Huawei P30 Pro review: The best smartphone camera I’ve seen

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Huawei P30 Pro

The P30 Pro has solid build quality, great performance, decent battery life, and an outstanding camera with many features.

9.4/10 Rating

Let’s face it, over the last couple of years, smartphones have felt a bit stagnated. Sure there have been minor design changes, the addition of fingerprint scanners, and the slow phasing out of the headphone jack, but let’s be honest…nothing has really changed dramatically.

That being said, recent flagship smartphones have been focusing largely on one thing: the camera. There used to be a time that I said a smartphone camera could never replace an actual digital camera, but that time is near if it already isn’t here. While we’re not in the habit of directly comparing competing products here at Techaeris, I will mention that I currently use the Pixel 3 for pretty much all my photography these days, including review photos. On that note, this device could definitely fill that same purpose and our Huawei P30 Pro review takes a look at a phone with a camera that really shines.

Specifications

The Huawei P30 Pro has the following features and specifications:

  • Processor: HUAWEI Kirin 980 Octa-core Processor with Dual NPUs (Neural-network Processing Unit) – 2x Cortex-A76 Based 2.6GHz + 2x Cortex-A76 Based 1.92GHz + 4x Cortex-A55 1.8GHz
  • Display: 6.47″ OLED FHD+ (2340×1080) with 16.7 million colours, wide colour gamut (DCI-P3)
  • Memory: 8GB RAM/256GB ROM or 6GB RAM/128GB ROM
  • Camera
    • Rear Camera
      • Leica Quad Camera
      • 40 MP (Wide Angle Lens, f/1.6 aperture,OIS) + 20 MP (Ultra Wide Angle Lens, f/2.2 aperture) + 8 MP (Telephoto, f/3.4 aperture,OIS)
      • HUAWEI Time-of-Flight (TOF) Camera
      • supports autofocus (phase focus, contrast focus), supports AIS (HUAWEI AI Image Stabilization)
    • Front Camera
      • 32 MP, f/2.0 aperture
  • Audio: Dolby Atmos (Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+, Dolby AC-4), mp3, mp4, 3gp, ogg, amr, aac, flac, wav, midi
  • Video: 3gp, mp4
  • Connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (wave2), 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, Bluetooth 5.0, BLE, SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC, HWA Audio, Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 1
  • GPS: GPS (L1 + L5 Dual Band) / AGPS / Glonass / BeiDou / Galileo (E1 + E5a Dual Band) / QZSS (L1 + L5 Dual Band)
  • Network
    • 4G LTE FDD: 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/12/17/18/19/20/26/28/66
    • 4G LTE TDD: 34/38/39/40
    • 3G WCDMA: 1/2/4/5/8
    • 2G GSM: 2/3/5/8
  • Sensors: Ambient Light Sensor, In-Screen Fingerprint Sensor, Gyroscope, Compass, Proximity Sensor, Gravity Sensor, Hall Sensor, Infrared Sensor, Colour Temperature Sensor
  • Battery: 4200mAh
  • Charging: HUAWEI SuperCharge (Max 40W), HUWAEI Wireless Quick Charge (15W) with compatible Qi-certified wireless charger sold separately
  • Splash, Water, and Dust Resistance: IP68
  • Operating System: Android 9 Pie with EMUI 9.1
  • Colour: Breathing Crystal, Black
  • Dimensions: 73.4 x 8.41 x 158mm
  • Weight: Approx 192g

What’s in the box

  • Huawei P30 Pro
  • USB-C to USB-A charging cable
  • AC power adapter
  • Clear phone case*
  • USB-C earbuds*
  • Instruction guide
  • SIM card ejector pin

*Note: accessories may vary by region. Our review unit came with a case, however, the Huawei website lists USB-C earbuds as being included.

Design

The Huawei P30 Pro features the slim 19.5:9 aspect ratio design common with some smartphones these days. It’s slim and thin and, while the aspect ratio makes it easy to use one-handed from left to right, it is difficult to reach to the top one-fifth of the screen with your thumb. That being said, it is much more comfortable to use than other large screen smartphones that tend to stick with a wider, more rectangular design.

Huawei P30 Pro Android smartphone
Front of the Huawei P30 Pro.

The left side of the P30 Pro is devoid of any buttons with the power button and volume rocker sitting just above the middle of the right side. The power button has a thin red strip in the middle to indicate it is the power button. The bottom of the phone holds the rest of your ports, namely the USB-C charging/headphone adapter, the speaker grille, a microphone port, and the SIM/Nano Memory slot. Nano Memory, for those who haven’t heard of it before, is Huawei’s alternative to MicroSD cards. If you want to expand the storage on this phone, you’ll have to adopt yet another card format.

The front of the phone has the curved left and right sides as is popular these days. As for the actual display, we’ll get to that in the next section. While there is no physical fingerprint scanner, it is embedded near the bottom of the screen. Also, the front-facing camera is centered at the top and when the display is on, the controversial notch around it is visible. Personally, the notch doesn’t bother me at all, and you can remove it in favour of the standard top notification bar in the settings if it does.

The fingerprint scanner is under the display
The fingerprint scanner is under the display.

The back of the phone is really shiny and reflective. In bright light, it acts as a mirror which, I guess, could come in handy should you not have a case on your phone. Also on the back, located near the upper left when looking at it, is the Leica Quad Camera array. It’s perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the design as three cameras are visible in a vertically stacked format. The top two cameras are your typical round smartphone camera lenses. The bottom, and third, camera is square in shape and when you look at it, seems to go impossibly deep into the phone — especially considering the phone isn’t even 9mm thick.

From the reflective back, you can’t really tell that our review unit came in the Black colour scheme. In the right amount of shade though, it does look pretty black. In addition, the phone is available in some markets in a Breathing Crystal colour scheme.

Overall, the Huawei P30 Pro is a comfortable, solid feeling smartphone which can mostly be used with one hand when needed. In addition, it is also IP68 water and dust-resistant so you won’t have to worry about accidentally or purposefully getting your phone wet or submerging it. For the record, IP68 will allow you to submerge the device for up to half an hour in water 1.5m deep.

Display

The P30 Pro features a 19.5:9 aspect ration with its OLED FHD+ screen. Sporting a resolution of 2340×1080, the 6.47″ screen also utilizes the DCI-P3 colour gamut. This gamut is the RGB colour space used by the film industry for digital movie projection.

Huawei P30 Pro display
The Huawei P30 Pro display.

You can also switch between Normal and Vivid colour modes, as well as Default, Warm, Cool, and custom colour temperatures. The phone also has an eye comfort setting to reduce blue light. This can be set to on or scheduled during certain hours.

Software

Running Android 9 Pie, the Huawei P30 Pro also runs the company’s EMUI 9.1 skin. While I prefer stock Android, I’ve learned to get used to different OEM skins and really, once you get used to them, there’s nothing really wrong with them… they’re just different.

On that note, EMUI on the P30 Pro does have some dated options, as well as some options I haven’t seen before that are kind of cool. For the Homescreen settings, your choice is between Standard, which shows all apps on the home screen, or Drawer, which has an app drawer icon.

The real interesting feature though is your choice of three different navigation options. For starters, you do have the familiar Android three-key navigation with the triangle/circle/square setup. You can further change the order of these, as well as have the option to hide the navigation keys when not in use. When hidden, sliding up from the bottom will reveal them.

However, when setting up the phone, Huawei does suggest you use their new gesture system navigation. When enabled, swiping from the left or right edge goes back, swiping from the bottom goes to the home screen, while swiping up from the bottom and pausing brings up your recent items. It does take some getting used to, but once you do it does become natural and give you more screen all the time.

Finally, the third option is a navigation dock. Touching an area on the screen that you can customize will return to the previous screen. Touching and holding returns to the home screen, holding and swiping left or right views recent tasks, and touching and dragging the navigation dock moves it’s position.

As well, there are quite a few pre-installed apps aside from your usual Android apps. These include (but are not limited to) Amazon, Backup, Checkup, Compass, Mirror, Music, Optimizer, Phone Clone, Smart Remote, Themes, and more. While a couple are duplicates of Google apps, a couple others are somewhat useful but most are redundant and unnecessary.

Performance

If you’re wanting to squeeze maximum performance out of the Huawei P30 Pro, the first thing you’ll want to do is go into the settings and enable Performance mode. While you’ll get more performance out of the device, you will be using more battery power. For the purposes of our review, however, we ran entirely on Performance mode.

As such, app switch and launching was smooth and quick. Games ran just fine with no visible hiccups or lag. To be honest though, there’s no reason to expect less out of a flagship device these days.

The fingerprint scanner, as well as face id, unlock the device. Both worked flawlessly, and I didn’t have any issues with either once I got used to the non-tactile placement of the fingerprint scanner.

Sound Quality

If there’s one category the P30 Pro is a bit underwhelming in, it is the audio. Unfortunately, it only has a single speaker located on the bottom edge of the device. When holding the phone in landscape mode, for example, while watching a video, it’s easy to cover the speaker and muffle the sound.

Bottom ports on the P30 Pro
Bottom ports on the P30 Pro, including the single speaker.

While the audio is crisp and does get somewhat loud, you’ll definitely want to use headphones while listening to music or watching videos for any length of time with the P30 Pro.

Camera

Finally, the camera section! The P30 Pro has received high praise and top marks from various websites for its camera and it’s not hard to see why. With its Leica Quad Camera system, you have a wide array of camera options available to you.

The Leica Quad Camera on the P30 Pro
The Leica Quad Camera on the P30 Pro.

The easy access modes include Photo, Portrait, Night, Aperture, Video, Pro, and More. More gives you fourteen more modes like HDR, Light Painting, Dual-View video, AR Lens, Super Macro, and the ability to download even more options like Stickers and Documents. It can really be overwhelming but definitely gives users many options when it comes to mobile photography.

While there are various settings, our reviews typically stick to the default settings. We set the device to 4:3 10MP for our testing. The device also has a 4:3 40MP setting, but you lose out on some of the fun that we’ll get to in a minute. That being said, a 40MP picture does let you crop down and get a nice high-resolution shot very suitable for larger prints. RAW format is also available but is only supported in PRO Mode.

As far as standard “everyday” mode goes, photos taken with the P30 Pro were almost always fantastic. One thing I did notice a few times, especially when zooming or in darker settings, was a message that popped up saying to steady the device while sharpening your image. As the message indicates, the device does do some in-camera processing after the photo is taken to get a clearer photo. You can also enable AI mode which allows the device to scan the scene and apply settings that make photos of texts, portraits, or other modes better.

The low light modes on the P30 Pro are fantastic as well, and the pictures taken in default mode at night outshine the Pixel 3’s night mode in clarity. Not only that, pictures taken in low light don’t really need you to enable the camera’s night mode as it just seems to “know” and adjusts accordingly. In fact, the tests I took with and without night mode turned out virtual identical.

The most impressive feature of the P30 Pro camera, however, is the insane 50x zoom feature it has. While it’s not perfect, it does provide for some impressive results. I’ll just let the gallery below speak for itself. A couple of notes, however. The images below are unedited aside from resizing down. On that note, the zoom images for the normal zoom photos are all handheld.

I don’t like giving a camera perfect marks as there’s always room for improvement, but from the smartphones I’ve used, the P30 Pro camera is pretty near perfect. Of course, we’ll all look back at this in a couple of years and (hopefully) scoff at the comparative quality to future cameras.

Reception/Call Quality

Nowadays, reception and call quality shouldn’t be an issue depending on where you live, and we had no issues with it here on local LTE networks. Call quality was fine as well with the other party confirming they could hear me clearly and with no issues.

Battery Life

Depending on the mode you set, you can get a few days of battery life out of the P30 Pro easily. As mentioned previously, we set our review unit to Performance mode as soon as we set it up to maximize performance. Even so, we were easily able to get at least a day and a half, if not two full days while using the device in our daily routine. Phone use typically consists of email, text, the occasional game, and web browsing.

Even when adding in a few hours of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, we still had ample battery life to get us through a full day. As with any device, battery life will depend entirely on your usage and mode set. The P30 Pro has Performance, Power Saving, and Ultra Power Saving modes. If you find you are running out of battery life quicker than you’d like, you can run a battery optimization tool in the settings menu to suggest changes you can make for longer battery life.

Another interesting feature of the P30 Pro which will affect battery life is the reverse wireless charging mode. This mode, when enabled, allows you to charge other devices which support wireless charging. Of course, when charging another device, like a friend or family member’s smartphone, it will deplete the battery on the P30 Pro.

When depleted, the P30 Pro does recharge fairly quickly with Huawei’s SuperCharge charger. In addition, it does support Qi wireless charging up to 15W so you can always charge it on a wireless charging stand throughout the day to keep it topped up.

Accessories

As mentioned in the “What’s in the box…” section, our review unit came with a clear phone case. It did not include the USB-C earbuds as indicated by the product page. On that note, the inclusion of a case is definitely a nice touch, especially with an expensive flagship device.

The clear phone case for the P30 Pro
The clear phone case for the P30 Pro.

The case is thin and flexible and fits nicely around the P30 Pro. Enough space is left for the appropriate ports and speakers. The right side covers the buttons completely but doesn’t interfere with the functionality in any way.

Most importantly, when face down, there is enough of a gap that elevates the screen above your desk so as not to induce unwanted rubbing or scratching.

Price/Value

The Huawei P30 Pro starts at around US$899.99 in the U.S., assuming you can find one. Unfortunately, you’ll have to hit up Amazon or eBay as the company doesn’t directly sell this phone in the states. In Canada, however, the phone does retail starting at CA$1190 at various telcos but can be snagged for $0 down on select 2-year plans. It can also be purchased outright at telcos or on Amazon as well.

On that note, the P30 Pro definitely has a premium price tag to go with its flagship status. Given its design, performance, screen, and most importantly camera quality, when stacked up to similar devices, it definitely has an edge over the competition. I do have a hard time justifying dropping over $1000 for a smartphone, especially when there are other much more affordable options that suit most people’s everyday phone needs.

Still, if you can get this device for nothing down on a two year contract, it will definitely last you those two years with it’s solid build quality and impressive camera.

Wrap-up

While the Huawei P30 Pro smartphone has a fairly standard design, it does have solid build quality, great performance, decent battery life, and an outstanding camera with many features. If mobile photography is your thing, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better camera on another phone. As such, we’ve awarded the P30 Pro with a Top Pick of 2019 here at Techaeris, largely for the camera alone.

Now for the hard part. Can we really recommend you purchase a Huawei device with its current ongoing issues with the U.S. government? That’s really a tough call…it’s unfortunate the company is having these issues as the P30 Pro is a fantastic device. Even though it is widely available in regions like Canada and Europe, the recent U.S. trade ban definitely puts updates and future Huawei devices in limbo. That being said, even earlier today, the U.S. indicated that the restrictions against the company could be loosened with Trump indicating that Huawei will be allowed to buy components from U.S. companies as long as it doesn’t jeopardize national security. Maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Huawei with regards to the U.S. after all…

*We were sent a review unit of the Huawei P30 Pro for the purposes of this review. In some of our articles and especially in our reviews, you will find Amazon or other affiliate links. Running a website does take money, along with time. Any purchases you make through these links often result in a small amount being earned for the site and/or our writers.

Huawei P30 Pro

US$889.99+/ CA$1190+
9.4

Design

9.5/10

Display

9.5/10

Software

9.5/10

Performance

10.0/10

Sound Quality

8.0/10

Camera

10.0/10

Reception/Call Quality

10.0/10

Battery Life

9.5/10

Accessories

9.0/10

Price/Value

9.0/10

Nailed it

  • Slim, solid design
  • Bright, responsive OLED screen
  • Arguably the best smartphone camera available today
  • IP68 water/dust-resistant
  • Fairly easy to use with one hand
  • Reverse wireless charging allows quick topping up of other devices

Needs work

  • Uses proprietary Nano Memory and not Micro SD card for expandable memory
  • No headphone jack
  • Expensive, as are most flagship devices
  • Speaker could be better, easy to block when holding phone
  • Quite a few additional apps pre-installed

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