2019/03/26

Hands-On HUAWEI P30 Pro Review: 10x Zoom, Killer Design

Huawei makes the best smartphones you can’t buy in the U.S., and that doesn’t look like it’s changing with its latest flagship. HUAWEI’s P30 Pro, announced today (March 26) takes the gorgeous ombre design and DSLR-level camera lenses from past Huawei phones and dials them up to 100.

Hands-On HUAWEI P30 Pro Review: 10x Zoom, Killer Design
HUAWEI P30 Pro

I got a sneak peek at the HUAWEI P30 Pro and its smaller sibling, the HUAWEI P30, ahead of Huawei’s Paris launch event. The devices are truly stunning, both in looks and in camera quality. And while Huawei’s well-documented political and legal troubles in the U.S. will likely prevent the HUAWEI P30 from being sold stateside, I expect the HUAWEI P30 Pro and its cameras to push Huawei’s rival smartphone-makers to innovate, just as they have in the past.

Here’s everything you need to know about the HUAWEI P30 Pro.

HUAWEI P30 Pro Cheat Sheet

  • The Pro sports four rear camera lenses, including an 8-megapixel periscope zoom array with up to 50x digital zoom and a 40-MP super-spectrum lens that uses a brand new sensor that dramatically brightens photos in extreme low-light scenarios.
  • The HUAWEI P30 Pro comes in five gradient shades inspired by nature and art — and they’re absolutely gorgeous.
  • The HUAWEI P30 Pro and smaller HUAWEI P30 won’t offer 5G connectivity.

Price and Availability

It’s unlikely that Huawei will sell the HUAWEI P30 or HUAWEI P30 Pro in the U.S., but you might be able to snag one on eBay down the line. We only have the price in Euros for the moment, but the HUAWEI P30 with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage costs around $902 when converted, whereas the 8 GB HUAWEI P30 Pro comes in three models with increasing storage - $1128 for 128 GB, $1241 for 256 GB and $410 for the top end 512 GB model. Once we have official prices for the US, or more likely for the UK market where Huawei is still sold, we'll update the page.

HUAWEI P30 Specs


HUAWEI P30 HUAWEI P30 Pro
Price (converted from Euros)
$902/£682 $1128, $1241, $1410/£853, £938, £1066
Display
6.1-inch OLED (2340 x 1080) 6.47-inch (2340 x 1080)
Rear Camera(s)
40-MP (f/1.8) super spectrum lens with OIS; 20-MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide-angle; 8-MP (f/2.4) 5x optical zoom periscope zoom lens 40-MP (f/1.8) super spectrum lens with OIS; 20-MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide-angle; 8-MP (f/2.4) 5x optical zoom periscope zoom lens; time-of-flight sensor
Front Camera
32-MP (f/2.0) 32-MP (f/2.0)
CPU
Kirin 980 Kirin 980
RAM
6 GB 8 GB
Storage
128 GB 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB
Battery
3,650 mAh 4,200 mAh
Colours
Amber Sunrise; Breathing Crystal; Pearl White; Aurora; Black Amber Sunrise; Breathing Crystal; Pearl White; Aurora; Black

Cameras: Innovation times four

The HUAWEI P30 Pro’s innovation is in the phones four rear camera lenses that Huawei developed with Leica. A triple-lens array is stacked vertically, with a 40-megapixel super-spectrum lens, a 20-MP ultra-wide-angle lens and an 8-MP periscope zoom lens nestled on top of one another. A tiny time-of-flight lens sits to the right of the triple-lens stack.

Hands-On HUAWEI P30 Pro Review: 10x Zoom, Killer Design
HUAWEI P30 Pro

The 40-MP lens has a new sensor that changes greens to yellows. As a result, that sensor lets in more light than past Huawei lenses because the spectrum of yellow light is bigger than the spectrum of green light. We tested this by shooting a tray of desserts in a dark room, and the resulting image made it appear as if an external light source was illuminating the cookies — sort of like Google’s Pixel 3 Night Sight mode, but with more natural results. The Pro also offers DSLR-level ISO, up to 409,600 — most other smartphone cameras default to 6,400 ISO.

Hands-On HUAWEI P30 Pro Review: 10x Zoom, Killer Design
HUAWEI P30 Pro

The 8-MP periscope zoom lens is shaped like a square, because the built-in periscope prism rotates everything 90 degrees. The zoom is, quite frankly, a little crazy. The lens has 10x hybrid zoom so you don’t lose details as you laser in on a subject. The 50x digital zoom might be overkill, because at that range the slightest movement of your hand changes the entire photo composition, but being able to see into a Manhattan office window from across the street and far below was extremely cool. I then zoomed back out and switched to the 20-MP ultra-wide-angle lens with 120-degree field-of-view to capture the Midtown skyline.

Hands-On HUAWEI P30 Pro Review: 10x Zoom, Killer Design
HUAWEI P30 Pro

The ToF lens, which is making its way to more flagships phones this year (including Samsung’s 5G Galaxy S10 when that phone arrives this spring), understands how long it takes light to travel from the subject to the camera. That makes for a visibly improved bokeh effect in portrait mode, and it also can be used for augmented reality applications. I wasn’t able to test any AR apps on the P30 Pro, but Huawei’s Measure app, which measures height, depth and width, will be available to download in the Google Play store.

Hands-On HUAWEI P30 Pro Review: 10x Zoom, Killer Design
HUAWEI P30 Pro

Together, the Pro’s quad-lens array takes beautiful photos with almost no effort. Huawei enhanced the Pro’s camera software with artificial intelligence to take advantage of the new hardware. AI stabilization makes it possible to take a long-exposure shot in just 4 seconds. Super Portrait uses AI to preserve details that can be lost in bokeh shots, like the curls in my hair. A new AI HDR+ mode can stacks multiple frames of different exposures to ensure the overall photo is evenly exposed.

MORE: HUAWEI P30 Pro Caught in the Wild with Its Four Killer Cameras

In my early hands-on time with the HUAWEI P30 Pro, I was impressed with its low-light photos, periscope zoom and improved portraits. Stay tuned for a full review of the device to see if the Pro tops the Pixel 3 for the best smartphone camera crown.

Design: Ombre never looked so good

Huawei isn’t just building one of the best smartphone cameras around. The company is also one of the few phone makers trying to separate its devices from the pack with distinctive design. The HUAWEI P30’s glossy colour-gradient backs are so stunning that I can forgive the teardrop-shaped notch at the top of both the HUAWEI P30 and the Pro, which feels a little 2018 now that other companies have come up with more inventive ways to disguise their front cameras (see: Samsung’s Galaxy S10 and Oppo’s Find X).

Hands-On HUAWEI P30 Pro Review: 10x Zoom, Killer Design
HUAWEI P30 & HUAWEI P30 Pro

Both the HUAWEI P30 and larger Pro come in five hues that are anything but boring: Amber Sunrise is a pearlescent, red-infused orange that looks like fire, Breathing Crystal is an airy blue/purple/pink, Pearl White is iridescent, taking on other colours like pink and yellow, and Aurora recreates the Northern lights. Even the basic black is reminiscent of smoke, unlike the plain black slabs we’ve seen from other smartphone makers in the last few years.

MORE: Best Unlocked Smartphones 2019

Huawei knew it had hit a homerun when the P20’s Twilight shade, an ombre blue-purple, sold more than the black model in many countries. So the company turned to nature for inspiration for the HUAWEI P30’s gradients, and they are absolutely gorgeous in person. The Breathing Crystal Pro I tried out is a soothing bluish pink that reminded me of a desert sunrise.

Display: Beautiful, but not the best

The HUAWEI P30 Pro’s design feels a bit more premium than its smaller sibling due to curved glass on both front and back. But otherwise, both phones’ full HD+ (2340 x 1080) OLED panels are equally beautiful, whether it’s the 6.1-inch P20 or 6.47-inch Pro. They’re no Galaxy S10 or S10 Plus, which sport Samsung’s curved AMOLED wide quad HD+ (3040 x 1440) panels that are easily the best around, but the HUAWEI P30 and Pro displays are nothing to complain about.

Hands-On HUAWEI P30 Pro Review: 10x Zoom, Killer Design
HUAWEI P30 Pro

Huawei jumped on the in-display fingerprint sensor bandwagon with the HUAWEI Mate 20 Pro, and the HUAWEI P30 and HUAWEI P30 Pro continue that trend. When we tested it in our hands-on time, it seemed responsive, but we’ll be putting the devices through more tests to see how their fingerprint readers stack up to the OnePlus 6T and Galaxy S10.

Performance and Battery: Pro for the win

Huawei’s take on Android, EMUI, is not my favourite, though the latest version, EMUI 9.1 built on Android Pie, is expected to deliver performance improvements, including faster app launches, and an Apple AirDrop-like feature called OneHop for seamlessly sharing photos and documents to a Huawei PC.

Hands-On HUAWEI P30 Pro Review: 10x Zoom, Killer Design
HUAWEI P30 Pro

When it comes to performance, Huawei’s 7-nanometer Kirin 980 chip with dual-NPU is expected to deliver the same power we saw in the HUAWEI Mate 20 Pro, which sports the same chip. Stay tuned for benchmarks as we compare the HUAWEI P30 Pro to other top-of-the-line Android flagships running on Qualcomm’s brand new Snapdragon 855 CPU. For what it’s worth, the Snapdragon 855-powered Galaxy S10 has bested all Android phones thus far, including the HUAWEI Mate 20 Pro and its Kirin 980 chipset.

Hands-On HUAWEI P30 Pro Review: 10x Zoom, Killer Design
HUAWEI P30 & HUAWEI P30 Pro

The P30 Pro also shares the HUAWEI Mate 20 Pro’s 4,200 mAh battery pack, along with fast-charging and wireless charging capabilities. The HUAWEI Mate 20 Pro wasn’t the longest-lasting phone we’ve ever tested, but the 40-watt quick-charger included in the box juices up the phone from 0 to 70 percent in 30 minutes. That set the HUAWEI Mate 20 Pro apart from the flagship pack, and we expect similar results from the HUAWEI P30 Pro. The smaller HUAWEI P30 also has a smaller battery, and doesn’t support 40-watt quick-charging, so it won’t last as long or charge as quickly as the Pro.

HUAWEI P30 vs. HUAWEI P30 Pro

Huawei is offering the HUAWEI P30 in two sizes: the 6.1-inch base model and the 6.47-inch Pro. But there’s more than just a size difference between the two.

Hands-On HUAWEI P30 Pro Review: 10x Zoom, Killer Design
HUAWEI P30

The time-of-flight lens is exclusive to the Pro, so if you want better portraits and AR experiences, the larger phone is the model to buy. Otherwise, both devices have the same triple-lens array, including the 40-MP super spectrum lens for stunning low-light photos.

Hands-On HUAWEI P30 Pro Review: 10x Zoom, Killer Design
HUAWEI P30

Huawei also reserved a more powerful battery for the Pro. The larger phone’s 4,200 mAh battery supports Huawei’s 40-watt Super Charge, which can juice up the device from 0 to 70 percent in 30 minutes. The Pro also offers wireless charging, and can reverse charge any other Qi-compatible device. The HUAWEI P30 does not support the 40-watt charging or wireless charging.

And there’s a subtle design difference: Both phones come in the same gleaming gradient hues, but the Pro uses curved glass on both the front and back for a more premium feel. However, the regular HUAWEI P30 has a headphone jack, which the larger phone sacrifices for a bigger battery.

Outlook

After seeing Huawei’s foldable Mate X at Mobile World Congress last month and now the HUAWEI P30 Pro, it’s clear that Huawei is pushing the entire smartphone industry forward — at least when it comes to hardware.

Stay tuned for our full review of the HUAWEI P30 Pro to see if Huawei has finally nailed the entire experience — cutting-edge design, powerful cameras and beautiful interface. If the HUAWEI P30 is a perfect smartphone, we’ll be even more disappointed that Huawei’s political troubles make the device a non-starter in the States (for now).

Credit: Tom's Guide