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In a time when smartphones have become increasingly similar, Huawei has found a way to make the P30 Pro stand out: it gave it superpowers. Its ability to see in the dark is uncanny; its optical zoom is amazing; its stamina is out of this world.
The Huawei P30 Pro does feel in many ways like the superhero of the smartphone world, but all superheroes have their weaknesses. Is the price tag the P30 Pro’s kryptonite? And are its camera capabilities as good as the hype would have you believe? Should the uncertainty around updates stop you from buying one?
This is Android Authority’s Huawei P30 Pro review.
A newer version of this device is now available. The Huawei P40 Pro further improves the camera, bumps up performance, and adds features like fast wireless charging. However, it lacks Google apps. Read our Huawei P40 Pro review for full details.
About this review:While writing this review, David and I used Huawei P30 Pro review units supplied by the manufacturer over a period of 10 days. I used the Aurora model (VOG-L29) with 256GB of storage, running firmware version 126.96.36.199. The phone received an update mid-review that improved the performance of the camera and fingerprint sensor. All my impressions about these two features are based on the latest firmware.
This review was most recently updated in June 2020 with the latest information available.
Huawei ban: Huawei was banned from doing business with U.S. companies, including Google. While the company managed to obtain a partial lift of the sanctions, it’s unclear whether it will be able to provide security and system updates in the long term. More on this throughout our review.
Huawei P30 Pro review: The big picture
The P30 Pro is Huawei’s photography-focused flagship, competing against other Android flagships like the Samsung’s Galaxy S10 Plus, as well as iPhones. Huawei has positioned the P series as the premier camera phones on the market, but the P30 Pro is not a niche device targeted only at enthusiast photographers.
Everything about the P30 Pro is designed to appeal to mainstream users, from the eye-catching colorways, to the impressive battery life, and top-tier specs.
Huawei P30 Pro takes the best bits of the Mate 20 Pro and adds a terrific camera. Before I started doing this review, I used a Mate 20 Pro as my daily driver and the transition between the handsets has been seamless.
Huawei P30 Pro takes the best bits of the Mate 20 Pro and adds a terrific camera.
The Huawei P30 Pro launched alongside the cheaper Huawei P30. The P30 is smaller, has a less-advanced camera, and comes with a lower IP rating. It does offer one big feature you won’t get on the P30 Pro, though: a headphone jack.
The Huawei P30 Pro is the manufacturer’s last flagship that shipped with Google apps on board. Even a year after its release, the P30 Pro remains an attractive option for customers who just can’t deal with the lack of Google apps, but still like Huawei’s products.
What’s in the box
- 40W fast charger
- USB-C earbuds
- A basic clear case
Unlike other manufacturers, Huawei bundles its flagships with the best charger available. It’s the same crazy-fast 40W charger we saw on the Mate 20 Pro. The soft clear case is basic, but still nice to have until you get something more personal. The earbuds are decent, for a bundled product, but you can definitely do better.
- 158 x 73.4 x 8.4mm
- Waterdrop notch
- Curved display edges
- USB-C port
- No headphone jack
If you ever played with the Mate 20 Pro, you already know what the P30 Pro feels like. The overall format is the same, but the P30 Pro is a hair bigger. Other than the different notches and camera setups, these phones are almost identical.
The Huawei P30 Pro feels very comfortable in the hand, despite the slippery glass back. It’s a little heavy, but not too much. While most folks will want to use it with two hands, once you slip a good case on, you can definitely use it with one.
The expansive display curves pleasantly on the sides, just like on Samsung’s phones. It’s pretty, but the curves create annoying glare under bright light. If you like flat displays, the regular P30’s got you covered.
The notch on the P30 Pro is small and inconspicuous. As far as notches go, it’s probably the best compromise between form and functionality, as it doesn’t really mess with the notification bar. That was my top complaint about the large notch on the Mate 20 Pro.
The downside? The notch only houses a selfie camera. There’s no laser-based face unlock like on the Mate 20 Pro, and that’s a shame. While the P30 Pro has a camera-based face unlock function, it’s not as good as the laser system. I was able to unlock it by simply showing it a picture of me on another phone. The feature works well in bright light, but falters in low light and when you don’t look at the phone straight on.
Another thing ostensibly missing 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 great. It’s based on a technology called “electromagnetic levitation” that’s different from the piezoelectric speakers used in previous embedded designs (most of which were dodgy). Voice calls sound loud and clear, and you don’t even need to press your ear against the screen to hear everything. If you turn call volume up to the max, the speaker can be easily heard from a couple of meters away; set it below 50 percent to keep your calls private.
For regular audio, there’s a single speaker at the bottom. According to Huawei, there was no room for an audio jack, but the company managed to include one on the smaller P30. ¯_(ツ)_/¯.
Like the Mate 20 Pro (and a lot of phones these days), the Huawei P30 Pro has an in-display fingerprint reader. Is it any better compared to the Mate? In my experience, it works about the same. It’s not as fast or accurate as conventional sensors, but it’s still fine for daily use. As long as you press your fingerprint firmly on the screen, you’ll get good results.
Other than the large cameras, the design of the back is quite simplistic. The flashy colors make up for it. All versions feature gradient colorways, except the plain Black one. You can see the Aurora and Breathing Crystal versions in the pictures in this post. The most eye-catching one is probably Amber Sunrise, a lush cocktail of red and orange that just screams “pick me up.” My advice: go to a store and check all the colors out before you order a P30 Pro – video and pictures don’t really convey how they look in real life.
Overall, I really enjoy the P30 Pro’s design. It’s not novel, but it’s polished and comfortable to use. And man, those colors are lovely.
- 6.47 inches
- 1080 x 2340, 19.5:9
- HDR10, DCI-P3
- 398 ppi
- Always-on display
Most high-end phones now feature beautiful OLED screens, and the Huawei P30 Pro is no exception. The pixel density, brightness, and contrast levels are on point. By default, display colors are set to Vivid, which I prefer over the slightly warmer Default mode. You can easily pick a custom color setting as well.
The P30 Pro features a simple always-on display that shows the time and some notifications. You can’t customize it beyond setting a schedule for it, and you can’t wake up the phone with a double-tap, which is a real first-world problem for me.
For the record, the regular P30 features a 6.1-inch Full HD OLED display.
- Huawei Kirin 980
- Mali-G76 MP10
- 8GB of RAM
- 128, 256GB or 512GB of RAM
- Nano memory card slot
The Huawei P30 Pro performs admirably. It’s as fast and smooth as you’d expect a phone of this caliber to be. Not counting a few hiccups in the first hours I had the phone – which can be chalked up to installing all the apps – I encountered no performance issues whatsoever.
The P30 Pro features a proprietary file system that helps performance. Most users won’t ever notice it, but this deep-level customization gives the phone a bit more oomph when transferring files to and from its storage, in addition to slightly lower app start times.
The Huawei P30 Pro gets solid scores in benchmarks, but nothing to brag about. In AnTuTu, for instance, it scores around 290,000 points, a good 40,000 points behind the Galaxy S10 Plus. In Gary’s Speed Test G, the P30 Pro (like the P30) finished the course in 1m:45s, a bit behind the Galaxy S10 Plus’ 1m:33s.
If you really want the best performance, you can enable Performance Mode from the battery settings, though I don’t recommend it. I did not see a visible improvement when gaming, but I did notice a hit on the battery life. If you decide you need it, don’t forget to turn it off afterwards.
- 40W fast charging
- 15W wireless charging
- Reverse wireless charging
After the excellent camera, the P30 Pro’s battery is its best feature.
I was able to get between 8 and 9 hours of screen-on time. The phone was mostly connected to Wi-Fi, with auto-brightness and the dark mode on, and Performance Mode off. My usage was a mix of plain internet browsing, using Sync for Reddit, watching lots of YouTube, and some gaming. David, who did the Huawei P30 Pro review video, got even better screen-on time of 9 to 10 hours. That’s despite using his phone’s roaming cellular connection over in Morocco. Both of us were able to go through two days of usage without any issues.
After the excellent camera, the P30 Pro’s battery is its best feature.
The P30 Pro lasts even longer than the Mate 20 Pro, which has the same battery size and core specs.
When the P30 Pro eventually runs out of juice, it’s really easy to fill it back up. The charger in the box is a 40W model, which is much faster than other fast chargers out there. It can charge the P30 Pro up to 70 percent battery in just 30 minutes. It’s really impressive. Support for 15W wireless charging is also great.
Like the Mate 20 Pro and the Galaxy S10 Plus, the P30 Pro can wirelessly charge other devices. This reverse wireless charging function is meant for small gadgets like wireless earbuds, smartwatches, or maybe an electric toothbrush. You can use it to top up other phones, but, at just 2.5W, it won’t be a good experience. As a side note, Samsung’s flagship is a bit faster at reverse charging, but not by much.
- Standard: 40 MP, f/1.6, OIS
- Pixel-binned 10MP images
- Ultra-wide: 20MP, f/2.2
- Telephoto: 8MP, f/3.4, OIS
- Time-of-Flight camera
- 32MP selfie camera
Chances are you’re here for the camera impressions. Everything else about the Huawei P30 Pro is impressive, but not really new. The camera is in a class of its own.
The P30 Pro has three main cameras and a Time-of-Flight (ToF) sensor that measures the distance to objects in the field of view. The main 40MP camera is what you’ll use in most cases. Because it uses pixel binning, it saves 10MP images by default, but you can switch to the full 40MP resolution if you prefer it. For groups of people or landscapes, you can switch to the ultra-wide camera. If you need to bring your subject closer, switch to the telephoto.
If it all sounds daunting, don’t worry – you don’t need to be a photography pro to master the P30 Pro. It’s very simple to use once you learn its quirks, allowing you to fully focus on getting the best shot.
The camera is in a class of its own.
In general, pictures taken with the P30 Pro look great, with crisp detail, pleasant colors (without going overboard), accurate white balance, and good dynamic range.
The zoom ability is impressive: where most phones only support digital zoom, the P30 Pro can zoom in optically up to 5X and then switch to lossless zoom until 10X. If you really want to get close, digital zoom goes up to a whopping 50X. In the real world, you’ll be able to use this zoom ability to capture more detail, frame your shots better, and separate your subject from the background.
In good light, images shot at 5X and even up to 10X look very crisp, without the smudgy effect you see on most other phones. Don’t expect the smooth clarity of a big fancy DSLR, but the P30 Pro’s zoom is as good as it gets when it comes to smartphones.
Zooming in over 10X rapidly decreases image quality, but with good light you can still get decent results even at high magnification. They won’t be crisp or detailed, but in a pinch, they might be enough.
Occasionally, the P30 Pro has trouble selecting the right lens (or, technically, combination of lenses) when swiping to switch zoom factors. In these cases, you get a blurry, shaky image preview, instead of the optically-stabilized image of the telephoto camera. It’s not a major issue, as the phone usually recovers quickly.
Zoom out enough, and the P30 Pro will switch to its ultra-wide camera. The lens on this camera has a smaller aperture and has no OIS, so image quality will be slightly lower. On the Mate 20 Pro, images taken with the ultra-wide lens were pretty dark and blurry, but the P30 Pro seems to be better in this regard. You’ll still get the best results in broad daylight. This camera is also great for macro photography.
The portrait mode on the P30 Pro is among the best I have used. This is where that fourth camera comes into play. The Time-of-Flight camera measures the distance to the objects in the scene, allowing the phone to apply more natural-looking blur effects.
Instead of the blanket, uniform bokeh created by other phones, the P30 Pro applies a gradual bokeh that becomes stronger deeper into the background.
Separation between the subject and the background is still not perfect, despite the ToF sensor. Fine strands of hair are still blurred out, but it’s still better than other phones in my opinion. As for the quality of portrait shots, it can vary. Subjects can turn out very crisp, but also slightly dark and blurry, depending on how much light the camera has to work with. David thinks the Pixel 3 XL’s portrait mode is still superior.
You’ve probably seen the hype around the Huawei P30 Pro’s low-light performance. For the most part, it’s real. In fact, the darker the scene, the better the P30 Pro appears to perform.
In very low light – like in a dark room, or in a park at night – the phone uses a long exposure to gather more light from the scene. This is built right into the default shooting mode, and in most cases, it’s so fast you won’t realize it’s happening. The results are stunning. The phone can literally see in the dark and capture things you can’t see with the naked eye.
Huawei P30 Pro default mode Google Pixel 3 XL Night Sight
The Huawei P30 Pro easily beats the Pixel 3 XL’s Night Sight mode, which was widely considered the best solution for low-light photography until now.
The best thing about the P30 Pro’s extreme low-light performance is that it’s very seamless. You don’t need to switch to Night Mode (even if that’s still available as a separate mode). Just raise your phone, press the shutter button, wait for a second or two, and you’re done. It really is an incredible feature.
Sadly, the amazing performance in extreme low light does not always translate into amazing performance in normal low light, which is where most people will actually use the phone. Normal low light shots can be quite good, but they can also turn out terrible, just like every phone out there.
The Pixel 3 XL (which has one camera) can outperform the P30 Pro in low light situations, delivering crisper images with better colors. Huawei’s phone also tends to blow out highlights more.
The P30 Pro can definitely stand its own against the Pixel, or any other low-light performer. However, it’s not a notch above, like its zoom or extreme low-light features are.
The 32MP selfie camera is more than adequate. Selfies can turn out too soft at times, but I wouldn’t call it an issue.
In video mode, the P30 Pro shoots in 1080p Full HD by default, but you can go up to 4K UHD with a maximum recording time of 10 minutes per clip. The OIS and AIS (software stabilization) work really well to make your handheld shots smoother. Watch the video review above to see a sample David recorded. On the down side, I encountered some flickering and unusual graininess when shooting video in low light. The zoom effect is pretty choppy too, and switching between cameras can result in jarring changes in image quality.
The Huawei P30 Pro has the most versatile and powerful camera of any smartphone.
The Huawei P30 Pro camera app is intuitive and easy to use, especially considering how much hardware it controls. Compared to the Mate 20 Pro, the Master AI mode, which selects the best settings for the scene, is now easier to toggle or quickly turn off for a specific shot. I wish Huawei would’ve made HDR more accessible – it’s still kind of buried in the More section.
Without a doubt, the Huawei P30 Pro has the most versatile and powerful camera of any smartphone. The optical zoom, ultra-wide camera, and incredible extreme low-light performance give you powerful tools for creative shots. Portrait mode is very good. And the overall image quality is competitive with the Pixel 3 XL, if not consistently better.
On June 6, Huawei released a software update that improved image quality on the P30 Pro. The updated firmware improved colors and fixed an issue with videos shot on the front-facing camera. We have a before-and-after comparison here.
- EMUI 10.1 (OTA available)
- Android 10 (OTA available)
- Dark theme
Out of the box, the Huawei P30 Pro runs EMUI 9.1, based on Android 9 Pie. Despite the change in version number, EMUI 9.1 remains very similar to the UI on the Mate 20 Pro, with some small improvements. The P30 Pro finally displays third-party notifications on the always-on display, which has been a peeve of mine on the Mate. You can also swipe from the sides to exit the app drawer, and you can now open Google Assistant by holding the power button. There are some new integrations too, like the ability to open and start your car with just your phone – if you own a fancy new Audi, that is.
The software experience on the P30 Pro is good. The UI is well-designed and feature-rich, the gesture controls work great, and you have lots of customization options, including a well-done dark theme. EMUI looks a little dated though, compared to Samsung’s One UI and Google’s own take on Android.
While the US ban cast some doubt on the possibility, Huawei managed to update the P30 Pro to EMUI 10, based on Android 10. That was possible thanks to the waiver obtained by the company from the US government that allowed it to provide updates to existing products. You can read more about EMUI 10 and all the features it brings here.
In April 2020, Huawei released EMUI 10.1, launching with the Huawei P40 Pro. The software adds the MeeTime video calling service, productivity-oriented features like Multi-screen collaboration, Huawei Share for simple cross-device file transfers, Sound Boost mode for playing sound on a Bluetooth speaker in addition to the phone, and the Celia virtual assistant. Huawei said it would release EMUI 10.1 to other devices besides the P40 Pro. We’ll update this Huawei P30 Pro review when EMUI 10.1 becomes available for it.
- No headphone jack
- Single speaker
The bottom-firing speaker on the Huawei P30 Pro gets very loud. The sound is clear, but it lacks bass and there’s a little distortion at the high end when volume is maxed out.
The wired USB-C earbuds in the retail box feel cheap in the hand, but they sound surprisingly good.
Given the sorry state of USB-C headphones, you may want to opt for a wireless model – we have plenty of recommendations here. The P30 Pro supports Bluetooth 5.0 with the high fidelity aptX HD, LDAC, and HWA codecs.
Huawei P30 Pro specs
|Huawei P30 Pro|
|Display||6.47-inch, dual-curved, FHD+ (2340×1080), OLED display|
|Chipset||HiSilicon Kirin 980|
|Storage||128GB / 512GB
Nano Memory Card expansion
15W Wireless charge
Reverse wireless charging
27mm 40MP sensor, ƒ/1.6 aperture
16mm 20MP Ultrawide sensor, ƒ/2.2 aperture
125mm 8MP 5x optical periscope prism, ƒ/3.4 aperture
Huawei TOF (time-of-flight) camera
32MP sensor, ƒ/2.0 aperture
|Security||In-display fingerprint sensor|
|Software||EMUI 9.1, based on Android 9 Pie|
|Connectivity||802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (wave2), 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
Bluetooth 5.0, BLE, SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC and HWA Audio
|Dimensions and weight||158 x 73.4 x 8.4 mm
|Colors||Amber Sunrise, Breathing Crystal, Aurora, Black|
Value for money
- Huawei P30 Pro — 8GB RAM, 128GB ROM — 999 euros (~$1,128)
- Huawei P30 Pro — 8GB RAM, 256GB ROM — 1,099 euros (~$1,241)
- Huawei P30 Pro — 8GB RAM, 512GB ROM — 1,249 euros (~$1,410)
Update, June 2020: More than a year after its release, the Huawei P30 Pro remains an attractive option if you’re looking for a phone with great camera. Because it’s the last major Huawei phone that features Google apps out of the box, Huawei has prolonged its life cycle, meaning it’s still widely available at retailers and carriers. It’s also much cheaper than at launch: on Amazon, you can get a new P30 Pro for £550 to £600, while refurbished options go even lower.
In June 2020, Huawei introduced a new version of the device, called Huawei P30 Pro New Edition. As detailed here, the P30 Pro New Edition brings minimal changes in specs, as well as a couple of new color options. Google apps are still included. The phone is available in the UK for £699 and €749 in Europe.
Read on below to read our original take on the Huawei P30 Pro’s value below.
The Huawei P30 Pro is not cheap, but neither are its competitors. When you compare it to the iPhone XS Max, Galaxy S10 Plus, or even Pixel 3 XL, the Huawei P30 Pro is definitely on par or above in terms of features, quality, and user experience. You’re getting a real flagship phone at a real flagship price.
If you mostly care about bang for your buck and you’re not interested in the camera, then the premium P30 Pro is probably not for you. You may be better served by the regular P30 (which starts from 800 euros), the OnePlus 7T, or the Realme X2 Pro.
If you like everything about the Huawei P30 Pro, but don’t care about the fancy camera, the Mate 20 Pro is another excellent alternative. It has many of the same specs and amazing battery, but a lesser camera, and it’s significantly cheaper.
I traded the Galaxy S10 Plus for a $65 Redmi Go for a week, and it wasn’t all bad
When the Xiaomi Redmi Go launched in India, we talked about how the phone is perfectly suited as a first smartphone. At just $65 (4,500 rupees in India), the Android Go-powered handset seems designed to …
We recommend you get the base P30 Pro model, selling for £530. For most users, 128GB of storage should be enough, but if you want to store lots of media locally, you can pop in a Nano Memory card. You can currently get a 128GB Nano Memory card from Amazon for under £50. Use the money you save to get a nice P30 Pro case or screen protector. Make sure to check if Nano Memory cards are available in your local market if you’re worried about storage.
All color versions feature the same finish, so picking between them is a matter of taste. It’s best to try to see them in real life before committing your money.
You’re getting a real flagship phone at a real flagship price.
In the UK, the Huawei P30 Pro is available on Amazon, Carphone Warehouse, BuyMobiles, the big networks, and more, starting from 899 pounds. Shop around, Carphone Warehouse and potentially other retailers off trade-in options.
In India, the Huawei P30 Pro is available on Amazon for Rs. 60,000. That’s cheaper than the Galaxy S10 Plus. You may also bring in another device to get a discount on the P30 Pro.
Huawei smartphones are not easily available in the U.S. Currently, there are some Amazon sellers that offer them, with prices around $660. Don’t forget to check which LTE bands you can use on your preferred network.
What about the U.S. ban?
We have an up to date timeline of the US vs Huawei saga here. Because the P30 Pro was released before the US ban came into effect, it was largely unaffected by it. The device has received regular system and security updates. Huawei can continue to work with Google to support existing models like the P30 Pro, as long as the US government extends the partial ban exemption it allowed.
Should you buy the Huawei P30 Pro?
There are two big ways smartphones can still improve substantially, at least until foldables come along. One is the camera, the other is the battery. The Huawei P30 Pro does both. Its advantages over competitors are almost unfair. This review isn’t about competitors, though, it’s about people. So, should you buy the Huawei P30 Pro? If you want the best camera, the best battery life, or just a really good all-around smartphone, the answer is a strong yes.
The P30 Pro has a few shortcomings, like the proprietary memory card format, the lack of a headphone jack, and perhaps Huawei’s less-established ecosystem. But they pale in comparison to its strong points. As far as I’m concerned, this superhero has no kryptonite.
And that wraps up our Huawei P30 Pro review. Will you buy this phone?
Huawei P30 Pro in the news
Before you go…
Interested in learning more about the Huawei P30 Pro? Adam Doud and David Imel share their thoughts in this episode of the Android Authority podcast. Listen to it below and subscribe!
Andrew Williams / WIRED
Huawei’s transformation from Chinese underdog to a company sat up with Samsung and Apple, one of the smartphone superpowers, is almost complete. There are good and bad elements to this, and they are all visible in the Huawei P30 Pro.
This latest Android phone has exciting and advanced features that, in the camera at least, shift the limits of what phones can do. The Huawei P30 Pro is the most flexible, versatile mobile money can buy for photography.
The price is a head-scratcher in one specific context, though. Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro is as advanced a phone in most respects, has an even sharper screen and is available for less money thanks to natural price erosion.
Huawei has copied the Samsung upgrade cycle. But as the Mate series doesn’t have as distinct an identity as Samsung’s Note, the P30 Pro and Mate 20 Pro are uncomfortably competitive siblings.
<p>Internal politics aside, the Huawei P30 Pro is one of the most impressive phones in the world, by any metric.</p><h2>Camera</h2><img src="https://www.wired.co.uk/static/img/tiny.gif" data-src="https://wi-images.condecdn.net/image/KMPE5ywlLjx/crop/405/f/7-p30-aw-image.jpg" alt="" /> <img src="https://wi-images.condecdn.net/image/KMPE5ywlLjx/crop/405/f/7-p30-aw-image.jpg" alt="" /> <p>Andrew Williams / WIRED</p> <h5>Advertisement</h5> <p>The camera is the one area where Huawei has managed to maintain the momentum of progress it established with the Mate 20 Pro. It has three traditional cameras on the back, and one of them has a 5x “zoom” field of view. The older <a href="https://www.wired.co.uk/article/huawei-mate-20-pro-review">Huawei Mate 20 Pro</a> has a 3x lens.
A quick look at the lens demonstrates how much of an engineering achievement this is. Its sheer magnification makes the lens seem to extend far beyond the depth of the Huawei P30 Pro’s 8.4mm thickness.
Lens aperture is the sacrifice. This is the width of the opening, and the “zoom” lens’s f/3.4 aperture sounds extremely narrow for a phone. The sensor itself is only an 8-megapixel 1/4-inch chip. Lens aside, this is the kind of camera hardware you might see in a selfie camera.
<p>However, the most important effect is here in spades. Many phones with zoom lenses have 2x magnification, and aim to simply solve the issue of digital zoom’s huge image quality degradation. Here, the magnification is so powerful, objects that might barely be noticed in a standard photo can become the subject. As the Huawei P30 Pro also has a powerful 16mm equivalent ultra-wide camera, the variety of images you can take from one position is quite astonishing. </p><h5>Advertisement</h5> <p>The camera app lets you zoom in up to 50x. Anything beyond the 10x mode preset looks very mushy, but there are several technical points that Huawei deserves praise for.
Excellent optical stabilisation makes shooting images handheld at 50x fairly easy, in daylight at least. Switching between the four primary views (x0.6, x1, x5, x10) is quick and bug-free. And considering its relatively low-end hardware, the Huawei P30 Pro’s 5x zoom camera takes good-looking images.
The ultra-wide is excellent too. Its lens is sharp, images are detailed and even at the corners optical distortion is relatively minor. It also automatically compensates for the lens’s vignetting. As in the Mate 20 Pro, the wide has autofocus and can be used for macro photography. The Samsung Galaxy S10+’s wide has a fixed focus, making it far less versatile.
Andrew Williams / WIRED
Huawei’s aggressive exploitation of camera hardware and software is peerless and its innovations are arguably more meaningful than those on the Nokia 9. That phone uses a whole team of cameras to improve image quality and dynamic range, but Google and Huawei have already catered for these with clever software and multi-exposure techniques.
Google tried to emulate “optical zoom” with software too, in the Pixel 3, but the Huawei P30 Pro is in a different galaxy in terms of zoom capability. Huawei is, for now, the one manufacturer that seems to “have it all”.
Actual image quality is up to Huawei’s recent high standards. Dynamic range optimisation is great, detail is excellent and night photo quality is the best available. The phone has a Night mode that takes several seconds to capture an image, but even using standard shooting pictures look detailed and fairly clean. The main camera has a 40-megapixel sensor that uses pixel binning, resulting in clear 10-megapixel images in any light conditions.
Mount the Huawei P30 Pro to a tripod, or against a hard surface and the Night mode auto-senses the stillness and takes 50 seconds to capture an image. At the phone’s launch Huawei seemed to suggest this would let the phone shoot the milky way by pointing towards the sky. You’re far more likely to just get a better-than-average look at some light pollution, but the camera is impressive regardless.
Use the pro mode and you can set sensitivity to a ridiculously high ISO 409600. In anything but a dark room this turns images into blocks of white, but it makes night scenes appear much clearer than they are to the naked eye. Images are rather soft, but surprisingly usable. Given how photos from full-frame cameras often look at this ISO level, it makes you wonder what a DSLR with this level of processing could do.
<p>The Huawei P30 Pro’s selfie camera makes excellent use of unusually high-resolution 32-megapixel sensor. In good light, selfies are extremely detailed. And it appears to use pixel binning in lower light to maintain clarity. This is also important for the face unlock feature. It lets its face recognition work in low light. </p><h2>Camera weaknesses</h2><p>This camera is not perfect, though. With all these smarts, and versatility no other phone can currently touch, why does the Huawei P30 Pro still struggle with some of the basics?
Judging exposure is its one major weakness. It tends towards overexposure too often. When shooting some ducks with the 5x zoom, we had to set the exposure slider to -1.5EV just to stop their off-white bodies becoming blobs of pure white. An iPhone just wouldn’t do this. Switch between the three cameras and you’ll also notice the colour handling of the wide and standard views is often significantly different.
Occasional blips aside, the Huawei P30 Pro is a thoroughly impressive camera. And after returning to the Huawei P20 Pro for a shooting trip to Stockholm the week before using the P30 Pro, the progress Huawei has made is undeniable. That previous gen model was groundbreaking, but its processing seems heavy handed and unrefined next to the P30 Pro’s.
This is the best phone camera in the world right now for zoom and extreme low-light photography.
<p>There’s almost too much to cover in the Huawei P30 Pro camera — we haven’t even touched on its unusual main sensor, which has red, yellow and blue pixels instead of RGB ones. In low light, it's terrific though it may also be responsible for the difference in colour tone between cameras. </p><h2>Future-proofing</h2><p>The ToF (time of flight) camera does deserve a mention, though. This is a fourth camera, a depth sensor that uses an infrared emitter to draw a depth map of the environment. As the excellent background-blurring Aperture mode works when the ToF camera is completely blocked, it is either not used for photography at all, or is a secondary depth aid.
The real usefulness of ToF hardware will only become apparent later in 2019. Augmented reality is the obvious application, but Google’s ARCore does not use it yet. Samsung left ToF hardware out of all S10 phones bar the Galaxy S10 5G, in part because it’s not a necessary feature yet. Whether this future-proofing is actually important depends on whether Google can make AR seem more important and useful than it is now.
Video is where the Galaxy S10 series takes a lead. The Huawei P30 Pro can shoot video at up to 4K 30 frames per second, and slo-mo at up to 960fps. But the Samsung Galaxy S10 can shoot 4K at up to 60 frames per second, and has an ultra-stabilised mode that is much more effective than the P30 Pro’s, with a slight hit to image quality.
Those weighing up the Huawei P30 Pro against a Galaxy S10+ also need to consider battery life. This phone outlasts the UK S10+ model by quite a margin. Its 4,200mAh battery weathers through a full day of heavy use, or most of the way towards two days of light treatment.
<p>This is largely down to processor optimisation. The UK Galaxy S10+ has an Exynos CPU with poorer power management than the US Snapdragon version. This is frustrating for UK buyers, and even the Qualcomm model would likely struggle to keep up with the Huawei P30 Pro. Battery life really is excellent, just like the Mate 20 Pro’s.</p><h2>Screen</h2><img src="https://www.wired.co.uk/static/img/tiny.gif" data-src="https://wi-images.condecdn.net/image/vjrm6nQW036/crop/405/f/3-p30-aw-image.jpg" alt="" /> <img src="https://wi-images.condecdn.net/image/vjrm6nQW036/crop/405/f/3-p30-aw-image.jpg" alt="" /> <p>Andrew Williams / WIRED</p> <p>The screen is the one part of the P30 Pro’s spec sheet that stands out as a potential negative. This is a 6.47-inch 2340 x 1080 pixel OLED screen with a smart-looking teardrop notch. It’s significantly lower res than the displays of the Galaxy S10+ or Mate 20 Pro. The difference is perceptible - up close the screen has a slight characteristic OLED fizziness to it.
This is not evident in normal use, though, and the screen is otherwise excellent. It’s bright, colourful, contrast is near-perfect and borders around the screen are small. The notch is relatively unobtrusive too.
An all-screen front makes it seem there’s less going on here than in the iPhone XS Max or Mate 20 Pro. They have a selection box of sensors above the display. But there are some unusual parts here too.
<p>Huawei continues to push invisible sub-screen tech too. The Huawei P30 Pro has an in-screen fingerprint scanner like the Mate 20 Pro, and this one is quicker and more responsive. It’s even faster than the Galaxy S10+’s, despite using an optical sensor rather than Samsung’s “newer” Ultrasonic type.
The phone’s call speaker sits behind the screen as well. There’s no traditional driver. Elements of the screen itself vibrate to create sound. It works very well in real life, but functions more as an odd techie anecdote than a reason to go out and buy the Huawei P30 Pro.
Andrew Williams / WIRED
Every other part of the phone is business as usual for a top-end model. It has curved, toughened glass on its front and back, aluminium on its sides. Luxury is pedestrian at this price. Huawei has tried to give the phone a distinct visual personality with some bolder finishes with three colourful versions, including ‘breathing crystal’ seen here, and both black and pearlescent white for those after a lower-key look.
IP68 water resistance makes the Huawei P30 Pro among the most water resistant phones available. And while its EMUI software and Kirin 980 CPU offer nothing new – EMUI is still not quite as polished and clean as iOS or Samsung’s One UI – the smooth, quick day-to-day performance fits the price. There’s no 5G, that’s tied to Huawei’s Mate series.
<h2>Verdict</h2><p>The camera is the one truly important part of the P30 Pro. But that is all it needs to be one of the most vital phones money can buy in 2019.
It does not make quite the impact of the Mate 20 Pro, which showed off enough new technology to seem the most dynamic phone of 2018. This reaction is proof of how spoilt we are, though. The Huawei P30 Pro has the most dynamic camera trio found in a phone, with low-light and zoom capabilities others can’t touch. Huawei has improved the performance of the in-screen finger scanner, maintained genuinely excellent battery life and made a phone as visually appealing as any competitor.
£900 for a phone with a 1080p screen is jarring. £900 for a Huawei phone even more so. However, the Huawei P30 Pro offers more than the Samsung Galaxy S10+ (UK edition) on multiple counts. And that’s really something.
<p><em>When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we earn a small affiliate commission. This does not impact the products we recommend.</em></p><h4>More great stories from WIRED</h4><p>– The games industry should be <a href="https://www.wired.co.uk/article/google-stadia-future-of-gaming-analysis?utm_source=More%20Stories&utm_medium=internal">worried about Google Stadia</a>
– How the petition to revoke Article 50 went viral
– I tried to keep my baby secret from Facebook and Google
– Care about online privacy? Then change your phone number
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With a newly-imposed block upon Huawei at the request of the US government, a question mark looms over the future of the Chinese company’s products and right now, that means the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro.
Following news that the US government has pushed Google (or rather, Google’s parent company, Alphabet) to suspend anything that “requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services, except those publicly available via open source licensing” with Huawei, the ripple effect this block causes hits users of the company’s devices all over the world.
Despite the implications of the Trump administration’s decision to impose a global trade blacklist upon Huawei, owners of current devices like the P30 and P30 Pro aren’t going to feel the effects of this move, at least not initially.
When the news first broke, Google representatives issued a statement to Reuters in the hopes of assuaging Huawei users’ concerns, stating, “For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices.”
This, in essence, promises continued support for Huawei devices like the P30 series, that make use of Google’s Play Services and app suite. What isn’t mentioned in the statement is how long such support will last.
Losing the Play Store and integrated access to other Google Play Services, like Google Maps and YouTube, would seriously undermine the software experience that users currently enjoy and push Huawei to find alternative means of supplying comparable services without having to rely on Google and its Android ecosystem.
The P30 Pro: Huawei’s latest flagship and one of the most expensive phones likely to be affected by the block
While Huawei hasn’t been able to sell smartphones in the US for quite some time, its presence and subsequent success on the world stage have helped propel the Chinese communications giant to the number two spot in global smartphone sales. With practically every one of its phones making use of Android as the underlying operating system, complete with the Play Store (outside of China).
Android Q – the next major release of Google’s mobile operating system is only a few months from launching and until this development, it was assumed and expected that all of Huawei’s top-end P and Mate-series devices would receive a push to Q soon after its release.
At the time of writing, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is still listed on the official Android Developer site as an Android Q Beta Device – a handset that’s certified to receive updates of developmental builds of the next major release of Android before it launches.
This inclusion would have previously suggested that it and its successors (i.e. the P30 and P30 Pro) would be practically guaranteed an update to the finished release of Android Q. Now, however, that is looking far less likely.
Should Huawei’s phones lose support for the Google Play Store and Google Play Services indefinitely, the Chinese company does apparently have a contingency plan in place.
When speaking with German newspaper, Die Welt, back in March, Huawei’s CEO, Richard Yu stated that, “Should it ever happen that we can no longer use these systems, we would be prepared. That’s our plan B.” He also stated, “We have prepared our own operating system.”
There’s still a lot of uncertainty around how things will now develop and should Huawei have to move to its devices to its own operating system, what form that will take. The company might employ a user experience modelled on the Android Open Source Project, which falls outside of the trade blacklists’ limits, or a wholly new platform made by another supplier or internally.
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