The Huawei P30 has the same processor as the P30 Pro. The photos it takes are comparable to those taken by the P30 Pro. Unlike the P30 Pro, it has a headphone jack. Yet it's roughly $350 cheaper. If the smaller P30 has similar photographic clout and a slick design of its own, is there any reason to opt for the more expensive Pro?
That ultimately depends on your taste and how much cash you're willing to spend on a phone. The 6.1-inch P30 is palpably smaller than the 6.47-inch Pro, so large-handed people who prefer the phones like the iPhone Max and Pixel XL will feel less comfortable here. (Both are 2,340x1,080-pixel, Full-HD displays.) The P30 also lacks the Pro's curved display, wireless charging and, in exchange for the headphone jack, true water resistance. (It's splash proof, not waterproof.)
But the P30 isn't just competing with the Pro. It's also got Samsung's new Galaxy S10E and S10 phones to worry about. Here it's a clearer choice: Do you care more about your phone's camera or your phone's performance? If the former, the P30 is for you.
Thanks to geopolitical conflict, which has seen Huawei sue the US government, you'll find neither the P30 or P30 Pro at any major retailers or carriers in the US. The P30 sells for £699 in the UK and AU$1,099 in Australia, as well as in other countries. The Australian price, the cheaper price, converts to about $785. Meanwhile the Pro starts at £899 in the UK and sells for AU$1,599 in Australia.
At nearly $800, the P30 is not cheap. It's tempting to label it a premium phone and compare it to the Pro, the iPhone XS or the Samsung Galaxy S10. If you're going to spend $800 on a phone, what's a few extra hundred bucks? But the truth is, flagship devices like the iPhone XS Max and Samsung's Galaxy S10 Plus are in a new class above premium. They've become luxury items.
There's nothing wrong with that, so If you're a hobbyist willing to splash on the best phone out there, you'll find the P30 makes a couple too many compromises. But if great is good enough and the idea of spending four digits on a phone sounds unnecessary, the Huawei P30 is a premium choice. And if photography is your main interest, it gives you a best-in-class camera setup for less than what the Samsung Galaxy S10, or even S10E, costs.
Outstanding cameras have been Huawei's brand identity since 2016, when it partnered with German photography studio Leica to produce one of the first dual-camera phones in the P9. Three years later, the P30 Pro now has the tech world agog with its quad-camera setup. Don't count out the P30, though. While it "only" has three rear cameras (and no dedicated 5x optical periscope zoom lens), the day-to-day pictures you take on the tricamera P30 look almost identical to those taken on the P30 Pro.
That is to say, really freaking good.
Here's what the P30's setup gives you: A 40 megapixel camera, a 16-megapixel ultrawide-angle shooter and an 8-megapixel telephoto lens for all your close-up needs. The P30 Pro has the same 40-megapixel main camera, but there's a 20-megapixel ultrawide-angle one too and the aforementioned 8-megapixel periscope lens for zooming. The P30 Pro also has a fourth lens, a time-of-flight sensor that the company says improves depth of field.
Easily the biggest difference between the two phones' cameras is the P30 Pro's periscope lens. The P30 has a respectable 3x optical zoom, 5x hybrid zoom and 30x digital zoom. The P30 Pro, meanwhile, gets 5x optical, 10x hybrid and 50x digital. Five. Zero. Most practically, this means the quality of image the P30 can produce with 3x zoom, the Pro can produce at 5x zoom.
That's why I say that you'll notice little difference in day-to-day use. The P30 Pro's zooming is technically astonishing, but I can count on two hands the amount of times I've used a phone's zoom to take a picture in the last year. It could be a chicken-and-egg scenario where having 5x or 10x hybrid zoom makes zooming in on a subject a natural habit. But unless you already regularly use your phone camera's zoom, keep in mind that the biggest photography difference between the P30 and the Pro is one you may not ever actually take advantage of.
Outside of that, photos taken by the P30 Pro are slightly sharper, but not enough that you'll notice the difference in anything other than a side-by-side comparison. The P30 Pro has had lots of love for its insane night mode shots, which use software wizardry to lighten up even the darkest of scenes. The P30 performs just as well here.
The P30, like the Pro, also shoots terrific portrait mode shots. However, such bokeh-style shots, which mimic DSLR depth-of-field, have noticeable postprocessing touchup. Portrait photos taken on iPhones and the similarly priced Samsung Galaxy S10E look more realistic, and I personally prefer them. This is certainly a taste matter though, as many of the people I was photographing often preferred their likeness as captured by the Huawei P30. (Neither the iPhone XS or S10 range can compete when it comes to lowlight shots, though.)
The quiet MVP of both phones' setup may be the P30's ultrawide lens. It gives you the kind of extra space in your shot that would otherwise come from taking two or three steps back. That's a gift from the heavens for group or vista photos. In this sense it's the opposite of the zoom: It's the feature I foresee myself using regularly and would mourn the absence of.
The P30 and the Pro have the same 32-megapixel selfie camera. It can take portrait shots, a common capability of flagship phones now but still a nice touch, and uses a white-screen flash for dark environments. Don't let all those megapixels fool you, though. It is an above-average selfie shooter, but it's a step behind the iPhone XS' 7-megapixel selfie camera.
For a deep dive on how the P30 family's cameras work, check out this guide.
The Huawei P30, like its Pro sibling, is powered by a Kirin 980 CPU. That's the exact same processor in last year's Mate20 Pro, as well as the Honor View20, a phone released earlier this year that, at £499 (converts to roughly $649, AU$899), is cheaper than the P30 (and much cheaper than the Pro).
Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Google Pixel 3 ranges, powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 and 855 processors respectively, the P30 phones both perform poorly in benchmark tests. But this is one of those times when theoretical tests reflect little practical reality. The P30 phones are more than powerful enough to handle any task you throw at them. Games like Asphalt 9: Legends and high spec-mode PUBG were silky smooth on the P30.
So yes, on paper the P30 doesn't perform as well as competitors -- luckily for Huawei phones aren't made on paper. But there is still one problem that plagues the company's phones: EMUI. That's Huawei's software layer that sits above Android 9 Pie.
Huawei's take on Android gives a bad first impression by coming preloaded with bloatware. As well as Facebook and Netflix, the home screen is by default populated with Booking.com's app plus a third-party beautification app I'd never heard of. The worst offenders are Huawei's own apps, many of which can't be deleted and are superfluous, serving the same purpose as Google's superior default apps.
Some aesthetic aspects of the operating system have been updated. But the screensavers are a few years old now, noticeable for anyone who's owned a recent Huawei phone and perceivably outdated when compared to the freshened-up wallpapers and iconography. You can enable an app drawer in settings, and you can also download a custom launcher to circumvent some of the software's rough edges. None of this may sound like a big deal, but it's the small, muddled software design choices that keep EMUI leagues below pure Android or even Samsung's improved Android design, One UI.
Some of that hassle is offset by the convenience of a long battery life. In our standardized battery test, which involves turning the phone on airplane mode and running a HD video on loop, the 3,650-mAh battery lasted 21 hours, 31 minutes, a few hours more than the exceptional S10 range. (The P30 Pro had even greater endurance, running just under 23 hours.)
Outside of its robust foundation, the P30 is feature rich. Like the Mate20 Pro before it, there's both facial recognition and an in-screen fingerprint scanner. That fingerprint scanner works well once you get used to it, but it can't authorize payments. Meanwhile, the P30's fastcharge feature is spectacular. I was able to get 50% in just under a half hour. Unlike the Pro, there's no wireless charging. But, and this deserves repeating, there is a headphone jack.
Huawei sure does know how to design an eye-catching phone. Last year's P20 Pro came in a pearlescent Twilight color that merged turquoise and purple. That obviously proved a hit, because Huawei's P30 range is almost all pearlescent.
The P30, like the Pro, come in five colours: Aurora Blue, Breathing Crystal, Amber Sunrise, Pearl White and Black. We got the P30 in Aurora Blue, which combines a turquoise blue with a deeper, ocean blue, and the Pro in Breathing Crystal, which merges an icy blue with a lavender purple. The latter almost looks like a Game of Thrones White Walker-themed phone. The more subtle tones of the Breathing Crystal appeal to me more, but both look fantastic.
Where the P30 and Pro differ drastically is in feel. The Pro feels more luxurious, like a truly premium phone. That's partially because of its curved display, which some people love and others hate. But it also has a real substantial weight to it. It wouldn't be fair to say the P30 feels cheap but, after switching between it and the Pro or an iPhone XS, there's a distinct weightlessness to it. It doesn't feel as robust.
The P30 is an excellent phone and is priced fairly, but it's not the only phone that fits that bill. How does Huawei's P30 compare to similarly priced competitors?
Huawei P30 versus Google Pixel 3: To my mind, the P30's greatest competitor isn't the Pro, it's the Google Pixel 3. The Pixel line is also known for its photographic preeminence, and is the only competitor with competitive low-light photography. The P30's night mode still outdoes the Pixel 3's though, and between zoom and ultrawide shots is more fully featured. (I personally prefer the Pixel's portraits.) The Pixel 3's strength is its pure Android OS. However, the P30 has smaller bezels, a bigger screen (6.1 versus 5.5 inches) and is cheaper.
Huawei P30 versus Samsung Galaxy S10E/S10: The P30 is a touch cheaper than Samsung's Galaxy S10E and over a hundred bucks cheaper than the S10. Much of what applies above is true here. Samsung's S10E and S10 phones are fantastic, have terrific cameras and a better OS than the P30. They simply can't compete, however, when it comes to night-time photography. The S10E, while being comparable in price, also has a smaller display (5.8-inches versus 6.1-inches).
Huawei P30 versus Huawei P30 Pro: A real The Hound versus The Mountain situation. Both phones have the same, powerful processor, excellent cameras and the same main weakness, a lacklustre operating system. If the P30 is already on the upper end of what you'd like to spend on a phone, the P30 Pro doesn't have any tangible features to lure you away. However, if you do spend the extra dough you'll get a phone that, between it's larger, curved screen and two-way wireless charging, feels a lot more luxurious.
|Huawei P30||Huawei P30 Pro||Samsung Galaxy S10||Google Pixel 3|
|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||5.5-inch OLED; 2,280x1,080 pixels|
|Pixel density||422 ppi||398 ppi||550 ppi||443 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||5.87x2.81x0.30 in||6.22x2.89x0.33 in||5.9x2.77x0.31 in||5.7x2.7x0.3 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||149.1x71.4x7.57 mm||158x73.4x8.41 mm||149.9x70.4x7.8 mm||145.6x68.2x7.9 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||5.82 oz; 165g||6.77 oz.; 192 g||5.53 oz; 157 g||5.2oz; 148g|
|Mobile software||Android 9.0 with EMUI 9.1||Android 9.0 with EMUI 9.1||Android 9.0 with One UI||Android 9 Pie|
|Camera||40-megapixel (standard), 16-megapixel (ultra wide), 8-megapixel 3X optical telephoto zoom||10-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)||12.2-megapixel|
|Front-facing camera||32-megapixel||32-megapixel||10-megapixel||8-megapixel standard, 8-megapixel wide-angle|
|Processor||Kirin 980 processor||Kirin 980 processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 855||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845|
|Storage||128GB||128GB, 512GB, 1TB||128GB, 512GB||64GB, 128GB|
|Expandable storage||Up to 256GB with proprietary NM card||Up to 256GB with proprietary NM card||Up to 512GB||None|
|Battery||3,650 mAh||4,200 mAh||3,650 mAh||2,915 mAh|
|Fingerprint sensor||In-screen (optical)||In-screen (ultrasonic)||In-screen (ultrasonic)||Back cover|
|Special features||Camera night mode, 40w Huawei SuperCharge, 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||Water resistant (IPX8); wireless charging support; Pixel Buds USB-C headphones in the box|
|Price off-contract (USD)||Converts to $780||Converts to $1,135||$900||$799 (64GB); $899 (128GB)|
|Price (GBP)||£699 (128GB)||£899 (128GB)||£799||£739 (64GB); £839 (128GB)|
|Price (AUD)||AU$1,099||AU$1,599||AU$1,349||AU$1,149 (64GB); AU$1,349 (128GB)|