The P20 Pro was our favourite phone of 2018, and after having spent a couple of hours with the just announced Huawei P30 Pro, the latter could very well go head-to-head with the Samsung Galaxy S10 for smartphone domination this year.
As has been the case with the previous few Huawei ‘Pro’ flagships, the focus here is the camera. There are specs aplenty, an array of sensors on offer, plus Huawei has taken some interesting decisions not seen before on a phone.
Huawei P30 Pro price and release date
At the time of publishing, Huawei hadn’t revealed how much the Huawei P30 Pro will cost, or when (and where) it will go on sale. Carphone Warehouse has confirmed plans to sell the P30 Pro sim-free for £899.99.
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Read our Huawei P30 review: hands on
The Huawei P30 Pro is all about the camera. There are three main cameras on the device’s rear, headlined by an all-new Super Spectrum 40-megapixel sensor with an f/1.6 aperture and 26mm focal length.
While all those megapixels will no doubt result in ridiculously detailed shots, the real star is that Super Spectrum moniker. Instead of the typical RGB sensor (that’s red, green and blue) you’ll find in rival phones, the P30 Pro uses RYYB – or red, yellow, yellow, blue.
During the Huawei briefing of the device, the company said the above change would allow more light to be absorbed, since those yellow portions can bring greens in as well as extra reds. This supposedly results in better photos when the light is poor. Of course, I’ll have to thoroughly test this camera and compare it to the excellent competition to see what the real difference is. Huawei has also boosted the max ISO levels, up from 102,400 to 400,000, which should also help low-light shooting.
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Sitting alongside this main sensor are two further cameras: an ultra-wide, 20-megapixel f/2.2 that should be great for landscape shots and a very exciting 8-megapixel telephoto camera that is capable of 5x optical zoom. Furthermore, the phone can combine data from all three of the sensors to offer 10x hybrid zoom with. I’d normally be sceptical about such a claim, but Huawei has already proved it’s capable of offering handsets with incredible zoom capabilities.
That’s not all, though. One of the biggest differences between the P30 Pro and the smaller P30 is the addition of a time-of-flight – or ToF – sensor just underneath the flash module. While this is still fairly new tech, companies such as LG and Honor have already used it to good effect. For example, LG uses it on its G8 device to track hand movements in 3D space, while Honor uses it to add depth to photos. Huawei is following Honor’s lead and using it for the latter.
A ToF sensor allows far more accurate 3D mapping of a scene, and Huawei has built it into the portrait mode on the P30 Pro. Reps claimed you’ll be able to achieve more accurate bokeh effects, with better cutouts around faces and a more natural blur. As is usual with camera features, it’s impossible to determine how well they’ll work until until we’ve actually had a chance to properly shoot with them.
Along with the actual tech inside the camera, Huawei has also altered and improved certain aspects of the camera’s software. There’s a new HDR+ mode that uses the AI tech inside the Kirin 980 chipset to improve the HDR. Huawei said the camera will determine what you’re shooting and alter the strength and look of the effect, keeping skin tones natural. Improvements have also been made to AI stabilisation – another feature that impressed greatly with the P30 Pro – by combining it with proper optical image stabilisation (OIS) to hopefully reduce handshake even further.
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Finally, there’s a 32-megapixel selfie camera in the tiny dewdrop notch around the front. This also benefits from the HDR and super low-light modes.
The camera might be the standout feature here, but that’ isn’t to say the P30 Pro is lacking in other areas.
The P30 Pro is a lovely looking phone, easily sporting the most high-end feel of any Huawei handset to date. The 6.4-inch display stretches nearly edge-to-edge, with the front camera nestled in a tiny notch at the top. You’ll likely question for days whether Huawei or Samsung’s cutout style is better, but after using the P30 Pro for a while, I found it less distracting than the competition.
Huawei is offering the phone in a number of vivid iridescent colours, including a gorgeous burnt orange (Amber Sunrise) and a pearly white (Breathing Crystal). Both are truly stunning and offer a unique finish that really helps the P30 Pro stand out among the sea of black and grey.
The P30 Pro is big phone, yes, but the curves both on the display and on the rear of the device ensure that it sits comfortably in the hand.
Of course, since this is a high-end, high-priced flagship, it comes packing all the features one would expect in such a device. The display is a bright, vibrant OLED panel with HDR support. The glass back allows for Qi wireless charging. The phone is rated IP68 for water-resistance too, which means is will happily survive an accidental drop in the bath. There’s even a fingerprint sensor tucked inside the display.
Huawei isn’t skimping on the battery, either; the 4200mAh cell should offer excellent endurance. Plus, 40w USB-C charging will get you from 0-70% in 30 minutes – a feature I absolutely love.
Huawei has really ticked all the boxes here: ridiculously powerful camera; the latest Kirin 980 chipset; huge battery; and a design that stands out against the fairly mundane crowd.
There are some downsides, however. For one, the display remains FHD+ rather than quad-HD+ as seen in the Galaxy S10, LG G8 or Google Pixel 3. More importantly, though, the EMUI software still sports a look that suggests Huawei is attempting to theme an Android phone to look like iOS. It’s a messy software layer with ugly icons, poorly implemented gesture controls and a proclivity to force quit applications when they’re running in the background.
Some love EMUI for its strong battery-saver options and plenty of customisation tweaks, but I just can’t get past its few too many annoying quirks.
Still, the Huawei P30 Pro has all the necessary skills to be an excellent flagship choice, and if it matches the hype Huawei is creating around it then it’s going to be a seriously impressive device.
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