Huawei has been making excellent smartphones for years, but aside from its partnership with Google for the Nexus 6P, the company hasn't captured the attention of global markets. This all changed with the P20 Pro last year, which offered the world's first triple camera and came at a time when the smartphone industry was growing stale and lacking true innovation.
Fast forward six months, and the company then launched the Mate 20 Pro which took the already-excellent camera of the P20 Pro and made it even better. Another six months has passed and attentions turn to its next photography-focused flagship, shortly after the company already stole the headlines with its Mate X foldable.
Meet the P30 Pro, the phone that Huawei is claiming will rewrite the rules of photography in a big way. Does it deliver? Is it a worthy successor to the P20 Pro and should this be your next smartphone? Let's find out – this is our Huawei P30 Pro hands on.
Four cameras yes, really four
If you bought the P20 Pro or the Mate 20 Pro, look away as you'll probably want to upgrade to the P30 Pro. A year on from the P20 Pro, Huawei's camera ambitions have changed and so has the camera array in its new smartphone. Unlike the jump from the P20 Pro to the Mate 20 Pro, Huawei has done more than just change one of the sensors, as the P30 Pro has several key improvements that result in simply mind blowing photos.
The first of these is in the main 40MP camera, which is dubbed the Huawei SuperSpectrum sensor. It's a brand new sensor, and lets in more light than ever before as Huawei has changed all the green pixels to yellow ones.
A traditional smartphone camera uses RGGB (Red, Green, Green, Blue) but the SuperSpectrum camera swaps the green pixels for yellow ones (as illustrated above). Why? The focal length and spectrum of yellow light is much larger than that of green, allowing the P30 Pro to take in much more light. The result of a higher intake of light is much brighter and better photos.
The higher light intake is also apparent when you switch to manual mode. Most competitors can shoot photos at 6400 ISO, and the P20 Pro captured at 102400 ISO, which is the same as the Canon Mark 5 (an excellent DSLR with a huge sensor). The P30 Pro can capture photos at up to 409600 ISO, which is four times the ability of other devices.
Beyond the main sensor, there's also three other cameras which provide incredible versatility. There's the 20MP ultra-wide-angle sensor from the Mate 20 Pro with f/2.2 aperture, and a Time-Of-Flight (TOF) camera. The TOF camera allows the P30 Pro to measure the time that light travels from an object to a camera, and then accurately calculate more layers of depth than the standard foreground and background of most cameras. It offers more layers of depth, but doesn't come close to the 1200 layers of depth offered by the Nokia 9.
The last camera is the one that looks like a square, which isn't the actual camera. Consider the old point and shoot cameras – those with Optical Zoom were bulky and the zoom had to move in and out. On a phone, that would mean a god-awful thing sticking out of the rear so Huawei has done something a little different. The square is the periscope prism, which turns the light and everything that hits the camera by 90°. The actual camera is inside the phone but using a prism allows the P30 Pro to have the mechanics internally, rather than sticking out the back of the phone.
This camera builds on the phenomenal zoom abilities of last year's devices, by upping the stakes. Instead of the 3X optical and 5X hybrid zoom options – which the regular P30 now offers – the P30 Pro offers 5X optical zoom and 10X hybrid zoom. There's also the option for 50X digital zoom and the overall zoom abilities are pretty bonkers. Getting this level of zoom into a phone that measures just 8.5mm thick is outstanding.
All the changes in the camera also bring a few other features to the P30 Pro's camera. The ultra-wide-angle camera can take shots at just 2.5cm from a subject which is far beyond most other phones. The main and periscope cameras both have Optical Image Stabilization which, when combined with Huawei's AI, offers great stabilisation in photos, videos or when using night mode (more on that below). In video, you can now zoom into details, with up to 5X optical, 10X hybrid or 16X digital zoom.
The biggest improvement, at least that we could see from our short time with the P30 Pro, was in the low light photography. Huawei has been teasing that the lowlight capabilities of the P30 Pro would be spectacular, and the P30 Pro doesn't disappoint.
We're super excited to see exactly what the camera can do and have a few quick camera comparisons which you can see in the links below.
- Huawei P30 Pro vs Galaxy S10 Plus Camera Comparison
- Huawei P30 Pro vs Apple iPhone XS Camera Comparison
- Huawei P30 Pro vs Google Pixel 3 Camera Comparison
Overall the camera package certainly looks very compelling, at least based on our first hour with the P30 Pro. The camera is likely the same four-camera array that's coming to Huawei's crazy foldable phone. We're in Paris for Huawei's event, and we'll be testing out the camera a lot during the coming days. Check out our initial Huawei P30 Pro camera preview, which we'll be updating with new thoughts and images throughout the coming days and weeks!
Beyond the camera Style, specs and more
What about the phone that goes with that monstrous camera? It's pretty spectacular in a few ways, but does have a few shortcomings compared to the Mate 20 Pro (and other rivals like the Galaxy S10 Plus).
The P30 Pro AMOLED screen curves to the edges, as does the rear of the phone, resulting in a rather comfortable in-hand feel. The display has a teardrop notch but it's disappointing that Huawei didn't include the facial recognition from the Mate 20 Pro here. Similarly, the display takes a drop from the QHD+ of the Mate 20 Pro to FHD+ which is punchy enough, but not up to the standard of the Dynamic AMOLED offered by the Galaxy S10 Plus.
The P30 Pro display does house the in-display fingerprint sensor, which is much improved over previous versions used by Huawei. It's now almost as fast as the physical sensor used in most Huawei phones, setting it up was easy and it felt snappy and responsive. As we've seen with other devices however, only time will tell so we'll bring you more on this in our full review.
The P30 Pro has a 4,200 mAh battery with some serious charging tech alongside it. There's the 40-watt Huawei SuperCharge, which is one of the fastest charging standards today and Huawei says it can charge the P30 Pro from 0% to 70% in 30 minutes. There's also quick wireless charging at 15 watts and the ability to charge other devices or accessories wirelessly using the reverse wireless charging feature that's come over from the Mate 20 Pro. Based on previous experience with Huawei devices, we'd expect the P30 Pro battery to easily last one to two days, if not considerably more.
The P30 Pro runs on Android Pie with EMUI 9.1 on top, and not a lot is different with Huawei's software. It offers the same familiar experience from other Huawei devices and there's a few tweaks to improve the launch and loading times of popular apps, but nothing major that's changed. Huawei's software is polarizing at best, and while I personally quite like it, it won't be for everyone.
One particularly cool feature is the integration of the P30 Pro with other parts of your digital life. Take for example, Audi Digital Key – the P30 Pro can replace your connect key (if your particular model supports this feature) and you can use it to unlock and start your car. Or the integration with certain treadmill brands, allowing you to aggregate data from treadmills, your watch and the P30 Pro so Huawei's Health app has a complete picture of your physical exertions. Neither is particularly revolutionary, but if your car or treadmill support these features, they're certainly an added bonus.
What's different between the Huawei P30 Pro and P30?
Most of the core experience of the P30 Pro and P30 is similar, but there are a few key differences. The P30 Pro uses a 6.47-inch Curved OLED display, while the P30 uses a non-curved 6.1-inch OLED display. Both are the same FHD+ resolution meaning the P30 actually has a slightly sharper screen.
The battery is smaller inside the P30 (3,650mAh vs 4,200mAh), there's less RAM (6GB vs 8GB), no wireless charging, a lower level of dust and water resistance and lower maximum LTE speeds. One crucial difference is that the P30 has a 3.5mm headphone jack, with a Hi-Fi DAC built into the phone, while the P30 Pro doesn't have a headphone jack and relies on a Hi-Fi DAC built into the headset. The P30 also has a regular earpiece speaker right above the display, while the P30 Pro relies on acoustic display technology to transmit phone call audio through the screen itself.
There's also some major differences in the camera, with the P30 relying on the package offered by the Mate 20 Pro – it still has three cameras and uses the 40MP SuperSpectrum camera, but lacks a lot of the other features. We've broken down all the differences in more detail in the link below.
Evolution of color get the Amber sunrise version
You know what one of the best things about Huawei's phones in 2018 was for me personally? The colors. The twilight colour on the P20 Pro was simply incredible, and it was great to see smartphones that weren't the same, boring, solid block of colour. Clearly, many folks felt the same as Huawei revealed that the P20 Pro's twilight colour outsold the black version, which is possibly the first time that's ever happened in smartphones.
The P30 Pro and P30 both come in the same five color options. The Black and Pearl White are rather standard affairs, although the Pearl White has a shimmering effect that's similar to the Prism White Galaxy S10 Plus. The breathing crystal is the most mesmerising of the color options, and showcases how light refracts through glass. Then there's Aurora, the evolution of twilight which is takes on more of a green and blue hue compared to the darker purple Aurora on the Mate 20 Pro.
The best of them all, at least in my opinion? The Amber Sunrise. It's simply stunning. It's ferociously vibrant, stands out from the crowd and reminds me of the sunset (which is exactly what it was meant to do). The red infused orange is simply outstanding and combines two of my favorite colors into one even more gorgeous color.
Huawei P30 Pro – the initial conclusion
I'm writing this hands-on while on a plane to Paris for Huawei's event, and about five days after using the P30 Pro. During the past few days, I've had a lot of time to reflect on Huawei's new device and of course, the camera is one of the biggest highlights.
The P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro were my two favorite devices of 2018, and replaced Samsung's Galaxy devices in my pocket (for the past eight years before that, I'd switched from Galaxy S to Galaxy Note every six months). Why? The camera.
The camera is incredibly important to me – and to many of you judging by how many of you visit our camera comparisons each month – and the P30 Pro is probably the best smartphone camera on the market right now. The improvements are seemingly all in the right places – the extra zoom, vastly improved low light photos and added depth – and the rest of the phone has almost everything you could want in a smartphone.
A couple of hours with a phone is never enough to truly tell if it's worthy of buying, but I'm excited to spend a few weeks with the P30 Pro. Stay tuned for more in-depth impressions and our full review of the P30 Pro and follow us on Twitter – @TechnoBuffalo / @nirave –a for more immediate findings, as we'll have our P30 Pro in hand in a couple of hours.