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Huawei P30 Pro is a four-camera beast gunning for the Galaxy S10 Plus

With low-light skills and a huge 10x zoom lens, the P30 Pro is coming for Samsung.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Huawei P30 Pro and P30 are two new phones that the Chinese brand, and Samsung's Android chief rival, announced Tuesday at a launch event in Paris. Both phones have colorful, shiny backings, but it's all the tech inside that Huawei hopes will push its new phones ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10E.

I'll talk about the regular Huawei P30 below, but it's the Pro that's captured my attention. Its 6.47-inch display looks lovely and vibrant with a small centered notch for the front-facing cameras. The whole phone is powered by Huawei's top-end Kirin 980 chip, and Android Pie overlain with the EMUI 9.1 software that reminds you of the iPhone the way the apps are laid out across multiple home screens. There's an in-screen fingerprint scanner (optical), fast battery charging and reverse wireless charging too, letting you charge a compatible device just by holding it against the phone.

The P30 Pro's four cameras are the real stars of the show. You get a 20-megapixel super wide-angle lens, a regular 40-megapixel lens and a 32-megapixel front-facing camera for selfies. Then there's the big one: a weird-looking square lens that uses a prism-based periscope system to achieve a huge zoom. It offers not only a 5x zoom but also a 10x zoom without much loss in overall quality. That's a huge zoom for a phone and lets you get close in on details that would normally look like mush on a regular digital zoom.

The Huawei P30 Pro and P30 go on sale around the world today. The P30 Pro starts in the UK at £899 (about $1,190 converted) for the 128GB model and £1,099 for 512GB. Only one model is available in Australia, for AU$1,599. The P30, with 128GB storage, is £699 in the UK and AU$1,099 in Australia. (See the specs chart below for more.) Huawei phones aren't widely sold in the US due to pressure from the government, but you can often find no-warranty models on stores such as Amazon.

I've been spending time using this zoom lens and I'm already impressed by what it can manage. It's not quite as good quality as the regular camera -- details are still a little mushy -- but it's leaps and bounds over any other zoom lens I've seen on a phone. That includes the S10 Plus, which has only a 2x zoom and simply can't compete on zoom terms alone.

Read more: Huawei P30 Pro vs. Galaxy S10 Plus camera comparison 

Now playing: Watch this: Huawei P30 Pro's low-light photo skills are truly superb
7:17

The main camera has apparently been tweaked to capture light in a different way than you'll typically find in camera sensors. It's a bit too complicated to get into here, but what you need to know is that it doesn't change anything in terms of how your images actually look. Colors look natural and there's generally a decent exposure -- although I've found that the S10 Plus can balance a bright sky a little better.

Low-light skills are also apparently a strong point for the P30 Pro, much like they were for the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro before it. Huawei reckons the sensor tweaks, together with various AI improvements for stabilization, help take the best low-light shots so far. I've certainly been impressed by what the phone can manage in the dark, achieving more detailed shots with more clarity, better colors and less image noise than the S10 Plus is able to achieve.

Read more: Huawei P30 Pro's two biggest camera weapons are night mode, 3D lens and zoom

The fourth lens is a time-of-flight sensor. It's there to give depth information to the camera, thereby achieving better, more natural bokeh (background blur) in an image. I haven't noticed much of an upgrade in the depth of field on photos I've taken with this sensor, but it's an area I'm keen to test more in the full review. 

There's also a whopping 32-megapixel sensor on the front in a teardrop notch for selfies. And Huawei reckons it's given its HDR and low-light photo skills a boost here too. I'll be putting all these cameras through their paces soon, so stay tuned for the verdict here.

Now playing: Watch this: The P30 Pro's four rear cameras take on Paris
6:36

What about the regular Huawei P30?

The standard P30 is more of a lite version with a smaller screen. It lacks the Pro's super zoom and depth-sensing cameras. Yes, it's the less exciting of the two but it does at least have a headphone jack -- something you won't find on the Pro. 

Both the Pro and standard P30 are good-looking phones with a curved glass design and a range of interesting color blends to choose from. 

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The elusive headphone jack.

Angela Lang/CNET

Huawei also has a new set of wireless headphones, which you charge and pair by plugging directly into your phone's USB-C port. 

There's no price yet for the phones or the headphones, nor do we know exactly when they're going on sale. But we expect to hear more in the coming days. 

Huawei P30 vs. Samsung Galaxy S10


Huawei P30 Huawei P30 Pro Samsung Galaxy S10 Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
Display size, resolution 6.1-inch OLED; 2,340x1,080 pixels 6.47-inch OLED; 2,340x1,080 pixels 6.1-inch AMOLED; 3,040x1,440 pixels 6.4-inch AMOLED; 3,040x1,440 pixels
Pixel density 422ppi 398ppi 550ppi 522ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.9x2.8x0.3 in
6.2x2.9x0.3
5.9x2.77x0.31 in 6.20x2.92x0.31 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 149x71.4x7.8mm
158x73.4x8.4mm
149.9x70.4x7.8 mm 157.6x74.1x7.8 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.8 oz; 165g
6.8 oz; 192g
5.53 oz.; 157 g 6.17 oz.; 175 g
Mobile software Android 9.0 with EMIU 9.1 Android 9.0 with EMIU 9.1 Android 9.0 with Samsung One UI Android 9.0 with Samsung One UI
Camera 40-megapixel (standard), 20-megapixel (ultra wide), 8-megapixel 3x optical zoom 40-megapixel (standard), 20-megapixel (ultra wide), 8-megapixel 5x optical periscope zoom, TOF (time of flight) sensor 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto) 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto)
Front-facing camera 32-megapixel 32-megapixel 10-megapixel 10-megapixel, 8-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K
Processor Kirin 980 processor Kirin 980 processor Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Storage 128GB 128GB, 512GB 128GB, 512GB 128GB, 512GB, 1TB
RAM 6GB 8GB 8GB 8GB, 12GB
Expandable storage Up to 256GB with proprietary NM card Up to 256GB with proprietary NM card Up to 512GB Up to 512GB
Battery 3,650-mAh 4,200-mAh 3,400-mAh 4,100-mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen (optical) In-screen (optical) In-screen (ultrasonic) In-screen (ultrasonic)
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack Yes No Yes Yes
Special features Camera night mode, IP53 water resistance Camera night mode, 40W Huawei SuperCharge, 15W wireless charging, reverse charging, IP68 water resistance Wireless PowerShare; hole punch screen notch; water resistant (IP68); Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 Wireless PowerShare; hole punch screen notch; water resistant (IP68); Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
Price off-contract (USD) Converts to about $925 Converts to about $1,190 (128GB); $1,450 (512GB) $900 $1,000
Price (GBP) £699 £899 (128GB); £1,099 (512GB) £799 £899
Price (AUD) AU$1,099 AU$1,599 AU$1,349 AU$1,499
Now playing: Watch this: Huawei's P30 Pro boasts cameras galore
3:34

Originally published 6.30 a.m. PT, March 26.
Update, 8.16 a.m. PT: Adds pricing, links to camera comparisons.
Update, 9:04 a.m. PT: Added more details