REVIEW: The Huawei P30 Pro, a truly stunning camera, stellar battery and an overall excellent phone 4 months ago

REVIEW: The Huawei P30 Pro, a truly stunning camera, stellar battery and an overall excellent phone

Huawei has done it again.

What's becoming increasingly clear in the battle for smartphone supremacy is that the camera has greater strategic importance than ever before.

Skip back four years and Apple had a solid lead in the smartphone game. Samsung were a relatively popular Android alternative, but for the most part, the iPhone was the leader of the market. It was a status symbol. Easy to use, fast and with a camera that was one of the best on the market.

Fast forward to 2019 and it's clear you won't buy an iPhone if you're looking for the best camera on offer.

You'll likely look to Huawei, Samsung or the Google Pixel.

That brings us on to Huawei's latest offering, the P30 Pro. Here's a quick run down of what comes in the box.

  • Huawei P30 Pro smartphone
  • Earphones
  • Huawei SuperCharge fast charger (5V-2A/9V-2A/10V-4A)
  • USB Type-C cable
  • SIM ejector tool
  • Clear protective case

When you think of Huawei, you inevitably think of the magnificent smartphone cameras they produce and the P30 Pro certainly conforms to the stereotype.

With Huawei running a dual-flagship approach with their P and Mate series, there was always high hopes for the P30 Pro following the huge success of the Mate 20 Pro when it was launched last year.

Many outlets rightly named the Mate 20 Pro the best smartphone of 2018.

Huawei’s transformation from Chinese underdog to a company sat up alongside Samsung and Apple, some of the smartphone superpowers, is basically complete with the P30 Pro.

Design

Stretching 6.47in from corner to corner, with a small tear-drop notch at the top, the FHD+ OLED is expansive and eye-catching.

The P30 Pro is a lovely looking phone, sporting one of the most high-end feels of Huawei to date.

You’ll find glass on both the front and the back of the device, each sloping slightly and meeting in a rigid metal frame. The phone itself is slippery on fabric and some other surfaces, but it's fine in your hand.

It's not the first time we've said this when talking about a Huawei phone, but once again the mirror glass back attracts fingerprints like a demon.

While the phone itself is large, its relatively narrow screen (it's only 73.4mm wide) compared to its competition makes it fairly manageable.

There's no headphone jack to be found, and no USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter included in the tester box we received. But there is a set of USB Type-C earphones included which are fine, without being great.

Features

Turning to the phone itself, the P30 Pro is built around the Kirin 980 processor (same as last year's Mate 20 Pro), with 8GB of RAM and at least 128GB of storage.

The P30 Pro runs Huawei’s latest version of EMUI 9.1. As a result, the phone looks and responds almost identically to EMUI 9 on the Mate 20 Pro.

It's brought with it some more refined gesture navigation options although the traditional three button navigation bar is available in the settings menu if you don't fancy the gestures option.

The overall performance of the phone is snappy, and although it's older chipset means it isn't quite as quick as the Samsung Galaxy S10+ and the iPhone XS, there's very, very little in the difference. Added to this the Huawei AI through the EMUI software, which recognises which apps you use most frequently and opens them more quickly, you have a phone that won't be slowing down any time soon.

From responsiveness to gaming, this is certainly one of the quicker phones I've encountered.

There's an option for expandable storage although it only works with Huawei’s proprietary NM (nano-memory) cards, meaning that standard SD cards won't work for you.

If battery is what you're looking for then look no further because the P30 Pro has a monster 4200mAh battery, which will last you almost two full days with light to normal use. Even if used very heavily throughout the day, there was never less than 35% in the battery when going to bed that night.

Super charging allows you to go from zero to 70% in just 30 minutes, so you never have an excuse for running out of battery.

Huawei is still continuing to push the bounds of smartphone tech and after introducing QI wireless charging on the Mate 20 Pro last year, it's also included in the P30 Pro.

There's also no earpiece on the P30 Pro and the phone instead vibrates the screen to generate call sound. While I was skeptical at first, the feature works wonderfully well.

Finally, embedded into the display is a fingerprint sensor that Huawei says has been made faster and better than the Mate 20 Pro and it certainly performs at least as well.

Camera

As usual, Huawei has once again proved it's among the best when it comes to smartphone cameras with this effort.

Huawei’s camera lens tech is provided by Leica, and given how well last year’s P20 Pro went down, you know it’s going to be good on this year’s version.

The Huawei P30 Pro has four sensors on the back:

  • The main camera is a 40 MP 27mm sensor with an f/1.6 aperture and optical image stabilisation.
  • There’s a 20 MP ultra-wide angle lens (16mm) with an f/2.2 aperture.
  • The 8 MP telephoto lens provides nearly 5x optical zoom compared to the main lens (125mm) with an f/3.4 aperture and optical image stabilisation.
  • There’s a new time-of-flight sensor below the flash of the P30 Pro. The phone projects infrared light and captures the reflection with this new sensor.

*F-stop value represents the amount of light that goes into the lens. The smaller the f-stop value, the more light will enter the lens. For example, an aperture of f1.8 will allow a lot more light than an aperture of f2.2, which causes better, brighter photography in low light conditions - night photos etc.

This is the best phone camera in the world right now for zoom and extreme low-light photography, and with options like Google's Pixel and Samsung's S10+, it's not something we say lightly.

The Leica lens set-up offers a 5x optical zoom and 10x hybrid, but you can go as far as 50x with digital zoom. At the tip of the optical zoom, image quality doesn’t suffer, there isn’t a noticeable shake, and the colour reproduction is amazing.

As you move onto the digital zoom, things will start to get a little muddy but it's still a decent photo and the fact it's taken on a smartphone makes it all the more impressive.

Just have a look at this simple shot (just note, that flag belongs to my neighbour who is a a staunch Ivory Coast fan)...

Next is this picture at 5x optical zoom.

Now at x10 optical zoom.

Finally at x50 digital zoom. As you can see the image suffers somewhat but when you consider this is taken on a smartphone it's very impressive. When you look at the first photo, the bird is barely visible.

Overall

Huawei has a habit of promising a lot, but they've once again lived up to it with the P30 Pro. The tagline, "Rewrite the Rules of Photography", may come across initially as pompous, but using the phone will quickly demonstrate why it's accurate.

It's the best smartphone camera available at the moment with meaningful and useful upgrades from last year's P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro.

While the phone itself will strongly remind you of the Mate 20 Pro with a better camera, it does boast a big battery and the ever improving EMUI performs well enough. While you may notice a small drop off with the EMUI in comparison to, say, the Samsung S10, the difference is negligible.

It's a wonderful combination of battery life, design and a game-changing camera.

Huawei has taken a great product in last year's P20 Pro and managed to work in some significant improvements.

The Huawei P30 Pro is available for €79.99 on Bill Pay and €999RRP Sim free from Vodafone, Three, eir, Carphone warehouse, Virgin and Harvey Norman.