Huawei P30 Pro review: this 5-camera system has a phone for some odd reason

Huawei P30 Pro 30

Rating: 8.6/10

Pros:

  • Takes better low light shots than what the human eyes can see
  • Stupendously good battery life
  • The Breathing Crystal colour variant looks stunning
  • One of the best Android phones for gaming
  • Excellent call quality despite removing the earpiece

Cons:

  • No headphone jack
  • Curved display distorts the image at the edges
  • Speaker quality is subpar

Introduction

I haven’t used my DSLR in years. It is actually catching dust somewhere in my house and it definitely deserves more attention. Why am I not using my DSLR these days? It is because phones like the Pixel 3 and the Huawei P30 Pro are seriously making it more difficult to for me to justify lugging around a bulky camera. Now, is the P30 Pro only a good set of cameras with a calling functionality added on? Actually, no. 

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Let’s get down to my review of the P30 Pro, a camera…no wait…five cameras…disguised as a smartphone.

Huawei P30 Pro cameras: the best in the business

Obviously, I am going to talk about the cameras first. But before that, I did a camera comparison of the P30 Pro with the Pixel 3 XL and the iPhone XS Max on our YouTube channel. Instead of going into too many details, let me just break down my findings. 

Also read: Google Pixel 3 XL review: shoots drool-worthy images that will persuade you to make a switch

  1. The P30 Pro’s primary 40MP camera (10MP in pixel binned resolution) has a massive sensor and a very good algorithm that favours natural colours. This time around, the contrast has also been slightly cranked up by default. The Master AI function is on by default but I am not a fan of it because it force feeds me into taking a certain kind of picture. For example, when I want to take the picture of my friend I am forced to use the Portrait mode.


     

  2. Now, this camera has a new RYYB sensor which replaces the Green pixels on a traditional RGGB sensor with Yellow ones. The Yellow pixel can actually let in 30 percent more light. This is in addition to the 10 percent extra light sensitivity that you get with the wider f/1.6 aperture. What this means is that in pitch dark, the P30 Pro can see more than what the human eye can see. Unfortunately, when there are multiple sources of light – like in a pub setting – I have a suspicion that in Auto mode the P30 Pro tends to pick the brightest point of exposure and underexposes the other parts. I really hope Huawei fixes this issue in an update soon.

     
    Shot on the Pixel 3 XL without and with Night Sight on

     
    Shot on the Huawei P30 Pro without and with Night Mode on

  3. Coming to the marquee feature of the P30 Pro: the zoom camera with a periscope lens. The telephoto camera can do up to 5x magnification and the pictures look crisp and detailed. But unlike the iPhone XS Max’s 2x telephoto zoom camera, the colour science of the telephoto camera and the normal camera is not the same on the P30 Pro (as you can see in the picture below). You will have to live with this or edit in post. The phone can also do 10x hybrid zoom and the details lost in the process are very little for you to worry about. But about the 50x digital zoom. It is digital zoom after all. And, you are never going to use it often.

     
    1x and 5x shots

     
    10x and 50x shots

  4. There’s also a 20MP wide-angle autofocus camera that does a great job of adding some drama to landscape shots. The quality has been improved by leaps and bounds. And guess what, you can also shoot 4K videos in wide angle with stabilisation, and that is great. 

  5. On the rear, the final camera that you get is a Time-of-Flight (ToF) camera. Currently, the ToF camera is being utilised in the camera app for better depth tracking of the background, and it shows in the bokeh shots. My only suggestion would be to use the Aperture mode and not the Portrait mode for shooting subjects with DSLR-like background blur. 


  6. The 32MP selfie camera is decent for daylight shots. Huawei has definitely improved the processing and how the final image looks. There are plenty of details but that is until you see the Pixel 3 XL’s selfies. I have to say this; the P30 Pro lags behind the Pixel when it comes to selfies for sure. 

  7. The P30 Pro’s video shooting capabilities are not bad. The stabilisation is great; in fact, it is almost as good as the new Steady Shot feature in the Samsung Galaxy S10 range of phones. But in 4K, if you have a fairish-looking face it tends to make the face look red. That just looks super weird in my opinion. By the way, there is a fairly usable 960fps super slow motion video shooting capability. Furthermore, you can only shoot 1080p videos using the front camera and they look okay at best. For video recording, I’d still pick the Pixel or the iPhone over the P30 Pro. 

      
    P30 Pro’s Super Macro mode is kickass

Overall though, the P30 Pro’s cameras do have some shortcomings but they are so versatile that for most situations you end up getting a really great shot. And, if you can tinker around with the settings a little bit, then you can really make good use of the P30 Pro’s camera prowess. For example, those incredible Macro mode shots that you see.

Huawei P30 Pro design and display: attractive but fragile

Now that we are done with the cameras on the P30 Pro, let’s not forget all of this tech is inside a beautiful glass sandwich body protected by a very thin metal railing. The glass curves inwards from both the sides making the phone feel curvy in your hand. You will be able to pick up the Aurora and Breathing Crystal colour variants in India. And trust me, the Breathing Crystal gradient is extremely unique. That said, this is one of the smoothest glass bodies I have held in my hand and therefore it is extremely slippery. No wonder then that Huawei has actually bundled a case inside the box. 

Huawei P30 Pro 26

Don’t drop the phone, it might just shatter easily. Moreover, the camera bump on the rear does cause the phone to wobble when you place it on its back on the table. In a strange decision, Huawei has removed the headphone jack now and it doesn’t bundle a dongle in the box either. Also, the ports at the bottom are not aligned symmetrically just like the Samsung Galaxy S10+. Oh, and by the way, you get an Infrared port at the top if you are into using your phone as a universal remote control. 

The display is curved on the front making it fragile and susceptible to cracking when it falls. Huawei has also done a great job of keeping ghost touches at bay with excellent palm rejection. But video playback gets distorted around the edges. Thankfully though, Huawei has really fixed the green bleeding issue along the curved part of the display. This was a major issue for me in the Mate 20 Pro.

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There is a teardrop notch up on the top and Huawei has removed the earpiece for a cleaner look as well. I will talk about how that affects the calling function in the later part of the review. And, the fingerprint scanner is an optical in-display one and it is pretty fast. You also get a Face Unlock feature but it is not as secure as the one used by the Mate 20 Pro. 

Also, the display is massive at about 6.47-inches, and therefore, holding it and using it with one hand is really not very easy. This issue is further compounded by the fact that the P30 Pro is heavy at around 192g. But thankfully, unlike the tall Mate 20 Pro which was top heavy and would topple out of my hands, the weight distribution is slightly better on the P30 Pro in my opinion.

Also read: Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: you’ll fall in love with this phone like I did

The display itself is an FHD+ panel that looks fairly crisp and has accurate colours. But, the brightness levels are not as good as other flagships out there. That said, you do get Widevine L1 support which allows for streaming Netflix in HD quality. 

Huawei P30 Pro software: EMUI has been slightly tweaked

The P30 Pro is the first phone to come with EMUI 9.1 based on Android 9. There are a few main changes:

  1. It has a new file storage system called the Extendable Read-Only File System (EROFS) – Huawei’s proprietary storage system coded on the core Linux platform. It helps Huawei speed up the read speeds and thereby directly impacting app-load times, and it is fast and super furious. App load times on the P30 Pro are through the roof now. In fact, I got a read speed of 831.06 MB/s and write speed of 247.3 MB/s. This is higher than what I achieved with the Mate 20 Pro.
  2. Some of the first-party icons have changed now and have a flatter design. 

    Huawei P30 Pro 28

  3. There is a new Car Key mode that lets your P30 Pro work as a key for your car. The only catch is that you need to own an Audi. If this isn’t KLPD, I don’t know what is. 
  4. GPU Turbo has now been upgraded to GPU Turbo 3.0.  

These are the key differences in EMUI 9.1. I still don’t like the icon design or the fact that I can’t change the grid sizes more freely. 

Huawei P30 Pro performance: you will not have any complaints

The P30 Pro comes with the same, excellent Kirin 980 SoC, 8 gigs of RAM and 256GB of storage. You can further expand the storage using Huawei’s proprietary nanoSD card, which can replace one of the Nano SIM cards in the tray. But unfortunately, these nanoSD cards are not available in India currently, which is a bummer. 

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As far as daily usage goes the P30 Pro is extremely responsive and fast. I actually found it to be as fast as the Oneplus 6T and the Pixel 3 XL. Huawei has been working very hard to improve the hardware and software optimisation. In fact, gaming on the P30 Pro is stupendously good. PUBG runs lag-free and the phone only gets ever so slightly warm after long sessions of gaming. The RAM management is not as good as the Samsung Galaxy S10+, though. 

Also read: OnePlus 6T review: aggressively marching towards the future

Huawei P30 Pro battery life and call quality: stupendously good on both the parameters

Powering the P30 Pro is a large 4,200mAh battery and it comes with Huawei’s Supercharge technology which uses a 40W adapter for charging the phone. And in my testing, I managed to charge it from 0 to 100 in 1 hour and 5 mins. That is extremely fast! You can use the phone to wirelessly charge other products and you can also wireless charge the P30 Pro. And you know what? During my testing, the phone lasted at least 7 hours of SoT on an average. Sometimes, I could drag it to 8 hours if I used it frugally. That is just an excellent battery life for a flagship device. I am more than satisfied with the improvements Huawei is bringing to the battery performance on its phones. 

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An electromagnetic levitation speaker replaces the earpiece on the P30 Pro. This speaker that uses the entire top portion of the display to relay sound back to you during calls. And surprisingly, the call quality is actually as good as previous Huawei phones. That said, a single downward firing mono speaker replaces the stereo speaker setup. Something even the in-built Dolby Atmos feature can’t save it from sounding average at best. As for the audio quality through headphones, it is great and you will not have any complaints whatsoever. 

Also read: Samsung Galaxy S10+ review: hands down, the best Android phone right now

Should you buy the Huawei P30 Pro?

The Huawei P30 Pro has an excellent set of cameras inside a reliably good flagship smartphone. Even if you hate EMUI, I can easily recommend more than a few launchers for you to try out. It is Android, after all, that is the beauty of open-source software. 

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But the P30 Pro is not going to come cheap. At Rs 70,000+, the P30 Pro is currently one of the most expensive Android flagships out there. That said, it has the best set of cameras on a flagship smartphone to justify that asking price. If you want a more well-rounded flagship Android phone, I’d suggest you pick up the Samsung Galaxy S10+. Or, the iPhone XS is always around for the legion of Apple fans. 

All in all, the P30 Pro has me impressed and I can’t wait to use it to chronicle my next travel adventure.

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?