the Mate 20 Pro.

One of the biggest reasons for this stems from the added light the new sensor is able to let in.

Photos on the P30 Pro taken in daylight conditions are noticeably brighter and retain more details overall.

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

While some blacks are crushed by the Mate 20 Pro, the P30 Pro remedies this by brightening up such areas to reveal intricacies that would not have been seen otherwise.

In addition to pitting the new P30 Pro against the Mate 20 Pro, this publication also tested how it performed against the mighty Google Pixel 3.

The two cameras are tied in quality where daylight photography is concerned; this outlet noted numerous instances in which we preferred Google’s offering over the P30 Pro and vice versa.

During our testing the Pixel 3 typically handled HDR shots slightly better than Huawei’s offering but lost out to the P30 Pro’s masterful ability to showcase details in darker areas.

This was particularly noticed when we were taking photos in an environment that was dark, but other aspects of the shot were in the light, such as underneath a bridge for instance.

Overall, the P30 Pro was able to preserve details in dark areas while also expertly exposing the lighter side.

With that said, choosing which shot is best on the two flagship devices usually ended up being a matter of personal preference for the most part; the Pixel generally produced photos that were more true to life while the Huawei offering delivered snaps that were more aesthetically pleasing.

It is worth noting the P30 Pro comes with what Huawei dubs an artificial intelligence (AI) mode on by default that exaggerates colours of subjects, even if it is less noticeable than on its previous flagships.

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on P30 Pro (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on Pixel 3 (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on P30 Pro (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on Pixel 3 (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on P30 Pro (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on Pixel 3 (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on P30 Pro (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on Pixel 3 (Image: Express Newspapers)

The firm has made turning its AI feature on or off easier thanks to its new placement within the camera shutter as opposed to being hidden away in the app’s settings menu.

When it comes to low-light conditions however, the P30 Pro trumps the Pixel 3, even with Google’s signature Night Sight mode enabled.

Express.co.uk was quite simply astonished at the low-light photos the P30 Pro is capable of taking.

The phone’s incredibly high ISO means that when taking snaps in pitch black areas, the P30 Pro is still able to produce photos that are stupendously bright.

When in dark conditions, the default photo setting will automatically brighten up shots for the user, even if they have not enabled the phone’s night mode.

There only appears to be a minor delay after the phone has captured the image for processing to take place – apart from this taking incredible snaps in low-light on the P30 Pro is practically instantaneous.

It is worth noting this mode is certainly most effective in areas where there is practically no light at all, for most other situations the night mode inside the phone’s camera app produces great shots.

For those that have not used a Huawei night mode, the phone requires you to hold the device’s camera steady for a few seconds before it produces a brighter shot.

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on P30 Pro (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on Mate 20 Pro (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on Pixel 3 (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on P30 Pro (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on Mate 20 Pro (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on Pixel 3 (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on P30 Pro (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on Mate 20 Pro (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on Pixel 3 (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on P30 Pro (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on Mate 20 Pro (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on Pixel 3 (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on P30 Pro (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on Mate 20 Pro (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro vs Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 – image taken on Pixel 3 (Image: Express Newspapers)

Essentially, the P30 Pro takes multiple photos at different exposures before it stitches them together to produce a final image.

Taking photos in low-light conditions is a joy on the P30 Pro – we found it to present a noticeable improvement over the Mate 20 Pro’s camera system.

This was especially the case when it came to taming light sources in a scene.

It is worth noting the P30 Pro’s night mode is not always perfect; we experienced a few instances in which the device brightened up a shot so much that some black shadows were left around particular objects.

Although these instances did not happen regularly, they were annoying and detracted from an otherwise detailed low-light snap.

While the wide-angle system on the P30 Pro is extremely similar to that already present on the Mate 20 Pro, its zoom and TOF systems are completely new.

The 8-megapixel telephoto camera present on the P30 Pro harnesses a periscope-style system that allows it to deliver a meritorious 5-times optical zoom.

Moreover, this lens also combines with the others on the device to deliver a 10-times hybrid zoom and a 50-times digital zoom.

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample with AI mode turned on (right) and off (left) (Image: Express Newspapers)

While the hybrid and digital zooming methods do not preserve the same levels of detail as that offered by an optical solution, the shots they are able to produce outclass the zooming present on any other smartphone camera.

This sensor’s greatest achievement is the fact it actually incentivises the user to experiment with zooming; something no smartphone in recent memory has done before.

Many rival smartphones have a telephoto camera system that offers a two-times optical zoom.

Such equipment not only fails to deliver a substantial amount of zoom, but telephoto sensors of this kind are typically less capable than the main camera in question, meaning in our previous usage Express.co.uk typically resorted to cropping a standard image if we wanted to get closer to a subject.

But Huawei’s new offering presents something new that not only radically shakes up smartphone cameras in the industry, but it genuinely alters how users want to take snaps with their smartphone.

During our extensive testing with the P30 Pro we found ourselves habitually zooming in to far-away objects just to see if the handset was capable of taking a clear photo.

One of our biggest takeaways from the periscope lens is the fact its digital zoom is certainly more a fun tool to experiment with rather than something that is regularly practical to take advantage of.

At levels of zoom higher than 10-times, it can be incredibly hard to stabilise an image without a tripod for instance.

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample with a wide-angle lens (left) and a 50-times digital zoom (right) (Image: Express Newspapers)

For most circumstances, we found taking an image with a 10-times zoom and then cropping in was an easier way of getting even closer to subjects.

The P30 Pro’s TOF sensor is certainly the most nuanced of the four due to the fact no photos can be taken with it inside the camera app itself.

Instead, the lens serves to improve portrait mode shots and can be harnessed in augmented reality (AR) software for instance.

While Huawei has insisted the TOF sensor should ensure a more accurate bokeh overall, we noticed the hardware still had difficulty with hair in some shots, something no smartphone on the market has completely mastered yet.

It is worth noting the lens does allow the P30 Pro to deliver progressive bokeh in portrait mode shots that is a nice touch.

This essentially means items that are closer to the subject will have a less noticeable blur and those further away will have a more aggressive bokeh.

It is worth noting the P30 Pro does come with a deluge of camera modes, not all of which worked as expected during our testing.

The phone’s light painting tool that promises to be able to create a silk effect in water shots did not function properly at all.

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample with no zoom (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample with a 5-times optical zoom (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample with a 10-times hybrid zoom (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample with a 50-times digital zoom (Image: Express Newspapers)

Instead the mode ended up blurring the entire shot and never produced an image that was even close to being usable.

Gimmicks aside, we think the P30 Pro has the best and most complete camera system on the market for everything it does right and Huawei needs to be praised for such an accomplishment.

In addition to taking some of the best smartphone photos, the P30 Pro is also great when it comes to video.

The device has a low-light mode that works surprisingly well in dark conditions for instance.

One of the biggest deal breakers for videographers will be the fact the P30 Pro can only record footage in 4K at 30-frames-per-second.

That means even at its highest quality, the P30 Pro still does not match the likes of the iPhone Xs Max and the Samsung Galaxy S10 in this regard.

Huawei P30 Pro review

Each of the P30 Pro’s sensors serves a unique purpose (Image: Express Newspapers)

Price

The Huawei P30 Pro has been positioned as the firm’s greatest flagship device in addition to its most premium photography offering and is priced to reflect the fact.

P30 Pro starts at £899 for the version of the hardware with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM.

This particular model of the hardware is available in breathing crystal, aurora and black colours.

A 512GB variety of the product is also available for £1,099 and is limited to just the phone’s most striking amber sunrise finish.

While giving customers the option to have extra memory is certainly appreciated, making what many will surely consider to be the most appealing colour option £200 more expensive than the other finishes will surely come as a disappointment to many Huawei fans who want the amber sunrise variant but do not want to pay the added cost.

The entry-level model of the P30 Pro is priced the same as Samsung’s Galaxy S10+ and for that reason anyone deciding between the two devices will have decide what they want out of their smartphone.

Huawei P30 Pro review

Huawei P30 Pro is capable of charging other devices that are placed on its rear (Image: Express Newspapers)

Samsung’s offering is certainly the phone to go for if you want the most immersive content viewing experience around thanks to its gorgeous panel and dual-speakers.

However, despite the South Korean tech giant’s advantage in these areas, we feel the P30 Pro is the more complete smartphone of the two thanks to its incredible camera system, supreme battery life and swift performance, not to mention its gorgeous design.

Another huge competitor for the P30 Pro will surely be Huawei’s prior flagship, the Mate 20 Pro.

Both of these devices have a similar feature set but the 2018 device actually bests the P30 Pro when it comes to screen resolution and face unlocking technology.

Plus, the Mate 20 Pro is currently being sold for £799 and we would recommend it over Huawei’s newest device for those that are not concerned about having an impressive zoom on their camera.

Huawei P30 Pro

Huawei P30 Pro (Image: EX)

Verdict

The P30 Pro has raised the bar for smartphones in 2019, and not just because of its first-in-class camera system.

While the Huawei handset certainly faces stiff competition from the likes of the Galaxy S10 and Pixel 3, we believe the device is the most complete you can buy at the moment, especially for those even remotely interested in taking photos.

Cameras are currently one of the fastest-developing areas of smartphones and Huawei has just cemented its place at the forefront of innovation in this regard.

Although there is still room for improvement, the Huawei P30 Pro is a photography maestro that any Android fan would be foolish to ignore.

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