Huawei P30 and P30 Pro Hands-On Review: So. Many. Cameras.

By Holly Brockwell on at

There have been a lot of leaks on the road to the Huawei P30 launch, including one by Huawei itself. But today we've finally officially seen what the P30 and Pro have to offer us, and it is exciting.

Your humble servants at Giz UK are on the ground at the launch in Paris, doing the hard work of playing with shiny new phones so you can find out if they're any good. To that end, here are our first impressions and thoughts on the P30 and P30 Pro now we've seen them in the flesh.

Huawei P30 and P30 Pro specs

Here's the rundown of the hardware you can expect on the two phones in the UK (there are other models worldwide, but we're not getting them here).

P30 P30 Pro
Software EMUI 9.1 based on Android Pie EMUI 9.1 based on Android Pie
Screen 6.1-inch FHD+ (2340 x 1080), flat 6.47-inch FHD+ (2340 x 1080), curved
Chipset Kirin 980 (2.6 Ghz) Kirin 980 (2.6 Ghz)
Storage 128GB 128GB, 512GB eventually (256GB version is not coming to the UK)
Expandable storage Huawei nano-memory card (in SIM2 slot) up to 256GB Huawei nano-memory card (in SIM2 slot) up to 256GB
Memory 6GB LPDDR4X 8GB LPDDR4X
Battery 3650 mAh 4200 mAh
Charging USB-C, 22.5W Supercharge USB-C, 40W Supercharge, 15W wireless quick charging, wireless reverse charging
Main cameras 40MP (f/1.6), 16GB super wide, 8MP telephoto with 5x hybrid zoom (3x optical) 40MP (f/1.6), 20GB Super Wide, 8MP telephoto with 10x hybrid zoom (5x optical), Time of Flight distance-sensing camera
Selfie camera 32MP 32MP
Connectivity Cat 16 4G Cat 21 4G
Water resistance IP53 (rain resistant) IP67/68 (not yet confirmed which)
3.5mm headphone jack Yes No

 

Handset design and colours

One of the first things you're going to notice about the P30 is that it looks freakin' gorgeous. The colourways are apparently "inspired by the sea and sky," but marketing nonsense aside, the handsets look really good in person.

The colours are:

  • Black – the same black as on the Mate 20
  • Breathing Crystal – daft name but a beautiful iridescent whitish colour
  • Aurora – kinda similar to the Mate 20 X, a blend of turquoise and blue
  • Amber Sunrise – not an adult film star but an unusual blend of shades of orange, like the dramatic sunsets people post on Instagram. Apparently this colour will be "rare," which we're guessing means a network exclusive

This is 'Breathing Crystal'

There'll also be a Pearl colourway that's a "pinky white," but we're not getting that in the UK.

There's a fair bit of aesthetic difference between the P30 and the Pro, not just in terms of size but handset design too. The regular P30 has a flat screen, while the Pro's is gently curved – honestly neither looks better, it's just a matter of taste, and obviously the Pro's screen is likely to be less durable as a result of the curve.

There's also – oddly – a 3.5mm headphone jack on the regular P30 but not on the Pro. You'd think spending more on the better model would mean you got everything in the P30 plus more, but nope, no headphone jack for you.

The main difference between the P30 handset and the Pro is the wobbliness. Unfortunately, because of the size of the camera enclosure, the regular P30 is really wobbly:

Regular P30 at the top, Pro at the bottom

You'll probably be able to mitigate the wobbliness with a case, but it's worth being aware of.

Display size and quality

On the P30, the flat screen measures 6.1 inches. The P30 Pro's curved screen is 6.47 inches, but they have the same resolution: FHD+, specifically 2340 x 1080.

That means the P30 Pro actually has fewer pixels per inch – 398 to the regular P30's 422. Not a huge difference, but we wouldn't blame people forking out more for the Pro for being grumpy that they get a lower pixel density and no headphone jack.

Both screens look superb up close. Bright, saturated, super-clear – everything you'd expect from OLED. They're not nicer than any other brand's OLEDs, but they look lovely nonetheless.

Both phones have very slim bezels, though they're less noticeable on the Pro because of the curved screen. There's also still a notch (sorry) – but only a 'dewdrop' notch, which is a single camera lens with a black surround, rather than the wider notches previous phones sported.

Under the screen is the fingerprint sensor, as on the Mate 20 Pro, but it's been given some upgrades. It's still optical rather than ultrasonic, which means it's not as secure as it could be, but it is noticeably faster than the previous version, and apparently more accurate too – although honestly we didn't have many problems with the Mate 20 Pro's fingerprint unlocking.

Interestingly, the screen on the phone acts as a speaker, but only for in-call audio – not media. In-display sound apparently leads to less muffling and wind issues. The mic inside the USB-C port has also apparently been improved.

Software

Huawei's 'Emotion UI' is no one's favourite Android overlay, but it does seem to get better with each new iteration, and that trend holds for EMUI 9.1.

There are some good-looking phone themes to match the colours of the P30 handsets, continuing the 'sea and sky' motif. Interestingly, the Huawei browser is back in 9.1 – it had previously been removed because Huawei thought there was enough browser choice, but apparently people wanted it back, so it is.

Some of Android Pie's new features have also arrived with 9.1, but the software still defaults to iPhone-style homescreens with folders rather than an app drawer. You can switch it over if it bugs you as much as it does me.

The best thing about Huawei's software is undoubtedly the camera app and its AI wizardry – we'll cover that in the camera section.

Hardware

Huawei referred to the Kirin 980 as "tried and tested" in our brief, which is a nice way of saying "not new." The chipset and 2.6 GHz clock speed is the same across both phones, and was also in both the Mate 20 and the Mate 20 Pro.

Storage-wise, you only get one option on the P30, but it's a hefty 128GB. The P30 Pro also comes in 128GB, although there'll be a 512GB version later, and there's a 256GB that isn't coming to this country.

Both phones include Huawei's proprietary nano memory storage instead of the standard microSD. It replaces the second SIM slot, and can accommodate up to 256GB – although right now the highest card actually on sale is 128GB at about £45. The 256GB version will go on sale "soon" and a 512GB will eventually follow.

In terms of RAM, the standard P30 offers 6GB, while the P30 Pro has 8GB. Both are the superior LPDDR4X type.

We haven't used the phone enough yet to make a call on how strong the performance is, but what we've seen so far looks good, especially for gaming. The P30 line includes GPU Turbo v 2.1, which apparently now works with 80% of Android games – a big step up from the previous GPU Turbo which worked well with PUBG, Mobile Legends and similar, but wasn't compatible with a lot of titles.

GPU Turbo apparently now allows for 30% higher game performance but using 60% less power. If you really want to go for broke, though, you can kick the phone into Performance Mode as on previous handsets – also known as the mode Huawei asks you to use for benchmarking to get the highest results. It will drain your power a lot quicker, though.

Battery power and charging

As you'd expect, the P30 Pro has a bigger battery pack than the regular P30, although it does also have a bigger screen to power. The P30 offers 3650 mAh, but Huawei told us that the efficiencies offered by version 2 of Huawei AI mean it "feels like 4200 mAh." We'll need to spend a lot more time with it to determine whether that's accurate.

On the Pro, you get 4200 mAh, which Huawei similarly says "feels like 5000." They claim moderate users will get two days' use out of it, and while a super heavy user (not just screen-on time but processing and potentially even tethering) would have got around 12 hours from the Mate 20 Pro, the P30 Pro will offer "significantly" higher stamina, though they didn't want to put a number on it. Again, we'll get back to you on that when we've had some more time with the phone.

The battery is one of the places P30 Pro users will really feel the benefit of their extra spend – while the regular P30 offers 22.5W Huawei Supercharge capability, the Pro has 40W Supercharge plus wireless quick charging at 15W. The vanilla P30 doesn't have wireless charging at all, but the Pro can reverse wireless charge other devices, just like the Mate 20 Pro can. If you're not fussed about wireless charging, it's not a big difference, but if you are it might be worth the upgrade for that alone.

The cameras

Huawei currently sits at the top of the DXOmark league table not once, but twice. The top score is 109, and it's currently held by the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, the Huawei P20 Pro, and the Samsung Galaxy S10.

Huawei reckons they'll top the table again with the P30 – not the Pro, mind you, but the regular P30. Since the Pro has a whole extra camera, that's setting a high bar.

The Leica-branded cameras are always the high points of the P-series phones, and the P30 line has some fairly amazing specs to offer. Both phones have the 40MP main camera at f/1.6, plus a super wide lens that's apparently even wider than the Mate 20 Pro's. On the Pro, it's 20MP, whereas on the normal P30 it's 16MP.

Both phones then have an 8MP zoom lens, with a 5x hybrid zoom (3x optical) on the P30 and 10x hybrid zoom (5x optical) on the Pro. Our hands-on was in a meeting room, so we haven't had the chance to test the cameras in different environments yet, but what we've seen so far has been incredibly impressive – especially on the Pro. That zoom makes an enormous difference, although we reckon when we have more time with the phone we'll probably stick to the lossless optical zoom rather than going all the way to 10x with software.

The cameras this time around are RYYB instead of RGB, apparently because there's more visible light in the yellow spectrum and rebuilding the sensors, filters and so on resulted in better light capture. The outcome is apparently Night Mode-level performance using standard exposure, without a tripod or a specialist camera mode enabled, in under a second. Huawei says you'll also be able to zoom in low light on the P30, but we'll need a lot more testing to see how that stacks up.

The multiple cameras on the P30 Pro will offer a cool extra feature, as we saw in some of the leaks: the ability to film on two lenses at the same time. That could be handy in lots of situations – getting a wide shot of a sports game and a close-up of a particular player, for instance. However, it's not looking like that feature will be ready out of the box – Huawei said it'll probably be an over-the-air update some time later. So we haven't had a play with it yet.

What we have seen so far is superb picture quality on the main and selfie cameras (no surprises there, given past P-series phones) and some really useful software features in the camera app.

Huawei's AI camera functionality is fully in effect on the P30 and Pro, now recognising 4,500 different photography 'scenarios'. That means the camera understands common categories of photo – landscapes, for instance – and can recognise and optimise specific elements within them: trees, the sky, water and so on, for a better overall photo. Huawei says the AI capability is even better on the P30 than it was on the Mate 20, but we haven't used it in enough situations to tell yet. The image quality really is amazing though – we'll show you when we're able to share some photos taken on the phone.

Given all the security concerns around Huawei products and IBM's recent admission that it's been using people's Flickr images, we asked where the photos the AI is trained on come from – whether the cameras are reporting back, or consumers' photos are used somehow. They assured us that all the images are taken by Huawei in China specifically for training purposes, and no customer snaps are used at all.

The 8MP camera on both phones has mechanical OIS as well as Huawei's AIS (AI image stabilisation – there should be two Is, really). The main camera can shoot stabilised 4K at 30fps.

The P30 Pro's extra camera

The Pro has a time of flight distance-sensing camera that can offer cool 3D functions and a better overall image, by bouncing light off the objects in the scene to measure how far away they are. Huawei explained it to us as "like sonar but with light," which is a good way to imagine it.

The ToF camera gathers a tonne of extra depth of field information so it can produce more accurate bokeh results, among other things – Huawei told us that previous phones sometimes struggled with bokeh between strands of hair, for instance. That will apparently no longer be the case.

The ToF camera will apparently also be useful for future VR functions – our rep described things like approaching a physical object in a room while you're in VR, but instead of seeing a plant or whatever it really is, seeing something appropriate to the game you're playing. That's useful because it can warn you that you're about to walk into something in the real world without interrupting the realism of the game. That feature won't be ready at launch, though.

Another use of this tech will apparently be a better version of the previous object-scanning function, which resulted in hilarious nightmare material on the Mate 20 Pro. Perhaps this time our soft toys will have all their limbs!

Huawei P30 UK price and availability

The P30 will cost £699 at launch, and the P30 Pro will be £899. They'll both be out in early April, but can be preordered from today.

So far, this seems like an absolute beast of a cameraphone (not that anyone still uses that word) – particularly the P30 Pro. We reckon Huawei is probably right in saying that photo performance on these phones will be topping the charts for some time to come.

As for how the P30 performs day-to-day as your main phone, we'll let you know in our full review – but from what we've seen so far, our hopes are not just high, but sky-high.