Huawei P30 Pro Review

Move over Samsung; there’s a new sheriff in town.

Well, the Huawei P30 Pro is officially on pre-order in New Zealand, and let me be one of the first to say that, if you’ve placed a pre-order or are planning to, you will not be disappointed.

The P Series has always been Huawei’s most photography-centered flagship. While the cameras have received an upgrade year on year, the design has stayed relatively familiar. But in the P30 Pro, Huawei have not only streched the limits of what smartphone cameras can do, they have radically redesigned the P Series, transforming it into a gorgeous device that oozes premium quality from every angle.

The first thing that you’ll notice is the absence of the home button/fingerprint scanner. It’s a big step for Huawei to ditch the home button on the P Series, but the change is overdue, and it puts the P30 Pro on par with modern design philosophy. The P30 Pro features a 6.47 inch screen that wraps itself over the edge of the phone. This means we get a stunning, almost bezel-free design with just a minute bezel at the top and a slightly larger (about 1mm larger) bezel at the bottom. With the home button gone, the P30 Pro incorporates an in-screen fingerprint sensor. It isn’t quite as fast as a traditional fingerprint scanner but is still very snappy, assuming you hit the right spot.

Huawei have persisted with the FHD+ screen, although it is an OLED. The P30 Pro has a resolution of 2340 x 1080; not the most pixel-dense screen on the market, true, but more than enough to create a vibrant screen that is rich in detail.

Huawei have resisted the urge to go for the hole punch selfie camera on the front, instead sticking with the notch, albeit a very small one. Some people may criticise Huawei for not using a hole punch design for the front-facing camera, but I’m not all that convinced by the hole punch. On the S10 devices, the hole punch is still occupied by the notification bar, so you aren’t really gaining extra “fully functional” screen real estate.

Flip that phone over and the design really kicks into hyper-drive. You’ve got four cameras; yes, you read that right, I said four cameras (more on those later). Cameras aside, it’s the colours on the back that are the standout. The P30 Pro comes in three colours, standard black and then 2 gradient colour schemes called Breathing Crystal and Aurora. I have been using the Breathing Crystal colour and it is STUNNING. The colours have a pearlescent, vibrant gloss to them that makes the phone shine almost majestically in the daylight.

There are just two downsides. The first is that the vertical positioning of the camera housing will sometimes press against your finger when you handle the phone. First world problems, I know, but it’s something I noticed regularly when I held the phone. The now somewhat obselete two vertical camera setup on phones isn’t really noticeable when you pick it up, but when you have three cameras in a row it’s that little bit of extra space the cameras take up that sees my fingers constantly bump against it when I hold the phone. The other downside is that the new colour schemes are an absolute fingerprint magnet, so it’s a good thing the P30 Pro comes with a free clear case, so you can show off the gorgeous colours without tainting them with ugly fingerprints.

If you could look inside the P30 Pro, you’d find yourself staring at some impressive tech. Huawei’s super fast Kirin 980 7nm chipset is onboard, which debuted on the Mate 20 devices, and is a beast of a processor, featuring Dual NPUs (Neaural-network Processing Unit). Basically, ultra-fast and ridiculously efficient. Supporting the Kirin 980 is 8GB RAM and 256GB of onboard storage, all protected by an IP68 rating, so it can withstand dust and submersion up to 1.5 metres.

If 256GB isn’t enough for you, you’ll have to figure that one out for yourself because there is no MicroSD slot to increase storage. That said, come on, 256GB is A LOT of storage, you won’t need more. All this equates to an experience that will withstand everything you throw at it; watching videos, gaming, multi-tasking, taking photos, and of course reading CultureJam; nothing is too much for the P30 Pro to handle.

The phone is running Android 9 with Huawei’s EMUI OS over the top. EMUI 9.1 is a long way past its grassroots iOS clone days, and while it still looks more iOS than Android that’s only at surface level. Get below the surface and you’ll discover a refined experience that still offers Android levels of customisation, but it does so in a more intuitive iOS way. It really is the best of both worlds. I can admit it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but that’s the same for any phone OS. What EMUI 9.1 does particularly well is gesture controls. I mean, there is no physical home button and soft keys aren’t enabled by default, so it’s a trial by fire and you have to get used to gesture controls pretty quick. Thankfully they are incredibly intuitive; swipe up to close your app, swipe left or right to go back or forwards, you get the picture. The beauty of the gesture controls is in the intuitive simplicity of EMUI 9.1.

Perhaps a bigger leap forward is the removal of the speaker for taking phone calls. How do you hear phone calls? Well with some pretty astounding wizardry that vibrates the screen to create sound. It is bloody impressive, and the sound quality would make you think there is still a physical speaker sitting up top there. Down below, the phone has a physical speaker for music and the like that supports Dolby Atmos. It’s decent, but as a mono speaker the quality isn’t quite as high. Pop some headphones on though, and you’re home free; either the standard ones that come bundled, or your favourite bluetooth headphones will give you high quality sound.

Battery-wise, the P30 Pro has an 4,200mAh battery, which should easily give you 2 days of power with normal use, and a full day with heavy use. When you are running low on juice, the supplied charger supports 40W SuperCharge that will give you back 70% power in just 30 minutes. That’s not all though, as the P30 Pro supports reverse wireless charging so if someone you know is running low on juice and their device supports wireless charging, just pop their gadget on the back of yours and you can share the power. One small thing to note: with the iPhone XR set up with Apple Pay NFC takes over and trys to use Apple Pay instead of charging. Make sure you turn off NFC on the Huawei before you try to charge an iPhone, or the iPhone will try to charge you!

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for, Huawei’s coup de grâce: the cameras. There is no understating how good the cameras on the P30 Pro are. They are an amazing achievement in smartphone engineering. Here’s why.

That tiny, dewdrop notch on the front of the phone features a 32MP snapper (with beauty mode, of course, for those of us who have to hide in the shadows from the eyes of the public). Selfie fans will have a field day with the front shutter, as 32MP of Huawei genius and AI are there to ensure you look your best at anytime of the day or night. It’ll also get rid of the wrinkles; handy for old fogeys like me.

The true power is in those 4 rear cameras, which are simply better anything else on the market today. Yes, the cameras on the S10+ are good, but the P30 Pro gives every other smartphone the finger with cameras that really do rewrite the rules of smartphone photography.

The P30 Pro is equipped with a new Leica Quad Camera system, including a 40MP main camera with SuperSpectrum Sensor (f/1.6 aperture), a 20MP ultra-wide angle camera (f/2.2 aperture), an 8MP telephoto camera (f/3.4 aperture), a Time-of-Flight (TOF) Camera.

What all that means in layman’s terms is a camera setup that can take ultra-wide images, standard images, 5x optical zoom and an astounding 10x hybrid zoom that can actually go up to 50x digital zoom. Those zoom figures aren’t a misprint; Huawei have thrown everything at these Leica lenses and they have triumphantly succeeded.

All of that is complimented by the Time of Flight camera that provides better image stabilisation and makes use of laser focus technology to deliver stunning, super fast focus.

In the past the best we’ve seen is 2x optical zoom, and digital beyond that. Once you start adding digital zoom you start to see exponentially high amounts of digital noise the farther you try to zoom. With the 8MP telephoto camera Huawei will get you 5x optical zoom, and it looks goddam terrific. That same telephoto camera will get you up to 10x lossless zoom, using a hybrid technique that combines the 5x optical zoom with 5x digital zoom, all processed by Huawei’s amazing AI technology. Even at 10x zoom, the P30 Pro can capture the most minute detail on objects that are staggeringly far away. Picture this: you’re looking out the window and you see a cool bird sitting on an even cooler tree branch across the road, so you get your P30 out. You hit the 10x zoom option and next thing you know the bird has filled the screen, it’s feathers displayed proudly with crystal clear clarity, no detail is missed. Yes ladies and gents that’s what you can expect form the cameras on the P30 Pro: birds in your face, 24/7.

Even at night time, the P30 Pro is a behemoth. The lenses are able to draw in more light than ever before thanks to Huawei using an RYYB (Red, Yellow, Yellow, Blue) SuperSpectrum sensor. The sensor uses larger pixels and brings even the darkest environments out into the light with minimal noise. In fact with the quality of the 8MP telephoto lens you can focus in on the moon, kick the digital zoom into overdrive at up to 50x and get a brilliant black background with a bright white moon on display. So you can snap some owls too.

On top of all of that the P30 Pro can take video at 4k/60fps and even features a Dual-View mode. What this does is let you take a video where you can capture a live zoom shot and ultra-wide video at the same time!

The AI goes into overdrive with the P30 Pro cameras as well. The Bokeh style portait modes are here, and the AI can recognise humans, pets, and birds alike. The AI will process the image and create a gorgeously blurred background while showing off a perfectly focused subject with no detail missed.

Huawei have spared no expense when it comes to creating the P30 Pro. The tech here is second to none, and the cameras are simply the best available on any smartphone on the market. What makes all of this even more impressive is that the P30 Pro will be available for $1,499NZD; not only is it sporting the best overall specs and market dominating cameras, it has a price that makes it the best value phone that you will find anywhere.

Make no bones about it. Until the Mate X is released the P30 Pro is going to be best phone you can buy. So you probably should.

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