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When Huawei first told me about the P30 Pro's four-rear-camera setup, I didn't believe a word. Then I used it. This phone captures zoom and low-light photos unlike anything I've ever seen from a phone. It blows the Galaxy S10 Plus and Pixel 3 out of the water and, together with its slick design and awesome battery life, makes the P30 Pro one of the top phones of the year.
Huawei is the second largest phone manufacturer in the world and with the P30 Pro, it's bringing out the big guns to clinch that number one spot.
The rear cameras are certainly the standout features but the beautifully colourful design and vibrant 6.47-inch screen make this a truly excellent handset.
At £899 in the UK (with a base 128GB storage) it's not exactly cheap, but it's exactly the same you'll pay for the equivalent Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus. In Australia, the phone will set you back AU$1,599 with 256GB base storage, making it more in-line with the S10 Plus which costs AU$1,499 with 128GB of storage. The P30 Pro is not yet on sale in the US due to ongoing concerns from the US government, but the price converts to about $1,135.
The P30 Pro is joined by the standard P30 which is more of a lite version with a smaller screen but the same attractive aesthetic. 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. (See a full specs comparison chart at the end of this review.)
It's the P30 Pro's look that first caught my attention. It stands out in a way that others simply don't. The way the light blue blends into the pink on my "Breathing Crystal" review model is simply beautiful and it makes this phone way more eye-catching than anything else that's out there.
There's also a darker blue "Aurora" colour blend and an orange "Amber Sunrise." Of course, there's also a plain-looking black version if you're not up for some extravagance from your phone.
When I tested it alongside the Galaxy S10 Plus, it was the P30 Pro that drew the most attention from passers by. Meanwhile my S10 sat there like "just another phone" -- and that's despite it being the most expensive ceramic white model.
It's built from glass and metal, much like the regular Galaxy S10 or the P20 Pro before it, but that's no bad thing. It feels good and has a satisfying heft to it when you pick it up. Some of Huawei's earlier phones felt cheap to hold, but this feels anything but. You'll want to avoid dropping it -- a real possibility, given the inherent slipperiness of all-glass designs. But there is, at least, IP68 waterproofing to keep it safe from spilled drinks.
There's no headphone jack on the P30 Pro so you'll have to look to the smaller P30 or the Galaxy S10 if you want to use your wired headphones. The fingerprint scanner has been built into the display (a small fingerprint icon appears on the lock screen to tell you where to place your finger). It works well and recognised my prints much more often than not. I found it marginally more accurate than the Galaxy S10's in-screen fingerprint scanner, though neither are as consistently accurate as a more standard optical scanner.
There's also no microSD card slot as Huawei has again opted for its own nano memory (NM) card format for expanding the storage. NM cards are more expensive (£42 for a 128GB card, against £15 for the equivalent Sandisk microSD) and much harder to come by than standard microSD cards. Be aware that you won't be able to use your existing memory cards in the P30 Pro.
The display has a 2,340x1,080-pixel resolution. That's a step below the 3,040x1,440-pixel maximum resolution of the Galaxy S10 Plus, but I doubt you'll notice. If you have both phones side-by-side playing the same high-res video and you peer really closely at the screen then maybe you could see a difference, but honestly, are you ever going to do that? In everyday use, the P30 Pro's resolution is more than sufficient to show off your favourite YouTube vids and its vibrant colours are great for gaming.
The screen stretches right to the edges of the phone, broken only by a tiny teardrop notch at the top, just big enough to house the front-facing camera. I like this solution: it's unobtrusive when you're playing full-screen videos or games. It's a smaller notch than the S10 Plus' hole-punch cutout for the two front-facing cameras, but having used both, I don't really have much of a preference between them. It certainly shouldn't be your primary decision-maker in choosing between these phones.
The cameras on the back of the Pro are the real stars of the show. You get a 20-megapixel super wide-angle lens, a regular 40-megapixel lens and a weird-looking square lens that uses a prism-based periscope system to achieve a huge zoom. This 8-megapixel lens 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.
I was sceptical when Huawei first explained this to me, but it actually works well. You can zoom into a scene a huge amount, getting up close on details simply out of reach of any other phone camera. It's not completely lossless as Huawei claims -- small details are a bit more fuzzy -- but if you compare the P30 Pro's zoom shot to a shot from the S10 Plus's 2x telephoto lens, Huawei's really is leaps and bounds in front.
The stabilisation is good, too. When you're zoomed right in on small details, the phone fights hard to keep them steady to help get a crisp shot. Sometimes you'll need to help it out by bracing your arms to keep the phone steady, but for the most part you can snap away freely.
You can zoom further, up to 50x, using digital zoom as well as the telephoto lens. This does crop into the image however and at max zoom, the image quality is significantly reduced. The images I've snapped with it haven't been useful for anything other than a bit of fun at the time.
The P30 Pro also plays a blinder when it comes to night shots. The P20 Pro was already one of my top low-light phone picks thanks to its incredible night mode. Thankfully, that standalone camera mode is still on board, capturing shots with much more shadow detail and controlled highlights than almost any other phone is able to manage, although it does take around 4 to 6 seconds to capture each image.
But the P30 Pro takes low-light further. With the combination of a new type of image sensor and a high ISO, the phone is able to capture images in situations where even my eyes can't see properly. Locked in my bathroom in almost total darkness, the P30 Pro was still able to get a bright -- if grainy -- image. In the same scene, the S10 Plus's shot came out looking like something taken in the 19th century.
This super-low light skill isn't a dedicated mode however and it can be hit and miss when the camera actually uses it. If there's almost no light in a scene -- say, in a park at night where there are no streetlamps -- it'll kick in and brighten up the scene. But if you're taking a shot of a street at night with streetlamps creating at least some ambient light, there's almost no difference in what you'll find on the S10.
Everyday shots from the standard camera are generally decent. Against the S10 Plus, the P30 Pro's images have slightly more muted colours and it doesn't always balance highlights and shadows as well, sometimes leaving bright skies looking washed out. This is particularly the case when using the super-wide angle mode, which can sometimes struggle to balance the overall exposure.
The teardrop cutout on the front of the phone is where you'll find the P30 Pro's 32-megapixel front-facing camera. That's a huge amount of megapixels for a selfie camera so it's no surprise that those gurning self portraits look pin-sharp.
The phone does a decent job of balancing exposure for selfies too -- helped by an HDR mode, which helps keep bright backgrounds under control. Colours look natural as well. And while there's no front-facing flash to light you up in the darkness, shots taken in lower-light indoor situations still look good.
The P30 Pro runs Huawei's latest Kiring 980 processor, with 8GB of RAM. In benchmark terms, the phone isn't a match for the S10 Plus. It returned marginally lower scores on the Geekbench 4 multicore processor test (9,623 vs. 10,863) and significantly underperformed on the 3D Mark Slingshot graphics test (3,233 vs. 7,818). There is a "Performance mode" which lifted the numbers a touch, but it still fell short of the S10 Plus.
But benchmarks don't tell the whole story and I can say with confidence that this phone is far from slow. Navigation around the interface is swift and lag-free. Videos stream without issue and playing graphically demanding games such as Asphalt 9: Legends and PUBG was a breeze. The S10 phones might produce better scores on lab tests, but in the real world, you almost certainly won't notice that difference.
The P30 Pro runs the latest Android 9 Pie, overlain with Huawei's EMUI 9.1 software, which reminds me of the iPhone in the way the apps are laid out across multiple home screens. You can switch to a more standard Android app tray if you prefer.
You can charge the capacious 4,200mAh battery via USB-C. A super-fast charge takes the phone from empty to 70 percent in only 30 minutes as long as you use the bundled 40-watt charger. It's one of my highlights of the phone as I regularly find myself about to head out with a low battery. All this needs is a quick boost to give me enough juice back to last the evening -- which means I don't have to carry an external battery pack with me.
Not that running out of power is much of an issue on this thing. I found the phone would comfortably last a full day of reasonably heavy use, often with a bit left to get me into the next morning. It's still a phone I'd want to charge every night, just to be safe, but that's the case with every phone on the market.
If you do find yourself with power to spare then you can always hand it off to a friend using the two-way wireless charging. When enabled, you can hold any Qi-enabled device to the back of the phone to send the power across, just as you can on the Mate 20 Pro and on Samsung's four Galaxy S10 phones. It's nice to be able to lend a hand to a friend who's dipped below that "5% remaining" threshold, just as long as you don't become the default battery provider for all your mates -- save some for yourself, OK?
Huawei P30: It's the zoom function that really stands out on the P30 Pro, and without it, the standard P30 loses some of its shine. It's still good-looking though and its smaller size will make it easier for those with more dainty palms.
Huawei P20 Pro: The P20 Pro looks great, takes awesome photos and was already my top pick for low-light imagery from a phone. The P30 Pro takes that a bit further, but I don't think it's worth upgrading for from an already excellent phone.
Galaxy S10 Plus: It's the zoom and night mode that puts the P30 Pro over the S10 Plus, but I prefer Samsung's camera for regular daylight shooting, so it's worth thinking about which is more important for you. The S10 Plus is also more powerful in lab tests and the screen has a higher resolution.
Pixel 3: The Pixel 3 also packs a great camera, and is about on par with the P30 Pro in terms of processing power. The Pixel 3 lacks the zoom function however and there's no option to expand the storage.
|Huawei P30 Pro||Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus||Huawei P30||Google Pixel 3 XL|
|Display size, resolution||6.47-inch OLED; 2,340x1,080-pixels||6.4-inch AMOLED; 3,040x1,440-pixels||6.1-inch OLED; 2,340x1,080-pixels||6.3-inch "flexible" OLED; 2,960x1,440 pixels|
|Pixel density||398ppi||522ppi||422ppi||522 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.22x2.89x0.33 in||6.20x2.92x0.31 in||5.87x2.81x0.30 in||6.2x3x.03 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||158x73.4x8.41 mm||157.6x74.1x7.8 mm||149.1x71.4x7.57 mm||158x76.7x7.9 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||6.77 oz; 192g||6.17 oz.; 175 g||5.82 oz; 165g||6.5 oz; 184g|
|Mobile software||Android 9.0 with EMIU 9.1||Android 9.0 with Samsung One UI||Android 9.0 with EMIU 9.1||Android 9 Pie|
|Camera||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)||40-megapixel (standard), 20-megapixel (ultra wide), 8-megapixel 3X optical zoom||12.2-megapixel|
|Front-facing camera||32-megapixel||10-megapixel, 8-megapixel||32-megapixel||Dual 8-megapixel|
|Processor||Kirin 980 processor||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855||Kirin 980 processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (2.5GHz octa-core)|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB, 512GB||128GB, 512GB, 1TB||128GB||64GB, 128GB|
|Expandable storage||Up to 256GB with proprietary NM card||Up to 512GB||Up to 256GB with proprietary NM card||None|
|Fingerprint sensor||In-screen (optical)||In-screen (ultrasonic)||In-screen (optical)||Back cover|
|Special features||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||Camera night mode, IP53 water resistance||IPX8, wireless charging support, Pixel Buds USB-C headphones in the box|
|Price off-contract (USD)||Converts to $1,135||$1,000||Converts to $781||$899 (64GB); $999 (128GB)|
|Price (GBP)||£899 (128GB)||£899 (128GB)||£699 (128GB)||£869 (64GB); £969 (128GB)|
|Price (AUD)||AU$1,599||AU$1,499||AU$1,099||AU$1,349 (64GB); AU$1,499 (128GB)|