The Huawei P30 Pro and P30 are top-drawer camera phones with everything you could want in flagship smartphones.
This is an in-depth review of Huawei P30 Pro although we will try to point out some specification differences between its P30 sibling. This review is not for the standard P30 version which lacks things like Qi charging, lower IP rating, Periscope Zoom camera etc.
Huawei has recently knocked Apple from its number two spot
(by handset volume – not profitability). It has the Android king Samsung in its
sights, firing a volley by stating it will be number one by the end of 2019. It
may do that courtesy of its huge Chinese market, the quality and innovation of
the P30 series and its value Nova series.
It is time to remind you that any Android smartphone
performs basic duties like making phone calls, mail, calendar, contacts, web
surfing and playing audio/video content pretty well. There are some amazing
smartphones under $500.
How we rate smartphones
We develop paradigms to slot them into market segments. Over the past few months, those segments have seen Apple’s XS/Max set new sky-high price ceilings, foldables, 5G, and even higher specified entrants like the Samsung Galaxy S10-series (review here) and now the Huawei P30 series.
Our original four categories have grown to seven, and we review
against different paradigms for each category.
Premium Flagship $1600-2499 (usually a flagship with
more memory/storage, additional camera lens and now 5G)
Flagship $1000-1599 (this was our highest segment
and globally phones $1000+ account for about 10% of sales)
Premium mid-market $800-999 (a new category not
seeing much action – 10% at best, offering flagship specifications often for a
Mid-market $500-799 (about 25% of the market)
Mass-market $200-499 (about 25% of the market)
Value pre-paid <A$199 (about 30% of the
market – good for pre-paid and children)
The P30 is $1099, and the P30 Pro is $1599. As such this review pits them squarely in the flagship category against the Samsung Galaxy S10 and S10+.
Buy here – or you will regret it
We issue the standard warning that you must buy the genuine model
with Australian firmware as it works on all Australian Telco carrier LTE bands
and can make a 000-emergency call (not 911) without a SIM. These also have software
that works with Australian PayWave readers.
Huawei makes many variant for different markets
The main difference is in LTE bands (the modem supports 20 out of a possible 50 bands), and the second difference is usually RAM/Storage. Australia only has Breathing Crystal and Aurora colours – so if the phone is Amber Sunrise, Pearl White or Black these are grey/parallel imports.
We know that P30 Pro (a.k.a. Huawei Vogue) has
VOG-L29 (single and dual sim – a variant of this
is for Australia – do not buy an ‘International version’)
P30 has (also called Huawei Elle in some countries)
ELE-L29 (ditto to VOG-L29)
Also, watch out for variants like the P30 Lite (called Marie
Claire MAR-LXX) that do not work on all Australian LTE bands.
A dead giveaway for grey/parallel imports is the lack of an
Australian power plug dual flat angled pin charger (most supply an adaptor for dual
round pin charger). Also, don’t fall for the term Australian warranty. Huawei only
warrants Australian model phones for two years sold by official retailers. All
other warranties rely on the merchant to honour them – suspect at best as most
are not Australian businesses. We checked several online stores, and all were
offering grey/parallel imports (mainly the L09) meant for elsewhere.
Review: Huawei P30 Pro Model VOG-L29, 8/256GB, Dual SIM
Any differences between the P30 Pro and P30 are in (brackets).
Fast Charger 5V/2A and 9V/2A and 10V/4A 40W with
integrated Australian plug (P30 has a lower wattage charger)
White USB-A 2.0 cable to USB-C (the device is USB-3.1
gen 1 capable with an optional cable)
USB-C earbuds and mic
Clear plastic bumper case
The first impression
Breathing Crystal is an attractive mother-of-pearl-like finish
that goes from pearl to purple to green tinges as it rotates. The glass back is
a fingerprint magnet and makes it very slippery so use the bumper cover. Edges
a rolled, top and bottom squared off, with a very small bezel all around and a
teardrop at the top. The rear camera sticks out.
I like the Aurora Green but by the time you buy a cover/case
colour is neither here nor there.
Before we get into specifications, we must comment on the noticeable
absence of detailed specifications anywhere – on Huawei’s website, WikiChip,
Anandtech, NotebookCheck, GSM Arena, PhoneArena and more.
Without fail all you see are the brief, readily-available specifications from Huawei’s website. As a tech-driven publication, we find that unsatisfying. Mind you the argument could equally be that consumers do not care so feel free to read another lightweight review if only to assure you that the purchase is OK.
Regrettably, even our standard testing software suites (like
AIDA 64, GeekBench4 etc) fail to unlock secrets as Huawei’s bios will not allow
them to report on more than the basic info. And when we invoke Android developer
mode, we cannot access the usual subsystems to find its deeper capabilities.
We suspect this trend to superficial specs allows manufacturers more marketing freedom without fear of contradiction. We feel it makes it very hard to objectively compare Apples with Apples (because that iOS what we do?)
As such it has taken several hours longer to identify and test – you won’t find this depth of information in any other Australian review! Some of the extra information comes from teardowns here and iFixit’s teardown here, but technical details of the HiSilicon ASICs are scarce.
Is this secrecy taking ‘commercial in confidence’ too far? After
all, you can only get this chip in a Huawei phone.
We will ask Huawei for a full set of specifications and will
gladly update this article if forthcoming.
Colour depth: 8-bit 16.7
Brightness: 600 nits’ maximum auto but mostly around 400 nits typical
Contrast: Near infinity
Colour gamut: unspecified DCI-P3 coverage
Notch: centre Teardrop
Screen protection: Not stated but unlikely Corning Gorilla Glass
VR: Google Daydream support
Acoustic display – uses top of the screen as the earpiece speaker
China’s BEO makes the screen – not Samsung or LG as it has used in the past. This is a near bezel-less teardrop screen – wrap-around glass with almost no side, top or lower chin. It is 2340 x 1080 (1K) for best battery life, so it lags the 2/3/4K screens of competitors.
Perhaps the choice of a relatively new OLED maker explains why out-of-the-box calibration is not as good as it could be. DeltaE variation up to 7.5 (high) but you can get it back to 3 with a few compromises.
Overall the review unit screen is clear, crisp and defaults
to cool colours – bluish whites. You can change colours from Vivid (DCI-P3) to
natural (sRGB) and white balance from cool to warm (default is in the middle). While
it claims DCI-P3 coverage tests show it is about 70% and close to 95% sRGB.
This screen gives saturated colours as demanded by consumers.
Brightness is typically around 400 nits maximum – the claimed
‘maximum brightness’ is 600. Brightness varies slightly across the screen. Daylight
screen readability is excellent.
We are a little surprised that it is not spot on (calibrated)
given its USP (unique selling proposition) to ‘Rewrite the rules of photography’
because the colours on its screen are not the colours the camera is capable of capturing.
It really needs 100% Adobe RGB calibration to make this claim.
Having said that professional photographers would use photo
editing software and calibrated monitors and can get by with sRGB.
We found the edges lacking a little in touch sensitivity with
the standard on-screen keyboard.
Screen summary: A good, but not the best in class screen.
Huawei HI Silicon Kirin 980, 7nm Octa-core (2×2.6GHz, 2×1.92GHz Cortex-A76 and 4×1.8GHz Cortex-A53) Integrated Dual Neural Processing Unit (NPU)
Mali-G76 MP10 execution units @720Mhz Game suitability: Will handle any current mobile game as well as VR and AR
RAM: 8GB LPDDR4x-2133 (6GB) Storage: 256GB UFS 2.1 – around 224GB free (128GB) New ERO file system for faster access OTG Support: up to 2TB for external SSD NM card to 256GB (cost approx $1 per GB)
The Kirin 980 was the
world’s first 7nm chip, and it should put Huawei on a similar footing to the Qualcomm
SD845/855 and Samsung Exynos 9820. Or does it?
GadgetGuy has a comparison between the Kirin 980 and Exynos 9820 here. The fairest summary would put it slightly ahead on AI processing (although we cannot measure that) and behind on horsepower and video processing. Overall it is a closer comparison to the 2018 Qualcomm SD845 – not the 2019 Qualcomm SD855/Samsung Exynos 9820.
But it is a flagship-class chip, and Huawei can tweak it for
its own needs. The P20/Mate20 also use it.
Going to 7nm gave it a claimed 20% speed increase and a 40% power
efficiency over the previous Kirin 970.
The chip has eight CPU cores. The workload is spread around these
as needed. In idle it sits at 830Mhz for six of the cores and 1460Mhz for the two
power cores. It has a GeekBench score of 3300/9745 in single/multi-core.
With power saving disabled and performance mode enabled (100% load) CPU throttling becomes an issue seldom reaching above 50% of its rated speeds. The maximum external temperature is up to 38° (at a room temperature of 22°). In fact, we had a few overheating warnings – we think these may be due to early firmware.
Huawei says the Mali-G76 MP10 GPU is 46% faster and 178%
more power efficient than the Kirin 970/MAIL72.
The separate dual NPU provides faster AI for the camera, AR, VR and graphics intensive mobile games. Or does it? The dual block appears to handle one CPU core at a time, so yes, it has more throughput, but overall two NPUS are not necessarily better than one!
Performance Summary: In all tests, it comes in third to Samsung’s
Exynos 9820 and the Qualcomm SD855.
HiSilicon Hi1103 Wi-Fi chipset – no information is available on its capabilities Wi-Fi 5: AC, dual-band, 2×2 MU-MIMO. Supports VHT160 up to 1.7GHZ but would not connect at those speeds Wi-Di, Hotspot
Bluetooth: 5.0 LE Does not support Multi-point connections
USB-C 3.1, Gen 1 (you need to buy a 3.1 cable to achieve this speed) Supports HDMI/DisplayPort/Data/OTG, a USB-C dock/dongle or adapter as well as keyboard and mouse (corded or BT) – no adaptors supplied
NFC: Yes (for PayWave readers) – links to SIM 1 only
It should support 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO, with up to 1732Mbps speeds using VHT160MHz wide channels.
Using Network Cell Info, it achieved -45dB against -30 on the
Samsung S10+ (lower is better)
At 2/5m from our D-Link AC5300 reference VHT80/160 enabled router, it achieves 866/520Gbps gradually dropping to the 2.4Ghz band at 15 metres. It appears VHT support is not enabled or it would have been above 1Gbps. Huawei, please take note and fix it in the firmware update, please.
Summary: We don’t know enough about the Hi1103 chipset yet – it seems comparable to a mid-range Wi-Fi chip not as powerful as recent advances in the Qualcomm SD855.
HiSilicon HI6405 chip – no information is available on its capabilities USB-C audio only (3.5mm audio jack on P30) USB-C buds/mic Acoustic display with vibrating under glass actuator (earpiece equivalent) and down-firing bottom main speaker Mics: two with ANC Codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX/HD, LDAC, HWA Dolby Atmos (Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+, Dolby AC-4), MP3, MP4, 3GP, OGG, AMR, AAC, FLAC, WAV, MIDI Video: MP4, 3GP, H.263/4 Sample rate: Described as Hi-Fi DAC – no mention of bits/kHz but expect 32-bit/384kHz No BT multi-point dual audio connection
Ring: 90dB Voice: 73dB Music: <73dB
Google Assistant: Yes FM Radio: No
Volume was good with ringing at 90dB and voice/audio at 73dB.
There is no bass. Mids kicked in at 200Hz and built to 1kHz
(high mids) and were flat to 12.5kHz (upper treble) and dropped off.
There is a significant sound quality difference between the acoustic
display and the down-firing main speaker – you could not really call this stereo
2.0 as this assumes similar speaker qualities.
I would like to call it Bright Vocal (for clear voice), but in
many tests, it was harsh verging more on Analytical – aggressively bright. This
is not for music or movies without headphones.
We tested with Sony WH-1000XM3 using the Sony LDAC Bluetooth
codec. It handles this hi-res music codec, but there were hints of crosstalk.
We enabled developer mode to see what Bluetooth options were
available, but these were not available so we cannot comment on music bit/resolution/CODEC
Huawei supplies a pair of USB-C buds (not tested) but no 3.5mm
to USB-C adapter.
Sound summary: Good as a handsfree phone but not up to music
Goodix GM185 In-Screen Fingerprint Sensor enrol five prints 2D face unlock Pick up to unlock IR Blaster
GPS L1 and L5 Dual-band for faster and more accurate positioning
The fingerprint scanner is accurate if you place your finger precisely on the designated area. When enrolling fingerprints make sure you supplement your standard one with sideways and upside down ones – you will need them.
Facial 2D scanning is fine but suffers in low light – the screen
does not give off enough light to activate it – IR 3D scanning would have been
better but would require a larger notch.
The IR blaster requires IR compatible apps to enable remote
control of TVs etc.
The GPS is a dual-band type that allows for faster satellite acquisition and a more accurate position. In turn-by-turn navigation tests we did not see any difference over a single band in-car GPS.
4200 mAh (3650mAh) Endurance rating 100 hours (83)
Charger type. 5V/2A, 9V/2, 10V/4A 40W (Supercharger 22.5W) Turbo: 30% in 10 minutes; 70% in 30 minutes, 100% in 60 minutes Wireless Qi charge: 15W Reverse Qi charge pad 2.5W (not sufficient for another phone looking for 5W or more)
While the battery is quite large for this class of device, it is by no means the longest lasting in part due to a higher power draw at idle between 2 and 4W depending on screen brightness and Always-on-Display– about double what we expected.
It got quite warm reaching 38° under full load and around 30° at idle. It is not uncomfortable, but you will feel it in your pocket.
Wireless charge at 15W is welcome (especially as its twice as fast as an iPhone) and was fully charged in around three hours although this is about 30% longer than similar capacity 15W Qi phones.
Reverse charging at 2.5W (5V/.5A) is really only for low
wattage devices like buds. Yes, it will make a connection with a higher wattage
Apple and Samsung device, and you will get a reasonable charge in 8-10 hours if
the latter is in a power-off state.
Battery tests: P 30 Pro
1080p Video loop, 50% brightness, Airplane mode – just over 17
Under 100% load, maximum brightness and everything turned on
it was empty in just over 5 hours (GeekBench 4 battery test).
Given typical use, both units will last 24+ hours – longer with
aggressive screen brightness and dark mode.
Hi1103 modem – little information is available on its capabilities LTE CAT 21/16 up/down to 1.4Gbps/200Mbps Bands: 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/12/17/18/19/20/26/28/32/34/38/39/40
Dual (hybrid with Huawei NM memory card) Can both be 4G
SIP calling requires a third-party app VoLTE and VoWiFi depends on the carrier
This chip supports Cat21/18 downloads/uploads (1400/200Mbps) using 3x carrier aggregation. We could not reliably test this as the test site has a weak LTE signal.
Using Network Cell Info, it was -120dB compared to Galaxy S10+ at -110dB meaning the latter has about a 10% stronger reception signal.
Android: Pie 9.x UI: EMUI 9.1 Update policy: Unknown but we expect bi-monthly security updates and one OS update.
Google Assistant: Yes – press power button for one second Phone clone: Copies over most information from an old phone except passwords and non-standard app data Multiple user accounts: three supported Desktop mode: USB-C to HDMI – dual display and supports BT mouse and keyboard or phone as a touchpad Casting – Wi-Di/Miracast PrivateSpace for secure storage Password Vault: cloud based password manager App Twin: dual social media accounts at the same time
Android Pie has loads of new features including AI to learn
about your use and adapt the phone to it. In the test week, we started to see minor
improvements, especially in the over aggressive adaptive brightness setting.
EMUI is an acquired taste – that is not a bad thing, but it
is different from Pure Android and substitutes its own Huawei Apps for Google
Back: Glass – not stated
Slippery – use a case
Huawei counters the lack of a notification LED by providing an Always-on-Display option that slightly reduces battery life.
What we should be shouting about is where it exceeds flagship
5/10/50x Optical/Hybrid/Digital Zoom – best-in-class so far
Low-light camera capabilities- ditto
40W Supercharge – ditto
Boothie rear and front camera record at the same time (as found on Nokia)
Possibly better AI capabilities (hard to prove)
Multiple user accounts
Other devices exceed Huawei P30 Pro (and let’s face it we are talking Samsung Galaxy S10+) – we need to make a more in-depth comparison so take this as gut-feel only
The Qualcomm SD855/Exynos 9820 has superior performance to Kirin 980 – do you need that?
3040 x 1440 x 400-1200nits screen versus 2340 x 1080 x 400-600nits
Samsung/Qualcomm collaboration have produced faster LTE (2Gbps/316Mbps) and Wi-Fi AX
GS10+ has dual BT audio connectivity
Both support USB-C 3.1 gen 1, but you need to buy a separate cable for the P30 Pro
GS10+ has 9W reverse charging versus 2.5W
The ultrasonic fingerprint reader is superior to P30 Goodix reader
Heart Rate and Sp02 sensor
One UI versus EMUI 9.x – Samsung is more developed and polished, less Apple-like
Youtube and Instagram video/still formats for instant upload
Build – Samsung Gorilla Glass 5 versus unspecified glass
Note where specifications are unknown we identify with ???
Rear Camera 1
40MP Sensor: 1/1.7” (RYYB) – we suspect this is a special Sony Exmor IMX650 – details not rleased yet Pixel Size: 1 μm F-stop: f/1.6 (f/1.8) Stabilisation: OIS and Huawei AIS Focus type: PADF Focus: 26.3mm ISO: 50-409600 FOV: 66.6° AI: Face and scene detection HDR: HDR10 Flash type: dual LED Saved images: JPEG and/or RAW Pixel Binning: Yes – saves as 10MP image Video: 4K@30fps
Huawei calls AI HiVision, and it can do many things if you
have internet connectivity. Apologies – we will just list some as we could not
test them all and some require a firmware update.
Scan food: Determine the weight, calories, and
Identify objects: From road signs to famous
paintings. If known a pop-up card with information about is shown
lShop: Scan objects to get purchase
lTranslate: Scan words or phrases in a foreign
lScan codes: QR codes or bar codes to add
contacts or acquire product information.
We had fun, and it recognised most standard fruits and vegetables.
We suspect that Google Lens (supported) will be of more use.
Huawei showed what not to do with AI in its Mate 20 Pro when
it overtook common sense and turned colours to what it thought they should be. Thankfully
the aggressive AI is now quite useful, and it can be turned off!
Intelligently identifies photographing scenes: beach,
blue sky, greenery, and text scenes. Automatically adjusts the colour and
brightness of the camera and recommends an optimal mode
Low Light mode
Portrait, beauty and Bokeh
AR and Qmoji and 3D Qmoji
Light Painting mode: Shoot light trails, star
trails, waterfalls etc
Moving pictures: captures one second before pressing
Photo recognition and sorting
To be fair, most flagships have similar AI capabilities and
But what are the secrets to its great photos?
Huawei and Leica collaborate on lenses and a Leica style. It is a great marketing term but it has a particular jene sais quois!
Huawei has gone away from a traditional RGGB (Red, Green, Green, Blue) sensor to an RYYB (Red, Yellow, Yellow, Blue) one. It is supposed to increase light sensitivity by up to 40% which explains it’s otherwise small 1μm pixels in the 40MP sensor that ‘bin’ to make a 10MP, 2um equivalent. You can try to shoot 40MP, but I challenge you to keep the device still nor use it in lower light!!!
The RYYB sensor is only on the 40MP lens and primary green (and secondary) colours are added via AI computational photography from the other two lenses that use RGGB sensors. From a marketing perspective having RYYB may add 40% more light sensitivity but at what trade-off?
But DPReview is at odds if this is an ideal setup. If it is better, why has it not been done many times before? The argument against is that RGB are primary colours (that cannot be made from secondary colours like yellow) and all are needed to produce secondary colours. You can’t do it without green!
We have found a few references to Sony being the contract manufacturer
of all sensors including the ToF sensor (also used by OPPO) which is suitable for
depth measurements, not so much AR.
The Samsung Galaxy S10+, Huawei P/Mate 20 Pro are all at 109
points, and the Samsung is 20+ points ahead on a selfie.
GadgetGuy’s photography expert Thomas Bartlett has reviewed The Huawei P30 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S10 in a shootout here. His take is that the Samsung pips Huawei in raw processing power (its Exynos Image Signal Processor), more natural colours, and can shoot video up to 4K@60fps.
Huawei has an innovative AI driven Night Mode that recreates images, and its 5x optical, 10x Hybrid and 50x digital periscope zoom gives better details at longer distances.
In testing, I compared it to reference shots from the Huawei
Mate 20 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S10+, Note 9, Pixel 3 XL, and the Nokia 8.1 (a $699
phone with an amazing camera). I agree with
Thomas – you can’t beat Huawei’s zoom and the night shot is interesting. You
would be very happy with any of the above and all score over 100 DxoMark points.
Camera Summary: It certainly is the best at ‘creating’
(computational photography) low light shots and its zoom is way ahead of
All our tests are use Auto as that is what Joe and Jane Average use.
The pro app supports much more, and a professional photographer will know how to get the most out of it.
Daylight, outdoors (overcast day around noon)
To be fair, it was not the best day to test with clouds and high reflectivity. The blue sky peeking through the clouds has been amped up by AI is not an accurate colour but the details are superb.
1/8000 sec, ISO50, 3.1MB
While we did not expect the details to be as good. Colours
suffer, and there is a lot of processing noise, but no other smartphone camera
can capture this detail
1.500 sec, ISO 50, F3.4
This is optical zoom and is better than any other we have
1/500 sec, ISO 50
You cannot select the sensor – its all about zoom.
The two shots taken sequentially show the effect of
computational photography. Where AI has its head, it adds ‘light’ which makes
the scene a little yellow and it cleans up the ‘mist’ around the moon. It is a great
shot for a moonlight night.
6 seconds, ISO1600
Night – normal setting
Same image but flash kicked in making colours a little more
accurate. Not the halo around the moon is not really there.
Indoors Office Light (400 lumens)
To be honest, I was disappointed with the colours and exposur – blame AI again as they did not pop! The detail is excellent.
1/160sec ISO 50
Low light (room with less than 100 lumens)
This was a dark room and Night Mode turned it into the day.
Colours are surprisingly good, focus sharp (despite a long exposure), and there
is virtually no monitor colour blow out.
3 Second ISO100
Here the colours are muted, but the detail is good.
32MP is huge but in reality, it pixel bins to 8MP allowing
computational HDR. Pixel size is .8um but by binning it become 1.6um that helps
the f/2.0 lens to gather light. At 89 points DxOMark, it is a way from the outright
winner at 96.
Where it is let down is in bokeh (depth of field) crispness –
its depth estimation just does not do as well as a dual lens camera.
While it scored equal best for still images, it is a behind the Galaxy S10+ on frame rates, colour, texture and artefacts (noise), especially in lower light. In other words, it takes a great daytime video, but to the ultra-picky testers, it has some issues. While it can record 4k@30fps, it struggles and does not have OIS or AIS – that comes in at 1080@30fps and it is then exceptional.
Exceptional zoom. Interesting and useful Night mode. 40 and
32MP cameras use pixel binning so, in reality, these are 10 and 8MP – and comparison
to other cameras should be on that basis.
AI is still a little aggressive, but to Joe and Jane Average
a good ‘shot is a clear oversaturated on – and Huawei P30 Pro delivers.
GadgetGuy’s take – The P/Mate 20 Pro just got better.
I gave the Huawei Mate 20 Pro a five-out-of-five and the earlier P20 Pro a 4.1-out-of-five (its AI camera smarts were way too aggressive and since been toned down).
In hindsight, I can see the evolution of the Kirin 980 platform,
AI enhancements and better camera/lens that make the P30 Pro the excellent phone
Yet I am a little torn at not being able to declare it the best smartphone so far in 2019. As a camera phone, it has a low light and zoom edge. In most other respects, the Samsung Galaxy S10e/10/+ are more polished, wholistic performers.
With the Samsung Galaxy 10 5G and the yet-to-be-released Note10 that uses the 5G quad camera setup, Huawei will have some work to do to maintain its slight lead.
Still, credit where it is due – for the past few years Huawei has upped the ante from its first serious challengers, P/Mate 10/Pro to a smartphone that meets or exceeds all GadgetGuy’s paradigms. It too is a five-out-of-five with the caveat that we need to revisit the scoring and award more for features about five stars.
Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating2 Votes
Best zoom and lowlight camera
Great battery life
Good screen but not the best screen
Not the best daylight camera
EMUI 9.1 is stil an acquired taste
Lack of in-depth, chip/sensor level specifications make objectivity difficult