X

Huawei P30 Pro review: The absolute best camera on any phone

The Huawei P30 Pro's photo skills rule the phone world.

pp
Andrew Lanxon
pp

Andrew Lanxon

Lead Editor, CNET Advice, Europe; Lead Photographer, Europe

Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.

See full bio
9 min read

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Update, March 26: The Huawei P40, P40 Pro and the P40 Pro Plus have now officially been launched. Read our first take here.

blunderbuss-pro-5
9.0

Huawei P30 Pro

The Good

The Huawei P30 Pro's four cameras take astounding photos, its battery life is superb and the design is beautiful.

The Bad

Processor performance and screen resolution aren't up there with the best. The lack of headphone jack will upset people with wired headphones and the P30 Pro uses proprietary expandable storage.

The Bottom Line

The Huawei P30 Pro's impressive camera skills and vibrant design easily beat the Galaxy S10 Plus and the Pixel 3, but political entanglements mean the phone won't come to the US.

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.

Huawei P30 Pro's four rear cameras from every angle

See all photos

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.

P30 Pro versus Huawei P30

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.)

blunderbuss-pro-5

The Huawei P30 Pro's finishes are breathtaking.

Angela Lang/CNET

An eye-catching design

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.

blunderbuss-pro-4

The P30 Pro has just about everything you need.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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.

blunderbuss-pro-4

There are four rear cameras on the phone.

Angela Lang/CNET

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.

Huawei P30 Pro's camera put to the test in Paris

See all photos

P30 Pro's camera kills it on zoom

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.

city-superwide

Huawei P30 Pro outdoor shot with superwide lens.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
city-1x

Huawei P30 Pro outdoor shot with standard lens.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
city-5x

Huawei P30 Pro outdoor shot with 5x lens.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
city-10x

Huawei P30 Pro outdoor shot with 10x lens.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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.

img-20190411-195415

Huawei P30 Pro outdoor shot with 50x optical and digital zoom.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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.

Super low-light skills

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.

super-low-light-comparison

Super-low light comparison with Huawei P30 Pro (left) and Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus (right). Both taken with the rear camera in the same conditions.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
super-low-light-park

Huawei P30 Pro outdoor super-low light test. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
20190408-204607

Samsung Galaxy S10 outdoor low light comparison.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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.

img-20190408-205655

Huawei P30 Pro outdoor low light test. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
20190408-205630

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus outdoor low light comparison

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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.

img-20190410-132428

Huawei P30 Pro outdoor camera test.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
20190410-132430

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus outdoor camera test.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
img-20190409-143918

Huawei P30 Pro outdoor super wide angle camera test.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
20190409-143938

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus outdoor super wide angle camera test.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Sharp selfies

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.

img-20190410-132511

Huawei P30 Pro outdoor front-facing camera test.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
img-20190411-195615

Huawei P30 Pro outdoor front-facing camera test (lower, evening light).

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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.

Power doesn't compete with the Galaxy S10

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.

huawei-p30-pro-17

This square camera is the periscope zoom lens, and it's fantastic. 

Angela Lang/CNET

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?

blunderbuss-26

The P30 Pro, right, compared to the Galaxy S10 Plus.

Angela Lang/CNET

Huawei P30 Pro versus the competition

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 specs comparison


Huawei P30 ProSamsung Galaxy S10 PlusHuawei P30Google Pixel 3 XL
Display size, resolution 6.47-inch OLED; 2,340x1,080-pixels6.4-inch AMOLED; 3,040x1,440-pixels6.1-inch OLED; 2,340x1,080-pixels6.3-inch "flexible" OLED; 2,960x1,440 pixels
Pixel density 398ppi522ppi422ppi522 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.22x2.89x0.33 in6.20x2.92x0.31 in 5.87x2.81x0.30 in6.2x3x.03 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 158x73.4x8.41 mm157.6x74.1x7.8 mm149.1x71.4x7.57 mm158x76.7x7.9 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.77 oz; 192g6.17 oz.; 175 g5.82 oz; 165g6.5 oz; 184g
Mobile software Android 9.0 with EMIU 9.1Android 9.0 with Samsung One UIAndroid 9.0 with EMIU 9.1Android 9 Pie
Camera 40-megapixel (standard), 20-megapixel (ultra wide), 8-megapixel 5X optical periscope zoom, TOF (time of flight) sensor12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto)40-megapixel (standard), 20-megapixel (ultra wide), 8-megapixel 3X optical zoom12.2-megapixel
Front-facing camera 32-megapixel10-megapixel, 8-megapixel32-megapixelDual 8-megapixel
Video capture 4K4K4K4K
Processor Kirin 980 processorOcta-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855Kirin 980 processorQualcomm Snapdragon 845 (2.5GHz octa-core)
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB128GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB64GB, 128GB
RAM 8GB8GB, 12GB6GB4GB
Expandable storage Up to 256GB with proprietary NM cardUp to 512GBUp to 256GB with proprietary NM cardNone
Battery 4,200-mAh4,100-mAh3,650-mAh3,430-mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen (optical)In-screen (ultrasonic)In-screen (optical)Back cover
Connector USB-CUSB-CUSB-CUSB-C
Headphone jack NoYesYesNo
Special features Camera night mode, 40w Huawei SuperCharge, 15w wireless charging, reverse charging, IP68 water resistanceWireless PowerShare; hole punch screen notch; water resistant (IP68); Fast Wireless Charging 2.0Camera 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$1,000Converts to $781$899 (64GB); $999 (128GB)
Price (GBP) £899 (128GB)£899 (128GB)£699 (128GB)£869 (64GB); £969 (128GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,599AU$1,499AU$1,099AU$1,349 (64GB); AU$1,499 (128GB)
blunderbuss-pro-5
9.0

Huawei P30 Pro

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 9Performance 7Camera 10Battery 10