Review: Huawei P30 Pro smartphone has a license to thrill

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posted on Friday, 5th April 2019 by Steve May

Industrial design  Smartphone  Photography 

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Huawei says its new P30 Pro smartphone ‘rewrites the rules’ when it comes to mobile photography, and it’s not difficult to see why. This current hero of the new P30 range (before the Mate flagship lands in the autumn) boasts an ambitious Leica quad-camera system and next generation AI. So is this the smartphone that will have you hankering to upgrade?

The P30 Pro is positioned above the regular P30 range and new budget offering, the P30 Lite. It has a 6.47-inch 19.5:9 OLED display and formidable feature count.

In addition to its remarkable camera, there’s reverse wireless charging, first introduced on the Mate 20 Pro, which remains an impressive party trick when an iPhone-wielding friend is running low on juice; assorted optical and AI image stabilisation technologies, innovative videography, plus regular stuff like face recognition and In-Screen Fingerprint sensor.   
 
USB C PortBut let’s start, where we always like to start, and that’s with design. When it comes to cosmetics and finish, Huawei really has delivered the goods. As an example of ergonomic industrial design, the P30 Pro is world class. The beautiful finish has been achieved using a nine-layer nano optical colour process. The P30 Pro is gorgeous to look at and a delight to hold.

Available in Breathing Crystal (see our sample below, with the purple-blue gradation), multi-tone Aurora, Amber Sunrise (this fiery finish is apparently in short supply), Pearl White and regular Black, Richard Yu, CEO Consumer Business Group, says the colour palette has been inspired by the pristine look of salt flats. It’s also IP68 water and dust resistant.

Beautiful Crystal

Camera Lens

The FHD+ display (2340 x 1080, giving a pixel density of 398 ppi) isn't class leading, but it is dynamic and colour rich. Screen edges curve and there’s barely a bezel. It’s largeish, but sits easily in the hand.

Connectivity comprises USB-C, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There’s no traditional headphone jack. Huawei appears to have taken a leaf out of Sony’s OLED TV playbook, using vibrating acoustic display technology that enables it to forego regular a stereo speaker in favour of a screen-based monophonic output.

When it comes to photography, the P30 pro borders on James Bond gadgetry.

"When it comes to photography, the P30 pro borders on James Bond gadgetry"


It has a ridiculously effective (optical/hybrid/digital) SuperZoom, and offers best in class low light shooting, thanks to a SuperSpectrum sensor. It also has extremely good bokeh effects, helped by a Time of Flight (ToF) sensor which captures depth-of-field information.

The Leica Quad Camera system includes a 40MP main camera, a 20MP ultra-wide angle camera, 8MP telephoto camera, ToF depth sensor and a 32MP selfie camera.

A Super Portrait shooting mode combines depth of field data and proprietary algorithms to defocus backgrounds and snap the subject into focus.

Portrait Mode Bokeh

Erik Madigan Heck, a professional photographer produced by Huawei at the phone’s Paris launch, who had been using the P30 Pro, says: ‘The depth of field is really spectacular.’ We’re not going to disagree.
 
The SuperSpectrum sensor is a RYYB design, rather different from traditional RGGB. Apparently, by replacing green pixels with extra yellow ones, you can let in 40 per cent more light.

Couple this with an f/1.6 wide aperture and you have a veritable cat’s eye of a camera. The P30 Pro doesn’t just give you a usable image in low light, it captures vibrant colour down to one lux, which is extraordinary.

Below is a comparaision of the regular Photo setting on the left, and Night mode on the right.

Photo 40MP Mode V Night Mode

If there’s a caveat, it’s that low light shots look a bit cartoonish, like they’re the result of some artful photoshopping. This doesn’t diminish their ‘wow’ factor though.

The phone’s extraordinary SuperZoom has been achieved by a new periscope design. It offers a magnification of 5 times optical zoom (which is very effective), 10 times hybrid zoom (which rather clever) and 50 times digital zoom. A prism in the telephoto camera bends light at a 90-degree angle to maximize focal length.  

In truth, the more extreme zoom delivers best results when used with a tripod, or similar. Look at our example below to see just how extraordinary this camera's range is. You can barely see the bridge in the image on the left, let alone the couple meeting on it (right)!

Superzoom

When you’re not using the SuperZoom to spy, the camera’s AI mode will automatically choose the right preset, based on the subject, for everyday snaps. By and large it’s really accurate. You can get great results with next to no effort.

Huawei has also stepped up the camera’s video functionality. This isn’t an area we’ll dwell on, but it’s worth noting that the SuperSpectrum sensor enables enable slow-light video capture. There’s also an AI Video Editor, which can add background music and special effects.
 
One video function we are excited about is the Dual View mode. The P30 Pro can shoot the same scene using different lens simultaneously. We’ve not seen this before; a sequence could offer both wide angle and close-up views of the same shot. We've seen demos of this party trick and it's an innovative idea. The feature will be rolled out via a future firmware update.

"It’s possible to go two days with casual use before charging. And when you do need to charge the 4200mAh battery, Huawei’s 40W super charger can get you to 70 per cent from flat in just half an hour. That's barely enough time to have breakfast."


Aside from the camera, the other big plus point to using the P30 Pro is battery life. It’s possible to go two days with casual use before charging. And when you do need to charge the 4200mAh battery, Huawei’s 40W super charger can get you to 70 per cent from flat in just half an hour. That's barely enough time to have breakfast.

Beneath the lid is a 7nm Kirin 980 processor, with Dual-NPU AI processing power. This will sound suitably impressive to some. All you really need to know is that navigating the screen and apps is silky smooth. It sports EMUI 9.1 Android 9, which long standing Huawei users tell us is the least intrusive version yet.

One new trick divided opinion though. Google Assistant launches with one press of the Power button. In everyday use this is fine, but it becomes a bit irritating when you simply want to switch the phone off.

But that's a minor niggle.

We say: The Huawei P30 Pro is a brilliant high-end smartphone, with excellent design and best in class engineering. The P30 camera system would be the envy of the Secret Service, and that indefatigable battery is a huge temptation.

The P30 Pro is available with 128GB and 512GB of storage, priced at £899 and £1099 respectively.

Steve May

Inside ID Editor Steve May is a freelance lifestyle and technology journalist, who also writes for T3, AskMen UK, MTV UK, TechRadar and Trusted Reviews.

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