Huawei P30 Pro review: A camera powerhouse that is also a great smartphone
Huawei has proved over recent years that it is capable of offering some of the best cameras on a smartphone. It has also managed to produce some good-looking and powerful smartphones that compliment those cameras. Last year, the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro were the flagship phones to beat. This year, the Huawei P30 Pro will be taking over. By now, you must have already heard about the cameras - the 50x zoom and low-light photography that can take on the Pixel. But is the P30 Pro more than just its cameras? Does it also work as a smartphone?
If you're spending over Rs 70,000 on a phone, you would expect it to deliver on all fronts. Yes, the P30 Pro has some incredible cameras and we reviewed them in detail last week. But the P30 Pro also touts a curved OLED display, some exciting gradient colours, a flagship Kirin processor at its heart and a large battery to keep it going. We take a deeper look into all these aspects in our full review of the P30 Pro.
P30 Pro Design
While the P-series is typically about the cameras, Huawei also paid a lot of attention to design. The P30 Pro has a 3D glass on the front and back that curves around the sides to seamlessly meet a thin metal frame. On top of that, the P30 Pro is offered in Aurora, Breathing Crystal and Amber Sunrise colors that offer gradient tones inspired by the colours of the sky at various times of a day. The Aurora colour that we received for review offers hues of blue that moves from aqua to a deeper shade depending on how light refracts off the surface.
The Breathing Crystal offers a much lighter shade of blue that shifts towards white, making it more subtle and subdued compared to the Aurora option. The Amber Sunrise colour shows a combination of red and orange that looks gorgeous in pictures, although Huawei hasn't launched this option in India just yet.
The curvature of the glass is about the same as the Mate 20 Pro, but there's a lot more seamlessness this time around. The P30 Pro offers a solid metal frame that won't flex easy. The buttons on the side are well-placed and easy to reach, and I also like the thin strip of red accent on the power button, which is a nice touch.
Also, if you don't notice an earpiece don't panic. They haven't forgotten about that, they just decided to use a different method, called Acoustic Display Technology that allows the device to emit sound through the screen. You just have to place your ear around the top part of the display and you'll hear the sound, which is clear and loud and not unlike a typical earpiece.
Like the Mate 20 Pro, the P30 Pro also loses the 3.5mm headphone jack. The P30 Pro does not offer a stereo effect but I am happy to see a speaker grille next to the Type-C port and that Huawei did not decide to hide the speaker behind the port as it did on the Mate 20 Pro. The SIM tray can handle two Nano SIM cards or a single SIM card and Huawei's proprietary NM nanoSD card, which isn't readily available in India and pretty expensive if you do find it.
Overall, the design of the P30 Pro looks mighty attractive even though it looks similar to the Samsung Galaxy S10+ with its curved design. But what sets the P30 Pro apart is its striking gradient colours. It is also slightly thicker at 8.4mm and heavier at 192 grams compared to the S10+.
P30 Pro Display
There is a lot to love about the P30 Pro's 6.47-inch FHD+ (2340x1080) OLED display. The bezels have been slimmed down even further compared to its predecessor. You can barely see the top and side borders and there's a thin, almost negligible chin. Huawei has reduced the notch to a droplet, which is great from an aesthetic PoV but it also means there is no room for advanced facial recognition sensors. All of this means the P30 Pro offers a 19.5:9 aspect ratio.
The display is bright and sharp with plenty of colours to go around. The 1080p resolution is great for viewing content, but those expecting a QHD+ option will be disappointed. The P30 Pro offers good brightness levels but the curved display does throw off the viewing angles a little. There is a visible bluish tinge around the edges when looking at the curved sides on a white background.
Apart from that, the display is quite fantastic and rich. The waterdrop notch is easy to ignore and watching content or playing games is quite an immersive experience.
There is also a fingerprint sensor underneath the display that Huawei says is faster compared to the Mate 20 Pro. It is hard to tell the exact difference, but it does feel more responsive. It's not as intuitive as the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor on the S10+, which I have grown to appreciate a lot as it can unlock the device with a light tap. The P30 Pro requires to press down and hold for a bit to unlock the device.
P30 Pro Camera
I'll be honest, I have never enjoyed smartphone photography as much as I did with the P30 Pro. Huawei has played it smart by offering attractive cameras that will make you want to bring out your wannabe professional photographer. I have already spoken in detail about my thoughts on the P30 Pro's camera in a dedicated camera review, but I do have a little more to add after using them for around two weeks.
Firstly, a quick rundown of what you're getting with the P30 Pro. There is a triple camera setup on the back that includes a 40MP primary camera with 1/1.7-inch Huawei SuperSpectrum Sensor and f/1.6 lens, a 20MP f/2.2 ultra wide-angle camera and an 8MP telephoto camera with a Periscope lens. There is also a fourth ToF (Time of Flight) camera that only comes into play for depth mapping for portraits or Augmented Reality.
The Periscope zoom lens allows for 5x optical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom, and up to 50x digital zoom. This means you can zoom into objects, scenes or people that are extremely far away and still retain clarity. The added OIS to the camera helps improve the stability and detail when zooming in.
I've been using the zoom camera a lot, capturing close up shots in 5x and 10x that look terrific. I did try to capture photos at upto 50x zoom, but they were honestly not worth it as they lacked clarity and detail, but props to Huawei for offering this option first. At 5x optical, close up photos look excellent with lots of detail and sharpness. The 10x lossless zoom isn't exactly lossless, but it does offer clear and detailed photos.
Then you have the 40MP primary camera which actually shoots at 10MP by default and uses pixel binning to offer a high-res image. You can switch to the 40MP resolution in settings, but you won't be able to tell the difference in most scenarios. Huawei is using a new SuperSpectrum sensor that uses a RYYB filter rather than the typical RGB filter, allowing for up to 40 per cent more light.
In simple terms, this means the camera is able to capture some unbelievable low-light shots. With the primary camera, you can photograph in extreme low light conditions and capture photos that look bright, clear and colourful. In such scenarios, the P30 Pro blows away even the Pixel's Night Sight. The camera is so light sensitive, it will see things that the human eye cannot.
While there is a dedicated long-exposure Night mode, you will rarely need to switch to it because the camera will automatically detect when you're in low-light and will use the long-exposure to capture some incredible low-light shots.
The P30 Pro performs unbelievably in extreme low-light, but the results in normal low-light is no different than what you get on a Pixel 3 or an S10+. In fact, the P30 Pro tends to blow out photos a little more than the competition If you're shooting a nightlife scene with natural ambient lighting around.
When it comes to daylight shots, the P30 Pro's primary camera offers plenty of detail and contrast with good dynamic range. Daylight conditions are also the best time to use the 20MP ultra wide-angle camera.
The wide-angle camera is a great option to have as you're able to capture more of a scene into a frame. It comes in handy when you're looking at a tall or wide structure, or a group of people at a close distance.
But the wide angle camera is not only useful for capturing a wide field of view, but also for getting up close for macros. You can capture some stunning macro shots getting in as close as to 2.5cm from the subject.
There are tons more shooting modes to try out for fun like Light painting, Monochrome, Slow-mo, Time-Lapse and Moving picture, to name a few. I still haven't used these modes as they are often forgotten and tucked away in the More section.
As for the videos, the P30 Pro shoots in 1080p FHD but you can bump it up all the way to 4K UHD. Videos shot on the P30 Pro look really stable thanks to a combination of OIS and AIS, and you get a lot of dynamic range and contrast while shooting.
Lastly, we have the 32MP selfie camera which manages to take crisp selfies in daylight with a lot of clarity and attractive colours. Some smoothing is applied by default, which you can tone down. Indoors, selfies captured look softer and lack sharpness.
P30 Pro Performance and Software
As a flagship phone, the P30 Pro gets the best processor that Huawei has to offer right now. This means there is an octa-core Kirin 980 chipset at the core of the device that is expected to deliver a blazing fast performance. This is paired with 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of internal storage, which is plenty for multitasking and storage needs.
The Huawei P30 Pro is easily one of the fastest flagships out there. Apps open in a flash with snappy animations. There is plenty of raw power under the hood to handle anything you throw at it. Browsing through apps is a breeze as well and the touch responsive is the right kind of sensitive so scrolling is fluid and smooth without becoming too fast to handle.
Gaming on the smartphone is absolutely fluid with consistently fast frame rate and smoothness while playing a game like PUBG in high graphics. The performance is comparable to the Honor View 20, which also gets a Kirin 980 SoC and costs under Rs 40,000.
No matter how good a smartphone is, there has to be one trouble spot, and for the P30 Pro that would be the software. There is no denying that EMUI has gotten better over the years, but it is far from convenient. In fact, minimalism is the name of the game and Huawei could take a page out of Samsung's book when it comes to offering a streamlined software. My experience with One UI has been great, while EMUI 9 has been just okay.
EMUI is packed to the brim with features and pre-loaded apps that are often copies of Google apps. Huawei offers its own browser, app store and email, which one is unlikely to use if they are already part of Google's ecosystem. The app icons still lack that visiual appeal and the app drawer isn't enabled by default, but you can do so in Settings.
That being said, EMUI does offer consumers a lot of freedom to customise. It also gets an Always-On display and lock screen magazines that can be changed with a swipe.
P30 Pro Battery
The P30 Pro gets the same 4,200mAh battery as the Mate 20 Pro, and it is a monster. Combined with a power efficient 7nm chipset and some excellent battery management, the Huawei P30 Pro offers a solid battery life that can easily take you over a full day if your day-to-day tasks include message, some social media browsing, watching a few hours of video content and playing with the cameras.
While reviewing the P30 Pro, there were days I had to really work the battery as I would use the cameras extensively to capture a lot of photographs and videos, stream content on Netflix or YouTube and play a couple of graphic-intensive games to check out the performance. On those days, I was still left with around 20 per cent in the tank by bedtime.
The P30 Pro offers a few battery saving features that range from mild to extreme to squeeze as much juice out of it as possible. The battery does drain faster when Always On display is enabled and if you're using the device to wirelessly charge another device.
In addition to a long-lasting battery, you get a phone that supports 40W fast charging thanks to Huawei's SuperCharge technology, which means you won't have to wait more than 60 minutes to fully charge the P30 Pro.
Like the Mate 20 Pro, the P30 Pro also gets wireless reverse charging, which is hidden in the Battery settings. Enabling it lets you charge another device that supports wireless charging by placing it on the back of the P30 Pro. Now, if you think this is going to help you look cool in front of your friends, you may want to opt for a different feature of the P30 Pro, because the reverse wireless charging tech is still extremely slow. It also significantly drops the battery of the P30 Pro. It seems practical to charge something like the Galaxy Buds, but not a phone so much.
Should you buy the Huawei P30 Pro?
The Huawei P30 pro doesn't come cheap, but you can be rest assured that you will be getting a feature-packed flagship that doesn't disappoint. At Rs 71,990, the P30 Pro is surprisingly much more than its camera. Of course, the cameras cannot and should not be ignored. Huawei has set a new benchmark this year for mobile photography and one can only expect Google to top it with the Pixel 4.
The P30 Pro's quad-camera system is the most advanced and versatile set of cameras that you can get right now, and you're likely to see more phones adopt some of these technologies in the months to come. The P30 Pro is also a blazing fast smartphone that can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. To top it off you get a great display, gorgeous gradient colours and a long-lasting battery.
If I had to pick something about the P30 Pro that could put you off, it is probably the software, which still needs some work. This is one area where the Galaxy S10+ and iPhone XS Max offer a better experience. But pretty much everything else about the P30 Pro is top-notch, making it easily one of the best flagships this year, and we are yet to reach the halfway mark in 2019.