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Huawei P30 Pro Review: Hands-on

The P30 Pro is Huawei’s latest flagship, and outshines the Mate 20 Pro thanks to superior cameras. Here are our initial impressions of the phone.

Should I Buy The Huawei P30 Pro?
We’ve spent only a short time with Huawei’s latest hero phone, but it’s clear that it is another fantastic flagship that takes smartphone photography to the next level.

Price When Reviewed
  • TBC
Last year we were seriously impressed with the P20 Pro which was then eclipsed six months later by the Mate 20 Pro. Now, as expected, we have the P30 Pro which takes a lot of the best features from the Mate 20 Pro and makes them even better.

Below are our initial impressions of the phone, but do bear in mind that we haven’t had a chance to properly test it yet and will bring you a full review after the launch. You can also read our hands-on review of the Huawei P30.

Price & Availability
The P30 Pro has a release date of 5 April and will start at £899 for the 128GB model, then £1,099 for 512GB.

You can pre-order now from Carphone Warehouse, EE, Vodafone and Sky Mobile.

Features & Design
  • Wireless charging
  • In-screen fingerprint scanner
  • Electro magnetic levitation ear piece
Given that Huawei has what it calls ‘dual flagships’ by having both the P series and Mate series, it’s a bit surprising that the P30 Pro essentially adopts the Mate 20 Pro’s design.

The screen has curved sides on the front and back and it has an in-screen fingerprint scanner as well. The bottom edge is flatter than the Mate 20 Pro’s and the SIM tray is to the left of the USB-C port. But with 40W SuperCharging, 15W wireless charging and reverse wireless charging the P30 Pro does borrow a lot from its sibling.

It’s IP68 water-resistant and has a new in-screen speaker which is used for phone calls. We didn’t get to test this, but are confident it will be much like the LG G8’s and Vivo Apex’s similar speaker. It isn’t used for general audio: when you play music, games or videos without headphones sound comes from only the bottom speaker.

Another thing we couldn’t test was the upgraded optical fingerprint scanner. Unfortunately it isn’t ultrasonic so won’t work as well if your finger or the screen is wet, but Huawei says it’s still faster and more accurate than on the Mate 20 Pro.

Screen
  • 6.47in, OLED
  • 2340x1080 pixels, 398ppi
  • 19:5:9
  • Embedded fingerprint scanner
With no fingerprint scanner at the bottom – as you had with the P20 Pro – the P30’s screen now has an aspect ratio of 19.5:9. But although it’s an OLED display with an upgraded optical fingerprint sensor behind it, it has a lower resolution than the Mate 20 pro.

It’s fractionally bigger than the Mate 20 Pro’s at 6.47in, but has a lower pixel density of 398ppi. Huawei calls it Full HD+ because it’s 2340x1080 pixels. In the flesh it looks sharp enough and of course you can’t see the pixels at normal viewing distances.

Compared to Samsung’s AMOLED screens, the colours on the P30 Pro look more muted, even in Vivid mode. It means more natural-looking pictures, though.

Huawei hasn’t gone for a ‘punch-hole’ camera like some of its rivals, but the notch for the selfie camera is pleasingly symmetrical and much smaller than on the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro.

Cameras

The P series is all about photography, so it’s no wonder that’s pretty much all Huawei talked about in our pre-launch briefing. Here’s what each of the four cameras do:
  • Top: Ultra-wide, 20Mp, f/2.2, 16mm
  • Middle: Main, 40Mp, f/1.6, OIS, 27mm
  • Bottom: 5x Telephoto, 8Mp, f/3.4, OIS, 125mm
  • Fourth: Time-of-flight camera (depth)
That’s quite a lot of information, so to put it more simply, the P30 Pro allows you to take everything from an ultra-wide photo to a close-up that’s the equivalent to a 10x zoom.

And to illustrate what that looks like, here are the extreme wide and 10x close-up shots of St Pancras:

If you’re wondering how it can be 10x when the telephoto camera is only 5x, it’s because the information from the 40Mp camera is combined with it to produce what Huawei is calling ‘lossless 10x zoom’.

As the phone we tested was running pre-release software we can’t yet say anything definitive about the quality of the 10x zoom, nor really any other photos. However, we were still impressed by the initial shots we were able to take.

The photos below show the difference in low-light performance between the P20 Pro (left) and P30 Pro (right) in their standard (not long exposure) photo modes. Huawei says the reason why the P30 is so much better is down to the new 40Mp SuperSpectrum sensor. It has red, yellow and blue pixels instead of red, green and blue and this is said to capture more light. Combine this optical stabilisation, a larger aperture and a higher sensitivity (ISO has increased from 102,400 to a whopping 400,000) and it’s easy to understand why there is is such a big improvement.

All of this translates to video as well, which means the P30 Pro is much more capable than its predecessors when shooting in low light. There’s good stabilisation in 4K, but our early sample seemed unable to stabilise video when zoomed in to 5x or 10x.

A future update, said to be arriving in April, will bring a new feature called Dual View video, which is the ability to record using two cameras at the same time – main + telephoto. This will allow you to instantly zoom in on the action at points you choose in the edited video.

Demos we’ve seen put this to great use and it’s an effect that no other current phone is capable of.

On top of this, there’s a new HDR+ mode which uses the Kirin 980’s AI capabilities to identify not only dark and light areas of an image but what they are. It will then process the image intelligently according to what it ‘sees’, be that a person, a sunset, greenery or another object.

Finally, there’s that fourth camera. It’s not for taking photos and instead works with the ‘flood illuminator’ above it to work out how far away things are in the scene. This information is then used to determine which parts should be blurred out in a Portrait photo and should lead to more realistic-looking portraits.

And from a couple of test photos, the effect does look good. It wasn’t perfect, though, and wisps of Dom’s hair and the rim of his glasses which overlap the background have still been inadvertently blurred.

Selfies from the 32Mp camera at the front look quite sharp, but we couldn’t help but notice areas of stubble were smeary and lacking in detail. This may have been caused by the fact we were shooting at twilight, or the early software, but unlike the 40Mp rear camera which defaults to 10Mp photos and effectively throws away three-quarters of the pixels, you get the full 32Mp out of the selfie camera.

There's one other trick: the depth sensing cameras on the rear allow the phone to measure objects in the real world, much like you can with Apple's Measure app on the latest iPhones.

Performance
We haven’t run any benchmarks yet, but with the same processor from the Mate 20 Pro and 8GB of RAM, there won’t be any surprises when we do. The model we looked at had 256GB of storage, but there may be other capacities available.

Huawei hadn’t confirmed anything about Bluetooth or Wi-Fi versions, but we do know there’s NFC and there definitely isn’t 5G.

Early Verdict
Having spent less than two hours with a P30 Pro running beta software, it’s way too soon to say anything definitive about it. But first impressions are good: it looks and feels great in the hand, isn’t noticeably bigger than the Mate 20 Pro and the cameras show a lot of promise.

We’ll update this review with a final verdict and a rating as soon as we can.




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